Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Opening Day at the CA Academy of Sciences (as seen from the outside and a great distance)

On Saturday morning, Alan and I awoke to a buttery light filtering through the curtains. The weather was warmer than normal, so we threw the good sense our mothers had tried so very hard to instill aside and decided to dress light for an afternoon in the City. Who needed jackets and sweaters when it was barely 9:30 in the morning and you could already feel the day's sweat coming in?

With our mothers' good sense thrown to the wind, we decided it would be a good idea to visit the new California Academy of Sciences. I mean, have you seen what this place looks like? The week before, the Mercury ran an article (?) about it. Actually, I can't remember if an article was included because my attention was absorbed by the drawing of the museum detailing the exhibits and sights to see -- a Rainforest Dome, a natural history museum, an aquarium, a planetarium, the African hall, penguins?! It's almost as if the masterminds behind this somehow got a flashback glimpse of Kid Sobrina's favorite museum things and decided to make it really easy for her by cutting out all the transportation time traveling between each museum/exhibit and had the decency and brilliant foresight to put it all under one roof.

Unfortunately, it seems everyone else's museum dream came true this past Saturday as the Cal Academy opened its doors. From the freeway back up, I started thinking there might be crowds, the crowds might be bad. Undeterred, we parked and followed the commotion to the museum.

It started looking even worse:

Around the corner, it wasn't any better:

Finally, after seeing the line snaking its way around every turn of Golden Gate Park, we arrived upon the entrance. What we hoped we'd find once we got to it, I'm not sure. I think I sort of hoped in the tiniest corner of my heart that someone in a Cal Academy shirt would still be giving out tickets for entry. Instead, all we saw were people scalping their tickets and people haggling for lower prices. I almost jumped in a few times, more than willing to beat out other museum-goers by paying twice the face value of a museum ticket, until I realized that we had spent all our cash on lunch. Damn that achar gosht!

I went to opening day of the California Academy of Sciences and all I got was this lousy picture.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The trickle down effect

If email doesn't convey enough tone or emotion, the telephone conveys much too much. Over the telephone one can hear the frantic tone of voice from the other party and the desperation cuts through; it reaches out from the phone line, grabs you by the shoulders and shakes and shakes.

Because I don't know who to blame (because there isn't anyone really), but also because I want to have someone to point the finger at, I am filled with my own panic which is so overwhelming it fringes on anger. Without being able to think of a quick, fail-proof solution, the feelings swell inside until finally, when I least expect it, a live version of a Sarah Mclachlan song matching the night sky releases the tears collecting near the backs of my eyes.

After some sleep and some coffee, despite the overcast sky the next morning, it seems like everything is back to normal, maybe everything will patch itself over without anything needing to be said or done.

Suddenly, a phone call interrupts the day. More words are said to remind me of the situation. I feel not unlike Atlas must have felt, except I am not actually holding up any world just yet.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Vacationing Reasoning

From swimming in the Carribean to meeting real live beef eaters, there is one commonality between all my major vacations. It doesn't really matter where I'm going so much as it is how I will feel once I get there. If I go on vacation and feel exactly as I do every day of every week when I'm not on vacation, then obviously something is very wrong. It might not even be a vacation at all but a poorly disguised business trip I've been tricked into.

Even if I'm doing a 2-day tour of all of London and am sleeping in a 2-star hotel, it will be okay because the extreme level of exhaustion reminds me that I am exploring a whole new city and the rough bed sheets tell me that I'm not sleeping in my own bed. The point is that unless you are someone of celebrity status, most people want to go on vacation to experience something different.

This search and yearning for something different has been the impetus for all the trips I've been on since birth. Never once did my parents have us pack our suitcases to drive eight hours away to live in a house identical to our own home in which we did all of our daily routine activities. Sadly, we are not the Jolie-Pitts of America, and if we were leaving our home it had better be for something well worth all that effort.

On Sunday afternoon I arrive with my assumptions in hand and best efforts in mind. I have been called over to do some copywriting, namely to help market my aunt's 1.something million dollar condo. Right there, that is something different and out of the ordinary. I have lots of ideas right away and set to work. A while later I sit back, pleased, and have my aunt and uncle come read what I've written. My aunt is quiet. And then she is quiet while we eat dinner. After dinner, she has the laptop in front of her with a stumped look on her face.

"I just don't like this part... upscale condo.... It just sounds so... snooty," she says.

I tell her that it is in fact an upscale condo and by calling it by its rightful name does not make it snooty.

"It's not really a gourmet kitchen... and the word luxurious... I mean, we don't want people to think it's a snobby place."

I'm not quite sure what she expects her target audience to be looking for in a vacation rental ad. I consider the following revisions.

Revision 1: A humdrum home that looks and feels just like yours! With the same exact carpet stains from that time little Bobby spilled his fruit punch in the living room, it'll feel like you never left home! Never mind the ocean views and direct beach access, you'll be too busy checking your work email with our hi-speed wireless internet and helping the kids with their homework in the large, fully-furnished study to care.

In the end, I think I convinced her that at $6,000 a month, the people who are able to shell out that kind of cash are looking to add a little cashmere lining to their life. She let me keep mostly everything in the ad. Now I just need someone to rent it or we might have to change it to revision 1 after all.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Remembering Being 7

Anyone who has suffered at the hands of motion sickness knows its dual faces well. It is both annoyingly debilitating and enslavingly powerful. The slightest turn of one's head or even an attempt to read a direction in a moving car could set it off. And once something has triggered it, the forceful nausea quickly ensues, followed on occasion by a cold and fierce sweat.

Lately, I have reverted back to my 7-year old self in the way of being a helpless victim of my motion sickness, but unlike the second-grade Sobrina, I cannot, I will not, throw up. The feelings of nausea are like waves that come in tides, slowly coming and going, ebbing and flowing. After the feelings of nausea recede, they build to frightening heights, they pause (for just a second) and then they crash back down on me. It takes all I have to concentrate on not throwing up. I find myself thinking of the following:

1) How fun it would not be to clean my throw up off of the car seat.
2) How much I don't want to smell like throw up or have lingering throw up aftertaste

(After I think about number 2, I start really imagining the smell and taste, which inevitably makes me want to throw up even more, so I hastily move on to thinking about number 3)

3) Staring at the ocean from the beach. Although when you are on a boat you may feel the waves and get sick, while you are on the beach, the ocean appears forever in a straight horizontal direction. No zigging and zagging, no sharp corners to turn. None of that. But because the ocean can also remind me of throwing up, you can see how it is a very hard task to occupy my mind with anything else.
4) There is no four. It becomes hopeless.

Up, up and up seems to be how one gets to the best hikes offering the best views, so that is the drive I often find myself on when the need for a stroll in nature strikes. The hikes never disappoint with their beautiful splay of colors. Everytime it seems as though a new color scheme is presented, as if the woods and all its foliage change outfits for every occasion I visit. This last time they were wearing deep, aged greens, cerulean blues and hay-colored wood.

Hiking is one of my favored activities because it is so simple and requires nothing more than one's own ability to walk (granted sometimes at an incline, although this can be avoided if care is taken when choosing a hiking route), shoes and an ability to remain calm if a mountain lion should appear. In fact, I don't think I possess that ability, and I can still hike just fine.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

One Person's "Trash" is Another Person's Treasure. Or so I thought.

I own too many cotton t-shirts collected over the years from company picnics, high school and college clubs and promotions from minimum wage jobs. I own so many, in fact, that my mind has created a simple way to sort them. I wear 5 in rotation to the gym, to sleep or to change into after the gym but before showering. The rest are tucked away in a large tupperware box in my room, and I am reminded of each of them when I move or decide that the large tupperware box needs some organizing.

Since I have recently decided to simplify my life and get rid of things I haven't touched, used or worn in the past 3 months, I began making a pile of all my old t-shirts to donate. To this, I added in clothes and shoes I hadn't worn in a long while as well. In the midst of this gathering, a thought occured to me that I could actually sell my unwanted items and make myself a little profit.

I collected 2 overstuffed bags of my high-quality (just hardly used) belongings, squished them into my already overly squished trunk and drove down to the "new and recycled" clothing store. There was a long, long list of people ahead of me who all seemed to have had the same idea. As I waited, I watched the clerks rifle through sellers' items and name off the prices they'd be willing to pay for each one. One woman fetched $55 for a deep purple wool coat. Another woman redeemed a grand total of $137 for her small bag of clothes and purses.

As I sat waiting my turn, I became increasingly more excited and more anxious. I was excited because I had just been planning on buying a few new tops for work or maybe some new running shoes with the money I'd get, but it seemed now that I might be looking at a much larger sum than I expected. I was anxious because I had been listening to the clerk's spiel about how they are looking to buy "fashion-forward" items for fall of a "highly-sell-able" nature. What if the things I had brought were too fashion-forward? What if these pieces could command a much higher price than I had thought? Perhaps I should re-think some of the items I was about to part ways with. I looked through my bag a few more times and resisted pulling out the obvious jewels of the bunch (most of the bags contents) to keep for myself. In the end, I decided it would be much better to sell these things and have more space in my room.

When my name was finally called, I placed my bags on the counter for the grungy hipster lady to review. I sat back down and waited for her to finish passing judgment on my past few seasons' tastes in apparel.

I sat back and watched her work -- the unfolding of clothes, holding them up in the light, moving them this way and that and then refolding them back on the counter. From what I could tell, the yes pile was outnumbering the no pile by at least a foot, and I began imagining what I would spend my hundreds on from this selling trip and what I could bring to sell them next. If they liked those bold plaid pants, there were many more where those came from.

The buying lady called me back to the counter. She gave me two large, overstuffed bags (which I quickly recognized as the ones I came with) and offered me $17.50. It turned out the pile I thought was the yes pile was actually the NO pile.

Suddenly, my sweaters and long-sleeve t's looking up at me from the bags looked depressing and drab. As I walked out, I thought back to try and remember why I ever thought it was a good idea to dress in all olive greens and plaids of brown.

Somewhat discouraged, but more desperate than ever to get rid of these clothes, I brought my shameful goods across the street to the thrift store where I was enthusiastically thanked for my donation. They even gave me a coupon for 20% off my next purchase of olive green and brown fall staples.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Walking Tour

It begins innocently enough with simple admiration and a comfort knowing you can come by and visit anytime. You know you've happened upon a good thing, an opportunity other people might wait a lifetime for. It starts just like this, with the looking and the never touching.

Soon your quick glances become intense, longing stares. It soon absorbs your mind and it's all you can think about. Temptation becomes too hard to resist and all efforts to deny the magnetic pull between the two of you are futile. Because the advances are laid on thick and strong day in and day out, and you've grown weary of fighting, you give in.

You see, the kitchen at work knows my weaknesses. Looking back, I know now it saw me coming when I walked through the front doors that first day. With its amazing, magically-replenishing varieties of cookies, chips, frozen goods, beverages, fruit, Chinese food, pizza, pasta, sandwiches and Boston Market it holds me completely mesmerized. I hadn't had so many different flavors of Pop Tarts within eating-reach since sixth grade. And even then we usually only kept one flavor on store.

But to every sweet affair, there comes a down side. In this particular relationship, that down side is my inability to limit my gluttony. The kitchen of low-hanging fruit relentlessly offers a mid-afternoon pick me up, a treat to fit any craving and lately has been my main source of sustenance providing the bulk of my meals every day. Everyday, it presents me with full cupboards, stocked refrigerators, boxes of baked goods and because it never says no or asks for anything in return, I have shamelessly taken advantage of its kindness.

I know it's gotten out of hand because now when I sit down to a "normal" meal of "normal" proportions, I wonder if we might enhance the flavor by adding crushed Cool Ranch Doritos on top? It also becomes curious to watch others in the act of cooking food in small pots and pans instead of having entire meals of honey walnut prawns, shrimp fried rice and chow mein magically prepared and delivered on command in giant aluminum trays piping hot right to my front door.

For the love of the poor, starving Cambodian orphans my mom reminds us of anytime someone thinks about wasting food, I simply cannot turn my back on such abundance. So since cutting back on packaged, over-processed and fast-casual food is infeasible, I have decided to increase my physical activity intake by epic proportions. This even includes rigorous exercise on the weekends. For example, this past weekend, I suggested going for a walk. Since it was Alan whom I asked, our little jaunt in the sun turned into a full-fledged walking tour.

Saturday, after waiting for the Comcast man, we explored my new neighborhood and the surrounding Little Korea. Preethi and Birt came to visit later and asked if we were hungry. I thought it might sound odd to say we had just finished an 8-mile walk in which we had tried Korean fried chicken, frozen yogurt and Korean Cheetos along the way, so instead I summed it up and said we were full.

Sunday we took the walking tour on the road and decided to continue on in the City. Walking through the mission, we soon found ourselves at my favorite city bakery.

Alan made friends while waiting in line to order. They discussed the particulars of such and such fruit tart.

Can you guess where we were? I'm sure I have brought everyone I know at least once.

After melting into the decadent baked goodness, we pieced ourselves together again with a little water and a bit of energy drink. Distantly we remembered what the point of the walking tour was and so we continued on to the De Young museum. We accidentally parked not close to the museum at all and soon my legs felt as though they might fall off. Once we got there, as we were standing in line to buy tickets, two exiting visitors offered us tiny little stickers to attach to our shirts, which we did without question. They told us these were tickets to the Chihuly show. We exchanged thumps on each others backs and then were on our way.

More Mugs Wanted

Sometimes I find things that are so cute they make me want to throw up. My excitement rises through my chest, my face flushes and I find the tips of my fingers resting on my lips in a contemplative way, trying to think what would look better in my kitchen, the apples and pears mug or the etc scribble stem mug?

And then I remember that because the green saucers I bought came with 2 mugs and I had previously bought 2 other bowl-like mugs to eat cereal out of AND I previously owned 2 others, I am maxed out on the number of mugs a person living alone should own. Lest I risk becoming the person who collects spoons or decorative thimbles from every state or tourist attraction I visit.

The cupboard in my kitchen will allow for a few more plates, perhaps some actual bowls, but to glasses and mugs they cross their arms and tell me they are too laden with drinkware to bear any more. I understand. They are very narrow and limited in space, limited even more so due to the impossibly tall third shelf on which I can store nothing as I would not be able to remember it was there, much less retrieve it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The Expanding Ache

It comes when driving over bridges, on quiet drives home in the dark empty quiet, on the first warm day of the year. From the earliest years of our life, if we are lucky, we are taught to want more. That the point of life is to constantly want something better, something more encompassing, something offering increased levels of comfort.

And on bridges with the windows cracked open and the spring air licking our faces, it makes its presence well known and the want becomes an expanding ache. And at first it is easy to dismiss the ache and follow the path carved out in front of you, but then the years go by and you feel it more and more, even on the first cool day of what you think is the start of fall and sometimes late at night while brushing your teeth.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Business of Sharing

There has been a theme weaving through my life lately, a sharing theme. It actually works out quite well for me because for a short period of time I get all the pluses without any of the minuses.

For example, ever since my childhood hamsters mysteriously "ran away to the forest" and then my parakeets oddly did the same, I have always yearned for the companionship of a good pet, namely a dog.

I am torn between wanting a great, big dog that will circle me protectively while we walk through dicey neighborhoods, ready to gallop away with me should unexpected weapons be pulled, and small, bite-sized pups able to amuse themselves in one bedroom duplexes while their master toils away at work. For now, it looks as though I won't be getting either kind for some time. So instead, I find myself at people's houses, people I've just met once or twice before, helping Irene bathe their canine friends.


Unsuspecting of what is to come, little Toby stands at ease in the very center of what will soon be his demise.

Catching on quickly to what is about to happen once the water hits his fluffy, golden fur, he winces at the sound of the Lemon-Fresh Dog Wash squirting out of the bottle. He moves towards the edge, perhaps thinking in his desperation that the only way to salvation is to jump.

Resigned to being clean and smelling citrusy delightful, he decides to no longer put up a fight. Instead, his eyes flash with plans for sweet revenge. (Or perhaps he behaves well knowing he's going to soon get a big juicy treat for all his suffering.)

Resentful of having to admit defeat, but fully aware of how his coat now positively glows and brings out the best in his eyes, Toby hops into his carry bag, ready for a night out on the town.


See? It is almost just like having my own Toby, except that if I hadn't wanted to wash him, I wouldn't have had to.

Also on my "Not-Going-To-Happen-Anytime-Soon" list is having a baby. This is even further down on the list than getting a dog for obvious reasons, like the fact that I'm not sure how well it would fly to have a mini-person in a cute blue carry bag hanging out on my desk.

But I can't ignore the tugging at my heart strings whenever I walk through the baby clothes section at Target. Who doesn't get mushy seeing shoes the size of one's thumb?

Enter in playing with other people's babies.


Is he not the cutest?
Well, you can't see his feet. You would know for sure if you only just saw the over-stuffed, squishy extremities he has for feet.

Hayden likes Alan way less. But I don't blame him. No one likes people who are so obviously trying to rip off their style with matching colors.

Monday, September 1, 2008

This Side of the Duplex

The next time you hear me say I'm thinking about moving again, I'm going to need you to punch me in the face and then kick me in both of my shins. Because even that will be better than the pain of transporting a queen sized ultra deluxe pillow top mattress down a flight of stairs, into a Uhaul and maneuvering it out again into a small one bedroom.

Unless Santa Clara University decides to offer my landlord a bounty of cash for that small piece of land in order to develop more student housing, I do believe I will be living in this duplex for many years to come.
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