Monday, April 23, 2018

Around two years ago I went on a date. It's nothing I make a habit of doing, but the critical elements aligned and I found myself heading to one of Brooklyn's many brunch districts to meet a man. The date was job interview format, and he asked me when I was last in a relationship. The answer was "seven years ago," and he was shocked. He was also shocked that I ordered a Coke (as opposed to a Diet Coke) and admitted to watching "Madam Secretary" (which, fair), so obviously this did not blossom into a relationship. My answer to his question remained seven until it became eight, and now nine.

This past fall I fired up my OK Cupid account and lined myself up a few disappointments, among them a guy with whom I almost had a date a few times, but we just kept missing each other. When it seemed like we were belaboring the point, we just stopped texting each other and I went back to my baseline of not dating.

This past Saturday, I got a text that said, "Hey there! I have your phone number in my phone but I can't remember how we met :-/". I scrolled up to see the text history and it turned out to be OK Cupid guy (not judgmental brunch guy, of course, who will not feature again in this story). I explained to him who I was and how we almost met last year, and he seemed keen to try to meet up again. So far, we haven't gotten any closer to meeting than we did last time, but now I feel like I'm doing more than nothing toward the vague goal of not dying alone.

To be continued.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

First quarter media/art consumption

So far in 2018, I've read:

  • It's All Relative, by A.J. Jacobs
  • The Lady in the Tower, by Alison Weir
  • The Uncollected David Rakoff
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeleine L'Engle
I've watched:
  • Downton Abbey (full series rewatch)
  • Zach Morris is Trash (all)
  • Will & Grace (season 9 episodes 8-15)
  • Episodes (seasons 4-5)
  • Black Mirror (season 4)
  • The West Wing (season 4, episodes 12-20, rewatch along with The West Wing Weekly podcast)
  • Shameless (season 3, season 4 episodes 1-8)
  • Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (season 3)
  • The Tudors (seasons 1-2 rewatch)
  • Mary Tyler Moore (season 1 episodes 1-15 rewatch)
  • Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee (13 episodes from various seasons)
  • Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (a few random Alex Cabot episodes, rewatch inspired by jury duty)
  • Queen Elizabeth's Secret Agents (episodes 1-3)
  • The Windsors (episodes 1-3)
  • Elizabeth I (episode 1 rewatch)
  • Altered Carbon (episode 1)
  • Mindhunter (episode 1)
  • Wormwood (episode 1)
  • Fred Armisen: Standup for Drummers
  • My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman: Barack Obama
I've seen:
  • Guster (College Street Music Hall in New Haven)
  • Andrew Bird (Capitol Theater in Park Chester)
  • The Stonewall Chorale (Church of the Holy Apostles in Manhattan)
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson (BAM)
  • Louisiana Philharmonic (Carnegie Hall)
  • 54 Does 54 (54 Below)
  • The Band's Visit (Ethel Barrymore Theater)
  • Sweeney Todd (Barrow Street Theater)
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Part 1 (Lyric Theater)
  • Kings (Public Theater)
  • Or Current Resident (Theater for the New City, Squeaky Bicycle Productions)
  • Modigliani Unmasked (Jewish Museum)
  • Fraunces Tavern Museum
  • A Wrinkle in Time
I've done:
  • A trip to Utah & Wyoming to visit Lauren
  • 2 trips to New Haven to visit Sara & Dan
  • Jury Duty
  • 2 QUO concerts
  • 2 articles for my freelance job
  • Duolingo Japanese full curriculum (started in September), started Spanish (49% fluency)
  • Around 20 drawings I saw fit to post to Instagram

Saturday, January 27, 2018

TV consumed in 2017

Series I started watching in 2017:
Steven Universe (seasons 1-4)
Black Mirror (series 1-3)
Stranger Things (seasons 1 and 2)
Shameless (seasons 1 and 2)
Victoria (season 1)
The Handmaid's Tale (season 1)
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story (season 1)
Bates Motel (season 1)
Master of None (season 1)
The Good Place (season 1)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (season 1)
The Eighties
The Seventies
The Sixties
The Keepers
Jane the Virgin (episodes 1-14)
Riverdale (episodes 1-4)
Broad City (episodes 1-4)
A Series of Unfortunate Events (episodes 1-3)
Travelers (episodes 1-3)
This Is Us (episodes 1-3)
Schitt's Creek (episode 1)
Ozark (episode 1)
The Santa Clarita Diet (episode 1)
13 Reasons Why (episode 1)
Girlfriend's Guide to Divorce (episode 1)
Reign (episode 1)

Series I continued watching in 2017:
Will & Grace (season 9, episodes 1-7)
Orange Is the New Black (season 5)
The Americans (season 4)
Orphan Black (season 4)
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (season 3)
Broadchurch (season 3)
The Man in the High Castle (season 2)
Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (season 2)
The Crown (season 2)

Series I rewatched in 2017:
The West Wing (seasons 1-3, along with The West Wing Weekly podcast)

Monday, October 30, 2017

I went to Japan

A few weeks ago, my friend Cricket and I took a two-week trip to Japan, covering Tokyo, Kyoto, and Sapporo. At the bottom of this post (under the dashed line) is a detailed account of what we did, for those of you interested in traveling to Japan and want tips. Immediately below are a few observations I hope will be interesting to all. You can see all my photos in my Facebook photo albums (13 albums named "Japan, Day X...") or just the highlights on my Instagram.

  1. Steamed sesame milk in coffee (at Ueshima coffee, a chain we found in Kyoto and Sapporo) quickly became our favorite morning beverage. They also served thick-cut toast with butter, which we enjoyed.
  2. You hear tales of train employees physically squishing you into the train at rush hour, but our experience was that passengers squish themselves into the train and the employees help when they need to. I saw a train employee come by and hand a woman her bag which was hanging outside the door. The point is, in Japan, people don't stand in the doorway.
  3. The legs on the men who pull the rickshaws are finest looking legs I've ever seen.
  4. Some Japanese establishments play "Auld Lang Syne" at closing time. Cricket and I noticed this peculiarity as we were leaving Nijo Castle in Kyoto. It turns out to be a Japanese song set to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne," and the reason for this is colonialism/imperialism blah blah blah.
  5. You hear that Japanese people generally go out of their way to help lost tourists, and this was definitely true in our experience. On three occasions, kind strangers came up to us because we looked lost, and on two of those occasions we were indeed lost. On the third occasion, we'd just stopped to say hello to a dog, but an old women walking with a cane crossed the street to see if she could help us.
  6. Speaking of dogs, nearly every dog in Japan in a shiba inu.
  7. In the mornings, monks walk around the Teramachi Dori area of Kyoto chanting. One morning I listened closely, and it was four monks each holding a different pitch, resulting in a sort of seventh chord (I'd like to go back and determine what type, but in my memory it is something in the neighborhood of half-diminished). Whenever a monk would stop to take a breath, he'd immediately rearticulate the same pitch he'd been chanting, adding interest to the sound.
  8. Most restaurants and cafes in Japan have stuff baskets under the seat/table for you to stash your bag/coat etc while you eat. 
  9. Like the Denver airport, subway and regional trains come with their own arrival and departure music, and it's all charming. Even the cash machines sang a little song for each action it completes (a different sound for returning your card, printing your receipt, and dispensing your cash).
  10. Cricket and I attempted to learn a little Japanese before our trip, if nothing else to show we were trying. We were able to get by with English most places we went, but we managed most of the pleasantries in Japanese. I came to notice that store employees would giggle at me when I'd wish them a good night, saying "oyasuminasai." Cricket and I couldn't figure out why they were so amused, googling and double-checking phrase books, all of which confirmed that "oyasuminasai" means "good night." Finally, we asked our American-born tour guide in Kyoto what gives. He told us that "oyasuminasai" is closer to a "sweet dreams" sentiment than a "good-bye." It's what you say to someone who's about to go to bed. After I learned that, I made sure to keep wishing people "oyasuminasai" because I enjoyed the reaction I got.
Thanks for reading! 


For those of you interested in details, here is our itinerary:

TOKYO: 5 nights, 4.5 days
  • LODGING: Kimi Ryokan, Ikebukuro, Toshima ward. Kimi Ryokan is a "budget ryokan." Small room just large enough for a futon mattress laid on the floor (times the amount of people you're sharing a room with). Communal bathrooms, lounge area for eating any anything else you might want to do seated at a table. Free private relaxation tub available for reservation. Great value: it amounted to around $30 per night per person.
  • MONDAY: Arrival at Narita Airport and JR train to Ikebukuro (FYI: we bought 2-week unlimited JR passes for around $400 each. I didn't crunch the numbers to see if it ended up being worth it, but it did make travel easier since all we had to do was show the pass to get into the station). Dinner at Ichiran Ramen and then collapsed into bed.
  • TUESDAY: Shinjuku Gyoen (national garden and park), Yoyogi Park with Meiji Shrine and garden, lunch and shopping around Harajuku/Jingumae, including a visit to "HARRY" Hedgehog Cafe. Dinner at Yayoiken in Ikebukuro (Teishuko cuisine)
  • WEDNESDAY: Bus from the Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal straight to Mt. Fuji 5th Station. Saw a shrine and walked some trails. Dinner at Shin Udon in Shinjuku, and shopping at Tokyu Hands.
  • THURSDAY: Tsutaya Books in Ginza, Walked around the Imperial Palace and through the Imperial Gardens, National Museum of Modern Art (Momat) where there was an exhibit on the history of the Japanese house. Afternoon and evening in Setagaya ward with Cricket's friend Hiroki as our guide: Sangen-jaya, Gotokuji shrine (featuring Maneki-neko, the iconic Japanese good-luck cat), and dinner and shopping in Shimo-kitazawa (dinner at a great okonomiyaki place called Hiroki, no relation to our Hiroki).
  • FRIDAY: Maruzen bookstore in Marunouchi OAZO, Ikeda Manabu exhibit at Takashiyama in Nihonbashi, rode the Yurikamome aboveground train with beautiful views of the city to Odaiba, where we ate at a ramen food court, walked along the water, and went to the Museum of Emerging Science (Maraikan). Met my friend Shohei in Ebisu for dinner (with shopping in Atre before)
KYOTO: 4 nights, 3.5 days
  • LODGING: Seibido Inn, near City Hall, Nakagyo ward. Similar to Kimi Ryokan, but our room was at least 4 times bigger and we had our own bathroom. The lounge was also much larger, and in general we had much more room to breath and spread out. Cost came to around $50 per night per person, and the extra money was worth it. The location was great. We walked to most places, and we were very close to trains and buses.
  • SATURDAY: Shinkansen to Kyoto station and a taxi to Seibido. Once we were settled, we took our first of many walks through Teramachi Dori shopping arcade and Nishiki Market. We found lunch at a fast-food udon place called Hanamaru, and visited Nijo Castle and the garden/spark surrounding Kyoto Imperial Palace. We also took our first of many riverwalks along Kamogawa. Dinner was a collection of findings at a supermarket and 7-Eleven consumed in the lounge at Seibido Inn
  • SUNDAY: Bus to Arashiyama for bamboo grove, shrines, a lunch of shojin ryori (Buddhist temple cuisine), and the Arashiyama Monkey Park. After a quick stop back at the inn, we set our for shopping and dinner in the Teramachi/Nishiki area, a jut southeast for a gin bar, and then a walk along the river back to Seibido.
  • MONDAY: JR to Nara for the Great Buddha statue in Todai-ji, with stops along the way to feed deer and stare at a pagoda in Kofuku-ji, plus lunch at a curry place and snacking at Cafe de Crie (chain). On the way back to Tokyo, we dipped our toe into Fushimi Inari Shrine, and then made it another 7-Eleven dinner night (honestly, tourism is exhausting).
  • TUESDAY: A stop at the post office to mail some gifts home, and then Nishiki Market tour (through Arigato Japan) culminating in a Kaiseki lunch at Omenohana. After lunch, we went back to Nishiki Market to make our delicious purchases, and then ventured across Kamo River to the Gion neighborhood of Kyoto where we walked the scenic Shinbashi-dori, walked through Yasaka Shrine, gazed at a statue of Kannon (Buddhist figure), stalked and eventually caught up with Yasaka Pagoda, and then had dinner at a ramen place we came upon. Craving something western, we had a drink at a drink at Pig & Whistle, and then crossed the river back to familiar territory and had a beer at a local place on our way to the inn.
NOBORIBETSU: 1 night, 1/2 day
  • LODGING: Noboribetsu Grand Hotel. We decided to treat ourselves to something familiar. This was a western-style restort hotel, although they did offer eastern-style rooms and there were public baths. There was a huge dining room, two restaurants, and a bar. Price was around $200 for the night (total).
  • WEDNESDAY: Shinkansen from Kyoto to Noboribetsu (transfers at Tokyo and Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto). After check-in, dinner at one of the hotel restaurants, followed by a drink at the hotel bar.
  • THURSDAY: Breakfast in the dining hall and a visit to the public baths, then we toured Noboribetsu Onsen: Jigokudani ("Hell Valley hot springs"), a nature trail, Oyunuma lake, and Oyunuma Brook Natural Foot Bath. Lunch and shopping on the one street in Noboribetsu that has restaurants and shops. JR train to Sapporo.
SAPPORO: 4 nights (1 in Chitose), 3 days
  • LODGING: An Airbnb near Susukino Station, Chuo ward. Finding the place was a bit of a challenge, but once we got there everything else was a breeze. Cricket paid for this so I'm not sure of the price.
  • THURSDAY: With some help from a kind stranger, we took the "Shiden" Sapporo Streetcar to where we thought our Airbnb was located. We didn't have a kind stranger to help us find the Airbnb itself, but after some texting with the owner, we were inside and happy. We had a beer at a place with no English menu, and then dinner somewhere else ("Organic+"). After a stop at 7-Eleven for dessert, we settled in for the night and watched "Terminal" on Netflix (due to a sudden Stanley Tucci inspiration).
  • FRIDAY: After coffee and thick toast at Doutor (coffee chain), we walked through the crab market down to Toyohira River. We walked along the river to Naebo station where we took the Hakodate JR line to Nopporo Park. There we visited the Historical Village of Hokkaido and walked some trails in Nopporo Natural Forest. We got back on the Hakodate line in the direction we came, going through Sapporo to the other side for an evening in Otaru. We walked the canal, had dinner at the Beer Hall, and dessert at Mister Donut before training back to the Airbnb.
  • SATURDAY: Streetcar to Mt. Moiwa ropeway where we chit-chatted with a friendly stranger who seemed to want to practice her English. Lunch and shopping at Sapporo Stellar Place, then walked to Sapporo Beer Museum and tasting room, where we got to try the much acclaimed Hokkaido cheese. From there we walked and then sat for a spell in the "Sapporo Factory" which is really just a shopping mall. We had dinner at Fugetsu (DIY okonomiyaki place) at "Paseo" in the Sapporo train station.
  • SUNDAY: Checked out of the Airbnb and brought our luggage to the lockers at Sapporo Station, and then spent the rest of the morning and some of the afternoon at Maruyama Zoo. We had a quick dinner at Sapporo Station before training to Chitose for our last night in Japan. After checking in to the Chitose Airport Hotel, we took advantage of the free onsen deal at their partner hotel "Area 1," and then walked down to our last Japanese river (Chitose River) and around town, ending with one last trip to Mister Donut.
  • MONDAY: 7:30am flight out of New Chitose Airport. TIP: Chitose Airport doesn't open until 6:30am.
Notes on weather/time of year:
  • Internet wisdom was that the best times of year to visit Japan are late spring and early fall. We chose the latter (last week of September–first week of October). Temperatures in Tokyo and Kyoto were in the 80s, but more comfortable at night (still short-sleeves weather, though).
  • Mt. Fuji was cooler, in the 60s, and we only went up to the 5th Station (FYI: everything above the 5th Station is closed by early September).
  • We were expecting Sapporo to be colder. Temperatures ranged from the 50s to the 70s while we were there. We did get to see the beginnings of fall color while in Sapporo.
  • It rained three times while we were there (once in each place), but none of them were really fun-ruining rain. We made minor changes to our plans, but didn't have to resort to hiding inside very much.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


I am grateful for the advice at 1:06-2:09 of this video. Actually, the whole video is worth watching, and so are nearly all of the videos on CGPGrey's YouTube channel, but this particular segment deals with the concept of "following your passion," which I've always had a little trouble with.

Having an interest in the arts and creative pursuits tricked me into believing I have a passion. The deception began at a young age. I enjoyed playing piano and drawing and composing and listening to music, and most role models in those areas are (or are portrayed as) passionate people. When arts professionals talk (particularly to children) about their work, they speak of their passion. I related and aspired to that passion without realizing that's not the way my mind works.

Even into young adulthood I convinced myself I was passionate about my chosen field of study, which eventually became music composition. The truth is composition is something I did because I enjoyed it, but I wasn't driven to create. I didn't, and don't, have a fire burning inside me.

The search for a "career" that has lasted most of my adult life pointed in the direction of some amorphous "dream job." In the absence of something true taking up the "dream job" space in my brain, I conjured credible dreams of being a successful author, composer, performer, etc. I thought it would be neat to be these things, but I had no fuel to get myself to any of those places, nor even enough to start, nor did I have regret or remorse over not having tried. I realize those are pie-in-the-sky dream jobs. Practical people have attainable dream jobs, like owning their own business, or becoming a successful doctor or lawyer or other professional goal that requires slightly less luck to achieve. None of those types of goals called to me either.

I'm pleased to announce that, after a long journey, I'm satisfied in my work life and the path before me. I'm a copy editor at a marketing agency; I enjoy what I do and I get a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment from a job well done. I'm also happy to have come to the conclusion that passion is not for everyone. The epiphany came before I saw the video linked above, but am gratified to hear it come from a successful, intelligent person, whom I might have assumed to be passionate, but maybe not. Maybe he just found something he likes doing, and is able to devote time and energy to it without the vague motivation of passion to drive him.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Mid-year book post

Although a little past mid-year, Facebook reminded me that on this day last year, I babbled about books in my blog. So here we go again.

So far, I've read 11 books toward my goal of 17:

A twelfth is not far behind: Murakami's Kafka on the Shore (Goodreads cheerfully informs me that I am 63% through the book).

Geography of the books stands out this year more than in past years. Six of the seven novels I've read this year have taken me abroad: Japan, Italy, Nigeria, England, and China (twice). The two books set in China complement each other nicely as Amy Tan shows us China from the early 20s up to World War II, and Mo Yan picks up from there and takes us to the present. Ferrante covers the 50s and early 60s in Italy, and both she and Murakami refer to WWII, but Kafka on the Shore takes place in the present day of the author (2005). Adichie's story spans roughly my lifetime and she travels between Nigeria and the US. Smith goes specifically to 1986 (from 2006). Lastly, Maguire takes us back to mid-19th century Oxford, just after Alice goes down the rabbit hole.

There are 13 authors and 1 illustrator for these 11 books, and of the 14 of them, exactly half are male and half are female. Born in the US and born abroad is also split down the middle. All except Strunk & White are living, and the oldest of the living is Ozawa at 81. The youngest is Doughty at 33, with West joining her in the younger-than-me club at 35. Maguire and Murakami are the only authors I'd read before. After Alice is my fourth by Maguire and Kafka on the Shore is my third by Murakami.

So far this year I've read no books published before 1989 (The Joy Luck Club), and none between 1990 (A Natural History of the Senses) and 2005 (Kafka on the Shore). I've read no books published this year, the newest book being Shrill (2016). Technically, The Elements of Style was published in 1918 (predating all but one of my grandparents), but the illustrated version I read is from 2007.

On a Memorial Day trip upstate with my friend Cricket, I bought My Brilliant Friend and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes at Buffalo Street Books in Ithaca (and The Yiddish Policeman's Union, which may also get read this year). I visited the now-sadly-shuttered Book Court in Brooklyn on their last day (New Year's Eve 2016) and bought The Joy Luck Club, Kafka on the Shore, and After Alice (along with Ishiguro's Noctures). My Goodreads review of A Natural History of the Senses shares the story of how I've owned that book for nearly 20 years, but I forgot I had it and bought it again at Book Barn of the Finger Lakes in Dryden, NY last year, so now I have two. A fellow Phi Sigma Pi alum told me about Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out, which I finally ordered from Astoria Bookshop on the third consecutive time I visited and they didn't have it in stock. I borrowed Shrill and Americanah from friends (Courtney and Max, respectively, although I think Max's copy of Americanah belonged to someone else), and The Elements of Style, Remembrance of Things I Forgot, and Absolutely on Music were gifts (my brother-in-law, Álvaro, and my parents, respectively). 

I'm doing a very good job of reading the books I buy and receive as gifts, and not as good a job of reading from the pile I created at the beginning of last year, to which I've been adding since I took this picture.

With things looking pretty even male/female-wise and US/abroad-wise, I could spend the rest of the year catching up on non-fiction: there is a Mary Roach in the pile, a memoir, a few scary big books, and David Foster Wallace on my nightstand (I had a false start with him last year and the book's been sitting there ever since). David Rakoff is also on my nightstand from a time when I thought I was starting The Uncollected David Rakoff, so that would also fit the bill. After finishing Kafka on the Shore, I'll only be five away from my goal, and if I finish early, I might spend the balance of the year on a time-consuming project like Game of Thrones. It will be winter by then, after all (he says, not having any idea what "Winter is coming" means).

Oh, and how did I like them, you don't ask? My favorite for the year so far is After Alice. I just loved every minute of it. I also loved Shrill, The Elements of Style, and Yan and Tan. Although I enjoyed experiencing Naples through Elena Ferrante, My Brilliant Friend was a drudgery, and the book I liked least.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

McDonald's as a treat for avoiding McDonald's

Walking home from the subway I decided I would have McDonald's for dinner, rather than trying to make myself something out of the dubious ingredients I had in my house. Then I remembered I had leftover Chinese sesame noodles and decided in favor of that meal I'd already paid for, instead of my original idea.

I left myself extra time for a late lunch on my way to a QUO concert, and my brain was trained on a McDonald's I would inevitably have to walk past. But walk past it I did as I envisioned the forthcoming hour of my life spent inside a fast food restaurant. I chose to spend the hour in Citizens of Chelsea where I had avocado toast and coffee, costing more than twice a McD's value meal but in the charming company of hipsters.

Having carried over my McDonald's craving for two meal opportunities now, I settled on McDonald's as my Penn Station treat before a trip into New Jersey. But when I got there, I realized I had an hour to kill and all the meal options in the world. I decided to give it a walk around the block before resorting to McDonald's, and I ended up at the Bread Factory Cafe where I had enough pesto pasta to feed an army.

On day four of my McDonald's craving (I took Friday off, apparently) I decided I'd have either Burger King or McDonald's on my way to Bush Terminal Park, but then I remembered I wanted to check out Industry City where there is food to be had. I had a crepe-wrapped sandwich called a "jianbing" and a Vietnamese iced coffee.

Today was the breaking point. I decided I would get a deli sandwich, but if the line at the deli was long, I'd sally forth to McDonald's. The deli was closed for renovations.