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.

Sep 11

The non-daring, young(ish) woman on the flying trapeze

When my friend Yiannis signed us up for flying trapeze school, I didn’t think too much about it. He had done it twice and my brother did it once. Somehow this made me think I had done it already too, the way I thought China would be like a really big American Chinatown. Wrong on both counts.

Our class was set for Thursday morning. On my way to Yiannis’s I wasn’t nervous. I was just excited to see my pal. I only started to get anxious once we got to the place, which was, incidentally, on top of a building. Not a skyscraper, but still, it would not feel pretty if you, say, jumped off the roof.

Luckily for me, about half the class were beginners or first-timers. Our instructor, Greg, was very good about showing us what to do and what to expect. (But all of that left my brain once I got up there.) Yiannis and the other more experienced people went first. He was really good! He isn’t afraid of heights at all, and was very calm the whole time. The other people were excellent as well, attempting tricks you’d see out of the circus.

Finally it was my turn. My hands were totally sweaty, my heart pounding and stomach churning. Even climbing the ladder was goddamned scary, although you’re attached the whole time. Then at the top, you feel SO high up (about 30 feet up, from what I gather from the web). You have your left hand on this metal bar, and your right hand on the trapeze which, let me tell you, isn’t within easy reach. To reach it, you have to hang your toes OVER the platform. Did you hear me? OVER the platform. The instructor holds you from behind by this belt so you’re basically hanging suspended. She tells you to grab the trapeze with your left hand, and now you’re REALLY suspended. Someone yells, “Ready!” and you’re supposed to bend your knees (which of course I didn’t half the time), and then, “Hup!” and you’re supposed to jump.

Did you hear me? You’re supposed to JUMP, 30 feet into the air, holding what is basically a stick, and let me tell you it was the scariest fucking thing I’ve ever done. You’re flying – no, you’re FALLING, and swinging through the air. You’re eye-level with tall buildings. I immediately thought, I don’t want to do this! I’ve changed my mind! LET ME DOWN!

Because I was so scared out of my mind, my timing was completely off, and couldn’t do the knee hang on the first try. Afterward (yes, I went more than once), I kept missing the timing, and because I did, I overexerted my stomach muscles to get my knees over the bar. Really, strength doesn’t have much to do with getting your knees up. If you do it at the right time, it should be easy because you’re using the momentum of swinging forward, which I didn’t get till almost my last turn.

Surprisingly, hanging by my knees wasn’t bad. I had thought I’d feel myself slipping, but it actually felt more secure. Plus I couldn’t see anything. And they told me I was good at arching my back, but I don’t know if everyone just felt sorry for me and was being nice. Finally, dropping off the trapeze also wasn’t too bad.

The second trick they taught us was a backwards somersault. Sounds hard right? Actually it wasn’t. After you do the knee hang, you come back up and just follow the guy’s instructions of how to swing your legs: “Forward! Back! Forward! Release!” Then you tuck your knees to your chest and naturally spin.

Our final trick was a catch, for which I have a visual aide:

Yes that’s me! You see me missing the first knee hang, but by then they knew that was my weakness and were prepared for it. I made the catch, though just barely. The video actually looks much better than how I felt.

Overall I had a great time, despite my terror. Like I said, the instructors were awesome. They were patient, encouraging, and never made me feel stupid. The only thing I wish they did was tell us how to deal with our anxiety, like deep breathing and relaxing our muscles. Otherwise, they were terrific.

The only downside was that afterward, I was extremely sore for more than a week, under my arms and right around my diaphragm. I could barely get dressed and it hurt to sneeze or cough. Now finally I’m better, though I’m still achy. It’s very hard to push-ups or the plank or chataranga.

Towards the end of our lesson, the sky had clouded over, and the weather cooled considerably and got a bit rainy. We grabbed some lunch (traditional Irish breakfast, yum!) then headed uptown and saw this exhibit which wasn’t as interesting as I expected, but that may have been because I was exhausted.

I wanted to hang out in Bryant Park afterward, but it started raining harder, so we ducked into the New York Public Library. That turned out to be cool because they were having this exhibit, which I had forgotten about. It was a bit random but fun. The highlight was Charles Dickens’ cat paw letter opener.

Another highlight: I was waiting for Yiannis to come out of the men’s room when who do I see but the guy who played Gale Boetticher on Breaking Bad. Just two days in New York and a celebrity sighting!

Mar 10

I miss Pick-a-Bagel

Today for lunch I was really craving a bagel with tuna salad, a staple in most New York delis.  When I lived on the Upper East Side, I’d get one from Pick-a-Bagel or the more expensive Sable’s, if I felt like splurging.

There’s no Pick-a-Bagel around here so I popped into a nearby cafe which makes a big deal about serving organic, fair-trade coffee.  But they also have sandwiches and, yes, bagels.

I said to the girl, “Could I get a bagel with tuna salad?” to which the girl replied, “Tuna salad. . .on a BAGEL???” like it was the weirdest fucking thing she ever heard.

“Yes,” I said.  “Tuna salad on a bagel.”

“So, like a sandwich, but with a bagel?”


She bent over the cash register, trying to figure out how to ring me up.  “That’ll be $10.95.”


She explained that the sandwich platters came with salad, hence the ridiculous price.

“All I want,” I said, “is a bagel with tuna.  Like instead of a bagel with butter, imagine a bagel with tuna.”  I didn’t say “imagine” but really wanted to.

She finally figured it out.

I mean, I know it’s not so common around here, but you have bagels, you have tuna salad – voila, you have a bagel with tuna salad.

Voi-fucking-la.  Dumbshit.

Nov 09

Missing New York

I really miss New York lately.

MB caught a cold and has been working from home, which means breaking up our days with strolls around the city.  Walking around here is not the same as walking in Manhattan.  I miss wandering through SoHo, down the cute, cobblestoned side streets lined with boutiques and cafes, battling our way through congested Broadway, and eventually getting over to Bond Street and the crazy ass building there.

bond street building 2

Sometimes we’d hike all the way across Houston Street and pop into the Jacques Torres Chocolate Factory. Then over to the Village, still confusing to me after all these years.  Being in the Village at night reminds me of when MB and I first started dating.  After my company Christmas party, I was drunk and hungry so MB took me to A Salt and Battery for fish and chips.  New Year’s Eve we went to P*Ong, which is now closed, sad to say.

We have yet to find a replacement for one of our favorite LES restaurants, Zucco: Le French Diner.  Oh, how I miss their risotto des legumes!  Their pain perdu with their mind blowingly delicious syrup!  Their delectable pate and cornichon sandwiches!  The French places around here seem to be more stereotypically chi chi.

Makes me want to fly back to the east coast for a visit soon.

In SF Union Square, there’s a ice skating rink and Christmas tree.  It’s funny to watch people ice skating when it’s 60 degrees.  Then again, it seems to be about the same in New York.  Also it’s far less crowded here than around Rockefeller Center.  It’s nice to be able to sit and relax, and breathe in the piney scent of the giant evergreen.

Next week it’ll be great to see my family.  My parents are flying over on Sunday, and we’re traveling on Tuesday to my brother’s.  My aunt from Connecticut is also going over at some point.  Thursday we’ll all go over to my uncle’s, where my parents will be staying while my uncle and his family are away, to help look after my grandmother.  It’ll be the first time I’m seeing her in more than two years.  In that short time, I know she’s changed a lot, and I’m a little scared about seeing her no longer vibrant.  Bony instead of fat, white haired instead of dyed jet black, silent instead of loud and boisterous.

I talked to my cousin earlier this week, and she and her family are still coming on Turkey Day.  Yay!  The last time I saw them, their daughter wasn’t even a year old.  Now she’s three.

And of course everyone will meet MB.  My parents, brother, and Connecticut aunt already have, but it’ll be the first time for my grandmother and cousin.  I wonder if Puo-puo will even know what’s going on.  I wonder if she’ll recognize me.

Oct 09

What I *will* miss about New York: Spoonbread

Last week YP and I had dinner, and he asked me where I wanted to eat one last time (at least for a while) before heading out west.  I immediately thought, Spoonbread.

Although I went to college in the area, I never heard of Spoonbread.  It wasn’t till YP took me there two years ago that I was introduced to its delectable Southern eats.  Just a few days later, I met MB and found out that Spoonbread was also one of his favorite restaurants from when he lived on the Upper West Side.  That, and his cuteness, helped seal the deal.

Whenever I go, I can’t seem to stray from my favorite: Uncle CL’s Short Ribs of Beef, cooked what better way than “falling off the bone.”

While still delicious, the portion seems to have gotten smaller over the years.  The first time I had enough for two meals; now I can polish off the whole dish.  Or maybe I’m just  piggier.

The dish is a bit overpriced at $16.95, though it includes two yummy sides.  I always get the mac ‘n cheese and this time went for the spinach, while tasty left a funny feeling in my mouth as spinach sometimes does.  Perhaps I should have given into my desires and had mac ‘n cheese AND french fries, a true meat/cheese/carb fest.

Of course no Spoonbread meal is complete without their famous Spoonbread Punch.

Described as “with fruit juices,” it seems to be an iced tea/fruit juice concoction.  Tart and not too sweet, it’s a refreshing companion to the hearty Southern fare.

And finally, to top off a nearly perfect meal, dessert!

My choice that night was the red velvet cake, irresistible with its cream cheese frosting, though their peach cobbler, heated up, is always tempting as well.

The only downside to Spoonbread is the slow service and the attitude, at least from the waiter who kinda looks like Lafayette from True Blood, though he makes up for it with a booty you could bounce quarters off of.  Our server this time was very nice, but took forever to bring water as well as dessert, which presumably should be fastest since all they have to do is slice the cake.

But it’s a small price to pay for a little piece of New York that I’ll miss a lot.

Sep 09

What I won’t miss about New York: Mosquitoes

This will be redundant for those of who follow my tweets, but I had a hell of a night last night being attacked by mosquitoes.

The suckers have been a problem ever since I moved into Manhattan. At my old apartment, I’d do battle with the buggers well into October. Then a new crop would appear during any warmish spell in the winter. I’d wake up looking like I had leprosy of the face, or with a bite the size of a snack product.

Till recently dousing myself with any repellant did the trick, whether it was wen bu ding, a green tonic I picked up in China; citronella spray; or OFF! But suddenly this summer, everything stopped working. Citronella spray – child’s play! OFF? Just like candy.

Like last night. Before I went to bed, I thought I saw something flying around but convinced myself it was a gnat. As I was falling asleep, I felt a tickle on the side of my face. I rubbed it a few times; then it started to swell. Dammit!

Out came the OFF! Spray, spray, spray, spritz, spritz, spritz – probably way more than the recommended dosage. Plus I stayed up and hunted the thing down, virtually impossible, but somehow I spotted it hanging on the underside of my dresser. Whack! Gotcha.

I lay back down, closed my eyes, and a few minutes later. . .more bites. This time around my eye, where I didn’t put any OFF!

Up again. By now it was after two AM. I was so desperate I thought about covering my head and face with pantyhose cut with nostril holes. As I was trying it – very uncomfortable, by the way – the skeeter attacked my knee. I stuck my legs out, trying to catch it, but it was so fast, it bit me half a dozen times before I finally spotted it on the side of my lamp and smushed it.

After a whiny text to MB, followed by a sympathetic phone call, I tried to go to sleep again. By now it was almost 4. Every tickle and dust particle on my face was a potential biter, which I brushed obsessively like a meth addict. I finally drifted off into unconsciousness, only to be woken by a suddenly itchy shoulder. No, it couldn’t be. Yes, it was: two new bites!

It was 5. I got up yet again and was up for good, on one hour of sleep. I made a half-hearted attempt to look for the mosquito, then Googled mosquito repellants. Basil, supposedly. Rosemary. Catnip. One of those plug-in things, citronella candles, garlic rubbed liberally over the body (no thanks). A mosquito coil or a mosquito net. As I was searching, guess what came buzzing on my leg? Itchy insect number 3. Bad Luck Girl SMASH! This one was bloody – with my blood.

Then later in the bathroom, I killed yet another, number four.

I doubt if that’s the end of them, which is why I’m tempted to crash at my parents’ for the next couple of nights. Of course New Jersey has mosquitoes, but they don’t get into my mom and dad’s house the way they do New York City apartments.

Sep 09

I’m a little sleepy so it’ll be a rambly post

Had a fun and active Labor Day weekend.

ES was in town. Friday night we met up with SB for dinner, the last time the three of us would be able to hang out in a while. I can’t believe we’ve been friends for so long – ES and I since senior year in high school, and SB and I since freshman year of college. I think ES and SB met sophomore year, and of course hit it off instantly.

The next day ES and I tooled around the city. I was planning on being all efficient and running errands, but the weather was so nice, I wanted to do something fun instead. We slept in and took our time getting out of the house. There’s this mural on Houston Street that I’ve been wanting to photograph so we stopped there first.

Next up was lunch at Cafe Colonial. Sometimes it’s stupendously crowded, but it wasn’t too bad that day. I got the cowboy rice:

It was really tasty but overpriced at $15.

We decided to head downtown to ride the Staten Island Ferry, which neither of us had ever ridden before.  We caught what I thought was the 1 downtown, but suddenly it was an express and before I knew it we were in Brooklyn.  Oops!  We got off, hopped the next uptown, and got off at Wall Street.  ES had never been there before so it was cool to walk around.

It seemed everyone had the same idea about riding the ferry.  When we got there, the waiting area was packed.

I thought the boat couldn’t possibly fit all of us, but it did with room to spare.  Most people were crowded at the railing, trying to get that perfect picture of the Statue of Liberty or the Manhattan skyline. I was satisfied with just one.

There wasn’t much to see on SI, at least in the immediate area of the ferry, so we just sat by the water till it was time to get back on.  This time I stood with ES by the railing, which was fun, except that this one girl kept smushing me with her backpack till I wanted to grab her camera and throw it in the water.

Afterwards we met up with YP and his sister for dinner.  We ate at Quantum Leap, this vegetarian place.  It was pretty good.  I got the vegetable tofu curry stew.  The sauce was excellent, but I could have done with more tofu.  After we ate, we walked over to Washington Square Park and hung out.  It’s really nice now that they’ve taken down the construction.

The next morning ES and I took the train together to our respective parents’ in NJ.  I had somehow forgotten everything I was planning on bringing – my laptop charger, my copyedited memoir, my running shoes – so I had almost nothing to do.  I mostly read.  Then later MB wanted to test out the web cam he had given my parents, so he Skyped my dad.  It was funny to see MB on my parents’ giant TV.

Today I caught the 12:43 train back to New York, and spent the day organizing what clothes I’ll be bringing to SF next weekend, what I’ll be donating, and what I’ll be moving to my parents’.  Took a little walk to the Container Store to return some crappy ass hangers and get some decent ones.  It was a mad house by the way, what with all the students back for the fall.

Now I’m pooped!  I woke up semi-early, around 8, and look forward to crashing soon.  Ah, how I love to sleep.

Just a few more days till I visit MB in Cali!