Friday, July 31, 2009

Reflecting on Chance Encounters in the East Village

On Thursday night, after celebrating the last meeting of my writing course at NYU, I was walking home in the East Village. Turning onto Second Avenue from 5th Street, I saw a group of people gathered around a bench outside a bar.

But in the midst of these women was a man in a black shirt with a beer in hand. Our eyes met and we smiled: It was Aaron. My heart couldn't help but to jump as he drunkenly summoned me over to sit on his lap, where he kissed me and took me into the bar to meet his friends.

This chance meeting left me dumbfounded. I wanted to see Aaron that night, having just workshopped a piece in class involving characters based on our time together. I yearned to kiss him after class--and couldn't believe that we happened upon one another.

"It wasn't chance," Aaron argued. "We wanted to see eachother." It reminded me of our first meeting.

It was in the wee hours of Easter morning, where on the dance floor of La Caverna, I happened upon Aaron for the very first time. He was on his way to the bathroom and I was twirling to the music.

Within the first few minutes, Aaron asked me to take a walk with him, where we ended up drinking coffee and splitting a cinnamon roll at Sugar's on Houston. We talked for hours, getting to know one another.

We parted smitten, and I reluctantly sent the first text message, which led to our first date.

Meeting Aaron has taught me to accept the things fate brings into my life. Although nothing has been easy or more scary than opening my life, my heart to another person, I've realized we were brought together on that first night and consequentially on Second Avenue the other night, because it's what we needed, what we wanted: eachother.

Monday, July 27, 2009

BFFing with Nary: He's Making Me a Dress (With a Side of BBQ!)

I recently had the chance to have dinner with my best friend Nary on St. Marks, where we chowed down on beef ribs at a classy joint, BBQ.

We've been going there for years; since we met in 2005 when we worked the sales floor at a SoHo boutique called LF. Nary, a fashion designer with his own label, was the first friend I met in New York. I knew no one when I left Hawaii for the city. All I wanted was to be a writer.

Nary took me to parties, introduced me to some faboosh people, but it was our more intimate moments, like walking around the East Village or sifting through racks at cheap thrift stores, that I really relished.

Not only did I get to know this amazing person, but I saw myself in him: his journey as the independent child of two lost parents. He was a kid from a small town, with limited means, but a wealth of dreams in his pockets. His audacious fight to conquer New York was the same as mine. And we became best friends.

He's currently the center of a documentary, Dressed, which I had the honor of appearing in and speaking on his behalf. It's in its final stages and will premiering around the country this fall during fashion week, where Nary will be showing his latest collection.

At dinner tonight, he let me know that he wants me fitted for a dress he's designed for me for the show. I am so proud to be his friend.

Stumbled Upon Inspiration: Stealing Kisses From a Wise Man's Life

I had the pleasure of having Richard edit my work at the site. He's a legend in publishing and I was just this newbie writer trying to stake my claim. He was one of those people that just made an impression.

He was in his early 60s, rocked an earring in one ear and out-dressed any slender chap in a suit. I was in awe of him. Last year, he retired and I never got the chance to really tell him how blessed I was to have crossed paths with him and have him not only edit my work, but listen to me discuss my personal frustrations.

I was browsing on Facebook tonight and came across an album he titled, "Right Face at the Right Time." It was dedicated to his wife. The images were of them through the years, from the mid-1970s to now. I remember asking him how long they were married. "We've been together for 30 years," he said. "Separated twice."

That was life, real life with real love, which isn't always smooth sailing, it's not just going to send you onto this paved path to happiness. We are people and as people we are fucked up and we deal with things, we struggle and if you're choosing to share a life with someone who's constantly reaching for some sort of greatness, then you're buckling up for a rollercoaster ride.

Richard, if you're reading this I apologize for stealing from your Facebook page: This image of him and his wife was taken in 1983 (the year of my birth). By this time they had been together for nearly a decade.

Whatever they're feeling in this moment, I want that. It inspires me.

BFFing with Kristina: My Girl Meets My Guy at Veloce Pizzeria

Sometimes you need a friend who'll always be your cheerleader, who will always be on your side and believe in you no matter how grandiose your dreams may seem. Kristina is that friend for me.

Whether it be performing to a Pussycat Dolls video ("Buttons") or doing a runway walk a la America's Next Top Model in our living room, Kristina honestly, wholeheartedly believed that at 5'7" and 130 lbs I could be a supermodel and with no vocal skills I could be on American Idol. That's the kind of blind faith my beautiful friend had in me.

So this week when she urged me to invite Aaron to dinner at her boyfriend's new restaurant, Veloce Pizzeria on First Avenue in the East Village, I was nervous. First off, Aaron was busy, but mostly I was unsure whether he'd be comfortable being my guy in the flesh, the one that my friends heard me talk about since our first meeting. And I was also nervous about my friend seeing me in love. It was nerve-racking.

But Kristina wasn't worried at all. He showed up late and the whole time before his arrival she just smiled and said to the party, "We're just waiting for Janet's boyfriend." Just like she believed I could walk the runways of Paris and belt out tunes on TV, she believed that I, her strong friend with the never-ending advice and independent streak, could be just a girl, a girl in love.

When Aaron finally arrived and introduced himself to a table already full of appetizers, Kristina said, "He's captivating."

I smiled. Not because she thought he was handsome or charming, but because I knew that my best friend saw what I see and love in him. She made me believe that I could truck along with him on this crazy journey.

On Loop: Kings of Leon's "Cold Desert"

I relate to the line, "No one ever carried my load." Most of my life I've felt alone, that's why I'm so comfortable (actually, relish) in my own company. But when you let people in, when you begin the process of opening yourself up, smoothing out the calluses that have developed on your surface from the rough journey you've endured, it gets scary.

You begin to care about people. You begin to want them around. You begin to dream of someone uttering the collective "We." Kings of Leon lead singer Caleb Followill sings, "Told me you love me, that I'd never die alone. Hand over your heart, let's go home."

You're no longer a lone traveler on this road. Someone's there with you in this cold desert, in this journey called life. You have a person at your side, you have someone's hand in yours. If you fall, if you fail, you have someone who will pick you up, pet you, nurture your bruised ego back to health, help you believe in you again:

I'm on the corner waiting for a light to come on
That's when I know that you're alone
It's cold in the desert, water never sees the ground
Special unspoken without sound

Told me you love me, that I'd never die alone
Hand over your heart, let's go home
Everyone noticed, everyone has seen the signs
I've always been known to cross lines

I never ever cried when I was feeling down
I've always been scared of the sound
Jesus don't love me, no one ever carried my load
I'm too young to feel this old

Here's to you, here's to me
On to us, nobody knows
Nobody sees, nobody but me

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Life In Pages: Janie's Audacity to Expect Things in Their Eyes Were Watching God

After revisiting and tackling the first few chapters of Zora Neale Hurston's novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, I've realized that my love for Janie, for the girl who became a woman on a quest to live life for herself, has only grown.

After a daydreaming Janie marries the town's most respectable black man, Hurston writes that our protagonist realizes that her romantic notions of what marriage was, what love was, is not her reality. And with this shattered dream, she transitions into womanhood:

"So Janie waited a bloom time, and a green time ... and an orange time. But when the pollen again gilded the sun and sifted down on the world she began to stand around the gate and expect things. What things? She didn’t know exactly…The familiar people and things had failed her so she hung over the gate and looked up the road towards way off. She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman."

For Janie, marriage was nothing like the blossoms of the pear trees she spent her youth gazing at. It would not be saturated with pretty things in bloom.

"He don’t even never mention nothin’ pretty," a sobbing Janie says of her new husband Logan. "Ah wants things sweet wid mah marriage lak when you sit under a pear tree and think."

I love that instead of just minding her grandmother and worshiping this man that did not fulfill her, Janie looks up the road. Hurston paints such a simple picture of this young girl looking up the road, she doesn't know what's coming, but she has the audacity to look. Janie gives herself the right to expect things.

I've fallen in love with Janie deeply because she refuses to stand by idly as her dream of what love is is trampled over. And as she's looking up that road, the next chapter of her life unfolds with the introduction of Jody Sparks--he will not be her great love--but he would serve as the catalyst of a life that was not full of the familiar which has already failed her.

On Loop: Adele's "Make You Feel My Love"

I am a prideful woman. I know this. There are times when I want to say things, but I just can't, I can't muster up the courage to let my ego go and just say what I'm honestly feeling. It's as if I have a fear of expressing overwhelming emotions and letting this one person know that my love, my fragile little heart, my everything belongs to them.

Instead of saying, "I love you beyond words can express, beyond what I'm willing to let myself admit, beyond what my heart aches to communicate," I ask, "Do you know how much I love you?"

When I found myself posing this question, I just wanted to play Adele's version of "Make You Feel My Love" for him: "I've known it from the moment that we met no doubt in my mind where you belong...I could make you happy, make your dreams come true..."

When the rain
Is blowing in your face
And the whole world
Is on your case
I could offer you
A warm embrace
To make you feel my love

When the evening shadows
And the stars appear
And there is no one there
To dry your tears
I could hold you
For a million years
To make you feel my love

I know you
Haven't made
Your mind up yet
But I would never
Do you wrong
I've known it
From the moment
That we met
No doubt in my mind
Where you belong

I'd go hungry
I'd go black and blue
I'd go crawling
Down the avenue
No, there's nothing
That I wouldn't do
To make you feel my love

The storms are raging
On the rolling sea
And on the highway of regret
Though winds of change
Are throwing wild and free
You ain't seen nothing
Like me yet

I could make you happy
Make your dreams come true
Nothing that I wouldn't do
Go to the ends
Of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love

Friday, July 24, 2009

Must Watch: Paper Heart's Quest for Love

I remember the first time I saw the trailer for the "documentary" Paper Heart, starring adoringly quirky comedienne Charlyne Yi.

I thought Yi's journey across America to find the meaning of love was bold, but beyond that, her ability to be fully comfortable in her skin and say she doesn't know what love is and whether it exists intrigued me.

I caught a screening of the film with Aaron and Mai at the Asian American International Film Festival in Chelsea Thursday night, and was impressed by the film's fresh voice, its lighthearted take on the euphoria of love and its improvisational feel.

There's a scene in the film where Charlyne, who has fallen for Michael Cera, writes a song, "You Smell Like Christmas," about her feelings for him. She said that one day she thought about Christmas and how happy it made her feel and she equated those feelings with Michael. She never says she loves him because she doesn't know what love is--even when she's traveled the country (and even gone as far as Paris).

I like that the movie isn't a fairy-tale, it isn't trying to be something that it isn't. It doesn't give Charlyne a makeover or forces its viewers into believing that they'll end up happily ever after, but it does leave you hopeful, hopeful that yes, this relationship may not work out, but you know that if a guy does come along and Charlyne does say those three little words, it'll be real.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A New Era: I've Entered the Kindle Revolution

I've had a love affair with books my entire life. It was the one thing I did have in common with my private mother--the woman I worshiped most of my life.

I can vividly recall the rows of paperbacks and hardbacks in my family's living room when I was a kid--every book had been read by my mom. I remember thinking how smart she must've been, how many stories she had encountered, how many characters she must've loved, hated, cried over. So as a kid, I soaked up the narratives of writers like Twain, Golding, London and Lee, craving to be as accomplished in literature as my mom. We'd rummage through used bookstores, searching for gems priced below $3. I still do this today.

So when a girlfriend showed me her Amazon Kindle in March, I was immediately appalled. I was in denial that this flat, hard surface could replace the vintage smell of my marked up books, the ones that I found in thrift shops spanning Hawaii to New York. There was no way that I'd ever convert to such a rigid, electronic technology.

But I soon realized that I could either move with the times and adapt or I could be just like those old men who scoffed at the power of the Internet to provide them with their daily news, clinching to their daily newspaper as the press' black ink rubbed off on their fingers.

That's when I decided I needed a Kindle.

Last night I downloaded my favorite novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, on my new device. Reading the text, I didn't feel any different; instead I reflected on first meeting protagonist Janie Crawford in the 10th grade.

Back then, the platform was an old paperback that was passed down from student to student after each semester, and now, at 26, I was reacquainting myself with an old friend, but this time, the book, the physical representation of what I've always associated with the novel no longer existed. There were no pages, there was no binding, no earmarks. But it didn't change Hurston's text, it didn't change her storytelling; I had changed, the world had changed.

What matters is that the storytelling still exists. This notion that while technology may continue to push me forward toward an uncomfortable medium, at the end of the day, I'll continue to want to read about, hear about, discuss a good story.

As a writer, I feel a sense of invincibility because what I do, the urge I have to tell stories and move people and relate the journeys I believe are poignant and life-changing, that will never change. So yes, I may be reading Janie's journey on a Kindle on a rainy day in 2009, but the power behind her journey to find herself and to "find out about livin' fuh" herself is still as meaningful as it was when I first met her in 1998.

On Loop: Kelly Clarkson's "Save You"

Sometimes my iPod just happens upon a song I've heard before, having been a part of a larger playlist, but one day, out of nowhere, this song speaks to me. This evening while walking through a misty New York City, I happened upon Kelly Clarkson's ballad, "Save You."

What hit a chord with me was the song's introspective point of view. It's almost like a letter you'd write addressed to someone you once loved--or still loved--but you aren't brave enough to send it because it rings just a bit too true, a bit too honest and many of us aren't courageous enough to bare ourselves. There's an undeniable longing in the way she sings the song.

I'm a rather determined person, someone who love structure, thrives on being the best, always pushing myself to go beyond what is expected of me...and at times I expect the same from those around me. And the saving aspect of this song just rings so true:

I can tell,
I can tell,
How much you hate this.
Deep down inside,
You know it's killing me.
I can call, wish you well,
And try to change this.
But nothing I can say,
Would change anything.

Where were my senses?
I left them all behind.
Why did I turn away?

I wish I could save you.
I wish I could say to you,
I'm not going nowhere.
I wish I could say to you,
It's gonna be alright.

I didn't mean,
Didn't mean,
To leave you stranded.
Went away cause I,
Didn't want to face the truth.
Reaching out,
Reach for me,
Empty handed.
You don't know if I care.
You're trying to find the proof.

There were times I'd wonder,
Could I have eased your pain?
Why did I turn away?

We can pretend nothings changed.
Pretend it's all the same.
And there will be no pain,
It's gonna be alright.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Settling Frustrations While Aimlessly Strolling Through the East Village

I've spent the weekend (possibly six hours total) at B Cup cafe near my place on 13th and Ave B, unsuccessfully tackling nothing, unable to do any serious writing. I found myself tensing up, I found myself disappointed. I didn't know why I wasn't producing.

So I decided to read, picking up Week 11 of Julia Cameron's The Artist Way, a self-help book for blocked creatives given to me a few months ago by Aaron. Every time I pick up this book, it tells me exactly what I need, helping me tackle whatever frustrations I have with my writing. This week's lesson urged me to take myself out for a walk.

"The goal is to connect to a world outside of us, to lose the obsessive self-focus of self-exploration and, simply, explore," Julia writes of giving yourself the luxury of just walking aimlessly. "One quickly notes that when the mind is focused on other, the self often comes into a far more accurate focus."

So in the hope of finding answers, I began strolling west on 12th Street until 2nd Ave, where I passed by benches (pictured above) where I sat the week before eating "yuppie ice cream" with Aaron. It was a nice moment I found myself longing for.

From 2nd Ave, I walked to St. Marks, where I stopped for a quick bite at Pho 32. I love the simple pleasure of the traditional Vietnamese noodle soup. It's a meal I often eat alone and it feels like home.

Post-Pho, I continued my journey through Astor Place, where I treated myself to a new pair of Sony headphones from KMart, where I spotted a tween wearing a hilarious, yet disturbing statement t-shirt: "Texting is my favorite subject."

I ventured through Cooper Square, where I took note of this odd pair (she quite large, he quite petite). They struck me. Pushing their groceries in a cart, I noted the intimacy between the two of them as they tackled the mundane task of transporting food from a store to their home. I was envious of their partnership, their companionship.

On my way home, I picked up a few groceries from Associate Markets on Avenue A.

Must Watch: (500) Days of Summer's Love Story

The opening narrative of (500) Days of Summer warns, "You should know upfront, this is not a love story..." Instead, this story of boy meets girl, boy fights to keep girl and in the end, life happens, as Zooey Deschanel's character Summer tells Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Tom, is about a relationship--two people whose paths cross and meet for this brief time in their lives.

After seeing a 7pm showing last night at Union Square (BBQ Fritos and a Snickers were both devoured before the trailers were over!), I left with a feeling that love doesn't always conquer all, that sometimes life does happen and one must trudge along after heartbreak, hoping to achieve your own special happy ending.

When I got home, I immediately downloaded the soundtrack from iTunes, with songs from Regina Spektor, The Smiths and Feist, because I wasn't ready to let Tom and Summer's story go.

Films like these, ones where people happen upon one another and unexpectedly fall in love, feed me, inspiring me to be creative and really tackle the writing I need to be doing.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

On Loop: A Fine Frenzy's "You Picked Me"

I have an obsessive craving for lyrics, an enduring love for singer-songwriters. While writing pages for my novel at B Cup cafe, I found myself blocked and dazing off into a song from A Fine Frenzy called, "You Picked Me."

The chorus caught my attention, inspiring this feeling of gratitude toward this lucky person who chose to love you, who was smart enough to pick you. This feeling that love is this decision, that you were this unique, rare being that this person just had to pick. The lyrics of this song pushed me to tackle some real writing on this sunny summer day:

Like an apple on a tree
Hiding out behind the leaves
I was difficult to reach
But you picked me
Like a shell upon a beach
Just another pretty piece
I was difficult to see
But you picked me
Yeah you picked me

Friday, July 17, 2009

When Life Imitates the Screen: My Sweet Say Anything Moment

Having grown up in front of my family TV and seeing movies every weekend with my mom and brother Chad, I can safely say, I'm a product of media. There are times in my life, and I'm sad to admit this, when a special moment or sweet experience happens upon me and I immediately compare that real-life event to something manufactured for the screen.

Waking up in bed this morning, I rolled over and saw Aaron. I realized how happy I was, how fulfilled I was in that moment with that man at my side.

As the day went on, the inertia of that experience began to fade. So I immediately popped in my Say Anything DVD because it allowed me to relive those moments in bed. Starring John Cusack and Ione Skye, the teen romance came out when I was only about 6 in 1989, but the first time I saw it was an undergrad in Hawaii.

Like most women, I fell in love with Lloyd Dobler--"To know Lloyd Dobler is to love him. Diane Court is about to know Lloyd Dobler." I knew the exact scene I craved; the one where Lloyd and Diane have sex for the first time and she notices his body shaking against hers. The conversation goes:

Diane: Are you shaking?
Lloyd: No.
Diane: You're shaking.
Lloyd: I don't think so.
Diane: You're cold.
Lloyd: I don't think I am.
Diane: Then why are you shaking?
Lloyd: I don't know. I think I'm happy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Reflections on the M14 Bus: The Importance (or Insignificance) of Labels in Love

While sitting on the M14 bus fronting Union Square, I reflected on a conversation I had with my girlfriend Ainka earlier that afternoon.

On a bench in 30 Rock, we were enjoying our Magnolia baked goods and indulging in girl talk. During my portion of our gabfest, I detailed the latest in my love life.

In the midst of recalling this really cute thing Aaron said while eating Stogo in the East Village, Ainka interrupted me to ask, "So is Aaron your boyfriend?"

"No," I answered and realized that that answer bothered me, that him not having that label stung a bit. But why?

It was the first time that I seriously questioned what the "boyfriend" label meant and how much value I placed on it. I couldn't really answer why Aaron was not declared my "boyfriend" because we were two people sharing ourselves: we see each other on a regular enough basis, we sleep together, we confide our deepest feelings.

I know labels help society place value onto things, it's a societal need of ours to say, "This person is mine. We're monogamous. I'm in a committed relationship. He's my boyfriend." But I consider myself to be in a relationship, one that feeds me, makes me look at myself and question what I really want in life.

Does it matter that he isn't my "boyfriend?" For me, what does matter is that he only sleeps with me, that he discusses the things that matter to him most with me, that he gives all he can to preserving and nurturing our connection.

So, I don't need a boyfriend. I need a partner, a lover, a friend and a companion who will never worship me, who will see me as I am, who will go to battle with me, question our existence, fight stagnancy, urge me to continue to write no matter how much I question my talent, who'll listen to my stories, who will love me despite my past and cherish and adore me because to him I am the rarest creature his eyes have ever seen.

While on the bus, I remembered that Ainka wasn't the first person to pose that question. Here's how that label first confronted Aaron and I:

A few months ago, after one our first sleepovers at his place, we grabbed coffee and bagels at his local deli. While checking out, the pretty Chinese girl innocently flirted with Aaron before I stood by his side.

“All together,” he told her.

“This your girlfriend?” she asked.

“Uhhhh that’s a technical question…you’ll have to ask her,” he said.

I decided to be diplomatic and smile, before answering, "Yes, girlfriend.”

“I’m a lucky guy,” he said.

“No, you both lucky,” the checkout girl responded.

BFFing with Mai: Emergency Contact Duties For a Sick Single Girl

I receieved the following text while wrapping up my day at work:

"Dying. My fever makes me delirious. Body sore. Can't swallow. OMG. Fucking single in the ci-tay!"

This text was from my bestie Mai. She wasn't only battling the beginning stages of a flu, but she was dealing with this illness on the day she was moving into her new apartment in Midtown.

As two single women living in New York, we have to look out for one another. My duty as her best friend and emergency contact was to drop what I was doing and offer what I could: two cans of Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup and a carton of Tropicana Orange Juice.

Must Watch: The Time Traveler's Wife's Unconventional Romance

I'm a sucker for, a believer of epic love stories and my girlfriend Kristina knows this. So for my 26th birthday she bought me a beautiful Anthropologie coffee mug (because it's another love of mine) and Audrey Niffenegger's romantic novel, The Time Traveler's Wife.

The book's rotating point of view between its two protagonists is an inspiration for my own novel--an unconventional love story about the undeniable connection between two people who happen upon one another when they most need it.

The film adaptation, out August 14th, stars Rachel McAdams as Clare, a young woman who's been in love with Henry (played by Eric Bana) her whole life, but Henry has a genetic disorder that makes him unexpectedly travel through time, leaving Clare behind, hopelessly waiting for him to come back.

To say the least, I will be at the front of the line opening day to watch this story unfold onscreen. In the trailer, Henry tells Clare that big events are the only things that pull him in, that controls his time travel; and Clare, who's loved this man her entire life, says, "I was a big event."

But this quote from the novel is among my favorite of Henry's:

"Clare, I want to tell you, again, I love you. Our love has been the thread through the labyrinth, the net under the high-wire walker, the only real thing in this strange life of mine that I could ever trust. Tonight I feel that my love for you has more density in this world than I do, myself: as though it could linger on after me and surround you, keep you, hold you."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Rocco's World: When the Pup's Gotta Go, the Pup's Gotta Go

This week has been a trying one with my boy Rocco, a two-year-old miniature pinscher mix I rescued in 2007. Having been housebroken all of his life, it came as a surprise when in the last week he decided that the living room was the perfect place to piss and shit.

To say the least, it's been tough: I've wanted to strangle him, yell at him, scream profanities at him and disown him. Yes, I'm exaggerating, but mama was frustrated. I couldn't understand why a housebroken dog would decide in his stellar record of cleanliness to relieve himself in our living room.

I was prepared to throw in the towel and move on from my life as a single mother. I dreamt of being able to have sleep overs, to attend happy hour and make plans immediately after work without having to stop at home for the requisite feeding and dog run errands.

When the anger subsided, I was able to put his incidents into perspective and I realized that Rocco's one of the only constants in my life. With him, there will always be someone who is waiting anxiously for me to come home, for me to give him love, to nurture him and to love him.

Call me needy, but my relationship with this spastic animal is an unconditional love. I am sure that while I'm upset with his recent mishaps, he's been just as frustrated with my inconsideration when running late, when I cut his morning walks short because I chose to be indulgent with the snooze button and when I spend most of my summer days out gallivanting around the city.

So he may make me drop to my knees to soak up his urine, but I wouldn't trade what we have for anything.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

BFFing with Mai: Astoria Packing Party--She's Coming to the City, Bitches!

I spent Friday night with my best friend Mai, packing up her Astoria one-bedroom apartment. She's my "sister from another mister," as she frequently muses to anyone that meets us. I've had the joy of knowing this spastic, arithmetic-challenged, fashion-obsessed, beautiful being for almost three years--and we just can't enough of one another.

See, we work together, we play together, we are adults who indulge in grade school sleepovers and utter eachother's names obsessively when we meet new people. Our relationship began at work: she was the editor launching a new section of a website and I was the freelance writer she hired to work for her. She eventually hired me, but our friendship began at the gym.

It took Mai about a month before she joined me at the gym (she wanted to wait for her then-fiance to sign up), but she eventually saw my ripped arms and flat tummy and the vanity overtook her--long story short, we became workout buddies.

During these early morning circuits of weights, jump rope and the occasional boot camp/total body conditioning classes, we talked about the men in our lives, about what brought us to New York, about being ethnic girls in the city and about random silly shit (we share a mutual hate of Katie Holmes and her efforts to be a risk-taking fashionista!)

But we eventually pushed one another beyond the gym: she helped me realize that it's okay to own my awesomeness and I helped her realize that it's okay to do things on your own, without a man.

This recent move was the fourth we've done together: Our first was in February 2008, when I helped her pack up the Upper West Side apartment she shared with the man she loved for six years, and she graciously returned the favor two weeks later when I left the man I loved for six years. Our timelines so eerily mirrored one another's that it almost felt like we were one person, one woman shedding old skin in the hope of finding a more suitable coat of our own.

Whereas our 2008 moves were filled with tears and heartbreak, these recent moves (she helped me move from Astoria in May for the East Village, and I returned the favor for her move to mid-town) were just about us: no part of our decisions involved leaving a man or even calculating one into our plans.

Packing can be a strenuous, laborious process that makes you want to jump in a box and tape yourself up so you can avoid work. But with Mai, the process is always sprinkled with giggles, foul language and dramatic monologues.

The highlight of all four moves mirror a chick-flick fashion montage scene: the shedding of our wardrobe. Envision two giddy girls pulling out every piece of clothing they have and asking for permission to keep things that they KNOW they should get rid of (Mai: a chinese robe with fur and dragons she dubbed "Shanghai Express"; Me: a pair of glittery gold short-shorts.)

Full disclosure: Mai actually urged me to keep those crazy daisy dukes and continually haunts me with links to celebrities wearing glittered gold shorts!

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Write Stuff: Expanding My Audience to NYU's Lucky Number 13

In its "What to Read Now" issue, Newsweek profiles Poet Laureate Kay Ryan, who credited her esteemed career to her longtime partner Carol Adair--who died of cancer in January. "I know that she took my work seriously," Ryan said. "It was important to her."

What struck me was a poem she wrote for her beloved, where she talked about her "ideal audience" not being the world, "not scattered legions, not a dozen from a single region":

one free citizen--
maybe not alive
now even--who

will know with

exquisite gloom

that only we two

ever found this room.

Tonight I was forced out of my comfort zone to read something very personal to me: my working novel, a love story about two people who meet at the most opportune time in their lives. Their meeting and the unfolding of their journey together shakes both of them to their core, enabling them to be their true selves as they continue to shed more and more of themselves in front of the other.

My novel is so close to me that I sometimes find myself overwhelmed by the weight of it all. I've only shared the few pages and ideas I have for this story with myself, Aaron and my best friend Mai. And my fiction writing class at NYU forces me to let it go, to let the words flow off the pages and into the minds of 13 strangers who are doing the exact same thing.

It's a supportive bunch that's made me realize that we all have stories, we all have epic (or not so epic) journeys that we have a burning desire to tell. The 13 of us (and hundreds of other small gatherings around the world) believe that our journeys need to be told and we have the incredible responsibility to communicate them to the world.

I'm constantly inspired by this group of strangers because they share the same crazy notion that I have something important to say and I need to put it down on paper and share it with the world.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

City Chores: Don't Complain (As Nora Ephron Would Say) About Trader Joe's Crazy Lines at Union Square

Every week and a half, I embark on the task of loading up my iPod, grabbing some reading material and putting on some sensible shoes for a trek to Union Square's overloaded Trader Joes.

I heart their guacamole topped with spicy pico de gallo, their assortment of tamales, their dark chocolate chip & almond cookies and their organic free trade coffee beans. BUT the lines...I have to psych myself up before standing in line to get in the store and then standing in line again to give them my money for my healthy food. To say the least, it tests my impatient nerves.

I've learned to use my waiting in this snake of a queue to reflect on the week's tasks, maybe take stock on what a friend may have said earlier, or work out a scene for my novel. Today, I chose to read my latest New Yorker, where I got the chance to finish an in-depth profile of director-screenwriter Nora Ephron.

The said piece is now posted with a magenta tack on my inspiration bulletin board near my bed. Ephron has given throngs of smart, outspoken women the hope that even if you speak your mind you can have a happy ending (think When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle & You've Got Mail).

But it wasn't her projects that struck me--it was Ephron's "no complaints" policy. It's something that I've always prescribed to, and am happy that someone as accomplished as Ephron considers one of the keys to her success: she detests whining. You can acknowledge a problem, but only in the service of solving it.

"Nobody really has an easy time getting a movie made," she says. "And furthermore I can't stand people complaining...It's, like, just do it! Just do it. Write something else if this one didn't get made."

The piece details Ephron's youth, growing up with a father who was in and out of mental hospitals and an alcoholic mother who overdosed on sleeping pills. Ephron and her two sisters were taught that "moaning and complaining were....boring." Instead of bitching about their problems, the three Ephron girls, all successful writers, went with this philosophy: "Someday this will be a funny story," she says.

"I think if you learn over and over from your parents that you do not get love from wallowing in heartbreak or failure," she says, "then you don't really have much of a habit of doing it."

"I don't mean that you can't have your feelings hurt or that you can't sit at home and feel sorry for yourself--briefly," she explains. "But then I think you have to just start typing and do the next thing."

So that's what I'm doing: writing about my experience in an annoyingly long line where I spent most of my evening stocking up on guac, cookies, coffee and tamales.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Daydreaming at B Cup Cafe on Ave B: One Reason Why I'll Always Relate to Katie Morosky

When I'm feeling angsty or lonely or even "incandescently happy," I run to two movies, Pride & Prejudice with Keira Knightley and The Way We Were with Barbra Streisand.

The latter is a film I've revisited over and over spanning my adulthood. In the 1973 romance, a "gorgeous goyish guy" Hubbell Gardner (played by Robert Redford) meets Jewish radical girl Katie Morosky (played by Streisand). Despite coming from two different worlds (he's All-American J. Crew; she's frizzy-haired thrift store), they fall in love.

Sitting here at B Cup Cafe near my place, a scene of Katie, Hubbell and his friends run across my procrastinating mind (I should be tackling pages from my working novel, but rather be daydreaming of fictional characters that I haven't created).

The scene shows Katie having drinks at one of Hubbell's friend's houses. In college, Katie was this uber-involved, let's-rally-and-change-the-world co-ed, while Hubbell and his friends were the daddy's-paying-for-my-tuition-so-let's-party crowd. Loving Hubbell now and having him as hers after all these years, Katie attempts to control her penchant for speaking up in his world. With "ironed" hair and her WASPy boy at her side, she's trying to fit in.

The conversation is jovial, yet trivial and it's apparent that Katie can't stand this talk from these leisurely people. But she tries her hardest to convey mock interest. In this scene, I see myself in Katie--I'm bad at small talk, am usually detached from lackluster surroundings, and lack engagement with pretty mundane people in social settings.

It hit me that if I choose to navigate in this world with a man by my side, he'll have to be a great pretender.

This is How I Choose to Remember Michael Jackson

With death comes questions. Those left behind analyze their existence, where they stand on this continuum called life, and what the meaning of the dearly departed's life meant.

Many have criticized Michael Jackson, the person. But as a brown kid growing up in the 1980s when he was moonwalking and had already bleached his skin, I was always drawn to the younger Michael Jackson--who led his brothers as the lead singer of Jackson 5.

His performance of "Who's Loving You" has always been the purest form of MJ to me--before the surgery, before the insane idolatry, before the scandal. On this day, as the world mourns Michael Jackson, I choose to remember him as the brown little boy with the big nose, big voice and big personality.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Way We Were: Reuniting with Fellow Hawaii Ex-Pat Diane Kawasaki on St. Marks & First Ave

I met Diane more than four years ago at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where we both embarked on the new journalism curriculum (buzz word was "convergence," at the time). I remember her walking into class a bit late, sitting next to me in the front center table.

She apprehensively smiled at me and to be honest, she was the first little person I had ever met--no less got the chance to actually talk to. But her personality and approachable bitchiness trumped any height disadvantages that initially overtook my thoughts.

As the academic year went on and we became closer, I realized that this The O.C, singer-songwriter-loving only child from Palolo Valley (who introduced me to Pho noodle soup!), was one of my closest friends. At first glance, a nearly 5 ft.-8 inch tragic mulatto and a 3 ft.-4 inch Korean-Japanese hybrid couldn't be more representative of an odd couple.

But no matter how odd our appearance looked to passersby, we were, deep down, the same: Hawaii girls eager to leave that "pebble" in the quest of getting to know ourselves away from that small island the world deemed paradise.

I left Oahu in August 2005 for graduate school at NYU, while Diane left the following September for the City of Angels, where she's pursuing a career in the entertainment industry. Via email, MySpace, Facebook and random texts, we stayed in touch, updating one another on the men in our lives and the dreams we continued to crack at.

It took more than three years for us to have a physical reunion, which happened Monday night at St. Mark's and First Avenue in the East Village, where we chomped on guacamole and a pitcher of frozen margaritas at La Palapa restaurant.

While three years may seem like a long time, our first meeting wasn't that eventful: we acted as if we saw one another a few days ago, picking up where we left off. I always believed, and so does Diane, that good friends don't have to make the other feel bad for being selfish and getting wrapped up in their own lives without constant updates. We're both resistant to phone calls (the signature eye-rolling doesn't translate!) and rarely just go with the motions of passive-aggressive texts and missed calls. We choose to leave our faith in the fact that the bond we sealed in our last angsty years in Hawaii would always see our friendship through--no matter how far away we lived from one another.

Like schoolgirls (gossiping about everything from bitchy classmates to annoying teachers), we jumped to the juicy shit: love. Diane expressed her frustrations with men in L.A., from the ones who fetishized her stature to the Asiaphiles who wanted nothing more than a "soft-skinned, slanted eyed goddess," and her quest to find someone who'll love her just as she is.

Deep down, her frustration with love and her quest to find a man who'd walk through life with her, resonated so deeply with me. Like all girls, I have my share of insecurities and baggage which I choose to keep tucked away under the big hair, boobs and bright smile--but for my sweet Diane, hers isn't as easy to hide.

Being only 3 ft.-4 inch has put her at the center of attention no matter where she goes: from little kids touching and pointing to pervy old Persian men who ambush her in L.A.'s garment district, her height never fails to draw unwanted reactions (she's even resorted to wearing a fake wedding ring to ward off her evil male pursuers!)

She told me stories of men she's dated, slept with and even fell for and the ones whom she spent time with knowing they weren't exactly the one. She told me that growing up the way we did, we were forced to have a stronger sense of self, making it harder to take the bullshit most men try their damnest to dish.

She talked about the one guy she loved--the one who wasn't quite ready to commit to her because he was still finding himself. I saw the anguish in her eyes as she talked about seeing him while she was in town--and how the love she had for him never left.

As we parted, I realized just how much this friendship, this love for this amazing person enhanced my life. She told me how she never doubted that I'd be doing what I was doing in New York (she was the one who gave me a "You're a Star" balloon at my grad ceremony at UH). I remember when she'd drive out of her way to pick me up for lunch at McCully Chop Suey and how those talks about getting out of Hawaii made those last years there manageable--hell, even enjoyable!

The Meaning Behind My Twitter Background Image

I love to dance. Like seriously, I am an unapologetic ham on the dance floor. I know I can't sing (always resented my parents for not blessing me with the gift of wailing like Aretha), but I'm a good performer. So dancing is my second love--next to writing.

So when Aaron inquired about my Twitter profile background image, I responded that I loved the image (which I found a few years ago while surfing Gawker) for the following reasons:

1. It depicts summertime, my favorite season.
2. They're carefree on what resembles a boardwalk.
3. There's a sense of style: The girls are rocking one-piece bathing suits and one even rocks Jackie O-inspired oversized glasses.
4. They're snapping and clapping--two things I can't help but to do while dancing and singing along to lyrics.
5. No matter how stressed I am, this image never fails to make me feel good.

So after having explained this to Aaron, he admitted to spending minutes staring at my background choice. Later that weekend, I tried on a pair of '80s era gym short-shorts. They were mustard, a bit baggy and overall adorable. When I walked out the dressing room, Aaron had one response: he leaned to the side, holding out his right arm in a leaned-in snap.

"It's your Twitter background image," he said of my vintage look.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Reflecting on the Artifacts & Simple Pleasures of a Long Holiday Weekend at OST Cafe on 12th & Ave A

Photo Taken by Aaron

Sitting in OST Cafe on 12th and Ave A in my neighborhood, I attempt to relive the eventful weekend I shared with those closest to me, recreating memories, scenes and nuggets I found meaningful or enlightening over these past three days. I hope to make sense of them in a larger context on paper for a novel I'm working on that ever-evolves because it lives in the now that is my life.

I recall silly giggles, simple caresses, brutal jokes and deep stares I experienced with Aaron.I remember his dripping sweat after breakfast in his hood early Friday afternoon. I remember rushing home to my puppy Rocco (whose second birthday fell on Independence Day) after my overextended stay with Aaron.

I remember spending the rest of that day with my best friend Mai. I recall yelling whore a few hundred times in the few hours we spent together. I remember urging her to buy a graphic American Apparel mini for a first date where she was going to...bowl. I remember the taste of Pho noodle soup at a new 24-hour spot in my neighborhood. I remember taking a TwitPic of the church near my house that called for a "interracial order of worship."

I remember embarking on a day trip to Long Beach with Aaron. I remember the sense of adventure I felt with him at my side. I remember not wanting to be next to anyone else on that white sheet as the sun covered our exposed bodies. I remember him rubbing lotion on my back and whispering those sweet words in my ear. I remember reading a story from The New Yorker aloud about Evan Rachel Wood taking trapeze lessons to Aaron (who wouldn't stop taking pictures of me). I remember splitting earbuds, listening to a hilarious story about a kid retaliating against grandma by pissing all over the house and simple tales by Garrison Keillor from the Midwest dwellings that brought smiles of familiarity across Aaron's face.

I remember a post-beach dinner, where I recalled experiences I shared with an old neighborhood kid named Junior and he shared ones of his friend Jake. I remember experiencing mussels for the first time and Aaron feeding them to me. I remember the Stellas and $5 martinis that, with the combination of sun exposure, served as a sleep aid for the journey back to Aaron's apartment.

I remember Rocco jumping across our intertwined bodies that woke us up for more moments of oneness. I remember the coffee and salmon and French toast smothered in sweet berries and peaches. I remember taking a bite off of Aaron's brunch plate and him telling me that that sharing of food was love.

As I search for my Blackberry in my purse at this present moment at this East Village cafe, I find a toothpick I chewed on earlier this afternoon with Aaron at my side. I remember the walk we took before returning to our separate lives. I remember walking into that store and buying a pair of boots that blistered my heels. I remember the cute, alterna sales girl who complimented our handsome coupledom. I remember the last intimate minutes of our goodbyes for now--and the hopeful hellos we'd share in the future.