Auld Lang Syne

As I was clearing out the garage this weekend, I came across three bottles of wine I hadn’t realized was there. Fortunately, they were still quite drinkable (our garage isn’t as constantly cool as our basement.)

I also came some greeting cards and postcards I received in my college/early working years. Some of the people with whom I was close and hung out with from that era, I have lost touch with them, or our relationship has become less close due to distance. Some folks – I had completely forgotten about their existence!

Does anyone send postcards anymore? Yet while I recycled all the Christmas cards with their banal messages, I kept the postcards. I guess it’s the travel-holic in me. I always like to know where people go.

In that pile were two postcards, both from Dave/David. One was sent from Japan, the other from Thailand.Neither of them had signed their last names. And interestingly enough the one from Thailand had some Thai written on it, which David wrote he was learning.

Seeing handwriting today makes me feel like I’m looking at a quaint museum artifact. We may write emails and text each other today as much we wrote letters back them, but in the impersonal pixels of type, the individual stamp from forming letters by hand is lost. That loss is a little sad. And I guess no one makes “Your handwriting is so illegible, you should have been a doctor” jokes anymore.

I used to instantly identifying notes from different people by their handwriting, even before I looked at the names of the sender. You can get a sense of what people’s personalities are like from their handwriting.

I looked at the handwriting, which was a little different between the two postcards. But I could only remember one David (‘Loutz’) amongst my acquaintance from those days with whom I’m still in contact. I couldn’t imagine why Loutz would have been learning Thai.

I took a snapshot of each postcard and emailed it to Loutz. “Did you send me these? I only knew one Dave back then.”

photo 2 (6)

“What, there are lots of Dave’s born in the 1960s/early 70s one of the most popular names…where have you been! :)”

Loutz had indeed sent the one from Japan. Loutz had also been to Thailand also, but didn’t remember learning Thai.

How awful! I could not remember knowing another David . . .

Then I suddenly realized who the second David was. It was the French guy. He was at Cal as a foreign student, but was about to go work in Rayong, Thailand for a year or two, in lieu of participating in the French military draft, or something like that. Like Loutz, he had also lived in I-House. I guess he had sent me the postcard after he arrived in Thailand

I got to know David the French guy when he contacted the Thai students club, to see if anyone was interested in doing a French-Thai conversation exchange. He wanted to learn some Thai before he arrived in Thailand.

So we would meet weekly at the café on the corner of Oxford and Center. He learnt some Thai, and I brushed up on my French, even though I didn’t have any immediately use for it. It was a lot of fun talking about different cultures and people. It’s one of those everyone should try it at least once during their college years. And I guess it slightly made up for the fact that I never did study abroad stint, which I so regret now.

It was though these café meetings that I acquired the very European taste of drinking fizzy mineral water. (Calistoga was still being bottled.) I didn’t want to drink coffee at night.

Unfortunately, I still can’t remember David the French guy’s last name, although I remember that the name of his street in his hometown in Brittany was named after a pirate: Surcouf. It was such a funny detail that it has stuck in my head. I wonder what he’s doing now. (I mean David. The pirate is long dead.)

That was the year that I had different people read poetry in their native language for the lagniappe compilation. David read a short French fable/poem about the fox who tricked the crow into dropping the cheese. I got Truc to read a Vietnamese lullaby. My mom read 黃鶴樓送孟浩然之廣陵 by Li Bai. Prinya Pinying read a Thai poem, Carlos Castellanos read something by Pablo Neruda. And maybe Nancy Ding read an Akiko Yosano tanka? This was when the lagniappes were still in cassette tape form, so they may all be lost now.

Maybe one copy of the tape will turn up as a flashback surprise, like the three bottles of wine and postcards I excavated from the garage.


Small things (Cositas)

We’re in Popayan right now, another college town, that’s also full of colonial buildings, and good snacks.  I’m so behind in writing about all the smaller towns we’ve visited. (We generally like smaller towns and cities, which is why we skipped Cali.) We’re staying in a hostel next to the Cathedral that’s a converted 100 year old mansion, overlooking the main square.

In fact as I’m writing this, I can hear singing (Mass) in the Cathedral next door. This balances out the (1) 2 nights in the Salento hostel across from the cemetary before this and (2) 2 nights in the Manizales hostel called Kumanday before that. I think Kumanday is an indigenous word, and probably not supposed to be pronounced “Come and die.”

I also wanted to write about the small things, everyday life and the quirks of travel in Colombia. (I know T is sick of hearing out this country, but we’re near the southern tip and will soon be in Ecuador!)

Dishwashing paste, not liquid:

Since we’re staying in hostels with kitchen facilities, the common courtesy/practice is to wash whatever cups and dishes you use after you’re done. Instead of a bottle of liquid dishwashing liquid, the stuff comes in a plastic tub (like a sour cream container) as a wet paste. You swipe some paste with your sponge and wash, it doesn’t foam up much, but has a slight scouring powder to it. I actually like it more than the dishwashing liquid at home. Although I haven’t used enough of it to gauge whether it softens my hands while I do the dishes like Palmolive. Although in this photo, it advertises the inclusion of aloe vera (presumably to soften your hands.)


Milk and yogurt and water in a bag:

Milk and yogurt can be purchased  in larger, family sized quantities in a plastic bag (you just snip the corner off, and pour.) There are plastic holders with a handle you can buy for your kitchen in which you place the bag of milk or yogurt for easy pouring. I guess a plastic bag is cheaper than a plastic jug or bottle or lidded tub, and might use slightly up slightly less resources. I remember in Bangkok in the mid 70’s, you could buy Thai-Danish Dairy Farm milk in a bag too (the type that had to be refrigerated, not the shelf-stable at room temperature type)

Presentation of cutlery:


When eating at a restaurant, there are no fork/spoons/knives at the place settings for the table. Rather, you order your food, and then the waiter will bring a little plastic tray (shaped rather like the reusable plastic hot dog holders back in the US) with the appropriate spoons, knives, forks, and napkins (and little packets of ketchup or salad dressing). I wonder if this custom started because most restaurants don’t have too much cutlery in stock, or if they are afraid customers will steal them if there are too many lying around. (Off tangent: My grandfather used to own a restaurant in Canton, with two innovations:  ivory chopsticks for the customers, who kept stealing them; and pretty, well-trained waitresses, who kept getting poached by other restaurants or by men to become their girlfriends, I can’t remember which. Grand-dad didn’t stay long in the restaurant business.)

Tailpipe pollution:

I’ve raved about the public transportation infrastructure, and even all the highway roads we’ve been on have been pretty good. But the smell of tailpipe fumes is pervasive, and it’s quite common to see belches of black smoke from all types of buses. (Mom, when you come, definitely bring your little nose/mouth mask).  Even when you’re sitting inside the bus with open windows, you can smell it. If you’re in a city with narrow streets, especially in the historical/colonial neighbourhoods, the fumes also smell a bit strong. Maybe after I’ve been here longer, I’ll get used to it again.


When we were hiking down the Rock (La Piedra) near Guatape, kids were doing wheelies with their motor scooters on the ramp up to the parking lot. (It reminded me of Biker riding his bike in the 4-level parking garage ramp of our grandmother’s apartment when we were kids.)   Like many other developing countries, motorcycles are really popular here, not only for getting around in the city but around in the countryside, and people use it for longer road trips (really like Che Guevara back in the Motorcycle Diaries.) (Motorcycle helmets often have the license plate number on them as well. We’ve met a few travellers travelling by motorcycle. Some of the more horrible bus rides have me fantasizing about travelling by motorcycle: more flexibility in schedule and destinations not well served by buses, and maybe les car-sickness for me in the windy roads of these mountainous areas.  Yes, motorcycles as an alternative to buses, although all my cycling friends would be horrified/scandalized and persuade me to get a Bike Friday instead. . .

Burnt toast fantasies:

The first and worst bus ride we were on (so far): 18 hours overnight in a luxury, air con bus with reclining seats . . . unfortunately we didn’t know what we were doing and didn’t request specific seats. We ended sitting next to the toilet at the back. At first it smelled like artificial air-freshener, which I find nauseating, and then as more people used the toilet, it smelled more, well, organic. Either way, it was bad. I started fantasizing about the smell of burnt toast. I thought about strategies to combat smells for the next such bus-ride. Maybe I would buy a box of baking soda, or pulverized charcoal.  (Unfortunately, Joe doesn’t like the smell of Tiger Balm, otherwise I would be sniffing it the whole ride long, other passengers be damned. Or else, I would simply sit a few seats away from him.)  It was enough to make me wish that smoking was permitted on the bus! The other torture for me was that we were seated over the rear axle, so it felt bumpier, and each curve of the road accentuated my car-sickness. Plus the bus had to detour to a longer, alternate route, on a minor road, I think there was some sort of strike going on; the trip normally was supposed to take 12 hours. The only way I made it without getting sick was to try and sleep, because every waking movement was nauseating.  That’s when I had to set the imagination of my nose to smell burnt toast.  And now I prefer smaller buses that have no toilets.

Pre-toasted toast


In Colombia (and perhaps other parts of Latin America, we shall see) you can buy bags of commercial brands of pre-toasted bread, called ‘tostada’. They’re square, white bread, rather thick, slightly smaller than Taiwanese toast, and dry and crunchy straight out of the bag. I like them now, although I found the concept a bit odd, at first. Maybe it’s because electric pop-up toasters aren’t very common/popular around here. I haven’t encountered one yet.

At one of the hostels we stayed at, there was toast provided for breakfast, and it was heated in a tonged/grill contraption over the gas stove, and was unevenly toasted. This was a couple of days before the awful bus ride, which was why the memory of slightly burnt toast was such a Proustian panacea.

Blenders and parts:

Back home it’s hard to buy spare parts for coffee makers and  blenders.  We have a French press, a nd whenever the glass beaker breaks, it’s a pain to get a replacement.  Likewise, many people probably own blenders, but don’t use them very much. Maybe once in a while, people make margaritas or smoothies. Here, blenders are ubiquitous: everyone drinks fruit juices which they make themselves at home, or buy on the streets and shops.  You can easily find replacement parts everywhere, the four-prong rotator, the lids, etc.  I’ve seen hawker vendors selling blender parts. I think that’s why the typical Colombian diet is actually balanced, because even if the meal has very little vegetables, and more starch and protein, most people consume a lot of fruit through juices. We met a Colombian who travelled to the US Midwest for a couple of weeks, and he was unhappy with/not used to the lack of fruits/fruit juices in America.

Hot water heater

“So I have to ask….have you had any encounters with those crazy Colombian electric showers?  I really think they’re unique to Colombia, as I’ve never encountered them anywhere else, but could be wrong.” Brad emailed me – he’d been to Cartagena before.   I will let you know after I go to a few more South American countries. But in general, there’s hot water at most of the hostels we’re staying at and Joe posted a picture on instagram.

The shower head-water heater in-one does plug into the electric socket that’s high up on the wall and the ceiling, which has made me slightly nervous about ‘will I get electrocuted?’  It’s overhead, so having a shower cap is handy. They also take some finesse to use, since there is limited heating capacity (which may lower risk of electrocution), the water only feels warm when you don’t turn on the water for too high a volume. Then the temperature is a bit variable, sometimes it feels like it runs out of hot water, and then reduces to almost no water before it’s heated up another batch of water to drizzle down on you. The minor inconveniences of travel. So far, we are keeping clean, at least!

Virgin Mary shrines at bus stations and airports


There’s always a little shrine to Virgin Mary (or Jesus) at bus stations, airports, and even on highways, where people can go pray, and light a candle for a safe journey. And/or maybe the bus drivers pray to her to protect them occupational hazards!  It reminds me of the spirit houses on every property in Thailand, but whereas the spirit house houses the guardian spirit of the property, and is tied to a fixed location; the Virgin Mary is the go-to gal when you are traveling between fixed locations and need someone to protect you in transit.

No rubber bands:

It’s very odd, but I don’t think I’ve encountered any rubber bands since I’ve been here. Adhesive tape and staples, yes.  Rubber bands, no.  I have yet to see rubber bands in the continent from which rubber originated, other than the ones I brought along with me from the US. It’s odd, because in Thailand, rubber bands are an integral part of the packaging of so many snacks and take-out foods one buys. Here, you can buy all sorts of snacks and take-out foods, but no rubber bands are involved with the packaging. Rubber bands are useful for (1) if you buy a packet of snacks, and want to secure the package after you open it, you use a rubber band; (2) having a rubber band around your wallet gives it a slight amount of friction that makes you more aware if someone is trying to pickpocket your wallet. This is Joe’s strategy, but the rubber bands keep breaking over time, and I’m running low on rubber bands for him. Small-time vendors seal bags of peanuts with the fold-over a metal ruler and heat with a candle method.

Police presence:

As tourists you welcome it, at home you’d be put off by it.  At the concert for the opening of the Feria de las Flores, which was on a closed off street, blocked off by mobile fences, everyone had to their ID checked, and was frisked.  The men had one set of entrances, to be frisked by male police officers. There were corresponding women police officers frisking before the women at the women’s entrance. It was rather ticklish.  The Policia Nacional also have a band (like USO?) that performed at the beginning concert, and was pretty well received.

The Policia Nacional have some positive PR domestically by running one of the most popular radio stations in the country, that plays popular music. (I don’t know if they have a lot of preachy/propaganda service announcements or not.)


Colombia is still grappling with eradication of cocaine production. As producers have moved to more remote areas to escape detection, they are also polluting pristine environments, as it take a lot of chemicals to process cocaine. So one way they are appealing to people not use cocaine is that in buying cocaine, you are helping those who are destroying the environment. I wonder how effective it is?

(***My niece the library blogger, and your brother: ADVISORY- You are recommended to not read the rest of this post! ***)

Busty mannequins


The mannequins we’ve seen in the smaller clothing stores seem to be built to different specifications than those in the US or Asia. They look like at least a D cup.

Love motels:


They exist mainly at obscure spots on highways in the outskirts of town, but mainly for unmarried couples who are dating, but each live at home with their families, so they need to find privacy elsewhere. (Having a motorcycle is helpful.)  I’m guessing they are less used for paid companionship.

Sex with minors:

I guess it’s a problem on a large scale. We’ve seen warning signs in both high-end and lower end hotels:  IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE: In accordance with the provisions of Article 17 of Act 679 of 2001, this agency warns tourists that the sexual abuse and/or exploitation of minors in Colombia is subject to criminal and administrative sanctions under existing law.

At one of the hostels we stayed at, we heard the owner ticking off an guest who’d brought in an overnight guest, not because an extra person stayed for free, but because of the ‘minor’ issue. I think the hostel guest had gone clubbing the night before and met someone on the dance floor and continued things to a logical conclusion. But a high proportion of Colombia’s population is young, and it’s hard to tell people’s ages here. (Sometimes I wonder how old people around here think we are!)

Ruam Mit

A) I went to farmer’s market today. There was a bike parked next to the spot I was about to take. Of course I couldn’t help notice:

1) blue Bianchi frame (road)
2) fixed gear – but it did have brakes
3) Brooks saddle

I wondered what the hipster twit who owned the bike was like. (OK, I’m being snarky, but actually I’m a touch envious that he has a Brooks saddle.)

As my luck would have it, he was unlocking his bike when I got back. I was gratified that he turned out to carry a messenger bag in screaming shades of red. . . and pink. I could not have scripted it better, when he said to his companion, an older man. “You know, I just realised that I don’t have a photo of me and my bike,” and handed his camera phone to the other. A few moments of posing, and then checking . . “Oh no, you didn’t quite get it right. Let’s redo..”

At that point I had finished loading my goodies, and had to take off.

Well at least his bag is a safety device that renders him visible. Visibility really is important when you’re biking.

B) I started my new gig a couple of weeks ago. It’s a very meaty assignment, which is good, because I think I’ve missed the intellectual/mental challenge in the past few years. Plus the commute by bike and Caltrain is much more sane.

But it’s also very intense. My initial reaction in the first few days was “This is like whack-a-mole. And it’s crazy that on day one, I already feel like I’m a month behind.” That doesn’t sound too good when I tell people, I think. So my new metaphor for it is, “It’s like having to learn Italian from scratch well enough for a singing role in La Boheme, when all you know is five words of Spanish.” (Once again, I am procrastinating work by blogging!)

The first few days after work, I would be making little groaning noises at the dinner table, because it felt so overwhelming. Joe would say, “Is it that bad?”
“Have any little boys been molested in the process?” (This was at the height of the Sandusky/Penn State/Paterno scandal)
“No . . .”
OK, so this made me put it in bigger perspective, and make me laugh just a little. But another little groan would involuntarily emit itself a few minutes later.

My landing is somewhat cushioned by the fact that I’ve worked there before several years ago, so I know the cast of characters there, who are good to work with.

My role is essentially to be a stunt double for someone who’s assigned to another project temporarily. She started work at the agency right before I left, so I didn’t work with her much directly before. Her boss (the director) moved over to lead that project, so she also has a stunt double, who is my new boss, and relatively new to the agency.

In real life my counterpart and I are both Asian women with shoulder length hair, such that we could pass off as each other without too much work in hair/make-up, if we really were making a movie. My new boss, however, looks nothing like the original director – coincidentally another Asian woman with shoulder length hair – he actually looks and reminds me of Loutz, of running and ice cream fame.

C) Talking about music: I’m such a stick in the mud I don’t really seek out new music, much less seek it out. Everything I listen to is composed or sung by someone who’s dead, or probably hooked up to a breathing machine. Once in serendipitous while, I’ll come across something. Like my sister-in-law giving me a copy of Adele’s “21” recently. It’s really good, though I did the math when I heard her cover of the Cure’s “Lovesong” and realised she hadn’t been born yet when the original was a hit.

Or I’ll discover new music . . . by watching “The Simpsons” in syndication. I came across a recent episode that had these two drolls guys do a musical-style episode, googled them and voila, I have discovered Flight of the Conchords! Right now they’re auditioning for me, courtesy of the CDs I have checked out from the library. If they pass, I shall march down to the local Rasputin’s (which is going out of business) and purchase my own copies of the CDs. I can’t burn copies of the library’s, because there’s some skips.

Their songs seem to be crafted to appeal to my age-group. ‘Foux de fafa’ would be a Serge Gainsbourg song with lyrics lifted from my high-school French textbook. ‘Inner City Pressure’ is an homage to the Pet Shop Boys. ‘Business Time’ is a tribute to Barry White.

Cool . . . .

D) Hope you had a good Thanksgiving, with your turkey being as good as the side dishes.
We just got back from Thanksgiving in San Diego. It was excellent in a Groundhog Day way: the repasts and the days themselves repeats of prior Thanksgivings. (My only regret was that there was no Minnesota salad.)

The day before Thanksgiving, we had lunch at the Chicken Pot Pie place, complete with the ‘daily vegetable’ which always and forever is the frozen medley of corn, carrots, peas and lima beans; followed by a stop to the cemetery to bring flowers to the grandparents, and then swinging by Tom’s (Chinese) BBQ for a hunk of roast pork, a whole roast duck and a whole steamed chicken. (And it’s really good, even by SF standards.)

Thanksgiving itsef was pork congee for brekafast, fried rice for lunch, and dinner crowned by a juicy turkey and home-made cha-siu. My in-laws don’t believe in abbreviating the three square meals, even for Thanksgiving. Routine is a good thing, in this case.

I’ve been here, sort of

One of my buddies point blank asked me why I hadn’t been blogging. Errrr . . . I don’t have a headline excuse, just a million little cheesey ones. There have been little things I wanted to blog about, but never got around to.

Here’s a random sampling:

Kaylie and Riley (and their parents) came up for their first visit to the Bay Area: About time, long overdue! My niece is 9 and my nephew is 5. They came up for Kaylie’s gymnastics meet. We took one day to cram in a tour of San Francisco: a cable car ride, the Cable Car museum, Fisherman’s Wharf, Ghiradelli Square, Chinatown, Golden Gate Bridge and Beach Chalet. The kids were such troopers: we walked them so much, and they never complained, although we did give them little piggy back rides in the afternoon. We had to save the Academy of Sciences, Angel Island, and their future alma mater, UC Berkeley for next time. I also learnt that I should have gotten a night-light.

Actually, the most memorable part of their visit was taking them to dinner at a Japanese restaurant in downtown Mountain View, and then taking the light rail home. Joe and I timed it such that we would hang out in the bookstores a bit, and then have time to walk sedately to the light rail station. However, they discovered the gleeful joy of tearing down the Castro Street sidewalk and stepping on every single manhole cover (i.e. water, gas, etc). We ended up getting to the station 9 minutes before the train was due to leave. “How much longer before the train starts?” asks Riley. “3 minutes,” I said. Another two minutes goes by. “How much longer before the train starts?” asks Riley again, after we’ve played several rounds of patty-cake. “3 minutes.” “That’s what you said 5 minutes ago.” Ah, kids . . .

‘Bugs on Broadway’ at the Symphony: Last Friday, Joe and I went to the SF Symphony. Once every couple of years, they have this show as part of the Summer Pops, where they show Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies cartoons onscreen, and the orchestra plays in accompaniment. (The last time they had this on was when Chris and Tom got married. We wanted to go, but couldn’t, because it was the same night at their rehearsal dinner, or wedding reception. “I want to go,” said Tom, only to be given a ‘look’ by Chris, hah hah!)

It actually wasn’t that good of a show, the orchestra didn’t really play in accompaniment much, except to the familiar credits theme song. And the pieces they do play as part of the cartoon are the more obscure pieces of classical music. Apparently it’s like a little franchised show done by these two guys, who are going to retire this ‘Bugs on Broadway’ edition (milked it enough) and start a new version called “Bugs at the Symphony” or something like that.

Oh blessed nature: We really didn’t plant too much this summer in the garden. And the tomatoes are not doing well, one or two got hit by rust. But the spring broccoli are still going. I cut down most of the artichokes, but one still popped up.
We got a whole bunch of volunteers from the compost heap that is buried in one corner of the garden, where I also planted some rasberrry canes. There’s a mystery squash/winter melon we don’t recognize; three tomato plants, a fava bean and some other bean. I took out all the sunchoke sproutlings. At the rate we’re going, most of the stuff will really bloom when we go on our August vacation.

The pitfalls of the excesses of success. The most stressful part of work was organizing a half-day conference. It was the first time we’d done this. “What if no one shows up?” We looked at each other, during event planning. Manager takes a deep breath. “If at least 15 people RSVP, we won’t cancel.”

Turns out we needn’t have worried. Because (1) it was free, (2) half-day, so people didn’t feel bad about taking a whole day off from work, (3) Oakland is centrally located within the Bay Area and very-transit-accessible. We were oversubscribed. We actually had to ask the fire department how to calculate the exact maximum capacity for the conference room. The stress for me was maintaining the waiting list and RSVP list. We had people wanting to come from Merced, Santa Rosa, Sacramento and Monterey. I really, really hate having to say no to people. But the event itself turned out really well.

Car sponge bath: California is the midst of a drought, overshadowed by our budget issues. We don’t have a lawn, and we don’t really wash our cars much. But one day my car got sprayed by bird poop while parked at the BART station. Literally polka-dotted. I had to do something about it. I decided to sponge bath the car. Basically, you fill a bucket with water, take some rags, wet, wipe, and then rinse rag in the bucket of water. I was so cheap’n’lazy I didn’t even use soap, because that would require ‘rinsing’ wipes. No hosing. But I did change the bucket of water a few times, when it got really, really, scary dark.

I got this idea from the private car chauffeurs in Bangkok when I was growing up. They usually keep a rag, a bucket and a long feather duster, with a bungee cord in the trunk of their car. While they’re waiting for their bosses at some 2 hour lunch meeting, the chauffeur will dust the car, and/or get some water to sponge-bath the car while they’re waiting.

Dice know how

We went down to San Diego for Thanksgiving. My 4th-grade niece showed me a neat trick I did not know of before. If you roll a dice: the number on the bottom of the dice is 7 minus the number on the face of the dice. So if you roll and get a 5, the number on the bottom will be a 2.

It’s a series of weird coincidences, but it seems like every other time we go to San Diego, there’s some major disaster going on that glues us to cable TV news. We were in SD during the tsunami and Katrina, and now the Mumbai attacks. It’s sad everytime you see images on TV of violence and mayhem of a place you’ve visisted and remember “I was there before.” We stayed at the Oberoi Towers (I think it’s called Trident now?)

Not quite a disaster, but also critical is the closure of the Bangkok airports. It just so happens my parents are in Hong Kong, along with some other relatives; stranded, and unable to go back to Bangkok until who knows when? What a surreal mess.

Been a while

Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve posted. It’s been so long that wordpress up and changed the mgmt interface on me.

What have I been doing? Lots of frittering of time that adds up to nothing. Work kept me busy. Trip – planning (summer: Japan and East Coast road trip) kept me excited (it’s also a big time suck!) And there were lots of ‘tiny moments’ I would have shared on this blog had I not been so inert.

Thai fruit: Bought some fresh mangosteens in Chinatown for $9 a lb. They were OK, except they were pre-bagged, and so you got some bad ones with the good. Marcella gave me three bananas off her tree: they taste just like kluay nam wah, which I really miss about Thailand. “I had to climb up the tree and wrap the bananas in a towel over the winter,” she said.

Garden: We had peas, are eating artichokes (and some ants), and put in the summer crop: tomatoes, squash, beans, basil, eggplant. The kale and chard are still there.

Farmer’s market: The stone fruits: cherry, apricots and first peachs have arrived.

Vanity and shoes: I bought a really cool looking pair of shoes: pointy toed, high heeled in olive and cinnabar, on sale. Now I have to break them in (the heel chafes), and get used to walking in high heels. (I’ve always been in flats for comfort). So after dinner, I actually go fo a walk around the block in the new shoes to break them in. I don’t think they’ll ever be as comfortable as I had hoped when I bought them. Trying them on in the shoe store doesn’t really give you enough of a test-drive.

I’ve figured out my feet hurt when the toes are squeezed into pointy-ish toed high heeled shoes: which is this new pair, and another pair of nice black shoes I bought and wore once to a wedding. My step-mom used to give me grief about wearing sneakers all the time, “your feet will become flat and wide.” Part of me now wishes I had worn pointy high heels a little more when I was younger to build up the stamina/practice. Because nowadays, I like looking at cool high heeled shoes, but I can’t realy wear/buy 90% of the shoes I’m attracted to, because I wouldn’t be able to walk in them. Hence, most of my shoes are flat . . . and distinctively funky.

Vanity and hair: I got a haircut recently. I think finally, after how many years, it’s worked out that my hairstylist gives me a style/cut that I like and works for me. The irony is: he’ll blow dry and style my hair a certain way after the haircut. But that’s the last time my hair will look that ‘groomed’, until my next visit to him. Because in my real life, I wash and go and my hair will do its own little thing and it looks completely different. So I wonder: does my hairstylist know that my hair will end up looking how it does on its own, which is completely different from how it looks when I walk away from his shop? Or would he be surprised to see how it turns out? Or he probably doesn’t even worry about it.

Did I see ‘Shopping for Fangs’ with you?

I’d revisited ‘Shopping for Fangs’, renting it from Netflix. I’d first seen it when it was at the Asian-American Filmfest back in 1997. I don’t have a good memory, but the intriguing characters have always stayed with me: the blonde waitress with sunglasses and the contrasting subservient mousy wife. It featured John Cho (I noticed him in this movie, and now he’s famous!) The film was also an early work by Quentin Lee and Justin Lin, who is now famous for ‘Better Luck Tomorrow,’, a ‘Fast and the Furious’ movie, and now ‘Finishing the Game.’ It does crib a scene or two from ‘Chungking Express’ and John Woo. But still it’s a nifty little movie.

“I haven’t seen this before,” Joe said.
“You forgot? You’re usually better at remembering . . . ”
At some length into the movie. . . “Nope, I’ve never seen it.”
“You must have seen it with me. Who else would I have seen it with?” OK, that’s a little rhetorical. I used to see movies by myself, but I think this was one I did go see it with someone. This is bugging me a little, so if that person happens to read this, please identify yourself. Thank you!

This weekend I also went to see the Joffrey Ballet in Berkeley with my cousin. (It’s part of an homage series to Twyla Tharp)
I have to confess, I fell asleep during the Beach Boys medley numbers. Which was surprising; you’d think that since the music was familiar and upbeat, it would hold my interest. But then I figured out, the numbers in the beginning and the end had more dancers in it. The numbers in the middle only had a handful of dancers: so the stage was relatively too big. The energy dissipated into the wide empty space. I did like the striking colour-sccheme of the costumes though, women in orange dresses, men with red pants and floral-print shirts.

The subsequent number from ‘Billboards’, with music specifically composed and performed by Prince was riveting. The whole ensemble was on-stage and the energy was electric, more like a Broadway show than a ‘muted’ dance performance. And then I also realised something else: there was quite a variety of body types amongst these Joffrey dancers. Some were shorter, some were even heavier than the typical dancer. Most dance companies select their dancers not only based on talent, but their body build, height, lines, etc, aiming for a uniform look. But like models, dancers’ bodies represent a stylized extreme, not a ‘normal’ human body.

With the Joffrey troupe, it’s nice that they’re more inclusive and have a plurality of physiques. After all, if music is defined by the silences between notes, dance is defined by episodes of suspension in air between the tugs of gravity. Here dancers each deal with gravity differently; it was almost too hard for me to decide or track which dancer was the most interesting to watch!