The Shoe Parade and the World of Confusingness

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As a grandparent-proclaimed “growing boy” during my younger years, I had a tough time staying in the same pair of sneakers. In addition to constant half-size elongation, I absolutely destroyed respective heels and balls and other parts I don’t know the name of on every make and model of footwear. I used to go through like three or four pairs a year. I have decided to call this collective glory period the “Shoe Parade.” I need to be careful because that might be the name of a shoe store.

During the Shoe Parade, I gained a glimpse into the world of confusingness. My shoes decayed (yes, I was very scientific back then) at a much quicker rate kids who seemed to live similar lives and who were going through similar, if not greater, bodily growth spurts (I was always short but my feet grew quickly; admittedly, while they grew taller, I did not measure their feet on a regular basis).

My best friends and I ran amongst golden cornfields, rambled through countless neighborhoods (actually just two or three), circled the bases of makeshift Wiffle ball fields, and protected the streets that held Abraham Lincoln’s legacy while pedaling away on our BMX bikes. And yet in spite of the fact that these friends were roughly one foot (12 inches, not shoe-related) away from me at all times doing the exact same things with their feet, they kept the same shoes for a year or two, and I didn’t.

I couldn’t wrap my ahead around this phenomenon. It made me question reality. I was “spoiled” with shoes, they would say. Then I displayed my soles, and after seeing more white sock than rubber, friends would politely hint that I was a “stomper.” I then walked really softly (to the point of tiptoeing), but nothing changed. Why was this only occurring on my feet? Was there something else going on?

I had no idea how crazy that world of confusingness would get, beyond the shoes I tied every morning. Young adulthood has been really weird. There’s been so many situations where things haven’t gone like I thought they should go, whereas for other people events always seems to unfold in a perfect logical order. I don’t have a name for this period, but it’s a few steps past (a footwear pun) the Shoe Parade.

Sometimes, I get kind of tired of it and want to find a simple place for my feet in the normal-person world. It can be tough living in a land where I expect outliers on a daily basis.

So a while back, I transitioned to the “regular” sort of life, or at least I tried, with occasional success. I told myself it was the right thing to do.

But then I looked down at my shoes, and I realized that they’re like a size too small and they’ll be a size and a half too small by next year. I might as well just shut up and get some new sneakers.

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Just Throw It

Throw me that thing, will ya? Oh, you want to talk? Great, great, great, yeah, I’m nodding, awesome, whatever. Just throw me that circular disc. Oh and, if you can, throw it too high or too far to the side.

Hey, that was a decent toss, but direct is kind of boring. I’m sending it back to you. You like that spin?

Yeah, so I’ll catch a surprising (to you and me) amount of your mistakes and your intentional errant throws. It’s better if I have a lot of flat open ground. No sidewalk, no trees, no weird protruding objects that might cause serious injury. Give me some space. Make me go. Make me run, jump, dive. I don’t want to hear your anecdotes. That’s okay, I don’t want to stop for a break.

No, no, please don’t throw it that wa…it’s over the fence. As we walk over to get it, you’re going to realize you’re tired and we’ll lose our momentum and…I’m not human, don’t you see? I never tire of this activity. Let’s keep playing, come on, please…oh, you’re sitting down. You want to engage in small talk. I see. Well I’m just going to stand here silently with the disc in my hand.

I’m ready to play again. I need to get it out of system. I’ll play all night, all day, forever until I’m done. But right now, I’m not done. Wow, mhmm, your story is so interesting. I’m picturing the…gliding disc in the blue sky as I read its trajectory and run after it unimpeded. I admit, the white plastic disc is making my mouth water. I may or may or may not have an addiction. So please, spare me the human activities at this moment. Take this thing from my hand. I need you to throw it to me, the current object of my affection, the beautiful Frisbee, and I’ll go fetch.

Foreign Morning Senses

Two adjacent slowly spinning fans. Tables of fake glass, fake wood, fake plastic hosting turning pages of real news. A rooster above the days on the wall, flapping first month of the Western year. Cloud-shielded sunlight on diminutive dirty tiles. No doors.

Helmeted singles and doubles speeding by, a gaggle of mechanical geese, a flock of weed eaters. Zhong bei, jia tang. Western indie pop from petite speakers. Bing de. Nice day for ice. Clinging. Wings of hummingbirds flapping against glass.

Oil oily and yolk yolky. Luo bo gao: is it a radish or a turnip? Straw transferring frothy new substitute like unsweetened marshmallows to the back of the tongue and its roof, lingering. Bitter skin of fruit, a remorseless first impression keeping the sweetness at bay.

The outer wisp of a small, condensed chemical cloud, stinging nostrils, burning tonsils. Soap. Perfumeness as she breezes by. Sharp salty sea: the port olfactorily. The beans, brewed, always smell cozier than they taste.

Whittling wooden chopsticks. Warm breeze on dry squinting eyes. Pain from ear to temple because I chugged here instead of sipped to go.

A Night at Badouzi

From the bus stop, it’s a steep 2km trek up the same road the cars take. I get to the top around 3pm, slightly later than I wanted to in order to get a read on the sunset and pick a spot for picture purposes, but yet at a perfect time because it’s the pre-sunset stage where you can feel a yellowy-orange presence arising, and the world seems to be in high-contrast mode. The first thing I see when getting to the top is this:

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A bunch of couples are hanging out in the shadows of Wangyou Valley below. I continue on to the coast, and even though we’ve only been apart one day, I greet it like we haven’t seen each other in years. The view is so pretty while walking up and down different sets of stairs, trying to enjoy the warm breeze but also find a good spot to set up the camera. It’s overwhelmingly large – there are plenty of good spots at tops of hills, at valleys, looking at ridges, looking at ports. There are also lots of people since it’s the weekend.

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There are so many options for picture-taking. I’m not a scientist or a light expert, and I have no idea how the coast will be affected by the light. I just take what the sky, mountains, and water give me, which can vary widely. I think this spot will be good:

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There are hundreds of mosquitoes, and I’m wearing my salmon shorts sitting next to some high grass. I can still smell the citronella on my skin, but they don’t seem to care.

I watch the boats millimetering forward, entering and leaving the port. Fishermen and women stand on the edge of the rock structures below, and couples take pictures behind me. Some people come up and talk to me. They’re very nice here.

Where am I supposed to look? What am I supposed to see? I don’t know.

Here comes the sunset.

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The spot I chose is alright, but I look left just a bit. This is what I was looking for.

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For just a few moments, there is but one definite place to focus my eyes. I get up. The hill we strange little creatures are standing on is no longer attached to the earth, and we’re collectively part of something much bigger. The surreal skies overwhelm us as we look up in awe. The people standing next to me have a discussion about school.

I keep moving the camera left, west, following the color. Even though it’s unexpected and there are people in the picture (which I almost always avoid), I get some nice shots and enjoy it. Maybe I’m too obsessed with sunsets over coasts.

Pretty skies at Badouzi

Meanwhile, back at my spot…

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The event in the sky only lasts a minute or two, and people start to leave. But I’m staying. Even though I’m without phone service on top of a hill far from transportation, I’m determined to conquer the night, if the mosquitoes don’t eat every square inch of my arms and legs first…

The darkness welcomes me. Some boats turn on their bright lights, and I mess around with some more pictures.

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I stay another hour, until I can no longer see my hand and nearly everyone is gone. I stand in the middle of the black valley, stopping again for a few minutes, looking at the ships and the stars, wishing I could stay here all night.

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I want more of this. I hope to discover as much of Taiwan’s natural beauty as I can, because exploring makes me happy.

Full photo album

To My Escapist Self

Hi there,

You know that voice currently in control of your head, the one telling you there’s something else you should be doing, the one encouraging you to give up whatever positive things are directly in front of you? The one using words like “must,” “leave,” “elsewhere,” and “unsure” in the same sentence? Of course you do. It rules your life. It clouds your judgment. It torments you in every millisecond of your jobs, your relationships, your obligations, your leisure activities. Yep, I know you’re coming to the conclusion that something needs to be done to finally rest your troubled mind and help you come closer to being a real breathing person with actual emotions, and you’re willing to go to absurdly destructive lengths to eliminate whatever this thing is inside of you. I get that you’re ultra-tapped-in on that feeling, but there’s something else I want you to focus on for the moment: the little bitty voice you keep brushing past, the one with his hand raised politely waiting to ask some simple questions about the practicality of this venture. Answer his questions, take a breath, and look around you again.

This is what you worked hard to achieve. Do you really want to give it up? Do you realize that you’ll be looking at the next location with the exact same eyes? Just keep that in mind before you work so hard to end what you worked so hard to start.

Love,

Me/You

Y/N

You need to decide now, but your faculties have disappeared. You’re a robot with a glitch, you’re broken. You have a choice between left and right and you continue straight, and even after impact has been made and metal is crunching and glass is shattering, you’re waiting for a heavenly voice to tell you exactly what to do.

You’re still alternating between choices as the dirt approaches your nose. You think you’ve got it, you finally make a decision, and as you come up with a story supporting it, you regret it, you dramatically change your mind at the last second. The dirt is in your mouth, you can no longer see, and you cheerfully explain your new decision to the crying faces looking down at you, and you secretly long for the other choice, yes you, already dead sir, and you still waver in your grave infinitely. You are an idiot.

Wandering Thoughts from Holland

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I just spent some time alone in various parts of the Netherlands, trying to regroup and figure out where to go next with my life. I posted some non-Amsterdam photos here.

The following are a few of my thoughts while strolling around the nice little country.

 

While You’re There

These solo trips are always frustrating because I think I need to see certain things in the area while I’m in one spot, but I don’t like touristy things and try to create my own adventures. Yet these adventures, even when fun, feel forced; forced by a travel god telling me to do things so I can say I’m doing things. It usually ends with me randomly walking ridiculous distances in city streets and getting lost in remote towns and, besides one or two significant meeting people-related incidents, usually lots of time is left completely to myself to worry over what to do next. It’s usually a mix of “any way the wind blows” and “any way the wind blows that also sounds like a perfect fit,” and the endless possibilities can be a bit overwhelming. Should I go to some obscure, barely accessible location and take pretty pictures? Should I go out and talk to some locals? Should I have an interesting adventure? Should I use the opportunity in this new place to figure out my life? I do not know how to choose anymore, so whatever I do ends up being completely capricious, and I’m always left wondering if I should be doing something else. There are plenty of downsides to being a drifter when you tell yourself you’re doing something more profound than just escaping.

 

Any Destination Required

I woke up and decided to drive from Amsterdam to Germany to see some mountains and pretty scenery and stuff. I hopped in my surprisingly fast Renault stationwagon-ish thing and looked for any random location in Germany on the in-car GPS. However, the rental car company only had Benelux (Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg) locations on its GPS.

I decided instead to drive to the Lux because I know nothing about it, and I embarked on side roads through the foggy Dutch and then Belgian (and for like 3 minutes German) countryside. Even with 1200 km of driving in two days under my belt, my shifting was still choppy because the lip on the heel of my left all-purpose-while-traveling hiking boot got stuck beneath the clutch every time I released it.

Anyway, after 7 hours of driving, I couldn’t find a place to park in Luxembourg City and got weirdly trapped when a main road suddenly turned to a parking garage and, upon having no other choice but to hit the “give me a ticket and I’ll pay before I leave” button, I was notified in French on a screen that my car was not allowed in the garage for some reason, and I was forced to awkwardly reverse the Renault back out of the long and narrow passageway and onto the busy hilly road with cars converging directly onto the entrance from both one-way sides. I then drove through the drizzle and couldn’t find parking or a place to stay, so I eventually (after about 10 minutes) just decided to drive like 4.5 hours directly back to Amsterdam.

But I thought about the GPS again. I needed to be able to choose some destination and go with it, and it made me extremely anxious to not be able to pick a spot in Germany. I guess I’ve done this since I started driving. I can’t leave until I know which exact direction to head for my inexact adventure. Without a destination it’s stressful in new places because I feel like I must take every exit and see every sight until I find something perfectly suitable. Of course, it’s never really been about the destination. On this trip, the high-level insight I gained was that European petrol is very expensive, and I had to return the car before going broke.

Then it dawned on me that the GPS thing is like my life. There have been so many freaking side projects I’ve started or just envisioned for a few minutes but end up discontinuing due to no motivation, no passion, and the idea that I can’t do something I consider to be “on the side” until I have the main thing figured out yet. I don’t accomplish anything when I have an extended period of free time. There are too many possibilities, too many other exits to take before the sun sets, and I can’t ever settle on one specific endeavor. Well, maybe I’d actually make progress on all things if I simply had one major thing in place acting as support beam. This has proven true in extremely limited instances in the past, but then I leave or quit the main thing and all the secondary things fall apart.

Now, it’s time to plug something in to the ol’ GPS so this journey can be fun again.

 

Gears

Racing through the streets of Amsterdam in this crazy thing. Speed bumps and intersections, narrow passageways, pedestrians and bikers. Unsure – 1st or 2nd gear? Need an in-between gear, it seems. Want to choose speed first, then put in necessary gear, not the other way around. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to want?

 

The Window

I see you in there. You see me out here. From the longing looks on our young faces, it is apparent we have a lot in common and a lot to learn. Why do we continue doing things we don’t want to do? We keep looking through windows, seeing things – moving anythings, stationary everythings – all of which merge into one overwhelming idea of reality, realness. We feel unreal, incomplete, incompatible with our surroundings, and yet we’re stuck in this alien world, begging to feel alive like all the things we see, regardless of what they might be. I know you know I don’t care about what you’re doing, but that you’re at least trying to do it. I know you know I feel imprisoned by my current “freedom,” that it is one of the many possible suboptimal routes I chose. I know you’ve been on this side of the glass too. You want out again? I want in again? I thank you for providing me with the escapism that I needed, and you’re welcome for yours. But let’s make a silent pact to stop looking there and start looking here for the answers we need.