Saturday, April 20, 2013

Ketchup Catsup CATCH UP

I am sitting on the sofa feeling very full after more Korean food - what we took home from lunch yesterday plus Sena's excellent catering.  Seaweed, sticky rice, avocado and kimchi (Korean-style spicy pickled cabbage) can be rolle together into makeshift sushi. 
Let me just stop an acknowledge for a moment how FRIGGIN LUCKY I am.  I'm from the Hampshire countryside, a million miles away from the culture, music, fashion, amazingly good quality but cheap beauty products and food of South Korea.  Yet here I am IN MY OWN HOUSE sitting down for homemade sushi.  With kimchi.  I had never even heard of kimchi until very recently.  Nor did I know much - anything, really - about Korea.  I thought this at lunch yesterday as well.  I'm extremely fortunate to live in an age where it's possible for me to experience all this stuff.  When you think about the equivalent of me in a previous generation, 100% English homegrown country gal, you wouldn't imagine that they might be sitting with friends from literally all over the world to eat food that they would never have thought of at age 22 almost 23.  Well, maybe the version of me who was 22 in 1968 - she definitely would have been making pilgrimages to Morrocco to hang out in souks with rich hippies.

On a tangent - someone needs to fix geography in schools.  Noone ever mentioned S.Korea to us while I was in primary or secondary school, which is bizarre because it is sort of a frontrunner in many arenas - technological advancement there is far superior to that of the UK or US.  It has a crazy history.  They were always talking to us about deforestation - 'During the first 20 years of South Korea's growth surge, little effort was made to preserve the environment. Unchecked industrialization and urban development have resulted in deforestation and the ongoing destruction of wetlands such as the Songdo Tidal Flat.  However, there have been recent efforts to balance these problems, including a government run $84 billion five-year green growth project that aims to boost energy efficiency and green technology.'  Call me crazy but that seems relevant.  Luckily, I read as a child and continue to do so today.  I love to look at maps of the world.  But it is pretty weird that kids can potentially grow up thinking 'Asia: China, Japan.  India.'  I've definitely heard more than one of my elders say 'when I did geography we learned where places were'.  Amen.

Likewise Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong.  Four Asian Tigers.

Next item:

I observed a beautiful piece of human kindness on the subway last week.  Subway musicians are extremely prevalent on the 1 line - my main train.  There's the pirate who sings Irish drinking songs with audience participation and 125th St, my new favourite busker at 103rd (more on him later) the ever-changing high standards of Times Square stop, the flute player, the steel drums at 34th...around 96th st the other day, three young men with conga drums and stools boarded the train.  This is no small undertaking as those things take up space and are awkward to manoeuver but they made it happen.  They drummed very well for a few stops and then, as they always do, jump up and dash up and down the car with a hat saying 'have a great day ladies and gentlemen any donations welcome we hope you enjoyed our music'.  So one of them is hustling up and down when he sees this homeless woman with a cart and a bin bag of stuff, and they make eye contact, and he takes the contents of his donations hat and hands it to her.
What a hero.  I don't know how much that guy was depending on that money - I'm pretty sure his sole income can't be hustling on trains.  Nonetheless he and his two bandmates had hauled conga drums on and off trains all day and given away their awesome talent for a pittance.  That can't feel great all the time.  Sometimes they probably feel really frustrated.  Maybe that's the only way they can get to play their music, maybe subway donations are how they pay for rehearsal space or something.  Whatever the story may be, people had donated money to this guy fair and square and without even a thought he handed it all over.  

Back to the 103rd St musician.  He was a gift that life gave me last Sunday when I had a truly terrible day.  I won't go into details because I'm officially making it a day that never happened.  In short, men in their early 20s shouldn't be allowed out without a supervisor, they can't do anything right and I officially give up. 
So I'm trudging home from the middle of nowhere, Central Park.  It's evening, it's getting cold, I'm not wearing a warm coat, I've been sitting on a rock (don't ask).  Trudge trudge trudge, half an hour later I make it to the 103rd St and Broadway uptown train.  Feeling pretty sorry for myself.  Hungry.  Then across the tracks on the downtown platform, I hear the opening bars of 'Time Of Your Life' by Greenday, which is one of those songs that many of my generations will hold in reverence forever.  It was a staple of the 14 year-old me back garden barbecue with friends.  When you have enough guitarists in your group as we did one of them will eventually produce a guitar and inevitably play this Time Of Your Life, Wonderwall, something by Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Nothing Else Matters by Metallica or at my insistence, Big Yellow Taxi.
To hear Time Of Your Life then was really balm to my soul, transporting me back to more carefree times when me and my pals used to sit on the grass at the rec in Alresford and eat hot dogs from those disposable barbecues bought at the Co-Op, or sit in the Hellard's back garden with a huge supply of Freddos and tinnies.  I couldn't help but mouth along with the words and sway a little on my bench.  The busker spotted me from across the tracks and gave me a friendly nod of acknowledgement, and I enjoyed a true 'human connection moment' as we grinned broadly at each other whilst singing the same song.  When he finished that one he gave me a little bow and then launched into Redemption Song, one of my favourite songs to sing and also attached to many happy memories.  So he starts playing and singing and he looked across at me as if to check that I was enjoying this one too - I was mouthing and swaying again, natch.  Then the train came squealing to a halt blocking my view.  I got on feeling light as a feather and had completely forgotten about how rotten my day was.  I like to think that my obvious enjoyment of his music improved his day as in turn his music improved mine.  
 Lesson 1: Redemptive and healing power of music.  Lesson 2: Connect with someone, even a stranger across a platform, it warms your heart.  Lesson 3: Not a new lesson but good to reiterate - New York is an unpredictable, tempestuous bitch with crazy mood swings.  If you're looking for equilibrium and consistency you will not find it here.  You have to buckle up and hold on til your knuckles are white, that's how you get to the fantastic bits.  Acknowledgements: Thank you to Greenday and to Bob Marley, and to the busker of 103rd St who I have not seen since and am prepared to believe was some kind of guardian angel spirit guide sent by unknown forces to lift me up.

Item 3
I had a thought about why I like to read so much.  It's a little out there so stay with me.  It is EXHAUSTING being in my brain for a long period of time! Does anyone else experience this? I had a very busy day last week and am currently out of reading material.  My iPod needed charging so was out of action.  No book, no magazine.  An entire day spent running from studio to studio, travelling up and down on subways, waiting for things to begin.  With nothing but my own brain for company.  Phew! Never again.  By the time I was on the journey home I wanted nothing more than to find some mindlessly entertaining TV and do something that required physical but no mental attention - untangling knots or painting my nails or something.  
This is also why sometimes it takes me forever to fall asleep, a fact that drives me nuts.  I often resort to audiobooks as something to concentrate on and cancel out any of my own thoughts that might choose 1am to make an appearance.  It is highly inconvenient that inspiration generally strikes me at night.  It's not just me - Charles Pang is a total night owl who's sleeping pattern is often worse than mine, and many more people are the same way.  Something to do with individual's melatonin cycles...and modern schedules do not cater to those of us whose melatonin demands that we be creative and productive at midnight.  Still, melatonin cycles are one thing, being tired out from incessant buzzing and crashing of your brain is another.  It's not a good kind of tired - I feel like I need to shut down but far too wired to do so.  SO new book needed urgently! Recommendations? The last new thing I finished was Beloved by Toni Morrison and I can't put myself through that again - if you read that book, you should get ready to have some mini meltdowns.  Ideally something excellent but lightish, or snarky and funny.

I'm sure there's more stuff from the week that needs documenting but it will have to wait because I must prepare for an evening of work.  I'm going to work at an event that Screme, a gelato company, is catering for.  That's right, the same Screme that I pretty much subsisted on alone for most of the summer months last year.  Uh oh.  This could end up like that possum or whatever it was that got into a bakery and ate everything, and the owners knew what to blame it on cos the possum was so full that it hadn't been able to leave the scene of the crime and was just lying on its back on the counter.
Wish me luck!

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