The Doors of Paris

I can’t really say I’m fresh off my trip to Paris, since it’s been over two weeks since we’ve returned home. But as befits the Fall of Travel, we’re heading out again tomorrow, and I thought I’d at least tie up the final loose thread from Paris before we leave again!

Paris is so full of beauty that you may only be able to comprehend it by choosing very small, limited things to focus your attention on, so as not to become overwhelmed immediately. For me, it was doors. Something that seems so pedestrian in many locales, but was unsurprisingly breathtaking in Paris.

Enjoy!








And the most Parisian door of them all…

Small Differences Between NY & Home

As inspired by Mighty Girl’s travel series (Paris, Barcelona, Hawaii), here are a few things I noticed on a recent trip to New York:

  • People wear sunglasses a lot less in NY. I was there on sunny days, some of the hottest and muggiest of the summer. Despite that, I saw maybe one in every 20 folks with sunglasses on. It even affected me: in LA, I tend to automatically pop sunglasses on my face as soon as I venture outside, but by my third day there, I forgot to wear them till past lunchtime!
  • I was expecting a faster pace of activity, and gamely brought walking shoes and tried to keep up with the flow of foot traffic on the busy sidewalks. As such, I ended up getting to almost all of my meetups on time or early… and would then wait for 10-20 minutes. New Yorkers are meant to be impatient and to-the-point, but I guess that doesn’t always translate to punctuality! My suspicion is that everyone was stuck with “just one more thing at work” syndrome.
  • A black-and-white cookie is not a cookie, but a cake. Not a difference, I was just a bit (actually, a lot) boggled by that.
  • Half the people I saw standing on sidewalks (so… a lot) were smoking. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone smoking in LA!
  • I can count on one hand the number of streets I saw/crossed that were two-way. And yet, even though I knew they were all one-way, I could never keep myself from checking traffic the wrong way too… just in case. I kept hearing my parents’ voices in my head, saying “be sure to look both ways!”
  • Performances are just a part of life in NY. You can ignore them, smile and watch, or openly scoff, but it seemed pretty normal to see in any given week a subway dance troupe, breakdancers, and a Hare Krishna parade. I actually saw all of those things in just three days!
  • People would talk about money more openly. Granted, this may be affected by the people I interact with in LA (I don’t have a ton of friends in the entertainment industry), but I was part of many more conversations in NY that involved how much people made, how much rent was in that area of town, how much that vacation cost.
  • Coffeeshops were so so so small! It’s a good thing that there would be four on a block, because it’s very possible that the first three wouldn’t have any open table spaces.
  • Speaking of crowded blocks, spotting three or four of the same service on a single block probably means that you’ll get pretty good value at any of them, due to competition. When I found myself on a block with three nail salons, I did a Yelp search for the best-reviewed one. I ended up with an AMAZING manicure for $8.50 that included a one-minute back massage while my nails dried (is this standard?? If so, two points, New York.)!
  • I missed NPR. I remember as a kid hearing that New Yorkers loved their newspapers because they were perfect for reading in the subway, and Angelenos loved radio because they were always in their cars. I saw not one newspaper on the subway this trip — everyone was on their phones instead (doing something that doesn’t require consistent cell service, I guess?). But I did very severely miss having the presence of radio news in my life.
  • Everyone talked about the weather, which, to be fair, I feel like people do everywhere in the world. But in NY, unlike in LA, it’s actually worth talking about — I experienced two of the hottest, muggiest days ever (and I’m from Cleveland!), followed by a dark, cloudy day that featured two huge thunderstorms. Dramatic much, NY?
  • And finally, one big similarity, a big city thing, I think: every New Yorker has a very different New York. While, just like in LA, there are things that unite all the city’s denizens. But there are also things that are integral parts of one person’s life and complete mysteries to another person, even if those two folks have essentially lived side-by-side for years. NY example: the Chinese car services. LA example: $15 one-hour massages. (both of my examples are Chinese because I don’t know anyone else’s secrets.)
  • (Photo of me with a NY bagel in a NY park, but still with my LA sunglasses and chipped LA manicure very much intact.)

iPhone 5 Case


I have a love-love relationship with my current iPhone case. I love its cheerful, graphic nature, and I love that it does an admirable job protecting my phone from the many, many times I’ve dropped it. I love how smooth and sleek the hardcase feels in my hand, and I love that it’s practically impossible to remove, as I’ve had more rubbery cases before that I would nervously pick on and off till they permanently fell off my phone in sheer exhaustion.

However, I have apparently started to love my phone into shabbiness. As you can see in the second photo, my case has begun to rub off at the edge corners, and there are also a few visible nicks in its gorgeousness from “wear,” aka my aforementioned tendency to drop my phone. I mean, better to hurt the pretty case than the pretty phone, right?

And so, I’ve started looking afield lately. But I’m a bit perplexed: there are SO many options out there nowadays, and while I would be fine sticking with my tried-and-true GelaSkins (which is where I got my current case, as well as my favorite iPhone 4 case and laptop cases), I figured it was high time to check out other options too.

There are some super cute things at Society6 (I’d never get this, but I ADORE that it exists!), but I’ve heard multiple reports that the quality is junky — lots of rubbing off and whatnot. But I do like that they have a huge variety, as I’m never sure what’s going to strike my fancy, and I prefer having lots of options to sift through till one just jumps out at me.

Some of these are gorgeous too (I guess I’m in a serious geometric pattern phase). But as the GelaSkins ones are about as much as I’d want to spend, these end up being a bit pricey, especially if no one I know can vouch for their quality. So I turn to you! What are your favorite case-makers, especially considering my need for a large variety, some seriously design-y options, print quality (no rubbing off!), and, of course, ability to actually protect one’s phone?

Usain (my phone) and I thank you in advance!

Kids React to… Racists

While being too lazy to actually back up my claim here, I’m pretty sure at least 12% of what I post about here is sweet and funny kids making me cry. Or maybe that’s just the content of my internet browsing.

So either way, you’ve been warned! This is a video that will make you cry and laugh, and it’s NINE MINUTES. Now, listen to me: I can’t even watch piglets playing with kittens for a quarter of that (my kid’s really into both, so I’ve watched almost all of the baby animal videos on Youtube and am VERY AWARE of my patience levels with them). But I watched all of this and wanted to watch it again as soon as I finished.

So, curl up and get ready to want to kiss/hug/otherwise embarrass a bunch of sincere, smart, and as-of-yet-uncorrupted kids. And maybe keep the tissues close.

PS I’d like to say that as a kid, I was an Olivia, the eloquent, moved girl at the end (who seriously is like two years away from being a runway model, yes?), but of course, I was totally a Dylan, the goofy Asian kid who is already versed in the ways of sarcasm and mocking. “What is this country for? It’s something… starts with an E… oh! Equality, okay. So, why do you do that?” Preach, Dylan.

Alamo Drafthouse

Ahh, that was a refreshing break!

So: I’ve never been to Austin, or any of Texas for that matter. I am definitely self-selecting my info here, but based on five seasons of Friday Night Lights, the surprising (to me!) diversity of Houston, and here, the awesomeness of the Alamo Drafthouse movie theater in Austin… I may have to reconsider my previously dismissive attitude!

I love the phonetic misspelling guesses the best, because I am totally a bitch about that stuff.

Paris!

When we decided to try for a child, one major thing that I had to reconcile was saying goodbye to travel for a while. I mean, I anticipated plenty of trips to see family, and after a few years, it’d certainly be fun to take our kid on child-friendly vacations, if for nothing else than to see her surprised by new experiences and dazzled by cartoons come to life, ready to give her a big friendly hug.

But I thought for sure we were saying goodbye to non-family travel for a while, and even after we had Zoe, it made me shudder to think of wasting precious time in the world’s capitals dealing with toddler meltdowns or trying to find a decent place to change her. Or sitting in the hotel room with a passed-out child, cursing jet lag and the fact that probably no country allows you to leave your sleeping child alone in a locked room (KIDDING, don’t call CPS on me!). For some reason, I never thought about continuing to travel, just without her.

Silly, silly me. I couldn’t have foreseen that these days — almost two years after Zoe’s birth — I’m in a job that requires two (domestic) trips a year. They may not always be the most glamorous locales, but are still fun, happening cities where I can pretend to be a childless adult for a few days. And now, lo and behold, we’ve received an offer, the type of which is impossible to turn down: Evan’s been asked to moderate a panel at a conference… on his birthday… in Paris!

So we “discussed” it for about two seconds, and after we lined up reliable childcare for the week that we’ll be gone (thanks, Mom & Dad!!), we did a little dance that possibly involved too much butt-wiggling, and bought our tickets. Bonjour, Paris!

I’m beyond excited and also a bit overwhelmed. Evan and I have both been to Paris a few times, but not for over eight years (wow, nothing makes you feel old like counting the years…). That amount of time seems like forever, obviously not in Paris’s history, but definitely in ours — I mean, we can probably afford meals from real restaurants this time! Plus, the internet is such a different place than eight years ago, and as with so many topics, it’s now an overflowing repository of idealized, interesting Paris experiences, which is probably part of what’s overwhelming me.

So, I turn to you: I want to know everything — where should we go, what should we eat, what is a DEFINITE can’t-miss, and how do I avoid getting pickpocketed? Ooh, and what are the books/blogs I should be reading to get in a Paris frame of mind?

Some notes: we’ve been to most of the big tourist attractions on previous trips, but we probably won’t be able to resist at least a quick walk to the Notre Dame and Eiffel Tower anyway. I’m surprisingly feeling a bit “eh” on a Louvre trip, since I’ve visited it at least twice. And I do want to incorporate some sort of very delicious, very fattening food goal, something akin to seeking out the best croissant in Paris — which will obviously take lots of evidence-gathering!

What else, what else, what else? Taking all advice, starting now!

Merci beaucoup!!

(Photo of the Paris landmark that flashes into my mind’s eye every time I think of the city, the Fontaines de la Concord, courtesy of Inside France Ukraine)

Maurice Williamson


A couple of months ago, New Zealand passed an amendment to an existing marriage act, now clearly stating that same-sex marriage was legal. The language was short and a bit dry:

This bill seeks to amend the Marriage Act 1955 to ensure that its provisions are not applied in a discriminatory manner. The bill aims to ensure that all people, regardless of sex, sexual orientation, or gender identity will have the opportunity to marry if they so choose.

I remember at that time being happy about the news, but not feeling all that affected. I’ve visited gorgeous New Zealand, and have some friends who live there, but frankly didn’t give it much thought.

Then today, I had the pleasure of coming across a speech given by Maurice Williamson, a member of the House of Representatives, right before the final voting. He’s funny, touching, self-deprecating, honest, and seriously: so, so funny. I’m not sure how that dude behind him keeps such a straight face throughout his speech — maybe, as Williamson belongs to the center-right party (which makes this even more amazing), the guy behind him just REALLY disagrees with him, to the point where he’s actually lost his funny bone?

It’s a complete treat, and I can’t even imagine how amazing it would be if a member of the US Congress was this entertaining and incisive (or are they? I don’t watch a lot of C-SPAN):

And if that wasn’t enough, when the final vote was read in favor of the amendment, they let in observers, who started singing Pokarekare Ana, a traditional New Zealand love song. The politicians join in, and it’s just an incredibly touching moment… which means, yes, I cried:

Listen, as my friend Josh pointed out last night, there’s a lot of depressing shit going on right now. Sometimes, we could stand to focus on some of the amazing things that happening worldwide too. Happy Thursday!

PS the Rep who submitted the bill (she’s the one being hugged by everyone in the second video), Louisa Wall, was a national netball and rugby player before becoming a politician. She was on the 1998 women’s rugby team that won the World Cup! Overachieve much? :)

(Photo courtesy of Maurice Williamson’s Twitter)

The History of Love

The times when I’ve come across a book I love — not just enjoy or recommend — but truly and deeply LOVE, I feel as though I’ve been significantly altered as a person. While I don’t necessarily subscribe to the High Fidelity theory of “what really matters is what you like, not what you are like,” I do still feel an intense, instantaneous kinship with anyone who loves what I love. And there’s no realm in which this connection is as strong for me as with books — I can concede that someone who loves the same movies, music, or food as me could do so for their own valid reasons that are different from mine. But when someone wide-eye enthuses about one of those few books that I would use to define myself — I know I’ve found a kindred soul.

For some reason though, especially with these special few books, I’m not a big re-reader. Maybe I’m fiercely protective of that original experience, or maybe I’m afraid that it won’t happen again? Such was the case with one of my favorites, The History of Love, which I read when it came out in 2005. In the last year or so though, I’ve come across more folks, people I admire and respect deeply, who profess their love of this book. After that first zing of connection, I’d be suffused with longing and nostalgia for that reading experience. Then just last week, I read an interview with Mikel Jollett, the lead singer/songwriter for The Airborne Toxic Event, where he calls out The History of Love as one of his favorites (trivia: Nicole Krauss, the author, was at Stanford at the same time as him). One major thing that makes Airborne one of my favorite bands is Jollett’s lyrics. He has an unabashed and sincere love for poetry and an ability to pick the most affective way of expressing an emotion. It’s something that I greatly admire and connect with, and it is no surprise to me that he loves this book as well. It made me realize that, after almost eight years, it might finally be time to pick it up again.

So I’m about halfway through now, and savoring as much as I can. In my opinion, the most beautiful, inventive, and true passages in the book come from the book-within-the-book, also titled The History of Love. My favorite parts so far:

Maybe the first time you saw her you were ten. She was standing in the sun scratching her legs. Or tracing letters in the dirt with a stick. Her hair was being pulled. Or she was pulling someone’s hair. And a part of you was drawn to her, and a part of you resisted–wanting to ride off on your bicycle, kick a stone, remain uncomplicated. In the same breath you felt the strength of a man, and a self-pity that made you feel small and hurt. Part of you thought: Please don’t look at me. If you don’t, I can still turn away. And part of you thought: Look at me.

Even now, all possible feelings do not yet exist. There are still those that lie beyond our capacity and our imagination. From time to time, when a piece of music no one has ever written, or a painting no one has ever painted, or something else impossible to predict, fathom, or yet describe takes place, a new feeling enters the world. And then, for the millionth time in the history of feeling, the heart surges, and absorbs the impact.

Then she kissed him. Her kiss was a question he wanted to spend his whole life answering.

Feelings are not as old as time. Just as there was a first instant when someone rubbed two sticks together to make a spark, there was a first time joy was felt, and a first time for sadness. For a while, new feelings were being invented all the time. Desire was born early, as was regret. When stubbornness was felt for the first time, it started a chain reaction, creating the feeling of resentment on the one hand, and alientation and loneliness on the other. It might have been a certain counterclockwise movement of the hips that marked the birth of ecstasy; a bolt of lightning that caused the first feeling of awe. Or maybe it was the body of a girl named Alma. Contrary to logic, the feeling of surprise wasn’t born immediately. It only came after people had enough time to get used to things as they were. And when enough time had passed, and someone felt the first feeling of surprise, someone, somewhere else, felt the first pang of nostalgia.

I mean, I don’t know. Maybe most people find this incredibly pretentious. But I read this, and I feel down to my bones that this is one of the quickest ways for me to answer who I am: I love The History of Love. If you do too, I want to know you. What else is there to say?

(Photo courtesy of Andrea’s Bookclub — guess SJP is in my club!)

Lightning Obsession: Awkward Black Girl


You guys, sometimes when we get excited about things, we tend to overexaggerate. I mean, I’ve heard.

Earlier this week, when my friend Carey posted a news item about an actress named Issa Rae being cast as Nina Simone in a movie, he said, “If you aren’t into Awkward Black Girl [the web series that Rae created and stars in], this link is my present to you today.”

I very much respect Carey’s opinion on what’s what (for example, he understands — much like I do — that Friday Night Lights is basically life, except even more so than actual everyday life is), so after hearing that this got his stamp of approval, I decided to watch the first episode, but wasn’t expecting that much.

Then I watched another. And another. And you see where this is going.

Two days later, after watching every episode in the two seasons, I emerged, feeling the way that you should feel after binge-watching a series: completely invigorated by another person’s creative vision, smug as hell that I get to live in a world where this exists, and super eager to shout about it to anyone who’ll listen.

So here’s my shouting: ABG is hilarious, profane, insightful, sweet, and very very honest. It might resonate with you more if you’re black (which I’m not) and definitely will if you’re awkward (which I often am), but I am in total love with it, and would highly recommend watching the first episode. There are 25 overall, and they vary from 3 to 20-some minutes, but almost every minute (my attention drifted a bit during the black sorority hazing bits) is worth it.

And of course, it didn’t hurt that I developed quite the crush on White Jay, even through the parts where he was being totally lame. So sue me, I guess I have a type:

Hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

(Top photo courtesy of Tumblr and bottom photo courtesy of Lyman Johnson)

Cleveland Sports

This clock. Oh, this clock. Let me backtrack for a moment.

I was born and bred in Cleveland. I’ve lived in a few different places since I left home, but Cleveland will always be in my blood. One of the ways in which I get reminded of that is EVERY SINGLE MAJOR SPORTS SEASON, which pretty much is year-round. Cleveland is famously bad at sports — the last major championships won were the Browns NFL Championship (this was PRE-Superbowl!) in 1964 and the Indians’ World Series in 1948. Someone who could reasonably say they remember the Indians winning the World Series would be around 70 years old now.

It’s not just that we don’t win, it’s that we don’t win in heartbreaking fashion — here’s a great infographic to illustrate the depth of our despair. One of the most (if not the most) gut-wrenching parts of our history is when the Browns left in 1995.

Cleveland was on an upswing in Fall 1995 — the world-famous, I. M. Pei-designed Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum had just opened its doors and the Indians had posted the best regular season record in baseball at 100-44 and subsequently made it to the World Series for the first time since 1954 (spoiler alert: they lost.). Then, on November 6, Browns owner Art Modell announced that it was no longer financially viable to keep the Browns in Cleveland. He was taking football, arguably the country’s most beloved sport, out of Cleveland. It would be four years before we’d have a new team, and even then, it was an expansion team — our team was leaving forever for Baltimore, where they’d become the Ravens. Yes, the Ravens, the team who drafted Ray Lewis the very next spring, won the Superbowl five years later, and have been in the playoffs seven times since then, culminating in last season, when they won the Superbowl for a SECOND time. It’s enough to make you vomit.

But you know what? We don’t do that. I mean, sure, grousing about sports is part of being a Clevelander, but the people we are? We temper it with a sneaking sense of hope and optimism, which brings me back to the clock. When football left Cleveland in its dust, this clock was installed at Tower City, our downtown mall. It was a countdown of how many days there were till football came back to us, and served as a reminder that as bad as it gets (and again, look at that infographic. It’s been BAD.), we’ll always keep looking forward.

Maybe this season will be the season, you never know, and we can’t give up. Cleveland fans don’t leave before the game’s over, which is way more than I can say for fans of other teams, including fans of my beloved USC Trojans, sorry to say. Of course Cleveland fans would love it if our teams would just friggin’ win more, or more to the point, win when it counts (the Indians seem to delight in playing their best baseball in the first month of the season, and then not making the playoffs). But we would also never ever abandon our team for a more winning one. Since leaving home, I’ve primarily lived in Seattle and LA, and when asked if I’ll root for those teams, my reply is always, “Sure, I’m totally a Mariners/Seahawks/Sonics (sorry, Seattle)/Dodgers/Lakers/Clippers fan, except when they’re playing Cleveland,” which, come on, is only fair.

So all of that is to say that when I saw this video this morning, I felt for this kid, but also felt a sense of disgust.

Cry your tears, kid, then buck up and stand by your goddamned team. It’s what we’d do in Cleveland, and it’s only right.

(Photo courtesy of The Cincinnati Enquirer)