Spooky

Last year, something horribly tragic occurred on a large road about a quarter mile away from my house. In the early morning, around 4am a car crashed into a tree carrying four teens, three of them dying on impact. It was horrific, I didn’t learn about it until later that day. However, the night of the accident I had a horribly lucid dream in which I woke up in my bed and it was pitch black. The only reason I could see anything was because of the pale blue tint to the pitch black night, my windows were open and I could see out into my street. All of the sudden a shuddering scream arose in the distance, so prominently loud, accompanied by millions of other screams; the world was crying around me, falling into indescribable chaos. I was confused to begin with, until I could feel the feel screams shift as if they were a wave, the amplitude approaching my street, and it was in that moment that I completely froze. It felt as if every soul, petrified in doom, burst out in a thunderous cacophony of deafening terror, a vocal representation of the gothic interpretation of hell. I was unable to move. It felt as if the screams were searching, surveying the world for a single living thing, for me, and any movement I made would lead them straight to me. So I waited, I sat there and waited as the apex of noise approached, peaked, and as it passed I simply awoke. I checked the time to see if I could return to sleep and I saw that it was only 4:30 in the morning so I could get back to sleep, it took a while but I returned to sleep peacefully, although still bothered by the dream I just had. I woke up that morning with the dream lingering in the back of my mind but without much worry attached to it, so I went about my day as if nothing had happened, because to me, nothing had. We went out to lunch, on a different road from the wreck, and when we returned we came down that road where my father told me about the conversation he had with one of our neighbors earlier about the wreck and how it had happened there early in the morning yesterday. And as the words left his mouth the feeling of dread became so strong that I couldn’t speak. I just sat there dumbfounded as we approached the site of the crash where a candlelight vigil was being prepared.

Photo Credit; Depositphotos

Noodles

Recently I had a dream no different from most, I was at a grocery store with an old friend of mine. It used lightbulbs that just made the store appear sickly (obviously not LED), the flickery hospital lighting that evokes the smell of latex gloves from nowhere. Anyways, apart from the lights that bothered me a lot, the shelves were only partially stocked, but they were all stocked wrong and without any tags. This made it especially difficult to find the ramen that my friend and I had gone in there looking for. After wandering through rows of of tall, black, and poorly built shelves with pretty much anything thrown on them, we finally came upon the milk section. Now this was a bit of a problem because we had gone in there looking for ramen, and I was now browsing cartons of milk that looked as though they smelled like goat urine. After my brain had somehow remembered that the dream had begun with the task of looking for ramen, we began to move away from the milk and towards the rest of the store.

Now, personally I do not know why I so vividly remember this dream. I can only attribute it to me having had a boring day, and the dream being the only interesting thing that had happened to me since the morning.

When we finally came across the ramen, it was behind some boxes of Chinese snacks that I can only describe as milky bread sticks. The ramen was also sub-par because it was the off-brand Korean kind that was made to burn your eyebrows off that once made me sneeze chili powder. I was upset but still willing to take it, because after an extended period of time in a poorly managed grocery store that I have dreamt about many times before, I was getting fairly irritable. However, this is when my hulking, pigmy of a friend decided to grab it and run off.

I was furious, I had just wasted so much time staring at milk, wandering through aisles of nothing, and putting up with stress-inducing incandescent lighting, all to have my crappy ramen stolen away from me. Normally, this is where I would wake up, barge downstairs, and make myself food, but my dream-self was feeling particularly determined tonight. I continued searching for ramen, I spent hours searching the shelves of the store, running into half-asleep janitors, and many soulless patrons, destined with the same fate as I was.

After my search of the store came up empty, I somehow stormed myself to the loading dock in the back of the store that for some reason was also the location of the dumpster. It was beside this dumpster that I had found almost exactly what I was looking for, garbage bags full of contaminated ramen noodles. I do not know why I thought to look in the trash bags, I do not know how I knew they were contaminated, and I also do not know why I eventually took two bags home, but I do know that the story did not end well for me.

I don’t remember exactly how the dream ended, I eventually woke up, and I remember being fairly put off by the end, but as is common with dreams, I quickly forgot it. I didn’t find much meaning behind this dream. This is by no means the first dream I have had about grocery shopping, those have always been quite common for me. I didn’t think about the dream again until I came home that day from school, and saw that among some of the things my mother had bought from the grocery store was a few packets of ramen. Needless to say, I did not eat the ramen. That was the night I discovered that perhaps store bought ramen wasn’t for me, that was also the night that I discovered I was clairvoyant. So if there’s anything you should take away from this experience, and I seriously doubt there is, I’d say it’s probably to use LED bulbs, because they won’t cause irrational and dangerous decision making like incandescent bulbs do.

Photo Credit: Imgur.com

Lost In Translation

Being someone who considers themselves a second language speaker, I have always found that my native-language of Mandarin (although no longer as good as my English), holds a few words or phrases that I realized couldn’t translate into English. I say this not because there weren’t words for them in the English dictionary, because there were plenty, but because of the meaning that is lost in translating them into another language.
Mandarin has roots that trace back 3,000 years to the origin of the Chinese language, more recently becoming the common language of China over 700 years ago. Because of this, over the centuries, Chinese characters have gone from simply representing ideas or objects, to imbedding themselves into the deeper meaning of these ideas, becoming symbolic of what they represented.
I really don’t know if that would make sense to anyone who doesn’t have a non-English language where they can find an example of this. But essentially, what I’m trying to say, is as time as progressed, these words have solidified themselves as the sole-identifier for these ideas, meaning that the word in itself evokes instant imagery and clarity on whatever is being conveyed, it is the ultimate adjective, noun, verb, it requires no follow up, the word is a definition in itself just from the emotions it lets off.
Below I have jotted down a few that I’ve heard over the past several weeks that I don’t believe could ever be translated into another language and hold the same significance that it does in Mandarin.
香- xiang, like very good taste, smell, just feels right on the palate
哎哟,你做的饭好香啊
aīyō,nǐzuò dèfànhǎoxiāng a!
Oh my, this food that you made is so savory!
(Personally when I use this word, it evokes an image of that scene from Ratatouille when Remi takes a bite of the cheese and strawberry together and colors begin to swirl together on screen as he’s just in ecstasy. Just to give an example of what I mean by evocative)
情 qing, like very caring of, adoring, affection, lovey-dovey
转盼多情
Zhuǎn pàn duōqíng
a loving (or soulful) glance
辛苦- xin ku, working very hard, deserving of praise, worked to exhaustion, withstanding bitter hardships
路上辛苦了。
Lùshang xīnkǔ le.
You must have had a tiring journey.
脑海- nao hai, mind, same symbolic connotation as a heart that just doesn’t exist in English
你存在我深深的脑海里。
nǐ cúnzaì wǒ shēnshēn dè nǎohǎi lí
You exist, deep in my mind
存- cun, to exist, to protect it, cherish, withstand the test of time
爱长存。
aì chángcún.
Love will last forever
轻- qing, weightless, gentle, worry-free, relaxing
她走路脚步轻。
Tā zǒulù jiǎobù qīng.
She walks with a light, carefree step.
Source: AsiaSociety.org

Can’t Forget About Jew

I have always considered myself a person of faith. I was lucky enough to be born a Sephardic Jew in one of the most welcoming periods in world history. Because of this, I never had to hide my beliefs, I had the opportunity to inform countless masses of friends what the laws of Kosher are, sharing stories about my main man Moses, and having a global network of strangers and friends alike that I could rely on, that I could confide in. But that’s not what I wanted to highlight today. Recently, I went to Yom Kippur services for the “Jewish New Year” where I fasted the whole day and prayed in repentance of the misdeeds committed by me and fellow Jews this last year. At the end of the second night, after nearly 30 hours without food, water, or bathing, as night falls, your fate for the next year is sealed, your past year is wiped clean and are given a chance to start anew. As I left services with my father, I felt invigorated, I felt fresh, I felt strong despite my thirst and hunger, and it was all due to this faith of mine. I realized I possessed a luxury that many of my friends grew up without and still live lacking. 
 
My faith has always been something I could rely on. From a young age, when I questioned something, I found my faith would always give me a confident answer, giving me a sense of closure, a peace-of-mind not afforded to my peers. When my friends grew to understand the finality of their mortality, when they struggled to find meaning in their lives, when they tossed and turned trying to comprehend our loneliness in our vast expanse of the universe, I had Judaism to fill the gaps in my young mind, sheltering me from the despair. Now I’m not saying it by any means encourages ignorance, some of the best Jewish scholars throughout history have integrated the scientific understand of our universe and Judaism because “[Both] were understood to be two different manifestations of the same divine truth.” (MJL, 2007) I was always encouraged by numerous Rabbi and teachers from my Jewish primary school to find my own truths, but if I couldn’t find a why for any of these, an explanation for my truths, Judaism would always be there to support my conclusions, to give me confidence about my role in our universe, no matter how small. I can go to sleep every night knowing if I were to not wake up in the morning, it would be because I have served my purpose and my job is completed, for this I am incredibly grateful.  
Photo Credit: Kenzie Bruce, The Denver Post
Mjl. “Judaism & Science in History.” My Jewish Learning, My Jewish Learning, 4 Feb. 2007, www.myjewishlearning.com/article/judaism-science-in-history/.

Canvas Man

I once saw myself to be a bystander in no one else’s story. I was there, obsolete, silent, watching the world unfold around me, witnessing what my peers were experiencing, but not having any of that for myself. I was tired of being a supporting role in my own life, adding to other people’s conversations, assisting people when they might need it, but never bringing anything to the table myself.

I didn’t feel like I had any identity as an individual, I relied on the people around me to define who I was and I hated it, I couldn’t stand the fact that when I was alone, I knew nothing about myself that was uniquely mine, that I had created a version of my self that was only a convoluted mosaic of the people I associated myself with.

It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t entirely a unique individual. That although I had a mixture of physical traits that made me intriguing, I didn’t have the personality that supported that. I realized it was fine to inherit these traits from those around you but to keep an eye on what those are.

I found myself adopting unhealthy mentalities that I drew from those I looked up to, these forced me to reflect heavily upon what I had become, I was no longer true to myself, I became a canvas upon which my peers could splash their negativity, and I would mindlessly carry it around, displaying it for everyone to see.

It took me a long time to rid myself of the bad habits I had accumulated. I was alright with adopting traits from other people that I respected, I realized that that process is fundamental to our growth as individuals and not detrimental to it as I had originally thought. I realized instead that the issue I had was that I was adopting traits that I didn’t like in an attempt to somehow further my personal development without considering the fallout of these actions.

Credit: woodshedartauctions.com

A Man and his Mule

This one will be a lot shorter than the last one I promise.
Nearly two years ago, I was camping with OVS, 15 of us out in the sandstone canyons of Utah, unspeakably peaceful. In fact, I enjoyed the tranquility of that small, isolated river valley so much, I decided to spend the night in my hammock so that I could swing as the whirling breeze carried me to sleep. However, that night was a wild one for me and you’ll soon understand why.
Around 10 o’clock I get into my hammock, laying down as I watch the moon rise over the other side of the valley, a few stranglers dragging themselves into their tents, and I decided to retire as well. Maybe three hours later if I remember it correctly, I awaken to the sound of voices coming from the kitchen area, they all seem to be laughing, having a great time, then I look at my watch and it reads one o’clock. INSTANTLY I freeze- this isn’t right, I say to myself as I peak towards the opening in my sleeping bag, the absence of light confirming my suspicions.
I try to play it off as a dream, my dream continued even after I awoke, I tell myself unconvincingly, the voices are incredibly vivid, I can hear their laughter bouncing against my eardrums, it has to be real. A few minutes pass and they begin to call my name, like the sirens that taunted Odysseus on his travels, I too was being deceived, their welcoming calls making me all the wearier. I am fully awake now.
The minutes crawl by as these voices continue, situations changing constantly, from their beckons for me to get breakfast, to claims of me missing out on a glance at a nearby fox, they become eerier. These voices, maintaining their soothing tones, vary in their distances from me, somethings being five feet away, sometimes their voices traveling for seeming leagues before reaching me. But don’t doubt my account yet, because it only gets worse. After maybe 20 minutes of the voices, I begin to feel something brushing up against my swaying hammock intermittently. This feeling of helplessness consumes me as I can only fumble for the pocket knife buried somewhere in my sleeping bag (I sleep with one while camping now after that first encounter).
My senses take over and my imagination runs wild, the voices grow stronger, and with only the light of my watch reading 2:15 to convince me of my awakened state, I can’t help but feel as if a man is standing over me, watching my hammock sway, letting it brush against him in the periodic gusts. I can’t believe what is happening to me, the winds continue, but they don’t blend with the voices, they still call me to reveal myself, to emerge from my safe place, my empty tent four feet away, but impossibly out of reach. I feel a large round object protruding from the darkness against the left side of my back, maybe a foot away from where the man must be standing, the object stabilizes me, I cannot move now.
Maybe the winds pushed me into a branch, jutting from the sickly tree holding up the feet side of my hammock, further inspection the next morning revealed that there were none near me. I am trapped in my own sleeping bag, unable to find my knife, unable to escape the voices, the man, the fear that’s overtaken me. I lay still in this sweaty hell until 3 am as I remember it, then I must drift off at some point, exhausted by the sheer terror I felt that night.
The next morning I approach my classmates, bemused as to what transcribed the previous night, upon recounting my tale, I am met with blank stares, concerned faculty, and one bright face. One teacher, my advisor, recounts a story of a man and his donkey, this man traveled into this river valley in Utah some 80 years before and was never seen from again. He suggests that this man tried to beckon me out of my hammock for a companion to wander the endless nights of these canyonlands, the voices were his attempts, the brushing was the man standing beside me, and the object jutting into my back was the donkey, standing loyal at the man’s side.
I don’t know what I believe, I don’t believe that I could ever believe that story my advisor told me, but if you ever find yourself in the desert, and you hear the voices of your compatriots, calling you into the night, take heed of my warning, but make your own choice, for if I were to return and hear them again, I may just see what the endless nights have to offer.
Also, I slept in a tent the next night, wasn’t about to lose another nights sleep to a ghost donkey.

The Outside Ghost

In the past few years, I’ve developed a love for the outdoors that is indescribable, I live for the moments I spend in the backcountry. I yearn to lounge on my hammock, strung between two awkward trees, uneasy about my weight. I dream of not getting back into the vans, of staying near the spot where I dug my favorite latrine. But I have to say one of my favorite things about the outdoors is the chilling experiences.
The first one very vivid to me occurred nearly three years ago in the Eastern Sierras. I had gone backpacking with my school about 10 miles up into Little Lakes Valley, a quaint spot along the John Muir Trail, and we had set our packs down by a lake snuggled into a cliffside. A few of us, being the adventurous souls that we were, decided it would be fun to summit this peak, towering around 1,000 feet above us.  Half an hour into the climb, I had to stop, at our elevation, nearly 13,000 feet above sea level, wearing a heavy ski coat, I was winded. I was given a walkie talkie, water bottles to hold onto, and told to standby as they submitted.
Being on a neighboring peak, just slightly lower than the peak I originally set out for, I had a nice view of the three that continued on. As I sat alone, talking and singing to myself, using up 30 minutes of footage on my phone, I felt a sense of tranquility I hadn’t experienced since starting high school. Around 15 minutes into my time alone, as I carefully examined the pockets of snow that lay in the distance between the jagged rocks that covered the mountain where I would occasionally see the hikers jumping through as the continued to summit, something interrupted by solo jam sesh. In the footage, you can hear me rambling about a second rate animated movie from my childhood, and all of a sudden a voice maybe 40 feet behind me interrupts my train of thought. I hear the click of a walkie talkie as the gruff voice says, “OK hold up.” However, the walkie talkie sitting beside me remains silent.
Now at this point, two things are running through my mind, either there is a stranger hiking by his lonesome and he’s for some reason communicating with another hiker far another away where he needs a walkie talkie, or that there’s a ghost. Seeing as I have turned to face the source of the noise and there was no face to put to the voice, I quickly jumped to conclusions that it was the latter. Regardless, as my experience from horror movies dictates, if I acknowledge the ghost as a ghost, it will mess me up. So I narrate to the video what just happened, and QUICKLY change the subject so that the ghost believes I am just a naive little freshman, not worth the trouble. I increase the amount of panning shots in my video so I have opportunities to look around for the voice that is intermittently speaking, traveling, but maintaining a consistent distance from me so that I can keep an eye out for the ghost without it catching on.
A few minutes later the voice disappears completely, but as it does the weather takes a turn, I see the hikers running back as they indubitably saw the storm cloud moving in our direction, completely invisible to myself until the hikers were almost back. Now I’m not saying that the ghost made it dump snow on us for the next 12 hours, but if he did that was a pretty crappy move. Regardless, when we get back to camp I refrain from telling anyone because I am convinced I’m still within earshot of that petty man, so I go about the rest of the evening and kind of forget about it. When I wake up in the morning, sore from the number of times the gusting winds slapped the roof of the tent into my unsuspecting face, I hear stories that convince me that the ghost man didn’t like our group.
One tells of how he heard trailing footsteps when he went off to pee shortly after dinner but saw nothing, no indication that he was being followed. And the three girls all corroborated that in the night, in the worst part of the storm, when the howling winds would’ve prevented any sane man from leaving his tent, no matter what capacity his bladder was at, they heard footsteps circling their tent, unaffected by the storm, oblivious to the bitter cold, definitely a ghost. When we hiked out of that canyon the next day I vowed never to return, but I actually did a year later when I school offered the trip, and I had a really splendid time. However, everyone who went on the night hikes heard footsteps in the woods around them and experienced wacky flashlights malfunctions, which is to be expected when the ghost man is out there. That is precisely the reason I didn’t go on the night hikes, I knew about the aggravating spirit that lay waiting in the darkness, so instead, I elected to stay in my tent, on my phone, where I had downloaded a Patton Oswalt comedy special and had a very enjoyable evening.
Next week I got another doozy so keep an eye out for that one.
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