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.

Dec 13

Catching up, the Thanksgiving edition

The rest of Thanksgiving weekend was super fun.

The dinner that my brother cooked was delicious: turkey, homemade cranberry sauce, stuffing with sausage, buttery mashed potatoes. I can’t even remember what I did that night. Probably worked on my novel a little and watched TV a lot.

Friday we all stuck around the house. None of us wanted to do Black Friday. I took a walk down to the shopping center and back — luckily no dog chased me this time — which was over 3.5 miles. The day before I worked out in the basement: running around the perimeter, squats, push-ups, burpees, jumping lunges, sit-ups, etc. I got pretty sweaty.

Oh yeah, I also spent a lot of time sorting through and packing up old books. I had SO MANY.

Saturday we had our family outing. We got lunch at this Chinese place that specializes in xiao long bao, or little juicy buns, and afterward we went to look at my parents’ new house.

Right now it’s just the foundation, but we could see what the other houses looked like, as well as the club house, which was huge. It has a small gym (though still bigger than my condo gym), a dining room, a little kitchen, a theater, and an indoor pool (there’s also an outdoor pool). Dad said he might actually go swimming.

I really like the idea of Mom and Dad living there. Right now Dad walks only on our tiny street. He used to do the three mile walk to the shopping center, but now he feels like it’s too dangerous for him. After they move, he’ll be able to walk all around the retirement complex, as well as on the trail behind the club house.

After that, we went shopping for a couple of hours. I got a little black jacket and some new jeans.

That night was my brother’s 20th high school reunion so he was off fairly early. I saw a couple of friends over the next couple of days, and then Monday morning my brother and I got coffee. We hadn’t had the chance to hang out one on one before then, and he was leaving that afternoon. It was nice catching up and chatting.

That afternoon, after he left, it hit me that I was leaving the next morning, and I still had work to do as well as packing and cleaning up. But I was stressed out only for a couple of hours before I got everything organized.

The next morning, although I was exhausted, getting to the airport went smoothly. Security however took a year. I thought I’d be tagged for TSA pre-check like on my way in, but I wasn’t. The line seemed like all old people. They were SO SLOW getting their stuff ready for the scanner.

By the time I got through, I had only half an hour before boarding, enough time to pee and buy a coffee and water. Luckily Mom gave me some food, including a roast pork bun, which I inhaled.

The flight was full but since it was Virgin, it didn’t feel as cramped. The lady next to me had B.O., but she was very nice. After we landed I kept running into her: at baggage claim, on the BART.

Oh yeah. When I first boarded, my seat mate, not the lady another guy, was in my seat arranging his shit. I let him I was waiting, and he said, “Just a minute,” and then stood there getting out his headphones. Meanwhile I’m blocking the aisle and there’s a whole line of people behind me.

I was like, seriously dude? You can’t move in and do that? I said, “There’s a whole line of people waiting,” and he very reluctantly let me in.


The lady behind me was like, “That’s very kind of you,” and these two older men across the aisle smiled at me like, “You go girl.”

Nov 13

A Thanksgiving Post

I’ve been at my parents’ since Sunday morning. My flight was good — in fact, it got in early, but since it was a red eye it felt interminable and as usual I couldn’t sleep much.

Getting to the train took longer since something was wrong with the shuttle, but I made it just in time. Actually, as I was running down the stairs with my suitcase, the door closed.

“Please wait!” I yelled, and I’m guessing the conductor heard me because the doors reopened.

At home I ate something, showered, then slept for about three hours. I could have slept more but I wanted to get on east coast time. Plus I had some work to do.

That night and the next day I was just at home. My brother was in town but he had gone into the city to hang out with friends. I went into the city that night after dinner and went straight to the YP’s, where we just chilled, watching Hunger Games again in anticipation of Catching Fire the next night, although we ended up talking over most of it.

I thought I’d have no problem sleeping that night, but it actually took me a long time, and then I was up early. Got probably just a few hours.

We went together to the YP’s office and worked all day, which was fun. For lunch we went with a couple of his coworkers to get “Indian burritos.” They were so good. His coworkers’ orders were taking a long time so we waited outside since some lady’s perfume was giving YP a migraine and I was about to pass out from the heat. We were standing there talking when suddenly I looked up and there was my brother!

“That’s my brother!” I said.

I had posted on FB where I was, and he happened to be in the area. Too funny!

After work, YP and I grabbed dinner at this cute place. The food was good — we both got the curry tofu — although the portions were pretty small.

By then it was raining and windy, but I still preferred to walk rather than take the subway. It wasn’t too long to the theater, about 20 minutes. His sister got there first and snagged us seats.

I kept picturing the theater jam-packed, so I thought it was hilarious when we walked in and it was his sister and one other dude. I guess people were traveling or staying in because of the weather.

We all agreed the movie was SO GOOD. Even better than the first one.

The weather was worse was when we left. We cut through a Whole Foods, where YP picked up a few things and I got a snack — salmon sushi — since I was starving after our meager meal.

Since it was almost 11 on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, people had very full carts AND there were hardly any registers. The couple in front of me drove me crazy. The man insisted on bagging first before swiping his card. Swipe then bag, idiot.

Back at the YP’s, I ate my sushi, he had a PBJ, and we watched The Mindy Project and Brooklyn 99. I had the herbal relaxant my acupuncturist suggested to help with my teeth grinding. During Agents of SHIELD, I promptly lost consciousness and will need to watch it again.

I crashed hard that night. Slept solidly for a good six hours.

Got up early to do some work and then went to meet the ES and SB at 10. We had a late breakfast/early lunch at Pret, and had fun chatting and catching up. Then ES and I caught a bus to the train station and, just in time, caught the 12:07. It was pretty crowded but we each got a seat. At first we weren’t together, but then very quickly her seatmate got up, and then we were. We chit chatted the whole time, and it made the ride go really fast.

That night ES, AY, and I met up for happy hour at this very nice, kinda kooky place. It’s in the middle of a sculpture garden and on the way there, there a lot of giant sculptures along the sides of the road.

We had drinks and a TON of food since the little plates were so cheap, just $2 to $5 each. We talked and talked and talked. Eventually we talked about stuff from 20 years ago, which we always do, but now it makes me feel kinda old. We were three women in our early 40s reminiscing about the 1990s. Good lord. But it was tons of fun.

We stayed until about 10, and I slept hard again.

Did some work this morning, and also managed to get in some revisions for the novel. Yay! The last time I worked on it was November 24, four days ago, and I think I probably barely did anything then.

I was going to write a blog post for work but I don’t know if I will. If I feel like it later, maybe. I need to work on my novel more, and hardly anyone else is working at my company. I had a problem this morning and everyone basically ignored me. *Shrug.*

Right now my brother is cooking Thanksgiving dinner. The novel calls but I also just want to watch a movie.

May 12

Happy Mother’s Day!

I realized today that I write a lot about my mother. Since I can’t be with her today, I thought I’d celebrate her with a round-up of my mom-related writings.

Dear Mom, You Were Right About Everything (Almost). I originally wrote this for The Frisky a while back, but they’re running it again.

Striving for Imperfection. My contribution to the My Tiger Mom and Me anthology.

An Old Man on the Frontier Loses His Horse.  My award-winning essay for the Bellingham Review.

Writing For My Mother. My guest blog post at Wisdom Has a Voice.

And if you want to be amused, here’s some of the crazy stuff my mom has said.

Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there. Now to call mine and hope she doesn’t grill me about anything.

Dec 11

Merry Christmas!

Did everyone get what they wanted?

MB and I had a quiet Christmas Eve. I got up fairly early – around 7:30 – and got in a bit of novel writing before hitting the gym. It was pretty crowded. I guess people wanted to get in their workouts before pigging out on Christmas dinner. I ran four miles and did some leg exercises. The day before I did the elliptical for 40 minutes, rowed for 5, then did an hour of yoga at home. Yay for working out two days in a row!

We planned on doing our main Christmas dinner shopping at a small market nearby, but we still needed a couple of things that could only be gotten at Whole Foods. That’s right: Whole Foods on Christmas Eve. Not just Christmas Eve, but Christmas Eve morning on a Saturday. Shouldn’t be too bad, right?

Wrong! It was batshit crazy. I felt like I was grabbing random things (although I was able to get a much-needed bag of coffee beans) and kept getting stuck behind clueless idiots with their shopping carts. Anyway, I was proud of myself for not getting too impatient.

Since Friday ended up being a work from home day (I usually go into the office on those days), I felt like working in a cafe. MB wanted to play guitar in Union Square, so we went our separate ways for a few hours. My favorite cafes are in Japantown, New People and Yakini Q. The only problem with New People is that their internet sucks, but I like to go there when I need to get away from the internet and concentrate on a manuscript. Yesterday I felt like being connected so I went to Yakini.

It was almost empty when I first got there, and managed to snag a good table (ie, near the bathroom). It got pretty busy later but not too bad. I did overhear one Asian douchebag hitting on some Japanese girl with an annoying laugh. “You have a beautiful smile. Japanese girls are so much more polite than American girls.” I guess it would be impolite of me to punch you in the nose.

Late in the afternoon, MB and I stocked up on groceries, then holed up at home for the rest of the evening. There were a lot of people (read: idiots) out and about. You’d think this town would be emptier this time of year! MB made a yummy dinner of fried tilapia, green beans with garlic, and cheesy risotto. Then we I watched The Sound of Music for the billionth time, while MB alternately made fun of it and hid in his studio playing guitar.

Today’s another quiet day. We spoke with my parents who are very busy today with a big mah-jongg party, for which I’m very glad. I hate the idea of just the two of them sitting at home by themselves. MB’s in guitar mode while I hope to complete more of my novel. Then perhaps a walk and a movie.

Finally, just for fun, here’s a gallery of some Christmas type photos I’ve taken over the years, now with more Lightbox!

Nov 11

Remembering Thanksgiving

I used to fantasize about having a big family gathering for Thanksgiving. I pictured a house full of people, a big shiny turkey, and all the fixings. Instead, it was just me, my parents, and my brother, a dry chicken, and Stove Top Stuffing.

Every year I asked my mom, “Why don’t you invite everyone to our house?”

“Because I don’t want to cook for so many people,” she’d say.

After my brother Greg moved to California for college, Thanksgiving became even more pathetic with just me and my parents. But at least we had convinced my mother to give up on baking fowl, and we began the tradition of Mongolian hot pot.

After I got married, I finally got my big family gathering, but along with that came a lot of stress. Every year my ex’s aunt would offer to host, but somehow the big day always ended up my in-laws’, despite the fact that my mother-in-law was bedridden with Parkinson’s disease. It was a pride thing: my father-in-law, the eldest in the family, didn’t want to lose face and so felt compelled to host 10 to 12 people every November.

What made things worse was that he was obsessive about cleanliness. At eight AM, he’d wake us up to wash dishes, cups, and utensils that were already clean. My ex, who was a good cook, was in charge of the food, which he resented with every ounce of his being while his parents considered it his duty.

Rather, it should have been my duty, as the daughter-in-law in a traditional Korean house, but I can’t cook. I’ll wash all the dishes in the world, but you don’t want me in charge of an elaborate meal. Of course my ex knew this about me before we married, but still he thought I would miraculously change. As for me, I had buried my head in the sand about my in-laws’ expectations.

Throughout the day, my ex and his parents would fight. About a week before any big family gathering, my eye would start to twitch in anticipation of all the fighting that would occur. I guess my ex felt put upon having to be in charge of stuff all the time. My mother-in-law would become very stressed out. Like her husband, she worried a lot about losing face, and while she couldn’t do anything, she’d hover and worry about what we were doing.

By the time the guests arrived, everyone would be calm and happy, as though nothing had happened. But my eye would still be twitching.

After four years of these kinds of Thanksgivings, I grew to detest the holiday. That first one after my divorce, I was still burning with anger and resentment. I ran away to L.A. and had Thanksgiving with my brother, who cooked a big and yummy meal for the two of us and a friend. We had many multiple servings.

The Thanksgiving after that one my mother and I had a huge fight. Basically, she was hurt that I had distanced myself from her and my dad after my divorce, but guised it in the fact that I had neglected to bring a hostess gift. But the turkey days since that one have been much better. By November 2007, I was dating MB, and the following November, he joined me at my parents’ house.

In 2009, our first in California, was that festive Thanksgiving I had always dreamed about. MB and I flew down to L.A. since my parents and aunt were staying with my grandmother in Orange County while my uncle and his family were away. My brother Greg was also there, along with my cousin, her husband, and their daughter. Greg single-handedly cooked a delicious meal for 11 people! You can feast your eyes on the pictures in the linked post.

I loved that day because it was fun and low-stress. Everyone who was there wanted to be there. Greg wanted to cook that meal (I presume!). My aunt and mother buzzed around him, not really believing that he could cook, and everyone was (overly) surprised at how delicious everything was.

Last Thanksgiving was quiet but peaceful. My grandmother had just died, and MB and I were exhausted from traveling down to L.A. for the funeral, then back up to the Bay Area for the burial. While the funeral and burial were sad, it was also weirdly fun to be around all of my family. But a couple of days of that was enough. By Thanksgiving, I only wanted to be around MB.

The city was so quiet (except of course for the grocery store). Our building seemed empty. It was almost like this little world of just me and MB.

Tomorrow is more of the same. I can’t wait.

Feb 11

Valentine’s Day, Schmalentine’s Day

MB and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day.  For MB it’s a thing.  He finds it cheesy and in general isn’t into rituals and contrived celebrations.  He doesn’t like the pressure to conform just because “everyone does it.”

For me, it’s not a big deal.  I wouldn’t reject flowers or candy, but I’m not going to cry about not getting any.  It would be one thing if I were starved for love and attention.  I might think, At least one day a year you can make an effort, you insensitive bastard! But MB’s natural inclination is to be affectionate and attentive 90% of the time.

My ex was probably the opposite.  Most of the time, he was caught up in his own stuff, but on Valentine’s Day, he always had a gift for me.  Roses, jewelery, chocolates.  Our very first V-Day together, he brought me a dozen red roses, and we went out to dinner.  But the whole time, he was distracted.  He was antsy and kept looking at his watch.  It turned out he was dealing with some shit with his parents, but I didn’t know that.  All I knew that despite the flowers and the fact that we were out, I had a shitty time.

Our first V-Day after we married, we agreed not to exchange gifts, mostly because I could never think of anything good.  Instead I put together a joke gift – a fancy red box with Ben-Gay, Desitin, and other embarrassing old people ointments, plus some lame coupons for “one kiss” or “one hug” or whatever.  I thought I was all clever, getting ready to present him with this gift, and what did he give me?

A beautiful necklace.

I felt soooo bad.  “You gave me Ben-Gay for Valentine’s Day,” he said, all disappointed.  But how was I to know?  Didn’t we agree not to exchange gifts?

That’s how I felt for most of our relationship, that there were these expectations unbeknownst to me, and I kept failing to meet them (kind of like my relationship with my mother).

As for MB, whenever I tell people that we don’t celebrate today, and that I don’t care, I feel like, “The lady doth protest too much.”  But it’s true!  It’s true when I say, “Every day is like Valentine’s Day with us!” and that I’ll take love, attention, and affection 90% of the time over roses once a year.  And sure, someone might say, “But you should demand it all! YOU DESERVE IT ALL!” But am I really going to throw a shit fit over a contrived day created by card companies? I don’t think so.

Now a joke gift for MB is a whole other story.

Feb 11

I’m a coldy, bratty hermit

What started as a sore throat, slightly upset stomach, and general ickiness  has finally blossomed into full-blown cold.  While a stuffy, itchy nose full of an unbelievable amount of snot isn’t fun, I’ll take that over congested sinuses any day.

I rarely get sick so when I finally do, I’m a total brat about it.  I was restless the other night, even after taking that blue cold medicine that might as well be vodka, so the TV seemed extra loud.  I marched into the living room, announced, “It’s too loud!” and turned the volume down so low that MB couldn’t hear it at all.  At that point he gave up and turned it off.

Since dealing with our noisy annoying downstairs neighbors, I started wearing ear plugs, which do an awesome job.  Once MB came in to grab his pants and belt to run out for a midnight snack.  He dropped the belt, cried out, “Fuck!” and I still didn’t budge.

But with my stuffy nose, I don’t like wearing the ear plugs.  They make me feel suffocated, and I don’t like hearing my labored, stuffy breathing, like I’m Darth Vader.

Friday night we did manage to go out and have some dumplings for Chinese New Year. After work we met up in the city and walked to the restaurant. It’s too pricey for dim sum but it’s clean, the food is good, and it’s in a convenient location.

I still miss my mom’s dumplings though.

Yesterday I barely left the house. Still feeling sick, I stayed at home while MB went out to meet one of his friends for lunch and play guitar in the park. I managed to almost finish a draft of an essay for a contest that’s due next week, and did some laundry.  MB came home in the late afternoon, we had dinner at Grubstake, our favorite nearby place, then spent the evening working while watching a surprisingly exciting reality-competition show about sharp shooters. We followed that with a couple of episodes of yet another anime. There are so many out there, but so few I actually like.

Not sure what I’m doing today.  Gym?  Highly unlikely.  Kind of do want to hit a cafe, any cafe where there will NO Superbowl activity.

Feb 11

Happy Year of the Rabbit!

So it’s Chinese New Year once again, this time the Year of the Rabbit (my brother’s year by the way). Apparently the bunny year will go against its name and be all all conflict-ridden, especially for those born in a rabbit year:

In feng shui lore, people entering a year whose sign is the same as their birth sign are considered to be “in conflict” and may encounter bad luck.

Be careful, bro!  You too Angelina and Brad, both rabbits, which means they’re 12 years apart(!), which means, holy shit, Brad’s almost 50(?!?!).

Anyway, we non-Brangelina folk don’t have any plans today.  I’m feeling a bit under the weather so I’ll probably just laze around at home.  MB has some sort of industry-related party tonight.  But this weekend we’ll head over to our new favorite Chinese place and gorge ourselves on dumplings.

The last time it was a rabbit year I was in China.  I can’t believe it’s been 12 years since then.  Everything still feels so fresh.  But at the same time I know a lot has changed.

SB and ES had come to visit me then, and we stupidly picked Lunar New Year’s Eve, the heaviest travel day in China, to fly from Beijing to Xi’An.  It was complete insanity.  Imagine Penn Station and JFK on the day before Thanksgiving, and multiply that by a hundred.  On top of that, I had a shit ton of stuff that kept falling off my luggage cart.

Then the surly ticket agent guy informed us that while we had tickets, we didn’t have seats because we were supposed to call to reserve them beforehand.  Sure, that makes sense! We were at a loss till this random guy literally jumped out of the crowd to help us.  My bags had fallen again, and as he was helping me, he asked, “Where are you going?”

“Xi’An,” I said, then told him what happened.

Then for no reason at all, he ran around for the next hour, trying to get us seats on a plane.  I don’t know who he was, if he was a government or airport employee.  I only knew that he was from Shanghai and kept flashing some sort of ID.

Eventually somehow he was able to help us find seats.  At first they thought we’d have to travel separately, on account of all my crap.    It seemed logical that I should be the one since I knew the language, but then I thought it wasn’t a good idea to leave two who didn’t speak Chinese.  The blind leading the blind, basically.

SB very bravely volunteered to go by herself, but then, thankfully, in the end we didn’t have to.  Somehow they were able to find us, not just three seats, but three in a row.

“I have to catch my flight now,” the young man said.

“Of course,” I said.  “Thank you so much.  We were so much trouble.”  His friend, who stood nearby glowering at us the whole time, definitely thought so.

Mei shi,” answered the young man.  No problem.  He waved, and was gone.

Once we were on the plane, we breathed a huge sigh of relief.

Getting to Xi’An and then our hotel were totally anti-climactic after that.  The airport was dead, and the bus ride incredibly peaceful.  I remember the guide’s murmuring soft voice as she told us about the passing countryside, pointing out the gravestones in the farmland, as farmers like to be buried in their own fields.

By the time we got to our (gorgeous) hotel, we were starving.  I asked the concierge for a restaurant recommendation, and of course he pointed us to some crummy place that served pseudo-xi can, or Western fare.  We were in China on New Year’s Eve – why would we want a burger, and a terrible one at that? Then we spotted a Chinese place across the road, and took a chance.

It was one of the best chances we ever took.  The restaurant was empty, but they were open.  The owner was playing the piano, but when we walked in, he stopped immediately and came over to personally take our orders.

To this day, I still remember this meal.  Fried rice, stir-fried broccoli, something the owner called snow fish, and a free platter of dumplings, all for 88 RMB, about $11 American.  You can’t beat that!

I really miss my mom’s dumplings.  Hopefully the ones we have this weekend will be at least half as good.

Dec 10

Away from home for Christmas

This is my second Christmas now away from home.  Last year we were a bit more festive: Christmas Eve MB made a yummy past dish, and on Christmas Day, he prepared some lovely cornish game hens with stuffing and a salad.  This year we’ve been very lazy.

Yesterday morning was like any other.  I worked a bit in the morning, then hit the gym.  Five miles, woohoo! For lunch and dinner, we ate random leftovers and at whichever restaurants were open (Mel’s for a late lunch, a Thai place for a late dinner).  We hung out the New People cafe in Japantown for a while.  (Vegan donuts for half price after 5 PM!) I brought my writing but didn’t feel like working so I – dangerously – ended up shopping instead.

All I bought was a $45 super soft sweater.  It’s dark gray and the material is unbelievably soft and cozy and not scratchy.

In the evening caught we caught Tron: Legacy, which wasn’t as bad as the reviews make it out to be.  I mean, a lot of the dialogue was dumb and boring, but there was plenty of action and the special effects were amazing.  Plus the music was super-cool.

There were a surprising number of people at the theater.  Lots of Asians, as I predicted, and at least one person who wanted to get away from her relatives.

“My family is so dysfunctional!” she said to someone on her cell phone.  “I don’t want to hang out with them on Christmas Eve.”

We got home around 11, had our late Thai dinner, and watched an episode of Boardwalk Empire.  We would have liked to have gone to sleep shortly after, but we had trouble with our noisy neighbor yet again.  This time it was her television, which she apparently moved into her bedroom (which of course is right under ours).  It was probably regular volume, but at two, three, four in the morning, regular volume directly under us seems very loud.  MB even stomped on the floor really hard (all 180 pounds of him jumping up and down three times).  The neighbor gave a little screech, then turned the volume down a tiny smidge.

Made no difference.  By 3:30 we decided to give up on sleep and got up for a while.  Finally, at 4:30 she turned off the TV, and we were able to go to bed.  So annoying that we have to schedule our sleep around the habits of a big fucking loser who happens to live below us.

I slept till about 9:30, and got up only because I had a huge craving for coffee and the vegan donuts from New People.  It was so bad, I couldn’t even wait to make new coffee.  I zapped yesterday’s leftover while a new pot percolated.  Still delish and highly effective.

I called my parents to wish them a merry Christmas.  My mother told me that apparently my father is now a huge fan of shopping online.  He hates shopping in real life, but loves ordering things like toasters and water heaters off the internet.  So the Amazon gift card I got him will be put to good use.

Since this morning I’ve been working on a draft of an essay for a travel writing contest due in early January, and jotting down some weekly goals, to help keep them all straight but also so I can cross them off as I complete them.  Check!  Or strikethrough! I should say.

Today is gray and rainy.  All we have planned is possibly checking out this Chinese restaurant we’ve been meaning to try.  Hopefully it’ll be open.

Merry Christmas everyone!