A short story: Ramen, Culture, Quality and Napolean Dynamite
A buddy of mine asked if I wanted to go somewhere, normally i'd say 'ya lets do that sometime. Maybe next week' and then never do it. We're all so busy right, who has the time? We live in this culture where everyone is busy and loves to tell you how busy they are, as some kind of subtle low level brag.
I was reading 'we learn nothing' by Tim Kreider that day and he was talking about this, just a lot more elegantly and hilariously, so I replied 30 secs later with, 'Ya, how about tonight?'. He was a bit surprised obviously and we meet up 2 days later instead.
We go this Ramen noodle place that has a line out the door that lasts 30mins, the first thing you see when you walk in is the open kitchen and I can immediately tell this place is going to be great. It's not something I can intellectualize but you can just see and feel the quality everywhere. Perhaps it was the look and posture of the cooks or the way the cookware, I don't know, some things are better left alone and not cut up by logic anyways.
We order and pay at the register and this cute asian girlasks us if we want to share our dream after the meal (it's exactly what it sounds like) but whats more interesting is the genuine authentic smile on her face, there is such stark contrast in the way a real smile makes you feel compared to the fake, half assed forced smiles you get at chain restaurants that are literally mandated by the Boss/Manager. Almost every chain is like this, cultureless, fake, rushed, homogenous and right off the bat I can tell this place is nothing like it.
Anyways we decline to announce our dreams because fuck that but I note to myself that I'd probably be too embarrassed to do it even if I wanted to. The place is pretty small and shaped exactly like a square, with 4 long rectangle shaped wooden tables, we find the only seats available in the back corner. The cook says loudly but not yelling "Gawlic you wan Gawlic?", we both look around to see who he's talking to while simultaneously trying to understand what the fuck he is saying. This time we can see he's looking at us "Gahlic, you want gahlic" I decipher the code before Colin does and tell him he's asking if we want garlic, I don't need to tell you our response.
We get our giant bowls of Ramen that must contain 2k calories and it's amazing. While we are eating people start to get up and announce their dreams, the servers and cooks all motion and yell out for everyone to be quiet and the place goes silent, stops what they are doing to watch and then claps when they finish. Their dreams ranged quite widely and were of all different sizes, what stood out though is none of them were big. There was even a guy who part of his dream was to take care of his parents, I have 2 grandparents that are 80 years old and no parents but i'd never wish for that. I wondered how differently this guy must live and view life than me.
I didn't judge his dream or any of these dreams as good or bad, just interesting. They has such widely different perspectives on life. Why were none of the dreams large in scale? Why were they able to do this but I couldn't when the ability to do this was probably way more important for my dreams than theirs? Hell even the guy who worked there and looked and dressed like a less absurd more realistic version of Napolean Dynamite did it. He started off nervous and he was stumbling but when he got into it he finished strong. I was impressed and for some reason proud of him even though I don't know him.
I feel like if I announced my dream of wanting to change education globally it would of been perceived as grandiose and naive. When did it become silly to dream big, I mean at what age? Or is it just a response to failures we've had in our lives?
After you're done eating your server comes to your table, and either yells out perfect, good job, almost or next time depending on how much you ate. Colin says this place gets a lot of bad reviews because they don't allow you to bring your food home with you. I think thats really cool but not because I agree with the idea but because they're applying their personality/culture to the place and saying fuck you if you don't like it.
Colin eats the whole thing somehow and is quite proud of it. I was kinda jealous because I got an ' Almost' but only because Napolean D took pity on me, it was nice of him. I read one of their many signs and sayings on the walls and one of them says "if you get through one of these bowls of Ramen you can get through anything in life" it seemed less grandiose after I gave it a shot.
We start talking about how great this place was and he says he tries to choose places that have culture, and will be memorable. We talk more about culture and he says "out of all the bad things Walmart (and places like it) does, the worst is its effect on culture". What he meant by that was it's antithetical to the place we just went to, quality-less, impersonal, cultureless, boring. We all live so close together but yet are so distant, stuck in our own little world I can't help but feel if we had more places like this and less like Walmart things would be way different.
He mentions how he lives to create memories and spend time with people he loves which is not at all the way I live, I'm all about pursuing my dreams. I'm not saying that he's wrong or right but I look back at all the relationships that I've lost and that have diminished due to work and "busyness" and can't help think he has a point.
I can't see living life without a passion for work but I don't see how I can live with this never ending busyness and truly be happy. How could I possibly rebuild old relationships and build new ones if I'm always "busy"? Is it possible to merge our ideas of life together and be great at both? I look at and compare all I lost and gained and wonder how can I do it better?
We talked for 5 hours straight about everything from sex to meditation to culture to relationships to philosophy and more. It was a real conversation though where we were both present, where neither of us checked our phones once the entire time. We didn't try to gain anything from the other we just talked for the enjoyment of it. We allowed the other person to pause, reflect and think without awkwardness or interruption. There is this weird thing with most people where they expect you and themselves to reply quickly rather than thoughtfully - everyone is in a rush, it goes back to this busyness maybe. Most importantly we talked openly and without judgement.
This is a conversation I wouldn't be able to have even 8 months ago. It wasn't until I Faced and somewhat conquered my fear of failure & looking stupid that I found it possible to be myself, to be flawed and not be afraid to be judged by it. I've experienced so much richer experiences because when you're open with people they open up as well, relax and be real with you. For example I told a buddy of mine that I cried at the end of Mulan last week, he didn't stop talking to me or think less of me we just had a big laugh over it and it probably helped us have a really open and good time. I mean who's gonna be afraid of lil bitch like that.
I woke up the next day with ideas of happiness, memories, quality and presence in my mind and decided to try something new (to me at least). I was going to spend the whole day being present but also try to make it as interesting as possible. Things were surprisingly interesting when you really thought about it or focused on it. Looking at a book became thoughts on how language was built, and how easily/cheaply ideas are distributed. I began to see the connections in everything.
It wasn't just thinking though, I also used my senses to really feel everything, whether it was walking, everyday sounds, sights, a shower etc. it became an experience. After a few hours of this I got into a really peaceful , blissful state which rarely happens and went into my poker session feeling absolutely like I was going to win. Of course I haven't really tried to do this again since, that's a part of being human I guess.
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