Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

While I’m sitting here working on today  §


– Get some paper research done
– Put together applications for teaching fellowships, etc.
– Try to actually get some mental relaxation in

The question is, what do I enjoy here in NYC as “relaxation activity?” In other places (say, west coast, Salt Lake City) I enjoy nature. I go into the hills or to the lakeside or seaside and lose myself in the sounds of water and wind and seagulls and the general scent of life (not human life, but non-human life).

In Chicago, I enjoyed… God knows. I guess I was so busy there, and the program was so rapid, that I didn’t really have a chance to figure out what I enjoyed. I saw a couple of shows. I spent a lot of time in bars and drinking exotic liquors.

Now in New York, there is little nature to speak of. Yes, there’s Central Park and Morningside Park and Riverside Park and Sakura Park and Washington Square Park and so on and so on, but that’s not nature. Not in the “I can go and sit for hours” way. Anyway, those places in NYC are also crowded. As in elbow-to-elbow. Not a good place to go and try to center yourself.

And I haven’t found any good bars yet in New York City. There’s really nothing like The Pub on the University of Chicago campus. It wasn’t even a full bar. But I suspect that I will never find (on the face of the Earth) another such perfect combination of academic/study space (wireless access, dark but with a lamp for each table, dozens of booths, one block from a massive, prestigious university library), variety of beers (literally hundreds), good, cheap food (from gourmet italian to wings and beer-battered onion rings, all cheap), and hours (opening in mid-afternoon every day and staying that way until well after midnight).

But I digress. The point I’m making is that here so far I seem to do one of two things with “relaxation time:” (1) I sit around in my tiny I-House room or in the I-House common area and read political news and blogs on the Internet, or (2) I go to peoples houses and eat/drink/chat. Both are great in their own way, but a person has to have interests in their life.

Photography is great and I love it only I’m out of hard drive space and my backup/long-term storage media are too slow to store the 6GB of data that comes like a torrent out of my camera every time I fill it up. It wasn’t a problem to take half a day to transfer images in Salt Lake City, but here, with school and work and so on, it’s just not on.

Reading is nice too, only I haven’t a good space in which to do it. I love the New School but the Social Research building just leaves something to be desired in terms of study/reading space. It isn’t conducive. The I-House room is nice, but when I’m there I tend to fall asleep. That leaves the subway or the street. Obviously I have to find better spaces if I’m going to stay here for half a decade and get a Ph.D., because I will have to be able to read.

But I digress again. The question is, what do I enjoy? Nature, photography, reading, politics. That’s more or less it, I think. Film, sure, okay, but there’s only so much you can do with it. There are only so many times you can see all the films of your favorite directors, and there are only so many films made every year. And I only enjoy watching films that other people make. I don’t enjoy writing or reading about film, nor do I want to make any of my own.

Physical activity? I suppose, but that always had more to do with the fact that I would do it outdoors. Cycling is nice, but I don’t think it would be as nice in NYC. I cycled mostly for the trees and fresh, mountain air on the U/U campus. There is no campus to speak of here.

Writing is nice, too, but you can’t force that. You can’t say, “Today I have some free time to relax, and so I am going to sit down and write some nice poems, or maybe a nice short story, and it will be great.” Those things have to strike you; inspiration isn’t something that you can enable on demand, for hours at a time.

What does that leave me, exactly? Maybe it’s time for new hobbies. But I don’t know what.

Sometimes I think that someday I would like to teach at the University of Chicago. But that’s only when I might as well be smoking crack.

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