Some people are just late bloomers, at least thats the conclusion I recently arrived at. But in order for that to make sense I need to rewind the clock to 1990-something. I was 8, and battling it out in the tough arena’s of the Clark Little League. I was a member of the elite FOODTOWN team, decked from head to toe in marroon battle attire. My wingman in battle was Mr. Daniel Chavez, a recruit heavily sought for his lankyness and latin flavor. Danny was a true master of the first base, and I….well I sucked. I got stuck in right field every game because I was small, weak, slow, and there was a pretty low chance the ball was going to land anywhere near me. I didn’t mind, I hated baseball. I couldn’t focus on one thing for more than five minutes at that age, forget however many awful innings we got stuck in. I had a simply soluton though, airheads. Airheads were, and still are, one of my favorite candies. The best part was each one only cost 25 cents at the snack bar, which put them just within my adolescent budget. So I would load up my pockets with as many airheads as I could carry, and then head out to right field where I proceeded to stuff my face and subsequently zone out.

Well like they said in The Outsiders, nothing gold can stay, and sure enough my high airhead horse would come crashing down. Usually I was pretty good at keeping an eye out for flyballs, and when one would land near me (because lets face it theres no way I was catching it) I would run over, pick it up, and throw it to my closest teammate, after which I was able to return to whatever daydream I was in the midst of. Then one day, as I struggled with a certain green apple airhead wrapper, a high fly ball landed in right field about ten feet away from me. I didn’t see it of course because I was busy with some serious shit, but everyone else saw it, and soon enough I heard..”COOLINNNNNNNNN GET THE BALL, COLIN THE BALLL, COLINAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”. I quickly approached the realization that a ball had entered my immediate area, and my obvious response was to run in circles until I found it. I won’t say how long it took me to get it, but I will say I got a few laps in and as previously stated, I was slow. By the time the ball reached the infield we had awarded a chubby kid his first in the park homerun.

Now I’ve played my fair share of sports as kid but I never lasted long in any of them. My parents considered it a good day if I didn’t sit down in the middle of my soccer games, treating me like a king the day I scored my only 2 points in basketball, and hid their heads in shame when I backstroked across four lanes in swimming. Lacrosse and ice hockey were a little better, but it wasn’t until track that they didn’t have to be completely embarassed by me. But regardless of that, they never got mad at me for doing poorly or not trying, I think they just wanted me to have fun. Only once did they get mad, and my friends this flyball would prove to be that debacle. We lived 5 minutes from the little league field but the drive felt like an hour, and the only words I remember my Dad saying were “Its because you were eating that friggen gum!”. I recall thinking for a second that I should correct him, but since I wanted to remain in my seat and not strapped to hood of the car, I refrained.

Anyway, I’m beginning to digress from the intial purpose of this post. I recently joined a softball league in Shanghai. Its essentially a beer league, but it has a few really serious teams. Guys who practice, lift weights, exercise, think about winning…but those guys aren’t my teammates. My teammates are typically drunk by the 4th inning, at which point our level of play begins to decrease. Now I’m still no star athlete, but four years of D1 track did grant me a bit of foot speed. Ironically I’m back in right field, but now its because I can actually run and catch. Not to mention its pretty easy to look like a good athlete when everyone else can barely stand! Yes I think I’ve finally found my niche. One need not aspire to athletic greatness, instead one should simply immerse themselves in a less competitive environment. I played basketball last weekend and made it rain! Alright I scored twice, but thats two more then I scored when I used to play in 5th grade! The basketball game got me so much confidence that I started acting like a baller everywhere I went, sinking water bottles in the trash can from like ten feet away, pulling roll dodges off in the subway station, and even stuffing the numerous objects my students throw at me back in their faces, GET THAT SHIT OUT MA HOUSE SON!!!!!

Unrelated note, speaking of ‘son’, one of my students called me ‘Daddy’ today. I did the mature thing, looked down at her little kindergarten face, smiled and said, ‘so your mom finally told you huh?’. She didn’t get it, but thats probably for the best.

Ok so I didn’t really say that, instead I told her in Chinese that my name was Colin…not Daddy. She had far too little facial hair to be my kid.

The Doldrums

Theres only a few instances in life where Newark, NJ is an exciting place to visit; seeing a Devils game, visiting the bars/restaurants, or landing in the airport. Even that last one is a bit of a stretch, but last month it was the only place I wanted to see as my plane neared the runway. Unfortunately Brick City was nearly unrecognizable under the mountains of freak snow the east coast has been pummelled with in the past weeks. Nevertheless, I hopped off the plane, picked up my bags, greated the family, kissed the ground, realized that was “New Jersey ground”, and downed a bottle of listerine. Home sweet home.
I spent the next few weeks relaxing with the family and hanging out with my friends. I spent a weekend up at Marist which of course meant saki-bombing with the guys. Masto threw up in a urinal and thus the night encompassed all I had hoped for! The 48 hours spent with the bros were outrageous, and I couldn’t have been happier to see everyone. Not to mention my old friend, The Fox Wrap. What is this mythical food you speak of? Well sit down, take that ridiculous hat off, and I’ll tell you. The Fox Wrap is a lengendary work of culinary lore. It encompasses several food options that will directly relate to a heart attack later in life. I’ve made a few modifications to the wrap in my day, but the tasty dish I ordered that weekend went something like this: chicken fingers, ranch dressing, American cheese (obviously), mozarella sticks, and a fried egg. Just thinking about it is enough to spike your cholesterol a few points!
I followed that weekend up with a few lazy days at home littered with trips to the Chinese consulate (i actually only did that once), doctors appointments (got a Garfield bandaid), home cooked meals (awesome), and Eloise (who managed to take my bed every morning…by force). It was great to spend some quality time with my friends from home, catch up on their lives, and of course rage a little. I spent time with the rents and my sisters which was awesome. I brought Courtney and Caileen back as many cliche novelty Chinese souveniers as I could hold, and Frank and Ann got a nice chop-stick set. Dad and I also got to run a 5k together which was great. I caught up with him after finishing and the two of us got to run the last half mile together. And since Mom and I were the only ones home most of the day we hung out and watched some movies. All in all a good trip. Then the day came…back to Shanghai!
I was happy to be home but I was looking forward to getting back to China. I knew I had another two weeks off before returning to work and I wanted to make the most of it!
Did I make the most of it? I guess that depends on your definition of “most”. Actually I’m not sure if thats the right way to go about it, also I’m not sure I can define most in a way tha…why don’t I just tell you what I did!
So I spent most of the daytime going running, watching movies, reading, getting errands done, and waiting for people to get out of work. To me this seemed a little unfulfilling, hence I refer to it as The Doldrums. For those of you who don’t know, the doldrums are the calm winds that exist near the equator. Sailors used to fear these areas because their ships wouldn’t move. Thats how I felt during the day most of the time. I was just stuck, and although I had motivation to do things I had no actual ideas or direction to follow. Not to mention the weakening jet-lag meant I woke up most days around 9 or 10, which gave me a whole lot of time to waste. So I tried to make up for it at night by pestering my friends for any excuse to venture into the outside world. I figured the longer I stayed out then the longer I would need to sleep the next day (this worked twice, and one time was when a night out with my buddy Tony started at 9 P.M. and ended at 2 P.M. the following afternoon…then I got plenty of sleep). No overall this vacation was a bit dull, but maybe just the recharge I needed to start work again.
So now I’ve returned to my daily routine. My students favorite punching bag is back, only now I wear metal plated pants. Thats gonna hurt your baby fingers!! The weather is…sort of warming up. It gets warm and the it gets cold and then it stays somewhere in the middle and then it gives up and goes home. Once it heats up I’m sure life in Shanghai will as well, for now I’m just hitting cruise control and going with the flow.