05
Jan 17

NYC Adventures: 2016 Holiday Edition

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

The United Nations

United Nations

[Photo by Paul VanDerWerf, CC BY 2.0]

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Central Oyster Bar

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

The Oyster Bar, Grand Central Terminal, New York City

[Photo by Jazz Guy, CC BY 2.0]

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

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

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

The Met

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

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

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

Peter Luger Steak House

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

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

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

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

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

Corner Cafe & Bakery

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

I got the Southern breakfast.

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

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

InterContinental Barclay Hotel

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

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

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

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

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

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

Times Square on New Year’s Eve

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

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

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

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

Pure Thai Cookhouse

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

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

A photo posted by actung9 (@actung9) on

A yummy start to the new year.

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


03
May 14

Sad about strangers

"This is just a break, right?"

“This is just a break, right?”

Lately I feel like I’ve been hearing a lot about troubled relationships — couples separating, thinking about separating, questioning their futures.

Most recently are two writers I admire. Admittedly, I think it’s more their lives I admire than their writing, of which I’ve only read some blog posts and many Instagram descriptions.

From their pictures they seemed to have the perfect life. A loving marriage, two beautiful little girls, successful writing careers, the woman especially (her book is being made into movie with a very popular young actress). More than once I’ve thought, I want her life.

But then I noticed a change. They stopped appearing in each other’s pictures; they stopped commenting and liking. There were no family shots.

Then the kicker: they spent the holidays apart.

I worried. Isn’t that silly? I was worried about two people I didn’t even know. I worried as though it were my own relationship.

Last week the woman finally came out and said that they had been living apart for a while.

It bummed me out, a lot more than it should have. I’m not sure why. I mean, they’re strangers, right? Why should I care? But following people on Instagram or any social media, keeping up with their lives, you feel like you know them.

It also made me wonder why some people break up and others stay together. Those of us who’ve had relationships that haven’t worked out — did we make the wrong decisions, are we not satisfied with something less than it once was, did we not work hard enough to fix things? Or are other people fooling themselves?

I know it’s useless to wonder. It doesn’t change anything.

RWS_Tarot_12_Hanged_ManIt’s been more than a year since my own life status change. While it certainly doesn’t feel new anymore, I do feel like I’m in a holding pattern.

That was one of the cards that came up during my tarot card reading with YP: the Hanged Man, which in its position meant that’s how I look to the outside world, as though I’m in a stalemate.

Then again, while it may look like I’m in a holding pattern, in some ways I’m not. I’m enjoying living on my own, doing exactly what I want when I want, not constantly worrying about what someone else thinks. Because of my personality that’s what I always do. It’s hard for me to turn it off. The only way I can is when I’m on my own.

I met my ex-husband when I was 21 and was pretty much with him for 12 years. After we split up, it was only four months before I started dating someone. I dated that someone for two months, we broke up, and about five months later I started dating someone new. He and I dated for six months, broke up, and four months later I met someone else. I dated that guy for two months, we broke up, and five months later I met MB.

Before last year, the longest I was single was five months (which seems so weird to me because I’ve always thought of myself as a wallflower), and during those times I was single, I spent much of it getting over a guy, trying to date, or actually dating. This past year and two months, excluding the time I was grieving my relationship, is really the first time I’ve concentrated fully on myself.

Maybe that’s why I’m so reluctant to give it up, at least for now.

typing-womanIn other news, a few months ago, I finished this paranormal teen romance novel I’d been working on since last March. I was loving it but now I’m a little discouraged. I queried a bunch of agents, and I’ve gotten several rejections so far, including one very kind, personal one from someone who had requested the entire manuscript.

Now I’m wondering if the book wasn’t quite ready. I think the premise is there but maybe the story could be stronger. But I’m not sure yet what I want to do, if I want to revise the book or plow ahead with the sequel — or sequels — which might help me go back and improve the first installment. The advantage of plowing ahead is that it would keep me creating for a long time, instead of trying to sell. Creating is much more fun.

In the meantime, I’m still working on short pieces. I had my first article published at Quartz, “What 21st-century libraries can learn from this 19th-century institution,” and continue to write for the Wordnik blog, most recently about horse racing terms, selfie variations, Heathers slang, and when a thing isn’t “a thing.”

I’m still loving my new digs, which seven months later, aren’t so new anymore, although not according to the neighbor I rode the elevator with other night. She eyed my suspiciously before finally asking, “Are you new?”

I said not really, that I’d been living here since August.

“Oh, that’s new,” she said.

Whatevs.

I had thought I’d stay only one year, but now I want to stay at least another one. In the beginning I wasn’t used to not living within walking distance of everything I could possibly need. But I’ve gotten used to it. While I can’t just pop out to pick up food or whatever, I can make sure to stock up things when the opportunity arises.

Plus I’m totally spoiled in other ways. The gym right in the complex, my own washer and dryer, all the space, the quiet and beautiful surroundings.

While at my old apartment, I had to wear earplugs every night because 1) my neighbors were super-noisy and would come home at two AM and fight, have sex, or talk on the phone for three hours, 2) the floors were hardwood so you could hear every footstep, and 3) the walls were so thin you could hear everything else, here I never have to wear them.

The only things that ever wake me up are birds in the wee hours of the morning and, get this, a full moon on a clear night. Like, the sky is so clear that the light of the MOON wakes me up.

I’m not ready to give that up either.


07
Dec 13

Catching up, the Thanksgiving edition

The rest of Thanksgiving weekend was super fun.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SERIOUSLY?

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


28
Nov 13

A Thanksgiving Post

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s my brother!” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


08
Jun 13

Used to things

Getting used to:

  • Eating dinner whenever I want.
  • Eating whatever I want for dinner.
  • Eating dinner at work.
  • Enjoying eating dinner at work.
  • Not worrying about being noisy in the early mornings.
  • No noise in the next room as I try to fall asleep late at night.
  • The middle of the bed.
  • Having toilet paper, paper towels, soap, juice, etc. last much longer.
  • Less laundry.
  • More quarters.
  • A lower electricity bill.
  • Higher rent.
  • The cable bill.
  • Entertaining myself.
  • Not expecting anyone at the door.
  • An empty apartment when I come home.
  • A peaceful apartment when I come home.
  • No check-ins during the day.
  • More check-ins with friends during the day.
  • Not worrying.
  • Not wondering where this is going, what’s happening.
  • The idea that this is how it’s always been.

27
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.

perseus_rear

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.

centralpark

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 –

graffit_highline

– 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.


11
Apr 13

Life status update

Time changes everything except something within us which is always surprised by change. ~ Thomas Hardy

I haven’t been blogging as much lately, and the truth it’s because there has been a huge change in my life recently that I haven’t wanted to talk about. But today for some reason I want to.

MB and I broke up.

Now I’m going to pull a Jodie Foster and ask for privacy.

I wasn’t going to mention anything on my blog, but I knew readers might start to notice that I’ve simply stopped mentioning MB, and I want to acknowledge that. I don’t want to pretend nothing happened.

I won’t go into details except to say it was an amicable break-up, meaning nothing bad happened, no one did anything they weren’t supposed to do, and we still like each other. Things change. People change.

Doesn’t make it much easier though.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that. I probably won’t talk about it much anymore, but I wanted to give some explanation as to why my blog will now seem like that of a single gal. It’s because, well, now I’m a single gal.

My parents, brother, and most of my close friends know this already, and if you’re a real-life friend finding out this way, I’m sorry.

It’s been almost two months and I’m doing okay, much better than I was at first. I’ve gotten used to having the apartment to myself, to thinking of myself as single now and no longer part of a couple, and a new routine on my own. I’m also looking forward to a bunch of stuff:

NYC birthday trip. Next week I’m spending a few days in New York. I’ll see my parents for one day and then my NYC friends for the rest of the time.

Paris trip. I’m going to Paris in May! My friend YP was planning a trip anyway and was kind enough to invite me along. I haven’t been to Paris since 2004 (before I started blogging so it might as well have never happened) and am very excited.

Moving. While I love my part of town, the rent is simply too much for me. I looked at a bunch of studios in the city but the thought of living in one depressed me. So at the end of July I’m moving to Oakland. The rent is much cheaper and I’m thinking of buying a place out there anywhere (with my parents’ help). Living there will let me get to know the area and (long-ass) commute, as well as save me some dough.

In addition, work is awesome as usual, and I have a couple of fun little writing things in the works which I’ll mention later when stuff is confirmed. I’m working on a new novel (YA fantasy) and struggling with a short story (the writing life wouldn’t be complete without some struggle). I want to look at the novel I finished in December and send it to a few people to read. Let me know if you’re interested in reading it. I need as many “beta testers” as possible, and plus that’ll be added incentive to get me working on it again.

Anyway, that’s that. I’m not going to tweet or Facebook this post, and part of me is hoping no one sees it. But I wanted to get it out there and over with.

 


17
Dec 12

Parental update

As you may know, my dad had a small accident during a Taiwan vacation in October and fractured his pubis bone. When I visited last month, he was still wheelchair bound, but could stand for short periods of time and, more importantly, was in good spirits. I’m happy to say that he’s improved enormously since then.

My brother visited earlier this month, and by that time, our dad was already out of his wheelchair and using a walker. (At first he was resistant about using a walker because he thought it would make him seem “old,” but hey Dad, you’re in your 70s. You’re old!) The doctor told my father that he’s healing really well, and was actually surprised that he was healing so quickly. The X-rays told the same story, and now my father needs to walk as much as possible to regain the strength in his legs.

Later that week, my mom said that Dad has been able to walk short distances, ie around the house, without the walker, and longer ones with. He’s ordered a cane for when he graduates completely from the walker. This week they went to the mall together for the first time in over a month. In a couple of weeks, they have a karaoke party.

It’s such a relief! I had also thought his recovery would be much longer, though it’s been about eight weeks, which was what the doctors said.

In other news, it turns out my parents do indeed have mice. During my visit in November, I told my mother my suspicions – the noises sounded just like the last time we had mice, years and years ago – but she didn’t believe me. She kept insisting the noise was coming from outside, and that it was squirrels or birds.

During his visit, my brother investigated the attic and saw mouse droppings everywhere (I admit: my mother asked me to look in the attic, and I wouldn’t, imagining a stream of mice running at me; plus I was annoyed she didn’t believe me). The exterminator came and confirmed, and set traps in the attic, basement, and garage.

My mother told me that when the exterminator was in the basement, he called up to her, “Come look at this!” She went down and he pointed out a dead baby mouse near the water heater. She had seen it before, but from far away it looked like a dust ball. “I didn’t know that was a baby mouse!” she kept saying.

EW! BREEDING MICE IN THE HOUSE! EEK!

Anyway, I’m glad they took care of that.


22
Nov 12

Thankful

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.


15
Nov 12

Aftermath

Hurricane Sandy hit the very day that my parents were scheduled to return from Taiwan into JFK. My mother called from Taiwan that night, but for a whole week afterward, I had no idea what their status was. They don’t have a smart phone, and while my father emails regularly from home (and even, briefly, joined Facebook, quitting after he realized how “boring” and “stupid” it was), I doubted he’d be able to figure out how to email from abroad. So I waited.

Finally, the night I wrote that Survivor Guilt post, my mother called. They had returned the night before at midnight to a house with no power, and that day still had no power. Then my mother said, “We had a bad trip.”

“What happened?” I asked, expecting her to talk about the nightmare of flying into JFK so soon after Hurricane Sandy. But that wasn’t it.

“Your dad broke his leg!” she said.

“Oh no! What happened?”

My mother explained: on their second day in Taiwan, my father tripped and fell. This has happened before. While he walks three miles a day, I think that when he’s someplace unfamiliar, he has a tendency to trip easily. On a different China trip, he fell but only got a little scraped up. At my grandmother’s funeral, he tripped over a curb and got some abrasions on his face. This time he fractured a pubis bone. A fracture, not a break, but my mother didn’t make this clear.

The fall and injury happened two weeks earlier, but my father insisted my mother not tell my brother and me, for fear we would worry over nothing. So when I talked to my mom that night she called from Taiwan, they had already been holed up in the hotel for six days. (Luckily at least my parents had a problem-free week in China first.)

“He can’t move!” she said. “And we have no power.” Luckily they had a friend nearby with power so at least my mom could drive there and charge their phones. But no power also meant no running water or heat. “And it was so cold last night.”

“Oh, no,” I kept saying. I pictured my father flat and immobile on the couch, as he would have to remain for six to eight weeks. “I think you should go to the emergency room! He should be in the hospital!” An ambulance could come get him, I thought, and he’d at least be in a place with power and where he could be taken care of, without the whole burden being on my mom.

“We went to the emergency room in Taiwan,” Mom said. “The doctor said all we can do is wait six to eight weeks.”

Painfully, slowly, I got it out of my mother that my father’s regular doctor would be calling him the next day and would advise him about what to do. My mother kept saying “the doctor,” referring to the doctor both in Taiwan and his regular doctor, making no distinction.

She also told me not to worry (imagine that! the Queen Mother of Worrying), but I couldn’t help but be worried sick. What I was most anxious about was that they had no power. I wanted to do something but there was nothing I could do. So I tweeted. I tweeted at my parents’ electric company that “my elderly parents still have no power or running water,” and their road and the cross street. I searched on Twitter for the name of my parents’ town, and saw that some people had power and some didn’t.

I went to bed around two, but couldn’t turn off my brain. If only they had power, I kept thinking. Then my dad’s injury wouldn’t be so hard so deal with. Then, If only my dad weren’t injured, then the power outage would be nothing. They could go to a friend’s house to shower and hang out. But they couldn’t. The image of my dad trapped and immobile in the cold and darkness kept replaying in my head.

I finally fell asleep around 3, and was up again at 7. The first thing I did was check my email, and lo and behold, there was an email from my dad. They had gotten their power back just that morning, and he very calmly gave the details of his injury. He had a fracture not a break, and it was his right pubis bone. He had spoken with his regular doctor, who confirmed that all he could do was rest right now and let the fracture heal naturally. In six to eight weeks, he should make a follow up X-ray appointment and an appointment to see the doc.

Holy shit, I felt so much better after that.

Of course I wanted to fly out to New Jersey right away, but I didn’t know how feasible that would be in the aftermath of Sandy. Finally, I decided a week should suffice, and found a reasonable flight.

But then came word of an impending nor’easter. I sort of ignored the warnings, and hoped that it would pass the east coast, or wouldn’t be so bad. But two days before my flight, my dad asked me to postpone my trip. The idea of my dealing with bad weather was too stressful for him. So I canceled my flight (again luckily in time for a full refund).

Then I found another flight for the week after, which flew into Newark rather than JFK (which was my original flight’s destination), and was even slightly cheaper. Hooray!

Then I got a cold. No biggie. But when I talked to my mom on Tuesday, she tried to convince me to change my flight again. I really didn’t want to. This would be just getting ridiculous now. Then it turned out I’d have to call to change. Forget it. I can survive a flight with a silly cold. Leave it to my mom to stress me out over nothing.

Anyway, so I arrived last night with surprisingly no problems. In fact my flight was kinda great. It helped that I forked over $60 to upgrade to “economy plus.” The only regular seats left by the time I checked in were middle seats, or an aisle in the very last row. An aisle seat with more leg room was worth it to me. Gonna do it again on my way back.

My cold also didn’t bother me. I had a cough, but I was more worried about grossing out the people around me. I read, worked on my novel, and watched Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was so very good but so very sad. We landed 10 minutes early. I had a 20 minute wait for the train, but at least there were trains going to my town. And an express no less!

It’s been good to see my dad in person. While his mobility is pretty limited, he sounds and looks like his regular self. He can stand for short periods of time, but can’t walk much yet. And my parents are bickering as usual.