This Happiness is My Own

Tonight. We sat across the lake to live music. The sun set to rock classics. I dangled my toes over the brick wall, occasionally dipping them in cold lake water. Look! I’d exclaim. And I leaned back, prickly grass against my elbows. Rock and roll!

Can you bring me a beer? He did. I finished the IPA he brought me. By the end of it, I was tipsy dipsy. Still sturdy. But loopy. I wiggled my way over the brick wall.

The band played classics from the 80’s. And it all just felt so summer quintessential. Light and muggy. Grass on your thighs, and you’re swatting at bugs, filled with heavy heady happiness. That presentness feels like what the movies look like. Being here, in the now, swaddled in music, oldie tunes, beer, cool breeze of summer.

Has summer always been so beautiful? My memories of summer are scorching hot. Beads of sweat within seconds. It was “fry an egg on the sidewalk” type heat, where I wouldn’t step foot outside unless I had to. Has summer changed? Or have I? Have I discovered, for the first time in my life, the blissful coolness of post 8 PM summers?

This happiness is my own. There were moments I found myself lost in the music. I watched each wave. Patterns of white reflection blinded me. As the sun lowered, the neon signs by the lake glittered louder than ever.

Quarantine Diaries

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Consolidated most of my journal entries on here for over the past month–they were all starting to melt together, as the days initially did. Months of posts, rolled into one, have a cool archival feel to them.


March 13th, 2020

Time has been suspended. Classes are cancelled–moving online. Work’s gone online, too, which means my grease shines from my dome forehead through a webcam. In the past few days, with all the things to do and all the apparent time in the world, I have:

  • Spontaneously decided to bleach-balayage my hair
  • Developed and scanned two rolls of film
  • Started episode one of the Korean zombie Netflix show, Kingdom
  • Eaten half a tub of raspberry sherbet
  • Started episode one of Paradise PD
  • Taken a few paranoid, curious peeks around grocery stores. Bought nothing but ice cream.
  • Eaten two fried chicken sandwiches: chick fil a is open again
  • Taken a pre-employment drug test

I’m also still really paranoid, terrified that I’m harboring organ-eating pathogens, but this is sort of the way I always have been. Now I can just visually express my disgust at being too close to strangers. And I can count all the places I’ve touched without feeling like a grade-A germaphobe. Because if the rest of world also is one, I’m normal.IMG_5615

Back to the blonde thing. Le beau begged me not to do it at home. I’ll pay for it! He exclaimed. I’ve been offering to pay for it! I said, it’s not about the money. He said, I’ll pay you not to do it at home. I’ll pay you 50%! I said, well, I want to do it at home. Besides, I don’t even know what I want it to look like.

That was our conversation at the local ulta yesterday night. I put the l’oreal product down, but then spotted the last 40 volume developer bleach tucked in the higher aisle. Ah. Volume developer. Youtubers talked about using 30 volume developer. Sounded about right. So I bought the box for $10. What a steal. Then I watched a few nightmarish youtube videos where girls forgot the toner. So I bought a $10 toner on amazon. Another steal! Compare that to the $200 process.

 


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March 16th, 2020

We drove around the region today. By region, I mean rural-suburbia. At first, it was a search for cardboard. It evolved into aimless meandering.

We found a bunch of goats and lambs by a trail. As I walked over to them, they bleated happily and trotted towards me. We fed one of them fresh grass from outside the gate.

We passed by a hobbit-home and skated around the odd neighborhood. Pot-holes littered the ground. Evidently, each owners had purchased the plot of land, then hired a unique home developer. From the villas of spain to the backwoods of virginia, each house hailed from some vastly different land. But it didn’t. It was all here. On a plot of muddy, uneven land, where there were no sidewalks.

We drove over a bridge that reminded me of DC, and crossed onto a bridge known for its hauntings. Later, we dipped into a cozy, hobbit-esque coffeeshop, but not until we’d cloroxed the table. Hunger drove us to Taco Cabana, where I got the steak tacos.


March 22nd, 2020IMG_5604

Earlier, I deleted IG and am avoiding the news because of the swarm of negativity.

I initially saw the move to virtual as an overwhelmingly positive one, I’ll admit. But now people are griping. It turns out when the world is as much of a germaphobe as you, the economy halts. Complacency kept germs on the move–but also us. The virus, in other words, has gone viral. People are online–not caring, caring too much, treating patients, partying with friends, spewing political statements, on the verge of tears, holding yoga sessions, et cetera.

But I go for a drive outside and realize the real world is different from the online one. Children are peddling furiously, couples are out on luxurious walks, and grass continues to grow. Alongside national despair. So I’m going to list out the good personal aspects of this odd chapter–aware of being swaddled in privilege, but also not in the mood to be flooded by online negativity. Even though I think I already have.

So here are some pro’s and thoughts and whatnot:

  • Being online for classes–hell yeah! This means the most taxing part of grad school–actually showing up–has been X’ed out. I can “show up” in pajamas (aka click on Microsoft Teams) and fiddle around on my computer for three days a week. And all of this non-effort goes towards a Master’s degree. Not too shabby.
  • Having added flexibility to work more. I can up my hours, take on more students, and not worry about scheduling conflicts.
  • Living healthier. Saving money. Now that I mostly eat at home, I won’t be splurging on calorie-ridden foods at restaurants. I know that there are economic ramifications to when everyone is doing that. But on a small scale, it’s just… nice eating at home. It always has been. And I’ll order from my favorite places–as I did today–every now and then.
  • Saving on gas and tolls. Now that I’m not driving everywhere all the time, 50 miles a day, my tolls and gas bills will shrink. As a ridiculously stingy person who spent a few weeks trying to manipulate her MPG with weird tricks, this is a relief.
  • Going for more runs and walks. I’d always use “school” and “tired” as poor excuses to not move my body more. But now that I’m largely sitting at my desk, I feel inclined to sprint up and down the street, go for a jog, get some fresh air. I’m not the only one with this mentality: I’ve never seen so many people taking strolls, riding their bikes, enjoying the weather.
  • Relaxing at home 24/7. I’m already a hermit crab incarnate, an intensely germaphobic introvert who’s had difficulty going out in public. Now I can rest comfortably, and in solitude, without being pooh-poohed for rejecting social requests.
  • Being pushed to write more, paint more, and learn more. With all this time, I can brush up on coding skills. I write in my diary a lot more. I painted a shitty beach this morning.
  • Spending more time with my family. I know my friends are at their practical breaking points, unable to spend another moment at home. But I’ve been really happy about that lately. And my pigs count as family. Now that they know I’m home more, they take my every bathroom break as an opportunity to squeak for food. They even wait until I’m done washing my hands before jogging up to the walls, and screaming, “HUMAN! FEED ME!”

March 27th, 2020

Drinking my coffee black–I never realized how light it could taste, and how flavorful. I made two cups of shitty coffee yesterday, faded to the color of cream, over-sugared, and took two sips before nixing it. There used to be a cafe by the library, where I’d go for my small coffee, cream and sugar. That was where my coffee addition started. The cafe is gone now. After eleven years, it closed.

Cleaned the house. Got a bacon, egg and cheese at 5 in the morning. The bagel was burnt. But my cupboard, luckily, had one bagel left–from maybe forever ago. I remelted some cheese, and remembered when I would grab one of these every morning in college. I would go to the glorified 7-eleven, which I lived right above, and buy a bacon, egg and cheese. I’d also either get coffee or hot water, which I’d steep my berry tea in.IMG_5605

I’m rereading the Harry Potter series. It’s weirdly comforting to read about the weather. The descriptions are kind of cheesy. But I like imagining early morning mist on the qudditch field, and winter sun, and fat droplets of rain in the gryffindor room. The weather, in real life, is comparably mild. It’s been pretty outside. Spring. Which means people pack themselves into parks like ignorant sardines. I was satisfied to hear that the cops had cruised up to the rec yesterday, which was previously crammed with people.

Our online grad classes started back up again on Monday. We won’t have to go back to campus until this August–yes! Aside from it being a gas-guzzling trip, the campus and neighboring city are unpleasant. The drivers are terrible. I’m happy to not make pointless runs to school, only to spend all class reading the news.

Speaking of the news, America has outdone itself once again. In a mere 3 weeks,  its known cases have reached #1 on our top hit global pandemic playlist. At first, in early January, I was irritated to see politics and policy being injected into the conversation. After all, humans, regardless of gender or age or affiliations, are the ones who carry pathogens.

But it has not taken long for me to realize that policy generally governs people–rules such as lockdowns, or restaurant shut-downs, or travel restrictions. Power offers resources: economic aid, ventilators. And from a psychological standpoint, leaders should offer consolation a sense of steady hope. But I guess none of that matters now. They’re getting sick too. It’s sort of all spiraled out of control here in the states.


April 4th, 2020

  • Painting more–writing more lately. Typing this from under the wooly covers.
  • Developed the roll of film le beau took with me during his brief rural travels. I am oddly fascinated by rural spaces: they are so foreign, so familiar–so strange, yet not?
  • He surprised me with a little gift today. I’ll put it on the mantel piece when we have one, I said.
  • Earlier, I watched his pseudo YouTube channel about chocolate clay, (“how can somebody bastardize chocolate?”)
  • For a moment, I peeped out of my hole and hopped back onto Facebook– I like jumping on and off social media platforms. It was brief and okay.
  • And I had a bit of work today. Got ahead on assignments. Spent a few hours picking out virtual furniture, but decided on very little. Braved the cold for three film shots.
  • Tomorrow I’ll paint, journal, and scan my film. I wish I had good books on me. I’ve been trying to reread old ones, but I grow bored so quickly. My attention span is too short. And I’m too picky.
  • Maybe I’ll make berry cobbler again tomorrow. I baked some two days ago: dee-licious.
  • I keep wanting to watch Daria, but it reminds me of someone I don’t like anymore.
  • I admit the days are growing on me. I enjoy cleaning, disinfecting, and glaring at people who talk too close to each other. I like walls, skies, paint, Hulu, photos and solitude.
  • Welcome to my hobbit-hole crib, MTV.

April 11th, 2020

Yesterday, my my best friend’s family FaceTimed in; I’m convinced we’ve all spent time together on this earth before. It was a warm few hours.

Le beau was kind enough to grab me sugar, flour and butter from the store. (The sardine-packed stores, where people milled around inches away from each other; where children ran and wiped their grimy fingers everywhere; where one woman checked out 100+ items. Poor le beau.)

I said I’d bake him cookies last night, but ended up having to push that back to today. They ended up tasting like reduced sugar cookies–sugar cookies with reduced sugar–with the occasional M&M. Admittedly pretty tasty, light and doughy, but definitely not something you’d find at the store. I felt a huge tug of guilt pouring in the prescribed amount of sugar, and ended up pouring half back into the container.


April 20th, 2020

I ordered from Domino’s today and yelled “thank you!” to the woman delivering. She was wearing a mask and gloves. Before eating the pizza, I rebaked it in the oven at 350 degrees, which is what I do with any food made outside my home. Been craving tomatoes, so the pizza and pasta hit all the right spots.

Otherwise, I finished a DataCamp course in R (Predicting Employee Churn, which makes it sound like ice cream?), worked on a Statistics lab with my team, did a mini ab workout, did two mini sets on HelloChinese, wrote in my diary, threaded my caterpillar brows, and watched an episode of Daria.

I’ve been obsessing over hair bleach for the past three days. It was a brief descent into shallow madness. I ended up ordering a second container of hair bleach on Amazon, paying extra for quicker shipment. Then I cut my hair off. Then I soaked it in honey. Then, at 3AM, I realized the honey was still in my head. I washed it off the next morning. I plan to bleach my hair more thoroughly next week once the dye arrives.

About one year ago, I was wandering the streets of BA, an arts district, with my boyfriend. Over the weekend, we took a long drive all over the city–to BA and back. 70 miles, he said. He’d driven 70 miles. Before that, we shared spicy chicken sandwiches from Chick Fil A and took a long walk outside.


April 22nd, 2020

IMG_5606During our afternoon class, I got an email from the company I’ll be working for this summer: the program’s gone virtual. My jaw dropped. Even though the rest of the world is currently plugging away in their pajamas, at home, online, it still surprised me. I figured they’d either move the start date back or cancel altogether. But this has been a welcome relief. I figured I’d definitely get sick if I went into the office this summer.

That being said, a wee part of me did want to meet the team and whatnot. But all things considered, this is a really good situation. I did choose the position partially because of sweet location: just 10 minutes away. I guess I’ll be at home, 10 minutes away, for the summer. The position, to be less vague, is in Organizational Effectiveness. It’s right up the alley of Industrial/Organizational Psychology, which is what I’m in graduate school for. I’m really happy they didn’t cancel. I/O Psychology is a niche field, and I was lucky to have stumbled upon the posting early on.

For our program, we’re expected to log 400 hours of work in an I/O Psychology field. This ensures that students have a toe in the field, which is critical: just entering the field can be a huge challenge. Past cohorts have done fairly well. Lots of alumni are in the field, locally. But with 70% of my cohort still searching, it’ll be different for us. Luckily, we don’t graduate for another year, so that gives us time to hunt and work and finish school.


April 25th, 2020

We took our weekly drive around the city today. 

Before the car date, we exchanged food: homemade cookies (wheat M&M’s, all I had on hand) for spicy chipotle. The weather was unbelievably beautiful. We sat on lawn chairs, peered at each other over light blue masks. Feeling restless, we then embarked on a drive.

We stumbled upon strange streets; looked up a house selling for 4.2 million; gawked at the crowded mask-less parks (Football! Picnics! Wedding shoots! Clusters of no-fucks-given sunglass-donning folk chatting two feet apart. I quickly understood why so many cases were bunched up in this well of wealth–nobody gave, or gives, a damn.)

We decided to polish the afternoon off with boba. At the last moment, I suggested some takeout: katsu chicken and a bento box. He liked the idea. So I got a milk tea boba and he got a chocolate boba. I made a phone order for the food, and he picked it up: he’s been kind in picking up all the food. 💖 Then, I suggested we go to a pretty place.

“But there’s nowhere pretty in this neighborhood,” he said.

“There is! The nursing home.”

“What?!”

So we went to the nursing home lake area, a lovely walkway space with two lakes, dozens of geese, and families of ducks. Many families were here. But they were all spaced out, and far away. We parked in an isolated area, where we faced biking families and strolling couples around the lake.


May 1st, 2020

I’m half woozy on half a cup of lime margarita. We were on the route home today, the sun hiding behind the clouds, building lights aglow, and I thought to myself: I want tacos. After fumbling between the plate and the combo, I decided on the plate. When I set the food out for rebaking, I realized that they had forgotten to put meat–the only filling–in the taco.

Aside from that, this afternoon was a good one. I made le beau some presents, two of which were edible favorites, one of which was a semi-gag, but also meaningful.  Afterwards, we walked and drove around until it was dark outside. It has been so long since I’ve been out at night that I was surprised by the darkness of the car interior. I was expecting the car to be lit up, because every room I’ve been in for the past few months has been fairly well-lit. It dawned on me that it’s just been that long since I’ve driven at night.

I showed le beau my hair today and he liked it! I’m super happy about that. He’s fairly honest about his opinions. I’ve been, like, a grooming machine the past two weeks. From threading my brows to waxing my legs to bleaching my hair to painting my nails to tinting my brows to cutting my hair, it’s been a home salon over here on steroids. I’ve always done these things, just spaced far apart. Now I do it on a regular basis. I mean, it’s not like anyone is going to see me (aside from le beau).

The margarita is fading away. I’m notoriously lightweight. It comes and goes fast.


May 10th, 2020IMG_5608

Yesterday, I decided to sit in the trunk of my car while le beau fiddled with his car. This way, I’d be able to watch TV, sip tea, and peer at him from afar. Well, about five minutes into it, a large wasp came zipping through my car, inspecting it curiously. It crawled in and out, up and down, hugged the lights, tunneled in a hole. I watched with horror for about 20 minutes, unable to move my car, because it kept going inside.

About 30 minutes passed of me watching the wasp, waiting for it to leave. I peered up at my raised trunk and realized, with dread, that there were two identical nests on my car. And in one nest was a suspicious wasp, wrapped around the papery nest. I quickly ran to my room and grabbed a hoodie to tighten around my head and neck because, you know, wasps.

Too scared to do anything, I asked le beau to get my stuff. And then I asked him to spray them with the magic wasp killing solution. Le beau chased down the two wasps, juice in hand, spraying them down in the acrid stuff. It worked. They fizzled to the concrete. I was blindly bellowing throughout the entire situation, hugging my laptop, as we ran across the street and looked, ninja-style, for the third and final wasp.

The third wasp peered around the premises, noticed his dead friends, and zipped away. About an hour later, he reappeared, this time directly flying towards le beau. He grabbed the juice and chased the wasp down. Fine mist sprinkled on top of the wasp, who then realized that we meant business. So he went higher and higher until the juice couldn’t reach him. He disappeared into the treetops.

And so all was well. Or so we thought. As I crawled into my truck, then back out, he screamed, “it’s right next to you!” A fourth, smaller wasp had been resting nearby, probably searching for the hive, unable to find it. Le beau juiced him, too.

The third wasp never came back. I imagine he or she is out there plotting our downfall. We have quite the vengeful breed of wasps around here. A stinkbug tooted on le beau’s chair a little later as well. It flew into his chair, zipped, and flew away. When le beau sat down, he cried, “it stinks!” It’s a real zoo around here. I rescued a moth with a broken wing last week, and peered at two adorable lizards today. A few weeks ago, I found a crowd of crows gathered around a broken duck’s egg in the backyard.


May 12th, 2020

The company is mailing us laptops. They let us know in an email yesterday. I was trying to do a social media detox but caved around 2 PM, restless and curious. A parent also emailed me about my student’s progress, and I was antsy to respond.

The email asked for a shipping address, personal hobbies, and a personality test–right up the alley of I/O Psychology. At first, I was a little miffed by the test’s shortcomings: you had to have a really good vocabulary to differentiate between the two options. But the results were terrifying accurate.

I’m halfway through the master’s program in Industrial/Organizational Psychology. In regard to the career zig-zagging, I know that this is a place I genuinely want to be–here at the intersection of business and psychology. Because for once, I just want to do this for myself. Like. Pursuing the field isn’t a matter of trying to meet other people’s expectations; I don’t feel the need to defend or explain myself; I don’t feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle of judgement or fear, etc. Like. It’s a field I want to pursue because I want to learn and get better at it, and I feel hopeful and driven as I move towards it. It’s, like, fulfilling? And it’s okay if people aren’t familiar with the in’s and out’s. It’s for me.

Aside from that… I realized my LinkedIn profile photo was 5 years old and felt like getting a new one. Took them yesterday, edited several today, shared a few on Instagram. Most people said the generic smiling one was most appropriate, which makes sense.


Sociopolitical

What’s fascinated me from the start of it all is how sociopolitically the human race has responded to a purely biological agent. A virus is not concerned with skin color, election votes, hair color, eye color, zip code, or nationality. It’s preoccupied with survival. It’s just trying to replicate and make it in this big, bad world, just like the rest of us.

The reality is when you’re in close contact with a sick person, without protection, you’ll be infected. You’d think that people–mostly Americans–would care more about doing what they can to prevent a disease or illness. But it’s all culture and politics here.


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May 14th, 2020 

To mini-celebrate being done with my first year of graduate school, le beau picked up our bobas and we cruised around.

We stumbled upon a sprawling park. The lake shone; trails extended for miles; thin trees, perfect for hammocking, lined the field. People were out and about, mainly on the trails. Easy to avoid.

I twirled around, ankles bare and scratchy. The sun was out, a little warmer than usual. Beads of light sweat. Him under the tree in a dark blue chair, dipping chicken katsu in sauce. Would we be doing this without quarantine? Maybe, but maybe not.

My new favorite pastime has been finding lakes, ponds, and rivers. Pockets of nature I can roll my time in. I like getting lost in the waves and reflections.

Two hours passed. The sun was hot on my face. We found two trees spaced well apart and he set up his hammock for the first time. I sat on the grass nearby. I played a wistful Lana who wished for a better America.


May 16th, 2020

In the rain, we scurried around the empty lots and shops and farmer’s market space that would, normally, be selling local fruits and foods. We had just polished off our custard ice creams and Italian ices.

We splashed into puddles. We jumped on concrete blocks. We sprinted around in circles like follow the leader. After a while of this, my soaked slippers felt cold. The rain no longer felt as friendly. So we went back to our cars, where I decided I wanted to go home.

So we drove off and I remembered that I had forgotten my umbrella. We circled back and retrieved it. I went home to change into more comfortable pajamas and he brought us back Chick Fil A. I ordered medium fries, eight nuggets, and a spicy chicken sandwich.

In the middle of the road, I blasted Megan thee Stallion and he danced around. Break danced. Shimmied. Boogied. I joined with my own PJ-ed high kicks. The neighborhood drove into his driveway, eyeing us suspiciously. He even darted outside to get a better look. What a weirdo, le beau remarked.


May 17th, 2020

FaceTimed EM today. We were talking today about how we got caught in the perfect stretch, conveniently located between ritual-laden years of high school, college and official “markers” of traditional adulthood, i.e marriage and kids.

We already did prom; graduated high school; started college normally; ended with regular ceremonies. Right now, we’re simply working and balancing school and our Master’s. We aren’t graduating for the time being. We also aren’t getting married, not for some time; won’t have kids; don’t have kids, thank god, so working from home isn’t doubling as daycare.


May 19th, 2020

Two days ago, we got Venezuelan, drove to a nearby park, and set up our lawn chairs on a hill. We watched the ant-like crowds of people celebrating birthdays and holding picnics and going for muscular jogs. Was this Central Park? Because it looked like Central Park. People gathered without a care in the world.

Yesterday, we had our ice cream custard and park date. After an initial stumble where he couldn’t locate a proper hammock place, we settled down by a bridge and sat in the grass. A mother duck with her 14 ducklings waddled by in the lake. Two turtles, Turry and Turrisa, kept poking their heads up to peer at us. We watched a line of high school boys walk in slow-motion, emanating 70’s exaggerated cool, one boy pretending to throw a frisbee. Two slowly tussled their hair.

Today, despite having slept 12 hours and spending most of the day in bed, was a mediocre one. Mostly because I realized my film chemicals were no longer working. I wasted a roll of film on expired developer. And there is no developing kit to be found online. Then I put a little too much milk in my mashed potatoes. A black wasp snuck inside my home and has not been seen since. It’s just been a long and peculiar day, and I look forward to sleeping it off.


May 20th, 2020

I love learning online. I love teaching online.

I love being able to learn at my own pace. Rewinding. Fast-forwarding. I love being able to 2x speed an instructors’ video and zone out when I’m tired. I love cutting out the most exhausting part of education: driving and showing up. Do you know how much money in gas and tolls and time, in life, that I’m saving?

I love being able to click into a class 2 minutes before it starts. I love being in my pajamas while the professor blares on and on as I scroll through social media. I love tackling the content when I feel most comfortable and motivated. I love being able to google questions I have after class instead of getting b.s answers from the professor.

I love being able to use a digital white board with my students. I love being able to share my work with them through a screen. I love being able to email over a link to the class and sit and wait in my room, shorts on, for a student to click on. I love being able to email answer keys and skim the news while they work.

Life is a million times easier with remote instruction. I won’t delve into all the technical aspects of socioeconomic disparities; of limited Internet access; of kids with ADD; of parents needing dayca–I mean, school; or the fundamentally social aspect of school, which was all it was ever good for–in my case, at least. Making friends. So I won’t go into that. I know, I know, I know people have it different.

My personal experience is that remote learning has been the best thing since sliced buttered bread.


May 21st, 2020

Figured out a way to bypass the 6+ hours of marinating and softening it usually takes to make Chinese ribs in the oven.

Pressure cook it first.

After I remarked that I’d have to bake the ribs for 5 hours, my family went ahead and pressure cooked it. They left it on the counter to quickly run errands. Wafts of pork floated around the kitchen. Around 8 PM, feeling hungry and antsy, I decided to bake the already-pressurized meat, which was slightly tender.

I grabbed every savory condiment– and its complement– I could think of. Base of light soy sauce. Splash of dark soy sauce. Hint of fish sauce. Grapeseed oil. Sesame oil. Generous five spice. Onion spice. Spoonful of honey. Hint of sriracha. Paprika. Salt and pepper. Then I added water, because why not? I dumped the sauce all over the ribs, wrapped them up in foil, and set the oven to 450 degrees, 1 hour.

450 degrees felt right. The foil on top would keep the ribs from burning, and it’d keep the heat trapped within the ribs.

After 40 minutes, I smelled a faint burning smell, so I ran to the oven to check on the ribs. I took them out. They were fine. Delectable, actually! Sweet and savory. Fall-off-the-bone. The sauce wasn’t evenly distributed, so I removed the meat from the bones, mixed them back in the platter, and baked at 325 degrees, 10 minutes. This would create a dry slightly-burnt crust.

Voila! Tender, juicy and crispy ribs.


May 24th, 2020

Who told me to drink (Hokkaido, yum) milk tea after 1 PM? I have a personal rule to not consume caffeine in the evening. This is why!

This is why. It is 1:19 AM and it is way past my bedtime. I normally would be sleeping at 11, but here I am, one lousy yawn in.

Another weekend date today. Boba first–I tried a new flavor called Hokkaido milk tea because I heard it was creamy and caramel-y. I loved it. It tasted like liquid dessert. I pictured myself with a gallon of it and downing it every morning like milk. But halfway through, I got a bit tired of it.

Afterwards, we got katsu chicken. I got it with the bento box, so mine had fried temperura and sushi. I’m obsessed with the complementary pickled onions and jalapeños. The last time I ate there in person, the waitress noticed I was scarfing the onions down, so she gave me a second. I’m the type of person who goes to Korean and Japanese restaurants solely for the free small sides. (Ugh–this is making me recrave glass noodles.)

We took our food ate it at one of the unused restaurant patios. The restaurant has been closed for months. The patio had lights and tables and a large jenga game. I maneuvered my way around with Lysol, clorox, a face shield, a mask, and alcohol wipes. I sat a table away and ate half my food, since I was full from the milk tea.

The librarian–who I picked up my books from, contactless!–said she liked my face shield! I was proper flattered. The library book pickup was seamless. I wish I’d known of it earlier. To be honest, I’d looked at the library website a week into quarantine. But I didn’t realize just how contactless it was! So now I have five books waiting to be devoured.

I think I’m looking forward to tomorrow. It’s supposed to rain, but maybe we can still do something fun. I’ll finish the rest of my milk tea in the morning. That gives me a jolt of excitement.

Also, I took my pigs out to graze on grass today. B was all about it–he sniffed the grass, bit one, and began his buffet. C, on the other hand, was terrified. He was clawing the box in a desperate attempt to go home. He froze when I pushed him on the grass–then sprinted back into his box!

Here’s a photo of B hogging all the space in their nap box.


Park Fiends

We went biking at the park; hiked through the mini woods; sat by the lake, dangling our toes. We observed the ducks, birds, swans and turtles. We observed the small human boys toppling their bikes. We observed growling small pups and families playing frisbee.

At the other lake we’d visited earlier, we sat under a large tree on lawn chairs, finished katsu chickens to the side. We briefly meditated. I got him to meditate! He dipped into a state quick. Afterwards, I shared my thoughts. And then I realized–and this will sound cheesy–all we have is now! This blade of grass swaying–it’s doing that now. The past and future only exist in our minds: all that is real is the present.

That isn’t to invalidate the past or future: time is less linear and more complex than just whittling it down to the present. Trauma is real. As is the future. But hyper awareness of the present is an odd byproduct–and practice–of mindfulness.

It’s a very weird realization. It runs contrary to everything I’ve learned, the doctrine of strict time. So. When it hits, it hits. And then it fades away. In the sea of thoughts. Until I briefly remember again. And every blade is sharp, vivid, clear like a lucid dream.


May 29th, 2020

Also–last thing, but just as I was rescheduling and updating students, my professor for Fall messaged us. Class will be virtual, she declared. We might as well be comfortable and safe at home.

Perfecto. I only have two classes in the Fall: this newly virtual one was going to be on Tuesday and Thursday morning. I’ll only have one other class on Tuesday afternoon–we’ll see what she decides to do. At this point, I’m wondering if there’s a workaround for the overpriced parking permit…

That means I’ll only have one tentative in-person class for the rest of the year. I am a-okay with that. I chose to attend an affordable graduate program at a good time.

I look forward to starting my position in Org. Effectiveness. Ah! I can’t believe it. I’m entering the I/O Psychology field! Squeals. It begins on Monday. I’ll have to wake up early, like the rest of the new starts, to set my laptop up. And then I’ll meet with my supervisor and whatnot.

It’ll be interesting with it being a virtual experience: I hope to do well and keep my scatterbrain in check. The Python Programming summer class will also keep me busy. I can’t wait to be a busybee this summer. I’ve been obsessively doing nothing in the interim between finishing up grad classes and starting work.

11:11 make a wish!


May 31st, 2020

I unintentionally semi-attended one of the protests for the death of Floyd, murdered at the hands of police brutality. Unless you are Patrick the Star, you know who I am referring to (Floyd and countless other victims), what I am referring to (systematic racism and police brutality in the US), the evolving situation (peaceful protests over the span of half a decade whistling into frustration; people taking advantage of the situation, bringing UHaul trucks to a protest); and how many people may or may not feel on social media.

We had gone into the city to observe the apparent damage from last night. This was after we mosied on through the rich and poor neighborhoods, a mere ten minutes apart. Here, in the heart of the city, cop cars lined every street. They parked in groups of ten. They huddled together, breaths close, adjusting their tear gas masks, apparently forgetting that while it was a period of protests, it was also a pandemic. We glanced at street troopers deeply inhaling each other’s air particles.

All of the windows, for streets on end, were boarded up. Not because they were broken, it turns out, but for preemptive measures. We circled around the blocks several times, peering at the graffiti that spat from every wall. Every corner. Chants I have heard many, many times. No justice, no peace. A different energy permeated the street. As we passed by people with signs and masks, we sensed that there was a new person in the chat: tension. Fear. You could feel it. Whisps of it. Floating above the cauldron of anticipation.

We passed by a screaming ambulance. And it pointed us towards the hundreds of protestors, who suddenly showed up overnight. They were not here ten minutes ago. But now they were, an itching crawling mass of ants, a rhythm of outrage, sadness, defiance. We ended up parking right in front of the protestors as they all crossed. We honked our horn, because we were inside, and le beau held a fist, and they saw, and they did too. And in the video footage, I see now, the collective fists rising, rising, rising in unity.

I have always loved attending protests, capturing the raw energy, swollen and real. Collective effervescence was the term my professor had once used. And even though I was not in the protest myself, I felt it, if only briefly. Again. And then I remembered the incredible sadness and tragedy and numbness that accompanies every other headline. The same old story. For so long, people have turned a blind eye. This protest–this was different. The posts I see on my feed–they’re different. How so? Not the content, but the people who are posting them. By God. The message seems to have gotten through to more of the masses than before. That is the smallest sliver of hope.

This is all straight out of a USA textbook. Times from the 1960’s. The L.A Race Riots. Dates of sit-ins and names of groups. Malcom X, MLK, Black Panther, Emmett Till. We memorized these names. These faces. Rotely. Sang their names in songs. Unaware that as we bristled about, naive and young, the world outside was very much the same as the one in the textbook.

It feels as if there is nothing I can say to add to the discourse. There is nothing I can say that will change the past or reality. There is nothing I can say to change the world as it presently is, or once was. My desire to see no evil and hear no evil, a privilege I cradled like a baby’s blanket, was ripped from me today–silly girl. It’s somewhat relieving and exhausting and overwhelming to see that this dominates every single news feed. People know. People who would have normally waved it off five years ago, when it was Trayvon Martin, are noticing a pattern. And they feel some type of way about it.

That being said, I can hear both sides of the argument for and against violence in the context of protests. Outside the context, I do not condone violence. I strongly dislike violence. It makes me nauseous. It’s sickening. We got here because of violence. Because of countless murders. Because of regular brutality. I can hear that peaceful attempts have been ignored for far too long–I can hear that violence only perpetrates violence. Here’s my cop-out, no pun intended: I take no stand. The sad thing about violence is that what makes it violence is a victim. Usually dead or maimed. And we may support violence in the abstract, until that victim is our mother, father, sister, best friend, cousin, uncle, co-worker, husband.

There is no happy ending to this post, no conclusive remark. Just as there is no happy ending for Floyd’s story, a familiar U.S tale. Racism is America’s cystic acne, I said today. It continually flares up. And when you think you’ve cleared out most of it, it just crops up again. Who knows what’ll be the miraculous Clean-n-Clear to America’s racism? I sure don’t.

But so long as there is no justice, there will be no peace.

Peanuts

Our souls are like peanuts, our bodies, the shells. I remember thinking this the night we came home from burning incense. We burned paper money. I think we bowed. Me, in my gangly western body, oversized and overstretched. Metal lockers. Ashes. Peanuts.

Light enthusiasm for existence has been coupled with a headachey down-to-earth boredom. While driving, I waver between extremities of thought. I think about the person driving behind me. I think about god. I think about cruise control. I think about the cycle of life. There’s no in between. Then I pull up to the parking lot.

I read and I read. It started from a halloween movie. It turned out to be half real. I know travel can expand the mind and whatnot. But here I am, afraid of flights, strangers, disease and the unknown. Fear, fear, fear. To be honest, I’m okay with it.

And I trust the tidbits of knowledge and insight that occasionally sprout from the hazy morning of wake. Like: your soul lets go when it’s ready to let go!

I read about the differentiation between emotional learning and intellectual learning. It resonates. Only those specific experiences could have taught me the things they taught me. Only through rumination and crumbling brick-overflowing-vats could I have taken away something. Some things you can easily digest. But other lessons, lessons of the heart, are tailored through relationships, formed and broken.

I don’t really know what else to do with this, though. I do, but I don’t. How do we translate abstractions of the heart to tangible actions? And how do we, issue-riddled humans, overcome the countless things we might never overcome?

I have no idea.

Dear diary,

I am at a boba shop, curled into the corner, taro boba and book by my side. I am reading Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras and finding comfort in the italicized Spanish and descriptions of Colombia. It reminds me of the books I read by Dominican writers, when they’d mix two cultures with the ladle of immigration.

This taro is too sweet.

Last night we made a whole slew of good food. I was tiny master chef. Le beau was my sous chef. He chopped. He peeled. He cut. His cherry tomatoes and Yukon gold potatoes were even, small. He minced the garlic, peeled the onions.

I remembered when, not too long ago, I was him, and my best friend was me. She’d instruct me to peel the potatoes. Wash the salad. Peel the shrimp. And I, who had always been averse to food preparation, who’d long seen food as something I had to eat rather than experience, learned a thing or two.

I learned that romaine came in fat stalks and if you let butter sit on the pan, garlic would add deep fragrance. I learned that shrimp skins were like shrimp jackets you’d have to dig to rip off their backs. I learned that Vietnamese soups had a deep umami back flavor, and to achieve it, you boiled bones overnight. And I learned that making food was part following steps, part intuition.

I never liked baking because I hate following instructions: I’ve grown to love cooking because I can, as I declare loudly over questionable couscous, follow my heart.

Freshen

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birds, 35mm film

Little poetic nuggets don’t spew out of me anymore. I feel like they used to tumble out. Or not. Sometimes I’d pull at them, clogged hair from a drain, and force their way up. Up, up, up. Onto my blog. So they’d splatter onto here. Splat.

The holidays are almost over; Christmas cheer is still ablaze; New Year’s tinkers at the edge, 2020 waiting to spill over. 2019 went by too quickly. It was a good year, a really good year, but mostly in the sense that time flew. I’ll reflect in approximately 4 days.

A part of me feels like this blog needs a makeover. An overhaul. A change in layout, theme, or something. Something’s missing. Maybe a lot. Maybe a little. I can’t put my finger on it. It just feels jumbled to me, like there’s a distinct lack of cohesion. Meaning.

I forget the purpose of this blog. It used to be here to house those nuggets of thought, but those thoughts don’t come to me anymore. I guess I’ll figure out where I’ll go with this blog. But a makeover might be a good place to start.

Like smoke

Loneliness in a room. I can’t find the right description online as I google different phrases. I’m looking for a description of sensing other people’s loneliness in a room. Lingering loneliness. Not current, but a compilation of hours, weeks of the feeling. The energy of loneliness that pervades a room. Sticks, like smoke, to the walls, sheets, furniture.

I recognized an odd, familiar, lingering energy. It had been a long time since I’ve felt that in another person’s space: it was more common in college, when I’d walk into a friend’s room, and it’d hit me: they were deeply lonely. Despite the laid back demeanor and welcome smiles, the strange empty, and yet entirely filling, energy–distinct, heavy, separate- would be in the room. It would permeate it. It felt like if grey cement were air. I could feel it. I would then feel sympathy, but also a desire to leave. Once I did, I no longer felt it.

That’s what I’m looking for online. Is this common? Yes, I’ll feel energies, and that’s normal. We all know the peppy Patty who’s reverberating on a much wilder frequency. And we all know the malevolent Mallory who is off-putting in her unsaid energy. But loneliness is just the strangest thing to sense in a space. In a space surrounded by people, warmth, lights and music, it lingered there. Like cigarette smoke! You could mask it with mint, but only so much.

For a moment, I paused. This was such an odd, and yet familiar, energy. Was it real? Or was it just the smell of wood, or maybe the lighting? I told myself I was imagining things and shrugged it off, but a part of me remained curious. The energy of loneliness, a distinct air I’ve felt in people’s homes–was this commonly experienced?

Dominicana

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I read a book this evening. Literature. Fiction. It was called Dominicana. It reminded me of Junot Diaz because of its style and themes. Cheating, romance, love and poverty. Moments of betrayal. The Dominican Republic. New York City. Poverty juxtaposed against more poverty. Relative wealth–Americana!

It wasn’t until after I heard Junot Diaz speak that I realized I had read him first. I’d first read his story one morning in 2012. It was hot and summery. I’d woken up sticky and sweaty. His story splayed across the New Yorker website on my small blue iPod touch. I stopped several times mid-passage to absorb the story. I ruminated over his prose over and over and over again. I toyed with the metaphors in my mind: soft literary play doh. When I heard his voice in the auditorium in 2015, reading funny little snippets, it rang familiar. I was there on a news photograph assignment, because I’d heard that he was an author who was a Big Deal. That was also how I ended up photographing Zadie Smith and Adam Grant–I’d never read their stuff, but they were writers, and that, to me, made them glow. Only later did I study their words and the weight of photographing them hit me.

Dominicana was the second story I’d read in a day about immigrant women marrying men in America for some reason or another and, of course, for the implied resources. Money! Escapism. Riches. The expectations. Of leaping to a country with roads paved in relative gold. Financial security. And oh, of climbing the social ladder via men with the means. And then the inevitable quick-tumble of realization, of misery, of loneliness and arguments ensuing. These stories have always existed as quiet whispers of what others may have gone through. Friends’ parents.  Friends of friends’ parents. Some divorced. Other stayed together, but were entirely distant. I would rather avoid the narrative in the flesh, but still: it’s intriguing to read about.

10:09 pm

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I’m tired. I don’t like this sense of floating. I feel like I’m floating from one state to another, between certainty and uncertainty, motivation and laziness, meaningfulness and meaninglessness. It’s not a marked issue–I’m not plagued with a consistent emotion, and there are no external conflicts. It’s just mild turbulence, and I wish I could shake it off. But it seems like one of those things I’ve known of since I was very little, this sense of floating.

My writing is kind of shitty, in my humble opinion, but I’m too tired to care. It was all this stuntin’ back in 2016 when I was taking dopey stupid writing classes and writing poetry. I no longer feel that anymore. Everything has carved into something much more literal lately. I yawn myself back into yesterday. I remember those days. I remember those dreams. And I’m too tired to care.

This blog will morph into just my little journaling outlet, where I can publicly, semi-anonymously just write about the mundane. And I’m sick of hearing girls’ snarky judgements behind my back, echoing in my ear.

Weekend Trip

This past weekend was a good one.

We roll in after five and a half hours on the road. For the first half, I immerse myself in the bloated dialogue of Altered Carbon, pausing every now and then to contemplate the soothing country road.

Do you want to make a stop? Why not? We take our bathroom break in the crowded & glorified stop. It glitters and shimmers with clamoring families and fake lashes and bustling bodies. The last time we came here, about two summers back, the bathrooms were cleaner.

A few hours in, we find ourselves trapped in miles of stagnant traffic. We drive onto the parallel local road, cruise up a few miles, then stopped again, snail-crawling our way around a closed highway. On a Friday night. Afterwards, it’s dark. I don’t pay attention to the tolls on tolls, just the small screen in front of me.

Eat, sleep, wake. There’s a stork by the lake, a spider on the window. We down some coffee, eat fried rice, drive over to GameStop, then the grocery store, and then back. Video games, dreariness, chattiness, and then the FunPlace, with the slightly overpriced roller skating arena. We glide on the cold cream concrete floor. Except for one. I am terrified watching him hobble his way dangerously on skates. He leans forward, like he’s about to topple over, and every push is a tense one. After two hours, we go home, sweaty and tired.

Another grocery run. Barbecue. DJing and grilling by the lake. Time passes. Around dinner, we pop in for food and the match. It’s a nervous match, and we’re on the edge of our seats the whole time. Good bye. Good night. You are the king, and I am the queen. I am the king.

Next day’s one spent with small people. Dolls. Fashion show. Hide and go seek. I, the dedicated hider, decide to hide for 36 minutes under a box in the garage. I send riddles with hints buried in them. We resort to more and more desperate measures. Fence hopping. Backyard sneaking. But still, the other games go by relatively quickly.

We call it a night, and half play games, while the other half plays music. Eventually, I conk out, tired, until early the next morning, when we leave.

Warp

I often feel like the same exact person with the same exact tendencies and same exact thoughts and same exact desires and same exact confusions as I was years and years ago, just with different memories.

All those experiences imploded into themselves, became wisps of recollection. When I revisit them, they’re light and intangible. It’s the strangest f’ing thing, circling around constantly to who I was before.

As we ate ramen yesterday and I scrambled to find words, that expression rang true: it’s as if everything that happened in between condenses like nothing’s ever changed.

I feel myself sinking into the cushion, wondering how the mind warps time so well.

String of Thoughts

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A string of thoughts, in no particular order:

  • The mind is the strangest thing. One of my favorite books reminds me that we’re all stuck in our heads, projecting our own distorted notions of reality onto the screen of our minds. It’s all constructed, pieced together by attention, a weird believable 3D fabrication that we call reality. Like Rorshach blots. We see what we choose to see. And the things I see make me panicky. But then I’ll become aware of this, that we’re all making this shit up, and feel calmer at the thought.
  • Thoughts are what brought me here: October, February, July–have you ever felt so listless you wanted to die? Moments like that. Sprawled on some surface by a window pouring sunlight and periodic existential crises. Then I’ll just want to watch comedy shows at hotel lobbies in Florida, where I can moan about how much I hate traveling, god, just take me home.
  • Even so, I miss New York so much. I couldn’t tell you why. Everyone gets so excited when they visit New York, inundate their social media feeds in it–look, the Empire State of motherfucking dreams. For a moment I thought New York became less sparkly–it’d lost its glitz and glam, become drizzly and cold (stuffed in a cab full of chatty ambitious strangers). Evidently it hasn’t. I miss the wide streets, the energy, the movement, the noise. It’s overwhelming, but remove the source for a while and I start to miss it.
  • A stranger in the city with a giant bouquet flowers once told me that we’re all looking for somebody to listen, that strangers just want to be listened to. I believe her. Half a year later I emailed her saying hello, and she said that she sometimes looked for me in the city. Isn’t that odd? To be looked for, even if only briefly? I became so accustomed to searching in the sea of moving faces that it never occurred to me that somebody would ever look for mine.

January 2017

Pieces

These girls, they drift in and out bleating some language I don’t understand. Eight year old me understood. Twelve year old me understood. Years later, I still don’t understand.

— — — —

Time’s weird.

It feels like the weekend although the weekend hasn’t started. It’s because I feel slow, slow and relaxed and languid, like maybe a sloth or maybe a koala. I see flashes of Tampa, Florida in my mind as I consider my slothiness. I see flashes of blue and sea as we’re on the highway. I’m trying to get the sun positioned right behind my hair. No, not like this. Like that. From that angle. I see a tiger sweatshirt and wild cats that’ll never be free. In the pictures my hair’s even more untamed than the felines prowling the space.

— — — —

being-is-strange

I have an art crush. This is my art crush, @elesq. I wormhole through art blogs on tumblr every so often and stumble upon styles/artists I really like and this is one. Simple poignant stuff. I’d emulate it, but I feel like my style is kind of heavy–I go and try to fill in every space possible. When I attempt minimalism I’m inclined to fill in the spaces. But you’re supposed to let the space speak for itself. Like silences used for effect in plays. In conversations. In speeches where you think people have dropped off from listening so when you’re quiet they’re jarred back to attention: why aren’t you droning on anymore?

Mango Poppers

img_4760Lately, I’ve been flooded with memories. Vignettes. The sight of a person early morning, blue polo, by the coffee machine. Sunday runs with friends and pastel chalk we’d line ourselves with. Fifth grade secrets about love once unrequited, reversed, now going unrequited. Hallway hugs and devious plans, being called on our shit by the guy who got expelled. These images, vivid and clear, are like bursts of yellow mango poppers. Syrupy and strange. Abrupt and angry. And then they fade, quickly, only to make way for another.