.Hunt and Peck: A Zen Meditation on One Hand Typing

The sound of one hand typing led me to search for a pizza cutter at my favorite Vietnamese grocery store.

The bad news first: A temporary injury to my right hand prevents me from properly pounding away at my laptop in normal fashion. The good news? The Zen of everyday life—curiosity, exploration, a child’s mind and the necessary integration of Eastern mysticism with Western suburbia—will not stop me from creating an artful existence.

The intersection of 10th and Keyes was no exception. It just took a little extra work from the left hand path and Google’s speech-to-text mechanism.

You see, when you can only use one hand, and cannot cook like normal, the Zen absurdity of everyday life becomes an improvised performance, with frozen pizzas growing more attractive. So I looked in my freezer and noticed a few Newman’s Own Sicilian Recipe pizzas that I had forgotten about. Paul Newman’s company apparently still donated all proceeds to kids. “Let’s give it all away,” screamed the boxes.

The only thing I didn’t have was a pizza cutter, so I made a pilgrimage down the street to a decades-old business, the now-remodeled Thien Thanh Supermarket, just to see if they had one. I did not necessarily need a pizza cutter to survive—knives work just fine—but since this market is one of the grooviest places to browse, I did my best Zen monk imitation and spent many minutes in aisle 5, which featured piles and piles of every cheap utensil imaginable. There must have been a hundred different tongs in all shapes and sizes, plus the same amount of scissors, ladles, knives and strainers, but no pizza cutter. I saw tools specifically for opening oysters, peeling a kiwi or scraping coconuts, but nothing to cut a pizza.

And you know what? I was fine with this. I was in the present moment, fully alive.

Even though I came away empty handed, I was once again reacquainted with why I love to kill time in this particular store. It is a true adventure unlike anything at Walmart or Costco. At Thien Thanh, both the meat selection and the frozen food aisles made me feel like a travel writer, transforming myself into the itinerant explorers of yore, forever childishly curious. Quail. Rabbit. Frozen frog legs. Beef liver, duck leg, chicken joint and even menudo. They had it all.

One shelf even featured gallon jugs of Sambal Oelek chili paste—dynamite as a secret weapon when cooking Indian food. The longer you let that stuff cook, the hotter it gets. And when buried in the food, the spiciness doesn’t just hit you suddenly. It creeps, slowly like a Zen monk.

I have not been to Vietnam but this grocery store reminded me of ones I encountered in Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Close enough, I suppose.

Bottles of hot sauce on a grocery store shelf.
SECRET SAUCE The spice creeps up slowly with Sambal Oelek chili paste.

And then there’s the immediate neighborhood. One could not shop at Thien Thanh without surveying the gorgeously incongruous clutter of janky buildings. Directly across the street there’s a traditional Ao Dai dress shop connected to a smog check place. You won’t find that in Willow Glen or Los Altos.

A block down sits my favorite abandoned picture frame shop, frozen in time on the corner of Ninth and Keyes. The crumbling orange building hasn’t been open for years, but hundreds of frames remain piled up inside the place.

This entire adventure happened because, for the moment, I can only type with one hand. Instead of letting it cause even more suffering, I accepted the curriculum that life gave me and realized that every moment is a teachable moment.

As any Zen Master knows, the question, “What is the sound of one hand typing?” is not intended to provide an answer or any meaning. It transcends logic. The journey is more important than the objective. After all, if you don’t have a destination, then you can never really be lost, right? In this case, even though I came away without the pizza cutter, the journey was enlightening.

I really do believe Paul Newman would have laughed out loud at these words. I am now going to rewatch The Hustler while eating one of his frozen Sicilian pizzas. Why? Because I understand the sound of one hand typing.

Gary Singh
Gary Singhhttps://www.garysingh.info/
Gary Singh’s byline has appeared over 1500 times, including newspaper columns, travel essays, art and music criticism, profiles, business journalism, lifestyle articles, poetry and short fiction. He is the author of The San Jose Earthquakes: A Seismic Soccer Legacy (2015, The History Press) and was recently a Steinbeck Fellow in Creative Writing at San Jose State University. An anthology of his Metro columns, Silicon Alleys, was published in 2020.


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