Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Devine Bovine at Alum Rock Park

Today I got another text message from a crazy person whom I have not talked to in over a year and a half. This one said, "Just wanted to check in and say forgiving is devine." I'm not exactly sure what he's talking about (a quick search on Google comes back with, a Wikipedia summary for Andy Devine and Devine Lighting-- none of which really make sense in the context given), but it sounds rather bossy which is very unappealing. It also kind of reminds me of bovine, like the time I went hiking with Nathalie and we ran into some cattle on the side of a hill.

Alum Rock.
So this is what nature looks like at 7 o'clock in the morning.

That little speck of white on the left is Nathalie showing the hill who's boss. I'm further down the hill taking the hill's order for breakfast.

Serious hills demand serious hiking.
Especially when the fog makes it look like you're walking into nothingness.

When we turned the corner from our serious walking, I was still focused on naming the family of stones and pebbles stuck in the bottom of my sock, when all of a sudden Nathalie grabbed my arm and drew in a sharp breath of air. I looked up and saw a scattering of black, and I immediately became excited, thinking that maybe what we were seeing was none other than the Smoke Monster also seen on the Lost island. But as we got closer, I recognized the chewing of the cud and tried to reassure Nathalie that they were just cows.

Now, keep in mind, this is a woman who keeps stick bugs, 5 inch stick bugs, on her desk at work and speaks admiringly of them. So it was funny how unconvinced she was that these cows were harmless. And if I die tomorrow then it will all be okay because the surprised look captured on her face (as a cow started moseying her way) was priceless.

Here I am trying to reassure her that cows are our friends.

I had her convinced for the 5 seconds it took to take this picture.

Turns out the best thing to do when you encounter a herd of cows is to walk on by slowly but surely, while repeating the phrase, "Beef: It's what's for dinner."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Purpose of Support Groups

When Alan was first diagnosed with cancer, we called the American Cancer Society (ACS) to get information on what chemotherapy would be like and what the side effects of radiation would be. Alan could barely think about any of that, much less talk about it with anyone, so mostly it was me that did the calling and the asking.

One day I called to ask about something small, and after answering my question in less than 10 seconds, the knowledgeable and helpful ACS representative began spouting out more useful bits of information. She told me about available support groups -- support groups for cancer patients under 30, support groups for people with colorectal cancer, support groups for those who lived in the Bay Area. Pretty much if you had thumbnail cancer, ate vegetarian except for Tuesdays and after midnight on Saturdays, believed in wearing blue and only blue, there was a support group out there for you. I jotted them all down on a post it for Alan, thanked the representative and was just about to hang up when she asked, "And how are you? There are support groups I can tell you about that are for spouses and loved ones of young cancer patients, if you're interested."

I thought about it for a minute, but then told her no thanks. I could see how support groups like that would be helpful to some, but I really didn't see the value of it for me personally since I was already in a virtual support group with everyone I've ever known. I also pictured a room full of people sitting in a big circle, or maybe smaller clusters of people sitting in a sort of lopsided circle. And there would be lots of crying, people weeping into other people's shoulders. On my own, I was doing enough crying to fill a small lake, so I didn't see how a support group would help me.

But now, now that Alan is in the very middle of the throes of his battle with cancer, I can understand what the support groups are for. They are for the supporters of cancer patients, the ones that see the cancer patients every day. It's not for those who have just found out about their loved ones' diagnoses, but for those who have been living with it for a few months. After a few months has gone by, the support group members don't get together to cry and wallow in sadness. What happens is they get together to talk in great detail about what they are going to do to their loved ones (once they've beaten cancer) to punish them for being so incredibly difficult to live with.

It'd be a great forum to have such a discussion because whenever I try to talk to anyone about what a punk Alan's being, what an emotionally fraught, hissy-fit throwing 13-year old he can be, everyone thinks that I'm just being mean. But it's because they don't know. They don't know what a monster I am to him, how I ask him to wait a whole 2 minutes for me while I try on a bathing suit at Target and how earth shattering that is for him to have to wait 2 minutes. And when I'm feeling really sinister, I tell him it's warm out (when it really is) so that he won't bring a jacket when he leaves the house. Then after the sun sets, it will be all my fault for making the sun dissappear and for not telling him to bring something warm to wear.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

If You Have Something To Say, Say It To My Back

It could just be a lingering insecurity from junior high, but sometimes I wonder if people are talking about me behind my back. Particularly when I'm seated at some sort of event with whispering, pointing people behind me. It could be they are just looking past me at the empty stage, discussing what they hope will happen when the show begins and tittering in delight in anticipation. Or it could be my hair. Or the fluorescent orange plaid shirt I knew I should have saved for another day.

So yesterday at the A's game, when Alan and I sat in front of two of the loudest, most opinionated sports fanatics ever in the history of the world, I couldn't help but wonder if they were talking about us or if it was just in my head.

As one of the most passive aggressive people that's ever walked the streets of San Jose, I understand subtle, passive aggressive ways. And passive aggressive tactics are everywhere. It's so common place that it's almost comforting. It allows us to delude ourselves a bit, to think to ourselves that if we had something to say, we'd say it straight to the person's face. (But instead of saying it to the offending person, we'd just think it and then go eat his labeled yogurt in the office fridge.)

Sitting in front of the two East coast cab drivers yesterday was an interesting lesson in what it's like to be the complete opposite of passive aggressive. And in a weird way, once the awkwardness of realizing that they were talking about Alan faded, it was almost refreshing. I didn't have to spend half my mental resources watching the game and the other half worrying about if they were talking about me or the blob of bird poo stuck in my hair, because if they were, they would have immediately let me know. With half of my mental resources freed up, I could focus my attention on the things that mattered -- like how grateful I was for the person who thought to toss fries in a generous coating of garlic.

The commentary between the 2 cab drivers went on non-stop for the entire game. It was almost like the characters of Seinfeld had died and were reincarnated in these 2 people. They talked about the desirability of homes in Antioch, the cheers and chants of other fans, the sugar content of the icees, children's hyperactivity levels, the NFL draft, the skill and physical size of each of the A's players, the weather, the weakness of the section's cheers, and even the annoying size of the people sitting in front of them.

When Alan sat down in front of Cab Driver #1, the first thing he whispered to his friend in a shouting announcement was, "I can't fucking see shit. I really can't see fucking shit." Alan didn't seem to be too bothered by it, but I think it was because he thought the Cab Driver was talking about the guy sitting in front of me, someone so big that I'm sure he must have been blocking all of section 117's view.

The Cab Driver made sure he let the big guy (and everyone within a 4 seat radius) know how offensive he found the big guy's hat. When Cab Driver #2 commented that she couldn't see either, Cab Driver #1 said, "It's 'cause that guy's wearing a hat right? That guy's wearing a hat. Can you believe that guy?" In the big man's defense, it was an A's hat and everyone else was wearing one so why couldn't he?? Besides, if you just maneuvered in your seat and tilted your head a bit, you could totally see part of the pitcher's torso and a glimpse of the outfield. If you did a total neck crane and folded your body over the arm rest, the view was actually really good.

We survived.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Puppies and Babies

Me: I have to show you the cutest email.
Alan: What does it say?
Me: It involves pictures. I have to show it to you.
Alan: C'mon, just tell me.
Me: No, I can't tell you. You have to see it.
Alan: Hmm... who's it from?
Me: My aunt.
Alan: Just tell me what it is.
Me: I can't just tell you. All I can say is it involves two of my favorite things.
Alan: Puppies and babies?
Me: She sent it to you too???

It turns out that my aunt did not forward the email to Alan, but I guess you can never go wrong with puppies and babies when guessing someone's favorite things.

And in case I didn't forward it to you already...


Instructions for properly hugging a baby:

1. First, uh, find a baby

2. Second, be sure that the object you found was indeed a baby by employing classic sniffing techniques.

3. Next you will need to flatten the baby before actually beginning the Hugging process.

4. The 'paw slide': Simply slide paws around baby and prepare for possible close-up.

5. Finally, if a camera is present, you will need to execute the difficult and patented 'hug, smile, and lean' so as to achieve the best photo quality.

Aaah !

This is almost as cute as Christian The Lion. (Although, let's be honest, could anything top that?)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Room Service

My face says: Room service! I feel so Fabulous!
Alan's face says: What is this fluffy white thing and why is it tied onto me?

Even though I spent Friday night in a big fluffy room with a big soft bed, the finest linens and a flat screen TV, I woke up Saturday morning and felt like I had been kidnapped while asleep, beaten with potatoes and returned to bed as if nothing had happened the night before. There's something about waking up in your own bed that you just can't get from sleeping anywhere else.

One thing my bed does not do for me though is prepare egg white omelets, buttermilk pancakes and fresh squeezed orange juice, all wheeled in on a dining room table.

I guess it's a fair trade off.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Feast Your Eyes On This

As promised, a picture of The Four Seasons' amazing bathroom sinks.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Event Day

After months of planning, the big day has finally arrived. If you're thinking it involves me in a big white dress and a 5-tier red velvet cake, you would be wrong. Instead, think of me in a suit at an all day conference for the bay area's IT leaders at the ever elegant and contemporary Four Seasons.

The best part of the event is enjoying the lavishness and luxuriousness of the hotel. Even the smallest of the wait staff's actions say "Extravagance." Right now I'm watching the woman in front of me use some sort of suction device hose to drain the excess water from the ice bucket at the beverage station. If that's not straight up luxury, I don't know what is.

A guest just zoomed past me down the hallway on a segway. Imagine that! The indulgence of not needing to walk indoors! It is almost like riding in those motorized chairs at the grocery store, but with a fresh appeal.

And the sinks in the bathroom border on ridiculous. They are half the size of my bathroom at home and completely flat, like a natural extension of the counter top except that they effectively catch the back splash from washing your hands. I can tell just by looking at them that they would be amazing for hand laundering my delicates. But seriously, you have to see them to understand, to understand how much I need these sinks, even if at least one, for my future home. A picture will be posted for your sink-viewing pleasure as soon as I get my camera.

There are lots of other things too, like the way the staff talks in hushed but cheery voices, the way I can tell just one person I need something done and it is instantly taken care of, and the comforting coverage of the bathroom stall doors. The doors are made of solid wood and are full length, leaving no gap at the bottom or the top and offering complete privacy for one's bathroom needs. When you're inside you feel like you're in your own private water closet. You can't see anyone waiting in line impatiently right outside and no one outside knows what you're up to inside, enabling a stress-free bathroom experience.

It is all just so sumptuous.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Brunch Club: South Bay Edition

Sometimes, after long bouts of studying, I start dreaming about silly things like sleep. But on good days, on days I am feeling particularly optimistic, I dream about things like winning the lottery. And then (because I am only human) I spend about 20 minutes thinking about what I would do if I did win the lottery (because it's my dream and hey, it could really happen).

First I would find a poor waitress at a grimy restaurant, one who is a hard-working, devoted single mother. Then I would sit at one of her tables everyday and order the same thing every time -- a slice of pie and a cup of coffee, with 2 cubes of sugar and a splash of creamer on the side. I'd be incredibly rude and break down her morale every day and leave her a 25 cent tip for all her trouble. Despite my grumpy behavior, she would be nice to me, every day. Even going so far as to have my pie waiting for me on the table before I arrived. Then, on the day I turned 99, I would die and leave 1/2 of my fortune to her. So then I could be that old lady in the urban legend you hear about, except that the urban legend would no longer be legend, it would be fact.

The second thing I'd do would be to buy an island or a small, private villa in St. Bart's (if I wanted something more low key). Owning an island has a lot of perks. I can name two right off the top of my head: 1) You wouldn't have to fight anyone for a place to lay your towel down. You may not ever have had to fight anyone at the beach for this, and just think, if you owned the entire beach, you'd never have to start worrying about it ever. 2) You would have first dibs while shell collecting.

The third thing I would do is go to brunch every day. Because brunch is one of the best meals ever invented, especially when you're eating brunch as part of Brunch Club: The South Bay Edition!

Bill's Cafe on The Alameda, San Jose. From right to left, eggs benedict varietal, buckwheat pancakes, vegetarian eggs benedict. And also, Tanu, me and Preethi.

On the left Sandhya is having a scrumptious plate of potatoes, veggies, eggs and sour cream. I'm not sure what exactly it goes by on the menu, but I'm pretty sure it will also respond to the name Bomb Diggity. Next to the bomb diggityness, Srinivas smiles over Bill's signature bread pudding french toast topped with a fried banana.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cambodian New Year's

Cambodian New Year's is sort of like the New Year's that happens on January 1st, with a few minor differences. First of all, no one really knows when it is supposed to happen, and each year the date it's celebrated is always different. As long as it's in April and within 5 days (give or take) of the 13th, it will do.

Everyone gets dressed in their best.

Buddhas for bathing.

Pots of sand, streamers and incense. Like party hats and noise makers.

Instead of putting on a hat, you take a cup of rose water and bathe the buddhas.

Instead of lighting firecrackers, you light incense and stick them in the giant pile of sand.

And instead of tossing your cookies, you re-distribute sand from your cup to the big communal sand mound.

Instead of buying strangers drinks at the bar, you set up a college panel and solicit people to give them information.

Whereas on December 31, you stand around thinking about who you're going to potentially kiss at midnight, on April 11, you walk around thinking about what you're going to eat.

Pureed, seasoned salmon

Puh Hohk: seasoned, ground pork

BBQ'd bananas and rice

Homemade sausages

Watching and listening to monks chant is like watching Dick Clark and waiting for the ball to drop.

But after the ball drops, you don't turn to kiss the person next to you. Instead you eat. A lot.

After eating too much (like what might happen after drinking too much), tom foolery takes hold.

It was Nathalie's idea to have me practice my color guard moves in the middle of the crowd.

People started staring.

People staring at the crazy person making a scene? Sounds like the end of all kinds of New Year's all over the world.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Jokes and Math Questions

It took me a long time growing up before I fully understood what jokes were all about. Maybe it's because I just never got them or because the people I grew up with were really crummy joke tellers. I'm pretty sure the person who told me the "man walks into a bar" joke told it to me like this:

Him: Hey, wanna hear a funny joke?
(See, right away after hearing that it was a funny joke and not a dull one, it set the stage in my mind that I should have expected to hold the sides of my shirt in to keep them from ripping open from my sidesplitting laughter.)
Me: OK.
Him: [grins]
(Because the joke teller could barely contain himself, I also expected that I was in for a real doozy. That I might even have considered taking a few deep breaths first in case the joke made me laugh so hard I could barely breathe.)
Him: A man walks into a bar.
Me: ...
Him: Get it??
Me: ...
Him: Get it??
Me: [...] Oh yeah...! Ha! Ha! Sure is a good one.
(But I never really did get it).

It wasn't until the sixth grade that someone finally told me a joke that I actually liked. I liked it because the set up for the joke could be made longer or shorter depending on your style, and you could change it up when re-telling it so that you were never actually telling the same joke more than once. At eleven I also fancied it to be very clever, which made me, the joke teller, to be very clever as well.

When someone first told me the joke and the subsequent punchline, I felt slightly ashamed that I hadn't known the punchline, that I hadn't caught on to it fast enough. I had been tested for entrance into GATE that year after all, and if being invited to test into the Gifted and Talented Education program at school doesn't mean you know what's up, I don't know what does. But after feeling ashamed that I hadn't been clever enough, I ran home to tell the joke to my brother, then my mom, then my dad. And before they could even think about the punchline, I dropped it on them, shaming them for not knowing it as I had been shamed earlier that afternoon. Except looking back, I don't think my parents were fully listening to me and my brother said it was stupid. But I know he was just saying that to spite me because I had questioned his cleverness.

The joke goes like this:
There was a blue woman who had blue hair, blue skin, blue teeth and blue nails and who wore a blue dress, a blue bonnet, a blue petticoat, blue shoes, blue stockings and a blue comb in her blue hair. She lived in a one story blue house with blue wooden floors, blue shag carpets, blue sinks, blue showers, blue mirrors, a blue kitchen, blue french doors, a blue tub, a blue pantry, a blue foyer, a blue bed, a blue desk, a blue closet, a blue garden, and a blue patio. What color were the stairs?
[pause for dramatic effect]
There are no stairs! It's a one-story house!

I thought about this joke today while studying. I thought about how much I used to love it and how spoiled it is for me now that it reminds me of a stupid GMAT math question.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An Explanation for the Crazy Talk

Yesterday, something happened that made me wonder if I am an eternal optimist or a delusional dreamer. I like to think of myself as just the happy-go-lucky/anything-can-happen-if-you-want-it-to type, but yesterday I couldn't be sure.

Late yesterday afternoon, I looked down at my phone and saw that Denise had texted me with "Ur blogger is on Oprah!" I'm not going to lie and say that I thought rationally about that statement after reading it. Instead, for about 10, maybe 20 solid seconds, I thought My blog is on Oprah? How did that happen? What did I last post about? Shouldn't the producers have given me some sort of advance notice? I mean, just a simple heads up would have been nice...

Then the logical me broke through the happy noise and realized that by "ur blogger," Denise was more likely referring to one of my favorite bloggers and not the Blogger blogging service I use. I almost looked around sheepishly to see if anyone had seen the crazy thought bubbles exploding out of my head a moment ago. (Good thing that hasn't been invented yet.)

So today I woke up questioning if the rose tinted glasses I'm wearing are too heavily tinted. Why else would I ever think that my blog could be featured on the Queen of Talk Show's talk show?

I was still thinking about it when Denise sent me something else. This time it was an email. The subject line read "Archie's blog" and the message contained but just one line, a link to Archie's blog. I'm not sure what I expected to find in his blog that would compel Denise to send it to me, but I had faith that there was a good reason behind it. Emails containing just one link should be for something self explanatory, like a good recipe for chicken noodle soup or a mini quiz which will grant you a wish if you forward it on to 5 more people. But there was none of that to be found. Archie's blog contained a few posts, the most recent of which were posted in 2007. They were movie reviews, and not even for any movies I have a strong interest in. This begged the question -- why would Denise send this to me?

But more importantly, it showed that I am not as delusional as I feared. I blame it on the cryptic and random messages Denise sends for my tendency to jump (albeit sometimes rather far) to conclusions. I have to make the best guesses I can to assign meaning to the things she sends. So even though I have no clue who Archie is and have no idea why I might find his blog interesting, I feel a lot better about myself knowing I'm not that crazy.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Cambolivian Gets a New 'Do

For some reason, every so often, a subset of my family will get together for a BBQ potluck. It remains to be seen whether we do this for the love of one another or for the love of eating. Sometimes, when we're feeling particularly altruistic, we'll do something kind for someone else. Denise might take a few seconds to make Justin a taco, I'll open a bag of tortilla chips for everyone's enjoyment or Nathalie might give out some styling tips.

Here she is working some magic on L.B.'s hair with a spot of gel.

Notice how he seems to come to life after his new 'do? His eyes are open and everything!

Starting to feel more confident, he strikes a pose.

Feeling confident he can recreate his new celeb look at home, he enjoys the spotlight for the 10 seconds before the BBQ comes in.

One day we'll all grow up and think: Family time, priceless.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Preparing to Avoid Preparation H

It's a nice coincidence that I happen to enjoy the taste and texture of a large variety of fruits and vegetables. But the main reason why I have a banana at breakfast, an apple at lunch and spinach with dinner has a lot more to do than with taste alone. Actually, I think my body cries out for more broccoli because it needs those essential vitamins. (Like the little misunderstood boy who constantly craved salt because of a salt deficiency. And who ended up dying when he was deprived of it by doctors. That could be me, except that I would die from a B12 deficiency or something). That and I've been sufficiently scared into wanting to maintain my digestive system's health for the rest of my life.

It started one day a few years ago while I was sitting in Irene's apartment reading a magazine. Someone else was also reading a magazine nearby, in the bathroom. He spent a good half hour reading his magazine and sitting in a position which had to have been putting a lot of pressure on everything down there. When he finished his business and came out with magazine in hand, someone else in the room exclaimed, "That took a long time! You're going to get hemorrhoids!"

I had heard this word -- hemorrhoid -- before, and I remembered seeing a commercial for Preparation H, a hemorrhoid cream, on TV.

"That's how you get hemorrhoids?" I asked.

"Yup," the room said.

"What exactly are hemorrhoids?" I asked.

And then Irene began explaining what they were, an explanation that would change my life forever.

"It's when you spend too long on the toilet or try to hard to go and then your intestines get pushed out because you're trying too hard," she said.

"Your intestines can get pushed out?" I repeated in disbelief.

"Yeah, that's why they always tell you not to strain too much." I had never known Irene to be an expert in bathroom matters, but that day she sure seemed to be the expert on the more serious issues of going #2.

From the Preparation H commercial, all I could remember was the man on the toilet with the pained look on his face. And now I knew why. If you had hemorrhoids with your intestines spilling out, you would look like that too. Preparation H, a cream that promises to soothe the burning, would seem like a God send. But would a cream be enough?

I don't think I went to the bathroom for a few days after that. It's safe to say that from that day on, I made sure to eat enough fibrous things so that I wouldn't have to worry about any intestine eruptions.

And now, in addition to hemorrhoids, I worry about getting colorectal cancer like Alan or diverticulitis like Nathalie. It just goes to show that you never know when your intestines might pop out or when your large intestine might strike out in anger.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

It Sucked and Then I Blurted Out My Secret Dream

With the exception of that one run in with Bill Maher at a club on the Sunset strip on my 21st birthday, I am generally a very star struck person. But then, I guess it depends on how you define "star." If I admire someone's work (in whatever capacity he/she works it), then it's safe to say that I will become a giggly, nervous bit of mess if I meet him/her. I like to think that I kept it together pretty well when I met Dave Eggers a few years ago -- the first time at a painting party at 826LA and the second time at his book reading for What Is The What. (Which, if you are ever bored, happens to be a very fun book to ask for at a bookstore... Here is a true story from my own experience to prove it:
"Excuse me, can I help you find something," the store clerk asked.
"Why yes," I said, "I'm looking for a book."
"And what is the title?" the clerk asked.
"What Is The What," I said.
"The title?" the clerk repeated.
"What Is The What," I said again.
"The title? What is the book's title??" the clerk demanded impatiently.
"What Is The What!" I insisted.)

Tonight, Preethi, Tanu and I all went to Dooce's book signing for her new book It Sucked and Then I Cried. And as expected, when it was my turn for her to sign my book, I became star struck and just stared at the top of her head as she began signing her title page. When she looked up she said some very articulate words, something like "Hi!" and maybe "Thanks for coming!" And in response I blurted out my secret dream of wanting to be a professional blogger, and for good measure, added that she inspires me. She laughed and said it is a fun job, but hard. When my 5 seconds of talking with her were up, I walked away to find Preethi and Tanu and I'm sure Dooce was thinking to herself, "Mountain View sure brings out the crazies!" It probably didn't help that I reappeared 5 minutes later to take pictures of everyone with her.

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