Monthly Archives: October 2005

1492, bonds, and relaxation

so columbus day gave me the rare occasion of taking monday off from work. as an official “fixed-income holiday,” people in finance who deal with fixed income products (which include us in CDO Banking), were afforded the opportunity to take a holiday. of course, many people, mostly analysts forced to show face time, went in and did work, like my friend Sam in MBS and my roommate Rich at BofA. i stayed home and took full advantage of my day off — i’m going to recount it from the start so i can look back later and recall how good it is to have days like this from time to time.

i woke up around 12:30pm and the crispness of the air in my room made me reluctant to get out from under my covers. i love it how it’s turning colder these days. soon, i’ll be able to walk quickly to work without breaking a sweat. but forcing yourself to take a shower when it’s chilly is difficult. after waking up, i found melanie online (12 hours ahead in taiwan) and we made use of Google Talk with our headsets, something we hadn’t been able to do recently because of our incompatible schedules. i notice that our voices sound different on computer headsets than on telephone/cell phones.

after a nice, long convo with mel, i decided to start my day — it must’ve been around 3pm. i worked on my Weekend page and completed the Vermont section. I think it’s worth it to be diligent about documenting fun, memorable moments because they have the potential to evoke many joyful memories in the future. Since I don’t have much cash to invest these days, i’ve had to make do with these sentimental investments.

i decided to run some errands and went outside dressed in wrinkled khakis, brown sneakers, a gray t-shirt, and my hooded cotton jacket. my hair wasn’t really done at all and i wore glasses too so i had this grungy look going on, which made me very happy because i knew i’d be wearing a suit and tie tomorrow. i stopped by the bank to deposit a check and then went over to Dunkin Donuts to get a medium coffee. it was a nice welcoming taste after having Starbucked for the past two months. i took the coffee, a copy of Murakami’s Norweigan Wood which i took from my sister’s shelf the last time i went home, and a notepad with a list of things to buy, and headed towards Whole Foods via the A/C train. i decided to finish my coffee and read for a bit in the newly renovated Columbus Circle fountain area. i loved the curvy wooden benches and the sound of water steadily pumping all around me. it felt like being in a cocoon amid the heavy traffic of taxis and cars that flowed through.

after finishing up a chapter, i walked into Whole Foods in the Time Warner Center and quickly hit up the usual aisles – bananas, tuna fish, milk, cheese, cold cuts, and bread. i was disappointed that white peaches were no longer available – i guess it’s out of season for them. i also spent a considerable amount of time looking for sliced olives. i wanted one in a jar, but they only had olives that were stuffed with weird things like blue cheese, pimento, and jalapeno. i just wanted plain old olives that i could stick in with my sandwiches. i had to settle for a small can of sliced black olives. i also bought a french baguette because i had a craving for bread and olive oil.

on my way back to the apartment, i stopped by Duane Reade to pick up Neutrogena Deep Clean Cleanser and some gum. I thought about my buddy Jay Mung, who started his job at Neutrogena today out on the West Coast. My five bucks spent may somehow end up going to his paycheck, I thought. i saw a pack of four Duracell AA batteries when i stood in line and grew a bit angry because last time i came to Duane Reade, i needed just one single AA battery for my new clock and I ended up having to buy the four-pack since it was the smallest one they carried. what’s made that experience worse is that my clock always slows down after a day or two, so it starts to run 1 or 2 hours late by the third day. i’ve tried all four batteries but to no avail. i used to set my clock about 3 hours ahead so that on the fourth day it would tell the right time, but after a while that felt silly and i no longer really look at the clock to tell time. it just fills the otherwise empty space on the wall.

in my room, i decided to eat some of my purchases and prepared a little bread-cheese-ham platter. i even took out the bottle of Cabarnet Franc that Sam purchased for me from his visit to Connecticut (i gave him a bottle of Leon Millot from Vermont as a swap). sorry Sam, but your wine was pretty crappy. i think maybe the corking was messed up because the wine taste was overwhelmed by an alcohol taste although it only said 12% on the bottle. i forced down two glasses before letting it retire into my fridge. maybe when my palate is dull from a long day, i’ll take a swig of the wine.

as the day began to grow dark, i turned on peter cincotti (who actually happened to live on the same floor as me my freshman year) and relaxed in my seat. hearing jazz play with a glass of wine in hand never fails to make me feel classy, although i was wearing basketball shorts and a t-shirt at this point. i settled in my seat and did some preliminary research for my latest project collaboration with sei-wook, a website and branding makeover for a non-profit mentoring/teaching organization. i looked through hundreds of slides of branding and typography examples to get some ideas and also looked through some font sets and Pantone colors before doing some Illustrator work. it felt good to really get my hands on Illustrator since i hadn’t done much graphics work in quite a while. i made some enhancements to the existing logo (they want to keep it somewhat intact) and decided on some basic ideas for the website layout. one of the things that has really given me satisfaction in the past few years is being able to take an existing thing – a product, an organization, a design, etc. -, to invest my time and energy into it, and to truly believe that the end result is better than the original thing. doing graphics and web design has been one such area yielding satisfactory results.

later, i picked up my laundry and dry cleaning from the lobby and put them away into the closet and drawers. i am always pleased when i see my boxers and socks neatly folded in a rectangular block because then i can just dismantle the block bit by bit as i place respective clothing items into their proper places. afterwards, i joined Rich in the living room and we watched Monday Night Football. It was a very entertaining and close game, with Pittsburg defeating San Diego on a last second field goal. we also switched to the Yankees-Angels game, which ended when Matsui grounded out in the top of the ninth with the Angels up 5-3. i wonder if many people will watch now that the Yankees and Red Sox are both eliminated.

now it’s time for me to go to bed. it’s been a very eventful and interesting weekend for me, and to cap it off with a day like today, i guess i should be very content. but while i can’t quite put a finger on it – maybe it’s the sad vibe i get from Murakami’s book – there’s definitely a tinge of sadness and melancholy here and there in the back of my mind. maybe it’s the awareness of time just passing by and knowing that once things have come and gone, there’s nothing much i can do except to remember them. and it’ll just be the same sort of exercise repeated over and over again until the day i can’t really remember anymore or i’m dead. of course, at the same time, there’s some living to do.

the elusive hope (8 of 10)

note: ten-part series continued! | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7

If the toilet was a time machine, he would already have flushed himself. Instead, he looked below and saw pieces of brown in a yellowed lake. The noise of water spinning into the abyss did not send him back in time, but it did clear the toilet of his refuse.

Last night was his father’s sixty-second birthday. He met his parents at Dae Dong on 32nd Street, the only place he felt his parents ever went to whenever they came to Koreatown. He bought for his father a leather-bound copy of Foucault’s Madness and Civilization : A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason which he had found at Strand Books that morning.

“Oh, this is one of my favorites,” his father told him. “I’ll definitely put it in the collection and retire that worn out paperback .”

They ordered naeng myun and haemul pajeon. He remembered the days when they used to order endless amounts of kalbi and samgyupssal and see who could stuff the biggest ssam into their mouths.

“Let’s have an OB, Dad,” he said.

His father searched his mother’s face for approval. She was indifferent and picking away at the kong namul, one of the assortment of banchan on the table.

“Why not. It’s my birthday! Not too many more of these left!” his father said cheerfully. His father had always made references to his waning days ever since his son beat him in arm wrestling as a fifteen year-old. “Take care of your mother when I am gone,” he would say to his high school son from time to time. Now it was about time his son had his own son, or so he thought from time to time.

The naeng myun came and silence reigned as the family of three worked their way through the noodles, the boiled egg, and pieces of pear. He then looked up at his graying parents.

“I’m going to quit my job next week.”

“Really. What are you going to do?” his mother asked.

“Move out of the city. Somewhere quiet. Find another job maybe. Or even go back to school.”

“School? Aren’t you a bit too old for that?” his father asked.

“Well, I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet,” he said. His reply betrayed his easy annoyance with his parents’ skepticism. They knew better than to pick any further. He calmed down.

“I think I just need a change of scenery for a bit. I’ve saved up enough in the past few years so I can afford to explore different options,” he said.

“Oh. Will you move far?” his mother asked. “It’s okay if you want to. We won’t mind.” His mother had a way of inoculating against any expressions of sentiment with preemptive remarks.

“I don’t know. Maybe the West Coast.”

“Well, I’m glad you’re finally taking some action for yourself. I was beginning to wonder how much longer you’d stay with your job. An existential awakening perhaps? Learn to play golf!” his father said in a light-hearted manner.

“And meet a nice girl while you’re at it,” his mother added.

The waitress placed a small dish of sliced oranges along with the check on the table. He pulled his credit card out of his wallet.

“Happy birthday, Dad. Here’s to another healthy and happy year.”

songs heard on the road

i’m not much of a music person (although i was voted “most musically inclined” by my peers in middle school for singing and playing the saxomophone), so it’s not every day that i really sit down to examine music. this weekend, however, spending over sixteen hours in the car on our trip up to Vermont allowed me to really zero in on some very interesting songs. and with Andy, a fairly musically inclined person, sitting next to me, we had a great time dissecting some of the albums we brought on the trip, the new albums of Kanye West and Death Cab for Cutie among others. i’ll pick one in particular (not of those two albums) to discuss briefly.

John Wayne Gacy, Jr. by Sufjan Stevens in his album Illinois (2005)
what sounds like a pretty song with some sad overtones is actually a really chilling one with a very ambiguous message once you pay attention to the lyrics. the subject of the song is the life of Chicago serial killer John Wayne Gacy, Jr., who murdered (tortured and raped) almost thirty young men in a three-year span and kept their bodies under his floorboards. Stevens focuses on Gacy’s childhood experiences (the alcoholic father, the loving neighbors) and puts a soft lense over the brutality of the murders — what was undoubtedly a deranged act is transformed into the poetic: “He took of all their clothes for them / He put a cloth on their lips / Quiet hands, quiet kiss /On the mouth” Stevens goes on to romanticize the secrecy of Gacy’s murders with his last lines in which he feels that he is in many ways no better than the serial killer: “in my best behavior / i am just like him / just look beneath the floorboards / for the secrets i have hid” it’s a tough song to really take in, and it’s sometimes unfathomable how someone can even make a sympathetic song about a figure such as Gacy. and yet, the originality and the boldness of it really did evoke certain feelings for me personally. we so often automatically associate serial killers with an inherent maliciousness and evil which we ourselves are so sure we’re lacking. but Stevens’s attempt to project humanity into the life of a killer is a challenge to our conventional thinking, and one that deserves some attention, if not applause.

note: the Weekend section for Vermont is currently in the works. i put up a few pics already. it’s a great state. Sufjan should make an album about Vermont some day.