25
Oct 18

London 2018: Entertainment

On our trips to France and Spain, we didn’t go to any concerts or other entertainment because of the language barrier, but since we were in London, we went to three different performances.

Tina: The Musical

One of the big reasons Yiannis wanted to go to London was to see this musical. To be honest, I was sort of dreading it because I was sick, but it turned out to be wonderful (and much better than The Bodyguard, which we saw during our first trip and agreed was sort, well, awful).

The woman who played Tina Turner, Adrienne Warren, was freaking amazing. She had an incredible voice and presence. Everyone in the cast was great (the actor who played Ike Turner was so convincing, he got booed, the poor guy) and the story was quite moving at times. I cried at least once.

Something surprising I found about London was that their drinks in restaurants and whatnot seemed to be cheaper than in New York. Like eight to 10 pounds, which is under $15, when a glass of wine in New York can be $15 and a cocktail up to $20. It was also inexpensive at the theater, six to eight pounds, or just around $10, for a glass of wine. Meanwhile in New York theaters a glass of wine can be well over $20, which is INSANE. During intermission at Tina, I was tempted to get a rose, but I didn’t since alcohol had been making me even more congested and plus I’d have to pee.

Tawiah

We also went to a concert for this singer Yiannis likes. She was playing at a theater called The Albany in a part of town called Deptford. It took us an hour and multiple trains to get there, and looked very suburban and unlike any other part of London we had been to so I was kind of like, “Where the hell are we?”

I knew nothing about Tawiah but ended up really enjoying her music. It was very jazzy and soulful. The audience was a mix of mostly young blacks, some young whites, and a surprising number of older white couples (and two Asians, including myself). I couldn’t help but wonder if they had season tickets to the theater and didn’t know what they were in for.

On the way back, we saw this drunk guy on the subway. Not just drunk: he had pissed himself. A young white guy in a business suit with the front of his pants (or trousers) totally wet. In all my years in New York AND San Francisco, I’ve never seen such a thing.

Naked Boys Reading

Speaking of trousers, the readers at this event were without them.

Yiannis wouldn’t mind my saying he enjoys being naked in public. For instance he used to do naked stand-up comedy and just recently appeared in Spencer Tunick’s photography. So when he saw that Naked Boys Reading happened to be having their first open mike night the week we were there, he just had to sign up.

I was far more comfortable at this event than I’ve been at any of Yiannis’s naked stand-up shows. (There’s nothing like an obnoxious comedian and his gross junk getting in your face.) This was just gay men (and one woman) reading mostly literature. One older man read I don’t even know what. Neither of us could follow it.

Whatever you want to say about it, it was definitely a unique experience.


24
Oct 18

London 2018: Museums

One of my favorite things in the world are museums so of course I couldn’t get enough of all the free ones in London.

Wallace Collection

Like the Frick in New York, the Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston, and the Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris, the Wallace Collection is a private collection made public. The staircase is pretty cool:

The museum has a ton of stuff. I kept thinking I was done only to stumble upon another room. When I reached the wing full of armor and weapons, it was time to go meet Yiannis, which was good because my brain was about to explode.

Victoria & Albert Museum

This was so nice, we visited twice. The first time was mainly to see the Frida Kahlo exhibit. We both enjoyed it. While it was billed as focusing on her fashion, I thought it did more than that. It juxtaposed her clothing with her work and other belongings, and also showed how what she wore changed with her ailments. For instance, she made her own shoes that compensated for one leg that was shorter than the other and decorated the corsets that basically held her together.

The second time we visited the permanent collection. My favorite pieces were this creepy little statue —

This one that reminded me of a ghost from Pac-Man.

This Chihuly piece.

This bust of Queen Victoria.

And these gorgeous chandeliers in the cafe.

The VAM cafe was actually the first-ever museum cafe, and the food was quite good. On our first visit, I got a fennel sausage roll (a billion times better than the one I got at Borough Market, needless to say), which came with two yummy salads, lentil and radicchio.

British Museum

What I like best about the British Museum is the Greek area, especially this statue of Venus.

Later I asked Yiannis if Greeks feel the same way as some other countries about their artifacts being in another country’s museum. At first he said he didn’t think so since they still had so many, but then he discovered this was not the case and that Greece wanted what’s called the Parthenon marbles back. However, a little while later the country changed its mind.

Regardless, after our visit we realized the British Museum is a bit, um, problematic? Since the bulk of their items are from other countries and it’s doubtful, or at least unclear, if those countries gave up those artifacts willingly

Tate Modern

One of the nicest things about the Tate Modern is the walk. One way to get there is to cross the Millennium Bridge, at one end of which is St. Paul’s Cathedral and the other is the museum.

I was feeling pretty tired and coldy that day so I didn’t last very long. But I did enjoy these portraits, which were grouped together but by different artists:

Then there was this room full of what looked like giant potatoes:

And this one which I just thought was cool:

Tate Britain

The first time I visited the Tate Britain, I really loved it. I felt like it was organized so well and enjoyed following the timeline on the floor. This time for some reason I wasn’t as into it. Again, partially it was because I was sick and also some sections were closed off so I didn’t get the full picture. Oh, and I think I was too much of a cheapskate to get the full audio tour.

I was, however, fascinated by this painting:

I call it “The Weird Twins,” but it’s actually called “The Cholmondeley Ladies.” It was painted in the early 17th century and the artist is unknown. Basically, the description says, historians have no idea who these ladies are. It’s assumed they’re not identical twins because their eyes are different colors. One description says they were born and married (and apparently had kids) on the same day. They could be sisters or sisters-in-law. Regardless, pretty weird and fascinating.

Next up: entertainment!


23
Oct 18

London 2018: Eats and drinks

While I love trying new foods when I travel, I’m not one of those people for whom every meal has to be the end all, be all. That’s why I enjoying staying in places that have a kitchen, even more so during this trip since I was feeling under the weather.

Eating at home

One of the first things we did was hit the grocery store, and one of the first things I stocked up on was Marmite.

I know you can get it in the States (I spotted it at Whole Foods recently), but it’s cheaper in London. And why not enjoy it while I’m there? I particularly like it on cheese toast.

Because I had a bad cold, a few nights I craved spicy Korean instant noodles. Luckily there was an Asian market right nearby. I also picked up tofu, romaine lettuce, and KitKats.

The only bad thing I ate at home was a pizza from Tesco’s. Why get a pizza from Tesco’s, you may ask? Whenever I go to Paris or Spain, I stock up on supermarket pizza because it’s really good. Not so in London apparently. It was horrible — but I ate it anyway.

Ole & Steen

We popped in here for breakfast one morning (or second breakfast for me). That’s where I found I couldn’t use the five pound note I’ve been holding since 2013. Oh well. I still had enough for a delicious bacon sandwich.

Looks like Ole & Steen is also in New York. Not so exotic then, but I definitely plan on getting some Danish pastries from there.

TABxTAB

Another (second) breakfast place. I really liked my cappuccino and bacon sandwich —

— but the woman behind the counter was oddly snotty to me while she was nice to Yiannis. I feel like she gave me a weird look when I walked in, and after the bad experience with the cashier at Tesco my first day, I couldn’t help but think she saw me as a potentially rude tourist from China, despite the fact that a) I was with a white dude and not a big tour group, and b) I was speaking perfect English. However, the guy who actually rang me up at TABxTAB was perfectly nice.

When we returned another day so that Yiannis could pick something up, the same woman looked all uncomfortable. I made sure to give her a snotty look.

Sourced Market

This place had a wide variety of fresh and yummy foods. I imagine it’s good for people to grab and go during the work week.

Originally we stopped in because the cookies in the window looked tasty, but it turned out to be really good in general. My salad was a bit boring, but it still tasted fresh and hit the spot in terms of greens and fiber. I also had a cold press apple juice, which seemed cheaper than back in the States. It was delicious and just what I needed for my cold.

Mazi

This Greek place wasn’t too far from our apartment. While I enjoyed my dish — I think I got a gyro platter — I found it overpriced. Yiannis wasn’t impressed.

Maltby Street Market

This was my favorite food-related activity. The Maltby Street Market is much smaller and low key than Borough Market. I’m sure it gets hella crowded, but we went on a chilly and rainy day so there weren’t too many people.

There were lots of good choices to eat, but I ended up having this creamy pasta and ham dish at a sit-down place.

It was pretty good (and the guy who helped me was very nice), but afterward I kicked myself for not getting a Scotch egg. I thought I’d see plenty later but I didn’t.

At the end of the market was a gin distillery. We partook in their free tasting — the women who ran it were so nice and fun — then Yiannis bought two cocktails and a bottle of gin. I only bought a bottle.

Borough and Portobello Road Markets

I so loved Borough Market when I visited in 2009 (gah, almost 10 years ago), but it wasn’t as great as I remember. That might have been because I went on a weekday so not everything was open. Also, I didn’t feel like waiting on a long line (damn you cold!) and got a random sausage roll. Normally you can’t wrong with sausage rolls, but this one was not good, maybe because the grumpy lady didn’t heat it up for me. Regardless I took two bites and threw it out.

We went to Portobello Road Market at the recommendation of the women at the gin distillery, and also you can’t stay in Notting Hill and not go. They suggested going early to beat the crowds, and I’m glad we did. On our initial walk it wasn’t bad, but on our way back it was mobbed.

Since this is mainly an antiques market, you might be wondering what it’s doing in a post about food. That’s because that was the only thing I bought: a corn fritter, which was tasty but would have been better heated up (what’s with you people?) and a fantastic apple donut. The filling was very apple-y and not runny at all. Plus the woman who gave it to me said, “Here you go, love,” which made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Boki

We popped in this cute place sort of randomly while we were walking around Chinatown and SoHo. (Again, shout out to the wait staff who treated me like a human being.)

I wasn’t hungry since I had had a homemade cheese, Marmite, and courgette sandwich on the road as well as two youtiao in Chinatown. So I just had a cocktail.

It was a basil gimlet with balsamic vinegar. Yum! As you might be able to see, Yiannis didn’t want his egg (too runny for him) so I had that too (guess I had room despite the sandwich and fried dough sticks).

Next up: museums!


22
Oct 18

London 2018: Getting there + where we stayed

So I decided to go to London earlier this month. And by “decided” I mean “tagged along with my friend Yiannis.” This was the third time I’ve been there. The first was for a two-week course for library school, and the second was also with Yiannis during our first Paris trip. I love London so I was pretty psyched.

Just two problems: 1) I had to work the night before until 10, then get up for an eight A.M. flight, and 2) I was coming down with a cold. Needless to say I felt like shit waking up. I crawled out of bed at four, and moments later got a text from Yiannis saying he was already on the subway platform. I had a moment of panic before reminding myself I was splurging on a Lyft.

We got through security around the same time and got breakfast at Shake Shack. I had their sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich. SO GOOD. The wait to get on the flight didn’t feel too long, nor did the flight itself (it was just six hours). I watched Tag, during which I fell asleep, and Life of the Party, which was unexpectedly good. I think I watched something else but I can’t remember.

Lunch was also surprisingly yummy. I got the chicken meatballs with pasta. Plus! Free wine! Yiannis turned his down after which I mentally kicked him. I totally would have taken it and saved it for later.

Getting through customs took FOREVER. They had very few people working until we got near the front of the line, and finally all these workers showed up. Afterward we just splurged on a cab. We asked a couple of people about Uber, but it seemed like a lot of trouble.

The AirBnB was pretty nice albeit spare. At least it seemed clean and new. After we dropped off our stuff, we hit the grocery store, where I immediately had an unpleasant experience with one of the cashiers. She was Indian with a heavy accent yet she kept talking to me like I didn’t know English. What the fuck

Except for that, I enjoyed the area. We were in Notting Hill and walking distance to a couple of subway stations, a street with lots of stores, restaurants, and markets (even an Asian one, we’d find out later), and Hyde Park. But the area right around our apartment was quiet (except for one night that someone had a party into the wee hours).

As I mentioned, the place was nice but not exactly cozy. However, it was a better deal than a hotel since we each had our own room, there was a washing machine, and the kitchen allowed us to cook at home if we wanted rather than spending money on restaurants every day. Plus our host left us some food, including oatmeal, tea, bread, milk, coffee, and eggs.

But that didn’t stop us from eating out quite a bit. Next up: eats and drinks!


07
Oct 18

Tacos, Cloisters, old-fashioneds

When my friend Aki comes into the city, it means lots of fun activities and lots of eating.

Los Tacos No. 1

The first thing was lunch at this popular place which I somehow have never been to. There was a line but it moved quickly, and while the place was packed, we managed to get some stand-up bar space.

We each got two tacos, one pork and one chicken. They were GOOD and much spicier than I was expecting. Afterward I felt the need for a palate cleanser and got soft serve black sesame ice cream from Cafe Zaiya near Grand Central. That really hit the spot.

The Cloisters

Almost every year I check out the costume exhibit at the Met. This time it’s Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, and it’s a little different than previous ones. Instead of being contained in one area, it’s spread out through the Met —

— as well as the Cloisters, which is where Aki and I went last weekend.

It’s not easy to get up there, which is why I rarely go. Since it was the weekend, we waited forever for that particular subway, and then the ride itself was very slow. However, we made it.

The museum was crowded. It focuses on medieval art and is usually pretty empty, but because of the costume exhibit, which closes tomorrow, it was packed with a line out the door. We both thought there must be a separate one for members, and walked past the long line. Some snotty girl was like, “There’s a line guys,” and we were both like, “Uh we’re members.” Just to be sure, I asked the guard, “I’m a member but should I wait in that line first?” and he told me just to go to the register. In your face snotty girl!

Seeing the costumes amid the medieval and religious art and artifacts was very cool —

— but the hordes of people made it not so enjoyable. Luckily my membership got us in for free (well, free for Aki) so we could leave quickly without feeling like it was a waste.

An unexpected walk through the park

We decided to take the bus instead of the subway to my apartment since it was a direct shot — or at least I thought it was. Usually it stops right near me, but for some reason that day it ended pretty far northwest. So we took a subway partway down and walked across Central Park. Unfortunately again I miscalculated and we had to walk around the Reservoir. D’oh! At least it was a nice day.

By the time we got to my apartment we were extra pooped as well as hungry. We hung out drinking old-fashioneds and eating random food (cheese, crackers, cucumbers, sardines).

For dinner we decided to make something at home rather than go to a restaurant. Aki got the idea of getting sausages at Schaller’s Stube Sausage Bar. While they’ll cook sausage for you, you can also buy them uncooked from the butcher/market area, which is what we did. In addition to a few different kinds of sausages, we picked up some good rye bread and (randomly) a cucumber for a vegetable on the side. We grilled up the sausages, slapped some butter on the bread, sliced the cucumber, and had another old-fashioned each. It was pretty satisfying.


01
Sep 18

Summer excursions

I can always count on my friend Aki for excursions that are fun, if often last minute.

Working Dog Winery

I always think of the area around my mom’s house as no man’s land, or at least retiree-ville, with not much around except a Target and terrible Japanese food. However, it turns out, Aki discovered, there’s a winery not too far away.

It’s called Working Dog Winery and is very nice. We got a bottle of rose to split and sat outside chatting and snacking. (The place doesn’t have food and we neglected to bring some from my mom’s house. Luckily Aki had chips and nuts in her car.)

A really good thing about the place is that they have a specific area for people with kids. In other areas, kids aren’t allowed, which makes for an even more peaceful time.

Spring Lake Beach

I was hanging out one Sunday afternoon at my mom’s a little bit bored when Aki texted that she felt like going to the beach. It was already past three, but I encouraged her to go since sunset wasn’t until 8:30. Just for kicks, I checked the map and saw that my mother’s house was between Aki’s place and the shore. I half-jokingly said she could pick me up on the way.

After a bit she texted, “Ok, I’ll be there in 25 minutes.” Yikes! I scrambled getting together some snacks as well as my hat, shades, and anything else I thought I might need.

It was a really lovely outing. Although Spring Lake was an hour away, it didn’t feel long because we were yakking the whole time. The town is very nice. It looks more like Martha’s Vineyard than the Jersey shore with big beautiful houses and no boardwalk. Aki said there are no restaurants or other places selling food — you have to go to the next town for that — so that’s how they’re able to keep the beach so clean.

Since we had gotten there kind of late, the visitors seemed to be mostly gone and it was residents. It was so pretty and peaceful. We sat there chatting and eating my mom’s food for well over two hours. We also dipped our feet in the water, and it was much warmer than we expected. Soaking up some sea air felt really good.

A cider and ice cream excursion

In late August I had a fun excursion with Aki and her fiance to upstate New York. Our first stop was Seven Lake Station for lunch and a flight of hard ciders and beers. I had the ham and gruyere sandwich and enjoyed most of the flight.

After lunch we got ice cream at Bellvale Farms. It was good but I should have stuck with my favorite, cookies and cream (which Aki’s fiance got), instead of trying to be different and getting some raspberry-dominating flavor and cookie dough. The view was nice though:

Our last stop was Pennings Farm, where we got a flight of hard ciders and again enjoyed the view.


12
Aug 18

A wedding, family reunion, and fun at the diner

Last week one of my east coast cousins got married, which meant a partial family reunion. Quite a few people came from California, including my brother and his wife; my aunt and uncle, their son, their daughter with her husband and adorable little boy; another cousin and his whole family. It was nice seeing relatives who I hadn’t seen in some time.

The wedding was lovely (although the outdoor ceremony was meltingly hot) and the food and drinks were yummy. A highlight was making our own s’mores, which we did so by first toasting marshmallows on sticks at the fire pits outside before smashing it in between graham crackers and chocolate. You’d think such a warm activity wouldn’t be popular on a scorching summer night, but the A/C was so strong in the reception hall, the heat was actually a relief.

Another highlight was going to the Americana Diner with my brother and sister-in-law on another night. Somehow it’s become our favorite bar near my mom’s house (although there aren’t too many to chose from). We went a couple of times after my father passed away, and I think I associate it with that comforting feeling of being with two of my favorite people during such a hard time.

The bartender was the same guy too. He said he remembered us, although I don’t know if that’s true. We asked his name, and it turned out to be the same as my brother’s. We got way too excited about this — probably because we were pretty drunk. Regardless the bartender ended up giving us a free Irish coffee. Score!


02
Jul 18

Much-needed bestie time in Boston

I had a lovely time in Boston last weekend with my good friend Ellen. It was low-key and relaxing. We had a barbecue with her friends, which fun except the part where I got eaten alive by mosquitoes.

I also played Jenga for the first time. We were on our way somewhere when Ellen spotted the game through an open bar window. She expressed interest in playing and I was dismissive until I saw the bar had aperol spritzes. We ended up staying for three hours.

It was hella fun.

We also went shopping, did an escape room (the people we were teamed up with were kind of annoying), and just chilled on her porch and enjoyed the summer evenings.

It was exactly what the doctor ordered.


24
Jun 18

Los Angeles

Last week my mom and I flew out to Los Angeles to lay my dad to rest. His mother, sister, brother-in-law, and niece are all buried in one cemetery, and my brother and his wife arranged it so Dad was near there. While that was very hard, I think it provided a little, if not total, closure.

Having this goofy little guy around helped as always.

While I was there, I walked him by myself for the first time. I got kind of used to it although I didn’t enjoy picking up his poop, his freakout over two squirrels chasing each other, nor the sneaky German shepherd who came bounding out of nowhere and scared the shit out of both me and Bucky.

Bucky also took to curling up on the air mattress I was sleeping on whenever we left the house.

It was adorable until I found a big wet spot. It wasn’t pee, just his spit from licking. Still: gross. Luckily he’s so cute.


13
May 18

Grateful for …

Early morning walks and this spate of lovely weather.