Tag Archives: Bay Area

Young Man Went West #35: Playing House

I haven’t said a word to my roommate since I got back from the Big Island. This is less due to the fact that I’ve given up all pretenses of civility and more due to the fact that I simply haven’t been around; for the past ten days, I had been staying at my girlfriend’s place. With her parents gone on vacation in the Philippines, she invited me to a little retreat from my own residence. I gladly welcomed the chance away from my awkward living situation.

I hesitated in writing about this experience for two reasons: 1) I don’t want this blog to get all mushy and Jenn-centric (says the man who posted his Valentine’s poem); and 2) not much happened, and I mean that in the most positive way possible. Living with Jenn was simply. . . simple. Uncomplicated. Comfortable. We cooked meals together and washed the dishes afterward. She dropped me off for work and I picked her brother up from martial arts class.  We passed the afternoons watching movies on her projector screen and spent the evenings walking her dog. We fell asleep in each other’s arms and woke up to each other’s smiles.

(Sorry, that last sentence was cringe-worthy.)

Though our cohabitation stint was only ten days long, it gave me a good look into the future, cooking cheap meals together in our tiny outer-borough studio in New York. It didn’t erase any doubts I had about living together because I had none to start with. If anything, it made me anxious to go, and now seven months never seemed so long. Good thing I have a few big distractions ahead to help my time left on O’ahu move by swiftly.

For one, I did manage to find a new place to live. Shortly after coming back from the Big Island, I discovered that one of my new coworkers will have an open spot in her place at the start of March. Finding that out was almost serendipitous as she was the second person I randomly asked. The place is only a few blocks away and within my budget. I will be sharing a room with her brother, which Jenn isn’t too psyched about, but the back patio, kitchen, and living room are all pretty spacious. Plus, it’ll be interesting living with and getting to know three new people, even if they are all under the age of twenty. There is a downside: the place is only until the end of June and then I’m going to have to find a new place for my last few months, but that’s a problem for Future Anthony. Present Anthony’s problem is having to pack up everything for the move.

Another great distraction to help move along the seven months is my Cousin Jen’s wedding in June (congratulations, Jen and Dean!). Not only are trips back home a wonderful change of pace, especially for big family celebrations like a wedding, but this time, Jenn is coming with me to California! My family is excited to meet her and she. . . well, she’s gearing up for a lot of new faces and names to remember. I have no doubt that my fantastic, gigantic family will make her feel welcome, just as I have no doubt that Jenn will dazzle them with her smile. And if a family wedding wasn’t enough excitement, I get to show her around the Bay Area before and afterward. Berkeley, San Francisco, LIVERMORE! Oh, man, is she in for a treat!

Between those distractions, I’ll still be having fun working at Bubba Gump’s, even more so now that I’m a server trainer. I became a trainer not just because I felt our new hires were getting sloppy, but also because I want to transfer to the Times Square location and being a trainer would make that easier. It will be nice to have an immediate income while I apply for grad school in New York.

I couldn’t think of a poignant observation about life to thematically tie up this post. I’m surprised I even wrote as much as I did. Tune in next week when I will again attempt to make my life more interesting to you than Facebook.

My favorite picture of Jenn from this week. Her initial attempt to find a poking stick on the Maunawili Falls Trail was a failure.

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Young Man Went West #29-C: Winter Trip Facebook Statuses, Unabridged (Pt. 3)

Day 7: Berkeley day with my big sis, Melanie Ramil, then lunch in L-mo with Casey Cochran. Last minute Christmas tree shopping with the family proved a failure, so we ended up decorating a 4-foot houseplant and watching a color-corrected version of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’ Strange Christmas. . .

I can’t not go to the Bay Area without at least one trip to my old college town.  Except for the occasional new restaurant on Telegraph, signs of progress on the stadium, and the lack of students (I’m always visiting during a break), Berkeley still feels the same.  After trying (and failing) to see my old boss Kelly at the Bancroft Hotel, Ate Melanie and I chowed down on some pupusas in El Platano, a Salvadoran place at which she used to work.  The waitress got three out of four of our pupusa orders wrong, but it didn’t matter; they’re all delicious.

We then hit up the Telegraph Avenue Holiday Street Fair, which comes around every weekend in December.  If you’ve ever walked past the vendors on Telegraph on a normal day, imagine that times a hundred.  And in the street.  The city cordons off four blocks of Telegraph, from Bancroft to Dwight, and vendors from all over the Bay line both sides of the street with their homemade goods.  One can find everything from candles to metal scrap statues, knit mittens to freshly popped kettle corn.  My sister does a lot of Christmas shopping here.

The two of us left Berkeley before I could meet up with my friends in the area so as to beat traffic (sorry Nate and Olivia!).  After grabbing a bit to eat and a beer with Casey at First Street Ale House in downtown Livermore, I rejoined my family for our traditional Christmas tree hunt.  I use the term “hunt” loosely since it usually just means driving to the closest lot.  Usually.  This year was different.  This year, we got a late start because somebody wanted to go gallivanting around southern California until December 22nd, meaning we couldn’t get a tree until the 23rd.  Apparently, nobody thinks people would be in the market for a Christmas tree so late in the game.  Our little shopping venture actually turned into a hunt as we prowled around Livermore in the Hyundai Sonata, scouting out the known Christmas tree lots, only to turn up empty-handed.

Downtrodden, we returned home and ultimately decided to settle on a (shudder) FAKE Christmas tree.  We’ve NEVER had a fake Christmas tree, and I could tell my dad was not happy.  He’s pretty nonchalant about most things, but by the look in his eyes I knew he saw a fake tree as a slap in the face to the memories of his childhood Christmases.  I had messed with tradition, and I felt bad.

While my mom was out buying the plastic Christmas twig, my dad was struck with a clever idea.  “How about this for a Christmas tree?” he yelled from the den.  My sister and I walked around the corner, curious, and found my dad pointing at a four-foot tall house plant.  It was so unexpected we couldn’t help but laugh and love it.  We promptly called up Mom and told her to forget about the fake plant for we had a worthy, if not ironic, substitute.

Another part of our Christmas tradition is decorating the tree with our ornaments, all of which are unique.  Except for our yearly family ornaments (ya know, those big ones with the year and our names), all of ours were gifts from friends, family, and my dad’s past students.  Absolutely no store-bought boxes of bulbs in bulk.  My mom, sister, and I retell the same stories behind each ornament while my dad watches It’s a Wonderful Life and critiques our hanging of said ornaments.  (Actually, we laugh about how we tell the same stories.  Pretty meta.)  This year, we couldn’t find our copy of the Frank Capra classic, so while my mom was out not buying the tree, she also purchased a new copy.  This one had a colorized version on the flip side.  Staring at our Christmas house plant, which was sagging under the weight of a fraction of our ornaments, my dad and I knew we had to watch the colorized version, much to my sister’s displeasure.  It was different, not worse.  The main thing was that I discovered how many daytime scenes there were.

The family in front of our Christmas House Plant

‘Twas a strange Christmas, but it’ll ultimately go down as one of the most memorable.

Day 8-9: Sister and I had breakfast w/Jake Sorensen and Jessi Bucey in Sac before continuing on to Lotus for the traditional Christmas Eve extravaganza with the Ramils. Good times, as always. Drove back home the next morning with the family and stayed in pajamas all day, even through our family Christmas dinner. The parents got the hang of their nooks a lot faster than expected.

Our Christmas Eves are spent with my dad’s side of the family at our “house in the woods” in Lotus.  Since my mom had to work until the evening, my dad stayed behind while my sister and I headed north that morning.  Sacramento is somewhat on the way to Lotus, so that was our first stop.  Not only does my sister live there, but so does my college roommate Jake and his girlfriend Jessi.  The four of us met up for breakfast.  Over delicious omelettes, our conversation quickly turned from jobs and future prospects to robots, hypothetical universes, and screenplays.  Some things never change.  Though brief, our encounters are never boring.

After a quick stop at my sister’s rat-terrorized apartment (a gritty war story that should–and may–be its own post), we continued on to Lotus.  Since its usually just the northern California chapter of our family, this get-together is relatively small compared to the bigger events (like a 100th birthday).  Ya know, only about forty or so people.

Everything played out as it it usually does: aunties in the kitchen cooking too much food, uncles drinking outside around the fire, cousins lounging about the living room while their kids run around on an endless amount of energy.  Dinnertime looks pretty much the same except everybody has an overflowing plate in hand.  There’s no room for a table big enough to hold us.  After dinner comes the presents, which, in my family, is a two- to three- hour long event.

I have noticed a drop in the patience and gratitude levels of the young folk.  When I was a kid, I hugged everybody who gave me a gift and waited patiently for my next one.  I’m not saying there aren’t some little cousins that do exactly that (see photo below), but there are definitely others who seem unsatisfied unless there’s a constant stream of toys coming there way.  I’m going to blame this on instantly-gratifying, Internet-infused, multimedia technology.  Attention spans have become an endangered species.  Thankfully, as long as we have family–and some copy of It’s a Wonderful Life–Christmas spirit will not be.

Exception: this kid. He sat quietly, was genuinely excited every time his name was called ("For me?!"), and loved EVERY gift he got ("This is EXACTLY what I wanted!")

The next morning we drove back to Livermore for more of my immediate family’s tradition: opening presents in pajamas.  As the baby in the family, I love this tradition because I’m the young one all over again (as opposed to the older cousin who hands out presents and plays in the adults’ White Elephant).  We drank hot chocolate and snacked on a plethora of random hors d’oeuvres my mom prepared.  My Uncle Mike and Cousin Jordan even stopped by for a second on their way back from Lotus.  Even though our rented digital copy of A Christmas Carol crapped out, I couldn’t ask for more.

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Young Man Went West #29-A: Winter Trip Facebook Statuses, Unabridged (Pt. 1)

Day 1: HNL to OAK. Arrive @ 9:45 PST. Meet family at hotel in Concord and prepare for my grandma’s 100th birthday celebration tomorrow.

Unlike most trips I take to and from California, I flew into Oakland with company, my cousin Brad.  Managed to get the seat next to him, across the aisle.  It was a typical, uneventful flight, but that’s a good thing when it comes to air travel considering the alternative: screaming, crashing, flames, and death.  Instead, this one consisted of Sky Mall, sporadic naps, and most of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (my laptop died before the last scene).  We arrived at Oakland Airport in the brisk, breezy night.  My body covered  with warm layers and a big smile, I was happy to be back in the Bay.

Day 2: Went straight from the airport to BART to a bar (and later a diner) with the cousins. Went to bed late, woke up early. Now, putting together a slideshow for my grandma’s 100th birthday celebration tonight.

Since all of our family was at a Hilton in the nearby city of Concord, Brad and I took a free shuttle from the airport to an Oakland BART station, and then took BART into Concord.  I would have liked to say that our older siblings were there shortly afterward to pick us up, but somehow they got lost along the way, which is surprising since they’ve each lived in or near Concord at some point in their lives.  It’s alright, they came bearing Taco Bell.

Instead of heading to the  hotel where I could have dropped off my unnecessarily large, half-filled suitcase (only one I had), we drove straight to a downtown bar where a dozen of our cousins were already drinking.  I’m not complaining; being a young traveler and a family-oriented man, this was a fantastic welcome!  Although, it was weird seeing so many old, white people in a bar (you know, everybody but my family), but that’s what happens when you live in Hawaii for fifteen months.  We capped the night at a 24-hour diner, overwhelming the other diners in sheer number and volume.  Never put a drunk Filipino family in a public place with a jukebox.

I made it to the hotel in the wee hours of the night.  My loving parents woke up just long enough to hug me hello before falling back asleep.

We woke up relatively early the next morning to start on preparations for that evening’s festivities.  My main job was to put together a slideshow of my grandmother to play while people shuffled into the ballroom.  Projects in hand, we all congregated in a top floor suite and buckled down to business for the next few hours.  It almost felt like a busy campaign office before an election, except instead of fliers and buttons we had too much food and dozens of relatives to hug hello.  Though we were all working hard for that one special someone: birthday girl Fausta Reyes Ramil.

Fausta Ramil a.k.a. Grandma a.k.a. Lola

Day 3: Crazy night with the family. 6 hours of celebration, including a 3-hour talent show and then dancefloor badness. After party included 50 tacos from Jack in the Box at 3 AM. Now, it’s time to fly to LA.

All the aunties, uncles, and cousins were dressed to the nines and down in the ballroom around 5 pm.  Surrounding the stage and dancefloor were twenty-two linen-covered tables, a DJ, and a bustling catering crew.  After some frantic family photos (with what seemed a less-than-enthusiastic photographer) we spread out to greet, organize, and mingle with the other guests: friends and family from grandma’s past and present.  In all, attendance was around two hundred people.

This is just the family. . . which made up for about half the guest list.

Of course, my family just can’t say a few words, move to dinner, and mingle all night.  Oh no, we had a well-scheduled, fourteen-act talent show filled with song, dance, skits, and my uncle’s version of “This Is Your Life!”  I think the guests not as familiar with my family were pleasantly surprised by Polynesian and Filipino dances, the multiple duets, and the big show numbers.  Either that, or they were too scared to move.

Dinner was served during the performances, and after all was digested and the last act took a bow, the party started.  Everybody–young and old, family or friend, born into the craziness or witnessing it for the first time–took to the dancefloor and busted many a groove.  During all three hours of this, my grandmother refused to go to bed.  At one hundred years young, she stayed up ’til midnight to watch her legacy celebrate in her honor.

When the DJ announced the last song of the night, my sister–cousin number fourteen and that evening’s event coordinator–came up with one of her best ideas.  After the song ended she had everybody make a huge circle on the dancefloor.  My Auntie Gloria wheeled grandma to the center and the DJ started playing one last song: Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings,” a family favorite.  Auntie Gloria spun grandma around slowly as we all sang to her.  There was not a dry eye in that circle.

The old ones went to bed, while the young ones (and the old ones who still think they’re young) retreated to the common room for some debauchery and poker.  After a while we got hungry, and since nobody was delivering pizza, my cousin’s husband Scott and I made a late night run to Jack in the Box for fifty (“Yes, five-zero”) tacos.  We held up the drive-thru line long enough for some woman to get out of her car and yell at us and/or the graveshift workers.  Scott and I thought we were returning to at least ten hungry men, but instead found a room of about four or five, with another passed out on the floor.  We that remained did as much damage as we could to the greasy bags, but barely made it through twenty or so tacos.  My limit, I found out, was four (not because I was full, but because my body couldn’t handle that much questionable meat).

The next day, after a hearty breakfast and many hugs goodbye, I went back to Oakland Airport for the So Cal leg of my trip.

 

Dancing to one of our family favorites: "Come On, Eileen."

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