I remember the clouds in the night, moving over the ocean like the face of God over the waters, the biting air, the squelch of wet sand between the toes. It was then, back then when I could see what lay behind it all; eternity. Timelessness was once found in the sound and smell of cars passing through tunnels, in the cracks of sun-dried red soil; sticky fertile mud when it rained. In the incidental forests between buildings and fields that echoed with sounds of bulbuls and buzzing insects, and even in the sublime terror of a moth beating staccato rhythm against the screens of the windows.

Now the passing moments are never as rich as the memories. I sense things in all their forms still, but it only serves to take me to the past than bind me to the present. The house with an empty birdcage, with the smells of frying lup cheong is only a reference point to the time when my small fingers traced patterns on the kitchen formica, waiting for breakfast. The smell of the Brylcreem I rub into my hair before work is less real than the Brylcreem my grandfather rubbed into his hair before going to work, taking his old briefcase with the stickers of Korea and Vietnam on them. I live so poorly in the present. Even the future I grasp in pulpy science fiction magazines takes me back to the interminable hours of study hall, when I would read paperbacks of rockets and distant planets savoring the tang of dust on the yellowed pages of old paperbacks.

All things now seem like a bad dream, as if I’m sleepwalking through life trying to find those points as I live as opposed to the past. I can never be there as it happens, only in retrospect do things unfold in glorious myriad ways, and those moments of remembrance grow more and more sparse as time goes by. When am I here now? A bit when I run. Always, when I dance. But I don’t dance as often as I used to. Age brings less opportunities for such things. Life in the present is defined by the hours I spend sitting in a windowless office, balanced by the hours I spend here, in front of a glowing screen, aching for moments when everything feels real. The closest it gets is sneaking out to smoke, watching the ducks feed in the turgid little stream that runs under the highway.  It’s smoking. It’s trading minutes of your life in order to make the remaining minutes seem more intense. That, I can grasp.

I’ve yet to meet another in person who can say that they saw the face of God moving over the waters in a cloud of eternity, someone who feels so intensely the smells, sounds and light of everyday life to the point where it all seems like some sort of time machine meant to constantly draw them to other times and places before. Someone who feels that they’re sleepwalking through life, a slave to the intangible essences of memory and sensuous experience. God help me, sometimes I feel like I’m the only person awake! Yet, I don’t thrive. More and more I feel like a plant wilted from lack of water. I am impoverished in everything else but my ability to feel and recall. I see people living their lives, speaking of things alien to me and know: I am a prisoner in solitary confinement. I lack the ability and wherewithal to communicate the worlds within me. I am a dreamer in the world of the waking, and so I sleep as life passes me by.

Advertisements

Sorry, just haven’t felt much like writing the past week. Maybe next week?

I know it’s rather funny since I have far more time to write on a Sunday than on other days, but I’m often less motivated because I’ve spent either the day wasting time or doing other things that fill my need for “constructive uses of a weekend”, in this particular case, reviewing the service manual for my 95 Geo and reorganizing my music references  by my desk. Still, I feel the need to keep myself to a schedule of postings, just so I can maintain the discipline necessary in my life to do the things I want to do.

I’ve come to realize that I simply have far too many goals to realistically hit them all at the same time, as well as some poor time usage habits that I’ve come to see as major impediments to, for lack of a better term, my personal actualization. Let me list all the various projects I’m trying to undergo:

1. Continuing my fitness regiment. I exercise for 45 minutes to an hour everyday, alternating between anaerobic and aerobic exercise. Ideally the end goal of all this is the 100 push-ups, 20 pull ups and completing a tin man triathlon. I’ve sort of been stagnating for the past 6 months and realize I need to intensify and alternate my training routines, which requires some things like building a pull up/row bar and buying some new training equipment and figuring out how to get swimming into the routine (yes, I am aware of the irony of living by one of the best rated beaches in the nation and being at a loss on how to work in swimming, long story).

2. Develop better mental habits and optimizing my cognitive potential using mental performance techniques. This is stagnating. I need to get to it because it will help in better digesting and using the various materials necessary for my other recreational activities. Still, I can bracket off time at work to do this if I can defeat one of my major timesucks.

3. Learn to play multiple instruments for the purpose of writing and recording my own music. This is really stagnating. Why? You need to invest at least 15 minutes daily minimum to maintain proficiency in an instrument. Spread between ukulele, classical guitar, bass guitar, drum sequencer, harmonica and a whole host of other sundry small instruments and effects units means that I’m nowhere near even passable on one instrument, much less multiple ones. How did I get into that conundrum? Well, I felt I needed to do it all by myself since I bombed so badly on band auditions. That does not include the time needed to learn proper musical theory and composition as well as effectively learning the DAW software, which is a major undertaking in and of itself. I would be better paring myself down to one or two instruments and focusing on writing simple songs that don’t require much multitracking or musical complexity.

4. Building musical instruments and effects units. This includes getting my electronics, programming and woodworking skills higher than the basic level they are at. Unfortunately this also requires investment in tools and materials and money is something I’m always in short supply of. Still, nothing beat the high I got when I finished that cigar box guitar and plugged it into an amp and let it rip.

5. Analogue Photography. Unlike most of my other hobbies, this one is one that I already know most of the technical ins and outs of. I was raised on wetlab photography and spent time hanging out in my grandfather’s darkroom as a teen. I used to be big into photography, even placing a photo in a “Best of College Photography” book back in the late 90s. The big thing here is again, cost. I have the cameras and can easily borrow scanners and development and enlargement equipment. However the cost of both film and chemicals is extremely high. Some may say I should just do digital photography. I say to them, “then why don’t I go learn how to cook French Cuisine using a microwave?” The appeal of analogue photography comes in the limitations, randomness and difficulty of doing it, as well as in the joys of working with light and chemicals.

6. Writing, in all of its forms. Right now I’m trying to blog twice a week and keeping a dream journal. I’d like to start doing poetry and fiction again, but my bane has always been writing more than 20 pages without getting bored or frustrated. Also I hate editing and would rather just rewrite from scratch over and over again. I believe that writing is what I am best at doing, but unfortunately it gives me the least amount of pleasure in doing so. Still it would be nice to finish *something*, be it a novel or song or collection of themed poetry or short stories.

7. Various other things like learned how to fix and repair my car, do basic fixing and building of things around the house, i.e. all the sort of things men used to do before they outsourced it to specialists who charge an arm and a leg to change the oil in your car or repair an electrical outlet.

8. Learn Game/social skills enough to get a decent long term relationship. This is hampered by my deep introversion, the fact I live in a bedroom community away from Honolulu, and a whole host of other personal issues, the main one being lack of patience with others and lack of interpersonal confidence.

As you can see, I need to give up or pare down my aspirations a good deal if I’m ever to reach my goals in any one of them. There simply isn’t enough time in the day even if I didn’t have to work and I didn’t have multiple bad habits which impede my motivation and waste my time. I’m definitely *trying*, though.

1. One big thing has been trying to get rid of my gaming habit. Old super-nintendo fighting games and bash-em ups and the X-Com and Civilization series have eaten *years* of my life. They’re how I get all the aggro vibes that build up in me out. By beating the shit out of M. Bison for the umpty-millionth time, or by wonder-whoring my way to a cultural victory in civilization. I’ve gotten better at not losing so much time to it, but still, I need to cut it out completely.

2. My addiction to porn and all that entails. There is nothing so destructive to one’s energy level, creativity and sociability than looking at porn nightly and rubbing one out, not to mention the time it wastes in doing so and the fucked up mentality that comes out of it. I’ve been trying to do the no-fap challenge, with some success and some failure. I need to avoid the triggers that are ALL OVER the goddamn web in order to last longer than seven days, as well as not to resort to video games which is what I tend to do with the pent up energy and emotion instead of doing something constructive with it.

3. My use of alcohol, kava and cannabis. I’m not really addicted to this stuff, but I use it as a crutch to socialize. Anytime I do use, I end up writing off anything constructive that night and most of the following day due to the physical and/or psychological hangovers it entails. Not to mention there are far better uses for my money.

4. The biggest one, and perhaps the most difficult one to overcome is my usage of the internet and social media. I realize I use it so much since it allows me to express myself in ways I can’t in the real world. Still, it eats up so much of the spare time I have in my day. Compared to quitting cigarettes, quitting the time-wasting parts of the net is much much more difficult for me. I have to learn to filter better and to not use the net as a substitute for actual socialization and mental stimulation. If I could kick this habit, I could easily free up about 4 hours a day at work to use on bettering myself rather than trolling the web at work (yeah, my work has a shit ton of rarely monitored downtime, which makes up for the lousy pay), and another two or three hours at home. It is so hard to cut myself off from that tap of endless information that makes neurons spark, but doesn’t contribute anything useful.

5. I need to balance my fiction reading with non-fiction. When it comes down to it, I’d rather read a story than a book on schematics or musical theory. I need to be more disciplined there.

I guess this really isn’t a short interlude anymore, but I felt I needed to write it out to better get my head in order. Any of you got suggestions?

It seems rather strange that I did not have a true awareness of ethnic and cultural difference until I was seven or eight. I had noticed many of the houses in my neighborhood flying the colorful fish that marked “Boy’s Day”. One of my classmates had received one of those LCD handheld games that were so popular in the 80s, saying that his parents had given it to him for Boy’s Day. I did not know that presents were part of that whole deal, so when I got home I asked my parents if I could have something for Boy’s Day. My mother’s response was, “No, that’s only for Japanese people.” I realized then that there were things that set apart people just from who their families were. As for myself, there was little awareness of any racial or ethnic difference at all.

My surname is Portuguese, but my father’s side of the family did not do much in the way of celebration of that heritage. My aunt would joke about my sister being “Queen of the Holy Ghost Parade.”, but by that time, it seemed that the actual Holy Ghost Parade had passed into history. In fact, my paternal family seemed to be the last Portuguese living in the upper reaches of Kalihi Valley, their neighborhood now filled with Filipinos, speaking Tagalog and Illocano. The church “Our Lady of the Mountain”, so styled in what I would learn as an adult to be a traditional Madeiran church, which my great grandfather had laid stones for the stairs leading to the grotto of the virgin on the side of the valley walls, was now Portuguese only in it’s architecture and one elderly priest. We are still the only Portuguese family left in the valley; not counting the ones lying in the overgrown graves in a tiny yard stuck between two Manila McMansions, yet change is constant. The neighborhood now houses many Samoans, who have built their own churches and planted breadfruit where once vineyards were and then fighting chickens. I digress. If my upbringing was not Portuguese, it was still profoundly Catholic, though not of the shifting ethnic churches, but instead of the cosmopolitan bedroom community were all the descendants of the various plantation workers who had moved up into the middle classes now lived. And as atheist as I am, I cannot but look fondly on the religion I was raised in.

One of the things about Catholicism in Hawaii, is that it forced a blending of groups that was not practiced amongst the Protestant churches here. Most of the leadership was European in the early days, and often at odds with the descendants of the Calvinist missionaries who dominated the economic and cultural spheres of the island for over one hundred years. Whereas the plantation owners strove to keep the various groups in separate ethnic camps, and created a hierarchy of races in Hawaiian society in order to keep the labor divided and distrustful of each other, every Sunday there was one Latin Mass to which the Portuguese, the Puerto Ricans, the Filipinos, and the converts amongst the Hawaiians, Chinese and Japanese attended. The fathers themselves being not of the elite and celibate had no issue with intermarriage amongst their flock, even if the individual families were often against it, and thus both my paternal and maternal lines admixed long before I was born under the auspices of the Catholic Church, universal and holy.

Thus, the Catholic church and school which I went to as a young boy had no predominant ethnic group. Being all the offspring of better-off middle class families, whatever tension there was sublimated at first, and mostly appears solely in retrospect. Many were mixed like myself, biracial and triracial, with haoles (Caucasians) and Asians between. We knew there were differences. It’s impossible not to know, here in Hawaii, especially back in the days before political correctness. Ethnic humor based on stereotypes was the most popular form of comedy, as instanced by the routines of Frank DeLima, Rap Replinger, and the Bumatai Brothers. We would make jokes about each other, and if they got too nasty, the teachers would crack down, but still, as a youth, Frank DeLima would come around to schools to give a motivational talk interspersed with light-hearted ethnic humor. My sister who is in education says that the now elderly DeLima still does his tour of the schools, but much of the ethnic humor has been shorn from his routines. Even so, all the ethnic jokes did not engender a sense of difference that occurred that one time on Boy’s Day, nor perhaps the sense of difference perceptible to the teachers or myself now as an adult. No, that stronger sense of difference would come later when I first came to battle with being Hawaiian in middle school, though I suspect it is not the battle most of those who claim to be Hawaiian have had.

Next: Part III Imua

Well, it’s Easter and I’ve spent most of the day with family and just enjoyed a cigar that was a bit too strong for my constitution, thus negating much of the dinner in the fashion of a dysfunctional runway model, so I’ll keep this one short.

As you know, I have many many cousins. Today it just hit me that I can see a shift in between the ones in their late teens and early 20s and those just slightly younger. The younger ones while just as adept with digital devices seem hyperaware that nearly everything is recorded forever nowadays and those are more reserved and cautious in their activities and behavior, almost as if that someone is constantly watching over their shoulder. It’s a real interesting generational shift from the exhibitionist style of the Millennium generation…

Of course this is all anecdotal, drawn from an extremely small sample set, but I think it might be a larger trend, pointing to a shift in the culture.

If there is one thing that is considered a backwards idea in this day and age, it is the notion that family and homeland do not matter and are simply things that have passed their time in our individualistic, globalized and atomized age. Those that know best consider that the individual and his personality is primarily constructed by his immediate environment, his life experiences and most importantly, his internal reflection on the above. That is, of course, bullshit of the highest order. First and foremost, we are determined by the innate codings of our genes and how they express themselves. Secondly, we are defined by the larger overall culture in which we are immersed in. Let me explain. A 100% Japanese-American will share proclivities inherent in every ethnically Japanese person, whether they be born in Japan, or third generation in America or Brazil. However, how those proclivities express themselves will be shaped by the larger cultural milleau he or she lives in. An inherent aesthetic sentimentality, for example, may attach itself to Bossa Nova instead of Enka, with all the trappings that entails. But what does that mean for our theoretical Japanese-American in his search for himself?

I hold that one of the great weaknesses of HBD in this discussion has been overgeneralization. What it can say about generalities and larger groups is both interesting and useful. Its efficacy in individual introspection is limited. It’s simply too macro in it’s outlook. What is necessary is to tell the story in a micro manner, namely to look at one’s own family tree, and one’s relations to see where they came from, and where perhaps they will go. This is not a screed of deterministic dictums on one’s fate. In my eyes, the illusory nature of free will is negated by the fact that we will never be able to completely predict everything, and we will always be able to surprise ourselves with the seeming capriciousness of our own and others personalities. This isn’t a scientific essay where I submit results of the allele analysis of me and my relatives 23andMe reports. Instead it is a rambling personal reflection on ancestral heritage and the soil, water and sun that surrounds it.

Where to begin? Let’s start at the ending. Myself. I was born and raised in Hawaii, a distant outlying part of the United States of America, once its own independent kingdom, and now a slowly homogenizing cosmopolitan society. American, yet not completely so. I am of Portuguese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Chamorro, Scottish, Chinese, and German heritage. For various reasons I self-identify as Hawaiian, but in future posts, I will explain why by the standards of where I live, my own designation is dubious. My multiplicity of ancestries is perhaps uncommon where you are from, but not so much here. Over 20% of the population of Hawaii is multiracial and no one ethnicity dominates, though it is not the shiny utopian world of beautiful sun people that some people who believe ideology over reality would have you think. Nor is it a hellhole of subliminated racial tensions that contrarian holders of socially frowned upon thought crimes on race would think it is. It is messy and disorganized and gloriously complicated. In short, it is human, and it is my home.

Part II: The awareness of difference

Regular posts on Wednesday and Sunday nights Hawaiian time.

Blog look revamp.

New content. New videos

Fiction, essays, poetry, music, photography.

I’ve decided that the best way for a procrastinator like me to get anything done is to use a daily planner to get shit done and studiously avoid reading things like message boards, blog comments and newsfeed aggregators. You can imagine the internet, if you will, as a giant river. You can either swim in it and get swept away, or stand on the banks pissing inward. While it doesn’t account for much, contributing in a meaningless way is better than drowning in a sea of information masturbation. Suffice to say, enough is enough. Everything I am proud of in my life came solely through discipline. It’s time to get started on something concrete and stop whiling away the hours.