All you need to know

26 08 2010

As late August moves into early September, the weather is transforming from being an oven which bakes your very soul (and soles, for that matter) to one more welcoming for the hobby of running. Therefore, with renewed vigor, I have set my feet to wearing grooves in my tennis shoes.

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A Life of Servitude

21 07 2009
An example of a menu item from California Pizza Kitchen.

Even though it is called California Pizza Kitchen, all of the menu items at my work are made in Illinois.

My stint as a waiter has started in earnest at California Pizza Kitchen. I have been cut loose from the training strings and now fake happiness, laughter and general enjoyment to seated patrons on my own terms. My nature has always been prone to indulgences in self-reflection and spontaneous mental vacations, so I wondered, prior to beginning the job, how that would jibe with the responsibilities involved in serving.

In truth, not very well.

Matters become worse earlier this week when a cocktail of drugs prescribed to me for a rapidly escalating case of poison ivy (acquired this weekend via gathering firewood in the dark) plunged me into a mental fog. I moved about the CPK floor, dimly perceiving shapes in the haze and engaging them in conversation as best I could. To describe it in a modern sense, I could feel a significant amount of lag between the time I heard a customer say something and the moment I could bring forth a response.

My brain felt suspended in a thick porridge and incapable of operating with the kind of rhetorical agility usually associated with earning good tips. I’m sorry, group of wise-cracking old ladies, but I cannot issue a rejoinder to counter your overflowing wit. My apologies, mother and young child combo, but today I am not able to cater to your every pressing need, so you will doubtless become fussy and agitated. I humbly regret any errors, business men discussing something in earnest, but you are probably not paying attention anyway.

Oh God, teenagers. Please just go away, you are pretty insufferable and you should know that drinking so many sodas in such a short period of time is like asking for diabetes for Christmas when you are forty.

Serving enjoyment aside, I’ve spent the time since my last update completing some other writing endeavors, which I would kindly ask that you view. If you assess any enjoyment from reading the following, please leave a comment expressing your general satisfaction.

I’ve written a little piece of fiction as a kind of creative writing exercise for a blog I maintain with some friends. I had a lot of fun creating it in hopes that you would have fun reading it.

Also, I’ve done some more work for Matador, a travel Web site that has previously published my stuff. This time around it’s sports-related, a quick guide to becoming a long-distance running all-star.

Running, By Way of Introduction

27 04 2009

Running, to me, has always seemed to be one of the world’s most primordial sports, a test of endurance once intrinsic to our very survival as a species. Given this ancesteral link to all humanity, I figured it would be a form of exercise followed the world over. Living abroad in Korea, I quickly discovered such is not the case.

From my experience, I would not say Koreans are actively more health conscious than you’re average American. America’s problem is more in the fact that we have a scale heavy in extremes, from those so grotesquely large to impair walking upright to fitness nuts too obsessive to enjoy anything in life. In each country, there is the sentiment floating out there that one should eat healthy and exercise, but the execution of this practice has its variations.

For example, my favorite form of physical activity, the ancient art of running a long way for no damn reason, has about zero adherents across the Pacific. For the first months I lived in Busan, I spent my runs weaving through sidewalks crowded with uniformed students and hunkered-down grocery sellers, gathering up plenty of strange looks as I sped along.  To them, I seemed a crazed man.

The geographical layout of the Korean Peninsula is shockingly uniform. It has small, low lying mountains pretty much the whole way. Thus, the Korean inclination is to inclines; they go up, not out. Hiking is the national past time for Korea, especially among the older set. To them, the idea of a lazy Sunday stroll is a half-hike, half-climb scaling 500 meters (or more) in elevation straight up the hillside. After a picnic usually involving several bottles of the Korean liquor Soju, they take the return trip down, barely winded. To me, this seems crazy.

While I’m not a stellar runner, it’s the only sport in which I possess some above-average talent. So, it has always been a bit of an ego booster for me, and I felt pretty good cruising by all the slowly walking Koreans on the city streets. But those same 60-year-old ladies I was breezing by on the sidewalk overtook me with steady, paced strides once I hit the mountainside myself. I huffed and wheezed, clamoring over the constant rocky protrusions along the path, a term used altogether too loosely. In my head, I keep thinking that my 5k time would probably destroy theirs but such thoughts gave me small comfort.

Exercise, like most things, is relative. What’s pragmatic in the flat plains of the Midwest isn’t so in Korea’s undulating environment. From this observation and many similar ones, my blog gets its name. I would like to consider myself possessive of a certain set of virtues and capable of certain accomplishments, but the more people I met and more things I do in this life, the more I realize my methods of measurement are circumspect.

Sure, I’m pragmatic, but only relatively so.