Tag Archives: memories

Operation Free the Flamingos! (Part 1/2)

When you hear the word “flamingo”, what is the first thought that comes to mind? Some people think of their local zoo, flashing back to memories of their first-grade field trip and broccoli they threw in the animal pens. Others vaguely access factoids regarding the strange, yet amusing, coloration of their feathers and why flamingos are so flamboyantly pink. But on the University of Wisconsin – Madison campus, only one thought comes to mind:

The honorary city bird that resides on Bascom Hill.

The pink flamingo has become iconic throughout Madison and beyond. It is the symbol of the Annual Fill the Hill campaign, each feathered friend representing a donor that contributed to the fund. The established tradition of the UW flamingos on Bascom Hill is beyond popular, standing 2nd only to the prank involving our very own UW Statue of Liberty in Lake Mendota. Both of these pranks, and many others throughout the history of Madison, can be traced back to the legend-(wait for it)-dary man Leon Varjian.

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The #UWFlamingos gonna get #snatched

And after the successful takeover of flamingos on Bascom, his indomitable spirit of prank-dom continued to live on. And it would manifest itself… in me. I, too, wanted to live by his political slogan and embrace the legacy that he left behind. And I thought of the most brilliant way to live up to my predecessor’s image:

Leon filled Bascom Hill with infamous pink lawn ornaments. I would take them all away.

“Honesty, integrity, responsibility … Pail and Shovel doesn’t believe in any of them!” – Varjian’s Slogan

The idea of taking a flamingo was enticing. But taking 1,008 of them? The thought overwhelmed me. I couldn’t even imagine what that many flamingos would look like, let alone where I would store them all. But I would think about that later. I just needed to get them all first… somehow. Bold stories of stolen flamingos constantly circulated around campus. There had to be other students that would join me in my mission. In fact, I already had a partner-in-crime that I knew would help me. And whether it was to have a new piece of furniture to complement their curbside sofa or they needed a makeshift drinking apparatus to store their alcohol, other students would steal the flamingos every year. And this year, I would lead them all.

This is what I would yell as I led the charge onto the battlefield

I wanted a flamingo before I read about Varjian (the bucket list!), but I did not have any real, compelling reasons. I wanted a flamingo simply for the fact of wanting a flamingo. But my partner-in-crime who wanted to do this had other intentions driving his flamingo fervor. This mission had sentimental value attached to it for him, in contrast to my primary motivation being a longtime childish rebellion against authoritative figures and social norms. This flamingo had the power to reunite distant connections and trigger memories of what once was. To some, it meant nothing more than just an improvised beer bong. To my friend, it meant honor. To me, this meant that I would get a flamingo at any cost. “Operation Free the Flamingos” just got personal.

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A taste of what is to come…

Part 1/2 complete

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The Senior Bucket List

Senior year has arrived, and with it has come a most deplorable fate. The secret that has been hidden in plain sight. What we have chosen to ignore. Refused to even acknowledge its existence. It was easier that way… But now the time has come. No longer can our blissful ignorance protect us. Nor can we hide from the inevitable. The truth must come to light. Our eyes must be opened.
A cold, hard dose of reality slaps you in the face, beats you down to the ground, and leaves you just conscious enough to realize what is happening to you. We are seniors. We will be dragged – kicking and screaming against our wills – into what is known as “the real world”. Whispered rumors become full fledged realities. We have seen others succumb to this most harrowing fate, but it was never us. The day that we would be standing in the place of fabled seniors that were once our closest allies are now forgotten in the depths of what is called “undergraduate lyfe”.
Being buried under a pile of assignments doesn’t look so bad compared to the dirt that would be sprinkled over our metaphorical graves if we left. The death of our youth. And the birth of our adulthood. (which explains why there is so much kicking and screaming involved…)

While some seniors may turn their head in denial away from the impending doom of the future (myself included), others are taking preemptive measures to ensure they do join the ranks of the fallen. These seniors are spending their time studying for admissions tests, securing letters of recommendation, and finalizing their plans for the next step beyond the illusory experience of the undergraduate stage. But I cannot bring myself to do that. Not with so many unknown variables left to solve in my equation. This is what we have been trained for… so why do I feel immensely unprepared?

This is why I choose to invest my time into the present, hoping that it will pave a road for my future. It will be my “first time” for the last time this year. I won’t have the opportunity to be in an environment that facilitates the idiosyncratic nature of my being. College forces us to discover so I have to make use of that while I can.

I have clearly taken the “bucket-half-full” perspective on this one, so with no further ado I introduce THE ONE, THE ONLY

SENIOR BUCKET LIST

  • Walk Across a Frozen Lake Mendota – possibly singing songs from the “Frozen” soundtrack
  • Ice Skate in Teeney Park
  • Go to a Drag Show
  • Release a Red Heart-Shaped Balloon in the Capital building
  • Take a Picture with Bucky
  • Take a Walk in the Tunnel System
  • Olbrich Garden – Thai Pagoda
  • Attend a Muslim mosque, St. Paul’s church, Jewish synagogue, Buddhist temple
  • Obtain a pink flamingo
  • Open Mic “Take On Me” at a student org
  • Shake hands with Chancellor Blank
  • Ride Merry-Go-Round at Ella’s Deli
  • Go Inside the Clock Tower
  • Sit on Abe’s Lap
  • Love and be loved in return
  • Participate in the Battle on Bascom
  • Steal a lunch tray and sled down Bascom
  • Go out to lunch with my friend Ty Tau
  • Sneak into Camp Randall at night
  • Freakfest!
  • Eat at L’Etoile
  • Badger football game?!?
  • Essen Haus Boot Challenge
  • Steal a Memorial Union chair
  • Go somewhere I have never been before
  • Eat the Plaza Burger
  • 5K! Color Run?
  • Go to Holi, Diwali, Chinese New Year… SOMETHING!!!
  • Drink at The Library
  • Orchestra Recital!
  • Positively impact a random stranger’s life
  • Leave my mark on the UW-Madison campus
  • Nothing Left Unsaid – ongoing life perspective

That, my friends, concludes my list of unexplored mischief for my final year on campus. But by no means is it exhaustive! I just wanted to open a dialogue to generate ideas about what I should and want to be doing before I leave for good. One final rally that would make all my dreams come true – whether I knew what those dreams were or not. I want to look back on these moments and reminisce over all the crazy things that I have thought, and said, and done (it usually happens in that order). But as I ponder of the wonders of my life that are yet to be had, I have come to realize that I can’t plan everything. That is the nature of the future. It is unknown. And there is just too much adventure to be had!!! So until then I’ll take life one slice at a time and make sure that my mischief gets managed.

Moving Out and Moving On

One week ago I – and the rest of Madison – engaged in the pleasantries and pains of Move-Out Day. Everyone had an immense amount of preparations to make to ensure save travel and transportation of their precious life’s belongings into their new houses and out of their old lodging. We were required to erase our existence from the space we had inhabited for so long. We packed our rooms that were full of an overwhelming assortment of items, we scrubbed the rooms free of the filth that had accumulated because our forsaken house chores, we were compelled to forgive and forget the excitement – or “drama” – of the past year, and lastly we vacated the premises to release our old homes from the duty of sheltering ourselves from the outside. And lest we be labeled as trespassers and fined outrageous fees, we left the cracked walls and crumbling floorboards of our homesteads behind. But the empty shell that we were leaving behind held our history, etched into the walls of the apartment and the corridors of our minds. The relationships we had forged existed as residual echoes of our time there. Remnants of our old lives would resurge whenever we saw each other again, remembering the good times and the bad and all the shenanigans that ensued. We weren’t really saying goodbye.

With my capacity for anxiety filled to the brim, I left looking forward to the change that was about to occur. With a new apartment came a new set of roommates to learn to live with in the upcoming year. We would cook, clean, exercise, joke, annoy, laugh, insult, fight, celebrate, push the boundaries of our comfort zones, see more of each other that we ever would need to for a lifetime, navigate this whole “college thing” together, and experience the life as a set of “bros” together.

I love my roommates in the most heterosexual way #bros4lyfe

Video credits awarded to youtube stars nigahiga and chestersee

Because my new roommates already lived with the same management company that we were going to live with this year, move out and move in could be accomplished on the same day. That meant no Homeless Night for any of us! But it also meant TWICE the work in one day… Though with the resolve to have a roof over our heads and the imminent termination of their leases to pressure us, we all worked together to haul our livelihood out of destitution and into our dependable – though distant – new apartment. In just under three hours we had moved all of our stuff and some additional Christmas goodies into our home base.

The move-in was not that difficult, not any more strenuous or harrowing than the average experience. What was most daunting was the change attached to moving. Every year I am forced to uproot my life and restart. Implanting facets of my life onto new ground and adapting to the new environment. I have fallen into an endless cycle of instability, unable to identify sources of a fixed nature to anchor me in place. But this year I know that is going to change.

In the past I have lived with the people that I currently live with now. But I detached myself from them, thinking that I needed to be alone to truly grow to my full potential. But even as the distance separated me from them, the intended isolative effect could not take root. I still saw them every week. I still spent my weekends at their house. Nothing changed. Except for my outlook. These were the relationships that we were meant to have in college. The proverbial friends that you will have forever. I was missing out on major life events. I was missing out on building a life that had meaning. It is only with the assistance of an unwavering community of friends that I will achieve an unchanging state of mind. I will solidify my amorphous state of affairs, shaping the future of my final year on campus.

Throughout my years on campus, I have developed rapport with an abundance of campus advocates to help guide me through my journey. There are so many people that have placed their faith in me to become a successful, contributing citizen of this interconnected world. And I will not let them down. I will not let myself down. I have come too far to let that happen.

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Everything changed when the Kai nation attacked…

In my first year I learned to let go of the past and not focus on who I was.

In my second year I searched deep within my soul and discovered who I am.

In my third year I explored the possibilities that lie ahead and envisioned all that I could be.

In my fourth year I will take hold of my future and tell the world everything that is Kai.

Look out Madison. A wild Kai has appeared. Truthfully, he’s been here all along. But now he has decided that he would let you know.

Objects Are Lonelier Than They Appear

August 14th: A date that has innumerable forms of significance attached to it

Some treat this day as a period of cleansing and renewal. Others treat it as a time of upheaval and unrest. And some might even have a birthday on this most sacred of days. Still one definition sets itself apart from the rest, celebrating the act of giving – to themselves and their own homes. Hippie Christmas.

The tradition of Hippie Christmas is founded upon the transition of rental property leases for the Madison demographic of 18-24 year olds AKA college students. Leasers are forced to comply with their contracted agreement, and must vacate the premises of their living quarters else face “undesirable consequences”…

But the values of Hippie Christmas overshadows the history, proven by the many city inhabitants that strive to uphold the glory of this day. And with the holiday season upon them, the city of Madison made every effort to embody the preemptive refurnishing spirit. Celebrators kept in mind that good fortune comes to those who come early and that the early bird gets plasma screen T.V. They also were well informed of the target sites, setting their sights upon residential areas of affluence and a reputation for disposal. Veterans of this ceremonial practice would plunder to their heart’s content, obtaining only the most legendary items for the most profitable of prices. But there was always room for amateur practitioners to abscond with a generous haul of looted goodies from gilded garbage holds. Everyone was a winner on Hippie Christmas.

I wanted something different than the average citizen celebrator though. I was on an entirely different mission that night.

I would engage in a search and rescue operation. My primary objective was to search for items that contained sentimental value. These forgotten relics once stood for some other purpose, a hidden meaning beyond the original intention. Memories forged through the trials of time and bound through sincere ownership by an earnest possessor. But they are no longer. They are subject to the impermanence of human life and the wasteful nature that has overtaken society.

We watch each other discard and abandon. So many of the things we own have an expiration date. An expiration date arbitrarily assigned by ourselves. Once our possessions become obstacles to happiness, cleaning, fire safety laws or moving out, we act as we always have. We sever our ties to it. But what we really are doing is defacing the value behind the object. There are stories attached to it, a history preceding the present, and human lives intertwined because of this very object’s existence. There are so many belongings that we accumulate over time that it becomes hard to discern the true value. But we have become masters of symbolic attachment. This unspoken evaluation is what sets certain items apart. This is what makes them special.

The items that have been deemed “special” by the scavengers roaming the streets of Madison are a select few. The chosen artifacts of a prehistoric period when this object meant nothing more than its intended function. A point in time when no being associated a thought or feeling or belief to the body of the item. This “thing” resides in a sea of disposable goods and overindulgent waters, but the retention of its function allowed it to float to the surface. It is ripe for the picking and ready to take on a new form. To be salvaged from the wreckage of wastefulness is the greatest honor that can be bestowed. Though these foragers forsake the codes of honor, unsympathetic to the fates of the things around them. The foragers only seek to find items that fulfill their needs. But these items do not care. They just want to be used.

But then there are the objects that are overlooked. They do not have a buoy to keep them afloat. They experience major turbulence as endless waves of collectors wash over them, and bury them further down into the endless expanse. These objects did have something special though. They recorded moments of life. Revealed thoughts and feelings and beliefs. What existed was an opportunity to look through a window into someone else’s life. Each of these personal effects offering insight and a new perspective into the daily life of a citizen in Madison. These objects held the most significance in my eyes.

I treasured the articles that I did find. I sat and gazed at them, demanding that they give up their secrets. Let me into the lives they recorded. I wondered what these people were like. What I could discern from the items they once owned. I saw the significance behind these items, but I didn’t know the history. I wanted to save these objects. Why didn’t they?

I did have a reason for wanting to rescue these objects, but it is unclear to others around me. Perhaps it was my sense of inquiry, to discover the nature of the world around me. Perhaps it was my sense of duty, to save the broken and needy. Or perhaps it was because I saw a little bit of myself in these objects. So easily abandoned. So easily disposed. Just like a piece of trash.

Christmas came early for me this year. And I am proud to have successfully celebrated this most distinguished day, leaving with a triumphant victory and a newly enlightened perspective.