Saturday, April 30, 2011

tossing peaches, holding memories.

Day 24 of that "30-Day Letter Challenge" (I told you I was slow with it): "The person that gave you your favorite memory."

Bah. This is tough. I can't think of one favorite memory. My life has been made up of invaluable moments that I hold dear. I had this conversation recently with Alan recently about my "favorite college memory," and I don't think I have one. It was the same with leaving Loretto--I didn't have one favorite memory; I had many. Different things happened at different stages of my life that meant different things in those different moments. Does that make sense?

I was known as the photographer back in high school, documenting everything for everyone. "I'm afraid I'll forget it all someday," I said to someone once. When I look back at those photos now, I can barely remember some of those moments. In some photos, I remember the exact details of the minutes and seconds leading up to the shot; in others, I've forgotten why it was photo-worthy in the first place.

I guess if I were to think about it in a broader way, if I were to think about my "greatest hits" (as Lost would have it), I could think of things. There are moments that've meant a lot to me, though maybe they don't mean much to the person/people involved. There are memories I have that stand out to me, but I've always wondered to myself: how do other people feel about those moments too? Were they just as meaningful?

The obvious answer is: it doesn't matter. Whether the person who shared a day or evening with you remembers it as vividly as you do is moot because we all perceive moments differently. What's meaningful to you may not be meaningful to someone else, but the unique memory of it in your mind and the feelings it personally evoked are what make it special. It's how we classify favorites that others may not understand.

The persistent daffodils.
My favorite memory...

When Na and I were younger, Dad built a play structure for us out in the backyard. This was before our crazy neighbors moved in, back when "Uncle" Bill was living next door, and then Steve moved in after he left. It was when our lawn was fresh and we still had the apple pear tree. The combination of smells from those pears and our peach tree made spring and summer the most pleasant seasons of the year. It's in these seasons that the random patch of daffodils Dad could never figure out how to get rid of would bloom, and the zucchini in the garden would mutate into a giant after a week of too much Miracle-Gro.

On weekends, Na and I would sit on the plastic, banana yellow swings that hung side-by-side on the metal structure Dad put together one afternoon for Na's birthday. We would compete to see who could swing the highest. We would practice jumping off the swings, pretending like we were gymnasts trying to stick a perfect landing. We would sit on the swings and read our Animoprhs and Babysitter's Club books until the sprinklers would come on by accident and chase us away. We'd swing and swing, tilting our heads back to look at the bright blue sky and fight over whether the clouds were shaped like bunnies or dragons or pirate ships.

My childhood was spent in that backyard. Dad would barbecue on hot summer nights and we'd sit outside, eating our corn on the cob and enjoying the sunset. When night fell, we'd light tiki torches and lanterns and dance around the grass underneath the stars. We would jump up and down as airplanes flew over us, waving at the blinking light in the distance, pretending as if that blinking light meant the pilot could see us so far from the ground. After ice cream or fruits, Na and I would get back on those swings, and swing and swing as if it were daytime, but instead of imagining cloud shapes, we'd look for constellations.

A view from the ground...peaches!
And then we'd go to bed. Na and I would talk. Sometimes we'd listen to music, the volume on our boombox turned down real low so Mom couldn't hear. We'd listen to the crickets chipring in our backyard through the open screen from our bedroom. It was comfortable.

I took it for granted, because as the years passed and our neighborhood changed, we stopped going out to that backyard. The garden died. Dad got distracted and would forget to prune the trees. When the peaches fell, it become a chore to pick them up, and years would go by where we'd have no fresh fruit to share or enjoy. The play structure got rusty and the wooden benches I watched Dad build one afternoon rotted. And then we got busier and busier and nobody had the time or energy to take care of that backyard. We neglected it, and by the time we realized it, it was too late to fix it. So we just let it get worse.

Last winter break, I stepped outside to the backyard for the first time since leaving Sacramento--and I mean really stepped outside, because waffling near the side gate and poking at the plants is not the same. I walked outside to the patio where we used to have our barbecues and didn't recognize that backyard anymore. The grass was all dead. The Japanese maple was dulled. There was no more apple pear tree and the peach tree looked as if it would collapse under the weight of its branches. The backyard grew old, just like the rest of us as we age. But that's the wonderful thing about memories: those never grow old. And that's why I still remember exactly what it felt like to be a child in that yard. Despite what it is now and what we let it become, it will always be something I loved.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

heartbroken.

I'm doing this "30-day letter challenge" on Tumblr, where I'm supposed to write a letter everyday for 30 days to whomever the day calls for. Day one = your best friend; day two = your crush; and so on, and so forth. Normally on these daily Tumblr challenges, I never actually follow the rules. I post when I please, or when I'm inspired to; eventually, I get to the end, though maybe not in the amount of time the challenge creators' would have wanted.

Anyways, I'm on Day 20: "The one that broke your heart the hardest." And I'm thinking to myself, "Have I ever had my heart broken?" The answer is yes, though I don't know if I've ever been in love. No, I've never been in love. Isn't that odd? For someone who's 22, you'd think I would have. But besides the point: is it possible to have your heart broken when you've never been in love? Oh, of course. Of course. I am hesitant to say that there is one person who's broken my heart "the hardest," but I think my heart has been shattered at different stages of my life. Haven't we all been through that?

What exactly are the symptoms of a broken heart? How do you diagnose that? Is it uncontrollable crying? Depression? Constantly thinking about what you did wrong or what you didn't say? Is it listening to certain songs on repeat? Bothering your friends with the "Why am I not good enough?" questions and retracing your steps, figuring out where you went wrong?

Maybe. So I'm thinking about this. I would say my heart is pretty broken right now. And I'm thinking about why, and I have no legitimate reason. You know when you're "young and impressionable" and all you can think about is that boy you're infatuated with? You think it's love, but it's not, but you think it is because he's all you can think about. And it's partially because you have too much time on your hands and you're trying not to focus on homework or your parents yelling at you. So you think about this boy, the one who drives that really cool car, or wears that really cool jacket.

Okay, this is probably a symptom of my having just finished My So-Called Life, but that's how I think about it. Anyways, so when that boy doesn't even look your way, or starts dating another girl, you proclaim to be "heartbroken." I guess that's where I'm at right now: I'm a 15-year-old redhead in the '90s, obsessing over Jared Leto.

Back to my original point: I think my heart is broken because I never gave it time to heal. Truthfully, I don't want it to heal because it reminds me to always feel every emotion I can instead of build up walls and shut down. I like having it kicked around a bit--but only a bit. Right now, it's kind of a lot. I've always said that there's no feeling too horrible in this world that can't be overcome, and I stand by it. This is just a phase, albeit a long one, and I'm sure I'll get over what's causing this. But I don't know if I want to. Maybe I like hitting myself on the head with that hammer.

Now I don't think I have a point to this post, but isn't that what all of my writing has been lately? I think I'm lost and hurt and blah, blah, blah. #firstworldproblems

So okay...there's my answer. I don't have a letter to write (I'm out of those, and they don't do me any good anyways) so this will do.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Until the last cowbell rings...

“Purple and silver day” was one of the best non-uniform days of my elementary school experience, because it wasn’t just a day to shed those polo shirts and plaid skirts; it was a day to celebrate our hometown pride: though the Sacramento Kings have long since fallen from their once-epic spotlight, their fans still remain some of the most loyal – and loudest (oh, the cowbells!) – of the NBA.

Yes, I will probably get shit for writing this nostalgic piece – hell, I get shit even now for still being a Kings fan.

“Don’t you mean the ‘Anaheim Royals’?” my snide, but well-meaning (I hope), colleagues ask.

It’s heartbreaking. I won’t even pretend to not be devastated by the Maloofs’ attempt to take the team south. Southern California already has two NBA teams … do they need a third? I think not. Lakers owner Jerry Buss thinks not. I’m certain they don’t. But it’s all about the money, I suppose and, unfortunately, the fans are always the ones who get jilted in these deals. Seattle Sonics fans: you know what I mean.

For a decade, despite my 300-mile move to southern California, I’ve remained a Kings fan. Through the glory, the frustrations and the heart-wrenching losses, I’ve stayed loyal to the team that began my love affair with basketball. My No. 16 Peja Stojakovic jersey still hangs in my old bedroom closet and there’s still a Kings poster of the ol’ “dream team” (Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Doug Christie, Peja Stojakovic and Vlade Divac) on the wall; a Kings pennant hangs above my bedroom door and there’s still a t-shirt or two commemorating that 2002 Western Conference Finals series against the Lakers in a drawer … the mementos are scattered throughout my Sacramento home, and how could they not be? We were a Kings-loving family, like many Sactown residents.

Sports Illustrated, February 2001
The early 2000s were truly the golden years for the Kings. Their starters graced the cover of “Sports Illustrated” (the “dream team” pre-Bibby, when Jason Williams was still a King) and the team won its first playoff series in 20 years in 2001. The building momentum led to the now-infamous 2002 conference finals, which many young fans cite as the source of the Kings/Lakers rivalry that still has Kings fans hissing over biased calls (particularly now that Tim Donaghy’s confessions are out in print) and Lakers fans re-enacting Robert Horry’s Game 4-winning three-pointer at the buzzer (sigh!).

“We respected them, but the way we showed them the ultimate respect was by showing them no respect at all,” assistant Lakers coach Brian Shaw told them LA Times after last Wednesday’s win against the Kings to end their regular season.

As the decade wore on, the Kings slowly lost their momentum and by the time I left Sacramento in 2007, Head Coach Rick Adelman was gone, 4/5 of the “dream team” had been traded (and, even then, Bibby was gone barely two months into ’08) and their season ended with little fanfare. Coaching woes and player shenanigans caused Kings fans to shake their heads as their beloved team landed at the bottom of the standings by 2009, but it was no time to abandon ship. Say what you will, but Kings fans were nothing if not loyal.

And loud.

Lakers Head Coach Phil Jackson, who once called Sacramento a “cow town,” ignited a surge of trademark cowbells that would ring so loud during Kings games, there were rumors of banning the bells in outside arenas (particularly Staples Center). Those cowbells rival the annoyance of vuvuzelas, but fans never tired of them: they wanted to be loud, to shake the roof of Arco and let the country know how damn proud they were to have the Kings in Sacramento.

Because if there’s one thing Kings fans know, it’s that this unpredictable team could always pull out the strangest surprises – surprises that reminded fans why the team was once called “The Greatest Show on Court.” In December 2009, the Kings came back from a 35-point deficit against the Chicago Bulls, the biggest comeback in franchise history, and last December, Tyreke Evans made a game-winning shot from half-court at the buzzer to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies. Even in their final game against the Lakers last Wednesday, the Kings overcame a 20-point deficit in the fourth quarter that eventually led to a 116-108 loss in overtime, as well as an hour-long sit-in after the game by fans who wanted to show their love.

The Kings say a prayer with Derek Fisher, Lakers point 
guard and National Basketball Players Association 
president, after their Apr. 13 game.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty, as we all know,” longtime Kings announcer Grant Napear said at the end of last Wednesday’s loss, “but the one thing that we do know is the love affair between this team and this city, and tonight, we say so long…”

Uprooting the Kings is more than just a change of location. It’s taking away a team that gave the capitol city something to be excited about for 26 years, the longest time period the Kings have spent in one city – something that bonded us in that unique way that only sports can provide.

“Maybe the Maloofs don't feel the passion, but as an L.A.-based journalist, I traveled to Sacramento for the beginning,” wrote Ailene Voison of the Sacramento Bee. “I heard stories about cows in nearby pastures. I heard about a temporary arena and a second arena on the drawing board. I was introduced to a loud, loving, homespun crowd. The NBA still doesn't have many places like this.”

Soon, it will be gone: no more fourth quarter thrills. No more Slamson in his oversized Kings jersey, running around midtown Target during the holidays. No more retired No. 6 Kings jersey in honor of the fans. No more shops at the Sacramento International Airport packed with purple and silver. No more Grant Napear shouting, “If you don’t like that, you don’t like NBA basketball!”

Even if the move is rejected by the head of the NBA relocation committee (which is doubtful since the head is Clay Bennett, who okayed the move of the Sonics from Seattle) and even if the majority of the NBA’s 29 teams’ owners vote against it (several owners have already expressed skepticism), the Maloofs have said they’re not interested in selling the team, despite billionaire Ron Burkle’s bid to buy them. NBA Commissioner David Stern thinks that southern California can support three teams, but Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson (a former NBA point guard himself) isn’t giving in without a fight. The Maloofs have until May 2 to formally request approval to move the Kings.

Once again: these kinds of moves aren’t about the fans; it’s about money. Politics and arena-building arguments aside, it is more than likely that the Kings will no longer belong to Sacramento.

As heartbreaking as my love affair with the Kings have been at times, I think that’s the beauty of the narrative of sports: the ups, the downs, the jumping-out-of-your-seat-with-excitement feeling and the heartbreaking losses that bring tears to your eyes. It gives you something to invest in and it brings fans together as they cheer and cry in unison as their team’s season progresses.

And what’s the appeal of rooting for the Kings, a team that’s provided fans with more tears than cheers lately? As Michael Lewis wrote in “Moneyball,” his baseball narrative starring the Oakland A’s, “The pleasure of rooting for Goliath is that you can expect to win. The pleasure of rooting for David is that, while you don’t know what to expect, you stand at least a chance of being inspired.”

Arco Arena--I mean, the Power Balance Pavilion--empties out, one last time.
And it was inspiring – the wins, the losses, the fights to the finish – even until the end. We can’t always be a part of a team or organization or group that will never struggle, so if this is the last struggle for the Sacramento Kings, it’ll at least have been one for the books.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

vanishing.

Evan Ratfliff attempts to vanish from a "plugged in" world.
When Wired writer Evan Ratliff disappeared, the promise of a $5,000 reward led several hunters to attempt to track him down. Ratliff's disappearance wasn't a conspiracy or mystery of any sort; it was a stunt that served the purpose of answering a very valid question in this technology-obsessed day and age: is it possible to "vanish" when your personal information was, at one time, out there for the world to see? Whether it's Facebook, Myspace, Twitter or a blog, we've all got some sort of Internet presence. And even when you delete your accounts, that information is still out there. Scary, huh?

In this fascinating piece for Wired, Ratliff writes about his quest to remake his identity. The piece not only tracks this process, but also brings forth the insane amounts of information about ourselves available to the public. Hunters were able to track Ratliff's ATM transactions, locate his whereabouts and more--all through the Internet. So much for privacy!

Lately, a few of my friends have been disappearing off of the social media radar. The other night I was talking to one friend about the whereabouts of another friend. "She's at a concert right now," I told him, and he asked me which one. I went to look it up on Facebook where she had checked in, and then felt silly. Is this the true purpose of Facebook? To stalk our friends? And what is this concept of "friendship" that Facebook has defined for us lately? Some people have hundreds of Facebook friends, but how many of those hundreds of people can you count as an actual friend?

The question of "identity" is up in the air too. We are defined by what our Facebooks say about us or the things we post on Tumblr. You don't need to ask someone their interests anymore because you can just go look at their interests on Facebook (granted, they have anything on there for you to see). So, then...are you really friends with me or who you think I am based on my Facebook profile?

I've been contemplating jumping off of the Facebook bandwagon myself, but have hesitated for no concrete reason. I would only be keeping Facebook for several not-very-important purposes: 1) to distract me at work; 2) to stalk people when I'm bored; and 3) to communicate with others when I'm too lazy to make a goddamn effort myself.

No, seriously. Social media has made us lazy. (I know, I know--"what a hypocrite.") But it's a fact: it's such a non-effort to post on someone's Facebook, to Tweet at someone, to send an email or a text...whatever, because that person will reply to you whenever he/she is free. There's little effort in it; communication doesn't need to take place right away. "At your own convenience"--really, that's what it is.

And am I so desperate for these types of relationships? I don't know, maybe I am, but is it worth feeling dreadful about myself, waiting for someone to return a text or Facebook wall post in some desperate hope to feel like I have a friend in someone? I would hope not. I think there are more worthwhile friendships made from mutual efforts that are worth pursuing over these other "convenient" ones--especially those friendships you'd like to think (hope) are meaningful ones indeed.

In that case...maybe I should get off of the social media radar. I don't want my life to be populated with "convenient friendships," filled with people who like talking about plans and pretending to make plans and desiring plans, but never following through. I like taking the effort to spend time with people, sit down and get coffee or lunch or just talk a walk somewhere and talk about anything, frivolous or serious. I like seeing people's facial expressions and watching their habits as they talk, laugh or smile. Call it the "observant journalist" in me, but it makes interacting with others more interesting and much more personal than a sporadic wall post or cursory text message will do.

Or maybe I'm just really high maintenance.

Friday, April 8, 2011

"This is a story about love and death in the golden land..."

I'm inspired and humbled, and honored to be surrounded by the most beautiful people everyday. I can't even put it into words right now; so, even though I prefer to reserve this blog for longer thoughts and deeper insight, I think I will leave it at this: thank you, friends, for believing in me.