dal niente

Tag: bowling

Dry Erase Markers

I was updating the staffing board at work tonight and it was a brief moment of nostalgia for me—I haven’t used a whiteboard since my teaching contract ended.

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One year ago,

I was in South Korea and it was one of my last weeks as a teacher at the Pyeongchon-dong Anyang-shi branch of the Youngdo academies, as well one of my last few weeks as the head teacher of several Youngdo “Black Ops” projects.  They didn’t really involve killing, as most black ops usually would, nor did we wear much black or do any really sneaky things as one might expect of traditional black ops, but some of my peers and I liked to think that we were special and ass-kickin’ in the way that we were developing the cutting edge of next gen teaching tools for the school.  Leave us our fantasies: the fact is, we at Operation: Swordfish (that’s the monkier we fancies ourselves with) were underpaid, overworked and in many ways unhappy considering those ratios.  But you know.  That’s what work on the front lines of Her Majesty’s Service is like. (I always thought it was positively colonial the way that we were just going out there and teaching English, as if it was somehow something as important as their native language, and not only that, but we brought with us a lot of cultural baggage and we always tried to teach our kids not just language but Western Culture.  That’s another story though.)

By this time though I’d really gotten in the groove of things in Korea.  And so it was that one year ago, at the brink of my termination, we had finally become decent at enjoying ourselves with the ways of the land.  We did anything we knew how to– saunas, taekwondo, alcohol, odeng bars, galbi joints, and, of course, noraebangs.

One year ago,

being in Korea would probably be the most taxing single month of my life on my health as we celebrated not only my birthday but my retirement from the branch. It wasn’t just one celebration– it was a marathon of singing and boozing for almost three weeks straight.  It probably would have killed me, hadn’t I been of fair constitution.

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I remember showing up in class with the pockets of my denim jacket stuffed with board markers.  I used to wear a jean blazer because, more than once, I had been stabbed in the back either by uncapped pens or scissors by tiny little students.  I kept the markers in my pockets because otherwise the students would horde them to themselves and I’d never be able to get any teaching done.

Writing on a whiteboard is actually an interesting thing.  I’m not sure if other teachers have the same experience, but for me it wasn’t anything like writing on paper.  My handwriting is pretty different on a board compared to on paper.

Having to write on a whiteboard daily during my teaching contract made me change my lifestyle in certain ways—it meant that when practicing taekwondo, I’d try extra hard with my left hand but leave my right arm as fresh as possible.  Even in noraebangs, I’d use my left to hold the mic whenever possible.  If I arm wrestled, I’d favour using my left.

I’m right handed—-the reason for all this then was that if my right arm was too tired, getting in front of a class and having to raise your arm all day to write on a whiteboard becomes more than a chore, it becomes a painful test of endurance if it’s in any way damaged.

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Nowadays in Montreal 2.0,

I don’t go on 3 week party marathons, but I think that I’ve managed to find a good ratio of work hard and play harder that makes me happy.

Just yesterday (sunday) I awoke at 10pm to have dim sum for lunch with my family, then made it back to the apartment for 1pm to have breakfast with Zack, Ly and Quynh. I’m not sure why, but Quynh paid for my lunch so I didn’t have to pay a dime for any eating.  After that, we joined up with [Terminator], [SoCool], [5osh] and Jordan for some bowling.  Amazingly, when we decided to play a money game, I blew them all out of the water: I bowled a 183, which is a personal record, and won myself 25$ in the process.  The next money game I came in dead last with a pathetic score of 90, but the whole experience was still a lot of fun and I’m glad that [Terminator] goaded me into joining them rather than sleeping.

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In a moment of insanity last night at about 4AM,

the movie Yes Man came up in my memory, particularly that scene in which a man is about to commit suicide by jumping from a building.  Jim carrey’s character then saves his life by playing Third Eye Blind’s “Jumper,” a song that I’d never learned yet.

The day before, after Zack and I had a late lunch at Cosmo’s, we’d gone to a local music store and picked up a guitar amp cable.  This was definitely something that I needed because my old cable was all internally corroded and didn’t always deliver a clean sound, sometimes it would just cut off altogether.

Well, I looked up Jumper lessons on youtube and, well, I learned how to play it.  It’s not really hard in retrospect, but you must understand that I’m really not all that good at guitar. I give myself a pat on the back when I manage to tune my guitar– anything beyond that, as far as I’m concerned, is prodigious.

After bowling ended on Sunday and our group migrated back to my apartment, I went back to the guitar to attempt to practice it some more and, aside from the solo part which I haven’t quite figured out yet, it’s almost perfect.  It’s definitely fun, either way.  I played a few games of chess with Ly and then after that they all departed for poker– I stayed behind since I had to sleep in preparation for my overnight shift, but before I did that, with the apartment all to myself, I cranked up the laptop with a youtube video of Jumper, fired up the guitar amp, and belted it out for a good half hour at least.

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It’s not that you have to say Yes to everything, but I think the idea of Yes Man is great.

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122

For the second Wednesday in a row, I went bowling with a bunch of people after work.  I’m not all that great at bowling.  We play two games per week, and we’re grouped in teams of four– each week, our team plays against another team in a single elimination tournament for an approximately 300$ betting pot that everyone contributed to at the begining.

The first game, I scored about a 64.  Second game, I got a 97.  This week’s first game, I got a 75.  Second game though, I got a 122.

Now, here’s the cool part.  Every week, we play against one team.  The way the outcome is decided is as follows– you get one point for your team having a higher total score than the other team.  So, if you beat their score in both games, then you win the encounter.  If it happens to be tied with each team winning one game, then the tie is broken by the team who has the highest total score for both games in the night.

My team is the ‘leftover’ group.  We’re sort of like the ugly kids in elementary school who get picked last to play for your soccer team.   Because we all figured we had nothing better to do on Wednesday nights, we signed up, and on top of that we signed up last and without really caring what team we were on, so there we are– the leftover cheese stuck on the grater, thrown in as an afterthought.  The people on my team aren’t even my co-workers; two of them are teachers at two other schools in Anyang, and the other dude is a guy who plays turntables at the music school I’m going to.

In any case, the first game last night our team bowled a pathetic 410 or so… (thanks to me and my wicked 75, in part).  The opposing team bowled something like a 430, so we were down a point.  Second game though, we totally rocked the place and got a crushing 515, to completely dominate our opponents’ 450.

To be honest, I didn’t think bowling could be so fun.

Well, it’s a different kind of fun.  It is competitive now– it wasn’t competitive before because I didn’t think we had a chance in hell of winning.  But now that it’s possible…

There’s one thing that I miss from my activities back in Montreal, and it’s something that’s I haven’t been able to find yet around here.  That’s the real sense of connection with an opponent.  Maybe it’ll just take a while to warm up to a bowling alley, but I miss badminton, I miss sparring.  I miss the little breaks in between the moves where you just stare at your opponent and feel your fighting spirits splashing against eachother in the air between you, that something voluminous and heavy and electrifyable.

We haven’t been sparring in taekwondo so I don’t get that.  I mean, sure, I am improving bit by bit, however it feels like that thing at the end of it is missing.  The humanity at the end of it all is missing, that matching of intention and ambition between yourself an an opponent.

I think I’m going to get better at bowling and TKD than I will at guitar.  Frankly, sports are easier– large muscle movements, if I just repeat them enough, my brain will figure it out subconsciously.  The brain fills in the gaps and allows me to perform moves without thinking abou them.  All I have to do is pull the trigger, and the mechanics are automatic.

Guitar is different though. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a stage of familiarity with the techniques involved, but every little thing in guitar is a real, frustrating uphill battle.  3 weeks into my lessons, I still forget the basic strumming pattern I was taught in my first week.  I need to spend a couple of minutes everytime I pick up Rockstar (the name of my guitar, named after the brand of it) to just get the pattern back in my head.  What do I have to show for it?  As my fingers tap out words to Xanga, I feel the fingertips of my left hand burning– yet they’re still not strong enough to hold down some of these chords, still not light enough to transition from chord to chord at the speeds I need to maintain a fluency to the song.

I do get results sometimes.  Sometimes, when I’m practicing something to total frustration and give up, the next day if I have the courage to pick it up again I’ll find miraculously that the movement offers me no resistance– as if somehow, I’d learned it in my sleep.  Maybe I’m asking for too much in too little time?

The more I look at it, and by it, I mean all things, the more my fear of death becomes greater.  There’s so much I want to do in my lifetime.  I’ve started writing notes in Korean on my refrigerator so that I can speed up the language acquisition. 

Am I asking too much?

What is too much?

… it may not make sense for me to say this, but maybe ambition is only made worthwhile by the possibility of failure.  We’re just sacks of meat looking for punishment.