Aug 15

NYC adjustment

I’m settling into life back on the east coast. After a few days at my parents’ house (which was somehow both relaxing and stressful), I’ve moved into a share in Brooklyn. While I’m doing fine, there are some things I’m still adjusting to:

The heat and humidity. I knew it was going to be bad, but I forgot how bad. Like can’t-sleep, about-to-pass-out-on-the-subway-platform, constantly-sweating bad. Meanwhile, it’s in the 60s in San Francisco (wah!).

The lack of open space. From my old apartment in Oakland, all I saw were trees, hills, and, in the distance, the Pacific Ocean. Then I’d see the ocean again on my bus ride across the Bay Bridge and on my walk from my bus stop to the Caltrain. Now while there are some trees where I live, it’s mostly concrete and buildings.

Studies have shown that nature is restorative. I’ll have to find another way to get my nature fix.

Not everybody knows my name. At the Starbucks I used to go to, many of the baristas knew me by name and knew my usual drink. Right now I don’t have that, but that may be just a matter of time.

Along with everything I’m adjusting to, I’m also grateful for a lot of stuff.

A place to stay. Looking for an apartment in New York from the west coast would have been possible, and commuting from my parents’ house (as well as staying with them for longer than a week) would have been a huge headache. Having a roommate situation set up in advance has made life a million times easier.

A place to work. Working from home is fine, but having an office to go to (with a not bad commute) is better.

Stuff to watch. This is very silly but having access to my Netflix and stuff is such a comfort. I can keep up my old routine of rewatching all of the Gilmore Girls, catching up on Doctor Who, and watching random anime and British mystery shows.

Friends and family. Of course this is the main reason I moved back. It’s really nice knowing that my parents and many of my friends are just a train ride away. By tomorrow I’ll be in Paris with a good friend, and when I get back, I’ll have the chance to catch up with others.

Now if only it wasn’t so damned hot.

Aug 15

Goodbye, San Francisco

cropped-baybridgeview1.jpegI’ve been planning this for several months, and now it’s finally here: my time to go.

Those of you who follow my blog (and know me in real life) know that I moved to San Francisco from New York back in the fall of 2009. I was lucky enough to have the support — financially and emotionally — to quit my boring corporate job and pursue writing full-time.

In the almost six years since then, a lot of good things have happened. My writing career has taken off. I found a job where I can put my love of words and stories to good use. I made some friends (MGP for life!). I learned how to throw a decent punch and an even better kick. I had the chance to travel to Paris, London, Madrid, and Barcelona, as well as Orlando, Seattle, L.A., Atlanta, Boston, and of course New York and New Jersey. I moved into a fabulous apartment with a gorgeous view.

But some tough things happened too. My grandmother passed away and my dad got injured (he’s okay now). A relationship ended. I realized I suck at making new friends and I missed the ones I already have. My parents keep getting older (how dare they) and I feel just too far away. That was when I knew it was time to move back home.

I’ll certainly miss the Bay Area. I’ll miss the weather — the mild summers, mild winters, and of course Karl the Fog. I’ll miss the calmness and seeing the Pacific Ocean on a daily basis. I’ll miss my fabulous apartment. I’ll miss the wild turkeys that live in my apartment complex, and the goats and sheep that graze on the grassy hill nearby. I’ll miss the million Asian restaurants (which seems silly since it’s not like I’m moving to Idaho). I’ll miss my new friends and being able to see my brother so easily. I’m sure there are a hundred other things I’ll miss, and which I’ll only think of later.

Change is scary, but luckily for me, some things will stay the same. I get to keep my job and work remotely. I’ll still be writing. The online me will still be here. I’ll still be watching tons of TV, running, and traveling the world (next stop, a return to Paris later this month!). But some things have changed, and not just the fact that I actually cook now (well, “cook”).

My writing is stronger. And not just my clip file. Before I left New York, I was having a hard time breaking into the writing biz. Now I feel much more confident. I’ve honed my skills and have a lot more contacts. Not only that, I’ll be back in the center of the writing universe.

I’m much better about being on my own. I’m pretty independent so it feels weird to say that, but for those few years I was living alone in New York, I wasn’t very good at being by myself. I enjoyed my alone time sometimes, but mostly I was pining for a relationship, which I had almost always been in one since I was 21.

These past two and a half years have really been the first time I’ve been completely on my own, not in a relationship, nor just out of one, nor starting — or trying to start — a new one. It’s been just me and my own interests and ambitions, and I’ve really enjoyed it (maybe a little too much).

I’m more appreciative. I was telling a friend that years ago, right after my divorce, when I was finally living my dream of being on my own in Manhattan, in close proximity to several friends whom I saw regularly, I was still lonely. I’d be coming home from a party, walking to my apartment, and I’d be filled with loneliness.

Now I want to shake that person and say, “What’s your problem? Don’t you know how good you had it?” because while now I’m very good now about being my own, it’s not something I want that all the time.

I’m excited to be the person I am now returning to a place I once lived. It almost feels like a do-over.

~ ~ ~

In a few days I’ll be on a one-way flight to Newark. I’ll spend a few days at my parents’ house in New Jersey before moving into my room in Brooklyn. Then just another few days later, I’ll be off to Paris.

My friend asked me if I feel like I’m ending a chapter of my life. I do feel that way, and I’m a little sad about it, but where one chapter ends, a new one begins. I can’t wait to see what it says.

Apr 14

Birthday trip recap

Hey look, I’m blogging for a change!

I realize I’ve been sort of terrible about keeping up here. There’s no way I can blog even once a week, but I figure at least I should be better about documenting my travels. I’ve gone as far as to go back in time and add a much more detailed entry about my trip to Paris and London last year based on some diary entries.

My latest trip was to New Jersey and New York last week for my birthday. Here’s a recap in excruciating detail.


My flight was supposed to leave at two, but it ended up not leaving until 5. While the weather was perfect in San Francisco, back in New Jersey it was apparently raining and very windy.

At one point they thought we’d leave at 3:30 and got everyone on the plane. Then the captain came on the intercom and said we weren’t leaving until five. At least they let us off the plane.

I was worried because I thought I’d miss the last train to my parents. My dad was the one who alerted me that the trains stop running after 1:45 and don’t pick up again until about 5 AM. I arranged it with YP that if I missed the 1:45, I’d cab it to his place. Then I checked the schedule myself and saw that the trains ran all night.

Assuming my father was mistaken, I told both my mom and YP.

Then I realized I was the one who was wrong.

I was looking at the afternoon trains instead of night. Duh.

I texted YP that oops, I got it wrong, and 1:45 was the last train.

Are you drunk? he texted back.

Anyway, I ended up making the 1:45 in plenty of time.


I got in a little work in the morning and then met up with an old college pal.

SN and I first met freshman year in Latin. We also lived on the same floor. After freshman year, we were always friendly but never hung out. And then after graduation, we totally last touch.

Then after I moved to San Francisco, SN found me on Facebook, and we’ve been in contact ever since. We always see each other when I return to New Jersey (she happens to live near my parents) and we even traveled to Orlando together in February.

Anyway, that’s a really long way of saying while I was home, we hit the gym together and had a yummy Indian lunch afterward.

I spent the rest of the day working, had a great homecooked meal with my parents, and then crashed with iPad and Hulu+.

I was pretty exhausted from having gotten in so late the night before and wasn’t affected by jetlag at all.


After working for a few hours, I went out to lunch with the parents at what is now my favorite Chinese restaurant in the area. It specializes in little juicy buns, or xiao long bao, of which we had two servings. I also made sure to have noodles (long noodles for a long life) since it was almost my birthday. (Pork with mustard greens, in case you were wondering.)

Lunch was pleasant. Then I made the mistake of telling my parents that SN tried to set me up with her mother’s doctor, who is Chinese, 38, and “nervous around women.”

Deal breaker for me. Not so for my mother.

As usual, she was like a dog with a bone. “I have a sixth sense about these things,” she said. And, “If he’s nervous around women, that means you can trust him.” Finally just to shut her up, I said fine I’d exchange emails with him, which I have no intention of doing.

Later, she tried to get me to give her SN’s phone number. “Why?” I asked.

“For things,” she said.

“What things?”


The conversation wasn’t exactly like that but it might as well have been. Needless to say I didn’t give my mother my friend’s number.

After lunch we did a little shopping, and then at home I did a bit more work before my high school pal AY picked me up for dinner.

We went to happy hour at this steak place — food and drinks for $7 each! — and had a great time chatting and catching up.


Finally, I was off to the city.

I took a late morning train and still felt jetlagged and groggy so I got a coffee for the ride. There is something so lovely about drinking a coffee on an almost empty train – that is until the coffee went through me and I had to pee in the worst way.

First stop was SB’s, who was kind enough to treat me to a yummy Japanese birthday lunch. Next was coffee and writerly-talk with a librarian/writer friend, and finally YP’s.

That night we saw The Cripple of Inishmaan with Daniel Radcliffe. It was good in an old-fashioned way although some of the dialogues seemed to go on for much longer than necessary, and the audience’s laughter was disproportionate to the only mildly amusing jokes.

When we left we saw a line of people waiting for Daniel Radcliffe to come out. There were some kids, and one grown man clutching a Harry Potter book.


I love Harry Potter too but not that much. 


Saturday was activity-packed. First, YP and I went to the Met and checked out this exhibit, this one, and all the butts of the Greek and Roman statues.

We also walked around Central Park and met AY at the Houdini Museum.

“Museum” is actually stretching it. While there were some very cool artifacts, it was basically 2/3’s of a magic shop. At least it was free.

Then because for me it’s now a New York tradition, I wanted to go to the High Line, which turned out to be the worst idea ever.

The time to go is when it’s about to close, not right around lunch time on a gorgeous Saturday on Easter Weekend. It was wall to wall people, and while it wasn’t hot, the sun was very strong. Plus I was hungry. About to go insane, I kept darting around and speeding ahead of slow people, not even caring if YP and AY were keeping up.

Finally reaching covered food area was such a relief — sustenance and shade, hooray! I got some barbecue — pulled pork, beets, pickled cucumbers, potato salad — while AY and YP opted for Mexican.

For dessert I got a decadent ice cream sandwich. The cookie part was red velvet was the inside was cream cheese flavored ice cream. I ate two-thirds of it and then thought I couldn’t eat anymore. I gave it to AY, but before she could get at it, I finished it anyway.

After we got off the High Line, YP said he was pooped and begged off. AY and I started to walk along the water — but the sun was killing me again. We ended up just going to YP’s place, chatting, and drinking up his delicious grapefruit soda while waiting for him to finish at the gym.

Eventually we met up with him at this coffee place, where he gave me a tarot card reading. I won’t go into details except to say that overall it was hopeful and positive.

For dinner we ate at Cafe Blossom, which is vegan. It was very good. I always think vegan places aren’t going to fill me up, but my pasta and brussel sprouts was more than enough. In fact I couldn’t even finish them. I was glad when YP and AY ate my leftovers.


Another activity-filled day! First up was the Easter Parade. YP dressed up as, guess what, a rabbit. It was less mortifying than in Paris. At first people barely gave us a second glass, but as we got closer to the parade, that changed. I heard one woman exclaim to her kids, “Monsieur Lapin!” and it was as though we were back in France.

At the parade itself — which I had pictured with floats, but really it’s people just walking in the street dressed up or not dressed up — people couldn’t get enough of YP-as-rabbit, and kept asking to take his picture.

That picture, by the way, has gotten over 70 likes and 30 comments on Facebook, mostly YP’s friends.

Next up was a reunion lunch with a few college buddies. I saw one friend recently when I was in Seattle but I hadn’t seen the others since before I moved to San Francisco. It was lovely catching up with everyone and eating yummy Chinese food.

That night YP, his sister, and I had a ramen noodle dinner. Yay, more birthday luck!

Then it was an early night in. I was pretty pooped from the whole weekend, and we both had to get up early the next morning, YP to go to work and me to catch an early train so I could go back to my parents’ and work.

We watched Bob’s Burgers, which was super-fun since we both love that show, and a couple of episodes of the new season of The Americans. HOW HAVE I NEVER WATCHED THIS SHOW BEFORE?!? A new addiction.


Then I was heading back to New Jersey. While the station was crowded, the train was pretty empty since it was a week day and going in the opposite direction.

It was a leisurely day: some work, a nap, some working out, and a delicious dumpling dinner with my parents.


I got in a little work before leaving at one to head to the airport. For some reason the train was packed. What the hell? Why weren’t people at work? Anyway, I got to the airport super-early like I always do, but luckily my flight was not delayed this time. In fact, we left a little early and landed about 45 minutes ahead of schedule. And since I hadn’t checked anything, I was lickety split to the BART, where I had just a one-minute wait.

The travel gods were indeed on my side that day.

I got back to my apartment before 10, and while I missed the east coast and my friends and family there, I was very glad to be back in my own place.

Apr 13

An East Coast Birthday

As expected I had a mostly great time on the east coast. I say mostly because my parents and I ended up spending all of Friday afternoon at the emergency room.

First off, let me say that everything turned out to be fine, but we only knew that after hours of waiting and tests.

That day we were up early to take my dad to the doctor for an exam. We expected to be done by lunchtime, and then I’d head into NYC around three so that I could meet up with YP in time to go to parkour class with him. Things didn’t go as expected.

My dad fainted during his exam. My mom and I were waiting in the car – the waiting room was crowded and stuffy – when we saw an ambulance and paramedics pull up to the doctor’s office.

“Who could that be for?” my mother wondered. We shrugged it off.

Several minutes later, a nurse came out.

“Is he done?” my mother asked.

That was when she told us he had passed out.

“What?!” my mother cried, jumping out of the car and scurrying with the nurse back to the office.

We found my dad sitting in the exam room, surrounded by paramedics. The doctor and one of the paramedics explained that it was probably a normal reaction, but that we should take him to the hospital to get checked out.

“I don’t want to go,” my dad said, but we convinced him otherwise. As they loaded him into the ambulance, he looked very pale and out of it. I was glad we were going.

My parents kept thinking we’d be in and out in an hour. I knew that wouldn’t be the case, but I didn’t expect it to take as long as it did. We were there until about six thirty.

Like I said, everything was fine, and it was a tremendous relief to learn that. Although waiting around for hours was annoying, everyone was super nice. The nurses, orderlies, doctor, everyone. And I was really glad I happened to be there. If I had heard about it afterward or during, I’d have felt so helpless and guilty.

It’s tough when your parents get old.

I ended up heading up to NYC after dinner and got to Brooklyn after 10 (I was still on west coast time so I wasn’t too tired). I was meeting YP at his sister’s. I walked into her apartment to find a group of people sitting in the dark. I thought they were watching a movie, but then YP snapped on the lights and everyone yelled, “Surprise!”

I was indeed surprised, especially since I recognized only two out of the five people there.

But it was such a nice gesture on YP’s part. He brought out a platter of cupcakes lit with candles and everyone sang. It was lovely.

Riding the subway to and from Brooklyn, I realized how much older the population is in my neighborhood in San Francisco. I’m no spring chicken, but the New York subway seemed full of youngish, cute and artsy men, while in SF I don’t see that as much. In my ‘hood, it’s all baseball-cap wearing douchebags, 100 year old Chinese men, aging hippies, or drunks/drug addicts.

The next day YP and I met AK, my writer/library school friend, at the Met. We saw several exhibits, including Photography and the American Civil War, which I found fascinating. And as tradition goes, I visited the Greek hall, namely a specific site.


I saw the Buddhas too. I’m not a complete degenerate.

Afterward we walked around Central Park. The weather was very nice all weekend. A bit chilly and windy but sunny. Plus all the trees were in bloom.


That night we met up again with YP’s sister and another friend, and saw Oblivion. It wasn’t horrible but it wasn’t good either. Mostly it was boring, and I fell asleep several times. Also, the whole time I kept thinking how much younger Tom Cruise’s love interests were. One I kept thinking was like his daughter because her coloring was similar to his.

The next day I met my college pal SB for lunch. On my way there, I saw a mother and daughter, who couldn’t have been more than eight, in matching fur vests. Ah, the Upper East Side. I got to see SB’s husband and daughter, too, briefly, before we headed out for a yummy Asian lunch.

I was meeting AK for coffee near Union Square and was planning on walking. SB walked with me most of the way before heading back.

Another strange sighting was that apparently the lobby of the main Pfizer building, where I used to work, is now a bank. I don’t know if the whole building is a bank now or just the lobby. Either way, weird!

AK and I had a very nice chat, and then I headed back to YP’s.

I was pretty pooped so we had a relaxed evening. A walk on the Highline (another NYC tradition for me) with this view of some very cool graffiti –


– and an Indian dinner.

Another NYC tradition is that YP gets me hooked on a new TV show. Last time it was Revenge (which has gotten really stupid since), this time: Hannibal. It’s well-done, and I love Hugh Dancy (aka Mr. Claire Danes) and all the actors, but it does make me think, Goddamn, there are a lot of serial killers in that town. We also watched a French movie to get in the mood for our trip to Paris in a few weeks. Again, I fell asleep several times, but from what I saw it wasn’t very good. YP and I both thought Isabelle Adjani was wholly unconvincing as a diva-starlet.

The next day, Monday, I headed back to SF. Surprisingly the flight back, which is longer, felt shorter. I watched TV and slept. Across the aisle from me was an adorable toddler who kept grinning at me and saying, “Hiiiii!” I wanted to kidnap him.

By the way, on the food ordering system, I noticed the option to send a drink, snack, or meal to another seat. I thought it was for parents to buy drinks and meals for their kids. I see I’m going to do well in the singles world.

Apr 13

Happy Fucking Birthday to Me


I turn 41 tomorrow and I’m going to New York Fucking City. That is all.

Nov 12


Although it was for a bad reason, I had a very nice visit in New Jersey.

If you’re behind on the whole parents-saga, you can catch up here. The short version is that while on he was on vacation in Taiwan, my dad tripped, fell, and fractured his right pubis bone in three places. This means his mobility is pretty limited. I wanted to go see him and my mom right away, but there was the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy to deal with, then winter storm Athena. Finally, last week, I was able to go.

Here are all the things I’m thankful for from that visit:

An 11 AM flight. I discovered it’s the best time to fly. You’re not getting up ridiculously early, or waiting around all day to go.

Economy plus for $60. “Economy plus” are seats with more leg room. I really had no choice: there were only middle seats left by the time I checked in, and one aisle in the very back row (which I’ve sat in before and which totally sucks, between the cart bumping into the seat, and people feeling perfectly fine leaning on your seat while they wait for the bathroom, and then pseudo-apologizing with, “Well, you’re right there,” as though you moved the entire row in front of them).

A working computer. I added a lot to my novel.

Free airplane TV. Helped pass the time quickly. I saw Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was beautiful and sad, but not depressing.

Being near the front. Quick deboarding!

Having no checked luggage. Quick exit!

Working trains. I expected the trains to be a mess. My dad sent me an email saying I’d probably have to take one train to Rahway, then change for another. Turned out there were trains going directly to my town (as told to me by the very put out guy in the booth – sorry to disturb your sitting there doing nothing!). Even the 20 minute wait went quickly.

My mom’s food. This is one of the highlights of visits home. I inhaled delicious dumplings and many bowls of chicken soup with Chinese herbal medicine, which, I swear, cured my cold. My dad, the skeptical scientist, also said it seemed to be helping his leg.

My parents’ wireless internet. For a long time, they resisted, but a few years ago we managed to convince them to set it up.

Netflix and Hulu Plus. Hours of entertainment for me as my mom watched her Chinese and Korean shows on the main TV, and I was up at all hours from jet lag.

A workplace that makes it easy to work remotely. I spent much of my time at my parents’ working, which was enjoyable and kept me busy (ie, no boredom).

My parents let me help them with some household chores. Since I couldn’t do anything directly for my father, I was glad to be able to fix the ceiling light in the kitchen (even with my mom yelling at me the whole time I was on the ladder), change a ceiling light bulb in the living room, bring the recyclables out, unjam my dad’s printer, and some other random things my parents weren’t able to do.

My friends. Unexpectedly, I had the opportunity to see a bunch of friends while I was there. One night I had dinner with a college chum whom I hadn’t seen in almost 20 years. We went to Ruth’s Chris Steak House, my first time. It was very good and the decor was lovely.

Saturday I went into the city and saw my college roommate and former Upper East Side homegirl, SB, for a lovely, chatty breakfast; and former co-worker YP and library school classmate AK for a tour of the Brooklyn Museum.

Sunday I had coffee with high school friend AY, and during that time long-time bud ES texted that she was on her way home. Woot! ES and I had great time grabbing dessert that night in Princeton. Afterward we hung out in my room like we were still in high school, and I showed her my krav maga moves (totally at her request).

Good weather. While it was freezing at night, when I was in the city, it was sunny and not too cold, perfect for walking around.

A good night’s sleep. After a few restless nights, one of almost no sleep, and a busy day in NYC, I was finally able to sleep for a good long stretch Saturday night, and promptly got on east coast time.

My dad’s spare laptop. Unfortunately, my work computer went kaput.

A good memory. Also unfortunately, I hadn’t backed up the latest version of my novel, so everything I added on the plane ride and since then is probably kaput as well. But I had dumped some of it in a Google doc, and I think I remember the gist of the rest. Not word for word, obviously, but sometimes that’s better. It’s like revising.

A three PM flight. Again, I didn’t have to get up too early or rush out.

A thick book. I was worried that I’d be bored on my flight back because 1) my computer was busted, and 2) my TV didn’t work. For some reason, on this flight it wasn’t free, and I was willing to pay five bucks, but my TV couldn’t read my credit card. Luckily my book kept me pretty occupied.

Good headphones. I borrowed MB’s headphones, which while aren’t noise canceling, do a good job muffling outside noise. Luckily for me because across the aisle was a crying baby. He slept a lot, but he also screamed to hear himself scream and cried. As we deboarded, the lady who sat next to the baby complained to me in Chinese about it, which I thought was rude. I mean, it’s a baby. He can’t help it. It’s not like a bratty kid who should know better.

Time zones. Gained back three hours! Was in my apartment by 6:30 PM. Ate the food my mom had packed for me, and passed out by 9 PM.

Part of me feels like I wish I stayed at my parents’ for Thanksgiving, but another part is glad to be here. I love how the city clears out for a holiday.

Oh, and another thing I’m thankful for:

Electricity. Last night I came home to half the lights in our building out. I panicked, but discovered our lights worked. However, all the clocks and other things plugged into outlets didn’t work, so I thought some power surge had shorted out everything. I called the building manager, and he said power on half the block had been out all day, which sucks but made me feel better. It wasn’t just our building. I called the electric company, and got a recording that they were aware of the problem, and it would hopefully be fixed by 10 PM.

MB came home and further discovered that actually the outlets on one side of the apartment worked. He thought it was a blown fuse, but we didn’t know where the fuse box was. So we just grabbed some dinner, and took a walk to Union Square and back. Because some outlets worked, we were able to watch TV.

Then at 10 to 10, all the power came back on. For about five minutes. Then all the power went out. ALL. Fuck. Then a minute later, half the power came on again, the other half of our apartment. Ridiculous. Finally, everything came back on.

All of that means we weren’t able to get Thanksgiving stuff yesterday (because our fridge wasn’t working). But luckily Whole Foods is open today, and MB has volunteered to go on his own to get provisions, for which I am perhaps most thankful of all.

Nov 12

Survivor Guilt

Part of me wants to be in New York right now.

Before the storm hit, I sort of wanted to be part of, not the fun, but the experience. Afterward I could say, “I was there.” I could bond with  friends, family, and fellow New Yorkers. We would remember together, how tough we were, how we got through it. How we told ourselves, like we did during the 2003 blackout, “At least it’s not terrorists.”

But at the same time, I was glad I wasn’t there. During my visit back in May, it rained terribly one day, which fucked up everything. What should have been a ten minute door to door trip from SoHo to the Upper East Side became an hour. I was glad I didn’t have to deal with the weather, with trying to get to work, of getting soaked and, worst of all, possibly losing power.

Then the storm hit, and there was one day of no power, then two, three, and four, and my desire to be back in New York morphed into guilt.

I admit I don’t feel the same way when disasters hit in other parts of the world. I suppose this is natural. New York was my home for ten years,. I was there during 9/11 and the blackout of 2003. Not being there now, during Hurricane Sandy, seems wrong somehow. Me and New York disasters, likethis!

I keep imagining what it would be like if I were there. If I still lived in my old ‘hood, the Lower East Side, MB and I would definitely be without power. But my old workplace, on East 42nd Street, is above what Anil Dash has called the No Power Zone, or NPZ, and what others have dubbed SoPo (South of Power), so I would have been able to bathe and charge my electronic devices (what many are calling showering and powering).

If I still lived on the Upper East Side, it would be a different story. I’d still have power. It would seem no different, especially if I still worked on East 42nd. I would open up my home to friends who lived in the NPZ. They could shower and watch TV and sleep over. I would be helping, unlike now.

Friends keep putting up pictures of pitch-black SoPo, and I can’t imagine what it’s like. The closest I can come up with is something like China, where my town was so dark at night, I was scared to leave my house. Even my parents’ New Jersey neigborhood, which is in what used to be farmland, no more light. There are bright streetlamps (powered by solar panels, they probably still work now, unless damaged by the storm), and blinding anti-theft spotlights from too big houses set far from the road.

As for my parents, they may still be in Taiwan. They were supposed to fly back Monday of all days, and I had to assume that their flight was canceled. That night my mother bit the cheap Chinese bullet and called me from the hotel. That was almost five days ago, and I haven’t heard from my parents since. It seems JFK is open, but I have a feeling they’re playing it safe and waiting several days before attempting to fly back. I wish I knew for sure. Dammit, Dad, get on the internet!

This piece on the WNYC site made me think of my parents. “A long time ago,” the author writes, “I was in Calcutta, walking down the street, and it starts raining, and in less than an hour, I’d say, we find ourselves wading through thigh-high water,” and “of course, for the locals, they’re all blasé, like hey, it’s just another day in Calcutta — what’s the big deal?” My parents had the same experience growing up in Taiwan, home of the typhoon (or taifeng, as my Twitter friend reminded me, a transliteration of typhoon but also, literally, “too much wind”). Ironic that that’s where they are now, safe and relative dry, while New Jersey and New York almost drown.

Reading all the tweets and news stories about people with lack of food and water in parts of Manhattan, Staten Island, and New Jersey are making me sadder and sadder. I worry that it’s going to get worse, that people will die, that riots will start. I worry basically that it will turn into another Katrina. Please don’t let this turn into another Katrina. Please, whoever is out there, help these people. The elderly, the handicapped, and whoever isn’t mobile. Those in Staten Island and New Jersey. Everyone.

UPDATE: I just saw a tweet that the power is starting to come back on in SoPo.

Thankful but snarky, totally New York.

Now I’ve a bit of hope.

Jun 12

New York: Been There, Done That

In a recent post, I made a big to-do about blogging more regularly, but then I got really busy with work and went on vacation. Oh well.

MB was away on a business trip so I thought I’d take the opportunity to visit New York and New Jersey over the long Memorial Day weekend. Tickets were pretty cheap but that meant flying at 6 AM on Wednesday. The last time I traveled so early to New York, I didn’t sleep at all and felt like shit the whole day. But this time I slept like a rock for almost six hours on Tuesday since I hadn’t slept well on Monday, and so was fresh as a daisy for traveling on Wednesday.

My flight was good in that I had an aisle seat and a good book to read. But it also sucked because we were late taking off. We taxied for what felt like forever and then sat on the runway for what felt like forever. It wasn’t forever but felt like it because the captain made NO ANNOUNCEMENTS. Even if he had come on and said, “We’re not sure what’s going on,” everyone would have felt better. You hear that United? Have your captains make announcements even if they don’t know what’s going on.

Then before we landed, we circled New York for another 45 minutes. Luckily this time the captain did make an announcement. Something about the weather. My seatmate was a German woman who, while nice, kept looking to me to repeat the announcements the captain had made, and then would say incredulously, “Weather? What weather?” I don’t know lady! I didn’t make the announcement.

We ended up being 90 minutes late but that was okay because YP, whom I was staying with, wasn’t getting off work till later. When I finally got into the city, I picked up his keys and made myself at home by raiding his fridge and watching TV.

That night we grabbed dinner at this Latin place, which we both thought kind of sucked. I got a couple of tapas dishes: little chicken-avocado sandwiches, which had almost no flavor, and four measly shrimp for $12. After dinner, we walked out to the High Line, which is my new favorite New York activity, but by the time we got there, it was closed. D’oh! But we were more than happy to head back to YP’s, sit on our asses, and watch TV.

The next morning YP had to go to work so I hung out like a lazy bum, then went uptown to meet SB for lunch. By this time, it was pouring buckets. I thought I’d leave a half an hour early, catch a cab, and be there in 10 minutes. It took me an hour. I should have known: rain + noon + the Thursday before a three-day weekend + the most timid driver in the world = an infuriating travel experience.

Finally, at around 59th Street, I couldn’t take it anymore. It was basically a parking lot. I got out and started walking, and after a block, the traffic seemed to clear so I hopped in another cap since I still had nearly 20 blocks to go. Unfortunately it seemed as soon as I got in the cab, traffic stalled again, and after a few blocks, I ended up walking the whole way. Luckily SB still had time for us to have a nice leisurely lunch.

Afterward, I met YP at the Whitney to see their Biennial Exhibition.

Whitney Museum

Whitney Museum, from their permanent collection

It was crowded but actually not too bad. I always have a good time at the museum. My favorite installation was of this super creepy mannequin boy that breathed and blinked. For some reason, the blinking, which brushed against his long blond bangs, made him seem real, to the point that I had to peer closely to see if he was. (He wasn’t.) There was also the sound of an adult male whispering in what sounded like a German accent. I couldn’t tell where the voice was coming from, but had a feeling it was supposed to come from the bloody puppet the boy was holding, which upon occasion the boy would move, scaring the bejeezus out of me. It was fantastic.

By the time we left the museum, it had stopped raining so we walked across Central Park.

central park

Central Park is one of things I miss most about NYC.

That night we had a delicious risotto dinner downtown, and for dessert went to Big Gay Ice Cream in my old ‘hood and got a couple of Salty Pimps, “vanilla soft-serve sprinkled with salt and covered in dulce de leche and chocolate sauce.” Then we took our time walking back – more hanging out and watching TV, which I loved. The next day we got some brunch and hit the High Line again. This time we actually got to walk on it. It was rather crowded and getting hot, but I still had a good time.

the high line

high line billboard

emo ken doll

Then I was off to the ‘rents.

Overall that was nice, though I was tense the whole time that my mother would start harassing me about something or another. She didn’t but I could tell she was resisting. We did our usual eating and shopping. I tried watching Glee with my mom one night, thinking she’d love the singing and dancing, but she just kept talking over the show. Not even about the show but making conversation, which she doesn’t do when watching her Chinese or Korean stuff. Then she kept making comments like, “They’re dancers? But they’re so fat! Her mouth is so big! Her mouth is really big! They can all really sing! They’re like professionals!” Finally, I gave up and went to my room to watch the show on my own.

I was both sad and glad to leave them on Sunday.

My rest of the time in the city I hung out with my pals ES and AY. We went out to Brooklyn and walked all over, which was fun but it was so freaking hot, and I hadn’t brought the right clothes. I packed for a San Francisco summer, not New York. Anyway, we had a late lunch in Park Slope, walked out to DeKalb Market, which was closed by the time we got there but it was still neat to see, then out to Dumbo (which was awesome because it was by the water) where we had a lovely Italian dinner.

The next day we went to, guess where, the High Line! My third time in one long weekend, a record. And again, it was so damned hot. Like in the 90s I think. Although I had a wonderful time with my friends, I was really looking forward to heading back to San Francisco weather and my own apartment.

Not so fast! My flight was supposed to leave at 7:40 PM but then because of “weather” again (ie, thunderstorms) it was delayed to first 9:23, then 10:23. I went through the four stages of delayed flight grief: disbelief, almost crying, anger, and acceptance. Once I had accepted the delay, I was okay. I read, laughed at a toddler pushing his own stroller, went to the bathroom (which was a whole process because of my all my stuff), ate, wandered around, charged my phone, played Words with Friends, ate again. Then before you know it, we were finally boarding the fucking plane.

Unlike my flight out, this plane had little seat TVs. It was such a scam though: they showed previews of all these shows and channels, then after 10 minutes said, “Your free preview is almost over, shell out some cash to actually watch these shows.” Not those words exactly but you know what I mean.

And guess what? I paid the eight bucks. I knew I’d be too tired to read or write, and the idea of a six hour flight with nothing to do seemed unbearable. And you know what? I fell asleep after two shows. Oh well.

At least the flight felt fast. I’d watch some TV, fall asleep for a while, watch more TV, fall asleep again. All of a sudden we were getting ready to land. I fell asleep again, and then we were on the runway. Arrival time: two AM, three hours after schedule. But I was just so glad to be home, in cool jacket-necessary weather, that I didn’t care.

Because it was so late and because not just ours but all flights had been delayed, there were a lot of taxis waiting around, and then no traffic. I was home by 2:30, in bed by 3, and awake by 8 the next morning and off to work. But because I love job, I actually liked going, although by after lunch, I was pooping out.

I’m still thrilled to be back home, especially now that MB has returned from his trip. And although I miss all my east coast friends, I don’t know if could ever live in New York again. That fucking New York summer.

No mosquito bites though.

Oct 11

NYC, BlogHer Writers’ Conference, NJ

Behind in my blog posts as usual!

I had a great time in New York and at the BlogHer Writers’ Conference, despite some wicked insomnia and coming down with a cold.

The night before I left on Thursday, I just could not sleep, probably because I was anxious about making my 8:15 AM flight, and ended up getting about three hours. As I made my way to the taxi stand in front of a nearby hotel, the thought of taking a cab to the BART, then taking the BART to the airport, then getting on an air shuttle, just made me even more exhausted. I opted for a cab all the way to SFO, and because it was so early, didn’t hit any traffic and got there in plenty of time.

There seemed to be a lot of activity around security, but we got through the line very fast! It helped that the TSA agents were actually lively and alert, unlike other agents I’ve experienced. I had enough time to lounge over coffee and a bagel, but not too much time to feel bored.

I was excited to have an aisle seat, even if it was in the very last row, since I go to the bathroom A LOT. The problem was my seat was right next to the bathroom, which meant people were constantly waiting in line right next to me. Mostly they were okay, except for the lady who kept leaning her whole body against my seat, the stewardness who every time she pushed out the cart, SLAMMED it into my seat without apology, and an old guy who leaned his arm on my head.

I tapped him. “Excuse me,” I said. “Do you mind?”

“Sorry!” he said.

I thought that was the end of it, but after I closed my eyes (yes, after), he said to me, “You’re in a bad seat! I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s bumped you.”

In that case, you don’t need to apologize at all!

The flight felt fast. Despite getting almost no sleep, I couldn’t sleep, and worked on my writing instead. Got quite a bit done! From the airport, I took the train into the city, then schlepped through Penn Station during, unfortunately, rush hour. (Never doing that again.) Grabbed a cab to YP’s place, changed clothes, inhaled some yummy cheese and crackers that he had so considerately set out, and then we were off to a concert at the Brooklyn Museum.

I had never heard of Somi (though that’s not saying much), but absolutely loved her. She was jazzy and soulful with an African tinge. Very relaxing and mellow. Xanax for the soul, YP calls her music. Afterward we had South African food. I had bobotie for the first time, and it was YUM! In fact, I could eat some right now.

Despite being so tired, I couldn’t sleep that night for the life of me, probably partly because of the time difference, being in a new place, and being a bit nervous about speaking the next day. I kept using the bathroom, and thought I’d wake YP for sure, especially when I knocked the remote control to the floor, but he slept like the dead. I finally drifted off around 5 AM, and got about four hours of sleep. Oy.

I wanted to go to the whole conference, but because of my sleep troubles, didn’t make it in till the lunchtime session. I chatted with the people at my table, jotted down a whole bunch of ideas for what to say during my panel, and ate some very tasty cheese ravioli. There were some agent mentoring sessions after lunch, but because I was a day late and a dollar short, I didn’t sign up in time, and they were full. Instead I took that opportunity to buy a sweater since the conference rooms were so cold.

Then finally it was my session!

I was pretty nervous even though there were three other people on my panel, and I was talking about stuff that I know. I’ve always had a fear of public speaking, made worse at my old job when I was often made to present on stuff I wasn’t too familiar with. I’ve presented many many times, and it never got easier. Out of a dozen presentations, there are probably two I’d say were successful, one because it was the second time in a row I was giving it (and I was distracted by food poisoning), the other because my piece was so short.

But of course the panel went fine! I talked about my stuff, answered some questions, and networked a little afterward. It was great fun and exposure, and I’d totally do it again.

Here’s the video but I think you have to pay for it.

I got back to YP’s place before he did. It was great to kick back and relax in front of the TV. When he returned, we headed out for dinner. I said I was in the mood for something cheesy, which quickly morphed into “Mediterranean.” We checked out a couple of places but they were pretty pricey. We opted for a Thai place we like instead. Having had nothing since my ravioli, I was starved and inhaled an entire platter of pad thai.

Afterward, we checked out the High Line, which I’ve never been to before. It was fun! I can see it being a great place to hang out in warm weather. Then, because I was so pooped, we headed back to YP’s place, had tea, and watched TV. Yay!

Thanks to YP, I now have a new TV addiction: Revenge. Damn it’s good! We watched two espisodes, and later that weekend at my parents’, I watched the rest on Hulu. I’m trying to get MB to catch up so that we can start watching it together.

That night I was so congested, I took a Benadryl and slept like a frigging rock.

The next morning was very leisurely for me although YP had busines to TCO. We grabbed some breakfast at Cafe Habana, then I headed back to pack and relax at YP’s while he ran off to run errands. Then it was time for me to go!

The 1 train was conveniently right nearby so I just hopped that up to Penn Station, which wasn’t too crazy. I even got a window seat on the train. Before I knew it, I was in NJ and at my parents, where I had my mother’s excellent chicken soup and dumplings for lunch, took a walk on the road behind their house, and did some work. Then dinner, many episodes of Revenge, and sleep sleep sleep!

The next day was pretty much the same thing except:

That damned dog.

Yes, I was taking a walk, minding my own business, when I heard a loud growl and turned to see a dog tearing across a yard, barreling straight at me.

“Whoa!” I cried, and just started running. There’s no way I can outrun this dog! I thought, and imagined it sinking its teeth into my ankle. But after I ran past the yard, I turned to see the dog trotting away, doo-doo-doo, like, Yay, I did my job!

Fuck you, dog. And your owner too.

I told my parents about it, and my dad said he experienced the same thing a couple of years ago, that the dog must belong to one of their friends, because usually there’s another dog who ignores him.

Either way, I was so freaked out, I took the long back, walking at least a mile out of my way. For most of the way, there was a sidewalk so that made thing easy. Only at the very end I had to walk through people’s front yards to avoid the road, and that was when ANOTHER dog growled and chased me.

Well, I didn’t actually see it. All I heard was the slap of a dog door and a growl, and then I ran.

Freaking A.

Anyway, aside from being chased by dogs, I had a relaxing time at my parents’ house. I managed to get some writing done, to catch up on everything I could possibly want to on Hulu (The New Girl has totally sucked me in), and ate some yummy food. And this time my mother didn’t bother me too much about getting married, just:

Mom: Did you guys talk again about getting married?
Me: No, because neither of us want to.

Two days and two nights were just enough at my parents’. I had a mid-afternoon flight on Monday which was very easy to get to, but felt like it took forever. It’s a mind fuck to see “Depart at 3:30” and “Arrive at 6:30.” With the time difference, the flight is six hours, but I kept thinking three.

MB met me at the airport, yay! We hopped the air shuttle, then the BART (so disgusting), and finally a cab. Then I was home home home!

I’m not travling again for a very long time.

Oct 11

NYC: Days 6, 7

Finally getting arond to finishing up my recap of our New York trip.

As I wrote in my last post, we went back into the city the day before we flew out. We left my parents’ right after lunch so we had almost the whole day to meander through the city.

We stayed again at the Inn at Irving Place.  Our room this time was regular sized and not enormous, like last time. While it was still nice, I have to say our first room was much better. In our second room, there was gritty stuff on the rug (maybe stuff had been moved around), and the TV was very small and far away. The furniture overall was set up strangely, and I kept imagining a different set-up. Anyway, I’m glad we got the bigger, better room for our first two nights.

The weather was gorgeous. Sunny and cool. The first thing we did was walk down to Zucco: Le French Diner, our very favorite restaurant. It was one of the first places MB and I went to when we first started dating, and it reminds me of those mornings we spent together, feasting on le pain purdue and mochas. That day we had the pate and cornichon sandwiches, and they were as tasty as ever.

The cook was the same cook, but we didn’t recognize the guy behind the counter. MB asked about Zucco, the owner, and the guy said he had “disappeared” a couple of years ago and that now his son was running the place. However, I just discovered that Zucco actually passed away in February 2010. I don’t know why the guy said “disappeared.” I can only guess that English wasn’t his first language, and he meant to say “passed away” or was “gone.”

This makes me sad. Zucco didn’t seem to know much English, but he was the sweetest, you could just tell. He always recognized us and said bonjour, and made sure we had what we needed.

Anyway, after we ate, we made our way over to the Muji store, but didn’t buy anything. I was feeling fat and didn’t want to try on any clothes, and the salesgirl was snotty. We walked around some more, and eventually made our way up to Central Park. We strolled around, stopping at Bethesda Fountain and what used to be Tavern on the Green, but which is now a visitor center with a few food trucks.

Then we tried to make our way back to Lexington Avenue. I say “tried” because that happened to be the night that President Obama was attending a fund raiser on Park Avenue. All of Park Avenue was closed off, and tons of people in suits were marching uptown from I’m guessing Grand Central. I’m not sure where they were going or were hoping to cross. But they all looked very determined.

MB and I made our way down to 59th Street and cut across. We tried to catch the A/C/E down to Brooklyn (our original plan was to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and eat in Dumbo), but those trains weren’t running. Needless to say, it was a complete madhouse. We assumed it had something to do with Obama, but I guess there was some water main break. What luck.

We ended up eating at an Indian place we like in the area. The food was tasty but way overpriced. After dinner, we walked around the Time Warner Center, then hopped a cab back downtown. It was a relief to get back on quiet Irving Place.

I was very tired, but I couldn’t sleep. I had a glass of wine at dinner, and while was sleepy at first, was soon wired. I slept for maybe one hour the entire night. Then we had to get up early to catch our flight. I was not a happy trooper. Zombie-like, I downed coffee and a croissant at our last free breakfast, and almost barfed on the cab ride to the airport.

Getting through security took much longer on our way out. I don’t know if the TSA was being more meticulous because Obama was in town, but that doesn’t make any sense because we were all leaving New York. By the time we got through, we had not too long before boarding, which I love. I hate getting there so early.

Middle seats again! But not too bad. No dumb lady with her coffee cup this time. I started reading this book which MB has been trying to get me to read for ages. It breaks a story down into concrete parts and steps. It’s been awesome so far in helping me restructure my novel, of which I wrote 30 pages and got stuck. The author, John Truby, says that’s one of the main mistakes writers make: they have a vague idea, and then just start writing with barely any planning. I was so glad to read that. I just thought my idea was bad or that I didn’t really know how to write a novel – which I guess I don’t! Writing short pieces is one thing, but a novel is a whole other undertaking. I want to go into more detail about what I’ve learned so far from the book, but that will be another post.

I was so tired, I also slept for a good chunk of the flight. We landed in the early afternoon, grabbed a cab (normally we take the BART but we had so much stuff and were EXHAUSTED), and we were home! YAAAY!!!

I was really glad to be back in my own apartment. While I love New York and seeing my friends and parents, there’s something to be said about the routine of everyday life, especially a life you love. Also, after two years away, I’ve become accustomed to far fewer people out and about. I guess things really are a bit slower out here, but maybe I just feel that way because while in New York, I was a tourist in a sea of commuters. I felt the same way in London, but have never felt that way here.

Since coming back to SF, I’ve been super-busy writing stuff for work. Last week I wrote five blog posts! I need to catch up here with a few writing announcements, including that I’ll be returning to New York in October for this conference. I got invited to participate on this panel. Woot! If you’re in New York, you should go.