In Retrospect

 

Reading journal entries from last year, and my, oh my, how things have changed. Thirteen months ago, I lamented joblessness, the friendzone, ghosts of friends past, nihilism and more. Topics of this blog would crop up regularly–what I was doing, what was up with the name, was it even worth posting on? I’d feel bouts of intense doubt over having started yet another blog (I forget that my photo blog was still up at the time)

15: WHEN LIFE is grey and routine you find a way through the parking lots. skip skip skip- to imagination land
18: when everything crowds out your senses/makes you stumble and cry, you miss the parking lots. skip skip skip: this time to nowhere.

Needless to say, things have changed. This summer, I’m working at a place I like with co-workers I like while doing tasks I like (as a writer!) My relationships haven’t changed drastically, save for some here or there (understatement). Nihilism is no longer something that hangs over my head like a blinding white cloud on a maddeningly slow summer day. And this blog has somehow transformed itself into a pulsating creative outlet on a bustling writing community that I’m happy to have joined.

I also feel differently this year than I did last year–less angsty, less nihilistic, less rambly and sleepy and sad. You know the kind of tiredness that washes over you when you’ve been on the road for too long and the sun’s beating down on your neck? when time hovers wiggly in the air, making heat waves of exhaustion? That was last summer.

This summer feels more like morning coffees, co-worker chit-chat, snuggles post errand-running, city explorations. It feels like every summer redoing itself to get things right, just right, this time. It’s summer 2015 balancing out work-and-life, summer 2014 knotting relationships together, summer 2016 erasing its own sense of meaninglessness. 

City Respite

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light and shadow

To escape the city, venture deeper into the city; a necessary paradox when surrounded by people, crowds, movement and noise. Many weekends I’d escape into Center City, where I’d burrow myself in a coffeeshop or bookstore. Though I’d remain constantly surrounded by people, it was a way of finding solitude, an otherwise rare beast on the urban campus.

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city black and white photography downtown urban iphone

balance

Summer Rain and Cigarettes

Cigarette smoke makes me think of China. I remember the way it’d fill up the room in my Uncle’s absence, then stay still, holding its breath for several hours. In the streets, in the markets, in the restaurants, there they’d be, the cigarettes clutched-clasped-dangling between people’s fingers.

Last summer we got caught by Mei Yu. The plum rain. The constant downpour of gloom that cooped us up at home. Monsoon season? I asked. No, responded Wiki: the East Asian Rainy Season.

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So I cut my hair. I painted. After the rain, I ventured outside in some grey oversized sweater (so poorly underdressed in a city where women tottered around in heels over broken concrete and construction) to photograph people, strays and the occasional chicken.

Wandering the City

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After making a bucket list of things to do in the city, I finally went out and crossed a few off the list.

We meandered around the design district, searching for the museum of contemporary art. After circling around a few times, we realized it’d been in front of us the entire time. The space wasn’t what I’d anticipated; it was open, garage-like, with three moving art exhibits. I’m not usually the biggest fan of contemporary art–sometimes it strikes me as something devoid of skill–but these pieces weren’t like that. They were meaningful and thoughtful. The artists were talented. We drifted from one exhibit to the next, oohing and aahing at the pieces, from massive rug-like designs made of plastic fingers to portraits painted on metal.

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Afterwards, we headed over to a grilled cheese restaurant, where we ate bruschetta, downed two beers, and ordered a savory bacon-and-grilled-cheese sandwich. The sandwiches were, as I always say, nom-tastic.

I like to imagine that this particular neighborhood is where the hipsters come to roost. Vintage shops litter the streets. Walls are decked out in murals. Quirky sculptures greet visitors in repurposed homes. It’s eclectic, artsy, old but welcoming. We peered into a few shops here and there, visited a coffeeshop-meets-bookstore-meets-bar. Then we dived into a pie shop for apple streusel and ice cream. (Our pie slice was massive).

art mural

Once we devoured the pie, we wandered around and found a wooden swing by some murals. They were occupied by three girls who posed and puckered for pictures for what felt like forever. In the meantime, we looked at murals. My favorite featured a mandrill meditating-floating above a pink sprinkled donut. I pretended to meditate atop a greyish block in front of the mandrill. After what felt like forever, the girls posing on the swing finally paused to move and look at their photos. I leaped onto the swings. We swung together.

It was hot. It was humid. But after leaving the arts district, we drove to visit the bridge, a city landmark, and walked across. I’d never driven on it, only seen it from afar, but today we got up close and personal. We walked on the hill, towards the bridge, onto the walkway, where we could see downtown.

“That’s where we spent the majority of our relationship.” He pointed out to a cluster of buildings.


As we drove home, the sun set. We talked about ridiculous things, as per usual. And for a moment it felt a little like the summers during which we’d always drive downtown.