Sep 10

L.A., short but sweet

Our flight was Thursday night.  We decided to take the BART to the airport for the first time.  Usually we grab a cab.  I’m not sure why.  For some reason we had this idea that the BART would be more trouble than its worth, but actually it turned out to be very easy.

You may have heard about the gas line explosion in San Bruno, a town right near the airport.  Well, we were traveling on the BART when it happened and didn’t hear a thing.  We must have been underground at the time.  In fact, I think we were waiting on the San Bruno platform – having take the wrong train initially – minutes before the explosion.

Chalk this up to two other explosions I didn’t hear.

I forgot the airplane would be so small, and MB was pretty cramped, but the flight was less than an hour.  We flew into Burbank, a dinky little airport, and lickety split we were outta there and in my brother’s car.  Much easier than LAX (though the flights are a bit pricier).  It was already 10 by the time we got to his apartment so we just ate something, watched TV, chilled.

I slept awesome knowing there were no mosquitoes.

The next day my brother – whom I call Di, “little brother” in Mandarin – had to go to work so MB and I mostly hung around the apartment working on our own stuff.  I put in some hours for my job but also had a chance to work on my writing.

For lunch, we took a long walk out to Ventura Boulevard, eating at this random Mexican dive, Manny’s, along the way.  We walked in and saw all the customers were Mexican construction/maintenance guys, and thought the food must be good.  And it was.  I got a chorizo scramble (low cholesterol diet be damned for the weekend) and it was delish!

While it wasn’t too hot, it was still hot to be walking that much.  By the time we got back, I was sweaty, sunburnt, and grouchy because I hadn’t brought enough clothes, not anticipating that one of my outfits would stink by the first day.

When Di came home, we got some ramen for dinner and then pie for dessert.  The pie was good, especially my brother’s banana cream, but we kept smelling this weird, musty, mildewy smell.  It was strange because it would come and go.  At first Di thought it was the old woman at the table next to us, but then I surmised it was the rag they were using to wipe the tables.  I smelled the smell when the guy wiped our neighboring table, and my bro smelled it later when another walked by with the offending rag.  Gross.

More chilling out afterward.  Di had just come back from vacation in Mexico and was pooped, and MB and I were worn out from our walk in the sun that afternoon, or at least I was.

The next day it was off to my uncle’s.  He and my aunt were away so my parents were brought in to help with my grandmother.  Luckily my grandmother has 24/7 care so my parents don’t have to do much except just be there.

My mom made a great lunch of beef noodles, dumplings, and a variety of other dishes.  No pictures since I didn’t bring my camera.  (I’ve fallen so far out of the habit of taking pictures!) Since we had time, my brother washed his car, and we did laundry. Yay, no more stinky outfit! Later we hit the mall (what else?), and I actually had luck finding some pants I liked.

Then it was back home and fantastic dinner, thanks to Mom again.  There were two kinds of fish, stir fried shrimp with peas, mapo tofu, stir fried beef with pickled veggies, teriyaki chicken, tea eggs, baby bok choy, and beef soup.  I’m sure leaving stuff out as well.

Okay, hungry now.

While we were eating, my mother asked my brother, “Do you remember my hitting you with my slipper?” and he said, “Yes, of course!  Why else would I be afraid of a slipper?”

The funny thing is I don’t remember the slipper actually ever hitting me.  I remember the threat, the rushing of my mother toward me with slipper in hand, but I probably never went so far as to warrant a whack.

Then we started talking about a whole bunch of other memories.  I remember when Di knocked down the Christmas tree.  I remember when I broke the wall and all these bees flew out. (Apparently there was a giant hive growing in the wall for years.)  I remember when I used to pee the bed and Mom would get so mad.  MB was thoroughly entertained.

We left L.A. Sunday afternoon, and returned to a very chilly Bay Area.

This upcoming weekend: Seattle!

Nov 09

Long Thanksgiving recap

Between madly finishing NaNoWriMo and traveling back from L.A., here finally is my Thanksgiving recap.


While my brother, Greg, was at work, MB and I had lunch at El Pollo Loco, my first time. It wasn’t too bad. I got these grilled chicken burrito thingies. Afterwards we attempted to walk around, but it was too sunny for me so we ducked into a Starbuck’s till Greg got back.

That afternoon Greg did some prep work for Thanksgiving dinner. That’s right: he was cooking everything. A brined turkey, homemade cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and stuffing. Yum!

That night we saw Ninja Assassin. The action sequences were cool, but it took forever to get started. Plus I was hungry the whole time. Luckily afterwards Greg brought us to a great Korean place, where we all had variations of sun dubu chigae, or spicy tofu stew.


We were out early to head over to my uncle’s. While he and his family were out of town, my parents and younger aunt came to stay with my grandmother, Puo-puo. My older aunt was supposed to come down too, but she changed her mind at the last minute. This is the aunt who although she lives in California sees her mother the least. She’s also the one who made a stink about getting her “share” when my grandmother’s house in Berkeley was sold, although all the siblings had agreed that the money would go to paying for the nurse who cares for Puo-puo 24/7.

Right before we went down to L.A., I got an email from this aunt saying happy Thanksgiving. Being the polite niece that I am, I wrote back saying I was sorry we wouldn’t be able to see her, I was looking forward to seeing the family, and to have a nice holiday herself. She wrote back two messages within hours of each other.

The first said she talked to my mom and felt left out about missing Turkey Day with us, and that she was a bad daughter for not seeing her mother in over a year. (Well, then go see her.) The second one said simply that while she felt left out, thinking about how much space there was at my uncle’s house, it was just impossible for her to go. Did she not think she sent the first one? Did she forget? Weird.

Then my younger aunt told me how last Thanksgiving, this older aunt came down Tuesday night with plans to stay for a week or so, and by Thanksgiving Day was rescheduling her flight to go home earlier.

As I’ve said before, I don’t really get why she’s like this. It’s not like she has to do much to take care of Puo-puo. The nurse does everything, and my younger aunt or mother took over only when the nurse ate her lunch or dinner.

Speaking of lunch, we had delicious Chinese food my mom and aunt cooked:

traditional chinese lunch

MB who doesn’t even eat pork gobbled up those dumplings like there was no tomorrow.

Then while my dad, MB, and I lazed around the living room, and my mom and aunt hovered around giving unsolicited advice, my brother cooked. The turkey, before:

turkey, before

And the turkey after:

turkey, after

Delicious as always! This was the first time my father had my brother’s cooking, and he was extremely surprised. He kept saying over and over, “The turkey’s so good, the stuffing’s so good.” Even my grandmother, who hardly eats anything now, scarfed down some mashed potatoes and stuffing.

Puo-puo has changed immensely in the past few years. My chubby laughing grandmother has become an emaciated old woman I barely recognize. She can’t talk now or even make facial expressions. I have no idea if she knew who I was. She’s also lost some teeth and her hair, once black and permed, is now white and gray and lays flat on her head. When I first saw her, she did reach for my hand several times, but I’m still not sure if she knew me. My cousin Huang Lei was sad too when she saw Puo-puo. Tearfully she held her hands and spoke to her in Chinese.

Puo-puo seemed to see people though. For instance, throughout the evening she kept staring at MB. I had tried introducing him, but I don’t know if it registered. She kept eyeing him like, “Who’s this white guy in my house?” She also watched Mia, Huang Lei and Shane’s three-year old daughter, with great interest.

Mia was hilarious. After she got comfortable, she kept trying to get MB and my brother to play hide ‘n seek with her. They did for a while then got tired. At one point she decided she was mad. She kept crossing her arms (or trying to) and standing near us with a pout. A few minutes later, she came back and said, “I’m not mad anymore. I’m happy. Let’s play hide ‘n seek,” then grabbed MB’s hand and tried to pull him up.

mia and the feast

After the meal, we hung out watching some silly Chinese variety show before finally getting ready to leave. I knew my parents were sad to see us go. I encouraged them to visit us in the spring, after we moved into a new, bigger place.


After a relaxing morning, we headed out to lunch at the Curry House. As though we hadn’t enough food already, we had no problem scarfing down our delicious curry dishes. I got the curry katsu:

curry katsu again

Afterwards we drove out to Venice, walked on the boardwalk, and down Abbot-Kinney Street. Along the way we saw some cool graffiti:

graffiti cone, venice beach

The Venice Canals:

canals in venice, ca

And some crazy Barbies:

crazy barbie dolls

In the afternoon we headed out to Huang Lei and Shane’s. It was fun chatting with them and playing with Mia again, who kept taking pictures as we took pictures:

mia the photographer

Most of her pictures were of her finger.


Our flight wasn’t till after 8 PM so we had the whole morning to relax. We had brunch at Hugo’s, then took the Metro out to Hollywood. The L.A. mass transit system is weird. There are turnstiles set up but you can walk around them. Then the tickets are checked only sporadically.

Hollywood was pretty crowded. We walked around a bit, had some Beard Papa’s, then headed back to my brother’s to chill before our flight. As we packed MB found a letter opener I forgot about in the black suitcase I had been using for months. Who knows how many times that got through security.

Check in at Burbank was so easy. There was almost no one there though our flight was full.

By ten we were home. Yay!

~ ~ ~

I’m glad to be back in the routine of writing, but I also need to get my butt to the gym more often. I know I’ve gained eight to ten pounds in the last couple of years. I’d love to get that weight off.

Nov 09

Update on the Mac + L.A.

My laptop seems to have recovered my clumsy drenching.  We let out it dry out for more than twenty-four hours, then Monday night MB thought it safe to turn it on and get my files backed up on a USB.  Then we shut it off and let it air out for another twelve hours.  Tuesday morning I started to use it, and so far it’s been okay.

“If you start to smell ozone,” MB said, “shut it off.”

No strange odors as of yet.

In other news, MB and I are in LA at my brother’s.  I was dreading the trip to the airport and getting through security, but it wasn’t so bad.  Although we hit some traffic in the taxi, we got to SFO well before boarding.  There was a line for security, but it moved quickly.

After all my trips to SF in September, I’m an expert now in terms of getting through security quickly.  Before I even get on line, I take out my laptop and stuff my jacket in a bag.  I also have my cosmetics in a an easy to get to pocket, and try to wear shoes without laces.  Then at the end, I don’t bother trying to take everything out of the bins.  I just consolidate my stuff in one bin and take it with me to the side, out of the way of the line.

A trick to getting around paying for a checked bag: hand it to the guy at the last minute right before you board.  Then when you get off, it’s right there waiting for you instead of on the carousel.  This probably only works with bags small enough to be carry on, but a good solution if there’s not enough overhead space.

The flight was very short, just an hour.  By the time I finished looking at the ridiculous things in the Sky Mall magazine, drank a tomato juice, and read some of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, we were landing.  Our plane was small so we got off lickety split.

Getting through Burbank is a breeze.  The airport is so tiny, we walked just a few feet before getting outside, and then just a few minutes later, my brother pulled up.

We were a little hungry so had In-N-Out Burgers.  Thing was I wasn’t that hungry so those were calories I definitely didn’t need. :(

It’s weird to be in LA and not have to deal with a time change.  I have to keep reminding myself there’s no time difference between where I am and where I was.

My brother had a comfy air mattress for us – which sadly is bigger than the bed in our sublet – but I kept waking up.  I think it was the vanilla latte I had yesterday afternoon.  No coffee today after 12 PM.

My bro had to work half a day today so MB and I are just chilling, working on our respective stuff.  This afternoon we’ll probably pick up a few items, then start preparing stuff for tomorrow.

Jan 07

40 Things about My Trip to L.A.

Back from L.A. and trying to recover from the red eye.

I thought I’d try something new since I tend to ramble on in these recaps. And plus I’m just plain tired. So, putting a spin on the hundreds list, here are 40 things about my trip to L.A.

  1. It’s better to take a whole day off from work on the day you’re leaving for a trip rather than trying to book early.
  2. Walking very fast gives you shin splints.
  3. Taxi drivers are less aggressive when the fare is a flat fee.
  4. Wireless hot spots make waiting at the airport much more bearable
  5. I need a new laptop.
  6. Jet Blue rocks.
  7. My feet swell to twice their size on flights.
  8. Burbank airport is nice and small, but you have to wait forever for your bags.
  9. A McDonald’s fish filet is delicious after a cross-country flight at 11 o’clock at night.

  10. L.A. can be freezing cold.
  11. Despite the freezing cold, a guy will be crazy enough to go swimming in the ocean at Venice Beach.

  12. The best cup of organic mocha joe in the world is at The Cow’s End.
  13. Through a Scanner Darkly is a trippy movie to watch while you’re falling asleep from jet lag.
  14. Texting a message at the beginning of a car ride will make you car sick for the rest of the trip.
  15. It’s better to get the 30 GB iPod than the 8 GB Nano. They’re the same price.
  16. It’s possible to get a bag from Tumi for under $100, if a style is being discontinued.
  17. The car wash my brother goes to uses different-colored soaps.
  18. The blueberry smoothie with almond milk and dates at a place called Leaf Cuisine in Culver City is amazing.
  19. L.A. has a lot of traffic.
  20. If there is a baby present at a family gathering, most of the attention will be focused on said baby.
  21. A tiny baby can snore very loudly.
  22. Through a Scanner Darkly is still a trippy movie to watch while you fall unconscious from jet lag.
  23. The second best cup of organic mocha joe in the world is at Hugo’s.
  24. The omelets at Hugo’s are good too.
  25. You might be able to see a celebrity there, like D.B. Sweeney.
  26. The eclair cream puff at Beard Papa is delicious.
  27. There are some weirdos on Hollywood Boulevard.

  28. Cold weather + dry air + strong sun = my fucked up skin
  29. It’s a rip-off when a Japanese restaurant will only allow you to share your brother’s pot of green tea by charging you per cup.
  30. Children of Men is a good movie though the ending is sort of abrupt.
  31. A family gathering with fewer people and not in a restaurant is far more time efficient and relaxed.

  32. The Grove is a nice though Disney-esque outdoor mall.
  33. You might see a celebrity there, like Julia Campbell.
  34. The crepes and coffee there are very nice.
  35. The Fish Shack in Malibu has excellent ahi tuna burgers and mind-blowingly good fries.
  36. Walking barefoot on the beach in cold weather is fun.

  37. Walking barefoot on the beach in cold weather is fun till the wind blows and you’re pelted with thousands of grains of sand.
  38. Award shows are a very big deal.
  39. The red eye is a killer.
  40. Even after a whole day of sitting around in your pajamas, you won’t want to go to work the next day.

I am, however, glad to be back in my own apartment and in a city where I can walk almost everywhere and not have to
ride in a car.

Thank God I have a short week.