Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Please stir it with chopsticks

Back in college when I took a class called Religions of East Asia, I remember a Zen monk talking with us about the importance of living in the moment. "Americans are always waiting for something," he said.

That's so true. We should "be where we are." Everything is so much more fulfilling that way. But just because I know it doesn't mean I'm very good at putting it into practice.

I have a bad habit. I plan excessively. Instead of concentrating on what I'm doing now, I often think about how much cooler life will be when such-and-such happens. For example, now that I know I'll be moving to Oregon sometime soon, I''ve been spending way too much time focusing on what it'll be like to have farmer's markets and public transportation and access to snowboarding. I've been shopping for houses online even though we haven't sold this one yet and probably won't for some time.

This kind of thinking almost made me do something profoundly silly today. I was in Athens and had just left the bank. I pulled out onto the street and, out of the corner of my eye, thought I spotted something that looked suspiciously like a Korean grocery store in a small, squalid mini-mall. Another glance revealed that yes, it was a Korean grocery store. One I never knew existed, smack in the middle of a town notoriously poor in Asian food. An oasis in a sea of southernness.

I almost kept going. A little voice in my head was saying, "In Portland there will be Asian food everywhere!"

But wait a minute. What am I waiting for? SCREEEEECH. I hung a quick U-turn and drove into the parking lot. Soon I was loading my basket with Sriracha sauce and spring roll wrappers and bulgogi marinade. I noticed that they carried "my" brand of Vietnamese fish sauce.

I am glad I overrode the decidedly non-Zenlike voice in my head. Just because something wonderful is on the horizon doesn't mean I can't be happy and contented in the present. And y'know, I like the present. I tend to enjoy myself wherever I am, so why doesn't my wandering mind want to stick around for all the fun? The present is a pretty good spot in the fabric of space/time, at least from where I'm standing.

I'll leave you with, as Jon Stewart says, "your moment of Zen." Here are the instructions on a package of Japanese noodles I bought:

1. Please put Noodles into boiling water (1l).

2. After four or five minutes, (at first cook it for two minutes by strong fire and then cook it by moderate fire) Please stir it with chopsticks.

3. The lustrous, bright, soft and nutrient noodles should be poured by cold water after it is recovered from water.

4. The making method is unique and needs short time for cooking it can be cooked into delicious noodles according to your flavor, no matter it is cooked, sauted, soaked or cool mixed.