Christmas at the Machados' has always been anything but traditional. (For years, our most honored ritual was drinking pina coladas on the beach on Xmas morning. The simple reason being: "cuz we can.")

This year our family decided to forego buying presents for each other (with the exception of my 18-month-old nephew), as well as sitting down for some cliched turkey meal. (This was after conceding that no other food could possibly interest us as much as the shortbread cookies sitting on our kitchen counter, and therefore, we'd be wasting our time pretending to care about protein.)

All in all, it was a wonderfully self-indulgent Christmas. See highlights below.

- My Christmas Eve dinner: A few slices of processed ham and a handful of Doritos. And of course, shortbread cookies.

- My favorite present that wasn't mine: My nephew's rocking horse. It has the mechanics of a mechanical bull (i.e. it's bouncy and creates a rubberband-like, circular, back-and-forth motion), and is therefore, ahem, very pleasurable.

- My Christmas day entertainment: Two hours of "Teen Mom" on MTV. My stepmom, brother and I gathered around the television to critique the disfunction of the reality show's characters, relishing in the fact that they put our own disfunction to shame.

- My Christmas evening: In lieu of a crackling fireplace, my family and I sat in front of a 70-foot screen at the Ward Center Megaplex for the new George Clooney movie, followed by wine, maitais and a discussion about cougars (the women, not the cats).

In conclusion, it was a very blessed holiday indeed.



Because I too have to prove my worth on the family farm, these are the tasks I completed yesterday:

1. For my dad: Downloading an agriculture land use form off the Internet. (He just got his first email account this year and finds the whole Interwebs thing a hassle. This was a fitting assignment for me, having been dubbed "the brain" of the family, i.e. the only one to finish college.)

2. For my stepmom: Baking a rum cake. She was throwing a holiday party and needed a dessert. Naturally, she thought something that involved booze would be my forte. She was right. I added some extra Bacardi and licked the bowl.

3. For my dad: Keeping him company at the mall. His goal was to avoid the dozen or so of my stepmom's friends while they talked about babies, grandbabies, men and PMS and blew through 13 bottles of wine at the house. We came back at 10 p.m. to find most of them still chatting away in the living room. But at least I was able to steal the last piece of rum cake.



A few months ago my parents moved out of the family home where I was raised on Oahu. They now live on the country side of the island, on a farm in Waimanalo.

This is quite a change from the police sirens and mopeds that buzzed up and down the main drag of our old neighborhood of Kalihi Valley--chaos relegated to the background, and the price of living close to "town."

If my parents' removal from city life is an indicator of age (or maturing priorities), then their everyday life on the farm is concrete evidence of the give-a-shit, laid-back attitude that comes with age. This is not to imply my parents are cripples or inactive; my dad spends most of his day putzing around on a fork lift, while my stepmom cooks rum cakes and does paperwork as she overlooks the Koolau Mountains. But here on the farm, life, and therefore conversation about life, is indeed simpler, and often straight to the point.

Day 2 of my month long visit home:
[I walk into the kitchen to get a bowl a cereal. My Dad is staring out the window by the stove.]
Me: Good morning, Dad.
Dad: [Turns around.] I've got the runs.

Yesterday, 6:30 p.m., when the day is done but it's not quite dinnertime:
[My Dad, Brother and I are sitting on the front deck watching our two dogs hump each other.]
Brother: You should get Waldo fixed, Dad.
Dad: He is fixed.
[Waldo, a plump Dachshund, mounds Bandit, a slender, graceful Boxer, again and again. After several successful attempts, he eventually jumps off.]
Me: Dad, I don't think he's fixed. He's rockin' a boner.
[My Dad picks up oblong-shaped Waldo and turns him upside down. A pink, rock hard protrusion is indeed jutting out perpendicular to his body.]
Dad: [With deep, hoarse laughter.] Holy shit. Waldo's got a hammer! Look at that! That turkey! I thought he was fixed.
[More laughter. My brother, 23, buries his head in shame. Waldo prances around in front of us.]
Dad: [Still laughing.] Waldo, you've got quite a hammer for a little shit!
[My brother grabs the dog--from the front half of his body--and carries him around the corner of the house.]
Brother: I couldn't take it.



Since I'm leaving Portland for good in three days to head to Hawaii for a month, and then from there, moving straight to New York in the new year, I not only had to strategize wardrobes, but I had to scrutinize how much of my crap I really needed.

At first I planned to get everything I owned into 6 boxes, plus suitcases. I ended up with 15 boxes. Still, I didn't do too badly in the purging department.

Final count dumped:
- 12 large garbage bags shoved in my apartment's trash bins
- 5 bags of clothes, shoes and bags sold to Buffalo Exchange
- 3 boxes of books sold to Powell's
- 2 chairs, 1 sofa, 1 coffee table, 1 end table and 1 TV stand sold off of Craigslist
- Every pot, pan and appliance owned (except espresso machine and blender - Americanos and smoothies are necessities; baking, frying and boiling are not) donated to thrift store
- 1 Jeep Cherokee sold to a man who figured out within 48 hours that it was a piece of shit. (Too late sucka!)

One last view of my studio. Emptied and clean.

Of all purged items, these were the most internal dialogue-provoking:

1. Shot glasses. When it came time to individually wrap these suckers, I realized that I should be past the age where people (as in 20 people) come over and we all do shots together--no matter the circumstance, whether it's before heading out the door to go to a bar or after four beers. At least, I want to be this person, so I threw them away.

2. This brings me to the 9 wine openers I found. If I was to be judged here, let me say that I had only 4 shot glasses and 9 wine openers, therefore my mature drinking habits beat my immature ones. But honestly, these only served as reminders of how many waitressing jobs I've had. Most of them had a winery's name etched in them, a gift to restaurants from wine reps that are usually passed on to servers. I kept 4 of them. They didn't need to be individually wrapped.

3. Discman. I was about to throw this into a box with all the other junk stuffed in my desk drawer when the thought occurred to me, "Under what circumstance will I ever need to use this?" Even if my iPod died tomorrow, I would not find a way to strap this to my body and start running. I would not pack this my carry-on, mostly because then I'd have to carry around a bunch of CDs. Even if I did have a bunch of CDs I'd want to listen to, I'd have to go through them all and plan accordingly what I think I'd want to listen to several hours and days from now. And I'd have to buy some back up AA batteries. If I can get rid of an old cell phone, I can most definitely get rid of skipping, portable CD player with a "fuct" sticker on it.

4. Fondue set. In theory, melted cheese or chocolate would make the ideal dipping sauce for just about anything I like, such as bacon, pears and more cheese. But I never opened it. Sure, using it would take work, like buying the right chocolate and plugging it in, but I think my aversion to the contraption had more to do with the name: Nesting Fondue. I cannot stand the word "nesting"; it's almost as vomit-inducing as "settling," like "settling down." When I think of chocolate and cheese, and pouring such decadence over salty goods, while drinking a glass of a wine, toddlers, mortgages and 401Ks don't come to mind. Maybe "Fornicating Fondue" would've been more enticing.



I, Jessica Machado, fan of pre-marital sex, alcohol and caffeine, spent Thanksgiving with 30 Mormons.

As far as setup goes, I need not say much more, except that my Mormon aunt and uncle were sweet enough to offer me a full turkey spread at their friends' house, and I spent the night prior to T-day drinking wine until 2:30 in the morning, putting me in a next-day social haze and further adding to an already awkward situation. In other words, I was a little slow when I shook hands with 27 strangers and tried to explain what I do for a living (freelance writer for a dying paper; long-term grad student; income scrounger) and why I'm moving to NY in a month (No, I don't have a job lined up or a place to live). Although I can usually find common ground with most people, my state at the time, coupled with excessive stuffing and spoonfuls of green bean casserole, made it a little challenging to animatedly explain my existence to a room full of parents, grandparents and charitable folk who give 10 percent of their income to God.

However, in the end, I think I pulled off a fair amount of sociability, and they were none the wiser about my subtle hangover. (The fact that they may have no understanding of such a concept also helps. However, I did give one woman my business card, so she could be reading this right now and busting me.) And yet I didn't necessarily pull off not being a general douchebag.

On the drive home, my uncle made the comment that it was interesting to see me talking to so-and-so, a very nice woman dressed in J Crew, who's about the same age as I am. "It's weird because she has three kids, a house and a family," he said. I joked how she's "so adult" compared to me, to which my aunt innocently replied, "Well, Jessica, some of us are just late bloomers."

I was too dazed to come up with snarky retort.



Turns out that writing, recovering, editing and defending a thesis is not enough to earn you the right to say "I turned in my thesis." There is a process, a very specific process, one that involves formatting guidelines and $80 worth of paper, just so three copies of this document will sit in a basement unread for eternity.

While I sloughed through the graduate office's bureaucratic rigmarole, I did manage to find a few "little joys." For example:

1.) I had to come up with a title and abstract for my thesis. I took this to mean I should come up with a catchy title for my memoir and a snappy synopsis for my imaginary book jacket, clever little hooks that will get my non-existent hardcovers to fly off the shelves and on to the NYT Best Seller List. But there was just one problem: Somehow in the four years I thought about writing a memoir, I never gave much thought to what I would call it.

So strapped for time, I went the cheesy route.

In the vain of all the current memoirs on the shelves--Leaving Dirty Jersey: A Crystal Meth Memoir; Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together; and Going Rogue: An American Life--I was very inclined to use a colon.

Failed ideas:
- Project Runaway: One Woman's Determined Journey to Escape Paradise for the Recklessness of Hollywood
- How to Regret Your Twenties: A Guide to Excessive Drinking and Avoiding Your Mother
- Wah!: A Twentysomething's Refusal to Grow Up

The Winner:
- Under the Covers: A Memoir of Reluctance

(Sadly, this really was the best I could come up within a week.)

2.) In a thesis, anything copyrighted that's quoted or described in detail needs to be cited. I had two things listed on the "Works Cited" page of the most important paper of my academic career:

- Motely Crue. “Girls, Girls, Girls.” Girls, Girls, Girls. Elektra, 1987. MTV. 11 May 1987. Music Video.

- Crane, David, and Marta Kauffman. "The One with the Jam." Friends. NBC. 3 Oct. 1996. Television.

3.) When you turn in your thesis, you get a mug that reads "I just turned in my thesis." No joke. I filled it with beer and took four aspirin.



Portland: The City that Accommodates



I'm not quite sure when you're too old to be carrying a flask to a party, taking shots of Goldschlager, or begging the convenience store cashier to let you buy a case of beer at 2:03 a.m., but I'm pretty sure it's sometime before the age of 32.

Now, the above scenario would be somewhat excusable on Halloween (which was when this occurred), but when you find yourself playing a drinking game called "Moose" at 3:30 in the morning one week later, you start to wonder if growing up is even plausible.

Because I don't mind further exposing my blatant immaturity and sharing what I learned this weekend (when other "kids" my age were changing diapers, or doing more sophisticated things like the New York Times crossword puzzle or lines of blow), I've created a handbook to playing Washington state party favorite, "Moose." (Being from Hawaii, in college, I only played games like "quarters," which involved, simply enough, flipping a quarter into a shot glass. I didn't even see a beer bong or a keg stand until my midwestern ex-boyfriend demonstrated such classics at a holiday party one year.)

Moose rules:

1) All players pour some of whatever they're drinking (at this point in the morning it was whatever crap beer was left in the fridge - Hamm's, Olympia, PBR) into a mug.

2) Prop up an empty ice tray onto the mug.

(And take inaccurate documentation of such a display. I apologize for the missing mug. It was 2:30 in the morning after all.)

3) Players then take turns bouncing a quarter off of the table and into the ice tray.

4) If the quarter lands in the left column, the "bouncer" (aka the one who threw the quarter) drinks the number of cube spaces reached from the bottom of the tray.

(In this case it was four spaces. And four very long gulps.)

5) If the quarter lands in the right column, the bouncer gets to delegate drinks to whichever player he/she wants based on the number cube spaces reached from the bottom.

(In this case it was five and the player delegated them all to himself.)

6) Whenever a player gets the quarter into one of the very top two spaces, all players race to bring their hands to their heads like antlers and call out "Moose." The last player to call "Moose" has to drink the contents of the mug.

7) If the quarter lands in the mug, the bouncer also has to drink whatever's in the mug. (Depending on how you look at it, I was either the night's biggest winner or the biggest loser. I Moosed every single time. Hence, the lack of photos after this first Moose.)

On an unrelated but oh-so-related note, today, I overheard a woman old enough to be my mother explain the meaning of the word "douchebaguette" to her colleague. Hint: It was the inspiration for this post.



Today I made a date with Portland. I thought it was time the two of us got reacquainted outside of the bar scene.

We met up at the Wildwood Trail at Forest Park. No headphones, no cigarettes. Just a trickling creek, fallen leaves and the mushy ground below us. It was a surprisingly sunny day and I questioned why I was so eager to break things off for good. Haven't we had a good time? Haven't you given me the peace and quiet to write? The refreshing air and clean streets to play on? Could this other city that I'd been courting for some time romance me with midday strolls through damp greens and mountaintop vistas?

I continued on the trail for several miles until I got to Pittock Mansion, a centuries-old home a thousand feet high in the air. No one was around and I went around the back, remembering there was a beautiful view of the city from the yard. I hadn't seen my date in its full glory in some time, probably since we first met, when our romance was new and I was excited to traipse around its every crevice, when every quirk was endearing and I was protective over its every flaw.

As I turned the corner of the house, I could hear the drizzle of rain. By the time I walked across the yard over to the edge of the cliff, it was pouring. I stood there for a minute, the release upon me. The city looked hazy, gray covering gray, gray muting green. Speckles of concrete peeked out through the clouds. The rain stopped as soon as I got back on the trail, but I was already running down.



Why life is cool: Put out there what you want, put a little effort into making it happen, and you you'll end up where you're supposed to be.

Case in point: A month ago I was broke, missing Hawaii, looking for temporary mindless work and vulnerable with PMS. What I got was a job at the Denny's of Hawaiian food (i.e. the Portland version of Zippy's).

Second case in point: Two days ago, after being laid off from scooping rice, I got on Craigslist, vowing never to wear another orange tee shirt for 10 percent tips, vowing to have some pride in my work (even if it is only temporary). I came across a posting that my former tutoring job was hiring. I put in an email and voila! A day later I was teaching sophomores how to write personal narratives and discussing with fifth graders why birds make stupid pets ("You can't even tell if it's a boy or girl," 10-year-old Akshat told me.) And most importantly, I make a lot more than minimum wage and I get to wear a blouse.


There are certain things I believe that we, as a society, should come to an understanding about when using.

For instance, when running on a track, let's all run in the same direction, counter clockwise. Who are the people (usually the one guy in elite running gear) who think they're above this?

Also, if you can see a staircase nearby, and you get into an elevator, you should only be: a) ascending four floors or more; b) ascending two or more floors and in a rush; or c) providing entertainment to whoever's stuck with you for the ride. People who meet these criteria do not have the time or patience to stop on every goddamn floor.

Today, I was late for class, so I jumped in the elevator in the basement of a very busy building. A guy singing along to his ipod got in with me. I pushed "3." He reached in front of me and I prepared for the worst. He hit "G" for ground. One measly floor.

"Yeah, that's right," he told me as he backed up into the far corner. "I'm lazy."

I couldn't help but chuckle.

"I know, I know," he continued. "I saw the way you looked at me."

According to my rules, he got a pass. Self deprecation and calling out fellow passengers' uptight bullshit also fall under option c).

As soon as he got out, I violently pushed the close door button, making sure none of the people waiting on the ground floor had a chance to get in.



I probably have no reason to admit this now that it's behind me but here it goes:

For the last month I've waited tables at a Hawaiian fast food restaurant.

Unfortunately, when I say "behind me," I don't mean that it was of my choosing to leave, but instead, I was taken off the schedule. My boss said she gave away my two shifts a week to servers who want to make scooping rice and mac salad "their careers." I hope they all live happily ever after in delusion.

Anywhoo, now that it's over we can all laugh about it, right? Many lifetimes ago I vowed never to wait another table, let alone do so for $25 a night, wearing a bright orange T-shirt and serving soda out of a can. It seems absurd that at 32, I was being bossed around by my 23-year-old coworkers, these same coworkers who'd ask me where I'd previously worked, ones I tried to tell without sounding arrogant or like a pathological liar that I write for the state paper and that I'll be soon graduating with my MFA. I could justify why I took the job (it's the recession, we're all taking crappy jobs to pay the bills; it was temporary until I move; I'd just come back from Hawaii and was nostalgic; I knew I wouldn't run into a single soul I knew there), but ultimately, the whole thing was a lesson in humility.

Here's what else I learned while serving salty meat products for $8 a plate:

1. I still hate haoles. Sure, I'm haole (or white) but when white people are juxtaposed against local Hawaiian people, it becomes very obvious why locals hate whities. Haoles think they know everything, especially haoles in their twenties, whereas locals never assume to know a damn thing. They're from an island for chrissakes. They know they don't know shit. Half of my former coworkers grew up in the islands and had humble positions at the restaurant like cooking and dishwashing. They smiled and showed me where things were; they treated me how they'd want to be treated. My haole coworkers were the servers who told me it was my turn to mop the floors and how I'd sprinkled coconut on the haupia pie the wrong way. This could obviously be a metaphor for how whites end up dominating indigenous people and getting ahead. But when it comes to making the perfect riceball, their ambition is being wasted. Haoles simply need to relax.

2. The perfect scoop of rice is all in the firm touchdown--when the scooper meets the plate or to-go container--before the release of the handle.

3. Free food shuts people up.

4. As much as I'd hate to admit it, mindless work from the hours of 5-9 is kinda the perfect break for someone who sits in front of her laptop, mulling over her life every other hour of the day.

5. Eating Kahula pig never gets old. Neither does mac salad. (Reason #3 also applies to grumpy servers who get shift meals.)

6. Every once in a while, you need to feel rejected by something you never really wanted. Puts into perspective who you think you are.

7. This will surely make great fodder for an essay one day.



Yesterday was my mother's birthday. She would have been 65. Yesterday was also the day that I turned in my thesis, much of which is about my mother's death. The day I will defend this thesis is Nov. 3, the day before my mother died seven years ago.

I don't write much about my mom except for the pages upon pages that I write about her nearly every day. That sounds like I'm being smug, but the truth is the more I write about her, the more I feel disconnected to her. My mother has been a character, or more so, an anomaly, for so long, and I, the narrator trying to figure herself out in relation to her mother, that I forget that the real Jessica and the real Sarah weren't some dramedy being played out on the page. I have to write from such a distance that days like yesterday come and go, and for a split second I stop to think "Do I miss her?" and then I shut off. My memory is full of scenes I've written, descriptions that make up my mother's profile--words which serve the greater good of the story I'm trying to tell--that I'm no longer sure what other memories I have of her.

So on this day after her birth, this afterthought of an afterthought, here's something my mother told me over and over again at age 9, age 15 and age 22, something that I didn't include in my thesis. She told me, "All I want for you is to be happy."

I've written lofty statements like "my mother made loneliness seem inevitable" or "to live with her reclusive side, I quickly realized I had to do my own thing," all attempts to explain away my own feelings at a given time. But it's my mother's valued "happiness," the way she cured things with laughter, that has been the real motivator is my life--whether it has taken the form of instant gratification or years of struggle to reach a single moment of pride. I've made mistakes, been slow to learn, acted selfishly, but I've never dwelled in misery. My mother's simple cliche is the greatest influence she's had on me.

Thank you, Mom.

I am.


For a brief, delusional period yesterday, I fancied myself one of those rare people who could sit alone on a park bench and actually take in the scenery. I didn't glance at my phone (I didn't even have it on me), nor did I peruse any reading material. Instead, I watched a couple split a burrito and a large woman wearing a sandwich board warn passersby about the dangers of the flu shot. I was ready to congratulate myself on my five minutes of purposeless observation, when I put a cigarette to my lips and exhaled a puff of smoke. That's when I realized I was no different than the other eaters, talkers and smartphoners who couldn't find a reason to sit alone and do nothing.

Worse than this is the 2.01 tendency to be doing two or three somethings at once. When I'm walking down the street, I cannot simply be walking. I have to have my earbuds in. I'm 32. If someone asked me when I was eight if I'd still be listening to my walkman on thrice daily basis when I was 32, I'd think he was crazy. I'd also think 32 was only a short ride away from my grave.

Also extinct: The art of cooly waiting at the bar alone. The company of a stiff drink is no longer enough. Guys, girls, parents even, have to be texting someone, or pretending to text someone, or playing a game on their iPhone. When I'm alone at a bar, I purposely stare off into middle space, concentrating really hard on looking cool with nothing in my hands. It's rather exhausting, really.

My newish, sometimes smoking habit is the closest tool I have to putting me in the moment. Sad, I know. But I think smoking is completely underrated. Which brings me to another benefit of lighting up: since people tend to look down on smokers these days, no one will come near you. You really are all alone in the middle of a wide, open world.



After spending the summer documenting my observations of the East Coast, I now see my own Portland, Oregon, neighborhood with fresh eyes.

I live in an area of the city dubbed Nob Hill. It is in the Northwest quadrant, known to most as the uppety and probably the most expensive of the five quadrants (in Pdx, a quad = 5). My apartment is a skip away from the posh condo pocket called the Pearl, and minutes away from the fancy, centuries-old mansions in Hillside above the glorious rose gardens at Forest Park. Where I live on 21st Avenue, there are probably more bars and restaurants within an 8-block stretch than any other area in Portland. Two streets up from me is 23rd, or "Trendy Third," which was once Portland's premiere shopping district.

Once is the operative word.

It's time to rethink these nicknames. There's a Gap, a Levi's and a Paper Source on Trendy Third. Granted 21st's restaurant row has a handful of really good, really expensive restaurants but the ones that are within the Regular Portlander's budget (i.e. tacos and Thai takeout) aren't memorable and are pathetically un-ethnic. But these days, what seems most preposterous in relation to the neighborhood's supposed shi-shiness are the residents. There's nothing snooty about them. (Btw, let me mention how ironic it is that I'm just now noticing who lives here. While I don't get paid to blog, I do get paid to write about the goings on in my neighborhood. It is actually in my job description.)

Lately, when I wander around my hood during the day, what I see are early twenty-somethings that looked like they just got off Godsmack's tour bus--the bus for roadies and crew, mind you. The one that picked up these good ol' American slackers in northern Michigan or a suburb outside of Chicago and brought them straight to the dark, sketchy Marathon Taverna here on Burnside to drink High Life and play video poker. Everyone in my neighborhood has this early-2000 rock look about them, complete with that still-slightly-awkward-in-your-own-skin trace of adolescence. They wear a selection of less offensive T-shirts from Hot Topic and jeans that are ill-fitting, held up by studded belts. They sport wavy hair (longer for guys, shorter for girls; the more coiffed chicks have chunky black-versus-blonde highlights), and they always have a cigarette in hand. Or a dog.

Your typical couple: Guy in varying fades of black, some band logo on his T-shirt, backwards cap, sneakers; girl with chunk of blue in her hair, some naughty or supposedly clever saying on her baby tee; both of them very, very white.

The alterna-sporty look circa '94: A jersey, pleated white mini skirt and knee-high socks.

But then of course, these are the people who don't have real day jobs like me. For all I know, this could just be what college kids look like these days: outdated versions of what I looked like when I was a displaced freshman. (Note: PSU is nearby and if I were moving here from a small town, I too would think the words "Nob Hill" sound exciting.)

At night, however, it's harder to judge who actually lives on 21st or 23rd. Most who frequent the bars in my hood, especially during the weekend, have come from the bridges (ghetto Gresham) and tunnels (yuppie Beaverton). They all look like they're trying too hard, which is the exact opposite of the day crowd.

Which brings me back to the reputation of the Northwest. If the westside is supposed to be more "city" (in other words, it includes downtown), then the cool kids will tell you that the east is more laid back, honest, or "real" (in other words, cheaper, somewhat bohemian and spread out). However, I realize now that what makes the east more real isn't that my westside hood is pretentious. The guys in my neighborhood haven't changed their lip piercings and Camel cigarette tastes since 1992. What makes the eastside--the region dotted with hipster plaid and retro reading glasses--more real is that having a too-cool-for-school attitude really is what Portland's all about.



Once a month I feel like I'm sinking. Heavy. Weighted by what I expect from myself. I'm unable to get out of bed or make it to the store, let alone create anything of worth. My paralysis causes me to feel guilty, which then causes me to moan and grumble further. Gravity pulls the corners of my mouth toward the floor and smiling seems like punishment. My only consolation is that I know I'm useless, so trying to accomplish anything is a bad idea and will only lead to more disappointment. This is what I tell myself. I instead choose to lay on the couch and watch hours of bad television. But since I don't have cable, I have to get off the couch and go to the video store to get neatly packed discs of zone-worthy material. Digging for my car keys and driving for six blocks takes thirty minutes, not five.

When I finally get to collapse in front of the screen, draped in my flannel PJs, under the throw blanket, the churning in my gut is still there. I crave milk, like a little girl desperate to believe the old wives' tale that something borne from a mother figure will sooth what's upsetting me. Sometimes I stick my hand down the front of my drawstring pants and rub my rumbling tummy, hoping to melt into the cushions until that nonsense inside of me goes away.

Lord, I fucking hate PMS.



July 4, 2009: The Day The Thesis Died

What followed this somber Fourth of July were a few weeks of hope (some may call it denial) that my 100 pages of well-revised work could be recovered. No such luck. Instead of falling into a self pity stooper, a month later, I had a 134 pages of a very, very rough thesis recreated mostly from memory. Remarkable, you might say, but that initial recreation was nothing compared to the next 16 days of polishing. 

At one point last week, I realized the only words I uttered within a 48-hour period were "coffee refill, please." I became a hermit. I couldn't see straight. My only breaks were to go on runs or to play on the swings at the top of Washington Park. (For anyone who wants their brain to shut off momentarily, I recommend swinging high above a forest of pine trees to Yeah Yeah Yeah's "Maps" blasting in your ears.)

For intermittent mini-releases, I'd go to the bathroom, wash my water glass or walk to the fridge for a slice of cheese. I started to go through a pack and half of gum a day. 

Then I realized the best relief was a no-brainer: cigarettes. Now, I'm not a smoker (although I did dabble in college - I was goth; I smoked cloves at 80s nights). And I didn't walk into the gas station and buy a pack of Marlboro Lights (I told you I wasn't a smoker; I wasn't even cool enough to get American Spirits or Parliaments) thinking it'd be a stress reliever. Honestly. I'm the gal who waits in the bar by herself while everyone goes outside to light up. My theory was that a cigarette provided the perfect 5 to 7 minute break, or "little joy" that I needed to step outside and grab some air, or some polluted air I suppose. Hell, it worked. And it did kinda "feel" good too. Okay, it felt pretty damn good. 

So good I didn't even step outside for this one.

But in the end, I had 150 pages of thesis to turn into my advisor. Tada! 

One draft down, another revision due (and another thesis binge to occur) in the next month. Hooray. 



As much as I love the distraction of blogging, I will be on posting hiatus until mid September. Until then my ass will in be stuck to my chair, or some chair at some coffee shop around Portland, recreating my thesis. Trust me, you wouldn't want to read about anything I'm doing right now. I was excited about a fire alarm the other day. 



A friend once explained to me that brunch was her favorite meal because it was a legitimate (and somewhat dignified) excuse to drink before noon. To take her theory one step further, I believe brunch is also perfect time-wise because it provides a smooth segue into happy hour, which is my favorite meal of the day. (Yes, several cocktails plus some sort of greasy, cheesy starch for under $20 is a very good meal indeed.) 

This weekend, this particular friend came to town, and the two of us brunched all day long. For two days straight. I wouldn't even bother trying to name any of these other meals we had "dinner," "lunch" or "cocktails." When you're two girls in New York City, wandering around in a semi-drunk, semi-hungover state, stopping to intermittently chat, imbibe and nibble on whatever tickles your fancy, I call that brunching. Or European mimicry.

Saturday's Menu: 
2 ice coffees
2 bloody marys
1 mimosa
granola, berries, yogurt
drunken baked beans, poached egg, bacon
side of bacon
side of hash browns
2 iced green teas
20-ounce passion fruit margarita
20-ounce pomegranate margarita
2 baskets of tortilla chips
bowl of homemade guacamole
1 fresh watermelon martini
1 glass of rose
platter of fruit, cheese and honey
skillet of mussels in white wine and garlic
4 glasses of sauvignon blanc
2 glasses of pinot grigio

Sunday's Menu (Note: We did scale back. At least on alcohol.)
1 ice coffee
2 cups of coffee
1 bloody mary
smoked salmon, creme fresh, capers, pumpernickel bread
rainbow trout, fried egg, dried mushrooms
1 cappuccino
1 americano
3 mini ice cream cones
desert platter (mini lemon cake, mini raspberry mousse and lemon ice cream)
1 scoop of vanilla ice cream
side of hot fudge
side of fries
(We went our separate ways at 5 p.m. I later had a chicken salad, two chocolate chip cookies and another scoop of vanilla ice cream.)

Although the sugar intake increased on Sunday (absence of booze = sugar cravings), look what we did pass up (but were still hypnotized by to take pictures of) between pit stops and hangover hazes: 

Yes, this a Barbie cake. Fabulous. 

Look at all that self discipline.



I realize that it seems rather odd that I'm living in the second largest metropolis in the world, and yet I keep finding myself near the ocean or in the wilderness or at a tourist trap for old people. Call it the "grass is always greener" syndrome or balance perhaps.

However, there was nothing balanced, okay, "greener," or even authentically green about the Water Taxi Beach I visited last weekend in Long Island City. 

It was just plain odd. 

To get here from Manhattan, a free yellow pontoon takes patrons across the East River over to LIC, which is the middle ground (and the more affordable, less overly hip home for artists than W'burg) between Queens and Brooklyn. It sounds inviting, if not, at the very least, surreal: a shoreside margarita hangout with view of the NYC skyline. 

But it was rather disappointing. (Note the rainbow plastic palm tree.)

Don't get me wrong, I expected nothing less than the Velveeta-est of cheesiness. And that I got. Guys with popped collars and meatheads with Old English tats across their stomachs. Chicks with chunky highlights and knockoff designer shades. Bad house music. Even a mom in a thong bikini dancing with her kids in the DJ tent. 

I'll even excuse the girls sunbathing between the picnic benches. 

But what I won't excuse is the shoddiness of it all. It looked like a bunch of sand was dumped in an unused parking lot between old industrial buildings (some of which, of course, are being converted to high rise condos named "The Foundry"). The benches were dilapidated and the bar tents were grungy. The only thing that saved my weak $10 well vodka soda (I even had to ask for a lime) was that before pouring in the half shot of booze, the bartender flipped my plastic cup into the air, caught it behind his back and twirled it. Classy moves studied straight from Cocktail. Except I think Tom Cruise worked with glass, not plastic, and didn't wear a basketball jersey. 



When planning my first trip to New York, I was a 20-year-old novice traveller. I bought a guide book. I looked up all the restaurants and clubs I wanted to try and mapped out which day we'd go to the Statue of Liberty and which afternoons had the cheapest Broadway matinees. I even toted the bulky travel bible around in my purse.

Since then, I've gotten lazy. Now I book a ticket and show up.

I knew nothing about Baltimore before I stepped off the bus last weekend. I haven't even been able to sit through a full episode of The Wire. Luckily, I didn't need to. I had the best tour guide a culturally inquisitive drunk could ask for: a historical performance artist.

My friend Megan let me in on a few fun facts about Baltimore while I was there. Such as:

1. Marble isn't just for mausoleums. In Baltimore, it's for the working class.

Back at the turn of the 19th Century, women who lived in row houses such as these would come out on Saturday mornings and wash their marble steps. Surely, it was an excuse to gossip. Megan tries to recreate this type of community building below.

2. Natty Boh (proper name: National Bohemian) is the city's official beer.

In the 60s, Natty and PBR breweries employed much of this blue collar city, which sparked quite a feud between beer drinkers. Eventually, Natty won. Today, signs, billboards and paraphernalia stores remain at every turn. No one seems to mind that the beer is now brewed in Milwaukee.

3. These things are cool.

Megan couldn't tell me how these Hispanic rickshaws came about, just that she read in the paper recently that they weren't doing very well because people prefer their produce stationary and from a grocery store. However, she thinks the publicity may've helped because she's seen more of these on the streets as of late. This is assuming anyone else still reads the paper.

4. Finally, ethnicities do their best to blend in Baltimore. For example:

Welcome to the "Salsapolkalooza" festival (That's right salsa and polka dancing all under one tent!)

A quinceanera store...

...that doubles as 70s bridal boutique
(P.S. We got caught in a thunderstorm.)

And a bagel shop that sells sushi and bulgogi. It also plays "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and uses a string of stale bagels as window decoration.



read a few weeks ago that romance novelist Nora Roberts had just one rule when it came to writing: 

Ass in the chair. 

I completely agree. That is why not much writing gets done in my apartment. 

I cannot sit still. My right hand and the fridge door are like magnets, my bladder seems to pester me constantly, I step out for impromptu jogs and I take hour-long phone calls. The other day, I even hand-washed some winter clothes. 

However, now that I have to rewrite the 100 pages of thesis I lost in the epic hard drive catastrophe (R.I.P. thousands of Word docs, music files and photos), plus the 60 or so more pages I was planning to add, all by mid-September, I have no choice. Ass. Needs. To. Be. In. Chair. 

So today I was up bright and early (5:30 to be exact) and I ran, showered and arrived at the neighborhood coffee shop by 9. (Public spaces guarantee a better Ass In Chair success rate. I'm too self conscious to peruse the cafe's fridge and frequent their bathroom.)

By 11 a.m., so far I have: 

Eaten: 1 bran muffin (could give me an excuse to get up and use the bathroom later)
Drank: 1 pot of green tea 
Chewed: 4 pieces of gum
Emailed: 2 people
Texted: 2 people
Commented on: 3 photos and 2 walls on Facebook
Searched for: 2 story ideas and the PSU fall class schedule to see if I really can graduate next term, because if not, why am putting myself through this torture
Written: 2 pages of thesis and one blog post

Updates to come.

UPDATE: 1:47 p.m.
Eaten: 1 weird, package of tofu crab cake thingies
Drank: 1/2 a large iced coffee
Commented on: 1 FB post
Emailed: 1 story idea to editor
Texted: 3 people (apparently everyone likes distraction on Fridays)
Breaked for bathroom: 2 times (and no, it has nothing to do with the bran muffin, in case your wondering)
Written: 5 pages of thesis (lots of blanks to fill in, but hey, pages are pages) 

UPDATE: 4 p.m.
Eaten: 1 peanut butter chocolate chip cookie with sea salt (sweet + salty = bliss)
Drank: last 1/2 of large iced coffee
Written: 7 pages of thesis (I do best at deadlines; I wrote five of those jibberish-filled pages in the last hour, knowing I gotta leave for work at 5)
Effed off on: 1 laptop application - Photo booth 

What too much caffeine looks like. 

What the best tasting cookie in the world looks like.



This is the most picturesque thing I saw at an art opening last night.

I was too busy hitting up the open bar on the rooftop to see any of the exhibits downstairs. Oops.


Urban people believe camping is more about a state of mind than it is about "roughing it." The rules and constituents are flexible, but you usually have a car, a tent, close proximity to a running toilet, the intention of getting back to nature and the inclination to regress to your spoiled ways. 

This last weekend in the Catskills, two and half hours outside of NYC, this is how I incorporated both my earthy and urban tendencies: 

Things I Like To Do Outdoors (Plus This Weekend's Highs and Lows)... 

1. Hike

High: See above.
Runner up: Bypassing my boyfriend, Mr. Fit-and-Trim Eagle Scout, on the steepest stretch of a 2,000-foot elevation gain. 
Low: Dirtying the seat of my stretch pants as I scooted down the cliff near this waterfall. 

2. Drink 
High: Opening a beer bottle with a giant stone. 
Low: No High Life in the liquor store.

3. Sit around a fire  
High: Watching Jiffy Pop catch on fire and then disintegrate like little critters into the ashes. 
Low: Not getting to eat any of the Jiffy Pop.

Things I Like To Do "In Town" (Or Things That Make Me a Townie)... 

1. Drive to and from the foot of the hike 
High: Taking off my dirty shoes, putting my feet on the dashboard and singing to Danzig. 
Low: Having packed only one pair of socks and putting the same dirty pair back on for another hike. 
2. Have people serve me food and drinks 
High: For once, not being the oldest people in the bar. In fact, in the village of Pheoncia, NY, a two-block stretch of five antique stores, we may've been the youngest. 
Low: A place that serves spaghetti and meatballs and curly fries can't make a stiff drink. 

3. Peruse the antique stores
High: Too many. The complete discography of Toto, the taxidermied mink and ammo window display, oil paintings of dolls, dolls that look like oil paintings.
Low: The Wren's Nest, which sold wolf tee shirts and staffs topped with crystals and little metal bulls, always seemed to be closed. 



I like cushy seats and audible conversations so I don't see as many live music as I used to. However, I did go to two shows recently. 

Because its been over 15 years since I started going to concerts, everything that was in style back then (like floral babydoll dresses and baggy plaid) is back in style again, and all the things that never go out of style like pubescent body odor, jackass heckling and testosterone were also still in tact. 

However, when comparing my then (i.e. my concert-going youth in Hawaii, a random stew of whatever 90s punk, ska and alternative acts made their way to an island) to my now (the free, all ages Man Man concert I went to the other day at East River Park on a much larger island called Manhattan), a few things stand out: 

The Pit 
Similarities: Somehow there's always a cloud of dust above the pit, like Pigpen in Peanuts, regardless if people are moshing in dirt or on pavement like they're doing here. 

Differences: In Hawaii, a lot of times moshers were grunts so these bulky Navy guys with crew cuts and steel-toe boots had a lot more aggression to get out than gawky emo kids wearing shirts that say "Broke is the new black." 

The "Music Moves Me" Dancer
Similarities: There's always that weird girl in the corner who flails her arms and gets into her own groove, acting as though she is the only one in the room, while everyone else is acting like rowdy, careless drunks.
Differences: In the 90s, she was more goth and pretended to shun the attention. At Man Man, a band that wears neon war paint and plays the kazoo and the xylophone, she is hula hooping. 

The Dweebs That Do a Poor Job of Pretending to Belong: 
Similarities: Being a social misfit in a group of social misfits isn't as cool as it sounds. 

Differences: In Hawaii, the grunts would almost fit into this category because even though they could kick all of our asses, no one liked them (except a few dominatrix friends I knew). However, in this day and age, as exemplified by the hula hooping girl, we have entered some wonky territory of nerd cool, so in theory, the hacky sack players that gathered by Man Man's last song could reasonably "belong." Just not in my book. To me, a circle of dudes gently kicking around a bean bag pouch is just always going to look plain sad. 



From the top of Coney Island's Wonder Wheel, the tallest ferris wheel in the world: 

On my left, half a million people and the Atlantic.

On my right, Brooklyn and beyond.


Boardwalks are like giant runways for freaks. But I think the attraction has less to do with showboating in front of a large audience than it does with congregating in front of one. 

Compared to the likes of Southern California's flamboyant Venice Beach, the boardwalk at Coney Island--home of the original carney freak show, Barnum & Bailey Circus--was a little tame this past weekend. But a few did get into the groove. 

It's hard to tell from this photo, but the woman in the purple, near the DJ booth, likes to tear it up. (She can also do a mean windmill-haymaker combo.) See two photos below, which was taken three hours later.  

And while I'm all about a dance party, I think the DJ would have had a better turnout if he didn't play rave music.**

However, the macarena was a big hit, so what do I know. 

** Seriously, who not still trapped in 1992 or 1997, still listens to techno? And btw, it was bad back then. This is why I don't do drugs: I don't trust anything that will make infinite oonce-oonce-oonce-oonce-ing sound pleasurable. 



Perspective is what I'm trying to get after the crashing of my physical, emotional, and dare I say, spiritual world (and after writing that highly dramatic statement).

Three days ago, my hard drive went kaput. It took with it 100 pages of thesis and whatever other pages upon pages of writing I've never thought to back up or email to anyone. (The wound is too fresh to get past this first thing to start doing a head count.)

I could bitch about this for an entire post, like I have to friends and family, but the truth is, I can't do anything about it. (Plus I'm numb and still in shock. I'm sure I'll eventually hit some uglier stage of grief.)

But what I did notice while sulking around the city the other day was a bevy of good deeds going on all around me, things I never see (not just never notice) on regular basis here in New York. For instance,

* A woman who offered to, not was asked to, help another woman carry her baby stroller up the crowded subway stairs. The mother couldn't speak English, so the woman just picked up one end of the stroller and began walking.

* Passengers digging in their purses and their pockets as a bone-thin blind woman pushed her walker and held out a knitted hat as she sang a gospel song. I have never seen more than one person per train car give a handout before. Five did that day.

I can't say witnessing others worse off than me or seeing humans take care of each other has abolished all remnants of self pity, but it has made me rethink how I could wrap up my entire identity and sense of usefulness in one compact machine.



I love Barbie. I don't care if that makes me a girly girl, some anti-feminist throwback or the sole reason why American women have body issues. Growing up, I wanted to be just like Barbie. She was hot.

Last night, however, as I perused the massive Toys R Us in Times Square, I was a little disappointed in Barbie Land. First of all, there wasn't much selection (and some weird correlation to Thumbelina), and the selection that they did have was rather peculiar.

The Highlights:

Jersey Barbie - Okay, this is actually Malibu Barbie, circa 1971, but check out the orange tan! The see-thru, matching lounge ensemble! The obvious peroxide job! Give the woman some heavy gold baubles and a few of those babies from below.

Williamsburg Barbie - Again, another vintage Barbie, but vintage is oh-so appropriate for W'burg! I think I saw one of these mesh rompers on the L train yesterday. And she even comes with an extra metallic lycra ensemble in case she can't make the L back in time for a quick evening change. American Apparel couldn't have designed a shorter, better fitting A-line.

The Lowlights:

Barbie has made some poor career choices. New and from the "I Can Be A..." Collection:

Pet Sitter. (She can also be a pet boutique owner.)

Host of a TV Cooking Show.

Baby Doctor, not to be confused with Newborn Baby Doctor, which is also available.

While I'm happy that at least this Barbie has a degree, just about every career fun-pack comes with a set of children or pets. See "I Can Be A Soccer Coach" or a "Sea World Employee.") I am disturbed by this not necessarily because I'm turning into a bra burner in my old age (really though, is pet sitter the new preschool teacher and baby doctor the new nurse?), but because if Barbie is indeed beautiful and hot shouldn't she be at least using those assets to do something cool? I mean, cooking host? What girl wants to be Rachel Ray? How about host of a super catty model competition, or how about a reality show contestant who weasels her way to the top by manipulating men and alliances with her looks and underrated cleverness? She "can" at least strap on a guitar and manage her own rock band for chrissakes.

The 80s: Barbie's glory days