Aug 15

NYC adjustment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now if only it wasn’t so damned hot.

Aug 15

Goodbye, San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ ~ ~

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

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

Jun 15

A brotherly visit

My brother Greg and his girlfriend were in town this weekend, and of course I had a blast.

Thursday night

They were staying in San Francisco part of the time and with me in Oakland part of the time. Their first night I met up with them for drinks and dinner in the Mission.

I was late but still got there in time for one drink. Greg’s girlfriend was so cute. When she saw me, she said, “Yay, my favorite!” and gave me a big hug.

For dinner we went to Delfina. SO GOOD. We had a salad and calamari for appetizers, and I had the duck pappardelle. For dessert my brother’s girlfriend got the panna cotta, which we also shared.

The weekend

Saturday was our aunt’s 80th birthday down in San Jose. It was at the same restaurant as my uncle’s party but a smaller affair since my aunt wanted something more low-key. The food, as always, was good. Only downside was that I didn’t get to sit with my brother and his girlfriend, whom, by the way, all of our relatives immediately adored.

On Sunday we hung out around Oakland. Greg’s girlfriend loves farm animals so I was hoping the grazing goats and sheep would be around. And they were! We got up close and personal:

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For brunch we went to Rockridge Cafe. Yummy eggs! Then we headed out to the Mountain View Cemetery, which I had no idea was so close to where I live. The place is beautiful and enormous. I loved some of the statues:

The cemetery is the burial place of some notable people, including Samuel Merritt, a mayor of Oakland and the namesake of Lake Merritt; J. A. Folger, the founder of Folger’s Coffee; Domingo Ghirardelli, the founder of Ghirardelli chocolates; Joe Shoong, the founder of the National Dollar Store chain; and, creepily, Elizabeth Short, otherwise known as Black Dahlia.

I was sad to see my brother and his girlfriend go, but I was glad they were able to visit me before I move back to the east coast.

May 15

The Castro, the Mission, and Petaluma

My east coast friends don’t often have the chance to come to the Bay Area. So when my friend Yiannis said he was coming for a wedding in Petaluma, I was thrilled.


We met at this cute place in the Castro for brunch. He was on New York time so he was starving. I wasn’t but I still pigged out, promptly falling off the diet wagon. I had a “sausage scramble,” which had goat cheese in addition to sausage, with a side of potatoes and a mocha. It was all delicious.

Graffiti, San Francisco style

We weren’t heading out to the wedding until later that afternoon so we had time to walk around. Yiannis used to live in the area and wanted to show me his old haunts. Along the way we saw plenty of cool graffiti:

Plus, cactus leaves for sale!

Mission Dolores Basilica

We also had time to visit the Mission Dolores Basilica, which even after six years of living in the Bay Area, I never visited. The stained glass was beautiful:

And the garden out back was lovely:

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La Taqueria

After all that walking, we got hungry again and stopped at this awesome place in the Mission. I got a quesadilla, but it was way bigger than I expected, and I only finished half. Yiannis, on the other hand, plowed through three tacos and three (count ‘em) THREE beverages:

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Not judging.


The drive out took longer than expected because of the traffic. I loved seeing another part of the area. It was beautiful in a way but quite dry of course due to the drought.

The ceremony was scheduled to start at four, and we got there at 4:20. D’oh! Luckily for us, they were having a late start, as a lot of weddings do, and we didn’t miss a thing.

It was an absolutely beautiful day. Instead of cloudy and foggy, it was sunny and warm-ish for a change. During the ceremony I saw a hummingbird hover over a pot of flowers. Later Yiannis’s friend said she saw one land on their archway as she and her wife took their vows.

The hors d’oeuvres were yummy and I enjoyed half a glass of chardonnay, and half a glass of champagne, as evinced by my red face:

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Everyone I talked to was delightful, especially Yiannis’s friend, but except for this drunk woman who cornered us and proceeded to tell the same story about ten times in a row, and kept insisting that Yiannis go to her house for a home-cooked Mexican meal despite his saying that he was leaving early the next morning.

But all in all, it was such a lovely wedding, and such a nice visit with my friend.

Jan 15

Living alone and liking it: Weekend haunts

I’ve mentioned before this past year has been the first time I’ve really been on my own in a city where I don’t know too many people. So I’ve had to learn a whole new level of independence.

Part of that is developing my own routines. During the work week it’s easy. I go to work, I come home, I work out (sometimes). Weekends and holidays are more of a challenge. Sure, I write and hit the gym, but that doesn’t take the whole day.

While I’m sure Oakland has a lot to offer, what I’ve been doing is going into San Francisco to tool around, even if just for a few hours.

Getting there

I’m one of those weird people (weird at least in California) who doesn’t have a car. So what I do is walk the 2+ miles to the BART station. Going there isn’t bad since it’s all downhill, but that means of course it’s uphill coming back, and I usually have a backpack of heavy groceries. At least it’s really good exercise.

Westfield San Francisco Centre

It probably seems ridiculous to come here when I have all of SF to explore. But it’s easy to get to from the BART, it has some good food, and you know what they say: you can take the girl out of the mall, but you can’t take the mall out of the girl.

I’ll usually get lunch at Ajisen Ramen, which is a chain but still pretty good:

After running some errands, I might treat myself to a red velvet ice cream from Cako (delish) and get reflective at the reflecting pool at the Yerba Buena Arts Center,  which I’ve mentioned is one of my favorite places in SF:


Another one of my favorite SF haunts. For lunch I like to eat at either Suzu Noodle House or New Korea House:

New Korea House is a little overpriced, but at least you get all those yummy sides and delicious sujeonggwa, a kind of cold cinnamon drink, afterward.

Another one of my favorite Japantown hangouts is YakiniQ Cafe. They have free wifi so it’s a great place to work, although it does get jampacked on the weekends. Their macarons are pretty but meh. I do however love their honey yuzu tea. So refreshing, especially after salty bowl of ramen or mandu guk.

Sometimes when I’m feeling extra generous, I’ll treat myself to a movie at the Sundance Kabuki. It’s my favorite theater in the Bay Area, between the reserved seating, nice environment, gourmet level snacks, and quality movies.

Dec 14

San Mateo Japanese Garden: A little getaway

I’ve been working in San Mateo for a few years now, and I’ve grown to really like it.

Less than 30 minutes away on the CalTrain, it has a surprising amount going for a little town. For instance it has tons of great places to eat, like Curry Up Now for modern Indian street food plus yummy cocktails; Sozai Corner for excellent — and cheap — Japanese curry; Saigon City for really good pho; and much more.

But one of my favorite places has to be the Japanese garden.

Less than a five-minute walk from my office, I head out there when I want to stretch my legs, convene with nature, clear my head, get some peace, or all of the above.

I love seeing the different birds, like a mother duck with her babies —

A snowy egret:

And a kingfisher:

When I was dealing with relationship stuff, I’d come here every day. I’d walk, listen to the water, and watch the birds, trying to figure things out, and then after I realized there was nothing to figure out, to get past it all.

It’s a place I’ll really miss.

Oct 14

The little things

Sometimes it’s the little things that keep you going.

A yummy mocha at your go-to weekend breakfast spot.

A hearty breakfast at said same breakfast spot.

Post-movie spicy ramen.

Pink-tinged clouds at dusk.

A moment to reflect.

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.


Sep 14

A visit to Muir Woods and Marin

Being on the west coast has given me the chance to connect with friends I might not have if living back east. My college roommate in Seattle, for instance, and this weekend, another old classmate.

We weren’t exactly friends in college, but we hung around the same circles. We reconnected via Facebook (as seems to be the norm nowadays) and decided to get together since we live so close by.

This classmate is someone I wish I had been friends with back in school. He’s very smart, sensitive, and funny (and also gay so don’t get any bright ideas). It’s great that we’re able to get to know each other know.

He was kind enough to suggest a drive out to Muir Woods and Marin. I’ve been to Marin before many years ago on a family trip, but I’ve never been to Muir Woods. It was lovely walking through the trees:

Out at Muir Beach Overlook, the sun over the water was breathtaking:

We also stopped to look at the Golden Gate Bridge:

We chatted as though we’ve known each other for years. There are just some people with whom you have that connection. It was nice to feel that connection, and to have a chance to get in some nature as well.

Jan 14

Social for a change

To be honest, since moving to San Francisco, I haven’t made that many friends. It’s mostly my own fault. When I was in a relationship, I didn’t feel the need for more than a couple of bus. Plus I’m also a shy person. So when a classmate from my krav maga school invited me out for a drive to the beach, I was glad.

She had a friend in tow, this guy who runs ultramarathons. What’s an ultramarathon, you may be asking? It’s a marathon but way longer. We’re talking 50 miles. Running 50 miles in one sitting. Yeah. No thanks.

Before heading out to the water, we stopped for bubble tea and fried snacks at this place in the Richmond District. I don’t get out to that part of town much. Too bad since that’s where all the really good — and cheap — Asian restaurants are.

We got to the water just as the sun was setting.

Needless to say it was absolutely beautiful. But also freezing. That’s the thing about San Francisco. During the day it’ll be warm, but as soon as the sun sets: freezeville.

When we got too cold, we left for Xi’An Gourmet in Inner Richmond where we were meeting my classmate’s other friends. One of them was another crazy marathon runner, although instead of ultramarathons, she runs regular ones a few times a month. Like, she’ll fly to other cities just to run a marathon. Nutso.

Despite all the crazy running, she and the ultramarathoner were impressed my classmate and I do martial arts. We took that opportunity to show off our various injuries, scabbed knuckles for me (from punching incorrectly, admittedly) and general bruising for her.

It was fun being social for a change, especially over delicious noodles and dumplings.

Jul 13

Moving Stress

StressAs some of you may know, I’m moving to Oakland. This Wednesday. Eek.

The truth is I’d rather stay in San Francisco, specifically my area. So many things are walking distance – Whole Foods, three small grocery stores, a million restaurants, Union Square, Japantown, the movie theater, my gym, my krav maga place. There are lots of buses, and while the 1.8 miles to the CalTrain is a bit of a schlep, I’ve grown to enjoy it.

But all of that means something else: high rent.

If you haven’t heard, rent in San Francisco has gone bonkers. The median price of a one-bedroom in my area is over $2,700. My rent is lower than that, but not by much and I have a feeling for not much longer. We just got a notice in the mail that the management company wants to do a lot of repairs on the building, which is good, but that means even higher rent. And because of tenants’ rights in SF, I know mine is the highest in the building.

Back in 2009, I looked at a beautiful one-bedroom in Russian Hill for $1,900. The same place is probably over $3,000 now, and $1,900 will get you a shitty studio. I know: I’ve looked. Having lived in one-bedrooms for years, I can’t bring myself to live in a studio or have a roommate. (NO WAY.) Hence, the move to Oakland.

Originally, the idea was for me to get to know the East Bay to see if I wanted to buy a place there. However, that’s been put on hold and I’m tremendously relieved. My parents would rather take their time fixing up their house before selling, and I, quite frankly, don’t feel like buying anything. So that makes the idea of moving Oakland even harder, what with a longer commute and living in a location that is, while beautiful, not so conveniently located if you don’t have a car.

Teaches me to make decisions right after a break-up.

I realize It could be that I’m just stressed about the move itself and once that’s done, the commute and other stuff won’t be that big of a deal. But part of me wonders if I shouldn’t have gotten a place near my job. The rent is cheaper and getting to work would be a breeze. On the other hand, the places don’t seem as nice as my new one in Oakland. Ditto the $3,000 and under SF one-bedrooms that I looked at on Craigslist out of curiosity. In fact, they seemed shitty and definitely not worth over $2,000.

So all of that makes me feel better about my new apartment. Other upsides include very affordable rent and a really pretty place that is bigger than my current one, in much better condition, and with lots more storage space. It’s also quieter – the apartments are carpeted and I’m on the top floor so now more Frankenstein neighbors walking around in their shoes on hardwood – and has a gorgeous view with a little deck that can fit a small table and chairs. I love imagining waking up in the morning and gazing out at rolling green hills and having my coffee and breakfast outside.

Okay, I just convinced myself. Now here’s hoping switching over Comcast will be half as easy.

[Photo: “Stress,” CC BY 2.0 by Bernard Goldbach]