Friday, August 28, 2009

Shohei Doin' Work

Almost six years ago, I walked into a small dance studio in Granada Hills to take karate lessons. At the time, I thought it'd be 'fun.' I was 22 years old and had never fought anyone in my life. At the beginning of my first class, I immediately had trouble keeping up with the punching and kicking drills; and I got tired very quickly. At the time, I thought that I was naturally more athletic than the Average Joe. And I thought I knew how to pace myself better than most people. But there, I was dying within the first 20 minutes. To make matters more embarrassing, the assistant instructors were shorter and several years younger than me. I did not look cool at all.

This moment of humility gave me a rude awakening to what true karate is. It's about pushing yourself to the limits. It's not a game or a comparison of who's better.

I learned and improved little by little. And for the next few years, I consistently trained twice a week for an hour and a half each session. Along the way, I took some nasty punches and kicks; and came home bruised and sore. I got knocked out a few times as well. But it was gratifying to know that I stopped being fragile and I could dish out some of my own techniques.

But it took hard work.

About two years ago, I stopped training. Adult life kicked in, and I couldn't practice objectively with sacrificing more important priorities. But a few of the same people are there. That young, smaller black belt who helped instruct during my first day of class? His name is Shohei. After all these years, he stuck with it and grew up. Last weekend, he took 3rd place in the middleweight division at the World Championships. Truly inspiring.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Upper Playground August

For the month of August, Upper Playground releases more cool shit. I really like the quality and low profile nature of Upper Playground. They don't plaster their logos on every t-shirt and they allow other artists to showcase their own line. That's the model I want to take after. Upper Playground Blog

Friday, August 7, 2009

Generational Burdens

A case of bait and switch.

My dad is someone who doesn't really say what's on his mind. I thought it was a little odd that my dad wanted to go all the way out to Reseda to get the spark plugs in my car changed, but I just went along with it. The job took a couple of hours because our Vietnamese mechanic had other jobs to do. We waited, playing ping-pong at a near-by table tennis studio. But soon enough, we were on our way. Afterward, my dad asked me if I wanted to visit my grandfather at the hospital... 'Oh, that's why.'

We arrived at the hospital, only to find out that my grandfather had already checked out and left. So we hopped back into the car, and drove to my grandparents' apartment.

Usually, visiting my grandparents is an unsettling affair. I can't speak or understand Fukienese (Taiwanese). And my grandparents know this, but still insist on speaking to me in Fukienese. They pay me compliments and ask me to visit them more often, to which I respond with a slight bow and an [okay]. On average, it takes about 30 minutes to watch my parents talk with them and leave. But when we arrived to see my grandfather, we were going to take as much time as we needed.

This is my grandfather and my dad. These days, my grandfather is getting old and hardly has any strength to walk around. In the background, the calligraphy of my late uncle.

For the first time, I saw my grandfather in his most frail state. At the same time, I had never seen him so candid. While my dad was massaging his weak joints as he laid resting, my grandfather started to reminiscence about life in Vietnam and when they first came to America in the early 80's. Those were happier times. Like many his age, my grandfather can often feel lonely, unimportant, and forgotten.

I quietly sat there, thinking about my responsibilities as a son and a grandson. Sons should take care of their parents.

Whenever I visit, my grandma offers me a cornucopia of Ritz crackers, fruits, soda, and water, to which I usually decline politely... This time, I'd never ate and fought back tears so much.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fun in Rowland Heights

If I could start a boutique anywhere, it'd probably be in the San Gabriel Valley. Diamond Plaza, in particular, is open late. It's full of young, fashionable people. And best of all, there's hecka good places to eat.


Roy admires the selection @ iKicks.

Jason marvels at the Street Fighter 4 players @ Arcade Infinity.