Ice skating Monday, May 19 2008 

I went ice skating and everything was perfect, that is to say it was full of glorious flaws. First my mother, my sister, my mother’s friend Victoria, (<-Oxford comma) and I had dim sum at the apparently famous Yank Sing near The Embarcadero. The parking garage at the Ricon Centre is claustrophobic and full of atmosphere. The ceiling is only seven feet from the floor and the landscape is dominated by slate blue support beams and a network or pipes that lead to nowhere.
I didn’t think Yank Sing would be spelled Yank Sing; I imagined a strange alignment of rarely used consonants. I love our waiter, his name is “Freddy” and when I order a Tsing Tao he says “Tsing Tao, Chinese beer!” and gives me a hearty pat on the shoulder. This is feasting this is glory. There is tea in clear glass pots with a cylinder of free standing leaves in its centre the taste of which I forsake for Tsing Tao, Chinese beer! but the smell of which is warm and calming. Carts and carts of dumplings, noodles, salads (<- no Oxford comma) and fried delights make an endless parade around our table and it is less like a military march than it is like a ballet. I take particular joy from hai gow, a shrimp dumpling that this place has managed to compliment with an unplacable nutty undertone. Then, oh then we are treated to the paragon of animals: Xiao Long Bao. Xiao Long Bao are the jewel of Shanghai, a dumpling filled by a mysterious, almost alchemical process with pork soup. By the end I feel that I am as I should always be: full of sodium and translucent dumpling wrappers, it’s a powerful tonic to the disappointments and accidents of this life that can make one feel as a rusty can drifting in a fetid algae-coated river. “Freddy” hands me, the assumptive patriarch, the extravagant check and says, “Sir” When he leaves I give the party my best Frenchman’s shrug and wave the leatherette fold toward my mother. I put on the sardonic, satisfied expression that can only exist in someone whose reality has finally given them what his/her expectations have been yearning for. I have been taken care of, a sensation slightly less pleasant than taking care.
Walking out my vision is tinged red and purple, like blood, with neon and lucky Chinese colors. I am full of blood. Victoria says she wants to take photos of me next to my sister because we are so different. I take that as high praise. We sit back to back on a bench and she snaps pictures of us looking to opposite poles. I look to the bizarre and transient North a place of flux and my sister to the South where dirt holds up the ice and snow and millions of identitcal penguins congregate. The pictures must look something like the poster for an action movie or a prize fight.

Finally I make my way to the Wachovia ice rink at The Embarcadero Centre. I look good because my walk is confident and half-tipsy, and my hair has for once conformed to my wishes. Little wisps stick up to show that I am a rougue and a Young Turk. At first I am unsteady on the ice because it’s been about a year since I last put skates on, but then it comes back to me. There’s something about the motion of skating that is different from anything else. I think it’s because you aren’t really going anywhere. Even though I have to weave between flailing children and human chains of twelve year-old girls I make good laps and figure eights. In the middle of the ice a woman is twirling in her figure skating tricks and her purple skates make me smile. Skating is a wonderful thing. The feeling of going air moving around me and the envy everyone feels at seeing my buttocks perfectly dry is part of it. But the greater enjoyment comes from the juxtaposition of how wholesome it is with how dangerous. My highlighter yellow-colored wrist band warns I won’t be able to sue when I burst my head against the boards or blood from my knee comes pooling out onto the ice. It’s the junction of speed and murder to kindness and love.
I don’t end up trying to go backwards because the ice isn’t properly surfaced (they don’t even use a zamboni and there are puddles of water everywhere) but I consider getting back into the rythm of things victory enough.


Tulips, Florticulture Monday, May 19 2008 

The tulip (tulipa) has a simple yet captivating presence. The flower’s structure isn’t complex like say, an orchid, but it blooms in multitude and brightness. You probably associate tulips with The Netherlands but they are native to the Middle East. Ogier Ghiselin de Busbecq introduced tulips to The Netherlands from Turkey as a result of his post as the Austrian ambassador there. This bears some explaining, the low countries were part of the Duchy of Burgundy until the death of Charles the Bold and the marriage of his daughter Mary of Burgundy to Holy Roman Emperor Maximillion I. In this manner Belgium and Holland became part of the Austrian Empire and tulips were reborn as a Dutch institution through the efforts of de Busbecq. Our project draws inspiration from this convoluted history in that an activity may be established in a certain way and then taken up with panache by enterprising souls.

The nourishment of life is an uncomfortable prospect. I don’t respond well to children and small things outside of how they respond to me. From culture I have come to understand that care-taking is supposed to be rather altruistic. That’s not the sort of man I am, however, and my appreciation of growing things comes primarily from how they boost my ego. I worry that my tulips will fail and thus reflect poorly on me. Luckily it is hard to resent a non-poisonous plant.

The man who sells the bulbs at Orchard Hardware Supply is painfully shy. His name is Henry and the customers he is supposed to be ringing up have abandoned him. He apologizes again and again while we stare at the lonely basket of PVC pipes and joints. When the owners return they are course and demanding causing Henry visible discomfort. He doesn’t seem to get irritated just more of an alien in his own skin. They are entitled to a $10.00 off coupon which they didn’t bother to bring with them, so Henry obligingly, awkwardly gets one from the manager. It won’t scan properly and Henry whispers “of course I get the one that won’t scan” as if it is a reflection of his sad character rather than a mechanical annoyance. He manually types in the coupon code a few times and it doesn’t work. He has to get another coupon to finally end the ordeal. By this time I am smiling but not so wide and warm as to add to his discomfort. If I were Henry I would be seriously pissed of at this point, but he is merely in an extreme state of sublime frustration. For this I admire him.
“Ten tulip bulbs,” I say handing him the bag full of yellow bulbs that look like small, misshapen onions. I pay the $5.90 and bow my head to Henry slightly so that he won’t notice but enough so that I will still be showing my reverence. “Thank you very much,” I tell him. Henry, you are the soil that will grow my tulips. If it were possible I would place you in fields and fields of these Tokyo, almost Tyrian purple flowers where you would undoubtedly say, “Aw, gee.” Instead there will be five of that variety, three red, and two yellow. You will never see them, but they will exist and absolve us of shakiness and stuttering.

Tulips require a freeze to grow and this is a large part of their appeal to me. Think about it, beauty as the result of harshness. I feel as though this make it a good place to start because much of the ethos of this project is using my flaws to produce boons. In this case my, uh, uncompassion (unpaternal-ness?) will serve as the genesis of a thing, the frost for the soil. It obviously doesn’t freeze here in the Bay Area, so to simulate the effect I put the bulbs in the fridge where they will remain for about a week. Then I will plant them and the process of either their growth or still-birth will be the first step toward renaissance manliness.