Sunday, May 30, 2010

you're under the gun so you take it on the run

This is going to be incredibly brief because i'm falling asleep over my laptop (like the Baja Fresh I felt like falling asleep on earlier in the evening). Suffice it to say that I made it home from London (with a five-hour conversation during the second half of the flight with the woman next to me -- she was nice and quite friendly, although now that I'm falling asleep so badly, perhaps I should have spent more time sleeping on the flight).

It's good to be back home, although I will admit that it was quite disheartening to walk into the unpacking nightmare that is my apartment currently. I don't have a lot of time to set things to rights before I have to leave for Japan next weekend, but I'm going to make an effort. Now, though, I need to crawl into my bed and sleep for eight or ten hours -- hopefully I'll feel better tomorrow morning. Goodnight!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

there's an awful lot of breathing room, but i can hardly move

Today was perfectly lovely, despite the fact that it was a grey and drizzly day in London. I woke up around nine, messed around on the internet (the bane of my existence, but how I love it), took a shower, and was out the door by 11:30. At that point, I was quite hungry, and so I stopped for lunch at the pub down the street -- The Only Running Footman, which was the first pub I've ever been to with white tablecloths on the old, scarred wooden tables, and with stickers in the window from Michelin guides. I had passed the pub last night and it was overflowing with posh men in expensive suits and posher women in dangerously high heels; this morning, there were very few other people in the pub, and so I was able to enjoy the food without feeling completely scummy in my sweater/skirt/leggings/sneakers combo. I wrote a couple of pages in my spanking new journal while enjoying a chicken sandwich, fries, a diet coke (mmm), and a latte, and while surreptitiously watching the staff clean behind the bar (it appeared to be the cleanest bar I've ever seen, as well).

But, the entertainment value of watching people clean stuff was fairly short-lived, so I vacated the establishment and took the tube three stops west to South Kensington, home of the Victoria and Albert Museum. This is one of my favorite museums in the entire world, and even though I've spent several afternoons of my life there, I'm glad I spent another one. I didn't peruse the main collections, but I checked out two of their three special exhibits: one on quilts from the 1700s to today, and one on the 18th century collector Horace Walpole. The third exhibit was on the style of Grace Kelly, which I would have loved to have seen, but it was sold out, so I had to content myself with the more distant past.

And content myself I did -- I'm a huge dork for both textiles and history, so the two special exhibits were outstanding for me. The quilts exhibit had some very lovely and interesting pieces, and I was impressed by the audio commentary: for 3.50 (pounds, not dollars), and the deposit of your photo ID, you could get an audio commentary on an iPod Touch, which meant that the audio commentary could be accompanied by visual images. Theoretically you could see the visual images in the form of the displays in front of you, but given the relatively low light they used in the exhibition space to protect the fragile fabrics, having a visual aid that you could zoom in on and play around with was a great idea. And the quilts were outstanding -- some lovely pieces that have somehow survived hundreds of years, as well as some newer pieces that were artistically interesting (if perhaps less usable). One modern piece in particular moved me; the artist/quilter made it with a base of steel-wool-like wire rather than fabric, and it was meant to evoke her feelings on her mother's dementia and subsequent death. Sewing with steel wool sounds dreadful (the commentary said she had to wear gloves, but it still hurt), but cathartic in some weird way, I suppose.

As soon as I finished with the quilts, I moved on to Horace Walpole. He was the son of Britain's first prime minister, eventually becoming the fourth earl of Orford a few years before his death (after his older brother and his older brother's son both died). More importantly, he built a fabulous house called Strawberry Hill, which was a Gothic-inspired manor near London, and collected an outstanding array of art and objects that he analyzed and catalogued. He also wrote "The Castle of Otranto", regarded as the first Gothic novel. He died without heirs, leaving his house to his niece (a sculptor, which would have been rather rare back then); when the contents were eventually sold in the 1830s or 1840s (it's in my notebook, but I'm lazy), the auction lasted over a month and was considered one of the most important auctions of the century. The exhibition contained some amazing stuff, and while I won't go into more detail here, I felt all sorts of inspiration; living the kind of life that Walpole did, surrounded by the objects that he collected, would be strange and amazing, and I had all sorts of tiny seeds of stories sprout up within me as I walked through the galleries.

After that, nothing could really top the experience, and so I came back to Mayfair (after buying three books -- pamphlets originally printed during World War II, telling servicemen how to behave in the countries they were visiting, with all sorts of fun stereotypes about Americans, Brits, Frenchmen, and Germans -- and a couple of pieces of jewelry at the museum store). When I got here, I had afternoon tea in the conservatory of my hotel; it was the ultimate decadent British tea experience (although I suppose it could have been more decadent if I had added champagne to it). I filled up on tea sandwiches, scones, and two pots of tea while writing about some of the ideas that sprung up while I was at the museum. Then, I walked down the road and had a diet coke at a different cafe, where I was able to use my laptop and actually work on Madeleine and Ferguson's story for a little while (shocking, I know). I also got hit on by some random dude who was quite insistent that I come and have a drink with him; I was polite in my refusal the first time, but when he was loitering in the same spot half an hour later on the way back to my hotel, I ignored him.

And now, I'm all packed up and ready to go; my flight leaves Heathrow at 10:35 tomorrow morning, so I need to get up and head out relatively early tomorrow. I'll be back in San Francisco by mid-afternoon California time, after an annoyingly long flight; hopefully I'll be able to write or read for most of it, and then stay up long enough when I arrive in California to cure myself of the worst of my jetlag. It will be go go go after that; I'll have to do laundry and work at unpacking my apartment, since I leave next weekend for Tokyo (ridiculous). So, while there were people in London I probably should have tried to see, I'm glad I took a day to relax and be a dork; the next couple of weeks are going to be hectic. Goodnight!

Friday, May 28, 2010

i can see your halo

I was utterly lazy today, which was exactly what I wanted; I also wanted to write, which I was less successful at, but at least I "accomplished" the laziness that I set out to embrace. I made it onto my flight from Dublin to London with no issues; it was slightly delayed, but even with the delay I still made it to my hotel around noon. They didn't have a room for me yet, so I wandered around Mayfair and Hyde Park for a couple of hours.

My first stop was a restaurant with sidewalk seating, where I enjoyed risotto for lunch (I'm sure my parents disapprove after the risotto I made for them, alas) while listening to the conversations of the people around me. It was immediately clear that Mayfair is not Kansas; on one side of me was a man who sent back his orange juice twice because he was convinced that it came out of a carton instead of being squeezed just for him in the back, and on the other side was a pair of businessmen, one of whom spent most of the lunch telling the other one about how he was sure they would make the second guy the managing director of the company in the next ten years, and how that would result in lots of stock, a more comfortable life, etc. When he wasn't selling the second dude on his future with the company, the guy was talking about how he intends to retire when he's fifty, etc., etc. Then, the bleached blonde companion of Orange Juice Man arrived, complaining about how the people who packed her luggage damaged her expensive handbag. It was all a riot of laughs, and made me realize that even though Mayfair is good for researching my Regency historical novels, it may not be exactly my speed.

After lunch, I wandered around Hyde Park for awhile, although I turned back halfway down the Serpentine because I got tired of trying to avoid goose shit with every step (fucking geese!). I meandered my way back to my hotel down roads with familiar (from the romance novels) names like Curzon Street, Half Moon Street, Bruton Street, etc. -- thousands of romance heroines have lived on streets with those names, but they mostly seem to be uninspiring townhouses from the outside (although I'm sure they cost millions of pounds). When I got back to the hotel, my room was ready, and I took a two hour nap (lovely!). I finally roused myself and left the hotel for a bit, swinging back past a stationer's shop on Curzon Street that I had seen earlier in the day, where I had a lovely conversation with the woman minding the counter (who told me the next time I'm in town, I should stop by and have a drink with them), and where I bought an absolutely gorgeous journal. I wrote the first three pages of the journal over a mocha at a nearby cafe -- while I write in the blog all the time, I think it's time to get back into journalling so that I can "refill my well of creativity", as the new age self-help writing books say. And it did work; I had a great idea for a future romance series (spinning off from Ferguson's sister Ellie's relationships with some of the less desirable elements of London society). Then, I came back to the hotel, changed into pajamas and a robe, ordered delicious room service, and lounged about the rest of the evening.

Now I think I shall go to bed -- I'm feeling better (and there will be much rejoicing throughout the land when I stop chronicling every aspect of my physical health), but I'm still not 100%, and while the cough hasn't woken me up the past couple of nights, I'm not entirely out of the woods. I intend to get up and go to the V&A Museum tomorrow, since they have an exhibit on the famed 18th-century collector Horace Walpole, and then I'll determine whether I should go to another museum or come back to Mayfair and write for awhile. Two days from now I'll be back in California -- and then the fun of unpacking my new place can restart in earnest. Goodnight!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

she had something breakable just under her skin

I'm all packed up and ready to go to London; my flight leaves at nine a.m. tomorrow, so I'll need to get up earlier than I have been so that I can clean myself up, throw the last items into my suitcase, and go to the airport. While I remain a little tired of traveling, I am going to force myself to enjoy London -- I may do little more than walk around Mayfair, hang out in Hyde Park, and perhaps go to the V&A or the British Museum or an art museum (blech), but it will still be nice.

However, I've had a good time in Dublin, and I feel that the trip was quite productive. I met with a lot of people, and accomplished the fuzzy, nebulous goals that are inherent to being an internal communications person -- listening to people, trying to synthesize perspectives and understand challenges, and all those other corporate buzzwords that I use all the time and that make me hate myself just a little bit. Since I love to spend my days talking to people and then making gross, sweeping assumptions about the state of things based on my intuition, this was a great trip for me.

Anyway, my meetings today were all good, and I had a videoconference with the big boss (my midyear review, ironically done over vc because we've barely been in the same place in the past month -- she's not going to fire me, in case you were concerned, and in fact seems to think I'm doing pretty well despite the fact that I've barely been around and have been moving/traveling/etc for weeks). I left the office around seven p.m. and had a lovely dinner with my friend Darragh. We went to a restaurant that recently opened near the office called the Chop House; one would think, based on that name, that it was a steakhouse, but there was only one steak on the menu. Instead, we both opted for beef pies with mash (how v. Irish), although I had a glass of wine instead of a Guinness. We had a good time discussing work, gossip, the economy, politics, more gossip, etc., and it was great to catch up.

But Dublin is deceiving; it still felt early because it was still quite light out, but I didn't get back to the hotel until after 9:30pm. As I still had to pack, and had to send a couple of emails for work, this was a little tragic, but I'm glad I spent the time catching up with people. Now, though, it's time for bed; I don't want to be too wrecked tomorrow morning, and I certainly don't want to miss my flight. Goodnight!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

try to slip past his defense without granting innocence

Even though I slept a reasonable amount last night, I was exhausted today; I felt like falling asleep in the big boss's staff meeting, even though doing it from Dublin meant that I could call in from the much more reasonable hours of 4-6pm rather than getting into the office early. I would have gone to bed an hour ago, but I'm trying to return to my old diligent workhorse self, and so I agreed to do a 10:30pm conference call tonight to discuss some pressing issues with one of the projects I'm working on.

Woe is me, I know. Today wasn't all bad; in fact, other than my exhaustion and my lingering cough (sniff sniff), it was quite good. I had some time in the morning to catch up on email, and then I had a lot of good meetings, including lunch with a guy I work with pretty closely but usually only see on videoconference, and a catch-up cup of tea with my old friend Darragh (he's 'grand', as they say here). Then, I managed to get out of the office a little after 6:30 (after a frustrating 6-6:30pm meeting that got completely hijacked by a different agenda item, and when I finally asked at 6:25 whether we were going to get to the item that I was there for, the person running the meeting said, "I'm meeting with the big boss about this later today, so let's table the discussion until tomorrow." I would have reached through the VC and killed him if it were technically possible and I wouldn't go to jail (I'm convinced I would not do well in prison).

Anyway, after getting out of work, I met up with Alaska Matt and his lovely wife Kia for an extended dinner at a restaurant overlooking Grand Canal, ideally located between the office and my hotel (and only a few steps from their apartment). Long-time readers will remember that Alaska Matt was one of the expats in India with me; he later went on to spend significant time in India and Japan, and he and Kia have been in Dublin for almost a year at this point. We had a lovely dinner, with much discussion of the relative merits of Alaska and Iowa, a lot of burning jealousy on my part regarding how much they've gotten to travel, quite a few ridiculous jokes and stories, etc. However, the most random part of the meal was the waiter. The first glass of water that he brought me was cracked, so he brought me another one -- and this glass turned out to be pretty badly chipped on one side. I probably would have drank it anyway (or not drank it, since I hate water), but Matthew looked askance at that idea and I realized that what I thought was an ice chip on the side was actually a glass chip. Finally, I gave in to pressure, and when the waiter came by again, I started to say, "I hate to say anything, but..." at which point he cut me off and said, "then don't say anything," and walked away. And I mean *really* walked away -- it didn't come off as a joke when he walked away and didn't return for five minutes. But, when he did come back, he asked me what I was going to say, and he did bring me a third glass of water, so I guess we made up.

So dinner was lovely, although it made me miss them more than ever. We parted ways a little after nine p.m., and I came home and did my conference call (in my pajamas, with a sweater over them to mask the fact that I was in my pajamas, since it was a videoconference). Now, after slogging a bit more, I really need to sleep; I only woke up in the middle of the night once last night, and I'm predicting that I'll do so again tonight, but hopefully I'll get to sleep again quickly. Goodnight!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

you begin to wonder why you came

It's incredible, and I never imagined I'd have this feeling, but I'm actually a little tired of traveling. I'm never the type to wish that I was back home, but I think the combination of sickness + all the short hops I've made between weddings, volcano-induced layovers, offices, etc. + the crushing amounts of work I have are starting to get to me. It's mostly the sickness, I'm sure, but I will admit that I'm v. much looking forward to going home in a few days (even if that home is in the midst of a meltdown of unpacking and I have to leave again in six days for Japan).

Anyway, today was v. productive and not at all interesting to any of you (except perhaps to my mother, who seemed happy that I finally called home -- but she experienced that live, without having to read about it in the blog later). I made it into the office and slogged all day, a combination of meeting with people, setting up meetings with more people, and catching up on the emails that had piled up over the last few days. I had lunch with a couple of guys whom I had just met with, who were kind enough to ask me to have lunch with them; the food in the Dublin cafe (canteen) was just as lackluster as I remembered it, so I'm glad (?) that some things haven't changed. Then, I slogged the rest of the afternoon, threw in the towel around six p.m., and walked back to the hotel.

When I got here, I intended to avoid my hermitish desires and make myself have dinner in the restaurant, rather than just ordering room service like I wanted to. But when I went down to the restaurant, they said they were all booked up (apparently by a tour group of octogenarians, all of whom were eating early) until eight p.m. So, I came back upstairs, ordered the room service I originally wanted, and had it in my room twenty minutes later (from the same restaurant that wouldn't be able to seat me for another ninety minutes). Score. Granted, the caesar salad with chicken was like all salads I've ever had in Dublin (not-so-good lettuce, too heavy with the dressing, and so much bacon and cheese that it didn't taste like a salad), so I only ate half of it, but I did get a pint-sized glass of Diet Coke, so that made me a happy camper.

As mentioned above, I talked to my mother for an hour and a half; it was v. satisfying to whine about my cold to a real person rather than just sniffling about it to myself or complaining on the blog. After we got off the phone, I wanted to read a book and go to bed. Instead, like a good little corporate soldier, I opened up my laptop and worked for three hours (with a quick break to upload photos from Versailles, below). And now, I really must sleep; I need to go to the office tomorrow morning somewhat early, so there's no sense staying up late now. Goodnight!

pictures from europe, part three -- entertaining art at versailles

This is like, 18th century style.

Okay, maybe not entertaining, but I hadn't thought of any of my gargoyle-romance characters being painted gold!

It's a little blurry, but I can't really imagine this guy, with that luxurious hair, successfully leading a charge into battle.

Who wears short shorts? Apparently Charles VIII, king of France from 1470-1498.

Just what any boy loves to do -- get naked and play the cymbals.

Monday, May 24, 2010

and you don't stop

I'm about to stop; I'm rather tired, and I intend to get up early tomorrow morning to get cracking at work. Given how my late-night intentions are often revisited upon awakening (in the form of hitting snooze repeatedly), we'll see how that goes, but it's worth a try.

Today was rather exhausting; as you know from last night, I got v. little sleep. I did succeed in waking up, getting out of the hotel by around 7:15am, dragging my stuff up to the roundabout around the Arc de Triomphe, and boarding a couple of trains that took me to Charles de Gaulle airport. Everything at the airport went amazingly well, except for the ridiculous Aer Lingus bag check procedure; since I didn't pay for my checked bag online, they sent me to a different company about 200 feet away to pay them, and then I had to bring the voucher back to Aer Lingus so that they could send my bag on its way. Luckily there were no lines at either counter, or I might have been seriously perturbed instead of just mildly irritated.

I made it to Dublin on schedule, had a nice conversation about the annihilation of the Dublin housing market (and therefore, the economy) with my cab driver, and checked into my hotel. I intended to go to the office this afternoon, but since I couldn't sleep on the plane (too much attempting to choke down my coughs so that the woman next to me wouldn't think that I was patient zero in the upcoming consumptive-zombie outbreak), I ended up taking a nap in the hotel, and then working from the hotel for a few hours (where I could cough in relative peace and comfort). Then, I broke away from the laptop and wandered down to Grafton Street, where I procured a lovely coat and a Dublin mug from Starbucks, and had dinner at a cheap Italian restaurant while reading a book. I continued reading the book over after-dinner coffee, then came back to the hotel and finished it; there are so many lovely treasures sitting on my Kindle, and I'm trying to make my way through them.

Now, though, it's time for bed. My other shopping stop was at Boots (a drugstore), where I spoke to yet another pharmacist and got yet another option for treating my cold -- this, a combo of what feels like a mentholated nasal spray to stop my congestion, and some sort of orange-tasting liquid to break up the mucus currently setting up shop in my throat. So far so good, but the ultimate test will be whether I can finally sleep tonight. Wish me luck (if only so that I can eventually stop behaving like an octogenarian and insisting on talking only of my health). Goodnight!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

the girl from ipanema

This is going to be v., v. brief -- you're not going to get the orgy of historical recapping that I treated/tortured you with yesterday. This is because I v. stupidly stayed up until 1:30am reading a book, and I have to get up at six to make my way to the airport for my flight to Dublin.

So I spent the entire weekend sick in Paris, which I must admit, despite my best efforts to the contrary, kind of put a damper on things. I still have a hacking cough, but I'm at least getting the hideous, scary, choking fits less often, so I suppose that's progress? All in all, though, my energy level wasn't its highest. I couldn't sleep last night for quite some time due to the cough, and so I ended up letting myself sleep until almost eleven this morning. So much for getting to Versailles early -- instead, I took my time getting ready, stopped at a cafe on the way to the train to eat a delicious bowl of cheese-covered french onion soup (can you tell how much I like the stuff, since it was my third bowl in three days?), and so didn't get to Versailles until almost three p.m.

I toured the palace for about three hours; my mother will be sad to know this, but I ended up not going through the gardens, since I was utterly out of energy at that point. I will post many pictures in a later post, but the palace was well worth it despite the ridiculous crowds. Luckily, I had bought a two-day museum pass yesterday, and while I didn't get the full monetary value out of it (I would have come close had I remembered that I could use it at St-Denis yesterday instead of paying admission there too -- blame my cough-induced mental fogginess), I more than got my money's worth by skipping the horrendous, hour-long ticket line and being able to walk right in the front door at Versailles.

Anyway, more on Versailles in another post. I came back to Paris, took a brief break in my hotel room, and around eight p.m. went out in search of sustenance. Unbeknownst to me, the Champs-Elysees was turned into a big pedestrian thoroughfare today, celebrating something to do with nature, and so all the cars were gone, and thousands of people were thronging over a street that had been covered in cedar chips. This made it difficult to find a cafe with open seating, but I finally succeeded, finding a place where I could have a restorative steak, a glass of wine, and a creme brulee while reading a book. The book turned out to be compelling enough that I kept reading when I got back to the hotel, and I failed to put it down, and now tomorrow will be brutal. But at least by this time tomorrow I will be back in a familiar city; I haven't been in Dublin in three years (shocking), but I liked living there and am looking forward to going back.

And now, I'm off to bed. I realized rather belatedly that this is Sunday and I should have called my parents, but they're probably at graduation now anyway, so I'll have to call them tomorrow. Goodnight!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

pictures from europe, part two - st-denis

The grand gothic architecture of the Basilique du St-Denis, burial site of the kings of France.

A little princeling whose monument has his dogs at his feet.

One of the four statues representing the main virtues surrounding the tomb of Henri II and Catherine de Medici -- I took the photo because I'm twelve years old and think it's funny that there's graffiti all over her breast.

Wouldn't it be hot if this guy came to life to save you from evil? Just sayin'...

pictures from europe, part one - paris, conciergerie, ste-chapelle

My ridiculously purple room in Paris.

Delicious onion soup and diet coke at a sidewalk cafe near Notre Dame (the soup was delicious because it was 60% melted cheese).

What used to be the basement/hall for the masses at the Ile de la Cite palace of the kings of France; now, it's part of the Conciergerie (and the largest remaining Romanesque hall in Europe).

The rose window at Ste-Chapelle.

pictures from adit's wedding

Adit astride his mighty steed (or, v. docile/half-drugged gelding).

Adit's dad in the man in the middle facing towards the camera (but resolutely focused on his dancing); Vidius Chandicus is in the right foreground.

Adit's mighty steed letting forth a mighty flood.

Me and Vidius Chandicus -- I forgot to get a photo of my full sari!

Adit, me, and the infamous fish.

the fish gave me asthma

Ah, the dangers of WebMD. I decided on the metro back from St-Denis, when the cough turned into a multi-minute attack that made me feel panicky because I couldn't breathe well, that what I was experiencing felt much more like an asthma attack than simply a cold. I blame the catfish, which surely harbors all sorts of asthma spores despite its many years away from its previous owner. Anyway, I went into a pharmacy, told them that I have asthma and lost my inhaler (which, while technically true, neglects the key fact that I haven't had an inhaler for at least two years) -- and they were able to give me an inhaler, without a prescription, for only five euros. Score! Thanks, socialized medicine!

Anyway, today was good, although I didn't get quite the early start that I intended; I set my alarm for seven, woke up when it went off, accidentally hit 'dismiss' instead of 'snooze' -- and woke up again a little after nine. I rushed around and got ready, but ended up cutting Notre Dame from my itinerary -- I saw it several years ago, and of all the things on my list, it's the monument I'm most likely to be able to find detailed descriptions/pictures of online.

However, I did make it to Ste-Chapelle and Conciergerie this morning. Ste-Chapelle was built at the royal chapel for the palace of the early kings of France (Merovingians and Capetians), who lived on the island in the middle of the city (Ile de la Cite, which should be easy enough to figure out for those of you who like cognates). The kings later moved out of town when they decided it was no longer safe to be on an island surrounded by an increasingly bitter and angry populace (this was in 1358, several hundred years before the Revolution -- surely they could have found someone a little better at PR during those centuries to ease tensions with the people?). The palace fell apart, leaving only the Conciergerie, which was used as a royal prison for many years, ultimately falling into the hands of the revolutionaries. During the Revolution, it served as the last holding place for many prisoners destined for the guillotine, including Marie-Antoinette (who stayed there for two months), and ultimately ending with Robespierre (whose revolution got away from him). The other remaining area is Ste-Chapelle, which was built to house the relic purported to be the Crown of Thorns; it's an amazing two-story chapel, with a lower area for the palace staff and an upper chapel with absolutely astonishing stained-glass windows that was only used by the king and his hangers-on. All in all, both buildings were quite fascinating, but I'm glad I went at 10am and avoided the hour-long line that I skipped yesterday...

After touring those buildings, I was starving, and stopped at a cafe for a bowl of onion soup (which was v. inferior to the bowl I had yesterday, so I didn't finish it). Then, I caught a metro train to the Basilique du St-Denis, on the northern edge of Paris. St-Denis is where all but three of the French kings from the last 1000 years were buried. The revolutionaries, in the typical asshole spirit they demonstrated towards all things royal (living or dead) during their brief time in power, dug up all the graves and dumped the bodies into two lime-filled pits; but, the funerary statues and monuments were saved by some dude who was in charge of preserving 'art', and when Louis XVIII came into power after Napoleon, he reinstated the monuments (the bodies obviously could not be discerned from one another, so he had them dug up again and placed into the crypt). In another strange tidbit, someone turned up the pickled heart of Louis XVII (the ten-year-old son of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, who died of tuberculosis in prison -- my lungs feel his pain, ha) -- apparently his body was dumped somewhere in Paris, but someone picked his heart and kept it in a jar. You'll be happy to know the heart is now buried at St-Denis too.

Anyway, St-Denis was totally worth going to; it's just far enough away from the main tourist areas of Paris that there were probably <100 people in the basilica while I was there, which in a church that size is practically no one. This is a far cry from Ste-Chapelle or Notre Dame, and much more peaceful and enjoyable. Also, since I'm researching my gargoyle young adult romance novel, and it relies heavily on statues, I was in my own little version of heaven.

I made it back from St-Denis with enough time to go to Musee Carnavalet (with a stop at the pharmacy); I didn't enjoy it to its full potential because my contacts were fogging over, and the amount of stuff there was rather overwhelming, but it's essentially a history of Paris spread out over four wings and multiple floors of two 16th-century houses that have been merged into a museum. I particularly enjoyed the various rooms of furnishings (as I always do), but ran out of patience for the endless paintings, and so eventually gave up and found my way out. I came back to the hotel, grabbed my notebook, and spent a couple of hours at a nearby cafe, eating pizza, drinking diet coke and coffee, and contemplating what I've seen so far.

And now, I really must go to bed; I really really want to get an early start tomorrow so that I can beat (some of) the crowds to Versailles. I'm going to post a few pictures, and then I'm off to bed -- goodnight!

Friday, May 21, 2010

paris, je t'aime

I would love Paris more if I weren't quite so sick; my cough put quite a damper on the day, starting with the Eurostar ride. Before the train left St Pancras station in London, I had a coughing fit and the old man behind me tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I might ask the attendant to find me some cough drops -- not because he was worried about me, but because I was making an 'awful noise.' I figured that the train attendants were not also apothecaries, but I found her and asked her anyway, and she offered to move me instead. Ironically, after I moved, I only coughed a couple of times the entire rest of the way to Paris, and my seat was better anyway (I had an entire four-person table section to myself).

The trip to Paris was uneventful; I love taking Eurostar, since it's so civilized compared to air travel. I got to the station forty minutes before my train was supposed to leave, went through security and passport control in three minutes flat, and had time to get a latte and some water before boarding. On board, I had breakfast, several cups of tea, and a nice, relaxing time with my Paris guidebook to make my plans for the day.

When I got to Paris, I took the Metro to my hotel. I'm staying half a block off the Champs Elysees, near the Arc de Triomphe, in this entertaining little boutique hotel where the carpet is purple shag, the walls and ceiling are white with a purple design painted on them, and the lamp bases are made of rock crystal. This makes me happy, since I have ridiculous taste; even better, I was able to check in at 11:30 and drop my stuff off before heading out into the afternoon.

I probably should have taken a nap when I got here; I slept less than four hours last night, and didn't really sleep on the train. Instead, I pushed myself, which given my lung capacity may have been a mistake. I went to Ile de la Cite with grand plans to see Notre Dame, Ste-Chapelle, and the Concierge, but the lines were long at Notre Dame, and by the time I got there, I realized that I might need to eat something immediately. So, I found an outdoor cafe and spent over an hour people watching while eating a delicious onion soup (French, obviously -- and more than half of the 'soup' was the cheese covering). The day was absolutely gorgeous, perfect for sitting outside -- mid-seventies, sunny, slight breeze, etc. And people watching from Parisian cafes is an important part of my research, right?

Anyway, after I paid for my soup, I rallied and went to Musee National de Moyen Age (the Museum of the Middle Ages), located in one of the oldest medieval buildings still standing in Paris, which is conveniently adjacent to and now merged with the ruins of a Roman thermal bath complex. I spent far more time than most people my age would like to (nearly everyone there was either on their last legs or apparently forced into it by a school trip) examining statuary, reliquaries, tapestries, and a variety of artwork and other artifacts. There were some really gorgeous tapestries (including a six-piece cycle of a lady with a unicorn that took up an entire large room), and the statuary was interesting -- a lot of it was rescued in the aftermath of the Revolution, since the revolutionaries seemed to delight in pulling down and desecrating religious sites and so tended to knock down a lot of statues of saints and kings.

After immersing myself in the Moyen Age (and getting some great ideas for my young-adult book), I walked back across the Seine to check out Ste-Chapelle, but the line was absurdly long and I was feeling rather poorly. So, I came back to the hotel and took a nap from 4:30-7:00 -- perhaps not good for the jetlag, but it felt v. much needed. I successfully roused myself and walked down the Champs Elysees in the direction of the Tuilieries and the Louvre; shortly after the Place de la Concorde, I found an outdoor cafe and had a delicious smoked salmon and goat cheese salad (with a diet coke, of course), followed by a perfect creme brulee and a very good coffee. The advantage of living in a city as expensive as San Francisco is that sticker shock doesn't happen quite so badly when traveling to expensive foreign capitals -- but I do have an issue with the fact that they charged me 9 euros for a glass of diet coke, which was about as much as the creme brulee and the coffee combined. I mean, diet coke is the nectar of the gods and so should be priced accordingly, but 9 euros seems like highway robbery.

Anyway, after sitting around and people watching and brainstorming my young adult book (and coughing surreptitiously into my napkin like a tuberculosis patient on her last legs -- although if I am a tuberculosis patient, I'm waiting to see the glorious porcelain skin and fire lighting me from within that it will supposedly produce just before I breathe my last), I walked back to my hotel. The Champs Elysees was bustling with hordes of people even at ten p.m., and since Paris is on the western edge of its timezone, the twilight was just starting to fade and the streelights came on as I was walking back. While I am sick and therefore not enjoying myself to the maximum extent (wine and cold medicine don't mix), I can see why people fall in love with Paris -- it's a beautiful city, the people are polite, and the food is incredible.

Now, though, I must force myself to go to bed so that I can try to redeem today's wrecked schedule tomorrow. I want to go to Notre Dame as soon as it opens and proceed to Ste-Chapelle from there, so that I can avoid the lines; I also want to see if I can make it out to St-Denis, which is where all but three of the French kings from the last thousand years are buried. Sunday is Versailles and Chartres; in order to get into shape for all this, I went to a pharmacy, where the woman behind the counter sold me some pills that are supposed to end my cough. I don't know if they're working yet, but it's worth a shot; it's incredibly awkward to cough in a vast, open gallery, so anything that will stop my lung disaster will help. Goodnight!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

the party doesn't start til i walk in

I have to be on a train to Paris in less than six hours, so this will necessarily be a four-minute post. Despite the fact that I woke up in the middle of the night feeling like I was choking on my lung, I had a good day -- the big boss's staff offsite went v. well, despite a lot of jetlag in the room. We started off by discussing our personality types, which was interesting; as I mentioned last week, I'm an ENTP (boo-yah), but it was cool to see what the rest of the people in the group were. The big boss is an ENTJ, and virtually every person in the group was a T (only 2 of the 12 were F's). I will spare you any more details about people whom you don't know and don't care about, but since I like personality test stuff, it was all good for me.

The rest of the day was spent in deep discussion, with a couple of fifteen minute breaks and a half hour for lunch, which was rather brutal. We did have a short break before dinner, so I managed to come back to the hotel, pack almost everything, and take a fifteen minute nap before rendezvousing with the staff for dinner. We went to Mango Tree, a Thai restaurant a couple of blocks from here, where we spent three hours eating a lot, drinking a moderate amount (two Thai mojitos for me, natch), and generally making merry. We then adjourned to a bar next door, where we stayed until midnight; I should have been in bed two hours ago, but it's hard to walk away from a gathering like that, particularly when the group sees each other in person about once a quarter.

However, I finally escaped, came back to the hotel, finished packing, and am now ready for bed. I have to get up around 5am to catch a 6:55am train to Paris -- I would yell at whoever booked such an early train, but I did it to myself. At least I can sleep on it, I suppose; when I get to Paris, I want to see as much as possible because it turns out that Sunday is Pentecost, and some public places are closed even though the French aren't particularly religious (and isn't it odd that Pentecost Monday -- aka Whit Monday -- is a national holiday in a country that doesn't allow headscarves on the basis that it's too religious??) Anyway, I digress, and my four minutes are up -- goodnight!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

fish-induced coughing

I've had this wracking cough for a couple of days now -- no other real symptoms (my nose isn't even plugged up), perhaps just a slight headache, but a cough that won't quit. Perhaps the fish that I dug out after five years in storage had some form of toxin that has now embedded itself in my lungs?

In other news, I'm in London; the cough meant that I only slept for a couple of hours on the plane, so I'm super tired despite the nap that I took this afternoon. The flight was uneventful (we landed early), and I made it through immigration/customs, onto a train to London, onto the Tube to Victoria Station, and around the corner (well, around a couple of wrong corners before finding the right one) to my hotel in less than ninety minutes, which wasn't bad at all. My hotel is super cute -- it's v. close to Buckingham Palace, and has this sort of old-fashioned English country house vibe going (the floors creak under the heavily-patterned carpet, and the walls, drapes, bedspread, and headboard are all upholstered/made out of the same tweedy brown striped material). But the bathroom is killer (not in Adit's 'assplosion' kind of way -- in the sense that it's spacious and has nice toiletries), and there's more room than one would expect of a London hotel room.

When I got to the room, I promptly and unfortunately slept for two hours, then forced myself to wake up, shower, and go downstairs for afternoon tea. The tea was delightful; they had little finger sandwiches (which I ordered again from room service an hour ago), and their scones and clotted cream were ridiculously good. After tea, I walked over to Knightsbridge (through Hyde Park Corner, home to several monuments including the Australian War Memorial that I loved on my last trip, and past the gates to Hyde Park) and browsed around several shops looking for a jacket. I don't need a jacket here, but I'm reconsidering the folly that led to me sending my coat back to California with John and Jess. However, I didn't find a coat; my first stop was Harrod's, which, while delightful to browse through (including the weird memorial to Princess Di and Dodi al-Fayed in the basement), was about 5x more expensive than I was willing to pay for a coat. I went through several more shops, but coats are all but out of season here, and so I just walked away with a new nightgown from Monsoon.

I made it back to the hotel a little after seven, and I've been generally slogging since then (with a substantial break to eat finger sandwiches, drink tea, and catch up on my favorite gossip blog). And now, it's time for bed; I have to get out of bed in time to get to the London office for the 8:30am start of the big boss's all-day staff retreat, and having some tea beforehand is mandatory for my health (particularly since tea seems to quiet the fish beast for a few minutes). Goodnight!

But one final, v. important note before I sign off: happy birthday to Uncle Mark! You may know him as the commenter who often leaves genealogical-themed comments on the blog, but I know him as so much more. Happy birthday!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


We're about twenty minutes away from the start of boarding, and it's looking like we're going to make it despite the wrath of Iceland! I'm arriving in London at 10am Wednesday London time, and then I'm working all afternoon. At this point I'll be in London for a little less than 48 hours before leaving for Paris, but that just makes this all more entertaining, right?

Today was a lovely (although slightly less lovely than yesterday) day -- I went into the office and worked for a few hours, slogging through various tings and having lunch with Katrina before leaving to rendezvous with Vidya (aka Vidius Chandicus). We tried to grab coffee but failed, and instead went to Baja Fresh (terrible idea, even though I love the place) before picking her stuff up at Indhika's and going back to my hotel to retrieve the rental car. I insisted on going to the airport absurdly early because of the fear of traffic + returning the car + terrible security lines, but as it turns out, everything went perfectly smoothly, which meant I had 90mins to kill before my flight even starts boarding. I killed it by doing a bit more work and talking to my parents, and now I have about fifteen minutes before boarding starts.

While I wish that I would have made it to London as originally scheduled, it was v. nice to be stranded with the likes of Vidya, Ritu, Katrina, Adit, Priyanka, etc.; the last two days were v. unexpected, but I had tons of fun. This wedding feels like it's lasted forever, and while I wish the fun could continue, I'm looking forward to sleeping on the plane. But now, I'm going to grab a bottle of water and wash my face before boarding. When I write next, I will be in London!

Monday, May 17, 2010

i'm a man without conviction

First things first -- if you haven't seen this yet, check out how Gawker called Adit a "bearded Ellen Degeneres" (he and Priyanka are about 2/3's of the way down the page):

Despite bemoaning the fact that I should have arrived in London fourteen hours ago, I had a v. lovely day in our nation's capital. I slept for a little over eight hours, which was unfortunately marred by the fact that my dinner last night consisted only of a mocha, and so I spent most of the night dreaming that I was running from the Nazis. But, I dragged myself out of my dreams and into my company's Washington office, where I spent the day preparing for my trip and taking care of a variety of tings.

I wasn't as productive as I should/could have been because I went to what turned into a ridiculously long lunch. Originally, the lunch was just supposed to be Vidya and Ritu, but I invited myself when I found out that I was stranded here; I then invited Katrina, since she's also working at our company's Washington office, and Vidya invited Adit and Priyanka, who in turn invited one of Priyanka's friends. We went to Zaytinya, which is a relatively upscale Mediterranean small-plates restaurant a few blocks from the DC office. It lived up to the hype; while waiting for Adit and Priyanka, we started with a Turkish cheese that I absolutely adored and a bean dish that I would have loved had it not sneakily assaulted me with dillweed (which I cannot eat after being plagued by it in Ukraine). I then went off-script and ordered a chicken schwarma sandwich, but I was glad I did -- the sandwich was one of the best I've had, it came with excellent fries, and I still got to try a couple of the other dishes that the rest of the group ordered. We finished up with strong Turkish coffees, and after over two hours of hanging out, we all sort of waddled/rolled away from the restaurant feeling like it was perhaps a mistake to continue to ridiculous eating levels of the weekend.

It was excellent to see everyone again, but really, the 'saying goodbye to Adit' events are getting to be a bit much. It feels like I've been saying goodbye to him for a month, which has been super fun and ridiculous, and I wouldn't wish away any of the events -- but the ramp-up in the festivities is just going to make it even harder when I return to California and his particular brand of mayhem is no longer there. But, that probably explains why it feels like I've been in DC forever -- the wedding was just a continuation of the long, slow, goodbye, as will be his arrival in California in June and his trip through Iowa in July. But, I'm glad I got to see him and many of my other friends in relaxed contexts over the past couple of days, even if I should be waking up in London in a couple of hours instead of sitting in DC.

After lunch, I slogged for awhile longer, then called to United to ask about economy plus seating (I had paid for it on my original ticket and they didn't give it to me for the rebook to Paris). This ticket agent was clearly 10x more competent than the last one, and got me onto the same flight number that I should have taken yesterday, instead leaving for London tomorrow night. That means I get into London Wednesday morning, and don't have to deal with taking a train from Paris to London. It's a gamble, of course, since they could close the airport again, but it's a risk I'm going to take. So, I'll spend tomorrow working in DC, and then leave for the airport sometime late afternoon in hopes that my flight will actually depart.

Tonight, I had dinner with Vidya and her friend Lauren from the program that she did last year. Lauren lives near Eastern Market, which seems like a cool neighborhood; sadly, she first suggested Mediterranean food (which we had today), then wanted to take us to Matchbox (which was had yesterday), but we ended up at Belga Cafe, which serves Belgian food. Luckily, it was a far cry from the Dutch pannekoeken that filled me with such hatred a few years ago; but unluckily, that meant another relatively large meal as a cap to a series of large meals. Despite that, it was nice to meet Lauren, and good to continue hanging out with Vidya before I leave for a couple of weeks.

And now, I desperately need to sleep; I have a sore throat, which I thought was the remnants of karaoke/sugarcane drain, but it's not getting better, and I'm hoping that sleep will cure what ails me. Goodnight!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

ain't nothing but a heartbreak

For those of you who weren't at the wedding or didn't see the paper, Adit and Priyanka's wedding announcement was in the New York Times today -- and they're cute enough that they were one of the couples featured with their photo:

Today was utterly lovely until around five p.m., but I shall get to that in a moment. I managed to drag myself out of bed a little after nine a.m., feeling remarkably sound despite the "sugarcane drain" that came near the end of the previous night. Claudia, Ritu and I all got cleaned up and packed up, and then headed to brunch with the other wedding guests. This turned out to be a lovely, fun-filled morning; nearly all of our friends were around until one p.m., Adit and Priyanka were done (enough) with the wedding stuff that they could hang out for a bit, and so a bunch of us sat around for a couple of hours telling jhokes, laughing, and making fun of Ritu (three of my favorite activities!). The fish also made an appearance at brunch; while I don't know what the rest of its life will entail, it did at least make it into Adit and Priyanka's car, so wherever it dies, it won't be in the Dumpster of a Virginia Marriott.

After brunch, our friend group parted ways for an indeterminate amount of time -- with no weddings looming in the near future, it's unclear when this particular group of people will get together again, since we have different class reunion schedules and are spread out across both coasts. Vidya, Ritu and I packed our stuff into the ridiculously small trunk of my Volkswagen Beetle and headed into DC proper, where my GPS device managed to get us lost long enough that Claude was able to catch up with us despite having to drop of Katrina, Zach, Johanna, and a cooler full of leftover drinks. The four of us met up with Stephanie and proceeded to have a v. late lunch/v. early dinner at Matchbox, a tasty pizzeria near Steph's apartment. Over several delicious pizzas, we discussed the fun times we had and set a course for world domination. Then, we v. sadly parted ways, with Steph/Ritu/Claude going off in search of sightseeing and Vidya and I taking the car towards Vidya's friend's house, where I dropped her off and said goodbye (I won't see her for two whole weeks - shocking).

Just as I was about to get on the freeway towards the airport, I found out that my flight to London was cancelled due to volcanic ash (this is where the day went horribly wrong). I sat in the car on the side of the street for an hour and a half, part of it on hold with United, part of it figuring out hotel accommodations for DC and rebooking my rental car. United said the wouldn't be able to get me a flight to London until at least Thursday, which would likely mean a Friday morning arrival -- and the only reason I'm going to London is for a Thursday meeting, so that wouldn't work. Instead, I ended up switching my arrival city to Paris, and so now I'm going to fly to Paris on Tuesday night, arrive Wednesday morning, and take a train to London. My London hotel is successfully rebooked for this, and I found a hotel in DC for the next two nights (actually, the same hotel I stayed in the first two nights I was in DC last year, right on Dupont Circle). My company has an office in DC, so I'm going to go there tomorrow, and then probably work from the hotel Tuesday morning until it's time to leave for the airport.

All of this could continue to go horribly wrong, of course, but at least I'm trying to get to my destination. But despite those annoyances, the glow of the wedding and parties and friends hasn't worn off, and hopefully it won't wear off for awhile. If you're lucky, I'll post pictures sometime -- but now I need to go to bed so that I can get into the office at a decent hour tomorrow morning.

One final note -- happy twenty-fifth birthday to my brother Michael!!! Yay!! It's also my grand-niece's birthday, but as she is only one year old and can't read, this is probably less exciting for her. Goodnight!

i've been waiting my whole life for this one night

I am in no shape to blog excessively tonight, so I shall only hit on the highlights. Today was Adit and Priyanka's wedding, and it was just as beautiful as I expected it to be. The day started off on an entertaining note with me and Vidya taking the ol' yellow Volkswagen Beetle to Lowes (let's build something together!) to get some plants that Adit wanted us to pick out. We made a clandestine stop at a coffee shop to get bagels before returning to the hotel and immediately eating south Indian breakfast (dosas, etc.) After breakfast, we had rather limited time to get ready; Vidya had to wrap approximately eight peoples' saris (including mine, which looked gorgeous thanks to Chandlord's careful ministrations).

Then, we went downstairs to participate in Adit's baraat -- everyone on Adit's side of the wedding started in the parking lot and danced and clapped their way (v. v. slowly) up to the main entrance of the hotel while Adit rode a horse behind them. It was super fun, particularly when the horse urinated prodigiously towards the end of the baraat. But, that was the only gross thing that happened (at least until much, much later at the afterparty) -- the rest of it was perfectly lovely. Adit and Priyanka both looked v. happy, Priyanka's outfits were gorgeous, and the venue was v. nice and well-decorated.

I would go on and on about this, but I'm losing steam and must go to bed so that I can make it through tomorrow before getting on the plane to London. Suffice it to say that we all had an awesome time, the catfish of my youth made a reappearance (and is likely now lost to the ocean of time), and I v. stupidly drank both a 'muffin shot' (a Sri concoction in which you bore a hole in a mini-muffin, fill it with rum until it starts to disintegrate in your hand, and then dump it in your mouth) and a 'Sugarcane Drain' (a John concoction of Coors mixed with sugar, in a red plastic cup, with a hole bored through the bottom so you have to shotgun it). But, since those drinks were what actually gave me my second wind and allowed me to stay at the party until three a.m., I suppose I should be grateful.

And now, after a wonderful day with almost all of my favorite people in the world, it's time for me to go to bed (which I am sharing with Santy Claude, yay). Congratulations, Adit and Priyanka!!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

caught in a bad romance

This is going to be brief because I really want to go to bed -- but suffice it to say that Adit's wedding is going v. v. well, and I somehow managed to keep my head about me and stay moderately sober tonight, which will make for a much easier morning. I intend to get blitzed tomorrow, of course, but I'm glad that tonight didn't get too out of hand.

Today was super fun; I made it into DC proper in time to have lunch with Ritu and Steph at the cafe in the Native American Museum (one of the only restaurants I've been to in DC before), and then Ritu and I picked up Vidya, went to Trader Joe's to buy wine (a much longer and more arduous endeavor than it sounds), came back, got ready, and then had delicious Indian food at the sangeet. At some point, we adjourned to the afterparty, where all my favorite people were hanging out, and we sang karaoke until the cops shut us down. And now, I'm off to bed -- tomorrow promises to be even more lovely, and I can't wait! Goodnight!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

girl i gotta watch my back, 'cause i'm not just anybody

This is a four-minute post, not because I don't have time to write, but because I have absolutely nothing of interest to share. The argument could be made that I have nothing of interest to share about 90% of the time, but if you're still reading this blog, you've come to terms with it and persevered in spite of it, so I'm not going to apologize.

I woke up around 7:30 and successfully packed, finished things up around the house, and got out the door in time for the taxi to the airport. The only fly in the ointment was that my brand new trash can from Palo Alto utilities is going to smell like dog shit for the rest of its life; I took the garbage out last night hoping that the garbage collectors would come before my 9:15am departure (I was told I should have it out by six a.m.), but when the time came to leave, they still hadn't been there. I couldn't leave it sitting on the street for two and a half weeks, so I debated taking it into the garage rather than leaving it in the outdoor enclosure (where I figured raccoons might knock it over) -- but when I opened it to see that the garbage hadn't been taken, I discovered that some asshole had tossed a couple of baggies of dog shit into it. I'm sure they meant no harm, but there was nothing I could do -- I'll just have to spray something in there and hope the smell dissipates someday.

Anyway, I made it to the airport with a ridiculous amount of time to spare, and so I bought a couple of small things (travel-sized moisturizer and eye-makeup-remover pads) at Sephora, and then had scrambled eggs at a cafe in the terminal. My flight took off on time, and sadly I worked for the day job the entire flight -- it was wonderful to have wireless on the plane, but in some ways I miss the disconnectedness of my youth. The big boss ended up requesting something urgent, and so I sat on the floor of baggage claim for half an hour after we landed to wrap the thing up before finding the rental car shuttle, picking up the car, making a stop at Chipotle (I was starving and couldn't order food on the plane because the food-service screens in my row weren't working and there was no other way to pay for the items), and checking into the hotel.

I've spent the last ninety minutes or so wrapping up some more work stuff and retinseling my hair for the big event. And now, my four minutes are up, and I'm going to go to bed so that I can go into the city and sightsee a bit with Ritu before bringing her and Vidya back to the hotel. Tomorrow night, the festivities begin in earnest -- I will attempt to emerge from this weekend with my liver intact. Goodnight!

you don't need to prove a thing, just let it be

I may pull off the miracle of getting on the plane tomorrow morning with everything that I need for two and a half weeks of travel and fun -- it was even more of a challenge than usual because many of the things that I needed to pack were still in a variety of bags and boxes from the move, but I think I'm all set. I have to check a bag tomorrow because of the wedding outfits and shoes and tings, but I'm going to mail that stuff back to myself; after the wedding, I can pare down so that I'm just traveling with a roll-aboard bag and my laptop bag for the subsequent two weeks. Thanks to the miracle of my small shoe size, compact clothing, and packing skills, I was able to fit four dresses, two sweaters, four pairs of leggings, eight or nine tops, four pairs of shoes, underwear, pajamas, makeup, and a coat into a standard roll-aboard, so I won't look like Rick Steves while I travel (I shudder at sporting khaki and quick-dry windbreakers and sneakers).

I had a lot to do at work today, and I didn't get through it all, but I will have wireless on my six hour Virgin America flight, so I intend to get a lot done then. I did take a break to have lunch with Heather (aka dear respected madam); I took her off-campus because she graciously agreed to go with me to the tailor afterward so that I could try on the things I took in to get altered in case they needed to redo anything (good thing, too, as one of the dresses needed to be taken in just a bit more, although it wouldn't have been the end of the world if I couldn't wear that one). Then I slogged the rest of the day, came home and packed, ran to Nordstrom to buy a pair of shoes (ridiculous, I know), came back home and continued to pack, and now am going to bed. I don't have much to do to get out the door tomorrow morning, but I should still leave myself time to get through the last things on my list, so sleep is essential. Goodnight!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

in the end it doesn't even matter

This is a four-minute post. I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to get on a plane Thursday morning for a two-and-a-half-week trip without forgetting something vital, but I'm going to have to slog through it. Unfortunately I'm not nearly as unpacked as I would like to be, although I did unpack my desk accoutrements and do a load of laundry -- but I've just got to accept that I'm going to come home from Europe to a messy house, and that I will only have a handful of days to put it together before I leave for Japan anyway.

Today was fine, although not particularly exciting; the most exciting thing was that I was able to wake up at seven, have a cup of tea at my desk at home while checking email, and still make it into the office by 8:30. Granted, I did wake up at six to register for an appointment with an editor at the romance conference (the registration for my group opened at eight a.m. CDT; unfortunately we were the second group eligible to register for appointments, so my first-choice editor was taken, but I got my second choice and promptly went back to sleep). But, overall, the commute is making me oh-so-happy.

Despite that, I still ended up driving to and from the city today, so that I could turn in the keys in Adit's absence. But, since I drove up and back over lunch, traffic wasn't bad, and when I got back to the south bay, I got a pedicure while answering email (the joys of an always-connected laptop + satellite card), then came home and did some more work before slogging around the house all evening. And now my four minutes are up -- it may be insane to try to wake up tomorrow to write in addition to everything else that's going on, but I'm going to try. Goodnight!

Monday, May 10, 2010

sea change

According to a professional Myers-Briggs coach, I am no longer the personality type that I thought I was. Or rather, I have returned to the personality type that I was in high school -- both through an open-ended conversation, and through the results of the test I took last week, it turns out that I'm back to being an ENTP rather than an ENTJ. That doesn't mean I've fundamentally changed -- I'm not super far from the J/P divide, and identify with some aspects of both -- and I'm still super stubborn, as evidenced by the fact that the first thing I did when I got back to my desk was to IM John, who originally told me that I was a J, to tell him that he was wrong (which is perhaps a rather unattractively-J tendency).

But, I had a rather interesting realization while having this discussion with the coach. I think my natural, underlying tendencies are more towards the P side (wanting to keep my options open, continuing to gather information, etc.), but I have this rather warped sense of what I should be accomplishing with my life, and so I push myself hard to be more of a J (rigorously planning, striving for control). Inevitably, the J side fails -- I make lists for what to do every day, every week, etc., but I never meet deadlines unless they're truly deadly, and if a friend offers up some sort of plan, I almost inevitably go along with it. Then, because of my standards, I feel horribly guilty for not doing what I should have done, but then my natural desire for an unconstrained life rebels and I procrastinate again.

It's a vicious cycle, and one that I need to break out of -- but that's not going to happen tonight. Other than the Myers-Briggs thing, nothing interesting happened at work (I was trapped in a list-making/procrastinating cycle). But, I did get up early this morning, and I wrote three pages before going to work. Even with a stop at a tailor to get a couple of dresses and two parts of my Indian outfits altered for Adit's wedding (it's a miracle she agreed to do it in time, but the dresses were held up in the UK by the volcano until Thursday, and I figured I'd let her try to make the Indian outfits a little bit better-fitting), I still made it to work by ten -- the power of the south bay commute is truly magical.

After work, I picked up Vidya at the Sunnyvale Toyota dealership, and we had dinner at La Fiesta while waiting for her car to get done with its repairs. We had a lovely conversation about all sorts of entertaining things, none of which can be repeated here. Then, I dropped her off, made it home by 7:30pm (again, another south bay commute miracle), debated working on the novel, and instead did some things for the day job. I also got a call from the woman who lives in the studio above the garage; she had been out of town all weekend, and so just got my note about the minor flood in the garage. She seems super friendly, and in an amazing twist of fate, says she's Julia Quinn's stepmother. Those of you in the know are aware that Julia Quinn is one of my all-time favorite historical romance novelists (and my idol, since she went to Harvard and chose to pursue a non-traditional path for a Harvard grad, which is exactly what I want to do with my Stanford degree). So that was all v. exciting and bizarre; I stayed charmingly polite, did not press for information, and will not turn into a crazed stalker, but it was interesting nonetheless.

And now, I really must go to bed so that I can get up early again tomorrow. This book, despite all the freedom I have given it to do so, is not writing itself, and I really want to finish it in the next month. That means I'm going to have to write while traveling despite any other distractions -- in other words, force myself to be a J when I really just want to be a P. I just have to keep reminding myself how wonderful it feels to finish the book and type "The End" -- and forgetting how long and difficult the submission process is. Goodnight!

Sunday, May 09, 2010

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

I didn't get quite as much done today as I intended to, but sloth and other issues got in the way. I allowed myself to sleep in without setting an alarm, which was glorious; I awoke to the sound of rain beating on the roof over my bed, which made me feel an utter lack of desire to emerge from the covers. Eventually I did emerge, however, and I drank the first cup of tea in my new home while browsing lamps on a variety of online shopping websites. Then, I pulled myself together and ran some errands, which took up most of the day despite the fact that I didn't accomplish much.

The first stop was Home Depot, where I bought a drain shield for the bathtub since my hair will quickly destroy any hope of the drain working if there isn't a guard to prevent all the wamp-devils from congregating in the pipes. I also picked up a stopper so that I can take bubble baths, a set of bathtub shelving to hold all of the many and varied bathing supplies that I like to have around, zip ties to secure my suitcases on my upcoming travels, a couple of wands for the miniblinds whose wands are missing, replacement burner pans for the stove in my old apartment since our originals are well beyond the point of being cleanable, and a bottle of superglue to reattach the ear of my ceramic donkey, which mysteriously fell off while I was in Cancun.

The next stop was Stanford Shopping Center; I had a quick lunch at CPK (which I was in the mood for because both John and Jess railed on it yesterday as a terrible restaurant, but I love it and have many fond memories at the one in downtown Palo Alto -- so a roasted garlic chicken pizza was very much something I was looking forward to). Then, I went to Crate and Barrel, where I spent an inordinate amount of time browsing the entire store (some sections three or four times) before settling on two lamps: one lamp for my desk, and a pair of lamps for my living room tables. Both styles are super cool and fit well both in this house and in terms of how they will look with my furniture regardless of where I'm living. Unfortunately, though, the Palo Alto store only had the desk lamp in stock, so they sent me to Santana Row to pick up the table lamps. Before going down there, I talked to my parents and wished my mother a happy mother's day -- they both seemed to be in good form, and we're all looking forward to hosting Adit in July and figuring out what he will possibly eat while staying with us.

Then, I made the trek down to Santana Row, which may have been a mistake; I am desperate for light, so I didn't want to wait for the lamps until after getting back from Europe, but Santana Row on a Sunday afternoon is a complete madhouse, and the traffic around the area was insane. I finally got to Crate and Barrel and successfully picked up the lamps, came home (with a stop at Philz for coffee and a stop at Walgreens to buy lightbulbs) -- and discovered that one of the lamps is no good, since the socket is bent at an angle and will not hold the lampshade straight (let alone whatever the bend has done to the electrical wiring). I'm so annoyed about that -- the lamp that isn't broken looks totally awesome, as does the desk lamp, but now I have to deal with returning the broken one and finding a replacement. I'm going to call the San Francisco store and see if they still have one in stock (they did this afternoon, anyway); I'm going to the evil city on Tuesday afternoon to close out the apartment, so I could make the switch then if it all works out.

Anyway, that was super boring for all of you -- and the rest of my night was as well, since I spent it trying to unpack. I did a good thing by rearranging all the stacks of boxes so that I know what is kitchen-related, what contains books, what contains clothes, and what boxes are just a random hodgepodge of stuff. Unfortunately, I then v. stupidly started unpacking the books, which consumed my evening; I'm likely going to have to get more shelves, although I didn't fill the library cabinet (just the shelves that are built in to the living room wall), so I'll do that before I decide on more furniture. But, it was exciting to see all the books that have been in storage for so long, and realize how many books are sitting there that I've never read and that I really want to try. Perhaps once things settle down a bit, I'll make a concerted effort to get through some of the books that have been lingering for half a decade ("The Brothers Karamazov", "A Tale of Two Cities", "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting", "Howard's End", etc., etc.).

The only other thing of note is that I have a feeling I'm going to wish that I had a shotgun and that Palo Alto tolerated that sort of animal control; I heard a noise while I was unpacking and turned around to see a raccoon strolling fairly sedately along the outer window ledge of my main living room window. He was one of the fattest raccoons I've ever seen; without a weapons deterrent, the raccoons must be living pretty well around here. I think he (or one of his brethren) was on my roof later, because it sounded like a person walking over the shingles -- luckily I grew up in Iowa, so this kind of stuff doens't phase me. Now if I get a bat down my chimney someday, I will be quite a bit less calm about it -- but I can handle seeing the odd raccoon outside my window.

Now, it's way past my bedtime; I know it's only 10:28, but I plan to get up early and write tomorrow, and that won't happen if I don't get some sleep. Goodnight!

flush my worries down the drain and fly away to somewhere new

Today was a busy, roller-coaster kind of a day, with some wonderful parts and some horrendous parts (I will leave it to you, dear reader, to pick which was which). I got up a little after six-thirty; I was actually awakened about forty-five minutes before that by some sort of strange, wild caterwauling from what I assume was some sort of feral animal near my house, but I managed to go back to sleep despite my bedroom's eastern exposure. I suppose that a feral animal is better than a feral crazy person any day, which is what would have been more likely to wake me up in the city of sin. I managed to find appropriate clothes, locate all my shower requirements, and get myself cleaned up for the day in time to make the drive up to Berkeley for the monthly meeting of the San Francisco-area RWA chapter.

While going to a meeting was probably the last thing I should have done in terms of my moving productivity, I'm really glad I went; I sat with a couple of women whom I met and liked at the retreat last month, and was really impressed by the high turnout and the quality of the guest speaker (Barry Eisler, who writes thrillers -- he was talking about injecting suspense into your work, and I'm eager to read his latest book, which he gave out to everyone during the meeting). So, I'm looking forward to going again, and hopefully seeing some of these women at the romance conference this summer. The meeting is only once a month, and unfortunately I'll miss the next one due to my trip to Tokyo, but I intend to be settled and more able to do things by the time the August meeting rolls around.

I left the meeting with the intention of making a quick stop at West Elm before going to the city of sin to clean the old apartment, but John quite fortuitously called and, after discovering that I was in the area, came over to Emeryville for lunch. He and Jess needed half an hour or so to get ready and come over, so I browsed my heart out; unfortunately the shower curtain that I wanted to buy at West Elm was not available in the store, but I did score a lovely warm yellow cream and sugar set on sale at Pottery Barn, which is a gorgeous shade that nearly matches my Dijon-yellow Le Creuset casserole dishes. They arrived just in time to rescue me from folly -- I strolled into Williams Sonoma and discovered that the Kitchenaid stand mixer that I've had my eye on for years was on sale, in store only, from $350 down to $200 in honor of Mother's Day. This made it v., v. tempting, since it would be hard to find one brand new for less than that. Ultimately, though, I decided to pass; I don't know if I can justify it based on how much I would use it, I haven't sorted out my cabinet situation yet, and even if I do have the counter space, there's no guarantee I would have it in the next place. But, the victory of my common sense tastes like ashes; I've coveted that mixer for years, but now I'm committing to coveting for another few weeks/months/years. Sigh.

Anyway, John, Jess and I had lunch at Buckhorn Grill, which I've never been to, but which serves amazing sandwiches (both of the ones we had involved large quantities of tri-tip). It was good to see them and continue to wage my propaganda campaign to convince them that they should stay in the area. After lunch, we walked over to Cold Stone because Jess wanted ice cream, but the store smelled like hundreds of gallons of rotting milk, so we evacuated and parted ways sans ice cream. Even though I'll be gone for 2.5 weeks, I'll still see them at Adit's wedding -- I'm basically using this wedding as a chance to see people in bulk before I leave straightaway for my business trip. Add some alcohol, and it should be amazing.

I spent the rest of the day cleaning the apartment; the job ended up taking me 5-6 hours, and I still need to wet-mop the kitchen floor before the landlord comes to inspect it on Tuesday. But, everything else is done, the refrigerated condiments are safe in their new home, and now it's just a matter of a final mopping at the old place and unpacking a hundred boxes at the new place. I was supremely helped in this effort by Vidya, who came over to pick up a child's weight in lentils; we went around the corner to El Castillito for an early dinner, and then she helped take out some trash and recycling too before taking her leave. Thanks Chandlord!

After the cleaning extravaganza, I made it home by eight p.m., but I realized after moving some stuff around that I really needed a break. So, I read a romance novel that I downloaded a couple of months ago (it's the debut of the woman who won the Golden Heart the year ahead of me). It was pretty good; I liked her dialogue, although there were places where I would have liked a bit more emotion. Overall, it was a worthwhile way to spend a relaxing evening at home -- and on my couch, which I think is the loveliest couch in the world, and which I'm so glad to have back.

Unfortunately, I really need to sleep now; I have a crushing number of errands to run tomorrow, and I want to keep making progress on the packing. Goodnight!

Friday, May 07, 2010

the sound of settling

I'm utterly wiped out - but my move went as well as could possibly be expected,  and they didn't drop my big glass-doored library cabinet down the stairs, so I was quite pleased. I also got a ton of cleaning and household supplies at Target, got my utilities turned on, did two loads of laundry and one of dishes, made my bed, organized my living room furniture, etc.

I still have a ton to unpack, but I'm going to bed even though it's only 9:15. I'm getting up early tomorrow to go to Berkeley for a romance writers meeting, then going to the evil city to clean my old apartment,  so I will have at least half a good day tomorrow.

But despite the pain (and the fact that I'm typing this on my phone since I don't have internet yet), I'm excited about my place - I'm in desperate need of lamps, but I'm loving the house already. This despite the fact that I discovered a leak in the garage tonight, which doesn't affect me since I have no stuff there, but a couple of boxes belonging to the other tenant got wet. It's no Tennessee flood, but I sacrificed a couple if towels to try to stop the water from making more forward progress, left messages for the owner and the other tenant, and now just have to hope for the best.

But I don't have patience for more thumb typing -- goodnight!

i'm gonna rock you like a baby while the cities fall

Oddly enough, I don't seem to have procrastinated as badly as usual with this move -- it's nine hours before the movers are supposed to show up, and I'm basically done. This is a far cry from my usual moves, and means that I'll get seven hours of sleep tonight (I still have to get up at a reasonably early hour, because the remaining tasks can't be done until I'm done with the bathroom, and I realized I should probably find some breakfast before the movers arrive since I have no food in the house and I may not get a break for lunch).

Even though most of my stuff is in storage, the amount of stuff that I have in the apartment is probably as much as most people actually do have in total -- it's almost embarrassing. But, I like my stuff, and I'm really excited about moving into my new place and getting everything unpacked again. I can't spend the whole weekend playing with my new place, though. I'm going to go to the monthly meeting of the San Francisco romance chapter on Saturday morning, and then I'm going to come back to this apartment to clean it all afternoon. I was going to hire a cleaner, but most of them don't seem to work weekends (or are booked), and I don't have time at the day job to disappear for hours on end next week, since I'm leaving on Thursday for Adit's wedding. But, cleaning shouldn't take a terribly long time since there is no furniture to clean/dust, and then I'll be done until I turn the keys in on Tuesday.

And now, I should enjoy my last night in this apartment, and in this city, by promptly sleeping through it. At least when I'm asleep I don't realize that I feel itchy; I knew I was sunburned from Cancun, but I had no idea how bad it was. My legs were what hurt the most in Cancun, and ironically they seem mostly fine. But my shoulders and upper arms are either a) peeling dramatically or b) like my knees, covered in tiny blisters that sometimes pop when I scratch them, spreading blister fluid around and making me wonder if I'm going to inadvertently infect them because I'm scratching with nails that have seen better days after my packing escapades. I know, that was probably all TMI, but it's such a weird sunburn that I had to share in case it turns out to be some version of smallpox (although it would have to be a miniscule version, since the blisters are barely visible).

Wish me luck tomorrow -- I'll try to get unpacked before I go to the wedding so that I can post pictures of the new place. Goodnight!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

as michael jackson would say, 'i'm starting with the man in the mirror'

Adit is gone for good. That's the only thing that matters today...after a brutal slog at work, a long commute home (after suboptimally choosing every route from work to Menlo Park to pick up Adit, and from Menlo Park back to the evil city), some desultory packing of the kitchen, dinner with Adit, Chandlord, Anton, and Amanda at Little Star, and some more packing, Vidya and I took Adit to the Oakland (jhokeland) airport and left him there. He should be in the air on his way to DC now...and I am left with nothing but memories and a huge box of lentils that are waiting for Vidya to pick them up.

And on that note, I have nothing more to say; we didn't do a candle ceremony yet, so I will save my awkwardly heartfelt sentiments for that future occasion. It doesn't really feel real yet anyway, since I'm going to his wedding next week and he is planning to stop off in Iowa over 4th of July weekend, but I'm sure it will sink in at some point. But the eight a.m. meeting tomorrow morning and the fact that I still have a ton of packing to do is going to sink in a lot quicker, so sleep is imperative. Goodnight!

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

moving madness

I still have that stupid Matchbox 20 song from last night stuck in my head. I blame Justin Bieber; even though he sings a completely different song, his song still has the words "baby baby baby", and today I watched a ridiculous clip from an interview he did in New Zealand in which it became clear that he doesn't know what the word "German" means (see it here at my favorite gossip site: How can you possibly be a teenager and not know about anything German???

Anyway, I slogged through the day, then slipped out around five p.m. to get the keys to my new place. I spent half an hour there measuring, examining, and starting to think about how I'm going to arrange things; while I can rearrange to my heart's content while I'm there, I have one piece of furniture (a glass-doored library cabinet) that I can't move alone (or likely even with help), and so I need to know where it's going before the movers deposit it into its permanent home. I'm pretty excited about the place; the one downside is that I will have to invest immediately in lamps, since the previous tenant appeared to have taken many of the fixtures with him, but since there are windows everywhere, this wasn't a problem this afternoon. But I think the place is going to be really cool when I have it set up, and I'm looking forward to getting settled in.

After that, I went back to Mountain View to have dinner with Tolu, Jane and Lizzie (three of my oldest work friends; we started temping around the same time, although Jane and Lizzie have long since moved on). We had dinner and drinks at Cascal, which was delicious. Lizzie is moving to Seattle in a few weeks, so this was one of our last regularly-scheduled dinners; even though my packing drama is getting increasingly...dramatic, I didn't want to skip because I don't know if I'll be in town for the next one anyway. So it was good to catch up, even if I didn't get much packing done tonight as a result.

By the time I got home, it was a little after nine p.m., and I spent an hour and a half sorting through the kitchen, doing dishes, throwing out or packing nonperishables, and figuring out what is mine vs. what is Adit's. This wasn't as much progress as I would have liked to have made (I intended to pack all the dishes tonight), but it's 90mins further along than I could have been. Luckily, even though I have to be at work at 8am tomorrow morning, I can leave a bit early and get back up here at a reasonable hour, so getting through the kitchen and hopefully the rest of my books tomorrow night is well within reach.

Now it's time for bed; the eight a.m. meeting is the big boss's staff meeting (can't she postpone these things so I can get some sleep?), so I need to get up on time. Goodnight!

but if the bright lights don't receive you, you can turn yourself around and come on home

I took Adit to work today, and the 'genius' playlist on my iPod proved its genius with a mix specially designed to torment him. It was so bad that it almost tormented me; far too much Dave Matthews, and now I have a Matchbox 20 song stuck in my head (Adit said the only two musicians he hates are Dave Matthews and Rob Thomas, giving even Nickelback a reprieve from the special circle of hell he's reserved for those two). Of course, it didn't help that traffic was insane even on 280, leading to a non-ideal commute.

But, the commute will only happen three more days; I'm moving on Friday, and so the end is in sight. I managed to get a lot done at work today despite my desire to start packing, and I'm all caught up on my vacation emails. That doesn't mean this week will be easy, since I have a lot to do at work before leaving for Adit's wedding next week, but at least I didn't waste the day despite my desire to indulge in some post-vacation glow.

I slipped out of the office at five p.m. so that I could make it back to the evil city before my storage unit place closed for the day, and I made it just in time to give notice on my unit (prompting the woman who runs the place to say that if one more person gives notice today, she's going to cry, which made me feel bad -- it's the best storage unit ever, so let me know if you want a storage recommendation). I then got all my empty boxes out of the unit so that the packing frenzy can begin.

When I got home, I took care of some small stuff around the house, and then John and Jess came over to have dinner with Adit and me. We went to this Vietnamese place that I've never been to even though it's right around the corner, and it was totally delicious -- how sad is it that I'm moving to a relative culinary wasteland after being within a block or two of all sorts of wonderful food? Granted, Palo Alto isn't the equivalent of, say, Stockton, and there are plenty of restaurants down there that I love. But, I will miss being able to walk to them (although since I won't be spending two hours a day in my car, maybe I won't mind driving to go out to eat).

Dinner was super fun; we discussed the future, since Adit is leaving and John and Jess are determining what they will do now that they're both wrapping things up at Berkeley. We also discussed Korean gamers, Google Buzz, a variety of jhokes, and Adit's most recent favorite phrase ("bucket of liquid feces" -- pleasant, right?). Unfortunately, we had to part ways so that they could get back to the dirty east bay and Adit and I could get back to preparing for the move.

Even though it was almost ten p.m. when we got home, I managed to pack seven boxes of stuff (mostly office supplies, books, and some shoes). This is a small dent, but it's a dent nonetheless, and I'm feeling better about my ability to get everything packed before Friday morning. I'm being much less judicious about my sorting, and I'm not bothering to throw anything away; since I just moved in August and threw away a lot of stuff then, there hasn't been that much extraneous crap to accrue, and frankly I don't have time to mess with it. So, dumping stuff into boxes is a lot faster this way, even if I still intend to carefully wrap all of my dishes and breakable souvenirs.

While I want to keep packing, I think it's time for bed instead. I have to go to work tomorrow at some point even though I only have one meeting, and I'm going to stay until six because I have dinner plans in the south bay tomorrow night. Then it's back to packing; the task for tomorrow night is the kitchen, which will be no small feat. Goodnight!

Monday, May 03, 2010

back in san francisco, oh so briefly

After waking up mildly hungover, having a lovely breakfast with "Celeste", packing up and checking out, and sitting through a flight to Houston, a two hour layover, and a flight to San Francisco, I'm home and ready to tackle the next ten days. Happily I was able to change my ticket to get an 8pm flight to San Francisco (arriving at 10pm), rather than a 9pm flight to San Jose (arriving at 11pm, with a 1+hr drive home). So, that was a v. good thing, and will hopefully make tomorrow a bit easier.

Celeste and I had an awesome trip; even though I'm sunburned, and even though we should have done our heaviest drinking on a night other than the night before our flight out, I feel more relaxed than one would think after a long weekend. That relaxation will go away immediately, since I have four days to pack my apartment before moving on Friday, but at least I'm relaxed right now. It was great to hang out with Celeste for a couple of days, and hopefully I will see her again soon.

Unfortunately, I desperately need to sleep now; I have to be crazy productive at work so that I can get out a little early and start the packing madness. Goodnight!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

of sun, sand, and goats

The goats are an inside joke between me and "Celeste" (who continues to remain anonymous on this trip), but I can share far too much about the sun and sand aspects of today. Celeste and I woke up around nine a.m. and scampered out to breakfast, which was yet another delicious buffet odyssey; the food has been undeniably delicious, and a huge improvement from the first night when I ordered what I thought was steak and instead received shank. Then, we walked down the street to the pharmacy, which still charged extortionate prices for sunscreen, but the prices were slightly less exorbitant than at the hotel gift shop, and my skin looked like it had been licked by a fire-breathing dragon, so no price was too great to pay for some SPF 60. I also successfully scored a Playa del Carmen mug from Starbucks; I've sort of vaguely started collecting them from various cities, and I have the ones from Hawaii and Singapore, so it was nice to add this one to the group. I had been to the Starbucks two days ago looking for one, and when the person behind the counter asked if she could help me, I said "Usted tiene un Starbuck mug?" which was apparently enough Spanish to unleash a torrent from her, but I caught "manana" and figured it was worth checking back. Luckily, I was right, and so I have a single sad yuppified souvenir from this trip.

Celeste and I spent a couple of hours in the sun, but this very leathery-looking "beauty" who had spent the past several days rubbing baby oil on her already tanned-beyond-recognition skin served as a cautionary tale. I kept my shirt and shorts on, and while I think I burned a bit more on the backs of my shoulders, it could have been much, much worse. We then had a late lunch at the grill by the pool, then went back to the room to get cleaned up and check out the tea time going on in the lobby -- but instead of going to teatime, we just lazed in our room and read books and dozed. It was an idyllic afternoon, and a much welcome break from the sun.

We finally got gussied up for dinner at Las Ventanas, the fancy "international cuisine" restaurant. I think last night was just slightly better, but I loved the food here; Celeste and I split four appetizers (see:all-inclusive), including a foie gras dish, an ahi tuna on toast, a small plate of six gnocchi w/shrimp, and another shrimp dish with pesto), each had steak for the entree, and then had interesting and intriguing desserts. We were there for a couple of hours chatting about life over the food and two glasses of champagne each. Then we relocated to a bar, where we had at least four drinks each (margaritas for her, mojitos for me) while continuing our discussion for another couple of hours. We ordered quesadillas and chips (also all-inclusive) when we got back to the room and ate those, at which point Celeste promptly fell asleep. Now, I need to enter that blessed state as well; our car is taking us to the airport at twelve tomorrow, which is much too soon for our vacation to end, but that means we need to get up, shower, pack and eat before then. It shouldn't be too hard since we each only brought carry-ons and our only purchases were sunscreen (which can be abandoned) and my coffee mug, but we don't want to be late (particularly since I have massive apartment-packing to do as soon as i get home). Goodnight!