a quiet moment

good evening.

His deep, gentle voice emerges in solitude from the shadows of her cramped dormitory room. In the distance of her light slumber she had sensed his presence, first knocking gently on the bedroom door; then after a silent moment, entering and taking a seated position on the floor, arm perched upon the bed for support. Chin upon elbow he came to rest, eyes gazing upon her soft, familiar features.

you smell like smoke,” she murmured. Her eyes remained gently closed as she imbibed his presence. A faint hint of gin lay restless on his breath.

He drew closer without a word.  

Though another soul might have divined accusation, he knew better. The smell of cigars brought her back to an idyllic childhood, when her father would return home from an evening smoke and embrace her in his arms. She cherished those memories.

From nearby streetlamps emanated a parsimonious, yellow light, which filtered through the swaying branches of stoic trees and cast long, playful shadows about the room. She opened her eyes slowly – one at a time – and smiled.

have fun tonight?

yes.

it’s cold out.

yes, it is. did I wake you?

nearly. i wasn’t quite asleep yet.

The two lovers exchanged whispers as though they risked waking the sun.

i brought you something.

He reached into his weathered pea coat and produced a small object, wrapped in crinkled newspaper.  Unfolding the paper gently, he revealed a delicate, glass dolphin figurine, which he placed gingerly on the bed beside her.

i love dolphins,” she barely mouthed her exclamation as she smiled, yawned, and closed her eyes, snuggling once more into the pink cotton comforter.

i know.

23 Rules for Living Without Regret

Easier said than done, but nothing worth doing is ever easy, right?

1) Don’t complain about anything you’re not willing to make an effort to change.  If you do choose to complain, then you have an obligation to do something about it.

2) Barring truly extenuating circumstances, do what you say you will, and do not do what you say you will not.  Let your word speak volumes because it is your bond.  If you are uncertain, remain explicitly uncertain to all relevant parties until such time as you can commit.  Be wary of others who may sully the reputation of your word – either intentionally so or not – by ascribing false or unqualified quotes to you.

3) Let every choice you make be an opportunity to discover and define yourself more deeply.  Make no unexamined turns, however unimportant they may seem.  Be deliberate.  Consider how your past and future selves will perceive your present words and actions.  Strive such that your choices transform into principles you want to have.  Actions form habits.

4) Endeavor to enter into all that you do without reservations nor expectations.  Don’t hold back, and don’t only do things because of what you hope to gain.  Respect the journey.  Live fully and expect nothing, and everything will feel like a blessing.

5) Accept the existence of your worst self.  Stare into a mirror until you cry.  I guarantee no matter how comfortable you are with yourself, this will happen if you stare long enough.  When you break, don’t look away.  Realize that you are exactly the way you are meant to be – perfectly imperfect.  It is alright to feel uncertain and to experience failure and to even hate yourself.

Recognize that you will not always be your worst self, nor can you always be your best self.


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Cord

“Why the shoelaces?”

The question had emanated unexpectedly from the slight, dark-skinned woman working the register at CVS. I stopped fumbling with my wallet long enough to glance upward and meet a pair of striking, hazel eyes, which abruptly broke contact with mine before wandering for a few long seconds, settling finally upon the crest of my right shoulder. I checked to see if I had missed a stain.

“I’m hoping to make a noose, actually,” I replied. “You wouldn’t happen to know how to tie a hangman’s knot, would you?”

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Choibles: Part IV

More of Dan Choi’s actual foibles:

I have this unreasonable dislike of tomatoes – particularly raw tomatoes. It’s strange because I actually love a good tomato-based sauce, provided the tomatoes are cooked and blended, pulsed, or otherwise mashed to smithereens. But if there are raw tomatoes – whole or in pieces – anywhere on a dish, I’ll do whatever I can to avoid it.

My father had two things he made all three of his kids do before they left for college. Get a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and learn to play Chopin’s Nocturne in Eb. Kind of arbitrary, but worthwhile pursuits, I think.

I picked up playing the guitar when I was twelve. My brother had purchased a guitar and left it when he went off to college. It was sitting around the house and as a newly minted only child with two working parents, I was alone most of the time. The guitar kept me company. I’ve written and recorded nearly 200 songs since then, some of which are on SoundCloud.

I keep notes on my phone cataloguing every idea (e.g., business, creative, etc.) that pops into my head. One morning, I was reviewing my notes, and I came across an entry which stated, very simply, “whimpering fridge”. My only possible conclusions are either that my ideas are going downhill or that autocorrect screwed me out of my next world-changing idea.

Choibles: Part III

More of Dan Choi’s actual foibles:

I file every personal, handwritten note I receive in a black shoebox, which travels with me from home to home. It is what I would grab if my house were to ever catch fire.

I hate horror movies, and I enjoy romantic comedies a little too much, I think. Favorite movies include Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (1 & 2), 13 Going on 30, Zoolander, The Godfather (part II), and Gladiator.

I buy almost everything on Amazon. The staples come on subscription (e.g., toilet paper, detergent, hand soap, paper towels).

I am a stickler for the difference between “i.e.” and “e.g.”.

I put two spaces after my periods between sentences. Yes, I know it’s technically wrong, but this is the way I learned how to type, and I like it better.

I think the toenail on my fourth right toe is dead. I honestly don’t know what’s going on with that thing.

I almost always keep a Burt’s Beeswax (original, not one of the new flavored ones) in my left front pants pocket. I get noticeably more irritable on days when I don’t have my Burt’s Bees on me.

I almost always keep an old pair of apple earphones in my back right pants pocket. I never know when the need to listen to a particular song will hit me.

I started practicing yoga regularly this year, and I do it every other day at 10pm, just before getting ready for bed. My favorite poses are triangle pose and warrior 3; I struggle with pigeon and reverse table.

I have a single, long (~1.5 inches) hair which grows on my right nipple. I cut it occasionally, but it always grows back. That’s kinda a private thing to share, I guess. But it’s true.

If traveling to a specific destination and given a choice, I will always rather be a passenger than the driver.

I love sandwiches and barbecue chips. I regret days when I don’t have a sandwich for lunch.

I have no preference between aisle or window, though I prefer both to middle.

I always wait too long to get my hair cut. Nearly every time I get it cut, the barber asks how long its been. When I reply, they always nod and sigh. It’s a depressing experience.

As a child, my mother once told me that if I were to ever eat a one-on-one meal with a woman, that I should without exception pick up the tab. I’ve failed to do this a couple times.

My nosehairs grow far too quickly. My home bathroom is never without a suitable trimmer.

Five years ago at the J.Crew in Beachwood, Ohio, I was treated in a condescending manner by one of the employees. I’ve never purchased anything from J.Crew since. I don’t perceive this as a grudge, in that I’m not officially boycotting the store, but it was a definite turn-off.

Choibles: Part II

More of Dan Choi’s actual foibles:

I have a toll-free number that rings directly to my cell phone (844-CHOIBOY), but I hesitate to tell people about it because I have to pay for the minutes.

I have a three-piece red suit with black dragon lining, which I had tailored in Bangkok in 2008. I wear it on occasion. In 2013 it helped me win Prom King at Boston’s Tech Prom (theme: creative black tie).

I am the only person in my family who needs to wear glasses. My mother says it’s because I played too much Pokémon on the old black and white Gameboy when I was a kid, and I believe her.

I am literally the worst basketball player I have ever met. Not that it’s an excuse for being terrible at it, but two things irk me about the sport: 1) that I can’t shoot directly at the goal (the very notion of an arc still eludes me), and 2) dribbling. i mean, c’mon wtf.

I say the phrases “insofar” and “to the extent that” far too often. Both phrases are basically just the fancy-man’s “if”.

I read spoilers on Wikipedia when I don’t have the time or interest to consume the media I am spoiling. I am unapologetic about it.

Every morning, I take 9 supplement pills with a superfood drink mix that I stir into a glass of water. I started doing this last month and I’ve come to enjoy the bitter taste.

I don’t go to the doctor’s office for regular check-ups nearly as often as I should. A result of my entire family being in medicine, I think.

I’ve held onto my Ohio driver’s license for the last seven years, despite living in Boston and San Francisco. It expires in November and I’m not sure if I’m going to keep it.

I make a note of the locations of the nearest fire escapes nearly every time I go to a restaurant or nightclub. I don’t necessarily think it’s rational, and I definitely don’t do it because I’m worried about something happening. I guess it’s just a habit.

Choibles

An unabashed list of some of Dan Choi’s actual foibles:

My socks almost never match – not intentionally, though probabilistically. A year ago I threw away all of my black socks and now my drawer is entirely furnished by different pairs of Happy Socks from which I pull two at random each morning.

When I dress more nicely, I have a habit of acting more eccentric in public. My theory is that no one assumes a guy in a suit is a crazy homeless man, so I tend to take the opportunity to let my wild flag fly a bit more.

I meow. Unintentionally, most of the time. One time in front of a room full of strangers. Another time someone legitimately thought there was a cat in the room, and I was too embarrassed to say anything.

I buy dress shirts and blazers from H&M; purchase jeans, slacks, and polos from Banana Republic; wear Skagen watches; get suits tailored; and collect t-shirts from events, clubs, and companies. Almost without exception.

I make an active effort to not eat beef. I think it’s for dietary reasons, though I’m honestly not sure.

I habitually use too much laundry detergent and far too many dryer sheets.

I cannot functionally brush my teeth unless I’m standing over a sink the entire time. Toothpaste foam builds up in my mouth at an astonishing rate. I honestly don’t understand how people can brush their teeth while doing other things.

At the end of a long day, I have a somewhat strange unconscious ritual for taking off my socks. I pull one sock off using my toes on the other foot, and then I pull the other sock off with my newly freed toes, rolling the first sock I took off inside the second (all of this solely using my feet). I then swing the sock around, bashing it into my leg and other objects – the other sock in a ball at the end to aid in the momentum. I guess it’s kinda difficult to explain, but people who have seen me do this know what I’m talking about.

At almost all times, I keep a black or blue Pilot G2 0.7mm pen clipped into my left front pants pocket. When I’m wearing a blazer, it’ll usually occupy my left inside chest pocket.

I can be a crabby patty in the mornings. I started drinking coffee regularly two years ago, when I realized it made people fear me less in the mornings.

How Long Is This Essay Supposed to Be?

A short essay I typed up during my senior year of high school for an A.P. Language course. The assignment required a personal narrative from my past.

 

Daniel Choi
Period 4
A.P. Language

Perhaps I am not well suited for A.P. Language.

I questioned the veracity of that statement as I sat staring blankly at my empty word document.

Mr. Silvidi had assigned another essay, making the running total two papers within the first three weeks of school. It was definitely a rate I hoped would not endure. Feeling the weight of the assignment like a ten ton writer’s block, I attempted to dream up a legitimate topic on which I could elaborate sufficiently enough to craft an essay. A personal narrative was this week’s poison of choice for the professor, and I hoped my lack of storytelling skills verbally would not transfer over to paper.

For the last twelve years of my life, I had submitted, half-willingly and half-wittingly, to the constraints of my scholastic obligations. Now, after suffering the agony of churning out paragraphs year after year, I had finally reached my breaking point. No longer could I endure the deadlines and the immense work. The thought crossed my mind to chain myself to the door of the classroom and stage a sit-in. I would protest until the Ohio Board of Education decided to capitulate to the crazy kid at Revere High School and declare essays unconstitutional. Either that or they would lock me up under charges of insanity.

A more civilized approach, which would not end in my probable incarceration, presented itself to me. It was simple. I could just refuse to complete the assignment. Although I would certainly receive a zero on the paper and my grade would seriously suffer, the long-term ramifications of not writing the paper would not be too severe. I could still work diligently for the rest of the trimester and receive a decent grade in the class, and my acceptance into college would not be hampered too severely. Life would continue as it always had. I found myself comparing the negative consequences of an incomplete essay to the principles I would uphold through my refusal. By not completing the essay I would, in essence, be exercising my freedom of expression that the forefathers of America had secured by way of the First Amendment. By refusing to express myself, I could express my discontent with the system that had controlled me for twelve long years. Every fourth grader, slumped over his or her desk while taking the proficiency test, would appreciate my small step toward freedom. By rebelling against the establishment, I, Daniel Choi, would defend the sense of freedom that America had once held dear. The extensive media coverage on the issue would prompt the debate to be taken to the federal level, and the Supreme Court would soon follow up with a unanimous decision in Choi vs. Board of Education, ruling mandatory essays against the law. I smiled at the thought of a cataclysmic change in the school system caused by one student’s discontent. I would go down in history… or maybe just in flames. In reality, the probability that my rebellion would be recognized as anything more than mere indolence seemed slight at best. More likely, my peers would tease me for not being able to find time to write a proper essay. Few, I am sure, would notice the message behind my silence, and the best way to explain it would be to write a paper, thus contradicting the original message I had been trying to convey – freedom of expression sans expression.

The other option would be to complete the essay as assigned. Although this option would cause excruciating, albeit temporary, exertion on my part, it did offer the pride of a job well done and a grade sure to be better than zero. Furthermore, I could improve my writing skills by analyzing Mr. Silvidi’s remarks on my essay. The benefit seemed to be two-fold. I had elected to take the composition class so that I could become the writer that I wanted to be. Why, in the first month of school, would I intentionally sabotage my quest for further literary bliss? I still clung to my previous, yet now seemingly childish trail of logic. Not completing the essay would be a bold move for freedom… right? I began to question whether I had really believed in freedom of un-expression or whether it had simply been a plot to convince myself not to do the work. Regardless, the truth remained; I still didn’t want to do the work. By now, however, I had devised a topic about which to write. Slowly, I began my paper.

Perhaps A.P. Language is not a class for which I am well suited.

 

I thought it served as a good opening sentence considering the subject matter of the essay. The sentence captured the essence of what I was feeling when I set to work. Then again, it needed a little tweaking to make it sound the way I had wanted.

Perhaps I am not well suited for A.P. Language.

 

I gazed at the screen and with a slight approving nod, I continued. At least I was getting somewhere. I proceeded tentatively. I knew what I wanted to say, but the words refused to come when I heeded. For a while, I considered changing my essay topic entirely. Inside my mind, another idea had been brewing for a different topic. I even began writing an introduction for another narrative, but my mind kept wandering back to that first (great?) idea. I wanted to write about my difficulty in finally deciding to start the essay because that decision meant more to me at that point than anything else. The conflict and the resolution were already apparent, and I thought that the subject matter seemed interesting enough. Five seconds became five minutes, though, and I continued to stare into the white abyss of the page as it yearned to be filled with words. My fingers trembled as they perched upon the letters of the keyboard. My eyesight began to grow hazy, and I had to force myself to concentrate on the task at hand. It would have been so much easier to un-express this essay, I thought. The clock slowly ticked away the seconds, and realizing that I would rather write poorly than not write at all, I regained my sanity and began, once more, to type.

Four hours later, I looked back over what would become my first draft. I was pleased with how it had progressed. After a slow start, I had hammered away at my keyboard without a break, with the exception of a power outage after which I had to restart my computer. With the essay completed, I wondered why I had encountered such difficulty trying to begin. Expressing myself by not completing the essay now seemed completely ludicrous, because I found that the greatest fulfillment of freedom of expression came through writing. By electing to put my thoughts down on paper, I provided all future readers the opportunity to comprehend and react to the emotions that I felt while writing. I had fulfilled my desire to express myself freely, and I had been able to do so in a perfectly legal manner. With a proud grin in acknowledgment of my accomplishments, I printed out my narrative and placed it neatly in my folder.

Perhaps I am well suited for A.P. Language.

Where in the world is Kyle Suzuki?

At 24, bones still wet with dew from the dawn of adulthood, I took an adventure.

And by adventure, I mean vacation. For the price of a month’s rent in Boston, I had purchased the illusion of adventure, bookended by cushy, leather airline seats and documented by a camera with more horsepower than the Apollo missions. My destination? Iceland.

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Creative Catch-22 (or) Why I’m Big in Japan

I always wondered about artists, and how their work must often be inspired by the people in their lives.  What joy and pride it must bring someone to know that a beautiful love poem was penned in their name!  And to an equal measure, what mixture of horror and sadness must accompany words about hate or betrayal.  I’ve written songs and poetry since I was in grade school, and my close friends often make fun of the fact that an overwhelming majority of my compositions are about happiness and love.  In truth, it’s because I’ve often struggled with allowing myself to publish negative emotions about people.

What if they found out?

What might they think?

What would others think?

Those questions and fears have filled my mind as I’ve dragged so many recordings to the recycling bin and rewritten so many stanzas to be less incensed or more anonymous.  It’s simply safer to work with generalized emotions or undirected irreverence.

I think it really comes down to anonymity.

When I look at a famous painting or read a well-known poem, I’m generally blessed with uncertainty regarding what or who inspired it, and – most importantly – I can remain comfortably certain that it’s not about me.  So, while I may consume, deconstruct, and analyze to the nth degree, even if that analysis leads me on a revealing, introspective tour of my own psyche, I am free take it there myself; I am unbiased and unhindered in my consumption.  If, on the other hand, I know for a fact or I may surmise that there is any reasonable possibility that the artist had me – whether consciously or subconsciously – in mind when he or she created something, then the analysis immediately jumps to myself.  I’ll agonize over being misunderstood or misinterpreted by his or her creation, and whether or not others enjoy or agree with the piece will be inextricably tied to its (potentially dubious) relationship to me.

Perhaps such is merely the lot of an artist.

It’s great responsibility to wield, and I don’t yet know if I’m mature enough to cast such empathy (née self-consciousness) aside.  Even when writing fiction, I fret that my acquaintances who read it might recognize what pieces and parts I stole from them and injected into my prose.  I’m careful to choose names that don’t coincide or rhyme with those of folks I know (“her name was… Fenelope…”), and I consciously tweak personality quirks and idiosyncrasies such that they don’t precisely line up with their real-world counterparts.  It’s terribly time-consuming, of debatable effectiveness, and it no doubt stifles what few creative juices I can wring from this form.

Exasperated meow.

Maybe the secret is to become big in Japan.  Where no one knows what the hell I’m talking about anyway.