Of Revolvers and Ramen

The theme for this past weekend was “no time like the present.”


 

There’s no time like the present to make a difference in the community.

I always talk myself out of doing local volunteer work or service projects like helping out a food pantry or shelter: This is so small scale-does it even matter? It would probably get done even if I didn’t do it. This doesn’t address the underlying causes of hunger or homelessness, so what’s the point? 

True, spending a few hours sorting donated business attire for homeless people applying for jobs isn’t going solve systematic problems. But it’s still helpful, and it has greater social utility than anything else I’d be doing with that time (like binge-watching Netflix while snacking on whatever was in the Trader Joe’s promotional display this week). Also, this kind of work helps me better understand the needs of different under-served groups in the community so that, in the future, if I’m in a position to have a greater impact, I’ll be prepared. Most importantly, small service projects build my capacity for compassion which is good for my long-term emotional and mental health.

So, Saturday morning, I volunteered at Connections for the Homeless, a transitional housing shelter in Evanston. It was pretty boring stuff – spent a couple of hours cleaning the common spaces and sorting donated bed linens – but I’m glad I got out of the house (and out of my head) and did it.


 

There’s no time like the present to go explore.

One of the guys I was volunteering with on Saturday works and lives in the city proper. I asked him for restaurant recommendations and his first suggestion was Argyle Street, a mishmash of Asian stores and restaurants in Uptown Chicago. It sounded like a mini version of my beloved San Gabriel Valley.

Jay and I headed that way for brunch Saturday after I got back from volunteering. We tried a dim sum place, Furama, that was pretty lame but we found a bakery, Chiu Quon, that was awesome. We will definitely be back for cheap-but-delicious steamed buns, chongzi, and some of the creamiest, most incredible Portuguese egg tarts we’ve ever tried. I’m glad we decided to immediately follow-up on that other volunteer’s suggestion instead of adding “Argyle Street” to my growing list of “stuff that sounds cool.”

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There’s no time like the present to try something new (and a little scary).

I’ve been curious about firearms, shooting ranges, and gun culture for awhile. Guns are so far outside of my realm of experience as a lifelong student in the Ivory Tower of academia. But these weapons are such a pervasive part of American popular culture. I felt like I should bridge the gap a little bit.

So, Sunday afternoon, Jay and I went to a nearby shooting range for an introductory class and a little target practice. We had about 15 minutes of “classroom work” which was just a shy, young guy telling us not to point our guns at people, showing us how to fire a couple of pistols, and asking repeatedly if we would like to purchase a firearm after class. Then we had target practice with a revolver and a 9mm Glock handgun, firing at paper diamonds in a concrete bunker.

The whole experience was odd. It was terrifying (holy shit this gun is smoking and I could literally kill myself right now) and also super casual (point and shoot – easy peasy lemon squeezy! By the way, you sure you guys don’t want to buy a gun?) Target practice was fun and challenging as a sporting event, but the shop attached to the shooting range demonstrated how horrifyingly easy it is for anyone to acquire a lethal weapon.

We were both glad we tried it out, but shooting ranges are definitely not our scene. The best part of the afternoon was getting ramen at a nearby Japanese marketplace after target practice.

Spicy miso broth, a generous serving of chashu, and a soy egg? Yea, that’s more my thing.

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