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.

Dec 10


You may have noticed that I changed my blog template.  It’s been about a year so I decided it was time.  Plus it’s just fun.

This particular template has been available to me for a while, but I didn’t realize I could change the header.  I spent much of last night playing with different photos for the header and settled on the gorgeous one you seem above.  My friend YP took it and sent it as one of his holiday cards.  I know I should probably have a San Francisco photo since that’s where I live, but I’ll always be a New Yorker at heart.

I may do the same thing with my writing site (but with a different header), but I’m not sure yet.

Oct 10

The ex-friends who can’t get over me?

While I was working on my latest Frisky article, I wondered if I should I include the times I was on the other side, when I was the dumper instead of the dumpee.  In the end, I didn’t, but I’ve certainly thought about it, especially after seeing some of the comments from people who shared their stories about having dumped friends.

I’ve dumped friends twice, once much in the way that June dumped me – without explanation – the other time, after a falling out.

I hadn’t been friends with Person A for long.  I knew him from before, but we weren’t friends.  There were already some things I didn’t like about him before I dumped him.  He was incredibly manipulative of my time, and only wanted to do things that he wanted to do.  He’d get put out if I didn’t want to hang out with him for an entire day.

But the most annoying thing was that he tried to horn in on my writing.  At the time I was working on Song of the Stranger, my YA novel, which is set in Hokkaido, Japan.  Because Person A – who was white – had taken some Japanese classes and had been to Tokyo, he had a lot of suggestions about how I should write my book.  He was also a wannabe writer.  He dragged me to this Tokyo exhibit (although saying Hokkaido is like Tokyo is saying that Alaska is like NYC) and this lecture on women’s rights in Japan.

“I think you should include something about women’s rights in your book,” he told me.

Okay, one, it’s my book and not yours.  Two, it’s from the point of view of a 12-year old Japanese American girl.  Not really the place for a whole political discussion on women’s rights.

I was already sort of fed up with him when I heard that he talked shit about me behind my back, saying that he felt more qualified to write the book than I did.  That was really the last straw.  I mailed him back some books he lent me without a note, and just simply stopped talking to him.

I remember he wrote me a letter saying I owed him an explanation.  I felt I didn’t.  I felt like he should have known what he did.  But maybe he was as in the dark as I am about June.

As for Person B, he had already pissed me off by the time we had a falling out.  We had been friends since almost the beginning of college.  We were close, or so I thought.  When I came back after six months in China, he was one of the first friends I called, and our conversation went something like this:

    Me: Hey, Person B, it’s Angela!

    Person B (PB) [sounding bored]: Oh, hi, Angela.

    Me: I’m back from China!

    PB: Oh. Congratulations!

Congratulations? What a weird thing to say. Welcome back! sure. Yay! maybe. But congratulations?

Then what followed was an incredibly stilted conversation where he sounded totally bored and asked me nothing about my adventures.  He only brightened when he said, “You should meet my new girlfriend! We’re going to China in the fall and you have to give us recommendations!”

We arranged to meet for dinner.  I got there 10 minutes early, as I tend to do.  I waited outside thinking I’d see them come in.  It was drizzling on and off.  Those 10 minutes passed, then another 30.  I peeked inside, but it was so dark, I didn’t think PB and his girlfriend would be hiding in the recesses of the shadows.  I thought they’d be right by the door, or would have come out to find me.

Finally I called PB’s cell phone.

    Me: It’s Angela.

    PB [that some bored voice]: Oh, hi Angela.

    Me: Where are you guys?

    PB: In the restaurant.

    Me [shocked silence]: I’ve been waiting in the rain for 40 minutes.

    PB: Oh. Why’d you did that?

    Me [getting really mad]: I’ve been waiting out here for 40 minutes and you guys didn’t come out to check on me once.

    PB [still bored]: Oh. Sorry. Do you still want to have dinner?

    Me [flabbergasted at his bored, could-care-less tone]: No.

    PB [sounding shocked for a change]: No?

    Me: No. I could pretend that everything’s okay, but I’m upset.  So I’m going home.

    PB: So you’re just gonna go home?

    Me: Yes.

    PB [another moment of shocked silence]: Fine.

So I left.  I was really hoping he’d come after me, but he didn’t.  I was hoping he’d call or email, but he didn’t.

In that case, I thought it was pretty clear what happened.  I was pissed, and he obviously thought I had no right to be pissed.  He obviously felt our friendship wasn’t worth any sort of effort to make it right, even if I was being crazy.  And after hearing how bored he was whenever he talked to me, even after six months of my being out of the country, I concluded our friendship had been a sham.

You know what’s funny: June was one of the few people who was totally on my side regarding my falling out with PB.

Other friends thought I had overreacted, even if PB was in the wrong too. PB even claimed to one of my friends that he had come out to see if I was there, which was complete bullshit because I was there early.

“That cow!” June growled when I told her what happened. Calling someone a cow was her way of calling out someone who had no decency or manners.

Who knows, maybe in the end she thought I was a cow too. Or like one of the commenters on my Frisky piece said, some time passed with no contact, some more time passed, and then suddenly it was more than a year, and she was too embarrassed to get back in touch.

I will probably never know.

Mar 10

A break and gossip

Took a break from the grind yesterday by hanging out with a blogging pal.

We arranged to meet in the Mission for lunch.  Normally I’d have taken a cab, but when ES was here, she got me to “practice” taking public transportation and so now I feel more confident.

I needed to get to a BART station, the closest of which is Civic Center.  But I wanted to avoid that area.  I should have just walked to Powell, but like a dummy I walked all the way down Van Ness, thinking I’d hit Market.  I would have eventually, but way out of my way.

At the Powell BART station, I bit the bullet and put $20 on a card (which seems to be the only option when using your debit or credit card – have I mentioned SF public transit sucks?).  As I was finishing, a homeless guy appeared out of nowhere and asked me for money.

Hello, you don’t do that to a woman by herself with her purse open!  You spring up on her out of nowhere, of course she’s going to dart away like a quarterback with the ball and you’re a 300 pound line backer.  As I walked quickly away, he said, “You’re fast!”  That’s right, mofo, get away from me.

As I was riding the BART, I realized that I could take it out to Richmond the next time I get a hankering for good Chinese food.  A whole new world! Don’t you DARE close your eyes.

My friend and I met up on the 24th and Mission platform, and walked to Papalote Mexican Grill.  Apparently it was on Bobby Flay’s cooking show, and I suspect the prices have been jacked up.  The burrito, while tasty, was about $8, which is steep for the Mission, and my friend said her small bottle of water was $2.50.  That’s movie theater prices!

I got the chili verde burrito with pork and it hit the spot.  I was glad there didn’t seem to be any rice.  Too much rice in a burrito fills me up.

Afterward, we walked down 24th Street, stopping at Dynamo Donuts.  Unfortunately they were out of bacon donuts (yes, donuts with BACON), so I made do with spicy chocolate and lemon pistachio.  I had the chocolate one this morning, and I have to say it wasn’t that great.  I expected it to be much richer.  Maybe the lemon one will be better.

Eventually we made our way to Dolores Park, which I’d never been to before.  It was such a gorgeous day just to sit and hang out.  At one point, another homeless guy approached us and offered to sell us – what? a homemade bong?  I wasn’t sure as I had turned away, but apparently that’s what he said.  For the rest of our time there, he wandered around, bothering people.

It was great to get out and get some sun.  In fact, I think I’m both a little sun- and windburned.  Should really invest in a hat.

Today it’s back to work. Working on an essay with the theme of “family and friends,” due April 1. Want to send query letters to some agents for my memoir, four in San Francisco and a couple in New York. I pitched a couple of ideas to a magazine and am waiting to hear.

While doing some research on literary agents, I found this helpful list of “bad” agents, and one of them, Mark Sullivan Associates, was a place I briefly worked for in college! He’s on the list because, like other “thumbs down” agents, he charged up front fees. An agent really shouldn’t charge authors anything.

His reasoning, according to a discussion board, for charging fees is:

The book must be read carefully, and a written evaluation proving the agency’s attention and effort should accompany a contract or a rejection, in either case. We provide this.

You know who provided the written evaluation? Students like me.

He mostly hired graduate students, but he had no problem employing me, a mere sophomore. It was pretty thankless work. I’d have to read most of these giant manuscripts, and type up a page’s worth of evaluation. Needless to say, I didn’t do it for very long.

I remember the guy being kind of a jerk. He was one of those arrogant nerds, a know-it-all and full of himself. He had a Japanese girlfriend (from Japan) who I guess didn’t know any better.

So funny to see him on a worst agents list.

Feb 10

San Francisco in six days

My friend ES visited me these past few days, and we had a great time exploring the city, trying new foods, and just hanging out (mostly watching the Olympics).


another exterior shot

We met up at the Asian Art Museum.  We both wanted to see the Shanghai exhibit.  It was interesting to see how dramatically the city’s changed over the course of time.  I find the Communist propaganda posters fascinating, and could see a whole exhibit just on that.  Outside the exhibit were some cool sculptures.



The next day we tried to eat brunch at Elite Cafe, but it’s only open for brunch on the weekends.  Damn!  We made do with The Grove, which was just okay.  Their breakfasts are better than their sandwich fare, but I was starving so whatever.

Next stop was La Boulange down the street.  My brother has been recommending the place to me forever, and ES has been there before.  They have beautiful pastries.

lemon tart

I got one chocolate and one almond croissant.  I was disappointed with the chocolate, but the almond one was delicious!  (I didn’t eat them all in one sitting, by the way)

almond croissant

Then we walked around Japantown, which was very apropos since it was the same time of year – around the strawberry-loving Japanese holiday of Girls’ Day – that we were in Tokyo.

I insisted at first stopping at the New People Cafe for some delicious Blue Bottle coffee.  I still say their mocha is the best in town, better even than Philz.

blue bottle mocha

We spent some time in the New People store as well since neither of us had ever been.  Basically, it’s fun – and expensive – Japanese toys and collectors’ items.

more tiny frogs

We spent some time in the different stores, then had dinner at Suzu Noodle House.  For some reason, I thought it was new, but it’s clearly not, given the date of the linked review.  There was a long wait, and one of the women waiting told us it was “so good,” so we had high hopes.  My assessment?  Average.

shio ramen

It was definitely good, and at $8.95 for a shio ramen, pretty reasonably priced, but the noodles don’t hold a candle to the ones we had in Tokyo years ago.


It was a beautiful day so we headed out to the Mission District.  We both have been, but we wanted to take our time and photograph the many murals. . .

mother and child


. . .and try some food.


That night we saw Wicked.  It was very good, very entertaining.  But the musical really takes liberties with the book.  I absolutely loved the book.  I didn’t really hate the changes – they were well-suited for a popular, family-oriented show – but it made the story very different.


An awful rainy day.  We tried taking the bus back out to Fillmore, but after ten minutes in the rain, it didn’t show so we hopped a cab, which was totally worth the delicious brunch at the Elite Cafe.

I usually get the Alabama Scramble (which ES enjoyed), but this time tried the corned beef hash.  It was really delicious.

corned beef hash and eggs

The Elite seems to be another place that does really good breakfast and so so lunch entrees.

Since it was such a rainy day, we thought a museum would be a good idea, the California Academy of Sciences, which neither of us had been to before.


It was great fun, especially the aquarium and indoor rainforest, where butterflies kept landing on people.

butterfly landing

You can’t tell but this butterfly had gorgeous bright blue wings, and I think was attracted to people wearing blue.  Before landing on this girl, it had alighted on the hand of a boy in a blue T-shirt.

After a while though, the dive bombing butterflies made me paranoid so I had to leave.

Another highlight was the planetarium, which brought back memories of class trips to the American Museum of Natural History in New York, but also gave me motion sickness (so I’m a wuss).

Afterward we went out to the Ferry Building, my first time.  Unfortunately almost everything was closed, but it was nice to walk around.

We ate at Slanted Door, a chi chi Vietnamese place.  It was just okay, to tell the truth.  I liked my spring roll appetizer, and the green papaya salad was AMAZING, but our entrees were average.  Mine, the stir fried chicken, had little bones or date pits scattered throughout.  It’s not fun to be chewing then suddenly bite on something hard.

We rode the F line out to Fisherman’s Wharf.  There was a guy who didn’t have change for a $20 so a bunch of us – all New Yorkers, coincidentally, including the guy – banded together to give him change.


ES had the great idea of renting a car and exploring the further parts of the city.  First stop: Richmond, home of delicious dim sum and other Chinese eats.  I was able to finally get in my dumplings for the New Year.

Next stop was crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and taking in the view.


It was really breath taking.  I also loved watching the animals, like the pelicans that kept circling overhead, the deer we saw grazing (and pooping), and other various birds.  This blue bird – or jay? – let us take its picture.

bluebird standing. . .

You can see the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

On our way back to dropping off the car, we drove to Haight-Ashbury, and did a quick walk.  For dinner we went to Pesce on Polk Street.  It’s tapas style Italian and was pretty good.  We shared a vegetable risotto – good though needed salt – a braised duck with pappardelle, some kind of pork with gnocchi, and brussel sprouts.  Everything was tasty.

ES also got this oyster vodka shooter.  She said it was delicious.  I took her word for it.


MB was coming home from a conference at around noon so I begged off for a few hours while ES went exploring on her own.  Later we caught up at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, which had interesting exhibits on Mein Kampf and about a scribe writing the Torah.

It was another terribly rainy day, but we made it onto a bus that would take us to our appointments at the Imperial Day Spa, a traditional Korean-style spa and sauna.  It was a very unique experience.  You strip down buck naked, soak in a tub and/or do a sauna, then get scrubbed within an inch of your life by one of several Chinese ladies in matching burgundy bra and panties.

It sounds sexy, but it’s so not.  These ladies are strong and work hard.  Oh, and you don’t have your own private room complete with soothing music like at some ritzy place – you’re in a communal room with other naked women.  You lie on a plastic mat and have buckets of hot water thrown on you (which actually feels amazing).

I may be able to get an article fun post out of this experience, in addition to my silky smooth skin.  Either way, it was a fun, and weirdly bonding, activity to cap off ES’s stay.

Now back to the grind for everyone!

See all my photos taken during ES’s visit.

Nov 09

The social experiment

I’ve been trying to be more social, and last week I was actually successful.

I can’t remember if I mentioned this already, but at a recent work party, I met the girlfriend of one of MB’s co-workers.  We have a lot in common: we’re both new to SF, originally from the east coast, and interested in writing.  We’ve been hitting it off really well.  Last Thursday we met at 2 PM to chit chat over coffee and hot chocolate.  The next thing we knew it was five hours later.  Crazy!  I only noticed because I was getting hungry.

On Sunday I went to this writing “marathon.”  As you know, I’m doing National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and was looking for a meet up.  There were just a couple, and were either at weird times (10 PM to 3 AM) or way the fuck out in some part of town I’d never heard of (which isn’t saying much I guess).  But then I saw a posting for a general writing meet up inviting people doing NaNoWriMo.

We met at Jumpin’ Java in the Castro at 10 AM.  I’m ashamed to admit I still don’t have a handle on SF public transit and so either walk everywhere or take cabs.  Sunday I took a cab.

At first I thought I had the wrong street because it seemed to be all houses.  But there nestled on a corner was the cafe.

I got a lot of work done very quickly.  It was both comforting and energetic to be surrounded by six or seven other people also writing.  You’re buffered from the freaks, and there’s also this unspoken, subtle pressure to KEEP WORKING.  The organizers scheduled it pretty well: 10 to 11:30, writing; 11:30 to 12:30 break for lunch; 1 to 2:30 more writing; another break; and then the end of the day.  The scheduled breaks keep people from chatting too much, and give you a target to work towards.

As for lunch, when you walked in, they had you write down your order so the cafe could prepare everything beforehand.  By the time 11:30 to 12 rolls around, they have your sandwich or whatever all ready, and you just pay.  And then to sit there and eat and talk about writing was really nice.

I thought I’d stay all the way till 4, but I pooped out by the 2:30 break.

Afterwards I met MB in Union Square (walked this time), and from there we took a little stroll around SoMA and hit another cafe we like in the area.  Thank goodness the game show host barista wasn’t there.  It made hanging out so much more peaceful.

By the time we headed home, it was after 5:30.  I had been out the whole day, from 9:30 on.  Wow!

Today I made up for it by being a bum and writing at home.  Around three I decided I really wanted some chocolate, did some Yelp research, and found the Blue Fog Market.  It’s a little bit of a schlep, but I thought a walk would be nice, and I wanted to stop at the Macha Cafe along the way, which someone on Yelp described as having Japanese-style snacks.

But they don’t.  I was very disappointed to find a totally American menu.  I asked the woman about the Japanese snacks, and she said they used to have some, but not anymore.  Bummer!  I had wanted a green tea and a mochi.  Instead I got a peppermint tea and a croissant, which actually really hit the spot.  Next time if I want Japanese snacks, I’ll just go straight to Japantown (which is where I hung out and ate my croissant anyway).

The Blue Fog Market was equally disappointing.  I mean, they had some fancy stuff, but it wasn’t that great.  Plus the chocolate was way more than I wanted to spend.  On the way back, I stopped in a random grocery store, and they had just what I wanted.  A small bar of dark chocolate for under $3, and which will last me a good week.

I forgot to mention: when I was telling my mother about the writing meet up, she said, “Oh, it’s for other housewives?”

Hunh?  First off, I said, “It’s for writers.”  Secondly, “It’s on Sunday,” ie, not on a work day.  Third, does she think I’m a housewife?

I don’t know how my mom’s brain works sometimes.

Oct 09

Signed, sealed, and delivered

My friend YP got me the best going-away gift: pre-stamped post cards made from my own pictures on Flickr!


Nowadays, I rarely send handwritten notes or letters. When I travel, I try to remember to send postcards, and while I succeed in buying them, I almost always forget to send them, then either lamely mail them from home or throw them in a drawer.

The very first person I wrote letters to was my aunt. I was about seven when I started writing to her. I’m not sure how our correspondence began. Perhaps she sent me a chatty birthday card, and my mother wanted me to be polite so had me pen a long thank you. My mother was quite strict about it: she’d proof what I had written again and again, and have me rewrite it multiple times. Why, I’m not sure. Maybe because my aunt could be critical, and my mother didn’t want hear her make some comment about how sloppy I was. Then why have me respond at all?

On my eighth birthday, someone gave me strawberry scratch ‘n stiff stationery. That night, I wrote my aunt a letter without my mother’s supervision, which meant writing it like I would a friend. “Take a whiff of those strawberries,” I wrote.

For some reason, my casual tone was considered impolite. Either I confessed to my mother or my aunt actually made a comment, because in my next letter I was instructed to apologize profusely.

My mother would also always intercept my aunt’s letters to me and read them first. What was she looking for? Some remark about her? Some chiding to me? My aunt’s notes were always harmless. She wrote about visits from my grandmother and the good food she made, camping trips with her family at Lake Tahoe, and riding a donkey down into a canyon.

To this day, things haven’t changed. Recently my aunt and I emailed a couple of times, and my mother wanted to know everything my aunt said.

After my correspondence with my aunt trickled off, I exchanged letters with friends who had moved away. There was one who went to Kentucky, and her letters were all exactly the same. “Who’s your best friend? What must do you like? I like the Police.” I also wrote to friends I saw every day. In junior high every morning a particular pal and I would exchange notes as we passed each other in the hallway on our way to first period. Not just notes, but papers folded up a million times into triangles you had to pry open with pliers.

What the heck did we tell each other every day? I remember moaning about how my teeth were killing me (because of my braces), and she responded, “Mighty Molar!” and drew a picture of bicupsid flexing its muscles. I also complained about my mother, calling her a witch. I really wanted to call her something else that ended in –itch, but I changed it. Still, she responded, “Don’t call your mother a witch!”

Of course I love getting emails from my friends, but there’s something about opening your mailbox and seeing something addressed to you that’s not a bill, credit card application, or catalog. With a little thrill you tear open the enveloped. What does your friend have to say? You see her handwriting and for a second it’s like you’re there with her, as she’s writing it, instead of thousands of miles away.

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!

Aug 09

The memoir goes on

In case you didn’t know, I’m still posting my memoir over in my writing blog, and the latest installment is a doozy.

Like I’ve already said a billion times, I’ve been working on my memoir for about three years. Actually, probably more like four or five. The first non-fiction writing class I took was the fall of 2004, several months after my ex confessed to his affair and his mistress’ pregnancy. The class was for alumnae of my college, and the nights were dark and cold when the 10 of us would gather together and talk about our writing.

I wrote about everything except what was happening in my life. I wrote about China and my cousin; I wrote about a cruise I took with my family. With all of my essays, people wondered, “Where are you in this? What’s happening with you?”

I could only write about what was happening in secret and second or third person. One assignment was to write an essay, “On. . .” some subject. I wrote “On Cheating”:

There are many different kinds of cheating. The first we learn of is cheating at a game. You want to win, but you’re not good enough, and so when the other person isn’t looking, you move the pieces around. Or you want to show that you got two sides – two sides! – on the Rubik’s cube, and so in the next room you swap the stickers.

It escalates to:

Then there is cheating on your spouse. Your partner, your lover, your significant other. However, the definition of this kind of cheating is blurred. Of course there’s sex. No ifs, ands, or buts about that. But what about a kiss, or kisses? What about letters, phone calls, e-mail messages? What about feelings and thoughts? Are all of those cheating? Are any of them? There are no rules written down, unlike for games, tests, and money. Probably there should be.

Then ends:

It’s not a game or a test. It’s something like stealing, stealing your man, stealing your innocence, stealing your chance to be the first one to bear his child (there was one years ago, but you had an abortion – was it wrong? are you being punished?).

Sometimes in class the teacher would ask us to read our pieces aloud. I prayed that she wouldn’t ask me; luckily she didn’t.

I really started to write publicly about what had happened after my ex and I separated, and I moved into my own apartment. I had a blog, which some of you might remember, “Diary of a Pissed-Off Asian Woman.”  Till then I had been keeping a journal – in fact since I was 17 – but suddenly I needed to share my story, or at least feel like I was sharing it.

So that’s a long way of saying that over the years I’ve gotten used to writing publicly about stuff in my life, good and bad, to the point that I didn’t think this latest installment was even a big deal. But writing for a dozen strangers in class (or 50 online) is very different than knowing that your friends are reading your dirt.

There’s also the online factor.  A book is more distant, squeezed on a shelf in a bookstore or library, the story safely hidden between two covers, silent till a reader opens it. On-line is in your face.

Do I worry about what others will think about what I’ve written? Sure. Of course I still get anxious sometimes about people I’ve written about in not such a great light, whose stories I’ve appropriated and blabbed. As for my own stories, I’m not worried so much about being judged for my decisions, but rather by the fact that there were some things in my life I didn’t tell all my friends, if only because I told those closest, geographically or otherwise, to me at the time, or because I couldn’t handle retelling what happened too many times.

But here are those stories in my memoir, and this blog. Writing all about myself is very easy. In fact, when I put my fingers to keyboard or pen to paper, I seriously can’t stop blabbing about myself. It’s like a disease. But the telling is hard. I guess that’s why I’m a writer.