17
Jan 17

My daily rituals

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

Enjoying a cup of coffee (or two) is one of my daily rituals.

I’m a creature of habit. I find comfort in having a routine and doing some of the same things every day. I also love having something to look forward to, whether it’s that first cup of coffee in the morning or relaxing after work with Netflix.

Inspired by this Quora question, I thought I’d share my own daily rituals.

Morning

I wake up between four and four-thirty. Even on the weekend. I sleep later if I’m sick or sleep deprived for more than a day. Although I don’t necessarily think getting up and going to bed earlier is better. Being an early bird or a night owl each has its pros and cons.

I (groggily) make coffee. This is the very first thing I do. It wakes me up, and I love how my apartment smells.

I brush my teeth. I’m one of those people who has to brush their teeth before breakfast.

I get back into bed and look at my phone for 5 or 10 minutes. The light from the screen helps me wake up more, and I catch up on the news and messages from night owl friends.

I have my coffee, eat breakfast, and read whatever book I happen to be reading. Breakfast is bread with peanut butter and jam or Nutella or some kind of pastry.

I work on my novel. My minimum is 250 words, either new or extensively revised, during the week, and 500 on the weekends.

I go to the gym. I work out four or five days a week, either running 3 to 5 miles or hitting the elliptical for 40 minutes, followed by strength-building exercises like plank, squats, or free weights; ab work; and stretching. When the weather’s nice, I like to run in Central Park.

I have my second breakfast. This is usually an egg, veggies, and coffee or chai tea.

I do some freelance work. Namely setting up tweets.

After that it depends on if it’s a work day or the weekend, and if it’s a work day, whether it’s an in-the-office or work-from-home day.

Evening

I eat dinner between 5:30 (yup) and 7:30, depending on if I have to go into the office or have plans.

I watch my stories. Usually a short sitcom or two, followed by a longer drama or action show.

I watch something soothing. This is probably not a great habit, but I need to watch something calming before I go to sleep. This means a nonviolent anime or a British cozy mystery like Midsomer Murders. For some reason I find the Japanese language and British accents very relaxing.

I (try) to stop looking at my phone.

I stop answering texts and calls around 8. This is when my phone automatically goes on Do Not Disturb. The only calls that get through are from my parents and brother.

I go to sleep between eight and nine. Yes, like I’m seven.

I know there’s probably room for change and improvement, like incorporating meditation or more social activities, although I do enjoy my rituals the way they are now.

What are your daily rituals?


12
Jan 17

2015 and 2016 in Retrospect

Don’t ask me how but somehow I forgot to do one of my trusty year-end retrospects for 2015. So now coming at you, a two-fer. Here are the highlights of what happened these past two years.

2015

I became obsessed with podcasts. Now in addition to Stuff You Should Know, This American Life, Serial, and Here’s the Thing, I also listen to How Did This Get Made, Stuff You Missed in History Class, Gilmore Guys, The X-Files Philes, and Crimetown.

I went to Seattle to see a college friend. And had an awesome time hiking, eating, and visiting the science fiction museum.

I went to Boston for a Beantown birthday. With a side trip to Maine.

I moved back to New York, then went to Paris a week later. It was insane and exhausting and wonderful.

I got to know New York again. Especially the museums, ramen, and gyms.

I started rewriting my paranormal teen romance. I used NaNoWriMo 2015 as an excuse. More than a year later, I’m still working on it. Sigh. My goal is to have a complete draft by May 1.

I had a Canadian Christmas. Museums, Montreal bagels, and snow. What more could you ask for, eh?

2016

I started off the year with a cruise. And it turned me into a cruise person. What I wouldn’t give for a warm saltwater bath and yummy Greek yogurt chicken salad right now.

I got laid off. This wasn’t something I talked about on my blog because it felt weird. But I was let go early last year. It was a shock (despite all the red flags), but luckily I had savings and a few freelance gigs to tide me over until I got a new job in May. And by the way —

I got a new job. I’m a copywriter at a corporation, which is quite a change from the startup world. But it pays the bills and I’m learning a ton.

I went to Paris again. It was beautiful as always although this time I might have overdosed on cheese.

I went to Boston again. Hiking, a gin and rum distillery, and lots of tasty eats.

I wrote a bunch of articles. I continued (and continue) to write for Mental Floss, WetInk, and Wordnik.

I went to my brother’s wedding in Las Vegas and was extremely happy. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, except I will say that I:

  • Had a fabu dress
  • Gave a kick-ass toast
  • Had lots of fun with family
  • Ate too much
  • Got wasted on one old-fashioned
  • Adore my new sister-in-law

I voted and was extremely disappointed. It was a roller coaster ride of emotions, going from the joy of a wedding to post-election desolation.

I had some friend-filled holidays. Life goes on, right? And that means friends, family, and getting back to work.

What was your 2016 like?


05
Jan 17

NYC Adventures: 2016 Holiday Edition

While last year I went out of town, this holiday season out-of-towners came to me, which meant I got to see some New York sights I’d never seen before, and a few I hadn’t visited in a while.

The United Nations

United Nations

[Photo by Paul VanDerWerf, CC BY 2.0]

I worked near the United Nations for 10 years but never went inside. Last week was my first time. My friend Motoko from Tokyo and her son wanted a tour, and Ellen, my buddy in Boston, was kind enough to arrange it and to, of course, join in on the fun.

You have to go through quite a bit of security before getting inside. No wonder they ask you to get there an hour before your tour time. You check in at one location, wait in line at the main location, then put your stuff through metal detectors and go through a full body scan, just like at the airport. It was so similar, some people were about to take their shoes off.

Once you get inside, it’s worth it. The lobby is beautiful. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures. That’s what I get for not having much memory on my phone.

The tour was interesting, but because I was sleep deprived, I didn’t retain much of it. What I do remember was the guide was credentialed up the wazoo. She spoke three languages (English, Japanese, and Spanish), had a master’s degree in international relations, and was fluent in English despite having come from Japan just two years ago.

She was also nice enough to translate for Motoko’s son, although that wouldn’t have happened if Motoko hadn’t noticed her Japanese name, or if Ellen hadn’t asked her to translate in the first place.

Grand Central Oyster Bar

I’ve been to the Grand Central Oyster Bar a couple of times before, but it’s been several years since my last visit.

The Oyster Bar, Grand Central Terminal, New York City

[Photo by Jazz Guy, CC BY 2.0]

That’s not my picture of the bar although we sat at the bar.

What I love about the place is that it’s a mixed crowd. You have tourists but you also have working stiffs who want to get away from their desks for 40 minutes and enjoy some delicious clam chowder.

Which is what I had. Tasty and filling and only $7.

The Met

Of course I’ve been to the Met a hundred times, but what I’d never seen before was a line that long. How long? It went out the door, down the stairs, and onto the sidewalk. It was a perfect storm of the early afternoon, the holidays and a chilly, steady rain.

Little do the hoi polloi know, there’s a semi-secret side entrance which is a million times less crowded. Another friend showed it to me and Ellen long ago, and it’s the only entrance I’ve used ever since.

Still, that didn’t keep the rest of the museum from being mobbed, especially the Impressionist wing. Our guests lasted half a dozen Monets, Degas, and Seurats before we took refuge in the cafeteria.

Peter Luger Steak House

A great thing about out-of-town visitors, besides the company of course, is that I end up doing things I never would have on my own. Such as dinner at Peter Luger.

If you want an old school New York experience and don’t mind spending a little dough, you’ll love Peter Luger. Perhaps its Brooklyn location has something to do with it, but I felt like everyone — the managers, the waiters, even the other diners — had walked straight out of some movie about NYC.

And the food was good too. We started with sliced tomatoes and onions, which is literally just that. What makes the dish is their sauce, similar to cocktail sauce but not tomato-y. We also got a single (massive) slab of bacon.

Unfortunately by the time our 16 ounce steaks came, I wasn’t that hungry, and could barely make a dent, although I had no problem finishing off our sides of creamed spinach and German fried potatoes, which were similar to hash browns.

It came out to about $80 per person including tax and tip, which may seem steep, but with all the leftovers and the experience itself, it was worth it.

Corner Cafe & Bakery

I’ve been wanting to try this place since I moved into my neighborhood little more than a year ago. New Year’s Eve morning, I finally did, and it didn’t disappoint.

I got the Southern breakfast.

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

That’s three eggs, bacon, potatoes, a corn muffin, and fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce. A delectable way to finish out 2016.

InterContinental Barclay Hotel

Something else I don’t usually do is go out on New Year’s Eve. To me NYE is basically SantaCon without the Santa suits. But this year I found myself out and about, and I have to admit, it was a nice change of pace.

After helping Motoko pick up some provisions for her feverish son, Ellen and I ended up spending a relaxing afternoon at Motoko’s beautiful hotel.

While we charged our phones at the bar, we each got an old fashioned.

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

It was very well made, and I got sufficiently tipsy. Plus the bartender was very nice and didn’t make us feel rushed.

I’d definitely return to the InterContinental Barclay bar just to have a drink and hang out.

Times Square on New Year’s Eve

Our relaxing afternoon came to an end when we headed out to meet our friend Aki. She and her boyfriend had a party later and were staying at a hotel for the night. Unfortunately that hotel was right near Times Square.

Getting from Midtown East to Midtown West on New Year’s Eve was like trying to climb over the Berlin Wall. But climb over it we did, mostly due to Ellen’s persistence. Like Aki said, I was about to call it a night when Ellen finally found a cop who let us through the barricades.

The hotel itself was pretty relaxing. We ended up eating discounted happy hour snacks in the lounge instead of trying to find a restaurant. The food hit the spot. Wings, pita and hummus, quesadillas, and a pizza-like flatbread.

At about 8:30 I made Ellen leave. The last thing I wanted was to be stuck in that part of town close to midnight. We walked Aki and her boyfriend partway to their party and grabbed a cab at Columbus Circle. By nine, we were in PJs and watching Orange Is the New Black, my kind of NYE. I was happy that Ellen was so accommodating.

Pure Thai Cookhouse

The next day we headed back to the west side and had our first lunch of 2017. Pure Thai Cookhouse was an Aki find. It was packed but didn’t seem touristy, an excellent combination.

I got the special, a beef dish in a mildly spicy curry paste with a fried egg.

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

A yummy start to the new year.

Here’s hoping that every day of 2017 is as delicious.


12
Nov 16

This is my America

Rotten Apple

I don’t even know what to say.

Tuesday morning I was hopeful. Excited. At six a.m., the line already snaked around the block at my local YMCA. People were annoyed at the small room and Rube Goldberg-like process (stand in this line, now that line, now this line), but still hopeful. Still excited.

That night I went to bed early. Exhausted from a cold and my brother’s wonderful wedding in Las Vegas, I turned off the light at eight o’clock. I thought about staying up to watch the election results, but decided it would be too nerve-racking. Besides, I was fairly sure it would be Hillary, although it would be close, because that man absolutely, positively could not become president.

At 4:30 the next morning, I found out I was wrong.

#

In the primaries I voted for Bernie. I wanted the more progressive candidate, the one without the sketchy backroom dealings. But Hillary would do. Girls and women could look up to her. They could believe that with hard work and perseverance, they could be president one day too.

Then, as Trump revealed layer after rotten layer of horribleness, like a bruised apple you discover is actually decayed to the core, she would more than do. She’d have to do.

Because just when I thought he couldn’t get any worse he did.

Build a wall? Can’t get worse.

Ban Muslims? Can’t get worse.

Make fun of disabled people? Can’t get worse.

Disparage a fallen veteran and his parents? Can’t get worse.

Brag about assaulting women? Can’t get worse.

Actually assault women? Can’t get worse.

It got worse. And it’s going to get worse.

One of my favorite podcasters, Charles W. “Chuck” Bryant, posted a thoughtful and moving message. Like him, I hope the Donald’s insane propositions will never come to light. I hope the woman on my bus is right that repealing Obamacare will be extremely difficult since the House needs the supermajority, which they don’t have.

Like Chuck, I’m financially stable. I have a good job. I have health insurance. So I’ll probably be okay.

But it’s not me I’m worried about.

I’m worried about the kids of color being blocked from their lockers in Michigan.

I’m worried about the NYU Muslim students targeted with hostile graffiti.

I’m worried about the students called racial slurs “because Trump is president now.”

I’m worried about the black students at the University of Pennsylvania who received messages with “racial slurs and images of lynchings.”

I’m worried about every single person of color.

I’m worried about every single Muslim.

I’m worried about those brave enough to continue wear their hijabs.

I’m worried that gays will lose the right to marry.

I’m worried that Planned Parenthood will be defunded.

I’m worried about any woman or girl unlucky enough to run across someone like this piece of garbage of a man.

Because now with Trump in the White House, it’s okay to be a horrible human being.

It’s okay to grab a woman by any body part without her permission.

It’s okay to call women pigs, slobs, and dogs.

It’s okay to ban people from a country based on their race or religion.

It’s okay to make fun of the disabled.

It’s okay to not pay your taxes.

It’s okay to have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.

It’s okay to do all those things. In fact it’s more than okay.

Do all those things, and you could be president one day.

#

“Daddy’s over it now.”

My conservative Chinese immigrant parents hate Trump. They think he’s ridiculous and indecent. Not a good representative for the rest of the world. They don’t like Hillary either, but at least she seems like a president. Taiwan has a woman president. Why not America?

Even under Trump, they’ll be okay. They have savings, a house, health insurance (at least for now). Then I reminded my mother of everything Trump has done, how now people will think it’s okay to do those things too.

“Ohhh,” my mother said, realization hitting her. “Ohhh.”

Perhaps she was remembering the bullies in our neighborhood, the ones who called my brother and me “chink” and “ching chong” every day. Who made us afraid, who made us cry. Perhaps she was realizing a bully like that is now our president.

Congratulations, America, you’ve elected the class bully.

You remember the class bully, don’t you? Red-faced, angry, disruptive. Picking fights for no reason. Picking on the most vulnerable.

This is the man who’s leading the country. This is the man who’s supposed to lead and protect.

#

Gutted.

Inconsolable.

Despondent.

The closest feeling I had to Tuesday was on 9/11. Of course that Tuesday was infinitely worse, but the feeling at least was in the same family. Shock, sadness, hopelessness. Helplessness. The feeling of watching disaster fall like a giant wave over the country and knowing there’s nothing you can do.

First we had 9/11, someone tweeted, and now we have 11/9.

But with all of that, there was something else. Love.

As I gazed on the tired faces of my fellow commuters. As I spoke with my friends and coworkers. As my “I Voted” sticker flew out of my wallet, and the lunchroom cashier caught it.

“My sticker,” I said.

She bowed her head.

The same I felt that terrible day when the normally stoic security guard called me “Honey.” When everyone outside New York called, saying, “I love you.”

I was worried then too. About our own safety but also about the Muslim family who owned the convenience store down the block. The teenage boy, normally surly, who literally draped himself in an American flag, telling people who came in to yell at him, “I’m American! I’m American!”

Are you okay? I asked him and his father. Are you all okay?

Will we be okay?

#

Of course the only thing to do about is bullies is to stand up to them. Even if it’s little things, like when my mother stared daggers out the window at the racist kids at our bus stop, when she went up to one one day, grabbed him by the arm, and said, “You leave my kids alone!” Like when brother said, “Fuck you” in school to our worst bully as he passed her in the hallway. Out of her element and without her cronies, she looked afraid, he said.

So now I say fuck you.

Fuck you bullies.

Fuck you racists.

Fuck you anti-Semites.

Fuck you misogynists.

Fuck you homophobes.

Fuck you xenophobes.

Fuck you people in my parents’ town with your pro-Trump and “Hillary for Prison” yard signs. (For real, do you have it so bad? With your big house and manicured lawn, living in an expensive, mostly white New Jersey town? Do you honestly want it to be better for you?)

Fuck you for taking away hope. Fuck you for setting us back. Fuck you for voting on hate.

#

Like that other Tuesday, I’m filled with sadness but again, also love. Love for my friends and family. Love for my fellow New Yorkers. I look on every face I pass and think, I love you. The Latino father speaking Spanish to his two kids. The older Latino couple watching, fascinated, as the half-Asian young man ties up his hair in an elaborate man bun. The young woman in the head scarf working the counter at Le Pain Quotidian. The trio of young white men on the corner, trying to figure out what to do with their Friday night, until one of them says, “Let’s go to Chinatown!”

I can’t leave this place.

I can’t live anywhere else.

This is my America.

#

Like Leslie Knope, I refuse to accept this. He is not my president. This is not my government.

But I’ll carry on. I’ll go to work and pay my bills (and pay my taxes, unlike some people). I’ll look after my parents and reach out to my friends. I’ll run and hike and walk 10 miles on a beautiful fall day in the city. I’ll watch movies and too much TV. I’ll travel.

But I’ll also say something when I see something. I won’t stand by silent. I won’t do nothing. I might learn to punch and kick again since, apparently, as a woman of color living in these here United States, I might need it.

I’ll keep punching and kicking. I’ll keep writing.

I’ll keep having my say.


22
Oct 16

A Boston weekend

Now that I’ve moved back to the east coast, visits to my friend Ellen in Boston are  super-easy. With the excuse of seeing her new place, I hopped on a train last Friday after work and headed north.

Myers + Chang

My first night we went to this sort of nouveau Asian place. The executive chef, Ellen told us, was on Top Chef (and looks startlingly like another chef, albeit fictional).

We had the braised pork belly buns, grilled duck kebabs, wok-charred octopus with grilled corn, sweet and sour brussel sprouts, and another dish I can’t remember. It was all very tasty.

I also had a cocktail, the Fire Monkey Mai Tai.

This ham is turkey

The next morning Aki, who was also there for the weekend, was kind enough to make us French toast. I wanted some protein so Aki fried up some leftover ham Ellen had.

It was delicious. So delicious we wanted seconds. Unfortunately Ellen had no more ham, but Aki had brought some from home. As Ellen and I ate our second batch, one of us commented, “This ham seems dry.” Another one of us said, “This ham tastes like turkey.”

“That’s because this ham is turkey,” Aki told us.

Turned out she was using “ham” as a general descriptor for luncheon meat.

Blue Hills Reservation

The next day we headed out to the Blue Hills Reservation for a hike. We were hoping to see some fall foliage, but the leaves were still pretty green.

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

It was also quite warm, making our trek a good workout. Luckily we had banh mi sandwiches from Ba Le Restaurant in Dorchester to give us strength.

Short Path Distillery

What better way to cap off a long hike than with a trip to gin and rum distillery?

Short Path Distillery offered a free tour and a free tasting. The tour was more of a talk — about the history of the place and how the gins and rums are made — but it was still interesting.

That is, except for one drunk guy who kept asking the same questions over and over. After a while even his girlfriend and friends were like, “Dude, shut up.”

The tasting was more fun because free booze. My favorites were a gin infused with star anise and this sweet hibiscus-infused rum. Aki got a bottle of that. I should have too.

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka

I always crave something salty after drinking so ramen from one of our favorite go-to Boston places hit the spot.

The ramen was yummy as usual. They’ve expanded their menu since I was last there. Now they have these combo dishes, which I got.

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

Ramen with an egg and gyoza. I shared the gyoza.

Already looking forward to my next visit!


29
Sep 16

A tiny dress, tinier handwriting — and a huge literary legend

charlotte_bronte

The summer before my senior year in high school, I tried to read Wuthering Heights. I think I read the whole thing, but it was a struggle. The novel was too dark and complex for me at the time.

During the school year, a classmate recommended Jane Eyre. That I devoured. I was Jane. All of us plain, quiet girls were, and we loved dark and troubled men (or boys, at the time) like Mr. Rochester. I read the novel several times, and later her biography (not Elizabeth Gaskell’s). I wrote about Jane Eyre for AP English (and got an A although I thought I was bullshitting). In college I watched the miniseries version with Timothy Dalton (or tried to, I wasn’t into it) and I read Wide, Sargasso Sea.

So when my friend and I popped into the Morgan Library over the weekend as part of the Smithsonian’s free museum day, I was over-the-moon to see their exhibit on Charlotte Bronte.

The exhibit marks the 200th anniversary Charlotte’s birth. The Bronte children were born in Yorkshire to an Irish immigrant father and English mother. Charlotte had two older sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, who both died of tuberculosis at ages 11 and 10, respectively, and within a month of each other. Just a few years earlier, their mother died of uterine cancer. Left in the family besides Charlotte were her father Patrick, younger sisters Emily and Anne, younger brother Branwell, and their aunt Elizabeth who helped raise them after her younger sister’s untimely death.

In the end, patriarch Patrick was the only Bronte to live to old age, outliving all of his children. Branwell and Emily died the same year, at 31 and 30, respectively, and, like their sisters Maria and Elizabeth, within months of each other and rom tuberculosis. Branwell was also an addict, and legend says that his failed romance with a married woman only worsened his condition.

Anne died the following year at 29, also of tuberculosis, and Charlotte, six years later at 38, from complications of pregnancy although it’s speculated she might have also had typhus.

The exhibit focuses less on the tragic side of the family and more on the imaginative and whimsical. Included are the miniature replicas of books and magazines she and her siblings created for their toy soldiers, her teenage poems (one of which she bragged took her only an hour to write), her drawings and paintings, and of course her famous works.

My friend and I were fascinated by the teeny-tiny handwriting all the Bronte siblings used. It’s said that they started out writing that way to match the size of their toy soldiers, but then it became a sort of secret code. I had heard of her “miniscule handwriting” before, but I hadn’t realized it was that miniscule. The Morgan helpfully offers magnifying glasses so you can actually read it although they didn’t really help my 40+ year old eyes.

We both wondered how it was even possible to write so small, until my friend joked that maybe along with her teeny-tiny frame (Charlotte was all of 4’9” with an 18-inch waist)

she had teeny-tiny hands that made writing so small easier.

In addition to her artworks, there’s the famous family portrait by Branwell Bronte.

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

That’s, from left to right, Anne, Emily and Charlotte. The portrait is usually housed at the National Portrait Gallery so I must have seen it during my two-week stay in London several years ago, but I don’t remember. So seeing it in real life for what felt like the first time made me swoony.

Branwell had originally included himself in the portrait, but then painted himself out because he didn’t want to “clutter” it. Now as the painting has gotten older, you can see the “ghost” of Branwell between Emily and Charlotte.

The exhibit’s piece de resistance is a portion of Charlotte’s original handwritten manuscript of Jane Eyre (written in regular size by the way). This is usually at the British Library so like the Bronte portrait, I must have seen it before, but again I don’t remember so it felt new and just as swoon-worthy. Of course I wish I could have taken a picture of it, but, understandably, they don’t allow pictures.

You’ll have to go and see it for yourself. The exhibit is open through January 2.


25
Sep 16

Paris 2016: Food and drink

Neck and neck with my obsession with museums when I travel is that with food. Maybe especially food at museums.

Museum cafes

It all started with my best high school buddy. We had traveled together in China, but it was in Amsterdam that we started hitting the museum cafe before the actual museum. I remember waiting in line for the Rijksmuseum to open, dying for coffee, and making a beeline for the cafeteria. Soon it became a tradition.

Nowadays the museum cafe isn’t always first, but I usually end up there at some point.

During our first visit to Palais de Tokyo, we just had some drinks. I was craving an apple juice, and struggled with asking for one. Luckily the girl behind the counter spoke a little English and was able to explain that the drink was almond and apple, as well as carbonated.

“Carbonated,” she should have said. It was extremely subtle. The almond was less so but it was delicious all the same.

We returned to Palais de Tokyo because we were in the area and to partake of their photo booth. This time we had lunch. I was looking forward to a jambon beurre (not that I hadn’t had a few already). But they didn’t have any so I settled for tuna.

Which was really good. That and British salt and vinegar chips, and a fantastic vanilla panna cotta made for a quick yet yummy meal.

Next, the Musee D’Orsay. Last time when we went, I didn’t enjoy my sandwich. The bread sucked, surprisingly. This time we had already eaten so I just got a chocolate-caramel brownie. Holy cow. It was almost like flourless chocolate cake. Delicious.

The only museums I didn’t eat at were the Cartier Foundation (I wasn’t hungry for a change) and the  Musée Jacquemart-André. The restaurant was more upscale than I wanted. So instead we went to…

Random places

this place. We had passed it on the way to the museum, and we figured since we might not be getting a lot of fresh vegetables during our stay, it would be a good choice.

And it was! It was a bit like Chop’t only without the chopping. I got an Asian type salad with tuna, which was tasty and filling. My only disappointment was my “dessert.” I got a fromage blanc, which was definitely not dessert-like, at least not to me.

Another sort of random place we ate at was a cafe not far from the Catacombs. A couple of my friend’s friends happened to be in town, and after a visit to the boney undergrounds, we stopped for an impromptu, al fresco lunch.

I had a little arugula salad and the “hamburger,” which came without a bun and lots of fries. So good. Complimentary were little glasses of red wine mixed with soda (at least I think that’s what it was). Delicious all around and lovely to eat outside and enjoy the day.

Soya

One of the few vegetarian places in Paris, Soya is one of our favorite haunts. Vegetarian, you might be thinking? But I’m a total carnivore. That’s true, but my friend isn’t, and the food at Soya is really good.

We were introduced to it by a friend of a friend during our first visit. At that time we had a very angry waitress who practically threw a water bottle at us. Since then the waitstaff has been very nice.

This time I think I might have gotten the same dish as last time. A vegetable masala curry. The sauce was amazing and the vegetables very fresh. it was quite filling. For dessert we got lemon and fig tarts. I wasn’t in the mood for fig, but the lemon was delicious.

Eating our way through the 2nd arrondissement

I had two things I wanted to get: a Paris Starbucks mug (which I got on our first day) and nonnettes au miel. Last year I randomly bought a package, needing a gift for my parents, and they turned out to be amazing. The ones I got were orange flavored, and that combined with the gingery, delicate cake made me want more. The thing is they’re so French you can’t even get them off Amazon.

I thought during my walks I’d discover some little shop with my beloved nonnettes. No such luck. I didn’t think we’d ever find the original store, but of course my friend had noted the name during our last visit. It’s actually a wine and liquor shop with a limited selection of foods. They didn’t have any nonnettes unfortunately, but I picked up some hazelnut and chocolate wafers.

The block was full of little food and beverage stores. While my friend paid for his purchases (all sorts of interesting flavors of tonic waters), I popped into a coffee shop next door — and guess what, they had the nonnettes! I bought two packages, one for my parents and one for myself, along with a pound of Cuban coffee.

For lunch we at at Kapunka, a Thai place. I had a beef curry dish. While the sauce was really good, the meat was a bit tough. Probably should have gone with the chicken.

After that it was dessert at L’Eclair de Genie, which we had seen earlier.

Éclair selfie obligatoire. #éclair #LÉclairDeGenie #selfie #aGaymericanInParis #cremeCenter

A photo posted by yonkey (@yonkey) on

They were smaller than eclairs in America — in other words, the perfect size. I got a super-chocolately one, and it was super-good.

After a bit more walking around, we popped into this cookie shop, Jean Hwang Carrant Simply Extraordinary Cookies. And guess what, Jean Hwang was there and she turned out to be a Chinese American from Kansas! We had a nice little chat with her. I got the last of their best-seller, black sesame, which was very subtly sweet, just the way I like it.

Grand Train

The one Saturday I was there, we had the chance to go with my friend’s friend to this place called Grand Train.

Grand Train is a former railway station with a variety food and drink kiosks and counters. It’s also a place where people, including families with little kids, hang out, talk, and, because this is France, smoke.

It’s very popular and there was a huge line when we got there. Luckily my friend’s friend was already there so we didn’t have to wait long. I didn’t try any food although we did get a bottle of white wine. It was sweet, the way I like it, and I drank too much too quickly. While tipsy, I felt perfectly fine — that is until we were standing in line for my friend’s pizza. Suddenly I felt, let’s just say, unwell. But with some deep breathing and a fruity lozenge, I was okay.

Next up: random sights!


19
Sep 16

Paris 2016: Museums! Museums! Museums!

What’s a trip to Paris without a lot of museums? This year I revisited two favorites, and checked out a few new ones.

Musée Jacquemart-André

I had read online that the Musée Jacquemart-André is a lot like the Frick here in New York, and that it was: a beautiful former home filled with eclectic art. The only thing missing was an indoor garden.

One painting that caught my eye was “Saint Georges and the Dragon” by Paolo Uccello.

saint-georges-terrassant-le-dragon-uccello-c-c-recoura_1

Something new I learned was that Christians took the legend of dragons from the Chinese “to symbolise the deliverance of the church, oppressed by Paganism.” In other words, slaying dragons was about slaying Paganism.

Cartier Foundation

Last year I really enjoyed the Louis Vuitton Foundation so I thought I’d have the same experience with the Cartier Foundation. Not so, I’m afraid. It’s quite small, and all there was when I went was an animal sounds exhibit. Maybe good for kids, but it didn’t interest me. The nicest thing is their outdoor space with lots of trees and plants.

Musee D’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie

The Musee D’Orsay is our favorite museum so of course we had to visit it again. For some reason this time there was zero line. We couldn’t believe it. And it wasn’t too crowded.

Then we realized that might have been because one whole wing was closed. But there was still a lot to see. I got my art nouveau fix, and for the first time we went out to the roof.

My friend’s photo turned out way better than any of mine.

Another day we checked out Musée de l’Orangerie, my second time, my friend’s first. It’s very small but I love it. And if you like impressionist art, you’ll love it too.

Les Arts Decoratifs

This was a first-time visit for the both of us to Les Arts Decoratifs, mainly to see the Barbie exhibit.

It was fun although some of the displays weren’t well-lit. Plus it was really warm. We noticed that about a couple of museums. I’m used to the ones in New York that are freezing.

The exhibit traced the history of Barbie, which has had many variations. Here’s the French Barbie, in honor of our trip:

Oh lala! French Barbie at the Barbie exhibit #barbie #france #paris #museeartsdecoratifs #museum

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

Palais de Tokyo

At first I didn’t know what to make of this contemporary art space. The upper floors had some kooky stuff.

Enthusiastic #paris #france #palaisdetokyo #museum #art

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

Plus it was too warm AGAIN. Then my friend pointed out their more interesting collection on the bottom floors. That stuff reminded me of the Whitney. Unfortunately I was a bit lazy about taking pictures. But my friend took some great photos and videos.

Next up, my second favorite thing about traveling: food.


13
Sep 16

Paris 2016: Getting there and where we stayed

eiffel_tower_2016

Like last year, I ended the summer with a visit to the City of Lights.

Unlike other trips, my travel buddy and I were flying out together. He had already upgraded to “comfort zone,” and when I checked in, I decided to too since it was a red eye and just $90. It was totally worth it. More leg room, lots of free movies, and, coincidentally, the same row as my bud with no one in the middle. Score!

As is my M.O. I couldn’t really sleep.  Instead I watched Mad Max: Fury Road, which was awesome but for some reason on a higher speed so that the action scenes looked cartoonish, and Spotlight, which I’ll have to watch again since I kept falling asleep.

We landed at about 8:30 in the morning. It took forever to get through customs. In front of us was this batshit lady. I had noticed her at JFK: maybe in her 70s, tons of plastic surgery, too-tight clothes. She kept commenting randomly to people, “This is ridiculous!” Her speech was quite slurred. I don’t know if she had a neurological disorder or was on a lot of drugs, or both. Either way, I tried my damndest to avoid eye contact, and was relieved when she cut into another line.

To get the apartment, we took the RER to the subway. The RER is never speedy, but this time it was ridiculously slow. Apparently there was some “incident.” We were supposed to pick up the keys by noon and were worried that we wouldn’t make it. Luckily we did, with 30 minutes to spare.

As with past trips, my very enterprising friend had arranged a (free) apartment swap. This year we stayed  in the 14th arrondissement, close to Parc Montsouris. The apartment was just lovely. The bedroom and living room each had a door, and the kitchen and bathroom were off a hallway so no going through the living room to get to either. So that meant lots of privacy for both of us.

Next up, what else? Museums!


26
Feb 16

What I Read This Week: Daniel Holtzclaw, Mommie Dearest, naughty words

mommie-dearestEvery week I read a lot of articles, and every Friday I blog about the most interesting ones right here, from listicles to long-reads to everything in between. This week: terrible journalism, why Joan Crawford hated wire hangers, and how to offend in Japanese.

SB Nation Publishes, Deletes “Complete Failure” Of A Story About Convicted Rapist Cop Daniel Holtzclaw

Deadspin has an excellent blow-by-blow takedown of the fascinatingly awful piece from SB Nation about convicted rapist and former Oklahoma City police officer, Daniel Holtzclaw. Deadspin says you should read the SB Nation piece first, and you really should. It’s an excellent example of what not to do as a journalist: don’t be biased, don’t speculate, and don’t include a ton of irrelevant information.

I Lost My Virginity to David Bowie: Confessions of a ‘70s Groupie

Lori Mattix was all of 15 years old when David Bowie invited her into his bedroom. Although Mattix describes the experience as “beautiful,” one can’t help but be disturbed by it, and by the fact that Bowie wasn’t the only rock star to engage in relations with underaged girls. (Another groupie became involved with Iggy Pop with she was 11 — 11!)  A fascinating if disturbing read.

12 Over the Top Facts About Mommie Dearest

I’ve seen this movie approximately one million times. It was one of those that HBO ran over and over, and somehow I never got sick of it. Despite my (weird) childhood obsession with the film, I didn’t know much about the behind-the-scenes, and this Mental Floss article has some interesting tidbits.

For instance, Faye Dunaway was almost as diva-ish as Joan Crawford herself, albeit in much less “ladylike” way, and Crawford despised those infamous wire hangers because her mother worked at a dry cleaners when the family was in dire financial straits.

Naughty Words

This fun Aeon piece delves into why some words are considered offensive, and the different categories of those naughty words, such as the blasphemous (“goddammit”) and the hierarchical (anything about anyone’s parentage).

My favorites are the Quebecois Mon tabernak j’vais te décalliser la yeule, calisse, or “Motherfucker, I’m gonna fuck you up as fuck”; the Mandarin 肏你祖宗十八代, or “Fuck your ancestors to the 18th generation”; and the Japanese “hierarchy-themed insult”: a derogatory form of “you.”

Jodie Sweetin’s Return to Predictability

Although I was already in high school when Full House was on, I still watched it. What else was a nerdy kid going to do on a Friday night? Besides, it was total brain candy, the kids were cute, and Uncle Jesse was cuter. Jodie “How Rude” Sweetin’s life hasn’t always been so, well, sweet — she battled drug addiction after the show went off the air — but she seems to on the road to recovery.