Category Archives: Travel

somewhere…

On my laptop in the car, on a 3G card + car power inverter…somewhere in the middle of foggy Arizona. Sometime before the fog, we saw red cliffs and lots of tumbleweeds.

Before Arizona, we were in Vegas, staying with family, catching our breath before continuing our journey. And sweating. Because my dad likes to keep the house thermostat at 85F. And then commences to don his slanket. Only my wiener dogs like it that hot.

Before Vegas, we were in Baker at our favorite road food stop, The Mad Greek, where we ate gyros and banana shakes, the only splash of color that wasn’t blue and white. Oh wait. There was something else that wasn’t blue or white; a red suitcase labeled with an Asian woman’s name, ala “Cindy Chang”…guarded by 2 boisterous and nervous Israelis. What was that all about? There’s something about being out and about late at night (this was midnight)–where so few comingle that all our oddities become stark in solitary.

Now…our wiener dogs are in the car, choosing to dogpile together in the crate like long-time mates (oh wait–they are longtime mates). We are headed east.

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Setting

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(Old Faithful Geyser)

Settings: Impressions from the places/cities in which I’ve lived, visited, breathed–inspired by wmc, whose strengths as a writer includes setting…

New York City 1973-1978
Pizza emerging from a window, a hole, in the wall. Me, a toddler, walking in pink plastic clogs, pizza in hand, under the El. Watching karate in the neighborhood karate studio, holding tightly onto my grandmother’s hand, frightened at the violence.

First day in school, not speaking a word of English. Hysterical. Being locked in the school bathroom; somehow I could understand when the teachers would ask me, “Are you done crying yet?” before hearing the door latch shut.

Being born.  I do not remember.

Walking outside all day.  Living a life on sidewalks, an apartment only for sleeping.  They break up on the sidewalk, too.  He walks two feet behind her, pleading.  She answers only reluctantly.

My favorite city in the world.

Tokyo, Japan 2005
Tsukiji Fish Market at dawn: Have they emptied the ocean of its fish?

Weird.  In a good way.

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on the road

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Sometimes I regret having an anonymous blog because there are details about my writing I’d like to share–I’d like to share my real name when I have writing successes, like litmag publications. And in my most optimistic moments, I think about being a Famous Writer and having this forum attached to my real name…

But most of the time, I’m glad I write anonymously here. For starters, there are a couple of people in my life I’d like to avoid, for my own safety, and having a blog with my real name–well, I’d feel real vulnerable knowing they were aware of my emotional fluctuations, my whereabouts, you get the idea.

So I can write more freely as a result of my anonymity. Of course, there are friends who know who I am here–and I suppose if you really really really try, you can figure it out. I can share! Like details about vacations–this is something I would not share if I wrote using my “irl” name because I am paranoid about being burglarized while out of town even if we have someone watching our house (in addition to fires, floods, and other disaster scenarios). And because of my anonymity, I can share with you this fact: we are going on a road trip.

Yes!

The hubby and I have been passing the idea of a road trip back and forth for years now. It’s not exactly a cross country trip (we want to do that someday too)–but it’s more than an in-state jaunt. It’s more than picking me up from Hedgebrook in the car (oh I was sooo homesick! And he wanted to drive) and driving me home. This is a trip with several destinations, and several nights stops..complete with our dogs!

The highlight of the trip will be Yellowstone National Park. Woot. :) I’m sooo looking forward to the sights, to taking photographs, to getting inspired by the experience and landscape, to spending quality time with my awesome husband and best friend, to belatedly celebrate our 10th anniversary.

I’ve promised myself to make some writing time on this trip. I will be doing so. I’ll also be blogging at least once, because I’ve just signed up for this group writing exercise/game of “Consequences.” And I’m second in line, so there’s a big chance my turn will come up this week.

(This is an example of Consequences–each successive entry begins with the closing lines of its predecessor. Entries are 250 words long, and thematically linked).

I am still going to hit my minimum word count goal of 2,000 words/week this week.

And before I leave town–yes, I’m going to go running. I’m taking my running shoes, too, even though I know there’s a slimmer chance of my going running than getting writing done (it is after all a vacation).

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some of the best days of life

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I had one of the best days of my life in New York this past weekend. It contained no sex, no winning of the lottery, and no awards. It did involve three terrific meals (not all of them expensive and the best one was the cheapest meal of all), friends, the kind of hard-rocking, perpetual laughter that makes me surprised that it did not result in washboard abs (*sigh*), New York City (pretty much the ENTIRE island), and lots and lots of synchronicity/serendipity/magic/whatever you want to call it.

I met a friend for the first time “irl” with Randa that day, a Saturday, for brunch in Greenwich Village. We probably astounded C with our boisterous laughter but hey, when we talk hysterically about urinal cakes (“Is that like…a CARROT CAKE?!”) on our first meet, it can’t be all bad, right? I hope the magic from our day transferred onto her person and that she is forever blessed, as much as I feel I was blessed from that day.

After we looked at costume jewelry for like an hour (I gave in and bought a little rhinestone hairclip and now I wonder if it’s a magical clip and so I shall wear it), Randa and I then took a train uptown, in search of Topshop but instead we found her wedding dress (or maybe it found us) from a baffled sweetheart of a Persian Jewish shopkeeper who asked, “If she is Palestinian, how does she know Hebrew?” and then asked me, “You are Jewish?” and after asking about my husband’s family (they’re Israeli but ethnically Polish and Iraqi) he asked Randa who she’s marrying (someone of Irish descent). Wobbedy wobbedy wobbedy–you could see the look on his face! It was supersweet.

We never found Topshop. It didn’t exist.

We ambled on uptown and she murmured, “Yaddo.” Wuh? Dude, Yaddo is in UPSTATE New York. “Yaddo,” she said, now pointing at the sign saying “YADDO” on the side of a building portico with multiple columns that reminded me of the scene in “Sex and the City” where Carrie runs down the stairs in her wedding dress. Um. Because it was the New York Public Library.

And now come to think of it, there’s now a wedding theme going on in this story, too.

Oh. Daaaamn. “That’s the Yaddo exhibit!” I squealed. Yes, the exhibit with all the artifacts from Yaddo (including letters (Flannery O’Connor, Henry Roth, Clyfford Still, etc.) and original applications from James Baldwin (poor dude didn’t pay his phone bill and also partied so hard they never let him come back) and Truman Capote, etc., etc.)…I wanted to take so many pictures! But I didn’t. Because it wasn’t allowed. And because the guards kept a close eye on us. (Why is it wherever we went, security guards would smile and say, “Uh OH!”).

We’d just seen Clyfford Still’s work in the MoMA the day previous. And talked about Henry Roth at breakfast. Magic. Oh come on, there were more coincidences too, not just those two, in the entire day. It was MAGIC, I tell you.

Having obsessed over Junot Diaz’s Gourmet magazine article from two years past (I emailed him from my crackberry to let him know–like he would even CARE!), we continued uptown, towards Dominican food at Margot Restaurant. Or rather, we continued towards where we THOUGHT it was, and ended up at 125th and Lex wondering, “Where the fuck is the Dominican food?!”

And took a cab. Crosstown.

The wrong cab.

But not so wrong that we weren’t entertained by the self-pitying newbie taxi driver whose first day on the job was…that very day. We were the last customers on his 12 hour shift. He had NO IDEA where 159th and Broadway was. He had NO IDEA where Washington Heights was (dude! get a MAP!).

We got lost, we got a great tour of Upper Manhattan and of Dyckman, and finally navigated him (the slightly less blind leading the blind) to our destination. Where we had AMAZING Dominican food at Margot’s. And laughed our asses off for a couple more hours, hogging a table at a crowded restaurant, and eating up all the res guisado and beans and fried plantains and morir sonando. I would call it ‘da shit…but I feel awkward commending food by calling it shit. But it was amazing, and we were on a high.

The wind was coming in freezing cold, and even I, the person who LOVES the cold found it “kind of chilly,” and so we made our way quickly to the subway which we took to 80th and Broadway to Zabar’s (where we got mugs) and then we walked to a liquor store (where I greeted the old Korean shopkeeper with a smile and a Korean greeting and he looked at me like, “Why don’t you speak ENGLISH”–so funny because earlier that week, I asked for a map of the MoMA and the docent asked, “What language?” And I said ENGLISH!) and then we walked along the park, and we never stopped talking or laughing until we got back to the apartment in which I was staying (the pipes that play morse code!)–and then we went out again and had sushi in SoHo and I drank water (yes water, because I am so afraid of hangovers) in a bar at last call and then oh so reluctantly, I fell asleep, afraid to end the blessed and magical day.

The rest of the trip was so sweet too–I hung out with my fairy g*dmother, loudw who has blessed me with such goodness and opportunity and met her little doggie and of course chowed down on Korean food (tofu dolsot bibimbap!) with Nova who also makes me feel like goodness exists everywhere. I saw an old high school buddy for lunch, and met Alex for drinks with Randa (the day of 7 meals!), and went to Queens and soaked up everything I could for my novel. The only thing I forgot to do was go visit a synagogue.

Oh well–I guess like after a good date with a hot person, sometimes you leave something behind so that they’ll call you back…I told New York to gimme a call.

It was one of the best trips of my life. Those days were pitch perfect and I will cherish them and all the people and events in them forever.

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in new york and so happy

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that’s it. that’s all i had to say. in new york and so very happy. it’s cold and that makes me happy too. i’m meeting up with friends and that makes me very happy. another friend is flying into town to stay with me the remainder of my trip here and that makes me incredibly happy.

the one thing that did not make me happy but still amused me: a garbage truck drove by and spewed poo-colored gooey liquid out its back (on accident–the sanitation workers looked HORRIFIED and then their faces melted into helpless smiles) right in the crosswalk by the apartment.

noted to my OCD self: do NOT walk through that crosswalk the remainder of this trip.

p.s. Randa summed up the whole garbage truck incident in one adept sentence, “The garbage truck took a shit?!” Yes. The dump truck took a dump.

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twitter-style!

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short post!  so excited about heading out to New York tomorrow.  see you soon, NYC peeps! i’m bringing my woefully bright ice blue but VERY WARM Cali-Sierra-style parka with me to brave the chilly temps so that if there’s a google satellite picture of New York being taken when i’m out on the streets..i WILL be VISIBLE to the NAKED EYE, so obvious will my bright blue parka be in the black, grey, and navy blue wardrobed sea of Manhattan.

and triple yay for the trip: not only am i going to see my beloved NYC and the wonderful friends who live there…i will ALSO hang out with my A2 BFF who’s flying out to NYC to rendezvous with me!

booyah–two checks off my fun list.

Update: uptop is a picture depicting my one light blue jacket in a sea of dark jackets.

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New York here I come!

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*hop hop*

I’ll be in Manhattan from January 28th through February 1st.

I am sooo excited. I’m going to relax and enjoy life for a few days, and also venture over to Queens to do some research for my novel. It’s all I can think about, it’s even surpassed my dread over a grim week to come.

Thank you to a good friend who HOOKED ME UP (the luck! her generosity!) with a place to stay in New York City for those few days.

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a filling of a soul

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I’m back home–we made it back home in time for Yom Kippur (and of course the Murakami reading this weekend). Rarely do I feel reluctant to return home from a trip or vacation, but this time, with all the dreary world economy news…I met the end of my vacation with a bit of a sigh.

We saw our beloved London…and made a quick jaunt over to Paris and back (L’as du Falafel and Pierre Herme macaron!)…then back to London (the Mark Rothko show at the Tate Modern! Borough Market! I met fishlamp irl at our favorite London martini place)…then off to Edinburgh for the day on Sunday (beautiful Princes Street Garden! Edinburgh Castle! Gorgeous weather! We spent a good hour sitting on a park bench and daydreaming! Then, food poisoning from which I have yet to fully recover)…and back to London, where I spent a couple of lackadaisical afternoons on an old college friend’s couch with a cup of tea in Balham).

I didn’t write. My schedule was too irregular to allow any sort of discipline to seep through. Some days I gorged and had three solid meals…other days, I found I’d had only a slice of bread and a bit of cheese to see me through. Some days we woke up before dawn to make a flight or catch a train, other days I slept until noon. And there were a couple days I napped, waking in darkness, feeling a confused and deep loneliness, as one can only feel when waking up in a dark and unfamiliar room. Most days, I had the day all to myself (when my husband had work obligations), and on the weekend, we strolled around in a new city, hand in hand.

Some days I had appointments to keep, like the Rothko show at the Tate Modern (1pm on Saturday)–other days, I woke up to a blank slate of a day. The Rothko show was moving–his Seagram murals filled me with a great terror and great sadness paired with deep beauty. They looked like wrist slash marks (my husband said they resembled safety razors) and I pondered my own struggle with depression in younger days, contemplated the scars on my wrists, remembered the agony. I identify strongly with Rothko’s work, even while they make me feel like I’m sinking. And then I walked quickly through the exhibit–I couldn’t bear to gaze at his work any longer.

I let it all sink in.

Who was it? A famous artist said that in order to produce art, one had to be full of himself. And so I let myself be filled.

And then today, I fasted, pondering the year in retrospect (warning to self: it is particularly grueling to fast the day after a long plane flight and after food poisoning). It was a great holiday, a filling and then a cleansing.

And now a year begins.

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i can’t help myself

I’ve already horrified Parisian ladies-who-lunch today (there was one woman in a houndstooth who kept staring at me with a blank facial expression–American and Korean (the infamous scowl!) facial expressions are so much more obvious, did she find me cute? Or did she totally think I was a weird hobo girl?).

The climax of Parisian ladies-who-lunch horror was when I did a loopy jetlagged induced imitation of a “mad cow” over really mediocre pasta (why was the place so packed when the food was so awful?). He had a steak–I wondered aloud if it was British cow. First, an ANGRY cow mooing. (Hands on hips! Furrowed brow! Moo!) Then, a CRAZY cow, mooing. (Eyes crossed! Goofy look! Wave my hands! Moo!) Get it? My husband’s understated and amused reaction was the comment, “Yes, wow.”

Loopy! After lunch, I had a Pierre Herme macaron and I got an endorphin rush, it was SO.GOOD. I will NEVER forget that little rose ispahan macaron. EVER.

But now I must do it. I must say, “I see London, I see France…”

Because I have. Arrived in London on the 1st, and I’m now in Paris on the 2nd. I HAVE seen London and now I see France.

London:

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France:

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Now I have to find some underpants.

Update: A prettier picture of London…

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Why aren’t you blogging?

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A good friend of mine asked me via email, “Why aren’t you blogging?” And then another friend of mine asked me the same question via IM.

I guess my blogging has been reliable throughout the years–even after my stroke, I blogged. But I haven’t been blogging for the last couple of weeks.

So here’s the answer I provided to my friend, and one I’m sharing with you:

I took this break from blogging from China, mostly forced because they didn’t allow access…and I rather liked it. I was surprised that I would enjoy a break from blogging–but I am. I have thought about blogging about a number of things, but none of them were so pressing and interesting to me as to spend the time to post them. So I’m waiting for my burning desire to blog to return before blogging again. And in a way, I’m intrigued by this “conserving of writing energy” and perhaps only channeling it to my novel (hahaha.)

Without access to blogs, and without any good TV on the boobtube…what did I do? I got a bit more sleep. I let my mind wander and cull some more thoughts. I went to the gym and exercised (seriously!). I went out for walks. I saw an ARMY of people just spending hours and hours reading in a bookstore! I went to the market and pondered eating scorpion kebab (seriously!). I saw The Great Wall (amazing!). I saw The Forbidden City (wowzers!). I toured the West Lake in Hangzhou (beautiful). I went on an interesting taxi ride to the Longjing Tea Village and had the most interesting consumer experience of my life (more interesting than the backalley purchases in Korea’s Itaewon).

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My mind is full, my body is rested. I did not want to return to my daily life. In sum, it has been wonderful to detox. I took better care of myself. Oh man!

I had no idea how many poisons were in my life, especially in the wake of a sort of Tough Year (my stroke, the untimely death of an immediate family member, other troubles, then my father’s heart attack). It was time to go away.

I thought about blogging about Bookfox’s list of Top 12 online literary journals, and recalling Perpetual Folly’s 2008 Pushcart Prize rankings. But no. It wasn’t enough to break the quiet.

What would bring me out into the blogging spotlight again?

Something very stupid. But something very toxic, that I think would be better aired than kept festering in my brain.

I signed up for another workshop again. I have heard SO many good things about this particular Famous Writer and his work as a mentor. And so I applied! It turns out that the workshop had filled up. So no dice. But in the last couple of weeks, a spot opened up, and it was given to me!

The manuscripts were sent out via email this week. But first, like any seasoned workshop participant…I scanned the email list. Did anyone look familiar? What did I know of them?

Ugh.
Remember the gal who said she wished she could blame her short term memory problems on a stroke? She is in the workshop. I am no longer as sensitive as i was then (I credit time and actual healing of the brain to this), but…still not looking forward to revisiting her.

And the guy who gave me FOUR SENTENCE feedback in my MFA workshop? He’s in the workshop too.

A friend and I have already decided that if he pulls that 4-sentence-feedback stuff, we’re going to confront him this time.

Okay. Feeling better. See how stupid and toxic these little “papercuts of life” can be?

I need to learn to let things go a lot faster.

Even so, I’m having my swells of emotions these days. Perhaps I’m coming to a turning point in my life. All I know is that I must turn a concerted effort towards focus. Because I am not working on my dreams, and it makes me cry, cry, cry when I acknowledge that fact. When I know I’m capable, but not focused enough to complete this novel.

So there’s a second mission here. Focus. And that might mean a lot less blogging and communicating with the world.

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it took a little while…

but then I realized: ack, wordpress.com is banned in China.

Seriously! After trying multiple times, to no avail, to get onto wordpress and then after trying to read other blogs, it dawned on me: the blogging sites are banned in China. Bleah.

It was like a total mystery for a little while there. It wasn’t as if the page announced “Banned” or anything–it just kept spooling forever and ever, without an error code. Hrm.

I’m only able to blog this via some clever wrangling. I’m feeling mighty naughty, blogging like this here.

But as a result, expect fewer updates, if at all.

I’m in Shanghai now. It’s humid and very very warm. I am glistening at all moments. I had a dumpling already here in town–it was the BEST DUMPLING EVER!!!! I also had a McDonald’s soft serve ice cream. It was the WORST ICE CREAM EVER!!!!

Maybe, sans blogging and sans television, I’ll get some writing done in between the sightseeing.

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England, the World, the Universe…

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That’s a subway, next to the Subway! Captured in Balham. Second to spotting a pub called “The Famous Cock” by the Highbury Corner/Islington tube stop. Huhuhuh. “Famous. Cock.” Huhuhuhuhuhhhhh.

Today was the first day of relaxation, and we spent it sleeping, awakening only for our late lunch reservations. Then a stroll. Now we’re back in bed. Sweet slumber awaits!

Tomorrow, we fly home.

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