Tuesday, February 26, 2008

If I were a refugee, I would be a refugee and wouldn't have to worry about failing the nationality test.

In grade school they taught us it was the patriotic thing to do to place one's hand over one's heart when singing the Star Spangled Banner. And midday, after we had had our snacks, we would continue the singing with songs like America The Beautiful.

Why then, didn't anyone ever drill it into us that although there exist those people raised by refugees, if they themselves were born within the 50 U.S. states, we do not call them refugees but American citizens? This, I am sure, was written on some very official scroll during some very official meeting. And if you go to the capital and ask for it, perhaps you can view it, maybe even touch it.

So then, because we learned very well (or for some of us, not so well) our times tables and how to do long division but missed out on other important life lessons, I still find that at first, I am cautious. And when introductions are made, my stomach muscles tighten, and I wait for it. I wait with hope that people will not ask me what my nationality is, that they will understand the grief this causes me because I know that what they really want to know is my ethnic heritage.

When I am feeling defiant, I tell people my nationality is American, and watch as they push on with "No but what ARE you?" and I repeat American until they keep pushing me to the point where I understand my answer is not enough, does not explain away my tan skin and my almond shaped eyes. Then when I tire of this and realize they do not understand what I am trying to say without actually saying it, I finally tell them I'm Cambodian, and they relax, their minds filing me into a neat and tidy box of categories in their head. When I ask them in turn what they are, they will shrug and say "American" because that is all they need to say, because that is enough for them to be in a whole, united way, a true citizen of this blessed nation.

This does cause me some anguish, but when they pass the first screener question and correctly ask me my ethnicity, I release my stomach muscles and breathe a sigh of relief, they have passed! But then when they're next question is to ask me if I was born in Cambodia, that it must not be possible for a Cambodian looking and seeming woman to have possibly been born in a temperate, Northern Californian city, that it is beyond them to think of me speaking English for as long as I can remember, I exhale and again my stomach muscles go taut.

For purple mountain majesties, when will my answers be enough?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Combine sandwiches and grassy lawns for one good picnic.

Staking out our picnic spot.

How we do like columns.

What a nice sweater.

Every backyard should have this wash basin.

Then we could all take pictures like this.

Can you imagine throwing a party on this lawn?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Finding truth in an R. Kelly song

We fill the day's hours moving and shaking, shaking and moving. Some days are filled with more moving and shaking than others. Some days we partake in activities within specific hours: the Bewitching hour, the Twilight hour and for those seeking escape from the 9-5 grind, there is nightly corporate flight to Happy hour.

Happening far too often for my own tastes, I endure episodes of my own personal Un-Happy Hour, The Bruno Hour. It happens with a type of careless haphazardness, after the voice of vodka overcrowds and makes itself heard but before the crowds from closed bars and clubs have finished digesting their late night, post-drinking meals (usually within the timeframe of 1:00 a.m. and 2:30 a.m.).

This "hour," although termed an hour, can actually be as brief as 20 minutes of condensed communication bursts or can last for up to a few hours. It is not marked by any one thing, as a new approach is often taken each time. These range from his playing the innocent, to the aggressive, to the harassing, to the pleading, to the bargaining, in text message form. These days it is mostly text messages.

As annoying as it had been, it stayed mostly at that, weekly annoyances from someone trying to make contact with me whom I did not want to be contacted by. This changed one recent night when I was sound asleep and was awoken by a series of the Bruno phone calls. The first thing I felt most bitterly, almost violently, was that I had been needlessly awoken when I had just a moment ago been sound asleep. Of my basic, instinctual urges, sleep holds the top spot in my list of priorities. When I don't get enough sleep, when things prevent me from getting my complete fill of this nourishment, I have a tendency to become extremely unpleasant. And Bruno had so rudely come crashing in that night with cymbals and triangles ringing.

This was when something inside me threw its hands up and I wondered, even in my sleep-doused state, Won't he ever get it??

The next morning, as I listened to the many messages he had left, I pictured Bruno as a two-dimensional print on a piece of paper. And as I deleted the voicemails, one after the other, I pictured cutting him out of the paper... snip, snip, snip, a cut-out of the paper that is my life. Listen, delete, cut. The frustration and anger I felt that night is now replaced with a sense of hope.

I hope that the Bruno Hour episodes are coming to an end. I hope that my silence will speak volumes. And behind this hope lies my new found meaning behind R. Kelly's "When A Woman's Fed Up." If R. Kelly, a man that can put out a hit single time after time but lives a deviant, perverse life (do you really know anyone who would enjoy what he did?), can realize and come to terms with what happens when a woman's fed up, I have good faith that Bruno will too.

Sing it Kels...

"When A Woman's Fed Up" 

But now the up is down
And the silence is sound
Cuz when a woman's fed up
(No matter how you beg, no)
It ain't nothing you can do about it
(Nothing you can do about it)
It's like running out of love
(No matter what you say, no)
And then it's too late to talk about it
(Too late to talk about it)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

If I were a refugee, Fender would need to clarify the expressions I use.

When Fender asks how my Christmas was, and I tell him it was great and that I had a white Christmas, I will have to explain to him that what I meant was that it started snowing on Christmas morning and not that I had some kind of "All-American" Christmas.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Winter wonders

Winter this year brought a week long holiday break from work, a Gresham White Christmas, a scarf, themed-parties and snowshoeing.

On Trillium Loop...

...to Trillium Lake!

Snowshoes from the front.

From the side.


Snow, trees and sky

Snowman face courtesy of my dad.


A White Christmas!

Brrrr! It's cold out here, there must be some snow up in the atmosphere!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Soph n Stan at dinner.

Have you seen us?

Holiday party at Trader Vic's

Sunday, February 10, 2008

1 BR available for rent in chill, spacious 3 BR apt

Having moved 3 times in the past 8 months, I have officially mastered the art of living out of boxes. In fact, when I first moved to San Francisco last June, I lived in an actual box -- a room the size of a converted shower stall. So I consider myself an expert on leading a minimalist lifestyle (so as to fit inside the box), effective packing methods and most importantly now, the picking and choosing of roommates.

If you happen to be in the market for shared housing and find yourself in attendance of an "open house" where you get to check out the place and its current inhabitants and see "if you're a good fit," what you might hear is lots of this:

Current roommate to the roommate prospect: "So what do you do?"

Prospect to current roommates: "What do you guys do for fun?"

Current roommate to the roommate prospect: "Well, there's a cat... so, you'd have to be ok with that. Is that ok?"

Prospect to current roommates: "Do you guys like, hang out? Or do you guys pretty much stay in your rooms?"

And there will be lots of tittering. Do not forget to titter. It is very important to titter if you are to be taken seriously as a candidate for the open room. Especially in San Francisco. Housing is very hard to come by there, so extra tittering may be called for. If you feel things are going particularly well, that the roommates have especially taken to you, feel free to let a chortle loose. Use your good judgement.

Back to the issue of roommate selection. I have learned that this is a very large part of what makes your home life a happy and comfortable one. That and the appliances that are available for use in the kitchen. If your future roommates seem to think the absence of such appliances is a good representation of them sticking it to The Man, but you feel Hot Pockets are the reason for your existence, you should seriously reconsider this living arrangement.

I would advise to skip over questions like "What do you do for a living?" and "Do you cook a lot?" It should be readily apparent if they take hallucinogenic drugs professionally and if they don't appear to look like Dave Chappelle's signature crack addict, then you will come to find out their occupation and what they can cook best later. Other things will start to come out eventually too, but to avoid awkwardness or resentment in the future, I've compiled a list of things you should ask about upfront, before talk of how much the security deposit is.

1) Are all of the roommates living in this dimension? (This question will help ascertain the mental state of the roommate you are currently talking to.)
2) Do any of the other roommates believe that they are living both in this dimension and another one? (This one will help determine the mental states of the other roommates' living in the house.)
3) Have you ever caught a roommate talking out loud to himself or muttering under his breath and then upon being caught, explaining himself with "Don't mind me, I just do that 'cause it helps drone out the voices in my head?"
4) Will the cat wake me up in the middle of the night by throwing its body full force against the bedroom door?
5) Will it stare at me for far too long and much too intently, as if to tell me it's possessed?
5) Will there be long email strings between the roommates from those seeking compensation for knives I never used?
6) If you see an 18-pack of beers in the fridge, and you know you did not buy them, would you drink them all? What if there were a bag of Rice Krispy treats that were not yours... would you eat every last one and when confronted, answer with "I was stoned?"
7) While I am away on vacation, will you let strangers sleep in my bed?
8) While I am away at work, will you let dogs or other animals deposit their feces in my room and on my carpet?
9) Do you normally wear your jacket inside?
10) Is there a reason why it's 62 degrees in here?

I've always considered myself an easy going, easy to get along with roommate, but after looking back at all that's happened, maybe I'm not. Maybe I expect too much, maybe I am too normal, maybe I walk the line of being a boring person too closely. But alas, that is who I am, and maybe if that's you too, you will find this list helpful in your housing search.

If I were a refugee, I would like foods like this...

Sweet, sticky rice with egg custard -- good for the soul.

Everybody loves a steaming hot bowl of pho!

Move over Stove Top... Hello, Cambodian stuffing!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

When you get caught with your pants down...

Striped, large floral, mini floral, cotton, lace-trim, boyshort cut -- anything offering full butt coverage and in a tastefully stylish or pretty pattern are a good pair of panties in my book. Bad day? Buy a pair of underwear! Stressed out? Buy a pair of panties! Celebrating a raise? Buy some skivvys!

It's always been there. This affinity for intimates pushing me to purchase, and always afterwards, the same feeling. A quiet, but full satisfaction knowing that no one would know what undergarment delightfulness lay beneath my jeans except for me.

This enjoyment of cute underwear reached its peak my junior year of college when I lived with my freshmen year, dorm-floor friend Sue. Never before had I met anyone else so into the various patterns and cuts offered by Victoria's Secret Pink collection. This was of endless amusement to the both of us -- each of us rushing into the other's room after scoring some particularly cute ones. We'd reach into the bag, toss aside the pink tissue paper -- so carefully caressing each pair -- and show off our latest goods. It was like show and tell in elementary school, but on another level. Sometimes I would show Sue a pair, and with a fire behind her eyes, she would open her underwear drawer and show me that she had the same exact pair. Then we would ooh and aah over our similar, smashing good tastes.

Later, I came to wonder: what was the driving force behind our infatuation? Surely we did not just love pinks and stripes in comfortable, breathable 100% cotton for no good reason?

The answer came to me last month, after being hit by a Pathfinder while crossing the street. The first thoughts that came to mind were to get out of the road and then to wonder if any bones were broken? was I bleeding? did I need to go to the dr.'s?

Between junior year, graduating college and trying to find the next best thing to Pinkberry in the bay, wearing nice underwear had slipped further and further down on my list of important things to keep track of.

Well, I did go to the dr.'s, riding an ambulance to San Francisco General strapped to some backboard rolly thing. With my eyes practically taped shut and tears streaming down, I could hardly see as I was rushed through the automatic doors. Just like on tv, a doctor began talking to me, the room full of interns and nurses and beeping machines.

I'm Dr. such and such, he said. As he unwrapped my head from the backboard, I was finally able to open my eyes and looked up at the man speaking to me -- a man, as it were, not a day over 29 with perfectly tousled hair, sparking eyes and a wide, easy smile. Was I on the set of Grey's Anatomy? Soap opera-looking dr. aside, I couldn't forget that the reason why I was here was because I had just been struck down by some beastly sized vehicle.

Next came something else I had also seen on TV. Another dr. appeared on my other side, direcly opposite from Mr. McDreamy-wannabe. They explained that they were going to remove my pants and that they'd have to roll me, to check my backside. I was going to be rolled to face the other dr. that just appeared. For about 5 seconds, I forgot about the shock and pain of recent events and my mind focused in on the fact that I had not done laundry in a long while, resulting in my putting on 5-year old underpants that morning with an ungodly hole spanning at least 3" in diameter in the backside. And this is what I thought of as Mr. SoapStar rolled me over to inspect my back and my internal organs.

This was when it became clear to me the motivation behind the panty obsession after all these years -- to avoid being caught with my pants down in an emergency room with a handsome, young doctor inspecting my backside covered by torn and tattered underwear.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Crumpets, pounds and the Crown Jewels: a trip to London

Big Ben.

This was before we found out what the food tastes like.

Getting funky at Harlem.

Playing telephone.

So stony I say.

One of three Cambodian artifacts, in the entire British museum.

Picadilly Circus

Our beefeater Alan at the Tower of London.

On the tube.

Horse guard -- the kind that don't move.

The cleanest Chinatown I've ever seen.

I finally found crumpets on the last day of our trip!

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