Friday, February 29, 2008

we built this city on rock and roll

It has been a tumultuous 48 hours since last I blogged, and I'm in a weird haze of emotion and exhaustion since I only slept three hours last night. However, I've managed to enjoy myself almost excessively despite the fact that I'm in full moving mode. Yesterday, I tried to arrange a going-away dinner for myself, and only Terry showed up. That was nice since I hadn't hung out with her in awhile, but the other invitees (Vidya, Adit, Sri, John, and Oniel) all chose to make me hang out with them at a different time. Vidya came over yesterday before the scheduled dinner and made off with three boxes of canned goods and other sundry items (including the fancy Balinese sea salt that I had purchased during that one week when I thought I was going to cook more gourmet foods - similar to the one week that I thought I was going to take up gardening, although I wish I had kept with the cooking). After dinner, I packed for a bit more, and then Adit, Sri and I had coffee and ridiculous $6 desserts at Cafe Borrone. They apparently pick up the desserts at Prolific Oven and double the price - but both the carrot cake and the strawberry-rhubarb pie were phenomenal. Of course, Adit and Sri were phenomenal too, and I'm going to miss both of them (and Vidya, obviously) tremendously.

After that, I stayed up until after three a.m. packing, and got up a little after seven to finish up. The movers showed up at 8am (half an hour early!) and loaded all my stuff while I battled with wrapping the glass top to my desk in bubble wrap (difficult!) and dissembling my patio table (double difficult, considering that it involved 24 bolts, all of which were in varying stages of either sticking or not being quite proper to begin with, since it was put together by Oniel, Victor and Garry while drinking a year and a half ago). They managed to cram it all into two storage pods, and we were done before noon.

I spent a couple of hours this afternoon at work, prolonging the goodbyes once again - it's probably getting excessively awkward that I keep showing up, but that's about to end. I had lunch with Alan, saw Laura, saw about half of my old team, and then escaped to run some other errands. Then, I had dinner with John at Cafe Borrone (I love that place!) - my $10 'California pollo panini' was amazing, and I added a lime Italian soda (like Sprite, but more expensive). Cafe Borrone is ridiculously high-priced, but I love it, and it's probably a good thing that I won't be anywhere near it while my unemployment drags on. It was good to see John, too - we tend to go through spurts of seeing each other repeatedly, followed by lulls when we both get busy, so I'm just going to pretend that the next four months are a standard lull, rather than a separation of 1800 miles.

I ended up driving up to the evil city one last time to give my vacuum cleaner to Vidya. We sat on her couch for an hour and discussed some jhokes before I took my leave of her. Luckily, we started out as e-friends, so I'm sure that we can continue our relationship, even if I would rather see her in person.

Okay, you don't get any more content tonight - I always give you enough content to choke on anyway, and I'm desperately tired, and I have a lot to do tomorrow before I can head east. Goodnight!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

there will be jhokes

I had a great day - I was going to start this post with self-recrimination because I didn't pack as much as I should have, but I had a lovely day, and I'm not too worried about finishing everything in time for my move on Thursday. I just went through and made a list of everything I have to do on each of the next three days, and it's manageable (although not ideal), so I'm going to stop stressing (I think).

Anyway, I woke up this morning just in time to go to Menlo Park and have brunch with Sri at Stacks. It's my favorite brunch place on the peninsula (yes, even above Mike's Cafe - I may be a regular at Mike's, but that's primarily due to proximity and lack of crowds, since Stacks is a few miles away and usually has a 30min+ wait on weekends). I had french toast, which is rare for me, since I usually prefer savory breakfasts, but it was v. delicious. It was also great to see Sri - I don't spend enough time with that kid, and I'm rather sad that he won't be here in the fall if I decide to come back to California. I guess this means that we won't be friends anymore, but at least we went out with a bang. I also got the added bonus of seeing Adit for the last five minutes of brunch; he inadvertently got a haircut that reminded me of my granddad, which he hates since he wanted something longer and much more stylish, but I think it's quite charming.

I progressed from brunch to lunch almost immediately, since I was double-booked for meals throughout the day. I left Stacks around 11:30 and went to my place of work, where I had lunch with Ziv and Marci. I also saw many members of my old team - and my laugh is so recognizable that while I was chatting with people, I got a text-message from Terry saying that she knew I was around because she could hear me from her desk half the floor away. Similarly, when I went upstairs later to give Laura one of my old senior pictures (I found one of me wearing a plaid shirt, lying in the grass, looking soulfully at the camera, thus hitting up her favorite Iowa stereotypes), I was talking to someone and laughing, and Alan (my old boss) came to the window of his office and waved at me while he was on the phone with someone else. Yay.

After all of that fun, I came home and packed for a couple of hours, and then went back to work to meet Arod for ice cream. Then, I went to Menlo Park again and had dinner with Sarah - she's my oldest friend at work, and so I'm glad we were able to see each other, even if I should have packed tonight instead. We went to Iberia (my favorite tapas place) and had the amazing datiles endiablados (devilled dates) - dates stuffed with chorizo and wrapped in bacon. I think that those dates may be one of the best single bites of food you can possibly have. We also had a variety of other tapas, dessert, and two glasses of wine each, so we were quite merry.

I realized two things tonight. One was that everyone I see from work immediately comments on how great I look - simply because I'm relaxed and 'glowing'. Since I'm not pregnant (even though Gyre threatened to spread that rumor), it must mean that I looked like a worn-out hag before, and apparently three weeks of sleep and socializing is completely rejuvenating. But if three weeks off (and absolutely no reason to think about work) is enough to completely change the glow/youthfulness of my appearance, should I really go back to the corporate mines that were apparently aging me before my time?

The second thing I realized is that during my entire two-hour dinner with Sarah, I didn't complain about *anything*. Usually, those dinners consist of an entertaining and engaging series of rants - but I have nothing to rant about! I'm just genuinely happy and relaxed, and I can't remember the last time I felt like this - maybe South Africa? Ukraine? But in both of those cases, it was only a few days off, with the knowledge that I had work piling up at home - the liberation of knowing that there isn't any work waiting for me is quite surreal.

Okay, I'll stop blathering about how happy I am, since it's likely nauseating, and none of you will want to be friends with the new 'mellow' Sara if you made friends with the old, bitter, tired Sara. Don't worry, I'm still a fan of sarcasm. But for now, I should go to bed, so that I can get up tomorrow and accomplish a lot of stuff. Goodnight!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

what you feel is what you are and what you are is beautiful

I really should be packing, but I think I'm going to go to bed instead. I accomplished some stuff today, but not as much as I should have - I got most of the stuff out of my storage unit, which was key, but now my living room is overwhelmed with boxes, and that makes it hard to pack more stuff because I'm running out of floor space. Ugh. I also packed most of my clothes, but half of my bedding, all of my cookware, and a variety of other random things remain to be packed before Thursday. I can make it, I'm just completely unenthused about the task at hand.

Despite that, I had a lovely day - I spend the afternoon packing, and then went up to the evil city to have dinner with Vidya and Julie. I had demanded that we have crepes, but when we got to the restaurant, there was a hand-written sign in the door saying that they were having an 'electricity' problem and would be back in an hour. I think it's more likely that the cook felt like leaving for awhile - the last time Vidya and I tried to have crepes, the cashier took our order, and we waited...and waited...until it was clear that the cook had just disappeared, so we left. But the fact that they had just shut down entirely tonight was completely unexpected. Thus ends my relationship with the crepe place!

Instead, we went to some Thai restaurant and enjoyed a lovely meal despite our rather ADD-inflicted server. We followed this up with Turkish coffee at a restaurant near Vidya's apartment - turns out I like Turkish coffee, except for the bitter dregs, which Vidya drank for me. We then parted ways with Julie (sniff sniff), went back to Vidya's apartment, and watched 'Project Runway' for a couple of hours, before I left at 12:30am.

It's starting to sink in that I'm leaving California, and I'm feeling that same lurch of homesickness for this place that I felt for Iowa when I started working out here - even though I had been in California four years at that point, there had always been the likely probability that I would move back to the Midwest, and so it was only when I started my job that I began to feel homesick because that chapter of my life had closed. Now, I'm going back to Iowa and it's unclear whether I'll be back, or in what capacity I will come back - and by the time I do come back, several of my friends will likely be gone. I don't think I'm really melancholy about this (yet) - it's more just the realization that things are changing, even though I'm excited for these changes and am extremely eager to work on my book and all of the other goals I have for the remaining 5/6's of my leave of absence.

Okay, enough of this, since I don't want to fall into a brooding mood - there will be plenty of time to brood when I drive ~1800 miles east this weekend. Goodnight!

Monday, February 25, 2008

the monkey on your back is the latest trend

I was quite sad tonight when, at precisely ten minutes before midnight, my Google Calendar popped up a reminder for an 'event' - the start of week 23 of my leave. While I was procrastinating from doing something more productive a few days ago, I put a countdown of the weeks of my leave on my calendar; the start of week 23 means that I have 23 weeks left, and have already burned three. Then again, I can't really call it 'burning', given how much fun I've had - Disneyland, San Diego, twelve lunches, ten dinners, several coffees, a party with my fellow expats, and Katie's visit have all contributed to the most action-packed three-week period I've had since the last time I moved away.

In fact, I think today was the first day since I left work that I didn't hang out with anyone. I was supposed to hang out with Vidya and watch the Oscars, but she is stranded someplace and may never make it home! So, I mourned her by Tivo'ing the Oscars and skimming what I wanted to see, although I didn't start Tivo'ing until after the ceremony started, and so I missed the red carpet. Oh, well, I should stop paying attention to celebrities anyway (but it's hard, they're so funny and ridiculous).

I started off the day with one last brunch at Mike's Cafe; I had the usual, but didn't say goodbye to the wait staff, because saying goodbye seems weird, although they will likely notice if I never come back. Then I came home and packed off and on for the next twelve hours (with a pretty hefty break for some Oscar coverage and a chat with my mother). I've now packed all of my books, all of my breakable memento-type things, all of my DVDs/CDs, and most of my cosmetics and hair products. This puts me up to six boxes that I want to take home, and thirteen boxes to store. This number must sadly increase substantially over the next couple of days - I still have to pack all of my clothes, cookware, and bedding (a Herculean task in and of itself, given my obsession with bedding), as well as empty out the storage unit that I've been renting and figure out what to do with all of that crap. Ugh.

Now it's almost four a.m., and I should really go to bed - I need to accomplish a lot tomorrow :( Goodnight!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

it's surprising wise men looked to the horizon

Today was a relatively laid-back kind of day, fueled by the rain that has been lashing the coast for most of the past twenty-four hours. I went to the evil city today to have brunch with Julie - we ate at a restaurant near her apartment, and then proceeded to go to a cafe, where she worked while I pretended to work (which really just involved a lot of people-watching and contemplating about whether I can make it as a writer, which is completely foolish since I have yet to finish anything that I can publish, and so the question of whether I can *continue* writing after that is rather moot, don't you think?). It was really good to see her (and while I say that after every encounter with someone I haven't seen in awhile, that shouldn't take away from its meaning, which is genuine) - I hadn't spent much time with her since before my job got all crazy back in July, and even though I won't be around again for awhile, at least we had time together this afternoon.

I decided to leave the city around four p.m., since I didn't want to have to drive home in rain and darkness - the rain was more than enough for me. I had a burrito at Baja Fresh (likely the last one I will have before going back to ye olde Iowa), came home, contemplated packing, and instead took a nap. Then, I read most of 'Lamb' by Christopher Moore - it's written from the standpoint of Levi, also known as Biff, who was Jesus' best friend, and is an attempt to fill in the years of Jesus' life that are missing from the Gospels. Perhaps I will be in for some divine judgment for reading a rather sacrilegious book during Lent, but it is quite funny. I need to go to bed now, though, rather than finishing it like I want to, since I'm running out of days that I can waste without doing any packing. Anyone want to place bets on how many boxes I will successfully pack tomorrow?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

goodbye katie, hello packing

The second half of the title of this post is more aspirational than factual - I meant to come home and pack today after dropping Katie off at the airport (sad!), but instead I ate a sandwich, took a nap, and talked to my mother. Then, I went to lovely downtown Mountain View and had coffee with Chris and Meggy - the sad thing is that I'd only seen them a couple of times in the past six months, after Chris contacted me following a nearly four-year hiatus since the last time I had seen him. Now I have time to hang out, but I'm moving back to Iowa, which will make socializing v. difficult. It was great to see them, though, and I'm glad we caught up a bit, even if Chris was suggesting something along the lines of 'Arlene Turgid' for a romance novelist penname.

Following coffee, I met up with Lauren (aka Subz) and Terry at Amarin Thai. Usually I really like that place, but we were seated in this weird room that was clearly packed well beyond safe occupancy rates. I was wedged into a corner, and by the end of the meal had lost track of the conversation because I was too busy freaking out about the fire hazards imposed by the insane number of tables and the complete dearth of walkable exit paths. I don't consider myself to be a claustrophobic person, but I ended up asking for the check rather abruptly so that we could get out of there.

We followed up dinner with some leisurely time at the same cafe that I had had coffee at only a few hours previously; two cafes au lait and one thai iced tea in one evening were enough to wire me for awhile, although I was clearly bouncier than Lauren and Terry, who had both worked today. I actually kind of forgot that it had been a work day for them, and then felt rather sorry for them when I realized it, and I don't think that my pity (combined with the relaxation that I'm exuding) really went over so well. Then again, I think they were happy for me when I reported that my thumb and my eyelid have completely stopped twitching, so that's a good thing.

It was great to catch up with them, although it's hard to believe that a week from now I'll be on my way home. It's especially hard to believe given how little packing I've done - I have luckily made arrangements for movers and for a storage facility, but I still have all of my books, clothes, and cookware to pack, as well as a variety of odds and ends. I also need to either move or dispose of the contents of the storage unit I'm currently renting, which will be v. annoying given that it's mostly stuff that I vaguely want but clearly don't use since it's in storage.

It's also sad because after discussing my book with Katie last night, I am really excited to work on it right now, but I should be packing instead. However, that's a foolish thing to say - by not working on the novel so that I can 'pack', I instead procrastinate from packing by reading blogs and catching up on the news. I have a serious disease, and hopefully some time in Iowa will cure me of some of my addiction to technology. The fact that my crackberry will be useless in my twitchy, demanding hands will probably be a good start. Now, though, I should really go to bed - I'm going to the evil city tomorrow morning to see Julie, and then I really do need to get a handle on my packing. Goodnight!

Friday, February 22, 2008

katie likes when people use 'a', 'an', and 'the' appropriately

Today, Katie and I actually had lunch at noon, as normal people do! Unlike normal people, however, we had lunch with Sri, Adit, and Katrina, where Katie expressed displeasure at how frequently Adit drops articles from his speech (as in 'I like sandwich'). Also unlike normal people, we had an absolutely free, absolutely delicious lunch at my place of work - Katrina works there as well, and we went to my favorite cafe, which serves made-to-order sandwiches. I had a fantastic sandwich, heated a la Quiznos, made with dutch crunch bread, mayo, pesto, turkey, bacon, avocado, sprouts, and pepperjack cheese. I also had a side of vegan chili (better than it sounds!), and finished with homemade vanilla ice cream and hot fudge. This is a meal I would quite happily pay $15 for at a normal establishment, but instead it was absolutely free. The only cost was to my pride, since I ran into my boss and he saw me looking completely relaxed with several lunch guests, but it was good to see him anyway.

So, hanging out with Adit and Sri was as lovely as usual, and I'm glad that Katie's had the chance to get to know all of them on this voyage. This will make it easier for her to help me find appropriate places for them to stay if I get married in Iowa - I'm thinking that my city friends could benefit from doing homestays like students often do on study-abroad programs, although my vegetarian friends may starve to death.

After lunch, Katie and I went to Menlo Park, where we indulged in manicures and pedicures (or 'mani-pedis', as they are known). I like the salon, even though I'd only been there once before - they have massage chairs to sit in while the women work on your feet, and the women who work there are quite friendly. We had a gay old time sitting back and discussing all manner of things about home that we hadn't gotten around to gossiping about yet, while getting our toes and fingers painted with some luscious pink and red colors. We followed this up by going to Cafe Borrone and having coffee drinks and tiramisu, where we continued to chat until late afternoon. Then, we went back to my place of employment and had dinner with Laura - Laura lives in Dallas, so I thought it would be good for her and Katie to get to know each other so that Laura can drag Katie in the dark world of scrapbooking. It was good to see Laura, and I think she and Katie hit it off, so that was nice.

Now I'm sitting in my living room, biting my nicely-manicured nails because Katie is reading the first half-draft of my romance novel. I'd taken the first couple chapters off of my blog long ago, and no one has read any of it since, and I was planning to wait until I had a full draft before soliciting feedback...but Katie is my oldest friend, has similar taste in books as me, and will throw down if she doesn't like something, so it was a good way to test the waters.

---------------------

It's about three hours after I originally started writing this, and now it's 1:47am - Katie and I have been talking for the past couple of hours about my novel, and also about her experiences with criminal prosecution, which has been v. entertaining. I'm heartened by her reaction to my book, and much of her feedback mirrored how I was feeling about it, without some of the extremely negative self-deprecation that I had been engaged in, so I'm excited about going back to work on it in the v. near future.

Also, I had the extreme good fortune of discovering that one of my all-time favorite authors (Robin McKinley) has a blog that she actually updates multiple times per week, and is also coming out with a new book in September! Yay! This is v. welcome news, since she just released a book last September, but before that, there had been a four-year drought. So, I spent a couple of hours reading her blog while Katie read my book, and it was quite a cozy and delightful evening.

Now, though, I should wrap this up and contemplate bed - Katie leaves tomorrow morning, and then I will have to get cracking on the whole pack-up-everything-and-drive-cross-country thing. Goodnight!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

friends...countrymen...russians!!!

Today was in some ways a shadow of yesterday. Katie and I awoke again to no heat, and I immediately called the City of Palo Alto to have someone come out and relight my pilot light. They sent someone out rather quickly, but I was dismayed by his arrival - he was wiping his shoes, and I said 'oh, it's not a big deal, I'm cleaning the carpets next week anyway'. However, that was with the expectation that, like most people, he was wiping his shoes out of courtesy - turns out they were covered in mud, so I have his footprints in my living room. But, we now have glorious heat, so I suppose it was worth it.

We lazed about all morning, and finally made it up to Peter's Cafe for a late lunch (just like yesterday - although today, we had breakfast foods rather than lunch foods). Then, we drove to the evil city and rendezvoused with Vidius Chandicus for an outing to see 'Definitely, Maybe'. It was a nice chick flick - Abigail Breslin, who also played the little girl in 'Little Miss Sunshine', is completely adorable, and I found myself strangely attracted to Ryan Reynolds. While it wasn't the best movie ever (and in fact Vidya caught my checking my CrackBerry a couple of times), I did enjoy it. It's quite lovely to see a movie in the afternoon, so perhaps when I get the urge to drive to Des Moines for Starbucks, I'll catch a movie as well.

We parted ways with Vidya after the movie, drove back down to the safety and wonder of the Peninsula, and met Sri and Adit for Mexican food at Los Gallos taqueria in Redwood City. In retrospect, this was a mistake - while my chile verde burrito was delicious, and I adore drinking Coke out of glass bottles imported from Mexico, it was a little too close to my encounter with Peter's homemade sausage patty. I didn't finish the whole burrito, but I still ended up feeling rather distressed at the end of our meal. Despite the pain, though, it was fun to hang out with Sri and Adit again, and I'm looking forward to having lunch with both of them tomorrow as well.

Finally, Katie and I came back to my place and ended up watching 'The Saint' - the Val Kilmer movie in which he plays a thieving mastermind who disguises himself and takes the names of various Catholic saints while attempting to steal the secret to cold fusion and simultaneously seduce the hot young scientist who came up with the formula. Katie and I have both realized that, while we genuinely liked the movie as younger Midwesterners, it's now clearly apparent how cheesy and ridiculous it was. Despite that, I still enjoy it every time - the Russian accents are awesome, the chief bad guy's son has gorgeous, long, flowing locks and carries a walking stick that he likes to twirl with all the panache of a gay drum major, and I always liked Val Kilmer before he destroyed his own career :(

Now, I should go to bed - I haven't been sleeping enough, particularly since I'm unemployed and so should be sitting around in my underwear all day, drinking beer and rubbing my belly. Those lovely pastimes will have to wait for another week, though, since I need to get packed up and moved before I can pursue full-time sloth. Goodnight!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

true story

Day Fourteen of my leave of absence was quite entertaining. Katie and I slept until almost eleven, and then I regretted waking up when I discovered that the pilot light in my furnace is out, and due to the fact that these apartments are barely insulated, the temperature inside dropped 10+ degrees overnight. I won't be able to get it relit until tomorrow, which is v. sad. Anyway, we sat around for a few hours, played with our makeup, etc., before finally reaching Peter's Cafe for a v. late lunch around 3:30pm. We were both starving since we hadn't eaten anything all day, and so made quick work of a couple of delicious cheeseburgers. Katie was so enamored with Peter's Cafe that we intend to go back there tomorrow on our way to an outing with Vidius Chandicus. But, that's a story for tomorrow!

We then progressed to the evil city, where we picked up Vidya and went to Samovar (which, as you might guess, serves tea - and since it's in the evil city, you might also guess that it's entirely too filled with a hippie vibe and a multiply-pierced waitstaff). I made the mistake of ordering the 'Samovar Russian Caravan' - while I really like Russian-blend teas (v. smoky-tasting), the thing about this tea was that I had to get up and serve myself whenever I wanted another cup. This was supposedly because it's so authentic (since it comes out of a samovar), but it's annoying to pay $9.00 plus tax and tip for something that requires you to crawl out of your ridiculous cushion-strewn elevated dais and serve yourself. However, I enjoyed drinking six cups to get my money's worth, and also had a fabulous time with Katie and Vidya. They seemed to hit it off quite well, and all was v. lovely.

After Samovar, we went to a winebar, where Adit met us, and we shared a bottle of something reasonably-tasty and reasonably-priced. We then proceeded to Luna Park, where we met up with John, Jess, Sri (Sandwiches), Oniel (Bill Crosby), and Peder (Timmy Timer). I had a delicious fontina-stuffed ravioli with mushrooms, spinach, and truffle oil, none of which I will be able to procure in ye olde Iowa. However, the food is never the focus of one of those endeavors; instead, we proceeded to discuss a wide variety of things, few of which made sense, but all of which produced varying degrees of amusement and/or annoyance for our dining companions. For the waitstaff, we were likely just completely annoying, but we had a good time. We spent some time harassing Oniel about dating; Katie quietly got to know Timmy Timer better than I ever have; and for whatever reason, Adit is trying to make 'El Penguino' stick as his nickname. I'm glad Katie had a good time, since that group can be an acquired taste (due to the fact that we tend to be v. obnoxious and at any given time, someone has to be unhappy), and it was v. nice to spend some quality time with them since I'm leaving in a week and a half.

Adit, Vidya, Sri, Peder, Katie and I went to a bar for an hour or so after dinner, before Katie, Sri and I headed back down the peninsula. All in all, it was quite the enjoyable day. Tomorrow promises to be good as well, since we're going to see a movie w/Vidya and have dinner with Sri. Hopefully, Katie will continue to be enamored with my friends! Now, though, I need to go burrow under my covers before I freeze to death. Goodnight!

Monday, February 18, 2008

you must be some kind of dolphin!

Today was Day 1 of Katie's visit, and it has been lovely!! We basically spent the entire day talking and eating, which was awesome. We had lunch at Pedro's, then came back to my place and looked up classmates on MySpace. Following that enlightening endeavor, we went to the mall and successfully managed to escape without buying anything other than the couple of necessities (mascara, foundation primer, underwear) that I had gone for. Katie also may have contracted tuberculosis from the terrible staff at Teavana, who were coughing all over her tea while they made it, but we're taking a wait-and-see approach to her illness. We tried to stave it off by having sushi, and then we went to the movies to see 'Fool's Gold.' Yes, that's the second time I've seen it, and it only gets better, even though we had to wait 50 minutes to see it and the theatre was freezing cold.

Now we're watching Tivo'd episodes of 'Craig Ferguson', who has had the flu and is even weirder than usual. I think it's getting close to bedtime - tomorrow, I believe that we will go up to the evil city around lunchtime and hang out in the afternoon, before having dinner with the usual suspects.

That's all for now - this may be one of the shortest blog posts in the past two months! You may actually miss my long posts if I keep this up :)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

there's no sex in your violence

Today I hit up #63 on the 'Stuff White People Like' list - expensive sandwiches (http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com/2008/02/11/63-expensive-sandwiches/). In my case, the sandwiches were prepared at Ike's Place in San Francisco (aka the evil city). Ike is so passionate about his sandwiches, and apparently so bad at growing his business, that he now makes sandwiches on weekends by appointment only because the past weekends have been too insane - the wait for a sandwich last weekend was apparently two hours. He says 'by appointment only', not 'by reservation only', possibly because he only has a few tables, and so you can't really reserve them. However, when we showed up for our 1:45 appointment, we were the only customers for a good twenty minutes, which seems like a strange way to make money.

Then again, his sandwiches are to die for, in my opinion. The last bite, which I savored as it slipped away into memory, was enough to make me want to order another sandwich to go, but I decided to leave well enough alone. I got the '16th and Market', which is chicken, avocado, bacon, jack cheese, mustard, lettuce, tomato, peppers, and Ike's dirty sauce, which tastes like melted garlic butter. I was in heaven, but my dining companions (Vidya, Adit, and Katrina) all thought their sandwiches were too intense. Vidya and Katrina both got the 'Super Luigi', which is a vegetarian meatball sub (ew) with marinara sauce and whole mozzarella sticks embedded in the sandwich instead of actual cheese. I guess vegetarians aren't used to eating such heavy sandwiches, but this really didn't faze me. Adit got the vegetarian BLT (made with fake bacon), which struck me as blasphemy, but they all seemed to think it was good.

Anyway, Ike is a god among men, particularly since he runs the place with his mother, and only seems interested in making delicious sandwiches. We spent quite awhile there, since we were able to get the only interior table, and generally had a fun time. Then, we picked up Geetika's roommate Sean and went to Phil's Coffee, which sells pretentious hipster coffees in a v. nice environment. The fun continued to escalate, particularly when we played the 'ordinary to extraordinary' game again (in which you try to come up with rhyming words that evoke the same type of improvement vibe as 'ordinary to extraordinary') - while I think that the 'seagull to eagle' one that I came up with on a previous outing still reigns supreme, Sean came up with 'ancient deer to engineer', which was hilarious just because it's so ridiculous.

I left the evil city around five, none the worse for the time I spent in that den of iniquity, and returned to the safety of Palo Alto. Vidya followed me home and helped me to pack up some of my kitchen (Michael - that's why I was rather abrupt on the phone, Vidya was here); we wrapped dishes while watching '10 Things I Hate About You'. Heath Ledger was adorable in that movie, and so I was sad all over again that he died. But, it was nice to spend some additional quality time with Vidya, particularly since her presence helped me to get stuff done when it's quite likely I would have just sat around and wasted time otherwise.

But, the time for wasting time is ending - Katie arrives tomorrow morning! And, I need to make arrangements for movers, a storage facility, and a cleaning service, in addition to packing all of my belongings and showing Katie a good time. Since I intend to leave this area in approximately eleven days, I really need to get to work! Oh, and I need to write my romance novel too, but in case you can't tell, that's on hiatus until I finish moving.

you made me compliment myself when it was way too hard to take

I had a lovely Saturday! My first excursion was a drive to Pleasanton to visit Gyre, Ann Marie, and their baby Jack (you can see his blog linked from my favorite blogs section). We went out for brunch, and then came back to the house, where I proceeded to make embarrassingly high-pitched cooing noises at the baby for upwards of an hour. In my defense, the kid is freaking adorable, and I probably haven't spent that much time with a baby since Allie was little (which was almost twelve years ago, shocking). I also verified that Gyre's ridiculous dog, Koda, is still alive - he used to bring her in when we were working together in the same office a few years ago, but she was so hyper that I used to have to find something else for her to chew on so that she would stop trying to chew on my wrist while I typed. It was great to see all of them, and I'm looking forward to finding some terribly-tacky Iowa baby products to send to Jack in the near future.

After I had sufficiently indulged my maternal instincts and remembered (as Jack drooled on my sweatshirt) that I definitely don't want any kids right now, I came home, took a nap, and then met up with Victor for coffee. I hadn't seen him in quite some time; he lives in Berkeley, which is usually too far of a trek for me. Ironically, I could have seen him in his home territory today, since I was already in Pleasanton, but he had plans at Stanford later tonight, and so Palo Alto worked for him. I was v. happy to catch up with him and hear all about his work, his fiancee Laura (I can't believe they've been dating seven years), etc. We also discussed my romance novel and came up with some business plans involving strategic product placement within the books, but we'll see whether I'm able to make that dream a reality.

I spent the rest of the night trying to motivate myself to pack - I did pack up most of my desk and file cabinet, but there's still a lot to do before I can vacate my apartment in less than two weeks. Yippee. One of the things I did while procrastinating was reading some of the posts that Peder (aka Timmy Timer) sent to a thread that some of my friends and I have going regarding dinner plans for next week. The blog that he sent out is called 'Stuff White People Like'. It's perhaps not wholly accurate of white people from Iowa, but it seems pretty freaking accurate for white people from the coasts. As evidence that I'm becoming one of them, I'll leave you with two of my favorites (in that they apply to me - there are other, better ones that apply to basic coastal-dwelling white people):

Writing: http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com/2008/01/23/21-writers-workshops/

Wes Anderson:
http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.wordpress.com/2008/01/20/11-wes-anderson-movies/

Goodnight!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

you know me too well but you keep twisting my arm

It's like I snapped my fingers when I left my job and was suddenly transported back into my old life. Now the four and a half years I spent at work seem like a strange dream, and the endless sloth and satisfaction of an easier existence is my reality. Granted, I'm oversimplifying, and my college life had its own types of trials and tribulations. But I can't quite explain how strange it is to feel like I'm waking up from a coma, rediscovering all of the things that I used to love to do.

For instance, I've read a book nearly every night this week. I've had the ability to read them straight through, start to finish, just like I used to do in my childhood, when I would stay up far later than I should have just to get through the story. I've been reading too many romance novels and need to turn my attention to the stacks of 'real' books that have accumulated over the last half-decade, but it's nice to be able to read like I used to without itching to check my email, or wondering whether there's anything else I need to prepare for tomorrow's endless string of meetings.

Then again, today was steeped in a combination of happy exuberance and bittersweet nostalgia, just like all of the other days of my leave so far - the effort to simultaneously reconnect with and say goodbye to all the friends I neglected as my job consumed me has been fun but sad. I drove up to Emeryville (in the East Bay, which rivals San Francisco for my disaffections) and spent the afternoon hanging out with John. We had lunch at CPK (where I indulged in my 'lady who lunches' status by having a cocktail, in this case a raspberry mojito), and then drove over to the park around the Berkeley Marina and walked around for an hour or two.

I wish I had had my camera - that marina has more squirrels than I have seen in any given place in a v. long time, including some squirrels who were being fed by a mangy-looking guy who was letting them eat peanuts out of his hand while they scampered around on his arms. It also has a path through some reclaimed wetlands, and John led me all the way to the remote recesses of the area to show me a sign detailing the 'progress' they have made, in which the 'before' photos looked the same as (if not slightly better than) the current reality. We had to play a bit of real-life Oregon Trail and ford some water on the way back to the car, but neither of us got cholera, so it seems that we were successful.

I'm glad that I've had the chance to play with some of my oldest friends over the past week or so, and I'm looking forward to seeing them again over the next couple of weeks. It does make me wonder what my decision will be this summer, though; even if I don't come back to work, I do have a great group of people here, even if I haven't been seeing them as much as I would have liked, and the attractions of the Midwest are going to have to be v. strong in order to outweigh their pull. Of course, my parents are threatening to lock me in their basement and not let me leave, so it may not be up to me, but time will tell.

Okay, I should go to bed, since I have plans tomorrow and can't sleep in too late. Goodnight!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

where did we disappear to the silence that surrounds and then drowns us in the end

Today was the laziest of my days off thus far, which is saying quite a bit. I didn't get out of bed until eleven, shortly before I had a quick conversation with Katie - she'll be here on Monday! I had the rest of my leftovers from Cheesecake Factory for lunch, did some laundry, surfed the net, and then went to get a glycolic peel. As usual, there was a pretty agonizing ten-minute span involving extractions followed by acid, which always makes me wonder why I pay so much money to be subjected to unpleasant torture - but then the rest of it is relaxing, and I like the results, so I end up going back. After that, I went to the office (shut up, I don't want to hear it) and had dinner with Laura, before coming home and reading some articles from a writing magazine.

If I stick to my current plan, two weeks from today I will be staying in motel somewhere along Interstate 80. I will also be commencing my crazy writing schemes. This is all v. exciting, but also v. scary - while I have planned it enough to be comfortable that I can survive this for six months, I have no idea whether I'll be successful in my mission, whether I will be truly happy devoting myself to writing full-time, whether I could make a living off of it, whether I will produce anything worth publishing. As someone who usually takes calculated risks (and by that I mean things that may look like risks to other people, but that I've thought out so carefully that I've anticipated most obstacles and am prepared to deal with the consequences), the fact that I'm taking a risk in which I don't know the outcome is quite unsettling.

However, I think that one root cause of my dissatisfaction with my life is that I usually only do things which I have plotted out in advance, which strips life of the spontaneity required to allow for chance encounters and new experiences. I don't mean the random last-minute dinners, parties, and other social encounters that I actually do participate in - I mean the risks you have to take to let someone get close when you don't know them yet, or the willingness to flirt (and then follow through) with a stranger in a cafe, or the ability to be open and vulnerable instead of closed up in a shroud of sarcasm, building relationships based on mutual amusement while simultaneously holding others at arm's length.

The book is the reason why I took a sabbatical - but it's also true that I took a sabbatical because I need to force myself to take risks, to stray from the safe path, to let myself get caught up in serendipitous detours. Granted, running off to Iowa may not seem like the best way to let go - but if nothing else, it will help me to understand how comfortable I would be leading an unconventional, non-corporate life. My hope right now is that I will love spending my days writing, that I will be productive at it, and that I can produce books that I can sell - if those three things are true, then I'll likely spend some more time devoted to this, rather than coming back to work. But, if it turns out that I'm just not made for this kind of life, or that I'm not able to function with that level of risk, then I'll likely come back - my life here was no longer what I wanted it to be, but if I do come back I hope it's with enough self-awareness that I can change the things that have made me unhappy, even if I have to accept that I'm not meant to be a writer.

If nothing else, though, six months from now I'll likely be remarkably well-rested, and also not completely eager to move on to the next step, whether it's coming back to work or finding an apartment someplace where I can fully devote myself to my craft. That's a worry for another time, though; I'm going to pursue my strategy of 'sleep whenever I feel like it' and go to bed.

i insert these codes for the cataclysm - ever since i had the vision, use my magnetism

I could really get used to being unemployed. It's quite interesting how much easier it was to wake up this morning, given that I only slept for six hours last night - but instead of dragging myself out of bed late, pulling on a sweatshirt, and heading to work, I woke up early, blowdried my hair and took time with my makeup, and put together a reasonably fashionable ensemble in time for a 9:30am meeting with one of the directors at my place of work. The meeting was more of a chance to say goodbye, more than anything else, and also an attempt to keep the connection alive and let her know that I might be interested in chatting with her about available positions if I choose to come back. But, given that when I mentioned my desire for work-life balance, she said 'maybe you can treat the next six months as the 'life' part, and then come back for the 'work' part', I think I would be insane to come back to something with her team!

After that, I spent some quality time with Gyre. He gave me a set of horoscope dice; he has a set that we used to roll every day when we shared an office, and now I have my own to take to Iowa. They are 12-sided; one die has all twelve horoscope signs, and the other has twelve possible outcomes (such as luck, love, financial success, etc.). We rolled ours simultaneously, and we miraculously rolled each other - I rolled an Aries and 'no love/rocky road ahead', while he rolled a Virgo and 'friendship' or something similarly nice. The chances that we would each roll the other's sign are small enough that we were v. entertained. However, I paid for the entertainment by getting caught at work by Laura, who was mortally offended that I came in without saying hi to her, and then also ran into Riki, whom I'd run into on Monday, thus confirming his belief that I am still there all the time. Then again, when I asked Gyre what's happened while I've been gone, he replied that I'd only missed four working days. Ridiculous, huh?

The rest of the day was lovely as well. I went to Cafe Borrone for a late lunch, and spent the afternoon hanging out there with Vidius Chandicus. She had work to do, but I was so lazy that whenever she would focus on her computer, I would just close my eyes, lean back, and enjoy the sunshine. After we parted ways, I came home, took a nap, and then went back to Menlo Park for dinner with some of the former Mafia kids - Shedletsky, Joanna, Jasmine, Michael, Sean, and Brendan, who seemed to have some sort of terrible plague and spent much of the dinner looking like he was dying. The rest of us had a great time, though; it's hard to believe, but I hadn't seen Shedletsky and Joanna since August or September, and it has been several months since I've seen Jasmine and Michael as well.

Vidya wondered what I will blog about when I go home - she speculated that I only chronicle the minutiae of my day because I know my parents read this, but they will know all the details when I'm home and living with them. However, I mainly keep this blog for myself; I like rereading what I've done. And, if my readers are lucky, my blog will get more interesting, since I'll have fewer details to write about and so can focus more on the absurd aspects of life. But, only time shall tell - for now, I should go to bed, so that I can wake up and perhaps actually accomplish something tomorrow. Goodnight!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

just play along

I am sitting on my couch with Adit, watching Conan. I have been trying to convince him to come and visit me in Iowa, and I think he was excited when we were watching some blue collar comedians on Leno and I mentioned that I know people like that at home. But, he's turned off by the fact that a ticket to Iowa would cost him as much as a ticket to Hawaii. I think that's pretty narrow-minded, but I guess I can see his point. Anyway, Adit's spending the night, which I think qualifies as some good family time for us.

In other news, I had a great day! I woke up late, spent some quality time painting my face like the strumpet I am (okay, I'm not a strumpet, but I have been reading romance novels), and then drove up to the evil city to hang out with Vidius Chandicus. It was absolutely gorgeous in San Francisco today, as much as it breaks my heart to say something nice about it - it was around seventy degrees, beautifully sunny, and Vidya was her usually charming, jhoking self. We had lunch at a boulangerie someplace in the city (I never keep track of where things are), where I had a great open-faced salmon and creme fraiche sandwich, followed by half of a chocolate and hazelnut croissant. Vidya and I had a lovely time, and I felt v. relaxed, sitting in the city like a lady who lunches or something.

Tonight, I came back to Palo Alto to have dinner with Tolu, Jen, Lizzie, Joann, and Jane. I had hung out with Jen/Joann/Tolu in Disneyland, but I haven't see Lizzie in awhile, and I haven't seen Jane since she embarked on a six-month around-the-world tour about a year ago. We had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory, which was a good replica of our usual potlucks - weird variation, but typically delicious. It was awesome to catch up with them, as usual. I also enjoyed hearing Lizzie's impressions of India - she went there for business a couple of weeks ago, and ended up doing the same overnight train trip to Hampi that I experienced in 2005, but it sounds like she was much less enamored with the experience than I was. Granted, I loved it more than the rest of my group combined, mostly because I take a strange, malicious pleasure in watching other peoples' unhappiness with travel and accommodations. Anyway, I'm glad that we were all able to hang out, although I don't think I convinced any of them to come to Iowa either.

Finally, I came home, was playing around on Facebook, and found a game that tests your ability to locate cities and landmarks on a world map - I did pretty well, and was able to get within 20km of locating Chisinau, Moldova, which is a v. weird skill to have. Then Adit showed up, and the rest is history. Tomorrow, I have a 9:30am appointment, so I can't sleep in, which is going to be sooooo rough. Goodnight!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

you know i don't like you, but you want to be my friend

I consider today to be my first official day off - last week just felt like a vacation, given that I was in Southern California the entire time. It also means that I have 174 days left until I have to go back to work, and that time is going to go waaaay too fast.

So, in order to embrace my freedom, I woke up at ten a.m., and promptly showered so that I could go into work and have lunch with Alaska Matt. Of course, we went to my favorite cafe, where I ran into a dozen people I know, all of whom were rather mocking about the fact that I was back so quickly. Embarrassing, right? But I wanted to see Matthew, and it would be nonsensical to pay for lunch when we can eat it for free at work. The sad thing was that Terry, Sean, and Fred all commented on how very relaxed I look - which somehow seems to imply that I looked like a hag a week ago, and now look slightly less haggish. I suppose that's a good thing?

After lunch, I went to Starbucks and intended to work on my romance novel for an hour or so, but I ended up just messing around on my laptop. Then, I went to get my eyes checked. I like my eye doctor, and I enjoy playing the game where he checks my peripheral vision by giving me a clicker and asking me to click every time I see a light in the periphery. It's like a contest, even though I never know if I've won. But, I don't like getting my eyes dilated - they stayed dilated for hours, and now I have a major headache :( I spent some time buying books in Mountain View, then came home and cleaned out my fridge and cabinets, and then had a lovely sushi dinner with Kim. I tried not to gloat over the fact that I'm taking time off, but it's hard. Then I came home, read a romance novel, and am now ready for bed.

I will say that taking time off is lovely - but I will also say that while I intend to indulge in some serious relaxation between now and when Katie leaves next week, I'm going to go crazy if I don't accomplish things starting shortly thereafter. But, who knows? I shall blog all about this in excruciating detail in the coming months, I'm sure, so right now I think I'll try to cure my headache by going to bed.

Monday, February 11, 2008

embrace the chaos





















Adit's contribution to my to-do list - he determined that all of it could wait, or never be done at all, and that I should enjoy my time off instead.

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After a journey of >1000 miles and seven nights spent sleeping in unfamiliar beds, I'm back in Palo Alto. I was on the road straight from 10am to 6pm yesterday, made a brief stop at my apartment to talk to Adit and change clothes, and then drove up to the evil city to spend some quality time with my former expat friends (the 'former' applies to our expat status, not to the quality of our friendship).

Those same friends exhorted me to be more concise in my blog posts, and complained that I give them too much to read. That's too bad! If I'm more concise, you would have no way of knowing that they tried to convince me to use 'Baroness von Swampler' as my pseudonym, or that (at the behest of Nathan) I got some more mileage out of the story about the time that I saw that live sex show - and some amazing muscular control involving a Sharpie and John's chest - in Amsterdam. You also wouldn't know that I got to spend some quality time with Heather, Salim, Arod, Jenni, Shadie, Lauren (aka Subz), Nathan, Alaska Matt, and Kia. And wouldn't your life be just a little bit emptier if you didn't know the minutiae of my life?

Anyway, I spent the night on Heather and Salim's couch, came home this morning, and had a late breakfast with Adit, in which he tried to convince me that I should relax and live my life rather than making lists. Instead of accomplishing anything or living my life (whatever that means), I took a nap, had dinner with Terry, and read a romance novel. Appropriately enough, the romance novel ('Breathing Room' by Susan Elizabeth Phillips) was about a woman whose self-help empire crashed around her because she was too controlling and too unable to deal with spontaneity, who finds redemption in the arms of a gorgeous movie star during a sojourn in Tuscany. Not that I think I'll find a gorgeous movie star anytime soon, but I could probably spend a little bit more time thinking about how to let go, rather than trying to plan everything in my life down to the smallest detail.

Letting go will have to happen after I take care of all of the errands involved in packing up my stuff and moving to the Midwest. Even then, living in my homeland will likely not encourage me to let go of anything, except responsibility for my own laundry and perhaps my tendencies to apply makeup every day. It should be interesting regardless!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

a midget with cheap relatives

No, the title is not a description of me - in fact, I just looked it up, and I'm 1.5 inches too tall to join the Little People of America :(

Rather, the title is a quote from 'Fool's Gold', the new movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson, which opened today and to which I dragged Tammy. She demonstrated how selfless she is as a hostess by agreeing to see this with me, and buying my ticket as well. For those of you who saw 'Sahara', this is essentially the same treasure-hunting storyline as 'Sahara', only it takes place mostly on water rather than in a desert, and the bad guy is a rapper named Bigg Bunny instead of the French dude who played the Merovingian in 'Matrix Reloaded'. If I haven't sold you on it yet, then you most likely won't want to see it - the only reason to see it is if you like Matthew McConaughey or Kate Hudson. I would definitely rank it well above 'Failure to Launch', but it's below 'Sahara' in my book.

Tammy might think differently, though - after 'Fool's Gold', we had dinner at Buca di Beppo, and then rented 'Sahara' so that she could see it. She fell asleep around the time that Matthew McConaughey's character is fighting the dude on top of the solar power plant, and in general seemed less than enthused. She felt that the plot was nonsensical - apparently the utter charm of Al Giordino (Steve Zahn's character) wasn't enough for her :(

So I've had a great time in San Diego; Tammy and I spent a lot of quality time together, and basically just ate a lot and watched movies and went to the zoo, all of which was v. relaxing. It's been great to see her, although now I'll miss her all over again. Sadly, though, I need to go to bed - I have to get up in the morning and drive all the way from San Diego to San Francisco so that I can make it back in time for a party at Heather's house. Wish me luck!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

and i moved to the ukraine, and it was cold, and everyone had guns and smelled like soup















Hungry hungry hippos!















Tammy was v. excited to pet a goat in the petting zoo.















Maybe I need to check into the San Diego Zoo, since my bloodlines likely classify as critically endangered right now.















Granted, schoolchildren painted this, but the combination of the ugly pandas and the ridiculous dragon is not worthy of a nationally-acclaimed zoo.

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I'm having a great time visiting Tammy in San Diego! We spent the afternoon at the San Diego Zoo, which was quite entertaining - I can't remember the last time I've been to a zoo, and this one is quite nice. We wasted our time (and an extra ten dollars) on the bus tour of the zoo, since one couldn't really see any of the animals from the bus, but we had a great time wandering around and seeing things at our leisure after the bus tour. However, I do have some philosophical doubts about whether one should save animals that clearly have already made poor evolutionary choices (in particular, the giant panda, which with its 1-day-per-year fertility cycle would have already died out if we didn't think they were so darned cute); on the flip side, there are some animals, like elephants, that I don't particularly like to see in zoos because I feel like they probably know what they're missing and aren't all that enthused about their 60-70 year lifespans. Despite all that, though, the zoo was really nice, and it was a great way to spend an afternoon, even if we did get freaked out by an anaconda that didn't even faze a five-year-old a few minutes later.

After the zoo, we had dinner at a great sushi restaurant in Del Mar, where we had a lot of delicious sushi while mocking the guys at the table near us - one of them was a dead ringer for Brandon Davis, aka 'Fat Elvis' on my favorite gossip blog, who is friends with the Paris Hilton crew. Then, we went to a McCafe for ice cream, but they actually didn't have the chocolate/vanilla twist that I wanted - they're too fancy for that now. We topped off the night by renting 'Blades of Glory' and watching it in my hotel room. I hadn't seen it since it came out in theatres, but I absolutely love it - I had forgotten some of the classic scenes (such as the disastrous North Korean 'Iron Lotus' performance), and we had a great time reliving the magic.

It's time for me to go to bed - tomorrow we're basically eating a lot and watching movies, which sounds like a great time. Then, Saturday it's back to the Bay Area, where I have a lot to accomplish in the next week or two. Goodnight!

i'm finding out i'm missing you

I woke up this morning and actually felt hungover, even though I didn't drink anything last night. I guess the effects of that many rollercoasters will mess you up just as badly as my usual number of vodka cranberries. So, I took my time getting ready this morning, and left Anaheim around 1pm.

One of the key realizations that I've had about my break (which officially starts now) is that I can't waste this opportunity to really experience life, etc. As I was driving down the coast to San Diego, I was thinking about how dangerous all this freedom is - I'm completely free to sleep and eat and read and stare at the wall as much as I want, since there is no external compulsion to get anything done. Instead, I need to use my freedom to say yes to doing interesting things - like, rather than just continuing to drive until I get to my destination, feeling free to pull over at a vista point and talk to my mom on the phone while watching the ocean. Small, weird example, I know, but I want to use this time to break the habits of standard corporate life and see if I would be happy with the less structured, more free-spirited approach to daily activities.

So anyway, I got to San Diego, checked in, ate a salad in the hotel bar and generally relaxed, took a nap, and then spent some quality time on the phone with my dad. I also spent some time reading through the phone book and looking for a good last name for my pseudonym - to the owner of ramseytimber.com, I may still have to use that last name, since I have yet to find something that I like better. I realize that this description goes completely against my whole diatribe about doing interesting things with my life, but I was flippin' exhausted after Disneyland. Then, Tammy picked me up, and we had a nice, demonstrative reunion in the lobby of my hotel before going out for dinner at some hole-in-the-wall place that looked like the Chinese cousin of Lucky Dhaba, but was much tastier and used real dishes rather than Styrofoam. It was fantastic to catch up with her, although depressing to talk to someone whom I haven't hung out with in over a year and realize that my life really hasn't changed much. Oh, well, this break will fix that.

Now, though, after having spent a couple of hours talking to Oniel, Vidya, and Adit online, I need to go to bed - Tammy's picking me up tomorrow morning and we're going to the zoo, where I will endeavor not to get eaten by a tiger. Goodnight!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

this really is the year of a million dreams
















Newport Beach - even the sea birds there are wealthier and more svelte. This is one of the least mangy sea birds I've ever seen!
















Fireworks over Snow White's castle at Disneyland.















Sorry the photo is blurry - but when have you ever seen the sign for Space Mountain (one of the most popular rides at Disneyland) say 'Approximate Wait Time: 1 Minute'?!

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I don't think there are any words to describe how blissfully happy I am right now. I think it's quite likely that I've burned out some key pleasure receptors in my brain and will never be this exhaustedly thrilled again. And I didn't even have a single alcoholic beverage - I'm drunk on sheer pleasure!

The day started off tame, but lovely - Joy, Katrina and I set off for Newport Beach, where we wandered around for a couple of hours and had lunch. It turns out we could have left earlier - all three of us acted like hermits last night, and so were up early today, but assumed that the others would sleep in later after having partied the night before. The beach was quite pretty, and it would be nice to live in one of the little beachfront homes in that area, if I had millions of dollars. After spending some time there, we came back to Anaheim and went to Disneyland around 4pm. I was expecting to ride some rides, eat some food, and turn in early. Boy, was I wrong.

I have become quite spoiled and jaded by the parties my company throws - at the last Christmas party, Oniel was v. impressed, but I thought that there weren't enough food varieties or DJ options, etc. However, my childlike wonder returned today, full-force, in time to make this the most surreal last day one could ever have before a sabbatical.

This may help to explain: I rode Space Mountain SEVEN TIMES!!!

I've never been to Disneyland before, and I don't think I can ever come again - this has completely spoiled me for the normal Disneyland experience. When I got there around 4pm, I hung out with Katrina and Joy - we rode Pirates of the Caribbean, where there was no real line, and enjoyed ourselves, but they didn't want to go on any rollercoasters. I decided that I wanted to go on at least one, so I parted ways with them. I proceeded to hit up virtually every major ride in the park, most of them several times.

Basically, my company rented the park out after 7pm - everyone else was kicked out at 7pm, but we all had special wristbands that enabled us to stay until 1am. Also, after 8pm, all the food in Disneyland was free (free!). They also did a fireworks show at 9:25pm. And because there were about 15x fewer people there than normal, the most I waited for any ride was five minutes; the biggest pain was just getting off the exit of a ride and walking the five minutes back to the start of the ride to do it again.

My ride tally was:
Space Mountain - 7 (including two 2-peats)
Pirates of the Caribbean - 4 (on the last one, some guy in my boat actually got of the boat - he was clearly drunk, but surprisingly didn't get escorted out)
Thunder Mountain - 3 (including one 2-peat)
Matterhorn - 2
Splash Mountain - 1 (I was the only person on this ride, which was really creepy - no other humans, just a bunch of insane-looking animatronic beasts)
Haunted Mansion - 1
The Star Wars ride that almost made me throw up - 1, miserably
Some astro-shooting game - 1
Rather lame 'Honey I Shrunk the Audience' - 1, only because it was right by Space Mountain and I needed a break so I wouldn't vomit

I quite luckily spent some quality time with some of the people whom I've either worked the most closely with or been friends with for the longest at work - I ran into Tolu, Joann, Jen, and Joann on one of my Space Mountain rides, and spent several hours going on a variety of rides with them. I also spent some quality time with Sean, Fred, and Evan. And, it was great to hang out with Joy and Katrina - I want to be much better friends with both of them, and the afternoon with them was v. lovely. However, none of it was really bittersweet, which I think is a good sign - I'm going to miss these people, but I'm also quite eager to begin the next chapter of my life, even if the chapter after that brings me back here.

But I can't really think about the future, when I am still completely and utterly in love with Space Mountain. I am not so in love with how weird my stomach feels after having been on so many rollercoasters from 6pm to 1am, with a break only for french fries, fried chicken, and half a hot dog, but seriously - closing out my job by riding Space Mountain two times in a row at 1am with Fred and Sean was enough to blow my mind.

Okay, I will never capture how amazing this whole evening was - it was like being a little kid, only there were no lines and so the gratification was instant and awesome. But even though I want to be a writer, my words completely fail me right now. You'll just have to trust me that it was a truly magical experience, and a crazy, perfect way to start my sabbatical.

Now, it's time to go to bed, if I can actually get to sleep - I am driving to San Diego tomorrow to see Tammy, which is guaranteed to burn out my pleasure sensors if Space Mountain hasn't done it already. I hope you are all having a smashing week!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

flows that glow like phosphorus















Photo from Friday night -Vidya requested that I mention her again, so I am. In a moment of amusement, I took a picture of Adit and Vidya with an old-school twenty - for some reason I felt this was worth memorializing. Remember how, only a few years ago, you wouldn't have taken ten shots of something meaningless, just to get it perfect, because you wouldn't have wanted to waste the film? Digital photography is so much more fun.

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Today was perhaps a taste of what my life will be like over the next few months. I don't think that I exactly regret coming on this trip - I'm looking forward to tomorrow night, in which madness will descend on the Magic Kingdom, fueled no doubt by an open bar. I'm also looking forward to hanging out with both Joy and Katrina tomorrow afternoon, since I would like to become better friends with both of them. However, it also feels just slightly anticlimactic - like I've already said my goodbyes, regardless of how hard they were, and that extending them now just seems like I'm holding onto something that I need to let go of.

That's probably why I chose to spend the day as I did. I actually got up around eight, caught up on the news, took a leisurely shower, and then had breakfast around eleven. After breakfast, I worked on my book for a couple of hours, took a nap, and then worked on it again for another hour or so. By then it was around four p.m., and I was on my way up to my room when I ran into Kim and Regina, quite unexpectedly. I ended up hanging out with them until 5:30 or so, and we ate some appetizers in the hotel bar and caught up on each others' lives. It was v. nice to see them both, and especially to talk to Kim, since I hadn't really caught up with her since she got back from India.

However, while I could have easily ended up going out with them, or with Terry, or Tolu, or Arod, all of whom contacted me, I instead retreated to my room, edited what I had written earlier, and read a romance novel. It's not even that I felt antisocial - I think I would have had a great time with all of them. But, I do have a cold and want to preserve my strength for tomorrow. More importantly, I feel like I need to start my break as I mean to go on - and if I start my break with a whole week of dissolute behavior, that's not a good sign. And frankly, if I can write ten pages a day (as I did today) while I'm on leave, I could easily have four books completed. Not that I expect that to happen, but if I could get ambitious and finish this one plus one more, I would be quite a happy camper. Given that I only really wrote for around three hours, ten pages a day seems entirely doable, even if I spend the rest of my time just staring at the wall and reading the gossip blogs and eating dinner with my parents. But I need to spend the next six months primarily focused on my book, not focused on entertaining myself.

So I'm still in a pretty great mood, even if I don't exactly feel like a standard twenty-six-year-old since I'm sure I missed out on some wild parties tonight. I'm so excited to be on break that it hasn't really even sunk in yet, and the unreality of sitting in a strange hotel room in a strange city, without a job to tether me to something, is quite interesting. But rather than continuing to ponder this, I think I'll go to bed - tomorrow, I will likely make up for my lack of dissolute behavior today. Then again, the hangover I had on Saturday reminded me that my hangovers have gotten worse as I have gotten older, and I don't really want to have another one. Ugh - if only I could drink without getting a hangover, since I'm really quite a pleasant and happy drunk. Regardless, it's time for bed!

Monday, February 04, 2008

be more constructive with your feedback, please

Okay, I'm going to break my photo-blogging trend after only two days...but my excuse is that the photo that I wanted to post is on my personal laptop, and I'm using my work laptop because I need the wireless card that my employer has so graciously provided me with. I will be back with photos tomorrow!

Instead, I suggest that you watch this YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FArZxLj6DLk. I know that I'm the last kid to the YouTube party, but Claude recommended 'The Flight of the Conchords', and this particular episode ('Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros') is mother-flippin' awesome.

In other news, today was a lovely day! I woke up around eight, took a shower, and did some laundry, although this was likely v. irritating to Adit, who was asleep on my couch when I woke up. Then, Vidya came over, and she and I went to Mike's for brunch. She was annoyed that I didn't blog more about her after seeing her on Friday - apparently, it's not enough for her that she's the only person who has their own freaking category on my blog. The photo I was going to post was of her, but she'll just have to wait, and that will extend her mentions on my blog to three in a row. We had a lovely conversation - she's trying to convince me to move back to my hometown, get elected to public office, and then write a book about it. It's tempting, if only so that I can pass laws that will aggravate my brother, but I think I'll focus on writing my romance novel first.

After bidding farewell to Vidya (by making her and Adit watch the video linked to above), I packed, did dishes, completed some general tidying up, and then left the Bay Area for the 'sunnier' climes of Los Angeles. Given the stereotypes of LA, you can imagine my surprise when I encountered a brief bout of snow on the Grapevine (the pass through the mountains north of Los Angeles). Despite that, I made it here with few problems, although I did butcher quite a few songs with my exuberant off-key singing. I read a romance novel for a couple of hours, decided that I don't like it, and am now going to bed so that I can work on my own novel tomorrow before my friends arrive. Goodnight!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

my new favorite photo




















One more photo - me with my caipirinha and my pink bomber jacket last night in the evil city. Do I look ready to go to Iowa?

you're killing me with your love




















How creepy is this? My team edited romance novel covers and photoshopped my face into them. Who knew that glasses could look so sexy on a Viking woman?
















My team all wore pink for my last day in the office. And no, I wasn't already wearing the boa - they gave me a boa and a light-up tiara.

















Koolwal looking artistic with my caipirinha. The bartender at this bar is a true artist; he also looks like he will cut you if you complain about your drink.

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It's been a rollercoaster of emotions over the past 48 hours, and I only expect that rollercoaster to continue. Yesterday was my last day in the office, and saying goodbye to people was really hard. I adore my team, and they reciprocated by throwing a surprise party at the end of the day, in which they all brought various pink foods, decorated a conference room with pink balloons, streamers, and various romance novel covers, and gave me a great card and a photo of the team. I'm really going to miss them - a year ago around this time, I wasn't really sure I wanted to be a manager, but now the interactions I have with the people who report to me are some of the most fulfilling aspects of my job. Or rather, were some of the most fulfilling aspects of my job - the job is on hiatus, and I need to stop thinking like I'm going back in on Monday!

I also had to say goodbye to various friends, which was surprisingly difficult; I've done this twice before (in 2005 to India, and 2006 to Dublin), but this feels more real. I was also supposed to pack up my desk, but I didn't get to it, so I ended up going into the office for a few hours this afternoon to pack everything up, wrap up some last-minute stuff, etc. I don't have to go into the office again for anything (although I do want to see a few people for lunch if possible)...and it was definitely strange to undock my computer for the last time, and then walk through the darkened halls and out the door. Even if I come back, everything will be different, so this is definitely a cliffhanger season finale even if it isn't the series finale yet.

My maudlin mood wasn't helped by my hangover - my leave of absence got started with a bang last night. Adit had texted me to see if I wanted to go up to the city with him, rather than drive myself to Tom's going-away party. Under normal circumstances, I would have driven myself, stayed sober, and come home, since I was feeling rather emotionally fragile. However, I am committed to living an interesting (or at least entertaining) life for the next six months, so I decided to take him up on the offer. We went to his apartment, had a screwdriver, stopped at a bar and had another drink (mine was the caipirinha pictured above), then met Vidya at a wine bar for a v. late dinner and some more alcohol.

The place we went to was called Cav, and I liked it quite a bit. We had some Italian wine whose name I have forgotten, which I quite enjoyed. I had the beef tenderloin, despite the fact that cows are sacred to my two companions. It was the best steak dish I've had in recent memory. But, Adit is not a good influence for me, and when we had dessert, he conned me into having a glass of port with him. For us, port is not something to be savored - port is a reminder of one epic night (the night before my honors thesis was due), when Adit, Claude and I had far too much wine, followed by a bottle of port, followed by general misery. Anyway, this was the best port I've had, but it was still a mistake; by the time we got to Tom's, I was already in a v. happy place, even without the influence of whatever I consumed when I got there.

But, it was great to see Tom and Julie - and I was quite surprised to see Tommy there, whom I haven't seen in almost a year. We had a nice chat, and hopefully I'll catch up with him again when I'm a bit more sober. After that, I took a cab back to Adit's, where I fell asleep quite quickly and awoke this morning to exactly what I deserved. I was restored by a late breakfast at a restaurant in his neighborhood, and then he brought me home. I also fulfilled my civic duty today and voted early in the California primary, which was fun, before going to the office, and you know the rest.

I could really go off on an extremely depressing and tangential discourse on my memories of the past and my fears for the future, but I'm not going to. The good thing is that there is an equal part of me that is ridiculously excited about this time off, to the point that I sometimes just feel like jumping up and down or laughing for no reason. So, while living with such conflicting emotions is not easy, at least there is a bright side to every dark side. Now, though, I'm going to go to bed - I didn't get much sleep last night, and I have to drive to LA tomorrow. Goodnight!