Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Gruesome Story

I'm writing a gruesome story.  It's not for the weak of heart nor those who cannot hear of gore.  Nonetheless, it is a true story.  I don't know why I tell it.  There's no overall moral or point.  There may be minor insights, but once again: this is not a proverb.

My mother called me while I was in Santa Barbara to tell me that a cock arrived in her yard.  She said it showed up out of nowhere and no longer wanted to leave.

When I came back from Santa Barbara, I saw the Mexican rooster.  It was a cock that had brightly colored feathers.  It was a little small for its size, and it reminded me of the kid.  It became obvious to me why he came and even more obvious why he wouldn't leave.

He fell in love with my mother's Chinese hen.  To us, she was an ugly bird, but my mom loved her.  I believe the French have such a term: jolie-laide.  The term means pretty-ugly.  And our hen, which is named Yuri, which sounds like the Korean word for phantdom.  She does look a bit like a ghost.  Nonetheless, she's the drake's best friend.  He preens and protects her everyday.  So - it's no surprise that this rooster had fallen in love with Yuri.

And everyday, this Mexican rooster, I named Jose would try to win Yuri over.  He brought her worms.  He brought her snails.  He brought her all kinds of delicacies.  And she would take and just take.  He was even deluded enough to believe that they could spend the rest of their lives together.  So, he built a nest for her.  But she just took and took.  Yuri took his food like a gold digger.  Yuri used his nests to lay her unfertilized eggs.  Yuri, in short, took advantage of him.  But she never put out.  And she never loved him.

Eventually, after a few weeks, his constant crowing at 5am in the morning got on our nerves.  I need my beauty sleep, and my mom needs her rest too.  We talked it over at the dinner table.  At first, only she wanted to get rid of him.  But there came a point - when I even thought - he gotz to go.

I told her, "I'll take him to the slaughterhouse nearby."

"Oh poor thing.  Do you have to, Paul?"  My mother asked me.

"Well - we eat meat.  We eat chicken.  We should slaughter our own sometime."

"But Paul, you're so cruel.  It's cruel."

"No, Mom.  It's the price we should pay for eating meat.  We should know what we do to the animals."

"Oh - go then.  And get it over with."

The slaughterhouse said health regulations didn't allow them to kill birds not raised by them.  So - I brought Jose back home.  He just fluttered in his cage.  He was a rambunctious fellow.  So much so, that he bruised his feet and wings against the cage and bled and bled.

My mother kept feeding him because she felt bad he'd go hungry.

I told her, "I need to slaughter him here then."

"No.  Paul.  Please.  I'll go look for his owner."

"Ok - go find the owners then."

She looked and looked but to no avail.  She went from house to house, from block to block, and the owner never claimed the chicken.  Jose stopped crowing while being locked in the cage.

She came back and said, "Do it tomorrow, then.  When I'm not in the house.  Got it?  I don't want to see the awful thing."

"Ok.  You won't see it."  When I said the words, I realized, I did not want to kill Jose.

I watched youtube vidoes and read articles on how to do so.  I did not want to kill Jose.  So, instead, I procrastinated and wrote and read.  But my mother called every hour, while I was at the cafe.

She asked, "Did you do the dirty deed yet?"

"No."  I said.  I thought, please stop asking.

After she called the third time, I went home.  I took a deep breath.  I took the cutting board and knives.  I boiled a large pot of water.

I pulled Jose out of the cage.  He flew out of the cage and ran into the wire mesh.  I caught him again and thought, Oh, poor bird.  If you had actually gotten away, you would have been free.  But I caught you.  And I caught you because we broke your spirit by putting you into that cage.

I held him by the legs upside down.  Yuri and the drake watched us.  All the animals knew he was going to die.  So, did Jose.  Jose screeched and screeched while he was being held upside down.  For a lack of using a trite phrase - he definitely was screaming bloody murder in chicken.

I just held him upside down until his wings stopped fluttering.  He went dizzy at some point.  Then, I took him to the cutting board.  I pressed his side against the board.  With the other hand, I took a sharp knife.  I looked into his eyes.  He looked into my eyes.  I thought, Oh God.  I do not want to kill this chicken.

I thought through my options and realized my knives were not sharp enough to ax his head off with one blow.  So, I took the serrated blade.  I took a deep breath.  And with gash, I cut three-fourths of his head off.  I felt it cut through bone and flesh and then the knife broke.  His eyes closed.  It was the first time I saw life leave a warm blooded animal.  A sense of sadness overcame me as I realized I took a life.  I took the other knife and removed the rest of the flesh that attached the head to the body.  It was over.

I took some shoestring and strung the bird by his feet on my mother's clothesline.  While holding the body, the headless chicken convulsed several times and flapped its wings.

After I tied its legs to the clothesline, I let the blood drip out of his neck onto the dirt.  It reminded me of Judas' bowels dripping over the land.  I watched the blood squirt and squirt and then squirt some more.  I did not want to kill this chicken, but I did.

It made me realize how much more emotionally painful it is to kill an animal with a knife then with a gun.  I was connected to the actual process of death, instead of distanced from a range.  My intent to inflict death left my arm and with it, that death flowed back into my arm.  It was a cruel process.  Just like my mother said it would be.

While the water boiled, Jose's blood drained from his body.  I took the head and buried it in my mother's garden.  I thought it was the right thing to do for some reason.  I felt like I gave it a burial.  I then noticed Yuri and the drake continued doing what chickens and ducks do and didn't even miss their gone Jose.

The water had boiled in the kitchen.  I threw in salt.  I watched more roaring bubbles come to the surface.  I dumped the boiling water in a bucket and filled it with a quarter amount of tap water.  Then, I dunked the headless, dead Jose's body in the water.  Meanwhile, I turned on the hose and doused the blood from the concrete.  Mother would not want to see any blood anywhere.  She'd like to pretend that the awful deed never happened.

She called me and said, "Did you kill him yet?"


"Oh my God!  Oh, it's so awful.  Don't tell me about it."


"Did he feel pain?"

"I don't think so.  I chopped his head off in less than 2 seconds."

"Oh my God!  The poor thing!  Oh my God!"

"I know.  I know."

"Mom, we eat meat.  We have to understand what we do."

"I know.  But why our house?  Why now?  We're never getting another pet chicken after Yuri."

"Jose was never our pet.  He just showed up one day."

"Oh, I know.  I know - but but -"

"Mom, it's no one's fault.  It happened.  That's the way it is.  I gotta go."

I removed the chicken from the hot water.  The hot water melted the fat that held together the feathers from the skin.  I plucked it, tuft and all, in about fifteen minutes and stuffed the wet feathers in a bag.  Now - it was looking like a regular chicken - the kind you find at the supermarket.

I brought the carcass inside, along with the cutting board and knives.  There was still shit left inside of its anus.  I washed it out.

Even after douching his anus, I couldn't stand the smell.  Not because it was a bad smell.  But it smelled like grass.  It also smelled like a fresh farm animal.  It smelled so strongly of the odors.  The smell exploded, especially after I gutted the thing.

Also, inside of the chicken's crop, was his breakfast of corn feed and grass.  God, I thought.  Why did Mom feed him in the morning?  Oh yeah, because she thought it was cruel to leave him hungry.  No wonder why farmers fast their livestock before the slaughter.

I looked down at my feet, which was stained with dried blood.  Oh, his blood squirted on me too.  No wonder why murdering a human being is hard.  There's a blood trail.  And does that bloody spot ever come off?

I gutted the chicken.  I fed the innards to the stray cat.  He ate it readily.  After dismembering the chicken, it still smelled of grass.  But, it finally looked like two drumsticks, two thighs, and two pieces of chicken breast.  It was finished.

It looked exactly like chicken pieces at your local supermarket.  That's exactly how I wanted it to look for Mom so she wouldn't freak out by anything.  The only difference was that because it was organic and hand raised and free range, it was much smaller and the meat was much stringier and tougher.

 I called Mom on the phone and told her, "In the 'fridge is the chicken.  It looks exactly like it would in the supermarket.  You can make soup out of it today."

She came home and wasn't disgusted by it.  She only was upset when she realized it was our temporary pet a few hours before.

She stewed the chicken, and it was the best chicken stew I ever had.  In fact, it was the best chicken soup I ever had.  Really - it was super tasty.  And I ate all of Jose because I thought it was the right thing to do.

Since then - I have consumed much less meat.  I ate a piece of beef the other day and thought to myself - how would it feel like to slaughter cattle?  How would it feel like to slaughter a cow I raised since a calf?  And if everyone slaughtered their own meat once in awhile, I was rather certain we would all eat less meat.

Every time I eat chicken, I still think about Jose's eye closing when it died and think - jeez.  I think it bothers me most that this poor rooster died because he made the wrong choice and fell in love with a bird that would never return his affection.  Poor thing.

For some reason, I have less of a problem killing fish and lobster.  Not exactly sure why. 

My mother reminds me though, "Paul, you exercise a lot.  You're a boy.  You need your meat."

I tell her, "I'll each fish."

PS: Onto sunnier topics, I have photos to post soon of my boxing club.  We did an amazing photoshoot today.  Above is my new profile pic.  It was definitely time for a change, the last picture was taken almost four years ago.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Running with my coach

He did it f*(&n again.  He didn't get up in the morning to go for a jog.  Did I mention it was "again"?  I was really irritated last time because I woke up, and he didn't for our run.  And then - I couldn't go back to sleep.

Ok - I can't get too mad at him because I left my phone in the car too.  Thus, I didn't hear my alarm.  My phone is becoming the new sports utility tool, quickly surpassing the functionality of the Swiss army knife.  What would I do without?

And because I didn't have my phone, I slept in too.  See:this time I can't be too mad at him.

I knew this would happen again too.  At some point, you realize that people are a product of habit.  And you learn to expect that they will disappoint you. 

I asked a friend - what should I do if he flakes out again on the morning run. 

He said, "You go to his house and get him.  He lives in the same city, right?"

"Right.  But, it's for his benefit.  Not mine."

"Well - that's why the best personal trainers get paid the big bucks.  They come to you."

I thought to myself, I'm not the best personal trainer, nor do I want to be.

But I wanted my run.  I have to lose 5 pounds of fat.  I drove my Z3 down north, north through the nice streets and the barillos.  I parked it near his house.  I knocked on the door.  His parents saw me.  They greeted me. 

I told them, "I came for your son.  He has to come for his run."

His father said, "I see.  I'll go wake him up."

My coach came out wearing basketball shorts.  I told him, "Get ready.  We're going for a run."

"Ok," he said.  "Let me take a shower first."

We went for our usual cross country run of a few miles, mostly uphill, outside of the city.  I didn't really feel like running either.  But it was something that I had to do.  And that was what I was explaining to my coach.  "Motivation is way overrated.  It doesn't help you when you need to do something but you have to do it.  You just do it."

I was proud of him though because he said something after our run.  He said, "You know, it was getting hard for me psychologically."

"What do you mean?"

"When it gets hard I kept looking at the ground.  And my head tells me I'm going to die."

And that's when I had some compassion.  It's been a number of years since I felt that way.  So, I knew he was really pushing himself harder than even I was.  I said, "You know.  Don't tell yourself you'll finish.  Just tell yourself, go one more step.  And keep telling yourself - it's just another step."

He said, "I did."

I said, "And it works."  That's when I realized the Korean proverb, even a journey of a 1000 li starts with a step.

Afterwards, we went to the Farmer's Market, and we sampled the fresh and bright fruits.  They were so brilliant in color, they reminded me of large gems.  There were ruby strawberries, amber oranges, garnet blood oranges, and sapphire blueberries.  Everything tasted so sweet, especially after our run.

We were an odd couple, and two guys usually don't go together to the farmer's market to buy fresh fruits.  But - there's a huge problem in this country - fresh fruits and vegetables have been relegated to the elite because of their price.  Most guys eat terrible fries and greasy burgers - which both are subsidized in some form by the US government - aka our tax money.   So, that's why two guys don't usually go to the farmer's market.

After, we went and drove to Rosemead - the new Chinatown of the Los Angeles area.  We ate Uigher food, food from the very far West of China - where the old Turks lived.  We had lamb skewers that were spicy.  Lamb soup with hand made pasta and hand cut noodles.  We talked about this and that and that and this and the day just passed.

I told him, "This is good.  This is the first time you ran three times in a week." 

I guess, I am a well paid personal trainer, even though he's formally my boxing coach.  I get paid back with rich experiences.  Nothing quite beats a day of running up hills, eating fresh fruits at the farmer's market, and ending it with Turkish-Chinese food. 

Now, I'm ending the night blogging, drinking tea, and reading an awesome book on journalism.  It's made think: Where should I go next to get some more perspective?  After all, that's what living life is about: getting more perspective.

Monday, April 8, 2013

On Change

I wanted to remind my readers if they had any New Years Resolutions this year.  Since one season has passed, perhaps, if you had any resolutions, it's a good time to visit them now.  Remember, back in Jan. I made some resolutions.  Here's what they were.

Here's the grades I give myself.

1) I'd like to be better at emotional mastery.  B+  (Better than expected.  Lifelong practice.)
2) I'd like to become a better cook. C+ (Could use a lot more improvement.)
3) I'd to become a better writer.  B+ (Haven't done enough practice, but after this month I might get better.)
4) I'd like to be a better fighter.  A+ (Made lots of improvements.)
5) I'd like to b a kinder person.  A- (Definitely noticed a change in my heart towards the poor.)
6) I'd like to go at least 2  and at most 3 destinations that expand my knowledge of this world.  F (I went to Santa Barbara, and I haven't made any plans to go elsewhere.) 
7) And linked back to 6, I'd like to go on another treasure hunt!  This time, I'm looking for ultimate stories and recipes  N/A (I don't need this to be done right now.)

In general, I feel like I'm a different person than I was when I landed in my purgatorial world.  So, that's good.  I definitely have had a shift in who I am, the skills I've been learning, and the person I've been becoming.  

I'm also proud to say that I've been doing a lot more pleasure reading, a pastime that I shamefully made no time for during law school.

Anyone who likes reading and is interested in the topic of change have to read the following books and letter:

1.  The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.  I like this book because Duhigg really provides a map of how people change.  He provides compelling and powerful illustrations of people who were thought hopeless that learned to become a new person.  For instance, how the child of heroine addicts learns to struggle through a series of hopeless jobs to make it as a Starbucks manager.  I think the cherries and sprinkles on this book is the tons and tons of research Duhigg compiled and how he managed to present it for the lay person.

2.  The Brain that Changes Itself by Norm Doidge.  This book is impressive because it takes its readers through the neural view of how the brain actually changes.  Did you know that experts on any subject draw on long term memory while non-experts do not?  It explains how sadomasochism is a neurally learned behavior and also how it can be unwired in the brain.  Again, like Duhigg's book, Doidge does a tremendous amount of research to explain and show that change is possible.

3.  The Solo Partner by Phil Deluca.  This book is not very well known and has had few readers.  Here's why: the main thesis states that one person can fix a dying marriage.  Yes, one person alone.  Not two.  Just one.  He does make a caveat that the book is not for marriages where the husband is physically abusive.  But other than that, Deluca draws on his history of practical experience and what he's seen is necessary to save a marriage.  Why would a single person be interested in a book about one person saving a marriage?  Believe it or not, the insights in this book has been helpful in me restoring my relationship with my father, mother, and brother.  Here's one key factor one needs to use this strategy: perserverance.

4.  How to Help People Change by Jay Adams.  This is perhaps the most practical book I've ever seen on counseling people to change.  The paradigm of this book is controversial at the very least.  Adams doesn't believe that people are born with mental disease.  Instead, he believes (as the first two books touch on) that mental disease is often a product of abuse by others and thoughts, patterns, and behaviors of the one thought to have such a disease.  Doidge's book would support this premise as he does show that people's thoughts, behaviors and actions actually can rewire the brain to become ill.  In any instance, if thoughts, behaviors, and patterns are responsible for illness, this book advocates that for people to change - their root values, thoughts, and behaviors first need to change and over time, so does their lives.

5.  2 Corinthians.  One of my favorite verses in the epistle states that " . . . he is a new creation.  The old has gone the new has come."  I originally wanted to put the Bible as a book here, but I admit, there are 66 books and that's not specific enough.  So, I chose the second epistle the Apostle wrote to the church in Corinth.  The overarching theme of the letter is that for people to change - that the old must go, but a new value, a new pattern must displace and root itself in a person.  

I grew up with a mother who was influenced by Korean Shamanism and Buddhism.  I came into a Christian faith in high school.  Therefore, I probably grew up understanding the fusion of these worldviews.  One of the primary differences between the Eastern religions and the "Western" Christian religion is that the prior emphasizes emptying of self.  The Christian one stresses the emptying of self, but then adds that there needs to be an addition or a filling to take the place of what has been emptied.  In essence, the self must be displaced instead of emptied. 

And with that interesting thought, I hope my reading list and thoughts on change also provoke you to think about the topic.

PS: I'll try to post more regularly.  

Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Road Trip for Boxers

I took my coach and my boxing kid on a road trip to Santa Barbara for the kid's birthday.  My kid's never seen the ocean, even though he's lived in Los Angeles County.  We went for two days, one night.  We got to stay at the luxurious Hilton, compliments from them from all of my travels.  We had an ocean front view, and because I was a gold member, they upgraded our stay.  Below is the view of where we stayed. 

 The point of this blog post to my reader is that all of us need to get away sometimes and expand our horizons.  For the two boxers, from the inner city, it was a time for them to get perspective.  For me, Santa Barbara is not exotic.  But for them - it was another world.  So much so, that after we returned, my kid said I gotta get out of Baldwin Park.  When was the last time you challenged yourself and went somewhere so exotic?

For me though, I suppose it was a new experience.  For loyal readers of my blog, you'll know that I like trail blazing.  I cut my own path independently.  It was a responsibility to plan a trip for others and make sure that the people on my team enjoyed it.

On day one, we went to the Danish town of Solvang and ate a hearty breakfast of fresh Danish pancakes, wine tasting in Los Olivos, gyming and spa-ing at the four star hotel, and ate dinner at an Italian restaurant on State Street (to celebrate the kid's birthday).

On day two, I made the guys wake up and do a 3 mile beach run.  It was my favorite part of the trip.  The sea mist rolled in.  The rhythmic running forced my mind slipped into a zen state.  I loved hearing the ocean roar while running.  I even saw a Mermaid's Purse, which is a shark egg.  It has to be lucky because it's rare to see.  When I ran back to find it though, I found out the Pacific Ocean grabbed it back.  We then went on a hike.  Picture above.

We ended the trip eating fish and chips on the pier.  Below is me having a picture with a retired couple, whose dream is to have a mobile cafe.  I respect those who follow their dreams; so, I had to take a picture with them.  I had a cigar when I saw them.  I realized later, I probably should have handed it to one of the boxers while the picture was taken.  But I had to take this pic.  Until next time.