Wednesday, January 28, 2015


We bought flashlights, candles, beer, and ramen packets. We filled the bathtub with water. And then...we got, like, 4 inches.

Nevertheless, the subway was shut down and all non-emergency vehicles were ordered off the streets by 11p.m. Monday night. Last night someone told me people were playing beer pong in the street in the East Village. That sounds fun.

Still, fun to go out Tuesday morning when there was no traffic and the streets were blanketed. Here's my neighborhood post-"storm."

Nothing the Golf can't handle

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Doing Dartmouth

Last weekend we drove to New Hampshire to see my cousin who seems to have landed the best of both worlds: a research job at an Ivy located in an adorable New England town. Not a lot of fancy jobs in small towns these days, we're happy/proud of him.

Here we're walking around Brook's big old backyard of his centuries-old farmhouse. This was my first time driving north of New York City. On the drive over, I added three more states to the tally of ones I've been to (Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts). As a West Coaster, I'm not sure the novelty of being able to drive in five states in one day will ever wear off.

The small towns here are so different from the ones I know in the West. They all have pretty, steepled churches, central greens, and all kinds of lovely old houses. As we drove through the States, we also drove through accents. Those too are much more concentrated here. 

On Sunday, we walked all around the Dartmouth area, which made me want to be an undergrad again, carrying around a bunch of books and coffee, studying the weekend away. 

In the afternoon we stopped by a bar for beer and a scotch egg, and admired all the post-church bar goers in their sport coats and knit sweaters. Definitely preppier Sunday attire than how we do in Oregon.

We went out to Mexican food in the evening and caught the end of the Seahawks-Packers game from the fourth quarter onwards, easily the most exciting football I've ever seen. And it was nice to be three Northwesterners celebrating in Patriots territory...

Also on Sunday, we toured this old Shaker house (compound?) in Enfield, New Hampshire. Before last weekend, I mostly only knew Shakers as celibate makers of nice furniture. (There are only three of them left now). 

The docent told us how industrious they once were and what a boon to the local economy all the Shaker activity was. Shakers were also exceptionally progressive about gender roles, design, and adopting new technology - not things I expected to hear about a strict religious sect.

From what the guide said, their numbers started to wane around the Industrial Revolution, when new technology meant there was less to be gained from communal living. 

More of Brook's backyard

James photobombing my nature shot.

It was a fun trip. We're excited to get out see more of this part of the country.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Holidays, Revisited

This weekend we are headed to New Hampshire to see my cousin, ye olde Dartmouth professor. And I suspect I will have more photos to post from that excursion, and can thus no longer delay my Christmas/New Year recap. See below, you can probably deduce what's Oregon and what's Alaska:

It was good to be back in Anchorage for the first time in 6 years. I don't have many friends left there, but the ones who are still around have pretty cool jobs. One is a bush pilot. One is a petroleum engineer; she gets to travel a lot. 

While waiting for my flight up in Portland, I looked around the gate and realized how un-Alaskan I look these days with my peacoat and ankle boots. Alaskans are casual in the extreme. Driving around Anchorage, I was reminded of a thing I saw in Alaska as a kid and still exists today -- which is middle-aged women in sweats or jeans and loose t-shirts, no coat, who do their errands in apparel the rest of the country would only deem appropriate for warmer climes. 

I felt even more like a tourist once I was on the ground and had the urge to do all the tourist things: Look through art galleries for native art (none of which I could afford); we drove out to Girdwood one day and I made James pull over several times to take photos (but they turned out okay, right?!).

But I'm not a tourist. In fact, one evening James' family and I all went over to someone else's house for a big multi-family dinner. A woman who'd married into the family looked so familiar, but I couldn't place her. Finally I worked up the courage to ask her for the run down (who are your siblings? where'd you go to school?) Turns out, we'd gone to elementary school together. In fact, we were in the same class for a whole year and I attended her birthday sleepover. I could remember all sorts of strange facts about her, once I knew her maiden name - like that during sixth grade her family had vacationed to Fiji. Anchorage is still a small town.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

2014 Reviewed

Hoo boy, it's almost the middle of January. Here I go:

Austin: 8 months
New York: 2.5 months
Florence, Oregon: 4 weeks
Humboldt County, Calif.: 2 weeks
Marfa: 1 weekend
San Antonio: 1 night
New Orleans: 3 days
Alaska: 3 weeks in summer, 4 days in winter
Tennessee: 1 night
Georgia: 1 night
Virginia: 1 night
Arkansas, South Carolina, North Carolina, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey: driving time
Mexico: shore time on 4-day cruise from Texas

I am possibly forgetting one state from our big moving drive.

Things that happened:
Freelanced for a full year
Went sailing in southeast Alaska
Camped on a pot farm
Published in print for the first time since 2012
Ate a lot of breakfast tacos
Took improv classes
Saw a lot of music and comedy
Went floating in San Marcos
Did a fair amount of yoga
Read Middlemarch
Moved to New York
Joined writing group(s)
Went back to Anchorage for the first time in 6 years
Finished a draft of a novel
Rolled the dice one more time on grad school 
Crashed a small group lecture by Salman Rushdie
Randomly sat next to someone on the New York subway, complimented her on her Feiyue sneakers, realized we knew each other from Shanghai

Sometimes freelancing was stressful and hard. I'm still not comfortable about the stability of my situation, but it's a world better than where I was a year ago. And freelancing allowed me to travel a ton this past year, something I hadn't expected, but was awesome. 

After my piece in California Sunday Magazine, a couple people reached out to me about working with me. Up until this point, it's been a whooole lotta cold pitching. Although I am now 28, my first year back in the US felt sort of like being fresh out of college again since I came back with no network, an unknown quantity. I am still always telling everyone I may need to get a day job, but I am also more optimistic about freelancing evolving into a long-term thing. 

2014 was my first full year back in the US. I had a lot of fun being a tourist in my own country, I feel more engaged with what's going on here now, and I'm excited to be living in New York. I saw friends from high school I haven't seen in many years. My best friend is getting married this year, and I'm happy I'll be around to celebrate. 

2014 Resolutions Revisited
1. Eat right and exercise (I did fine? I guess? Barring serious health problems, I'm less interested in seeing this as something to "work on" (damn you, pervasive culture of women's magazines!) I exercise sometimes and I like vegetables, some people would probably say I drink too much coffee, but whatever.)

2. Curate what I read better. (I read about a dozen books last year and a ton of short stories. I still probably waste too much time online, but I spend less time reading stuff on Facebook now because I find it so overwhelming. I realized this year that even friends I keep in close contact with miss my infrequent Facebook updates, so it doesn't even seem like a very good platform for keeping up with people.)

3. Finish the novel (I finished a draft? I think I was operating under the delusion I would be done with it. Maybe this year.) 

4. Write diligently (I could've been better. But I did a lot.)

2015 Resolutions
1. Make more money: I would love to believe I'm exiting the bumbling beginning phase of freelancing. I hope this year to get to a point where I'm doing money like an adult, i.e. saving some of it.

2. Writer better things: Fiction and Non-fiction.

3. Get better at cooking Chinese food, so I don't have to drop $50 every time I want a proper Sichuan dinner.

4. Pick up the scrapbooking habit I dropped in high school. I've traveled so much, but it's no fun revisiting pictures on the computer. 

5. Explore the Northeast. We're going to see my cousin in New Hampshire this weekend. We want to go to Maine and Niagara Falls, we hear the train ride up to Montreal is beautiful in autumn. There's a lot to see. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

'Tis the Season in Manhattan

I don't go to Manhattan that often, no need to. James goes there every weekday, but he was still a good sport last weekend and accompanied me to check out the Rockefeller tree and other seasonal festivity. 

So, window shopping: The windows at the big department stores here are so tricked out this time of year there are roped-off lines to herd people past them. (We did not stand in these lines, content to just see the displays from afar.)

I've never been a huge rom-com watcher, even still sometimes when I go into the city, or the night we went to look at the skyline from Dumbo, sometimes I feel this giddy sense of nostalgia which I can only attribute to the sense of physically stepping into this world I'd only seen in movies for the first 28 years of my life (yes, the first time I ever came here was September). 

We also went to Ikea last weekend and our apartment is mostly furnished now. We love it.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Holiday Horror

This has already been recounted on other family blogs, but for the record herein I will explain my role in a, hmm how shall we say, a very memorable Thanksgiving. 

Something you need to know up top: I am very, very cavalier about eating raw eggs. I remember making cake with my mom as a little kid and she was like, "don't eat the batter! you'll get sick!" But...I'm a kid. I can't help but eat the batter. Though usually I'd sneak just a little bit, because when you're 6 or so you don't have a sense of how sickness happens and the logic "a little probably wont hurt" suffices. Then, when I was slightly older, I had a babysitter and we made a box cake and she was totally cool with me eating batter. She said when she made cake with her mom they'd eat like HALF the batter before it went into the oven. I recognize this now as exaggeration, but at the time I took it as carte blanche to eat all the raw egg I wanted. 

I guess you could say the babysitter left a lasting impression. Now I eat all the uncooked things - steak, fish, eggs. Life is too short not to eat everything. My friend told me about a restaurant in San Francisco that serves sashimi chicken, I might draw the line there. Maybe.

However, this is a deeply personal gastronomic choice and not a decision one should make on behalf of say a very large holiday dinner party. One that probably includes pretty much every stripe of person listed in the CDC's increased risk group

This Thanksgiving, I rolled those dice.

I made cesar salad, the way I always do, with a raw egg. I didn't even think twice about it. Really, I didn't think about it at all. Nor did I tell anyone. It was delicious, most everyone ate it, it ran out before the last couple folks could get through the buffet line. Lucky them.

About 24 hours later, my cousin Meghan was the first to go down. She mistakenly blamed barbecue oysters she'd had for lunch. We all felt bad for her and played Scrabble without her.

Sometime around 2 am Saturday morning I started to not feel so good myself. I knew I was on the verge of bad bodily things happening so I went to the bathroom. Regrettably, I was too tired to think strategically about what was maybe, probably about to happen. If I'd been thinking strategically, I might have sat down in the usual place and picked up the trash can. I did not sit down in the usual place. Instead, I hugged the toilet bowl. Big, big mistake.

I woke up the next morning and learned six other people were sick. Two more people got sick later Saturday. I took out 10 people, including myself, with a single egg. 

In consideration of the mass pain, inconvenience and holiday-weekend-ruining I wreaked on so many people, this is probably the worst thing I've ever done. Top five, at least.

Later in the weekend, when I was feeling somewhat better, I inspected the bathroom where I did not take appropriate strategic action. If you've ever watched a crime procedural, you've probably seen a detective, combing over the scene of the crime, looking for clues that the perpetrator left after a hasty clean up. In this fall's Gone Girl, there are the two drops of blood spatter over the kitchen range. And I'll end by saying I'm glad I gave the bathroom a second pass.

If you're reading this and I haven't apologized to you yet, I am sorry. Have I learned my lesson? Absolutely, I will never serve raw egg to unwitting dinner guests again. First thing I cooked when James and I made it back to New York? Carbonara. The kind where you put the raw egg into the cooked pasta. Because YOLO.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

On Pot Farming

In October I spent two weeks in Humboldt County and several nights camping on a marijuana farm. The story came out in California Sunday Magazine today. If you happened to be a California newspaper subscriber living in an affluent zip code, you might be able to read me in print today! All other riffraff, here's a link

Important detail not included in story: I had to wash my yoga pants five times to get the skunk out. 

Also, Humboldt is awesome. I got really lucky with a friend I met while hiking in Burma who hooked me up with his mom's empty beach house in Arcata while I was reporting. Most nights in Arcata I'd walk over to his place, 5 minutes from the beach house, and we'd have beers and talk about Humboldt. 

Marijuana really seems like beer there, people are casual about it, and in turn it seems less 'edgy,' it's just whatever if you smoke or not. Such a huge cultural divide from here in New York - where they only just approved medical marijuana, and only for a strict list of conditions. In Humboldt, the question isn't if but how you are connected to the industry. 

My friend in Arcata is into rapping. One night he brought another rapper over to jam, plus a French singer-clarinetist who was in town to trim showed up too. I told the group about harvesting pot at 1 a.m. on this farm (the growers were rushing to beat the rain) and was subsequently treated to a freestyle session about my harvest experience. That was cool. Naturally, there was a pipe going around.

Legalization is necessary for the environment, to reduce violent crime related to the black market, to relieve sick people, and because people should be free to get high. But the most pressing reason to legalize is to do away with the criminalization that disproportionately affects people of color. Black people are four times as likely as whites to be arrested for possession despite similar usage rates. That disparity exists even in states with small minority populations. Here in New York, black people are nine times more likely to be arrested for possession, according to the NYCLU

Thankfully, NYPD stopped arresting in favor of ticketing last month. Nevertheless, we have a racist justice system. Fact. Not opinion. This is one small, easy and obvious way to make it better.

End rant.