A Week in Europe: London

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I am here. That’s all I can really say— feel about this place; it only took me 10 years to get here. It took Moses 100 to get his people back to Israel— this was nothing.

Upon leaving Saint Pancras Station you’re greeted by the big red double-deckers hurling by on opposite directions of traffic from what I’m used to. The little black cabs weave through the congestion like professional that they are, straight from the scenes of films I’d only ever saw in The Parent Trap or Notting Hill. I watched Notting Hill on the plane, fell asleep to it with a plastic cup of cheap Spanish red wine in my hand. Here I was, two airports and a tedious second train in through the English channel later, the land of my favorite bands and literary heroes and quaint tea-time in the twilight of a cold, dim-lit dusk.

I always dreamt of London and London came true. I wake up to it in the twilight.

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It’s like the financial district, this little part of what’s called Marylebone. Men and women bundled in wool coats and dark trousers pressed against each other at this crossing where my mommy and I sit in Costa coffee. I’m having tea— she asked for a coffee but had to get an Americano, without milk. American style with the simple drip and helping of sugar at your discretion does not exist.

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Costa is a big coffee chain as with Pret a Manger, Boots pharmacy, and Ladbrokes— a betting establishment for soccer games. Pubs aren’t hard to find. It’s England.

The Underground saves us. Navigating the tube was thrilling, especially as the announcement is made that based on the next stop, you’re going in the right direction. Connecting can be tricky— but all is straightforward. For how overwhelming the map looks— the intersecting lines of Jubilee and Circle or the Victoria crossing Bakerloo— I felt my most confident in London taking the Tube.

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Not so much on walking on the wrong side of traffic, however. Or ordering food, asking about whether my card will work of if my coins make up 7.50 exactly. There’s a colder, indifferent disposition to Londoners. You honestly feel stupid sometimes, just asking these little questions— questions in English. Sure, they smile, but out of politeness you might suspect these manners are just to display their pity.

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It makes me a little sad. Not the feeling stupid, but just how once, only a few years ago, I would have felt better being so because dating an Englishman boosts your confidence in their crudeness. Instead of feeling like a stranger as I do now, I would have felt some comfort with all the friends and faces from this country I once knew, now estranged, only feeds on Facebook. From the photos I have posted online, some have reached out— telling me to come visit up north in Chester where “proper” English history (Welsh, Roman) resides, or down to Exeter to experience The Garden of England. All lovely gestures, all outside of London. But here in London, we are alone.

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On the last night of my stay in London we are at the Allsop Arms down the street on Gloucester for some wine, and steak in  peppercorn or hollandaise sauces and chips. Our order is done up front at the bar— so strange that I need to sign everything and they have to look at your ID to match up the signatures— and then we waited for our meal. A lovely window seat dinner becomes spoiled when the meat has a bad cut with two much tendon or heavy fat that I trim off, and on the arrival of a young couple in college taking their seats next to us. The girl is American, her boyfriend is English. They’re hosting their friends visiting from outside of London at their flat on the other side of the Thames and who would even show up. I wonder where the girl is from. She’s a bit heavy with brown hair and a floral dress underneath an unbuttoned chambray and crossbody purse. She’s not from the South or midwest, maybe East Coast. They’re talking and it makes me sad because that girl– all my life I thought I would be here, the American abroad and happily settled into this life. My life is different now. A lot changes in 10 years. And when I was dating Matt, I saw that a lot can change in just 3.

I message him occasionally throughout this trip. I tell him on the last night about how London made me feel. He says firmly, “I hate London.”

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Spring by the Bay: Amazing Updates and New Adventures!

Since I last left you, I was feeling happy. Now I am completely elated, transformed by recent travels and new projects that cement an exciting future ahead for me as a writer, entrepreneur, and overall happy human being.

You must take small steps in making your life happy– as noted in my last essay, trying to change the world one Facebook status at a time will only consume and distort your ideas of happiness and having a positive outlook for the future. If you can make small changes, change all the same is better when it’s towards your own well being, and everything else will fall into place. By focusing on yourself first, you find that, surprisingly, anything is possible.

Stepping away from A Week by the Bay, I also got to step away from the Bay Area itself for a wonderful week in Georgia! I love the South, and I truly believe I’m a Southern Belle at heart. Thrilled by the sunshine, the Spanish Moss hanging from ancient oaks, the proud and beautiful architecture of welcoming cities like Savannah and Roswell, and most of all the humility of its people, it makes a big difference in seeing places outside of your norm, outside of the bustling fast-paced mecca of San Francisco that while I still love and call my home, can be overwhelming for even myself.

See my latest travel guide for Savannah, Georgia here, the hostess city of the South!

Getting away has also inspired me to act upon my next big venture– publishing a magazine! Marjorie Magazine is my new little platform for all things nostalgic! They always tell you as a writer to “write the book you want to read.” So what about a magazine? The beauty of a magazine is to collect all the little things about a certain subject we love into one digest. Southern Living, Sunset, Entertainment Weekly, Men’s Health, Vogue, The New Yorker— successful publications catered to different demographics. Unfortunately, there are barely any publications for readers whose interests lean towards nostalgia. Facebook groups like Vintage Styling for Modern Girls and Instagrammers like Annelies van Overbeek and Lady Damfino show how powerful history can be, how the beauties of the past are kept alive as generations get younger and as time goes by.

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I’ve always been a fan of nostalgia and vintage fashion as my personal inspiration. Things of the past remind me of stories I read as a child like Anne of Green Gables and movies like Gone with the Wind. I was watching period dramas by 6th grade and finding that I had a huge crush on Jimmy Stewart. And that’s where Marjorie comes in, to take a few steps back to appreciate the obsolete as breathtaking, and to connect with others fascinated with nostalgia. Telling stories of the past get us excited for the future– for what’s in store. Past and Future are the perfect foils in which the past is there to remind us always that great things await on the horizon. We may feel that we’re born in the wrong decade, naturally, but coming together through one publication, readers might just feel like time’s never moved at all.

Follow the magazine on Instagram @MarjorieMagazine and be sure to help us keep up our publication with our IndieGogo Fundraiser! Every penny helps in site maintenance, paying writers, and– best of all– publishing our FIRST PRINT issue this summer!

Where you’ll next see me? I can’t be sure, or specific, but one thing is certain: I‘ll be off to Europe, where more adventures and new writing undoubtedly await me.

Stay tuned for writings from abroad!

Happy Now

January 30 – February 5

In the two years since arriving in San Francisco the world has changed. It’s a loaded sentiment I give you there but then again, it really is true. The obvious, surface change: my bangs are grown out, there’s new books in my apartment that I’ll never get around to reading, I’m fifteen pounds heavier than my California ID says I am (100 lbs exact). And then there’s a new man in my life, and a new president in the lives of millions of those who call the United States home. Good and bad, respectively.

Not so obvious, I’ve come to a realization. I am happier now. Or at least, I will be. The last few months were when I came to realize mistakes in love I made, bad calls in purchases of shirts and drinks and reliance in unlasting friendships, and finally my admitting of anxiety. But that shall all change again. Even as this new year is off to one of the darkest dawns of new days to come. All the opinions, the shouting, the marches, the headlines of stories that you wish were anything but the truth keep me going. The bad? It is all bad, but even worse would be if there were silence on the whole.

I am a generally quiet, if not timid person. I get in no one’s way; I won’t even go back to a counter at a restaurant to say that my order is completely wrong. It’s easier to not cause controversy, as far as my life goes, and everything really is pleasant. So long as no one treads on this casual, innate submission. But in this time, I see now that that doesn’t do much for a defining life, defining in your principles, your thoughts, your heart on your sleeve.

Maybe Hamilton has helped me understand this: “What’ll you fight for [Aaron Burr] if you stand for nothing?”  You couldn’t have asked for a better musical soundtrack than now to really hit those sentiments I feel.

And I feel that I want to show my support, to those who need it now and to speak up alongside those braver than me. Maybe it’s a mob-mentality thing, but it’s comforting to contribute to the conversation— even though a lengthy Facebook status is not going to change anything. But it’s spreading the awareness.

I know who I am, and I know that a miracle isn’t going to save this country overnight, at least, not with my contributions. Not with anyone’s actually. But it’s a positive statement, to know that with all the bad that goes on now, there’s going to be good. People are going to try to be good, to be better, to stand up for what’s right. On the macro-level, that’s comforting. But on a micro-level? The right thing to do for me is to have hope. To have a positive attitude just for my own life—the world seems to have it figured out, so why shouldn’t I (well, if the world really had it figured out, there’d have to be no outcry whatsoever)? Who would I be kidding with my daily postings and angry rants and call to arms for immediate uprising? I’m not a cynic, but I am an idealist based on what realities I have faced, and I like to think that my faith in the future guarantees happiness, as far as my little life is concerned. I say that now, I am happy: my job is taking off to new directions with little limitations and more room for the creativity that I’ve been seeking. I’ll soon be reaching my six-months marker in a relationship that for the first time in awhile, feels secure, feels like it will be forever—and maybe if it’s not, that’s something for the future, not now. And in this little drafty studio, still decked out in gold and mint streamers from birthday parties of yester-months and vases of white roses fake and real alike, that’s where I remain; I’m still here. Still getting by in this city of mine by the Bay where it seems like I will never leave. And why would you, when everything seems to be perfect?

So I’m a year older and I won’t change the world. I’m not looking to, because as far as I am concerned my world is right here in this city, with these people, and if I can’t keep those things together, God help me for when I do try and keep the rest of the world from slipping into catastrophe. I just have to keep living life, but this time more defined, with a clearer sense of direction— and so long as that direction is seen through rose-colored shades. Because in this day and age, heading down that blazing road with your bare eyes will drive you mad thinking that you can do what Icarus couldn’t— head straight into disaster thinking all will be well.

I think everyone else in this world is well prepared with those same shades, the ones who continue on that march in resistance to the new order. Beauty and love only changed things for the better.

Mark on the Jackson

January 23- January 29

This is a confessional about modern love hang-ups. It starts with a guy named Mark.

I saw Mark again. He’s got short, wavy hair and I usually see him in a gingham button-up under a dark jacket. It doesn’t matter what bus I usually see him on but today it’s the 3 Jackson line. He tries to sit towards the back in one of the four seats that face each other; I’m lucky enough to sit towards the front. I’m sure he’s seen me. There’s no animosity or past between us. We just happen to get off at the same stop, there on Gough and Sutter. We only talked once.

The only reason I’d want to avoid talking to Mark is just because I think he thinks there could have been something. Maybe at one point, maybe in that one evening ride when we first made small talk about some debacle that just happened on the bus around Polk Street, something that got us laughing at the absurd happenstance of any Muni ride. He was new to the city, getting a Master’s at USF and gleefully I spoke up on how proud of an alma mater I was. He made a great choice. He could have been a choice for me. But there were decisions I was already making– already committed to a second date to someone else, somewhere else. Someone who now isn’t anyone other than the love of my life.

But there are times where I still think, if Mark was the way things should have been. Here you have a young woman whose whole life revolved around the stories of fate and chance encounters that turned into greater stories, and after many of not-so-great encounters, resigned herself to the new world of modern dating. And it worked for her, the way that her chances faired better than her colleagues and friends who’d been on apps for months, a year– six months later, here she was, head over heels with the second man she matched with. And then out of the blue, Mark was on the bus again.

It’s been about three times since our first meeting, and the second time he came up to me and asked how I was. Thank God I remembered his name to save me from just an awkward reunion. He seemed really glad to see me again, and I won’t lie that it felt good to have a stranger’s face seem so satisfied to say “hey.” But the guilt came over me as I talked as politely as I could trying to brush him off, to get off the bus and head in the direction that I needed (it didn’t help we got off at the same stop, but at least turned into different directions). There was a brief moment of rejoice in seeing each other, and nothing more. I didn’t want him to think there was more. And by the time I saw him the third time, he got the hint.

I still can’t help but think, as in love and happy a relationship that I am in now, the way that my love life happened still gets me. I hate saying it, but it was inauthentic. The hopeless romantic in me still thinks about the ways I might have met boys or in the case of my boyfriend, if we would have ever met on the street by chance, no swipes involved. Would it ever have happened? What bars might we have nudged shoulders at? Whose car would we possibly have shared in an Uber Pool together? Could there ever have been some fluke accident that would take my boyfriend onto the very bus I ride, far away from his own work and route? Would this city have given us a chance on our own? Still sitting and thinking about the ways I could have met my lover in countless scenarios I’ll never have, I wonder if this is still all how it should be.

But Fate is Fate, no matter how you plug it into your life– it doesn’t just stop once you’ve signed up for the League or Bumble. From there, it’s still up to Fate on who you meet. And count my lucky starts, but friends who’ve been on the scene longer than I have are still there, looking, waiting, waiting for Fate to finally work itself out. My fate was decidedly more unique. It was easy. It was easy the moment I gave in to dating apps and let go of my ideals of an organic romantic encounter. And that’s the way it was supposed to be. If Mark was meant to be given any chance, then I would have met him a week before I’d signed up for CMB, weeks before I started feeling those butterflies for someone I had still yet to meet up with for a date but couldn’t wait to get a message from. Mark would have happened sooner if it was meant to be anything. If I was meant to meet my One and Only on the street, I wouldn’t have hit so many dead ends walking around this goddamn city.

I start thinking about everything that’s happened in those six months since I started dating someone. Think about those things, and replace his face with another and perhaps everything else about him. Put Mark in his place. In the place of the movie dates at the Castro or meeting my friends at the office on a Friday night for cheap drinks or by his side as I plan his hypothetical birthday out to John’s Grill. Would he have given even a shit about coming to hear my live reading revivals? I’d be looking up from the mic in the dimly-lit basement tearoom of the community center there in the Haight, right next to the Church of 8 Wheels roller disco, there in the small crowd and I’d look in his face, forget my own words in my mind for a second to reassure myself that he is there for me and wishing for my success up on the tiny stage. I think about these moments in my life where someone else might have been, and it kills me. Because when I start thinking about “what if,” there is no more what if, there is only now the sobering thought of can you imagine? I cannot– I will not, I will not forget any of the happiness that’s been brought to me on my own terms and fate designed for me. I am happy now, meant to be happy in this way with these memories with someone who everyday I thank God for not passing up that second day of matching in that first week on the dating app. Whose face I look into every day and comfortably associate with all those memories and moments I don’t have to hypothetically think about because they were real– and know that this was how it’s all supposed to go.

As an overthinking, anxiety-ridden person, I don’t feel ashamed wondering this as I see a familiar stranger’s face again. I think about everything, and then I remember that everything is good as it is. So simply put, I saw a guy on the bus again. A guy whose name is Mark and is a student at USF and who could have potentially been the love of my life. But he is not. That is life, and that is the life I love right now.

 

 

 

Storm Days

January 9 – January 15

All of a sudden the rain came.

What seemed like Karl the Fog just hovering over this city slowly turned into a well-planned coup of nature, the dark skies thickening as the mist lifted and the streets and deco houses of the Outer Sunset became visible again, only to be glossed over by torrents of rain that went from heavy to light. The feathery kind felt the deadliest— you underestimated how wet you’d really get until you’d been walking for at least four blocks.

So in the wake of these next few weeks you take extra water and Coca Cola from your work, maybe some Cheetos and chewy chocolate granola bars. You put these in your big bag, an old worn-down Eddie Bauer leather tote that used to belong to your parents and now can fit all these resources alongside the toothbrush and pair of pajamas and socks— because you’re shacking up, but shacking up elsewhere.

A movie night is much needed after weeks of cold and getting back into the groove of the work week, the new year— the last days of Obama and the America as you know it. It’s also been too long since seeing your boyfriend. You have only met up twice since reuniting since the dragging Winter Break. So bring on the storm— let our love keep us warm, as the song goes. But really, we’re gonna have to snuggle lots— it’s actually the best way we can beat the icy apartment he lives in that’s dropped to 41 degrees before. But no heater will be touched, as it’s a sacrifice worth making to save money for other pleasures of this godforsaken city.

I like rain. The petrichor is fine and the slick of cars going downhill on the roads winding through Pacific Heights can be heard so crisply against the wet pavement. It’s a metallic sheen that is as deadly as it looks without the right shoe traction. Sounds like a travesty. To me, it’s a pause in time. The usual protocol of sunshine and roses is easy for everyone— when you’re out in the rain beneath that gray sky, all is quiet, few people are about and only are walking somewhere out of necessity (unless they’re like me), and it’s like the everyday tune of a bustling life is taken a step back for the quiet. The peace. The reminder that it’s something you should do once awhile: pause and remember those beautiful moments when they’re absent. Even though the present state of weather in the city is just as breathtaking.

We wake up and though I heard the heavy fall of the raindrops from overhead on the sky roof that shadows this tiny room, there’s nothing now. It looks rather bright up top, like the sun broke through. We’re shacked up in layers of blankets and socks falling off our feet in a room that’s small but long just like the man whose love I’m entrusting in to keep warm during this storm. And it’s sunny out. But we’re still together, rain or shine, and though disappointed, we’re not going to let this weekend go to waste.

We start by never getting up until maybe, 2 hours after we first woke. It will then be 1 and my sweetheart’s already left to go fetch us some fresh hot coffee and those maple donuts sprinkled with bacon bits on top that I love. There’s never enough glaze though, and so I tell him to make it two for me. Me? I won’t get up until I hear he’s back and setting up the dining room table and the TV. I walk out and smile at the small gesture he’s done towards starting our late day. I’m just delaying time to use his bathroom— there’s still only one bathroom I’m comfortable using and that’s just mine.

I’ve seen my city in the rain many times before— its lightness as it descends gracefully through the air forty stories up from downtown, its illumination against the old yellow streetlights of Sutter Street all the way through to Fillmore where the trees get too heavily drenched and let off the water like little waterfalls from each leaf. But the Sunset feels exactly like a blank canvas, stretched out and devoid of trees and plenty of spaces to be painted over in the evening dew. As the sunlight dims out we can slowly hear the sticky pavement on the cars and crystalized beads latching onto the glass of the front windows of my boyfriend’s place. We’d been awaiting this only with extra shows, ordering in bland Thai food, and a refreshing shower in the evening that I very much enjoyed despite being not my own bathroom. The best part of all of this was warming up, getting through another season of my favorite show, and jumping onto the couch, acting like the worst was over. It was only the beginning.

This isn’t going to be a long recollection but just one of a moment in this week, a few moments about rain in this fogged up city. When the fog is too much, it gives gracefully out and then fiercely into nearly two months of dreary, pounding storms. We did finally get the rain. Terrific it was, as a second movie night was moved to my place amidst strung up twinkle lights that I’ve kept all through the months from my birthday party and the scattered blankets and pillows on the floor where we are joined by my sister dining on Village Pizza from Van Ness.

Now this is the movie night I had in mind, one enjoyed against the storm days of San Francisco outside and away, away from the company I now enjoy. We set ourselves up for this moment, with the late afternoon awakenings and disappointing sunlight and tasteless takeout, all that’s a part of what makes two people really enjoy each other’s company for this cold, wet day.

New Year, Old Childhood Books

January 1 – January 8

One of my favorite quotes is from C.S. Lewis, in a letter written to his goddaughter:

Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.

For me, that time may be coming sooner than expected. There is a sudden longing for books again first read during mid-morning visits to the library at Mountain View Elementary School, only 6 years old and never forgetting the stories of Frog and Toad and Rainbow Fish or freaking out over what happened to Ms. Nelson. Simple stories that most of all, excited the senses with their illustrations. I drew a lot as a little girl, and mostly just copying those books if not scenes from Disney movies. When you’re young like I was when reading these silly books, they’re anything but silly, shaping the world for you through rich colors and cozy little pond-side burrows and even down to the frills of a lovely dress. The allure for good books as a child is unforgettable artwork– things you’ll see first before the actual entire world.

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I still haven’t seen much of the world, but I’ve lived long enough where sometimes when I clock out of work right at 5 or overthink anything that gets my blood pressure up (which can be most things as an underpaid young adult in a big city), all I want is to escape back into one of those books. And on a rainy Sunday afternoon, the first day of a brand new year, I stepped into Green Apple Books on the Park and browsed the children’s corner for sometime. I didn’t leave empty-handed.

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Miss Rumphius, by Barbara Cooney

Of all the childhood tales, the drawings of Miss Rumphius took me in, enchanted and showed me the beauty of innocence which I would forever take away from its story. A little girl who grew up doing the three dreams that would change life for the better: travel the world, live by the sea, and do something beautiful for the world. It was the last task she, Miss Rumphius, found the hardest to do, so daunting and yet so vague. As she tried figuring out what it would be, the story’s soft colors and delicate depictions of Main seaside to the far away lands like Egypt or the Bahamas reeled in its readers, wholly convinced that yes! Miss Rumphius, you live in such an incredibly beautiful world, please do something to preserve it!

(Even Miss Rumphius herself had no idea how she would achieve it, declaring on page _, “The world is pretty nice already.”)

Our titular character finds that making the world beautiful was easy after all– she sprinkled seeds of lupine in her village and along the coast where they bloomed into deep shades of pink, purple, and sky blue. By the story’s end, Miss Rumphius is old and white-haired and reminds children of the neighborhood to carry on these deeds to have a full life. On that last note was a lasting impression, a cycle if you’d like to call it that, for a young reader such that I was. For how was it that a kid’s picture book no bigger than 20 pages could tell a person how to enjoy life– get excited about it while all at the same time add to its wonder? That’s just why I know that I need fairy tales again in my life, way beyond 6 or 7 years old and sick of the hardening reality I am in now. A child wouldn’t know this same reality, they haven’t grown up to be aware of breakups, overdrawn account fees, crowded public transportation in the rain, or doing dishes after Thai food takeout. But we all need children’s literature, depicting the world for all its unique possibilities through their magical pictures, a reminder that the world is still the same one as you were a child– only thing is, you are not a child anymore.

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Favorite illustration of Miss Rumphius

I am still trying to accomplish those three tasks from the book I now own and have placed like a Bible right there on my nightstand. I’ve lived by the sea, if you’d consider Ocean Beach only 40 minutes away by bus or working in a skyscraper with breathtaking views of San Francisco Bay. I’ve seen little of the world beyond the East Coast, but I’m slowly chipping away at those borders into new continents and over oceans, but what places I have seen show me how diverse even my home country can be, for better or for worse.

And then there’s this “world beauty” part– how, or when? Then maybe– maybe I have already started this. Every time I walk along Sansome towards the 1 California Street line and greet the old man with the long, white-haired ponytail bent over with a dirty coffee cup for change held out. Or the seats I give up when children or elderly jump onto the bus. With the glass door into my office that I hold open for our front desk security as he thanks me running in as to not be late from his lunch. One of these nights I gave what change I had to the pony tail gentleman with a “Happy New Year!” and then came across a new face: Cindy. In a scooter where she fastened plastic bags stuffed with her personal belongings, she smiled up at me and asked what I did for a living. Her eyes were a lovely soft gray in the street light and her voice a jolly tune– things I took note of as I told her I was a writer. As we shook hands and exchanged names, she sincerely hoped that we cross paths again so that I may show her my work.

These beautiful things I find aren’t in how to create or maintain a literal, beautiful world, but even to keep its beauty alive through what daily interactions I have with it, especially its people. So it’s not so hard, not so bad. Actually, helping the world keep its beauty is in no way bad, and it shouldn’t be something we forget. But we do. But that’s where children’s stories come in, like fairies of their own right waltzing from shelves to save us from ourselves, our loss of memory for better, simpler views. And when you help the world, you’ll see that it’s a cycle, that when everyone does something for this world, it’s for each other.

So like fairy tale magic, there’s always a way to make things even more lovely.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Merry and Bright

December 19 – December 30

I tried my hardest, God knows I did. but this was not to be the Christmas I envisioned for some redemption of the dark ages to be known as 2016.

Everything is as perfect as it should be for a Christmas by the Bay, and even more so for when I am home in the outskirts of Concord, California. My mom’s wrapped the banisters of our strangely layed-out 1970’s home with multicolored twinkle lights and red tinsel garland, and she’s using the massive white paper snow flakes I created three years ago as mats on which to set her eclectic sets of Santa trinkets in the family room; the smaller red glittering ones for the whitewashed brick fireplace mantel downstairs by the 9 ft. tree that she always needs my dad’s help putting up. It’s not the only tree in the house– the old 7 ft is adorned upstairs with old wooden ornaments that look like candy and and cheap new ones from the 99 Cent Store on Clayton Road in the same strip mall where I later discover she’s bought some of my Christmas presents (black skinny jeans, a metallic notebook with a bicycle on the front) at their TJ Maxx. The tree’s red lights accentuate the warmth of the red decor against he off-white walls of our home and all the Santas and snowglobes within. Santas are the usual motif, even though my mom says she will change the theme every year. There’s some plaid on the coffee table runners and the rags that drape the oven handle in the kitchen where she’s put on display my red candle that’s burnt out and surrounded by nuts and twigs hot glued to a block of wood, a masterpiece of my CCD classes in the Second Grade.

This is the Christmas scene of our home these past nine years.

And to fit these embellishments so have the memories of Christmas past– for the most part. The early morning coffee treks to the Clayton or Oak Grove Peet’s at six in the morning, shaving down the Christmas lists as we shop in Walnut Creek, rewatching The Bishop’s Wife as these gifts are wrapped by the fireplace. There really is no place like home for the Holidays, the familiar and comforting feelings that they bring– but they were gone this year. God knows I did try to find them.

For the full week I had taken off from time and work in the City I only wanted those comforts. With the fondness I could recall from last year’s Christmas and the year before that, you could only anticipate what this time would bring. A natural human default is wondering how things can always be better, just as overthinking is another one– it was in the latter that I believe my turmoil started. A sister absent on Christmas Eve to be at the Raiders’ game with her boyfriend and too drunk to drive back home from his place in Lodi. The NBA Christmas Special almost reenacted to perfect a showdown with the Cleveland Cavs and our Golden State Warriors, and losing a $5 wager on the Super team to my sister’s boyfriend who’s showed up on the misty morning of Christmas Day. Family late to lunch and presents and knowing the game loss throughout the whole opening while your devoted fan of a dad proudly dons his new team sweater without having finished the game yet. Family leaving early– not even when it’s sunset. Too much champagne, or in my sister’s case, having to be elsewhere for Christmas night. This was Christmas day– just one of the whole week that fell short of those seasonal feelings I so badly wanted to have.

With all these small setbacks in the holiday season back home, I now find myself rather pleased with what seemed back  then a terrible Christmas. It sort of was, at lest not in any way a perfect one. But something I’ve firmly believed for sometime now is only telling to this way I feel now about this past week: things can fall apart so that better things may happen. The arrival of my aunt who hasn’t spent a Christmas with us in years. My other aunt’s husband, feeling homesick and yet hoping that this first Christmas makes that feeling less worse. The absence of my sister so that making her own choices and moves away from us may cement other meaningful relationships in her life. Having a breakdown over your weight gain on the 26th because of the frump of your new jeans and exchanging them for your first pair of running shoes in six years. A road trip repeatedly cancelled  so that a compromise may take us not far away, but to new sights and winding roads where little towns rest among towering pines of Highway 9 in the Santa Cruz Mountains and serve you Italian sweets with perfect Chai. Even down to the soothing chill of the eight o’clock wind of the Ygnacio Valley hills where our tire blew out minutes before returning home. All things that only now in my frustration to think back on a wonderful Christmas shine bright against the sour turn of events. They’re all now just another feed into the collective of those memories of the Christmases before, a bigger picture that will always still make me remember and love– and anticipate– the next one. Things fall apart– and what’s left over is a reminder that the constant memories are the only necessities to creating the spirit of the holidays.

I even saw my first live musical during these most wonderful times of the year. White Christmas, with its saturated sets and costumes and glamorous tap dance routines, was to be in my mind a quick yuletide fix. In the end, the snow being blown into the audience and the haunting, lovely lyrics of the titular song crooning in unison from the company, delivered.

May your days be merry and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.

No, not every Christmas will be peachy and pure, but it’s still a Christmas made merry in its own magical ways.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hygge, or the Love that Keeps you Warm

December 5 – December 11

December is here. It’s an intimate time that puts things in perspective if other moments throughout the year hadn’t. Winter has that effect, naturally. The cold and dark mood of the world, especially as rain drenches all and you can see your breath cut through the air at 9 in the morning in the lowest part of San Francisco, is only fitting for the human spirit to start radiating what warmth it can to fight against them. And in Denmark, it’s all praise for such a phenomenon: ’tis the season of Hygge.

I first heard about Hygge in some radio commercial of Christmas Past for Cost Plus World Market, when the celebration was marked by candle light and lots of pillows and blankets around cups of hot coffee. “Hooga” is the celebration of coziness, as the word roughly translates to. Visit Denmark elaborates on the notion of Hygge as “creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people… Danish winters are long and dark, and so the Danes fight the darkness with their best weapon: Hygge.” And I had my eyes set on Denmark this year for traveling. What I would have given to seen the country in the time of all this warmth; the candles, the thick wool, the cheerful winter markets and colorful harbors lively and busy against the cold of Copenhagen as boats bob in the canals. How marvelous it would have been to see, especially for a fairy tale city I grew up admiring from the stories of Hans Christian Andersen and summer visits to California-based Solvang. As life goes, Fate had it that my time would be spent elsewhere, with my oldest friend whom I met up with amidst the holiday sprawl of a snowless New York City. But, timing is everything. In the time that I would have seen myself gone away from home just made me remember that for this time of the year, home is where you really should be. Hygge isn’t just a holiday or in one place– it’s coziness all around, a feeling one must create so that the darkness of winter does not consume them. As far away as I remain from the hub of Hygge, there’s no telling that what I have experienced here in San Francisco during December isn’t Hygge at all.

Start with coming back from New York. Although the heart of the Silver Bells myth, it felt as Christmas in New York as it would in a palm tree laden paradise. Maybe it was the lack of snow, maybe it was how 5th Avenue and SoHo felt so identical to Union Square back home, but coming back to San Francisco is when I truly felt the Christmas spirit. There really is no place like home for the holidays, as the song goes, so I like to think it was that. Nothing beats the familiarity of

  • The wreaths in all the windows of the gleaming Macy’s across from the tree and skating rink flooded with amateur couples on the square
  • A strong cup of Irish Coffee sipped at the counter of the Buena Vista before a holly and bell-decked Cable Car ride back downtown in the brisk late night, through the rolling hills of Hyde Street and Chinatown
  • Lights strung around grand old Victorian ladies of Pacific Heights and their curbside bare trees, holly berry wreaths hung on white glass doors
  • The Embarcadero on a Friday night, the lights of cars and bridges and towering skyscrapers alike flickering against the rain, and carrying a single yellow umbrella in heels walking with a case of PBR under your other arm
  • Watching classics like Elf with baked Brie and Pecan Pie beer and friends in PJs, and moving on to not so classics like Krampus
  • Fur collared coats, cracked hands, old lace up boots, deep red lips like blood that lighten all the black you wear
  • How light glistens through the dozen delicate mason jar snowglobes you proudly make yourself for gifts
  • The many alley ways where these lights continue, as well as artificial garlands that are stuffed into the cracks of Japantown store windows and along the mirrors of Kearny Bars
  • A studio apartment kept cozy by a space heater and Home Alone 2 on repeat, where most evenings end in melted Junior Mints and whiskey-cokes, and the carolers visit in the constant sound of Ambulance sirens headed to the hospital up the street
  • Santas, Santas aplenty has Santacon rolls around once more– many of their hats ending up in gutters along Polk Street where the heavy rain of that Saturday float them along in floods of dirty water. But they’re too busy to notice, drunk on peppermint-chocolate schnapps and feeling alive in their cheap red suits and felt hats with white pom poms dangling by a lazy string. Some might be familiar acquaintances hosting a cramped party beneath cheap decor bought from your company, others being new faces with motherly intentions giving over their half of a turkey sandwich at Lefty O’Doul’s.

These strange, familiar occurrences really put forth that feeling of love and joy needed most in your city just weeks away from Christmas– and best feelings when they’re the gifts you find giving back yourself.Having been broken up with by boys from afar and by friends who grow busy with their new lives in new homes in different cities or with other friends who are less weird than yourself– you start slipping into a self-despair of insignificance. But that’s the beauty of Hygge, and how I’ve found that this is the year where that feeling only comes best from when you find yourself becoming the warmth that another lost soul had been searching for, too.

Being there for someone is better than the other way around– it’s you in all your imcompletion that someone else begins to feel complete, a miracle and reminder that you alone are desirable, worthy of the love that keeps the human spirit alive and well in the winter. Reminders like serving as the date for a holiday party that isn’t your own, a date who was so proud of your elegance in a blue dress in the private room of the Waterfront Restaurant where wide windows embraced the glow of the Bay Bridge lights across the dark waters. It’s them that you keep falling more in love with and less in love with the band right before your eyes, the band that was the first love of your modern life. They say money can’t buy happiness, but it sure does when your purchases create the best memories, and the night of chaos and familiar tunes at Not So Silent Night was most memorable. I would have never had the pleasure of Bastille, Head and the Heart, and Green Day all at once in so beautiful and vibrant a memory without the utmost love and appreciation from someone new. The music plays loudly the songs you know by heart and classics you think only you as a true fan knows– and by some Christmas magic, you find you’re not singing alone.

In the past, the love and joy were things I received from many–and those many faces are gone. Little would I know that a year later, this was to be the Christmas for me, a lifelong dream finally fulfilled at the expense of a stranger who’s been the blessing I hadn’t seen coming, a face with soft eyes that make me feel alive and less alone as they sing softly to Rivers and roads when the Head and the Heart close their set on one of their most heartfelt songs that pierce the arena– rivers ’til I reach you.  As Christmas miracles prove,you suddenly feel like there’s nothing else needed in return for marking this most perfect moment in the cold of the world.

In creating that perfect intimacy most needed now, Hygge is best found by old, familiar experiences. Except for now, when you can relive them with new others, when you can feel that these moments need not be bound by one cold winter, but for eternity. Timing is everything, and if you’ve found Hygge, then time is aplenty to keep cozy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snapshots from a Weekend in New York

November 29 – December 4

I started out for New York less than a week ago. I wanted to go big for my 25th birthday and not alone, so my oldest friend would meet me at the airport just a month after I’d celebrated my birthday, and less than a week before she would celebrate hers. So smack in between us late bloomers, was a journey to a city. After a bumpy, clouded red-eye from SFO into JFK, there at Gate 19, we were united and headed out to town in gold-gilded paper crowns and no plans of sitting still.

No wonder New York is a literary treasure, where writers are born, or at least flock to in giving birth to something from their imaginations that only this city can bring about with its endless characters, sights, sounds, and, especially to each their own, memories. It’s old, it’s rich, it’s a universal consensus that all and any happens in this town. It’s also why I feel that for visiting New York, there wasn’t anything new to tell of it. The great writers before me, who I hope to be, all tore down and ripped the streets of New York to shreds with their stories of the lost who were found by readers around the world. It’s the definitive zeitgeist of storytelling, or launching a story for the masses, so for the masses this city belongs to and always in the public eye– always something seen by everyone.

So let me just brief you on the little moments, the quiet ones not captured by my camera and only remembered in that moment of the sleepless nights had in four days. It’s not much, but that’s the point.

And in the little that I reveal about New York City, it’s a reminder of my grand, personal duty to my own city, San Francisco. It is up to me to be a part of the narrative of this little sister to the literary legacy before it, and she’s got a lot of catching up to do– and not without my help, to write down the stories I keep living here.

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SIGHTS

Rose Pink geraniums, the green tiles of the Bryant Park Bathroom.

Glittering decorations at Rolf’s.

Subway sign mosaics.

Bounded Christmas trees, fresh from Vermont, leaning against wooden frames for sale as their chicken wire reflected the twinkle lights strung from the vendor’s cash register.

Heart-shaped leather seats at Café Lalo.

Silver glitter atop sprinkles and whipped cream and the cherry atop Frozen Hot Chocolate. Accompanied by a single pink striped birthday candle.

Igloos. NY gets obsessed with these things around this time of year.

Yellow leaves of the Villages, East and West.

Boarded-up brownstones in the Barrio.

Rats.

Porcelain dolls with their eyes cut out for steam punk jewelry on the Broadway Market expo.

The Roosevelt Island tram whizzing threw the air past the heavy flood of headlights to and from the Queensboro bridge.

The dried trees of Gramercy Park.

Nameless antique shops on 10th Street.

Dave the bodega cat.

The dancing pie waiter at Lalo.

Cracked knuckles against the bitter cold of New York.

Black-stained steel of the staircase of our apartment.

Brick walls.

Sea green dinnerwear that served our ham and cheese omelet and pineapple-banana-orange juice in mini Coca Cola tumblers.

The Empire State shrouded in mist.

The worn lions that guard the Public Library.

The soft handwriting of Alexander Hamilton to his brother.

Captain America kissing Wonder Woman in the center of a black and white Times Square, circa 1945.

Seeing Johnny Weir’s skating outfit through the screen of a man’s phone ahead of us in the growing crowd.

SOUNDS

“You guys have fun, *whispers softly* take some very cute pictures” – 230 Fifth

“You ever see a cocktail?… I haven’t.”

“Thanks! H&M, Winter 2013 collection.” – The Auction House

“NO FUCKING WAY, Rachel.” – Houston Street, Lower East Side

“The closest we’ll get to Hamilton!” – New York Public Library

“Instagram!!” – Dumbo

“Okay folks let’s move in– make plenty of spaces for beautiful faces!” – Elevator going up to the Top of the Rock

“Kill!… Okay maybe tomorrow.” – 59th Street Subway

“Oh is it gonna be televised?” – Bryant Park

“What the DICKENS!… And I do mean Dickens.” -East Harlem, AirBnB

“I do birthdays, weddings, Batmitzfahs…” -Rolf’s

“Gonna Shrek it up and layer.” – AirBnB

“If you guys are willing to pay the bar minimum tonight, $200 for the two of you.” – Lavo

“Fuck these shoes, let’s dance!” -Joshua Tree

“Everyone, we have two birthdays in the house!” – Serendipity

“This couple is really getting romantic and I’m just mackin’ on chicken nuggets.” – 230 Fifth

Silver bells. Well, red ones.

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