Paris, Day 2

October 5th, 2012 – Friday

Our second day in Paris, almost 3 months ago…

Based on their intertwined histories, it occurred to me that it might have been worthwhile to try Vietnamese food in France. We made our way to the 13th arrondissement, home of Little Asia and Chinatown. Walking from the Métro to the restaurant we got a feel of what it would be like to live in Paris. We passed quite a few apartment blocks, and it was certainly more of a residential area than a tourist one. For a moment, it seemed as if we were Parisians walking home from work after getting off the Métro.

Soon, we found the restaurant that I had looked up online earlier:

Pho Bida Vietnam

Pho at Pho Bida Vietnam

Well, I have to say that although the meal was good, nothing beats pho in the Bay Area. Probably a matter of personal and localized taste. We walked further into Little Asia and noticed a lot more pho restaurants, in addition to a sprinkling of Chinese places. It seemed to be mostly Vietnamese, though. Not surprising due to the history.

We made our way back to the hotel for a short rest. Actually, it was a short rest at the laundromat near our hotel. It was our first time using a French laundromat. Instead of paying individually at each machine, you paid at a central box and punched in your washer’s code. Luckily, English instructions were available and with the help of a nice French lady we were able to launder our clothes.

French Laundry

Lessive means soap

While waiting for our laundry we had a snack at the bakery across the street. Afterwards, I also got myself a haircut. I never imagined that I would be getting one in Paris. Amazing!

Tart & Cap

Tart & Cap

Now, we were rested and ready to walk over to the Trocadéro, which wasn’t far from our hotel. I hadn’t done my homework on Paris so I didn’t realize that after the Trocadéro was the Eiffel Tower. We got to the roundabout and the Palais de Chaillot, and we crossed the street on the side of the Théâtre National de Chaillot. As we made our way around the theatre, I was stopped dead in my tracks by the sight of the Eiffel Tower. Oh, man, you mean it was here all along?! What a tourist.

Théâtre National de Chaillot

Théâtre National de Chaillot

La Tour Eiffel

La Tour Eiffel

La Tour Eiffel

A beautiful autumn day

La Tour Eiffel

Famous around the world, people come to see it

La Tour Eiffel

Getting closer

We made our way down to and across the River Seine. Now, we were right beneath the tower. Usually, when we see it in pictures, it isn’t up close and you don’t realize how much detail and texture there is to the Eiffel Tower. There are actually names engraved into the tower. Fascinating.

Up Close and Personal

Up close and personal

There was this pond next to the Eiffel Tower that was curious. It was like a nature reserve or something, complete with fish, ducks, and other birds. There was a fence around the pond and the grass surrounding it, and what was curious was that a lot of people were leaning on the fence and feeding the ducks and birds and having a grand old time, as if the Eiffel Tower wasn’t even there. Kinda funny, actually. We got sucked in ourselves, taking dozens of duck photos.

Ducky

Quack! Welcome to my home. Please don’t litter.

Since we were already by the river, we decided to take a river cruise on the Batobus. Boat in French is “bateau,” pronounced “bato,” so there you go. The best part was we really were going to the Champs-Élysées (see the map below), so we got our money’s worth on the cruise.

Batobus

Batobus, cool!

So there we were, sailing along the Seine at sunset. We passed under many bridges, including the famous Pont Neuf (actually I learned about it from the Bourne Identity). To me, it was like sailing past history. Of course, there were the famous landmarks such as the Notre Dame de Paris and the Musée du Louvre, but many of the “plain” residential buildings were old as well. I imagined what we might have seen had we been making our cruise 150 years ago: the warm light of candle chandeliers escaping out of the tall windows, the sound of classical music playing in the background, men and women dancing in their elaborate suits and dresses.

Sunset on the Seine

Sunset on the Seine

Last Stop

Last stop of the Batobus

The Batobus stopped just shy of the Place de la Concorde. We wanted to walk the entire length of the Champs-Élysées, so we backtracked our way over. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the Place was where hundreds of people were beheaded during the French Revolution. When I think about it, it’s really unbelievable. I was actually there! I remember watching as a child in Hong Kong an anime series that was set during the French Revolution: the Rose of Versailles. The images in my mind of the candlelit rooms and people dancing were probably scenes from that series. I remember an ending, either of a specific episode or the series, in which the guillotine was being prepared for someone to be executed (probably Marie Antoinette), and there was a huge crowd in the square. There was a sort of finality and futility to that scene that has stayed with me all these years.

Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde

As the sun set and day transitioned into night, we made our way up the Champs-Élysées. We had already been walking all day, through Little Asia, from our hotel to the Trocadéro and Eiffel Tower, and from the Batobus to the Place de la Concorde. We were tired! Avoiding the many tourist-trap restaurants in the area, we got on the Métro and headed back to our neighborhood for a nice, quiet, French dinner, turning in early afterwards to dream about all those places that we had been to on our second day in Paris.

Champs-Élysées

Champs-Élysées at dusk

McDonald's

Let’s use the facilities at McDonald’s…

Crowded McDonald's

One of the busiest McDonald’s locations in the world

Arc de Triomphe at Night

The Arc de Triomphe at night

Next: Paris, Day 3 – Saint Chapelle, Notre Dame

MPC-HC H.264 Playback Stutters When Subtitles Enabled

options

I recently installed the 64-bit Media Player Classic – Home Cinema (MPC-HC), version 1.6.5.6366 (744df1c) on a new Windows 8 computer. When I tried to play back H.264 content that included subtitles, the video stuttered terribly. Scenes without subtitles played fine. Turning off subtitles was not an acceptable option.

After clicking around in the settings to no avail, I looked online and stumbled onto this Subtitles FAQ at Codec Guide. The answer was to uncheck Allow animation when buffering in MPC-HC’s subtitles options. Thanks Codec Guide!

Sony Walkman Radio Cassette-corder WM-GX707 Instructions

I was digging around in some old documents and found these instructions, circa 1993. For a time, it seemed like the technology in use in Hong Kong was slightly more advanced than that used in San Francisco. It was sort of common knowledge that if you wanted the latest and greatest, you got it overseas. This Walkman, brought over from Hong Kong, was an example. I remember people would always marvel at how small and slim it was. Later in its life, I used it to record lectures in school.

I still have the Walkman somewhere. When I’ve found it, I’ll update this post with photos.

What You Should Be Doing, Part 2

Resuming from last night, I had been saying that I felt like a loser for living at home and not having a job, and that if I stopped to think for a second I’d realize that I have no reason to feel this way at all. So, let’s stop to think for a second…

I believe that people are mostly responsible for the situations or predicaments that they find themselves in. I take pride in being able to take complete responsibility for the things that I do, regardless of whether the outcome is positive or negative. Thus, I am responsible for my current situation. I made the choices that put me here in the first place. This is what I wanted.

***

A little more than a year ago, I was working a well-paying job with a lofty title. It was a good job at a good company, but I had been there for almost 7 years and some aspects of the job were starting to wear on me. Remember what I said about following the “should” path. I had thought that I would be at this job for the next 30 years, if not my entire working life. Maybe I was naive, I don’t know. In the end, I just couldn’t handle it and submitted my resignation in November.

Despite submitting my resignation in November, I stayed on until May to ensure a successful transition for the company. During that period of time, I thought about all the things I could be doing in the near and distant future. I could finally read all the books I had bought hoping to learn new subjects. I could finally play all those PS3 and PS2 games that I had bought on sale. I could move to Hong Kong like I had always imagined. JC and I even bought a bottle of Lagavulin, pledging not to open it until we were settled into our new place over there.

Finally, in May I was free. We moved out of our apartment and back into my family’s home (in other words, my mother’s house). We gave away many of our belongings and shoehorned the rest into our rooms (JC has a room at her family’s home as well). A short while later, we were in Hong Kong.

After spending three weeks in Hong Kong and loving every minute of it, we decided that yes, we were making it official. We will move there at the end of August. The rest of the summer would be used to prepare for this life-changing event.

Then, a couple of life-changing events happened within weeks of each other. The health of JC’s family dog, Brutus Maximus, abruptly took a turn for the worse and we had to put him down. I saw my cousin for the first time since learning that he had stage-4 cancer. I saw him again a few weeks later, this time in worse condition than the previous. It was understood that we were seeing each other for the last time, since we would be flying soon. I’ll never forget seeing him walk into the elevator and the doors closing after we said goodbye…

All of these things happening reminded me of how short and fragile life really is. To be honest, I was traumatized. I wanted to take advantage of life and to not squander it. What if I died tomorrow? I would not be able to do the things I’ve wanted to do. At the time, I had an opportunity to do those things, to visit Tokyo and have JC show me around, to go to the British Museum in London, to visit a distillery in Scotland. We had some money saved up that we were going to use as our safety net in Hong Kong. We had time. Why not do a once-in-a-lifetime thing and see the world?

***

Now, three months later, I am back in my room inside my mother’s house. I have eaten ramen in Tokyo, I have seen the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum, I have sampled whisky at the Glenfiddich Distillery, and more. I am here because I made the choice to be here. It’s not like I’m bumming around with no direction in life and living at home. No, I have another opportunity now like I did back in August. I can do all the things I still want to do, like read my books and play my video games. I can spend quality, valuable time with my family. I have no time limit, no need to rush. Why not take advantage of it?

I feel better after reminding myself of why I’m here in the first place. It is true, I have been conditioned to follow a script and to automatically assume that only losers live at home in their 30s. If I don’t think, then the script takes over. But, remembering this and actually stopping to think, I find that living at home does not automatically make one a loser. Life isn’t always about doing what someone or some tradition tells you you should do. Living in the present is important as well. Being able to adapt, to stick and move. Life is so fragile. At any moment, it could end. Knowing this, I think doing what I want to do is better than doing what I should do.

What You Should Be Doing, Part 1

I often think of things to write when I’m showering or when I’m brushing my teeth. They’re good thoughts, but most of the time after I’m done I forget what it was I wanted to write about because my first focus after either of those tasks is reaching for the towel. I think I can remember what I was thinking about just now when I was brushing my teeth, so I’ll try to post it all here.

It’s late night (or early morning), almost 4 AM. I love staying up late (I’ve posted about it before). Tonight I did try to go to sleep before 2, but I couldn’t. Unlike the recent past, it wasn’t because of too much coffee or sleeping in really late the day before. Maybe I was hungry, or maybe I’ve had a lot on my mind. I wasn’t consciously thinking about anything, though. I played with my new Nexus tablet. I ate. Then, I went to brush my teeth. As I scrubbed, in my mind I wrote this blog post in a cohesive manner from beginning to end, with each paragraph stemming logically from the one before it. As you can see, it’s not happening now.

So, I suppose I’ll get to the point. What you should be doing. Or rather, what I should be doing.

Throughout my life I have been told implicitly and explicitly what I should be doing. On a micro scale, when I was a child, I was told that I should be polite to my elders, that I should address them when I meet with them, that I should be a good boy. On a macro scale, I followed the path of going to school, working hard, getting good grades, and moving up the ranks from 1st grade, 2nd grade, middle school, high school, college/university, all the way to my first job and subsequent career. Later on, I created my own “should be doings,” such as saving money, working hard (again?), and basically just being a stand-up guy.

I will say (again) that I haven’t been too happy since returning home from our trip. It’s not like I’m miserable either, but I know that I’m not as happy as I could be. And why is that? I think that’s what I figured out when I was brushing my teeth.

Much of my life has been one big “what should I be doing?” That question is constantly on my mind. The things that I think I should be doing now include deciding whether to move to Hong Kong, taking care of my finances after such a long and expensive trip, getting a part-time job, preparing an inventory of what I’m going to bring if I move. Or, at an even more basic level, I should be going to sleep and waking up at designated hours, I should be eating my fruits and vegetables, I should be exercising, I should be eating three square meals a day. Should should should. That’s my problem, too many shoulds.

The reality is, right now I don’t want to do a lot of those things that I think I should be doing. The light bulb “ding” moment while I was brushing was when I realized that this is the reason I’ve been down (again, I don’t want to say I’ve been miserable). When I play Gran Turismo 5 for an extended period, I feel guilty afterwards. When I play Catherine and further push out posting recaps of our trip on this site, I feel guilty afterwards. When I think that I don’t have a job and that I’m living with my mother, I feel like a loser afterwards.

Could it be that “should” has been hammered into my head for so long that my default response is to feel miserable when I go in a different direction? Is it like surgeons or military personnel “falling back on their training” during a time of crisis, to just do without thinking? If I slow down and actually think about it, then the answer is yes.

My eyes are closing… more tomorrow.