Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Canyons and cameras.  §

It’s 2002, sometime in the months following the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Games.

I’m in East Canyon—I think—and carrying an Olympus E-10 camera. I’m in the middle of nowhere in particular. I’ve parked the car by the side of the road and hiked off the road by a few hundred years into a kind of clearing. It’s grassy and a basic mix of green vegetation, gray rot, and little remaining wisps of white snow. It must be just before springtime arrives in earnest.

It’s about one o’clock in the afternoon, and I’m alone.

I walk around for an hour or two, talking random snapshots of nothing in particular. Leaves. Branches. A couple small animals. Nothing worth remembering. There’s no art to be found in anything that I do or produce on this particular afternoon.

And yet it’s burned into my memory as one of the best afternoons of my life. Me there, alone, in the middle of nowhere in particular in the mountains, doing nothing in particular for no particular reason. Just walking, looking, and breathing.

— § —

It’s late 2010 or maybe early 2011 and I’m standing in front of my kitchen table in Astoria, Queens. I’ve just decided to turn down a job offer from the United Nations because I’m teaching at CUNY and at NYU and I’m more than satisfied with what I’m doing, even if it offers less money and less job security.

In fact, as far as I’m concerned, my life is perfect. In that moment, I have everything I’ve ever, ever wanted. It’s the high water mark of my life so far. I want to be there forever. I can feel my career about to take off, and I can feel the city around me embracing me, carrying me along into the future.

Also burned into my memory as one of the best afternoons, in the midst of the absolute best period, in my life.

Everyone should have at least a few moments like that—moments when you feel as though all of your dreams have come true and you’re living “the good life.”

— § —

On Cannon beach in 2003, I took a nice street portrait of a distinctive looking man with olive skin, a strong jaw, stubble and a newsie cap holding his small son—maybe just under a year old—and smiling.

That tiny kid is now a teenager. I wonder what his life is like. I wonder if his dad is still alive, and if their relationship is still the close bond that it seemed to be then. I wonder if they still live in Oregon.

I wonder if the lived in Oregon to begin with. When I took the photo, I asked if I could snap only by gesture. Then, I snapped and went on with my evening. We never exchanged any words.

— § —

I’m not on board with the western cultural project of the last few decades of making all things and all people equal in every way, conceptually.

Some things are better than others in some ways. Different situations require different tools. People are not the same. Sometimes you’d rather see one person than another. This is not based on nothing.

As Marx implied without meaning to, all things are not equal. All things are not interchangeable.

The notion that this would be just and ought to be pursued has something to do with the price of fish in China. And lots of other prices in lots of other places.

— § —

When we were working to adopt our dog of (now) eight years, he was just a puppy in a Manhattan shelter. He’d been rescued from the streets of Brooklyn and had significant anxiety and leash aggression. They weren’t going to let us adopt him without demonstrating a commitment to care and to train him conscientiously.

We’d go in the afternoons to spent time with him, and later, to walk him. It took us weeks to train him to the point where we could walk him in Manhattan without leash aggression or pedestrian aggression, but we got there after a lot of visits over weeks and weeks. In the afternoon, he’d wait for us in the window. When we came, he’d be standing, pointing. We went there every single day.

Every day except one.

We’d been sitting in Bryant Park spending time together on a variety of things when we both suddenly looked up at one another, after weeks of not missing a day, and realized that we’d forgotten to visit him and that by now the shelter was closed.

I still regret that mistake.

— § —

Life goes on. It always goes on.

I love that and I hate that at the same time.

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