Journal

Friday, August 7, 2020

Ate burritos on the beach, east of the wharf. Came home and watched Gatao 2 on the projector, a mess of a film. Wrote a brief WeChat post:

昨晚跟朋友看了臺灣黑幫片『角頭二:王者再起』。普通。豆瓣打個六點幾分,我同意。但還是有了濃厚的臺灣味,有廟宇有碼頭有歌廳有澡堂,有關公有媽祖。連片中的喪禮,帶骨灰上山入塔的過程都很熟悉。

這部電影上映的時候我就知曉了。當時在油管上聽了插曲,特別喜歡。有三條歌,臺灣歌手陳政文唱的,「老大借過」、「關老爺」、「悲歌」。都優於電影本身,都用閩南語。我這幾年不知聽了幾遍了。

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

UCSB, the treehouse lookout point on the bluffs. Full moon. Last time I was here I was interning, three summers ago. After time in the tree we circled back, edge of the housing, where months ago we had heard electronic music streaming from the apartments. The brilliant tree, lit from its roots, a beacon of fire fixed above a sea of blackness. The city in the water; the wide grassy field streaked with lines of fluorescent lamplight; a hall behind it, odd modernist angles, that we hadn’t noticed before; healthy agave plantings next to it that Henry stopped to take photos of.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Caught a Latino couple in the middle of a carnal act while walking along our creekside path. Then: Hendry’s Beach, sunset. An uncomfortable number of people, out with their dogs and spouses and children.

Friday, July 31, 2020

Night drive to the Presbyterian Church at Constance and State. An incredible building—a postmodernist thing with Spanish influences, those same smooth white walls. A Jesus mosaic in black tile; stained glass windows; depth perception games with reflective glass. After seeing the church we explored some of the neighborhood nearby, condos with lush central plazas, plants, fountains. Well-decorated apartments with spherical white paper lamps. A line of asphalt with dozens of identical parking garages on both sides, as if generated by neural network.

Then, Goleta. Henry played one of Payam’s songs, which summoned memories of drives in Taiwan—that week in Holland—a surge of sadness. The feeling runs dense along those few roads, Los Carneros and its peers—the straight empty ones in Goleta flatland that run toward the sea.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Watched Viva Riva with Henry on the projector, a 2010 congolese crime thriller. Almost all of it was new to me. A good set of stock characters: the protagonist, a likeable man, playing it as it goes; a wealthy villain in a silk suit, quick with his knife; a local gangster, one of those men who seem trapped in their role, unfulfilled but with nowhere else to go. It all seemed exaggerated—how brutally evil the villains were; how deep the government corruption went.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Took a trip to Irvine. Picked up Steven and followed a circuitous route to Henry’s house—the foothill suburbs, the Natural History Museum, the Mission—and made our way south to Altadena, K-pop blasting. We arrived to see the blinds drawn, the parlor dark, the air filled with voices of white girls streaming from the teleconference party that Dennis was holding. After a long while outside their door we saw Alex emerge with a giant tray of four dozen eggs.

We climbed back into the car and drove to the student condos at UC Irvine where Alex gave the eggs to her cousin. She recommended a chinese noodle place in a shopping mall nearby and we went there and ordered and watched the chinese deliverymen shuffle in and out and listened to Alex make the case that the nose of a girl we saw was surgically altered. The shop had nothing vegetarian on offer so we drove to another plaza to pick up some pad thai and to get boba and bread from a chinese bakery.

We took the food to a park nearby, Mason Park, a large surreal countyrun thing with a lake and rolling green hills. A guard demanded five dollars when we entered. Canada geese roamed the lawn by the picnic table where we ate. The local model-yachting club had sent their vessels out on the lake and we watched the fleet sail back and forth in the wind as middle-aged men on the distant shore followed them with their remotes. White and asian and latino families sat in the shade—some with tents, some with mounted speakers, some with miniature children’s electric cars or radio-controlled vehicles the size of small dogs.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Afternoon: went to the pull-up bars by Puerto Vallarta to meet with Henry and used the equipment a bit and watched three muscular Hispanic men toy with their skipping ropes and crawl on the concrete and take photos for each other, then walked across the road to the beach to leap into the water. What cold water! A coldness that reaches the bones.

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Goonies was playing at the drive-in, so we drove to Old Town, stopped at the Habit to buy onion rings and a burger and an Arnold Palmer, waited in the long line of cars that had formed outside the drive-in until they sold out and started turning away the dozens of cars before us. So we drove back and watched a movie on the projector. It was a Korean movie that we arbitrarily selected, Time, from 2006, the thirteenth feature film by Kim Ki-duk. A terrifying romantic drama. Everything a sinister game. Gruesome facejob tapes. A mask of the face that she used to have. A fight with the doctor. Repeated conflicts in a Western cafe. Repeated visits to the Baemikkumi sculptures to gaze at the ball of blue flesh and the man with his dick in the dog’s mouth and sit on the hands as the tide comes in beneath you.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Henry and I went to Parma Park in the Montecito hills. We parked by the entrance and walked in and faced a clearing that offered the choice of three trailheads as if we were in a primitive video game. We looked at the map and chose one of them and soon found that it forked often, the better to confuse new hikers. We crested a hill and saw a couple strange houses on the opposite slope, their walls and floors protruding forth as if surrounded by heavy scaffolding, with the foundations of a building in a plot between them that looked like Saxon ruins. We continued on the path into the woods then switched back a few more times and soon emerged onto the asphalt road again, a half hour above where we parked. We followed the road down, saw agave and century plants and empty lots for sale, a property with a stone retaining wall inlaid with giant steel disks the size of medieval shields. The road soon flattened out into a well-developed neighborhood of modernist mansions, vast hallways with desert paintings beyond glass walls and yucca gardens. As the road became a mountain road again frogcalls and cricketcalls filled the air, alive in the golden sunset. The creekwater ran in the dark depths beside the road, and soon we reached the car.

Friday, July 10, 2020

I followed the path that begins by the roadside at the end of Torino Drive, where it climbs the hill and reaches the gated community and turns into Hidden Oaks Road. The path runs parallel to the asphalt, carved into the hillside a dozen feet above street level, and it follows the road past the gate. From the height of the pathway you can see the road at all times, including the deep concrete gutter that runs between the pavement and the wilderness, and the Spanish Revival houses on the far side. Past the gate it becomes overgrown with summer grasses and ivy and poison oak. When the road turns away up the hill, the pathway ends, returning back to ground level and opening into a large clearing surrounded by a few houses at the end. To the left of the path, circling the foot of the hill from which you descend, is a small, dry creekbed, and in the clearing lies a fallen tree from which new branches have grown vertically toward the sky, as if someone had hung thin black threads from the canopy above.

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