Tag Archives: Cal

Young Man On The Road #15: I<3NY

July 16 – 24

Queens and Manhattan, NEW YORK

I love New York.  Simply put.  No gushing profusion of admiration needed, nor lengthy laundry lists of attributes.  It has all been said before and there is no way I can spin my love for this city in an original or adequate way.  Nothing will suffice save for this blunt, stark-naked, trademarked statement that needs neither flourish nor emphasis: I love New York.

Out of many, one factor in the beauty of the City lies within its subway system.  Yes, that subway system.  The crowded, stuffy, noisy, grimy, urine-scented subway system.  It’s magnanimous.  It connects the Upper West Side to the Lower East Side, the townhouses of Harlem to the bright lights of Midtown, all of those neighborhoods in Manhattan to all of the boroughs outside of it.  It is all connected.  It is all one.  It was all mine for the low, low cost of a $29 seven-day, unlimited metro card.

New York thrives on connections, though not just from place to place, but also from people to people.  Ian and I had many friends in New York, some I hadn’t seen in months, others I hadn’t seen in years, some from the Bay, others from “da island,” but all of them, fortunately, in New York when we were.

Like stations along the subway lines that connect different parts of the City, these friends are points along time that connect different parts of my life.

It’s about time I write about other people for a change.

The Hawaii Line
Station: Rigo

Transfers to: Eugene (his friend that lives in Brooklyn), Sara (his girlfriend)

I met Rigo only a few times before the trip, though he has that type of warm personality that makes you feel like old friends.  I met him during the free Saturday Morning Beach Bootcamp classes in Hawaii (at least, the ones I could wake up for).  It was during one of those classes that I found out he was born and raised in New York. . . and that he’d be moving back this summer.  When I told him about this trip, he immediately offered me a place to crash.  He hadn’t even moved back yet and he was letting me stay with him!

Obviously, I took him up on his offer and when Ian and I arrived in New York in mid-July, we were staying in a house blocks away from Queens Boulevard!  Being huge Entourage fans, we were super psyched about the highly touted location.

Ian and I hit the ground running in New York.  Within the first 24 hours, we:

  • attended a rooftop barbecue in Queens
  • bar-hopped in the Lower East Side
  • crashed at Rigo’s friend Eugene’s apartment in Brooklyn
  • walked across the Brooklyn Bridge
  • explored Chinatown, Little Italy, Washington Square Park, Union Square, the Rockefeller Center, and Grand Central Station
  • had our first food experience with Lombardi’s Pizza, cannolis from Little Italy, and Halal Guys.

(For a more detailed, more interesting, and longer account of that first adventure, see the following post.)

Rigo on the Brooklyn Bridge. Manhattan in the back.

Without Rigo as our knowledgeable guide and benevolent host, I don’t know if Ian and I would have covered that much ground in a week, much less in one day.  Rigo was busy the next day, but his girlfriend, Sara, was able to escort us to the 7 line that morning to start another full day of Big Apple adventures.

Station: Meghan

Transfers to: Lindsay (her cousin), Candace (her friend)

Meghan is one of those people who exits your life just as quickly as they entered it, but manages to make an impression on the way through.  That tends to happen when you work in a high-turnover establishment like a chain restaurant: awesome people in small doses.

She was born and raised in upstate New York, but decided to do a year of college at UH Manoa.  It was then that she became my Bubba Gump’s coworker and new after-work buddy.  Though I had left Honolulu before her last day in Hawaii, I was able to rendezvous with her shortly afterwards in Grand Central Station.  From there, and for the next two days, she played tourist with us.

Meghan and Me on a ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

That’s right, tourist.  Apparently, there are parts of the state that exist outside of the City!  Even crazier, some people choose to live in those parts!  Having grown up hours from the City, Meghan was less familiar with NYC than I am with SF, so she—along with me and Ian—did the touristy things native city-dwellers avoid: Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Museum of Natural History, and more.  It was refreshing to explore with another friend, not that I’m sick of Ian—nowhere near it—but different perspectives are enriching.  Also, with Meghan I could reminisce about Hawaii and Bubba’s.  With Ian, I can’t.

We met up with Meghan’s cousin, Lindsay, and her friend, Candace at the Shake Shack in Madison Square Park.  After devouring one of the best burgers I’ve ever eaten (it’s all about the bun!), we wracked our brains trying to find some late-night hangout spot.  It doesn’t seem like a difficult task in Manhattan, but Meghan was the only one under the drinking age, so that threw a wrench into our brainstorming.  We eventually came across a hookah lounge that turned out to be the laid-back night we all wanted.  Nothing is impossible to find in New York.

The Grade School Line

Station: Mary-Grace

Transfers to: Robert (her boyfriend)

Mary-Grace and I go way back, before I even knew Ian.  We went to the same elementary and middle schools and our parents knew each other.  The two of us very well might have been the only Filipinos in the school.  (Ian expanded our number to three in sixth grade.)  We took all the same classes and even played in the school orchestra together.  And even though Mary-Grace went to a private high school instead of continuing on to Livermore High like everybody we grew up with did, it didn’t feel like she “left.”  But when she did leave, she really left.  To New York.  To study at the Culinary Institute of America.  So baller.

The three Filipinos of Livermore, reunited in New York.

We reunited with Mary-Grace at the Bethesda Fountain in Central Park.  Meghan was still with us then, and it was weirdly awesome to see people from completely different times and places of my life meet.  It had been maybe eight years since I’d seen Mary-Grace last (damn, I sound old!), and she’d been a true New Yorker for six of those years.  When asked if the City has changed her at all, she said her friends and family noticed she was more aggressive and less patient.  Not in a bad way, but in a New York way.  (See my following post for my explanation of this.)  She loves New York, and it’s where she wants to be right now, but she admits that she’d like to move back to California eventually.  Don’t we all.

Mary-Grace led us around Central Park for a bit—including to the Strawberry Fields and the John Lennon tribute—through the Rockefeller Center, and eventually ending up at Katz’s Dinner.  Two things happened at Katz’s: I said goodbye to Meghan, and I discovered what  pastrami should taste like.  The sadness of parting with Meghan was pretty much overshadowed but the gustatory party in my mouth.

We ended the night in the Lower East Side where Mary-Grace took us to upscale bar where her boyfriend, Robert, worked.  The couple offered to let us crash at their place in Queens.  Since we had our first three nights covered by Rigo and our next three covered by Ian’s friends, we denied their offer.  However, when we decided to stay just one day longer in New York, we called up Mary-Grace and took them up on that offer.  It’s good to have multiple friends in a city you don’t want to leave.

Station: Devin

While reminiscing about our elementary school days, Mary-Grace revealed to me and Ian that she ran into our old friend Devin!  She had no idea that we was moving to New York; they just happened to be on the same train at the same time, several weeks after he’d moved to New York.

I went to school with Devin from elementary school to high school.  We were even in the same Cub Scout group.  He was always an eccentric kid, very expressive and a joy to be around.  Although we did not hang out much in high school, our social circles often overlapped.  I hadn’t seen him since graduation and was not keen on what he’d be doing in California all these years.

Turns out he was living in Sacramento, working random jobs to support his improv acting career.  It’s no surprise that Sacramento did not offer enough to rein in this free spirit.  One day, he had enough of California’s tame capital and bought a one-way ticket to New York City: a place he’d never been to but always belonged.  He crashed with a friend until he found his own place in Brooklyn and a job as a bartender in the Lower East Side.

Imagine that!  What kind of crazy person would buy a one-way ticket to another state with nowhere to live and no job prospects. . .

When Ian and I learned of our old friend’s new life, we made plans to meet up with him.  We found him at his work, a small and dark yet upscale bar tucked away in the Lower East Side.  Devin entertained us with his odyssey tale and we returned the favor with our travel stories.  He also kindly had us try various specialty beers.  Ever have a watermelon lager?  They’re delicious.

I’m glad Devin is doing well.  He is definitely in his element in New York.  I can’t wait to revisit the City and see his name in lights.

 

The Cal Spirit Line.  Station: Jordan & David and Nikki

Station: Jordan & David

Not everyone we met up with in New York was my friend.  Ian had a few of his own.  Despite my four years in the University of California Rally Committee (a spirit group), Ian’s position as a Cal Mic Man (a yell leader) meant he had closer contact with members of the other Cal Spirit organizations.  His friend and former Drum Major, David, had moved to the City with his girlfriend, Jordan, a former Cal Dance Team member.  David had originally offered us a place to crash, but by the time we arrived, he happened to be in between places and was staying with Jordan in Chelsea.  Luckily, Jordan was friends with Ian, too, and let us crash in her living room.  Even luckily-er, her place was a building away from a subway station, and a block away from the best pizza I had in New York.

While Jordan was attending grad school in Columbia, David was busy applying to med school when he wasn’t at work.  In short, we didn’t get to go out with them.  They were busy being responsible and whatnot.  It was a bummer because they were super-friendly people and I enjoyed hanging out with them and talking about Cal for those few short hours in Jordan’s apartment.  And I actually recognized both of them from my college days; we did go to all the same rallies and sporting events, afterall.

We stayed with Jordan and David for three nights and even though we wanted to stay another day, they had other guests coming in.  That’s when we called up Mary-Grace.

Station: Nikki

Transfers to: Elissa (her friend)

Ian and I weren’t the only Cal alumni traveling around the States this summer.  Our friend Nikki was on an adventure of her own.  Nikki graduated a year before us, but during our three overlapping years, she was a co-member of Rally Comm.  We had all taken a sip from the proverbial punchbowl that was Cal Spirit and formed a solidarity that only a borderline cult could provide.  Of course, we’ve all since mellowed out on our hoo-rah attitude (but never on our love for Cal!) and Nikki has been spending her post-graduate years working and living in San Francisco whenever she’s not trotting the globe.  For shorter, less narcissistic traveling stories, you can read about Nikki’s adventures on her own blog: MyOneNewThingAWeek.com.

As with Devin, we were only able to hang out with Nikki and her friend, Elissa, for one night, but that included essential New York taxi cab rides.  Nikki is a very spirited, positive person with a fever for exploration and catching up on each other’s lives was pretty entertaining.  Also, her friend Elissa double-majored in Film and something else, so it was refreshing to have conversations about Italian neorealsim and Hitchcock again.

Not a very attractive of me or Ian.

Nikki’s first day in New York coincided with our last one, so even though she was heading down to Washington, D.C., afterwards like us, she missed our stay by a day.  I guess we’ll just have to rendezvous in San Francisco!

Although a lot of Ian’s and my positive experiences in New York City were due to our interactions with old friends, the majority of our time spent in the City was just the two of us newbies, taking in all the sights and sounds and smells and energy of the epicenter of Western society.  Is it a coincidence that so many people from my past have ended up in this one city?  Or is it a sign?

I can’t stay in Hawaii forever.

2 Comments

Filed under YMOTR Blog

YMWW #14: Fortitude

Friday, January 15, 2010

(Originally posted on Facebook)

**I know this is a quick follow-up to entry #13, but when inspiration hits, you gotta go with it. . .

Though most of my waking life is spent relishing in my odyssey to Hawai’i, I’ll admit there have been times when doubt has clouded the brilliance of my decision. Today was one of those times.

This morning, I had donned one of my new Cal shirts (grey, Walking Bear logo with “UC Berkeley”) and by the time I got to work, was in full Cal Spirit mode. I was singing “Fight for California” to myself when I noticed an ugly shade of red planted in front of the Whole Foods entrance. A young woman was sitting on a bench wearing a red Stanford stanfurd sweatshirt. In front of my store!

I approached her from her left and sat on her right, turning towards her so that the front of my beautiful Berkeley shirt was inches away from her stupid Cardinal face. Point, Bears! However, my sinfully proud internal smile was suddenly humbled by a horrid realization: here sat a stanfurd alumna, waiting for Whole Foods to open because she had the money to shop there. Next to her sat me, a Berkeley alumnus waiting for it to open because that’s where I earn my minimum wage pay. She can’t see that I work there! Imagine the pretentious laughs her anecdote about me would bring at her snooty, alumni wine parties!

The doors opened and I quickly darted into the entrance she didn’t use. Maybe she didn’t see me cover my alma mater’s logo with my pseudo-Asian cook uniform. Maybe she wouldn’t recognize me with a wedge cap on my head. Maybe she didn’t even notice my shirt outside, what with her eyes busy looking down her nose.

My pride swallowed, I started work. Switch on oven fan, check. Heat up deep fryer, check. Turn on grill, check.

Somewhere between making twelve pounds of rice and realizing that I shouldn’t have heated up the deep fryer because I was supposed to change the oil today, I came to terms with this morning’s incident. I’m a cook in a grocery store, so what? I’m doing exactly what I wanted to do! Okay, I kind of hate my job, but still, I made an aimless move to another state, I pay for rent and food with my own money, and I’m exploring what life has to offer outside of the small section of California I called home for twenty-two years. How can I not be happy with myself? How can I not be proud? I went about the rest of my working day happily—and loudly—singing Cal songs (and when I had exhausted those, I started belting out musical numbers fromNewsies).

I’ll get another job shortly (I’ll definitely update you on that), and maybe I’ll move to another state some time down the line. Maybe I’ll make millions by doing what I love. Maybe not. Who knows? All that matters is that I am happy with the decision I made and it’s nothing to be ashamed about. No regrets.

I brought a smile to my own face by making up a story about the stanfurd alum I encountered this morning: She probably traveled down to Shallow Alto to major in pre-med, just like her strict Asians parents wanted. Unable to find success in a passionless career, she quit the game and married an older man for the security (she was, in fact, with an old, grey-haired gentleman). Following his dream for retirement, this geezer moved himself and his little Asian trophy wife to O’ahu. She now works at Lili’uokalani Elementary as the school nurse, coming home to fix her geriatric beau an organic, free-trade dinner.

Go Bears.

PS: If you didn’t click on the “odyssey” link at the beginning of this entry, do so now. It is a very intriguing, and related, article from the New York Times. Thank you to Ate Melanie for showing me this.

While Allison Stokke is not a Roxy model, it is more than appropriate to include her here, decked out in Cal gear.

I know what you’re think and you’re right, it’s hard to believe it took fourteen entries to finally see her on this blog!

GO BEARS!

2 Comments

Filed under YMWW Blog

YMWW #11: Tidbits of Awesome

Monday, December 7, 2009

(Originally posted on Facebook)

As you saw from my last note, the end of November brought me some bad luck, specifically in the realm of bicycle tires. If one looks hard enough, one might find balance in the universe around them. I looked, and saw the balance of my luck tip in the other direction with the start of December. If this trend of awesome keeps up, this month is gonna be legen—wait for it—dary!

Tuesday, December 1st

Kahala Beach

What better way to spend the first of December in Hawai’i than at a beach? During the waning hours of my work shift that Tuesday, I got a text from Juvana that read, “Brit and i are coming to meet you at kahala mall so you better be ready to hang out with us fool” (yeah, she’s gangsta like that). When my shift ended, I got a call:
“We’re going to Kahala Beach. Meet us at Wet Seal.”
“I don’t have my bathing suit.”
“So what? We’re going straight there.”
“But—”
“—No, we’re going straight there.”

And we did.

Now the beach was rocky and there were no waves, but there was still great weather and beautiful views. The best aspect of that adventure, though, was that it was completely impromptu. . . and that, sir, is awesome.

Thursday, December 3rd

Part of Thomas (France), Akos (Hungary), and Yuri (Japan), making sushi.

Following the theme of impromptu activities, my roommates and I rearranged the furniture in our living room. Rearranging furniture may sound like a chore, but as Jake knows, it can be a great experience. Besides breaking the monotony of everyday living and allowing creativity to flow, moving furniture around a room is, above all else, a great bonding experience to have with roommates. It started with Mose vacuuming, asking us to move chairs out of the way. We started moving tables, too. Then the couch. Then others came home and BOOM, the whole living room was rearranged! And just in time, too, because—

and here comes Thursday awesomeness, part II

—our friends came over with the ingredients for a sushi dinner! Yuri (from Japan) and Jenny (from Germany) are in an English class with my roommate Akos (from Hungary). They’ve come over to cook before, and it always results in a United Nations-type feast. I have another roommate from France (Thomas), and one who spent half his life in China (Peter). With Mose (from Hawai’i) and me (from California) at the table, the conversations are always interesting, hilarious, and comprised of many accents. The are, in short, awesome.

Friday, December 4th

I need to find this girl. She goes to Cal, seems to have studied abroad, could possibly be from Hawai’i, and obviously has Cal spirit.

I went to the movie theaters with Thomas, Akos, and some friends. I saw 2012 (6/10) andBrothers (8/10) (OK, I confess, I movie-hopped. It’s against my cine-morals, but my friends sneaked into Planet 51, which I never want to see, while Brothers, which I really wanted to see, started as soon as we got out of the first film. I had no choice). My bike—which is pimped out with a basket adorned with a Cal sticker—was locked up outside one of the nearby Starbucks. When I returned to my bike, I found this message scrawled on a napkin left in my basket: “I go to Cal and have been out of the U.S.A. for 3 months. Seeing your sticker made me SO happy. Have a wonderful night! GO BEARS!!” This napkin is tangible proof of the camaraderie of the extended Cal family and the warmth of Cal Spirit. Though the elusiveness of the note’s author is mildly frustrating, her note is nothing short of awesome.

Saturday, December 5th

There seem to be other Mighty 4 events in other cities in the US and Canada. Check it out!

Bored and disappointed by the Bears’ tragic, season-ending loss to the Huskies, I called my friend Ingrid to see what she was up to. Of course, she was doing something random and cool: she was at UH watching a b-boy competition! I met up with her later and, for the first time, witnessed skilled breakdancers. Live! The closest I got to watching live breakdancing was seeing my middle school peers attempt the Worm at a school dance. This was much, much better. I saw three-person crews battle it out, the final eight whittled down to one dominant group. The best part, though, was that after each fantastic showdown of oneupmanship, the music ended and all members of the battling crews gave each other hugs and props. No matter how high the stakes, the bond over a shared passion outshone any possible conflicts. I’m sorry I couldn’t share any pictures, I didn’t bring my camera. But believe me, it was awesome.

Future Awesomeness

How can this month get any better? Well, for starters, my cousin Avery comes back in a couple days. I’ve absconded her friends while she’s been away, I think it’s time I share.
What else does December bring? That’s right, holidays! I will always love those.
Speaking of holidays, I’LL BE HOME FOR CHRISTMAS! Yes, I’ve missed San Francisco and Berkeley a lot, and while I’m in no rush to see Livermore again, I miss all my friends and family there. I’ll be in the Bay Area between the 23rd and the 30th, so if you’re around, give me a call! I’m returning to O’ahu just in time for New Year’s.

Thanks for reading. Tomorrow, I will upload the pictures I took at Pearl Harbor today (the 68th anniversary of the attack). Look out for that photo album! (Photo album on Facebook)

It’s Roxy time!

At Macy’s with Brit and Juvana, I found a large poster of famous Roxy model Jarah Mariano (you’ve seen her before). This is one step closer to meeting Jarah in person!

Leave a comment

Filed under YMWW Blog

YMWW #5: Jump Cuts

Sunday, October 4, 2009

(Originally posted on Facebook)

It’s been a while since my last entry. I apologize to anyone who has been anxiously waiting for this entry, though I assume most of you have just forgotten about it. It’s not that I stopped caring or coming up with ideas, I just simply don’t have easy Internet access. Right now I’m being more of a cliche college student than when I was actually in college: I’m using the WiFi at my local Starbucks. And I’m wearing a soccer jersey from my study abroad trip. And I’m listening to a local, indie band. *Sigh* At least I’m not drinking coffee!

OK, so on with the blog. Because a lot of time has passed and a lot of things have happened, I wasn’t able to wrap up everything I want to talk about in a convenient, overarching theme. Instead, I’m gonna throw out a random collection of life snippets and ideas.

NEW RESIDENCY: I finally moved into a new place! 745 Ekela Ave, #A1, Honolulu, HI 96816 for those of you who wanna Google Map it. Check out how close I am to the main tourist drag of Waikiki! That’s like a 10 minute bike ride. Plus, Kapahulu is a popular street with many small, hole-in-the-wall restaurants from all over the world and little random shops of all kinds. It reminds me of Telegraph in a way. Anyways, the house I’m living in has just been renovated. $450/month includes utilities, cable, Internet (but not yet), a full kitchen, a big living room, and a washer and dryer! The catch is that I’m sharing a room with two other guys. The landlord set up this place dorm-style: 10 guys sharing 4 rooms (one of which is a converted garage. . . that’s mine). I don’t mind sharing for now. The location more than makes up for it.

TWO-WHEEL CRUISING: My cousin was generous enough to give me one of his bikes. It is my life. There are many like it, but this one is mine. Without me, it is nothing. Without it, I am nothing. It ride it to and from work five days a week (a 30 minute commute, and uphill. . . both ways!). I explore my surroundings. I immerse myself in the city. The car was great for learning street names, but the bike frees you from the bubble. I’ve adorned it with a headlight (law required it) and a new seat (crotch required it). I love my bike, but still hate bikers when I’m not one.

WORKING MAN: As you know, I am a chef for Kikka Sushi in the Whole Foods Market at Kahala Mall. 7 AM to 4 PM Monday through Thursday, 7 AM to noon Friday, weekends free. From 7 AM to noon, there’s always something to do. Some bowl to make or something to clean. But when I get back from break, it’s just making sure there’s enough of all the food items. It’s a long and aimless and trying part of the work shift. It gets even longer when the few English-speaking coworkers of mine have the day off. I feel linguistically isolated on those days. Last Thursday, I hit a brick wall and thought about quitting. The next Friday I realized the job isn’t that bad, and I haven’t even received my first paycheck yet. I’ve learned to re-appreciate it, especially in this economy. That doesn’t mean, however, that I won’t keep an eye out for another opportunity.

ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY: While it’s not going to replace my current job, I was fortunate enough to get a volunteer job with the Hawai’i International Film Festival (thank you, Jill!). I’m not sure what I’ll be doing, but I’ll be working with films and that’s good enough for me! I’ll let you know in a future blog how it goes. I start tomorrow.

HUI O KULAPEA: This translates to “Club of the Golden Bear” and is the nickname of the Cal Alumni Club of Hawai’i. For the past two (frustrating) Saturdays, I’ve joined up with New and Old Blues to watch California Football! Though not a huge group, it’s still a comfort to be surrounded by alumni while watching the games. Some of them are old (I think Val graduated in the ’40s) and some of them are young (one guy graduated when I did), but most are middle-aged Bears who’ve toughed it out through the pre-Tedford years (and are now toughing it out through the now predictable Tedford seasons). Unfortunately, it’s mostly guys, but I did meet two New Blue females yesterday. There names are Candy and Angel. Is it a coincidence that the only girl alums I’ve meet in Hawai’i have stripper names? Must investigate. . .

FRIENDS: I love hanging out with my family, but I can’t hang out with only them all the time. Fortunately, my cousin Avery introduced me to some of her friends before she left for college in Seattle. Since her departure, I’ve been invited to two birthday parties. Though they’re not my “BFFs” or anything, I feel I’ve at least promoted myself above “Avery’s Replacement.” On top of that, the housemates/roommates who’ve already moved in with me are all pretty cool guys.

GIRLS: Unfortunately, not much to report yet, but I can at least say I’ve been able to take off my Berkeley goggles. I love you, Hawai’i!

Alright, that’s all I can think of writing about for now. I know it was mostly descriptive, but I promise you more introspective and humorous blogs to come. Next entry, actually, will be myPhoto Edition!

Until next time. . .

Leave a comment

Filed under YMWW Blog