Tag Archives: Berkeley

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 #23-C: California Chronicles, Part III

California Chronicles: Part III—Around the Bay and Beyond

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Glen Ellen (Camp Milagros) ∙ Livermore ∙ San Francisco

Camp officially ended around noon on Sunday, so I still had half that day plus the following three to see as many people in as many places as I could before leaving.  I slept almost the entire drive back home.  The power nap came in handy, as not long after I dropped my duffle of dirty clothes in the laundry room, my parents and I took off for San Francisco.  We were going to meet my sister and her boyfriend Amit at the Bubba Gump’s at Pier 39.  You’d think I’d want to take a break from that place during my time off, but my motive was two-fold: I wanted to see how easy it would be to try out my employee discount at another location, and a family dinner was my mom’s belated birthday gift, so it might as well be a half-priced dinner.  Fifty bucks for dinner for five ain’t bad at all.

After finding a sweet shirt at the market (a black retro tee my coworkers envy), we took our seat at a corner booth near the front.  Sitting in a different Bubba’s is a strange experience; everything is completely brand new yet strangely familiar at the same time.  I was in a parallel universe.

I’d told my family to not let the server know I was an employee because I wanted to see how his service compared to that at my location.  At first, I wasn’t impressed.  He came around half as often as I do, and didn’t start trivia until we asked.  I later found out that he was the bartender as well, so I forgave him.  Also, he had some good trivia questions.  When he realized I wasn’t answering until the questions were too hard for my dad and sister, he figured out that I was an employee.  He gave me the discount without asking for proof, and I gave him twenty percent, base rate for a server-to-server tip.

We parted ways with my sister and Amit after dinner, and my parents and I just strolled around Fisherman’s Wharf for a few hours.  It was great to talk with my parents, to see and smell the City, to wear layers.  It was great to be back.

My sister and me at Bubba Gump's in San Francisco

Monday, August 9, 2010

Berkeley ∙ Livermore

One half day in Berkeley was not enough, so I woke up Monday morning and hopped on BART to the Downtown Berkeley station on Shattuck.  First, I met up with Bianca and had pizza and beer at Jupiter’s.  Wait, I need to emphasize that: I had gourmet, brick oven pizza and locally-brewed beer at one of my favorite ale houses in Berkeley.  I was in heaven, and with good company.  Bianca, a fellow UC Berkeley Film Studies graduate, also works an entry-level job at a museum.  We met up with Nate afterwards, who graduated a year before me and is still on the job hunt.  Every friend I meet makes me feel better about my post-graduate situation, but worse about the trend in general.  At least we’re all in it together!

Two friends in tow, I headed to campus and met up with two more, Felicity and Taylor.  They’re still in school, so they’re all bright-eyed and hopeful about the future.  Just they wait.  We strolled through our lovely Alma Mater and past Memorial Stadium because I wanted to see the construction progress on the soon-to-be Student High Peformance Athletic Center.  Not much progress since I left, as expected.

After a quick bite at Gypsy’s, we dropped Bianca off at BART and explored a bit of North Berkeley.  For those unfamiliar with the area, North Berkeley is nice Berkeley.  It’s a clean, high-brow neighborhood home to more professors and less panhandlers.  In true North Berkeley style, we made our last stop a tea house terrace.  The weather was perfect, the tea was tasty, and we had a fun time pretending to be sophisticated.

I returned to Livermore that night in time for my childhood friend Matt’s 24th birthday party at none other than First Street Ale House.  The room was filled with a few familiar faces—namely Tasha, Casey, Justin, and Anna—but mostly strangers.  This was the social circle Matt developed over the past five years, and while he has these people and I have my college and Hawaii friends, we still came together like high school was yesterday.  He’s still the same old silly, caring, goofy, honest Matt with whom I grew up.  I hope I haven’t changed too much.

Bianca, Taylor, Nate, Felicity, and me around the Pappy Statue at UC Berkeley

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sacramento

I had known before I left Hawaii that I was going to spend significant time in Sacramento, not only because my sister lived there, but also (and mainly) because that’s where my college roommate Jake moved to after we graduated.  Jake, Lawrence, and I shared the same small living spaces for four years, and now we reside in three different time zones.  While I couldn’t take a detour to Chicago to visit Lawrence, I did have the opportunity to see Jake again, and I was definitely going to take it.  Jake joined my family for dinner at a classy beer and pizza place (notice a trend?) and then we attempted to catch an early screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.  Although he won the tickets from the radio, they oversold the screening and we got there too late.  No worries though, the theater was a short walk from Old Sacramento and Jake’s new place of employment on the Delta King, a hotel-slash-restaurant on a boat.

My old friend gave me a tour of the boat and of Old Sac.  It’s an interesting little town, but not as interesting as the conversations we had, about anything and everything, as usual.  Jake and I operate on the same brainwaves, no pretenses, no social walls, no awkward silences.  It was refreshing.  Too bad Lawrence couldn’t be there.

I got to see the apartment he lives in with his longtime girlfriend, Jessi.  It was definitely cleaner than our digs in Berkeley, and was furnished with a giant TV and two awesome cats.  After joining my sister and her friends for a couple drinks downtown, he took me to a bar across the street from his place and we split a pitcher of beer over foosball and pool.  A simple good time with a simply great friend.

Jake, Jessi, and their two cats--Lucius Vorenus and Niobe--in their Sacramento apartment

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sacramento ∙ Lotus ∙ San Francisco

I spent the night on Jake and Jessi’s couch, falling asleep to TMNT.  We finished the Ninja Turtles movie the next morning and then went out for breakfast.  There are never sad goodbyes with Jake and I, just see-you-laters.  And I will.  Hell, he’s half-serious about moving to Seattle when I do.

I had plans to see some friends in San Francisco, but seeing as I was so close to Lotus, my dad suggested I first stop by there to see my grandma.  Lotus is about an hour northeast of Sac, but two hours back to Livermore.  Still, I went.

When I got there, it was only grandma, Uncle Junior, and Auntie Tessy.  I saw “only” because I’m used to that house filled with ten to eighty people.  It was like visiting an amusement park during the offseason.  My auntie and uncle were glad to see me and asked me tons of questions while forcing me to eat.  I declined food four or five times before giving in.  It’s hard to say no when your relative is already making you a plate.

The house is in a constant state of renovation, and besides a well-tended garden, the newest additions to the Lotus house were a poolside bamboo nipa hut and matching tiki bar.  Our family parties are going to amazing!

The Nipa Hut and Tiki Bar at our house in Lotus

After about an hour of eating unnecessarily and watching Filipino game shows, I headed back to Livermore, took a shower, and drove to the BART station to catch a train to the Mission District.  When I got there, my friend Juliana was finishing up work and Nate was still on his way over, so I had some time to just wander around the Mission solo for a bit.  I’d never really explored this area beyond the taquerias, but got excited as I imagined myself living there in five to ten years.  It’s an interesting neighborhood filled with impressive street art, small bars, and an abundance of Mexican restaurants.  I put it on my “to move to” list

I finally met up with my friends at Juliana’s super nice, very San Francisco-y house, and by that I mean a house that looks tall and small in the front, but extends quite far back.  We had some Mission Mexican food while I ranted about Hawaii’s problems (namely, how it lacks a rail system, recycling programs, and available girls).  I love the island, but not as much as complaining about it in front of people who so desperately want to go.  My ranting quieted a bit when my torta al pastor came out.  It wasn’t as good as what I scarfed down daily in Mexico, but it was far better than anything I could find in Hawaii (another thing it’s lacking).

Nate and I hit a bar for a bit to give Juliana some time to study as she’s one of my few friends that actually does school work.  She still hasn’t learned the art of studying just enough to BS your way through a class.  She must have graduated from Berkeley the hard way.  By the time we got back to her house, Juliana was ready for a break, so we played Clue.  Board games are such simple pleasures; I don’t know why people don’t play as often.  A few hours and YouTube videos later, Juliana was ready for more reading so Nate and I headed back to our respective homes.  We said our goodbyes and took off into the night.

Juliana shows off her awesome apron in her San Francisco house

***

Revisiting California was a refreshing break from monotony.  I soaked in my ability to recycle, to wear jackets, to drive 80+ miles per hour.  As I left those things behind, I took with me the knowledge that no matter how far I move or for how long, I will always have friends and family in Califoria ready to welcome me back home, hopefully over some pizza and beer.

FIN

Sigh, I guess it was time to leave California and come back to this. . .

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YMWW #23-A: California Chronicles, Part I

Part I: Back in Town

Monday, August 2, 2010

After an uneventful, five-hour flight, I was finally back in the Bay Area.  (Edit: I say “uneventful” like a bad thing, but it occurs to me that “eventful” flights usually mean catastrophe.  This flight was perfect.)  My parents picked me up at SFO, but seeing as it was past nine o’clock and near their bedtime, we skipped the restaurants and went straight home to Livermore.  After a meal of leftover ribs and rice, I gravitated towards the digital cable and 60-inch HD TV and got caught up on Entourage.  One hour into my vacation and I was already playing couch potato.

‘Round about one in the morning, my good friend Ian came by to pick me up.  Everything was closed by this hour, like any decent suburb, so we drove around just to drive around.  He pointed out a few new additions to Downtown Livermore—such as the newly-expanded First Street Ale House, the type of pub-slash-restaurant prevelent in Berkeley but lacking in Honolulu—but for the most part, the city entire was just as I’d left it.  Still, we drove.

We drove and we didn’t stop talking.  The conversation was continuous and seemlessly slipped from one topic to the next.  We discussed everything from girl problems to the possible city infrastructure of San Jose.  Before we knew it, it was three o’clock in the morning by the time he took me back to my place.  The car stopped in my driveway, but the conversation did not.  It was not until an hour and a half later did I finally head upstairs to go to sleep.

I took that first night of shooting the breeze in a car with my friend as a good omen, a foreshadowing of the fun, easy time we will have during our roadtrip around the country.  I will go into detail of this later, but basically, Ian and I plan to drive around the continental United States for an entire summer next year, starting in the Bay Area, going up through the Pacific Northwest and then across the northern states, working our way down all the essential cities of the East Coast into Florida, and then back through the South.  The theme of the trip (besides avoiding Middle America) is frugality; we will couchsurf, crash in the car, or camp before considering a hostel, our last resort.  Seeing as three hours flew by during our tour of Livermore, I truly believe our roadtrip will go off without a hitch.  Well, without many hitches.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ian picked me up the next morning for more car-wandering.  This time it wasn’t as aimless; our plan was to drive up the Peninsula for the sake of crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.  Before heading out, Ian and I stopped at Safeway to buy ingredients for a pack lunch.  We spent about half an hour deciding between this sandwich and that before realizing we were both already hungry.  We ditched Safeway for hot food and beer at First Street Ale House.  I love that kind of spontaneous decision-making.  I live that kind of spontaneous decision-making.

Bellies full, the two of us continued on our trip up the Peninsula.  It was a comfort to once again see familiar golden hills, wide open spaces, and highways that made sense.  When we reached the Bridge, I whipped out my camera and started snapping away like a tourist.  It was narrower than I remember, but than again, I don’t really remember the one other time I crossed the Bridge.  I guess it was narrower than I expected.  Shorter, too.  I’ve found monuments are usually smaller in real life than in pictures and expectations.  Still, the familiar orange towers shrouded by grey fog forced a giant smile upon my face.  We pulled around to Vista Point on the other end so I could take an unnecessary amount of same-angle pictures of the Frisco icon.  Dressed in shorts, slippers (read: “flip flops” in CA), and a zipped-up hoodie, I fully indulged my Hawaiian tourist persona.

Fifty pictures later, Ian dropped me off in Berkeley so I could meet up with my friend Olivia, who just happened to have the day off.  I hadn’t seen Olivia in a year, but we quickly got caught up on what we’ve been doing since graduating.  Basically, nothing.  We were both too proud about it, too.

Olivia and I made all the necessary Berkeley stops: Upper Playground, Rasputin, Brazil Cafe, Beckett’s, spending money we didn’t have on things we shouldn’t have bought.  Along the way, we met up with my friend Ben who also—surprise, surprise—was working entry-level jobs solely to pay rent.  There the three of us sat: Berkeley graduates.  Minimum-wage warriors.  Twenty-somethings with uncertain futures but no worries about them.  We should be the poster-children on the post-recession University of California brochures.  Go Bears!

Another beautiful double-exposure photo from my friend Daeja Fallas (www.daejafallas.com) feature the one and only Golden Gate Bridge

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