Anything Goes Rambling

Thoughts On Cleaning

March 5, 2017

I’m not a neat person.

I mean, I’m neat like “hey, that’s a neat t-shirt you’re wearing” (what kind of t-shirt popped up in your head? I thought of a burger shirt. I have one with a wicked awesome sesame bun and an appropriate but really devastating grease stain). But I’m not neat by way of organization. I remember how my lift lid school desk would clutter until it became the likeness of a Saturday yard sale and somehow, hard as I tried, I could never seem to tame it. My backpack was a similar story, but that’s especially weird because I was obsessed with having dividers in my binders, but hated actually dividing things.

I also remember leaving laundry sprawled out on my apartment floor days after doing it, but that’s because this just happened this week and I waited until Thursday to fold it, mere days before before I had to do laundry all over again. Naturally, I really enjoy reading articles about how creative people are messy by nature. That’s me, right? Just a sad, tortured artist with a of unopened mail from 2013. I should really open those letters and find out what credit cards I’ve been pre-approved for.

Considering all this and the fact that there’s a box of Kosher salt I’ve moved across three apartments, I’m long overdue for a decluttering. Let me just say that I’m supremely jealous of people who have procrastinate by cleaning. People who defer productivity by being productive: what is your secret? What are you avoiding when you’re cleaning—winning a nobel prize? Have you ever thought of making your procrastination mobile and coming to clean someone else’s apartment? :)

While I’ve made small little bags over the month of recyclables, it’s not easy for me to let go. Despite not being as sentimental about things as I once was, I have the newfound problem of saying: well if this is really trash, wouldn’t I have thrown it away already? Why did I keep it all these years if I didn’t really need it?

Because you have a sickness, Nhi. You know you don’t need that empty CD case with the broken hinge. And no, it’s not an appropriate metaphor for life, either.

The other night I got so fed up with the clutter and realized how much it consumed my thoughts that I finally mustered up the motivation to clear some of it out. I cleared the table by my door. I picked up under the couch, where I found some lavender bath salts from my taking-baths stint (remember that?) This, I figured, was the universe pushing me to reward myself for cleaning with a nice relaxing bath for my sore back. This was the first time I’ve tried to take a bath in this apartment, but as it’s so old, the hot water ran out before the tub was even filled halfway. I used my water boiler to add two pots of hot water into the tub, but in the end it was just a laughable scene of being waist high in tepid water, undissolved salt, trying not to get the library’s copy of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire wet. I’m sorry for the water that was wasted. Lesson learned and apartment cleaned.

 

Reading

Finished Reading: The Things They Carried

February 21, 2017

I read The Things They Carried for the first time 10 years ago. This is what I remember: I was a freshman in college taking school way too seriously to belie a fear I had that I couldn’t cut it academically. Consequently, I remember feeling relieved that I could understand this story of American soldiers in Vietnam on an immediate level–no linguistic decoding or daunting footnotes involved.

The book itself has a lot to say about remembering, like how it isn’t necessarily the same as occurrence (described by the author as “story truth” vs. “happening truth”). We use the senses anchored to our recollection of things as proof of its universality. We smelled it, tasted it, heard it, saw it–so it must be so. It’s almost disorienting to think, then, that our memories are just as true as they are untrue. They’re merely stories, and this book is filled with lots of little ones: some sad, some provocative, some even incredulous. The last one depicts an innocence I did not know could exist in a book set during the Vietnam War.

Even writing this now, I’m unsure if I’ve captured the book’s perspective on documentation correctly. I think that’s the point though–that right or wrong is not always the goal of retelling, and that the truth isn’t just about what happened. The book explains this concept with an insightfulness and eloquence I can’t relay and is absolutely worth a read–or in my case, two.

Experiences Holidays

Happy 2017!

January 6, 2017

I spent the last moments of 2016 with a slice of pizza to raise in the air at midnight instead of a drink. In my head I could hear the part of me who always makes things bigger than they are consider this some important symbol of change: If you want things to change, you have to do something different. But in my heart, this was mostly about eating free food and getting home safely.

Some mild chaos ensued (something about someone wanting champagne and deciding 11:59 was the moment to voice this) and we missed the stroke of midnight. People started counting anyway, but counting backwards at any time other than 10 seconds before the new year or the last 10 seconds of a timed game just sounds like we’re employing an anger management technique. You just had to laugh at how all-over-the-place everything felt and how narrowly we missed the mark.

This is what I want! Mild chaos of the innocuous sort. And plenty of pizza.

Cheers to an amusing new year!

Holidays

Thanksgiving 2016

December 5, 2016

img_0418Hasn’t it been the strangest few weeks/fall/year/lifetime?

Though part of me feels like 2016 has flown by, another part of me thinks about everything that has happened in 11 months and thinks, yes, that’s definitely a year’s worth of stuff. The kind of stuff that makes me realize that when I look back on my life I will have forgotten so much but not this year. Around me, people are pretty openly resentful about 2016. I don’t blame them. I’ve watched people suffer as individuals, as part of a community, as an entire human race. Small tragedies that make us sigh when we inadvertently let our polite façades slip. Huge, insurmountable challenges that make previous realities feel like we must have been wearing rose-colored lenses. Of course, I don’t intend to discredit any fortune that came to me or anyone else this year or to say everything was horrific period. My point is: what an unforgettable time to be alive.

Thanksgiving arrived amidst a whirlwind of history in chaotic motion, forcing us to reconcile gratitude with widespread conflict. I know it sounds ridiculous but I wasn’t sure how to even express my own personal gratitude for things without it coming across as forced. There’s a difference between saying you’re grateful and really feeling it, undeniably, as a personal truth. With something people tout as aggressively as gratitude as a tool for wellness, I was extra weary about approaching it insincerely (but for cold stir-fry from a ziploc bag at 6AM in an airport terminal I am truly thankful and I’m not being tongue-in-cheek).

You just can’t overthink things too much with me. With all that I just said, let me throw caution to the wind and say some things that made me amused/happy/thankful over the recent holiday:

My dad tracks his voting record by leaving “I voted” stickers on his dashboard and writing the year on them.

My mother asked me where I’d like to be born in my next life. I haven’t decided?

Breakfast. To be able to start every single day having something to feed yourself is the pinnacle of luxury.

Technology. Every night I curled up in bed, uninterrupted for what felt like the first time all year, watched TV completely warm from head to toe, and I couldn’t believe how good it felt, even crying at a sad scene or relating more than I’d like to someone’s seemingly impossible plight–how good that felt, to feel that stinging alone in a soft bed under a heavy blanket.

I also added my dad to my Netflix account and it felt so good seeing how excited he was to be able to watch the later seasons of The Andy Griffith Show (that are in color!). He’s asked me how he can find Westerns on Netflix and that just makes me happy. I’ve given him the gift of binge-watching.

The Bay. The other day I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. I’ve done that so rarely even having grown up not too far from it. Its grandness is so uncaptured in any touristy rendition on postcard or otherwise–it really is a site to behold up close. As we drove across the sun was falling softly into the bay and the bridge was growing before us, tall and out of reach. Both things side by side, nature and architecture were incredible. Just amazingness that you instantly miss afterwards.

Having more than I know I have. Knowing less than there is to know. Because that means that there’s more out there for me to get to, and I can take comfort in that. Imagine how hard it would be to feel like you knew all there was and that was it. Stupidity can be a relief.

Travels

A Couple Photos from Chicago this Past Summer

October 16, 2016

chicago66View from the 606

 

img_6235Breakfast pasta!

Summer ended in Chicago eating spaghetti in the morning and playing at the beercade in Lakeview at night. I loved every second of it, but I was also glad to come home to the city of readily available toilet seat covers.

Goodbye summer, hello…summer? What are you still doing here?

Activities

I Even Procrastinate On Summer.

August 8, 2016

080716_Sunset

Sometimes I think Summer’s almost over. Then I remember that I live in Los Angeles and summer has no beginning and no end here. There’s just waves of weather, hinting at another season but then quickly pulling you back into life under the sun.

Part of me almost forgot what season it was because I’ve been living the glamorous life of a person with air conditioning. I just want to note that I’ve never had an AC in my entire adult life and there’s something deliciously spoiling about blasting sterile, cold air at your body on command. I’m doing it right now. Maybe it’s bratty to admit how much I love this but I’m just happy I’ve quite literally moved up from sleeping on a yoga mat on the floor with the door open. After a while I missed the torture of roasting in the midsummer heat so I began only allowing myself to run it if I had worked out that day. For the first time in years, I’m actually exercising regularly. Just in time to get toned for fall.

I spent a paragraph talking about air conditioning because it is the smallest thing that I am blowing up as a symbol of maturing. I own something heftier than a $20 fan. I felt like I needed something and I found a solution. I didn’t ignore my instincts for once. Now if only I knew how to do other summery things that adults do, like incorporate seasonal ingredients into my food and wear large-brimmed hats with white denim. Have I wasted summer if I haven’t had sorbet? How come no one talks about sherbet anymore?

I did go hiking recently, which is summery and very apt to do. One day after work I braved traffic (because it truly is brave to endure it here) to go on what I believe was my very first evening hike. I watched the sky fade to dark and the shapes in the landscape become silhouettes. I love the look of silhouettes when executed in non-creepy ways. Sometimes even when I’m enjoying a view I wonder if I like it as much as other people or if I’m amazed by it in the same way. Sometimes I wonder if I just like views because I’m looking down on something for once. Then I tell myself overthinking the integrity of my enjoyment of a view is dumb.

I’ve decided that there is certainly time to do some things that personally satisfy my definition of summer, though they mostly involve just sitting on my porch. Sitting on my porch with some guacamole and watermelon beer, sitting on my porch and reading a book, sitting on my porch with other foods. Going on another hike. Swimming. Things I need to take initiative to do but that I know I’d enjoy. Actually, I’m realizing now that I could’ve sat on my porch while writing this post.

I lack foresight. Also, I lack hindsight.

Anything Goes The Writing Thing

Unripe Passionfruit, Overripe Passion

July 19, 2016

What used to be a large plane of grass is now the literal fruits of my parent’s laborious efforts to turn my childhood backyard into an orchard of sorts. Among the bounty is a passionfruit vine which prompted a realization: I think I’ve only ever had passionfruit mixed in some tropical concoction, possibly with alcohol. What the hell does passionfruit actually taste like? They did not ripen before I left my parent’s house, so for now my answer is sugar and novelty.

Summer is whizzing by like some thug who’s just snatched a woman’s purse. On the actual bright side, the delayed darkness helps me pretend I have more time to pursue the things I like to do (and often, the things I convince myself I like to do). Right now, through a tall café window, I can see headlights floating in every direction on this summer night. I soak up the magic of this urban city moment, but only briefly before I return to a self-centered wish that this won’t mean traffic as I head home.

Back to pursuing things with my fake extra time: as always, reading things and writing things. I bounce back and forth between non-fiction and fiction. For now, though, I think I’ve had my share of someone telling me how to read or write more, and someone just has to shove me into the pool already. Or I need to close my eyes and make the jump myself. For all my “research” on how to be the best creative person I can be, the one thing I’ve tried most to execute is planning and outlining before I start actually writing. This seems to reel me right into my biggest problem of all: trying to identify an actual problem. Which is the point of any story right? I always end up writing about the most un-suspenseful things, circumstances that would universally be agreed upon as boring. I feel like characters are supposed to climb up a steep mountain in the hot sun to attain greatness and the ones I write just lie in bed and cry about dropping toast on the floor. I feel like someone wanting to run without even knowing how to take a step. Maybe epiphanies can only occur if you’ve plunged into the depths of dissatisfying output like I have.

That’s meant to be more subjectively observational than self-deprecating. When it comes to doubt, I find it’s good to acknowledge it (so it doesn’t feel neglected and then punch you in the heart) but to leave it sitting on the other side of the room while you keep working. Sometimes that works for me. Other times I give into doubt, wind up watching or reading something, then get so jazzed about how good it is that I fall into the longing of wanting to write all over again.

Anything Goes Food Life Lessons

On Getting Older.

June 1, 2016

It’s times like when I have to throw out an old credit card that I have no idea how to discard of properly that I feel like I can’t possibly be an adult. Yet as of over a week ago, I’m another year older.

I ended up cutting the card into little strips, splitting them up, and then throwing several pieces away in each of my apartment’s garbage cans. That should be sufficient, right?

I’m 27 now and I’m not going to induce any eye-rolling by pretending that 27 is “old.” I will say, however, that I sailed through my mid-twenties without much evaluation on aging–until now. In general, I don’t care about getting old at all except that it means my parents are also getting older. But there’s a part of me that wants a new age, like a new year or season, to change the tides and offer something new. Then I realize that turning over a new leaf is ultimately up to me, a conclusion that itself possibly signals the wisdom of aging. Of course, part of my proactivity means coming back here to chat. Another part is my decision that there’s no room for people who aren’t good for me in my life. And so last Sunday, I began to eliminate people who spoil Game of Thrones on social media from my life. You could say this means my standards for acquaintances are higher than ever. You could also say they seem lower than ever. Both, I think, would work.

I celebrated my birthday the way any 27-year-old should–however I wanted to. For me, this meant $100 worth of Taco Bell and board games. I know how some will respond: Taco Bell! Ugh, fast food! Do you know how bad that is for you? That’s not special occasion food! That’s not authentic!

But I can’t hear them, the crunch of corn shells are too loud and they’ve already gone the way of the Game of Thrones spoilers.

 

Anything Goes Experiences Holidays

Visiting My Family for Thanksgiving Recounted in Unspoken Thoughts

December 1, 2015
  • I’m sleeping in my old room next to a huge pack of dixie cups and several dozen rolls of toilet paper piled up in the middle of the floor because my room was turned into a glorified storage closet shortly after I moved out.
  • A bunch of old home videos have been converted to DVD by my dad. I looked like Joseph Gordon-Levitt (in his 3rd Rock From the Sun days) when I was a 11 because I used to part my hair down the middle. Also, I used to say really fucking embarrassing things at that age, like “I’ll sock ya!” I had a ton of annoying kid energy, the kind I still do when I’m alone in my apartment.
  • Under “I have good parents” memories I’m banking the time my dad stood next to the sweet potato casserole all night and declared how good it was over and over again because it’s one of the only things I’ve made for Thanksgiving, ever.
  • We’re sitting by Nordstrom’s at the mall drinking coffee. My mom asks my dad, “should we tell her?” And then they decide that now is the time to tell me what they would like me to do with their bodies when they die. They also asked for feedback on their plans.
  • My dad tells a dirty joke and I don’t understand it. My parents then have a debate over whether I’m old enough to know these things. I’m present for the entire debate but have no say in the matter. Sadly, they decide that I’m an adult. They explain the joke and I bleed from my ears.
  • My visit home is almost over and I can tell that my parents are getting sad. Who will help them google Pat Sajak’s and Vanna White’s salaries when I leave?
Food Travels

I’ll Have What Phil’s Having

November 6, 2015

phil[Image credit: pbs.org]

I was on the phone with my dad the other day and he took the opportunity to let me know where he’d like us to eat next time he visits LA. He’s been watching a show called “I’ll Have What Phil’s Having,” which is a program on PBS where Phil Rosenthal travels to cool places and eats good food. As someone who never had cable, I have a real soft spot for public television and all its unadorned sincerity.

My dad described every place referred to in this episode and explained exactly why he wanted to try them (“the way they prepare their calamari!” etc., etc.) and now, naturally, I’ve tasked myself with revisiting every place I’ve been to and pre-visiting all the places I haven’t. There’s a Seinfeld bit where the joke is that we always get another appetite so it’s fine to ruin one, which is true, but each one is especially important when you’re traveling, so I need to make sure they all count when my dad gets here. Seinfeld is one of those things I associate with my dad because it’s his favorite. Food is another.

I’ve been to a few of the places visited on the show, like Langers Deli. Pastrami is one of those foods my dad loves, but my hometown doesn’t have much of a Jewish deli scene. Don’t hold me to that, though, because I’m going off observational research done at 11 years old. When you’re from San Jose, you eat pastrami from Togo’s. It’s #9, and I didn’t have to look that up to know that. My dad knows that, my 7th grade P.E. teacher knows that. That’s what pastrami is there. Wait, is this just something everybody knows? Is this not special to the beloved city of my upbringing?

Like my father, I’d travel far and wide for something memorable to eat without a second thought. Now I really want to blow off work and get a Pastrami sandwich. It’s not even 9AM yet.