Day 153: The Man and the Way Back Home

It’s…good…to be back…I guess? Hahah.

Well actually I got back yesterday, but spent most of the day resting and bringing my BAC back to a reasonable and livable level.

Cold Winter.jpgThere are a few things I definitely missed though. I missed the biting cold. It was hard to register that it was December and only two weeks before Christmas when it was so warm in Cancun. Everywhere we went there were Christmas decorations and the staff even wore Santa hats and I couldn’t quite understand why until someone had to remind me it was Christmas season. I guess I’m just too accustomed to cold, wintry Christmases. And honestly, I wouldn’t have them any other way. So while my family lamented the weather, I was glad to be back where I could bundle up.

I also feel as though nothing really brings you back home like a warm shower in your own bathroom. As soon as I was unpacked the first thing I did was jump into the shower and savor the sensations. Mind you, I wasn’t exactly wanting for a nice shower either. The hotel had a rainfall shower which was just, oh man, so luxurious. But there’s just something about a shower you know how to use, settings you’re familiar with, just the right amount of water pressure, your own soap and shampoo, and the comfort of your own bathrobe and towel that just reminds you you’re home.

The flight to Cancun was uneventful, which is kind of what you want out of you know, flying 35,000 feet in the air. There’s really no love lost between myself and United. I don’t have much to say about whatever it is they do with themselves. But just about the only Stroopwafel.jpgthing I look forward to when it comes to early morning flights with United is that I get to have a delicious, chewy, sweet, stroopwafel. If you haven’t had these yet, just order them from Amazon or ask your friendly neighborhood Dutchman. It’s much easier to get than to fly United for it. They’re wonderful thin waffles with a spread of caramel sandwiched in between. At room temp they’re chewy and sweet but if you place it over your coffee or tea mug for a bit, the caramel melts and softens and the waffles become warm. About the only thing to do besides sleep is snack on a stroopwafel for the four hours until we landed in Cancun.

The Resort

beach-view

The resort itself was fantastic. Absolutely gorgeous. In the center of the main building was a Japanese style garden with koi ponds. This is where Toji, their sake bar, and Bana, their Japanese restaurant, are located. A beautiful and fitting centerpiece to their resort. The other restaurants surround Bana, with Market Grill outdoors. They have three pools: a quieter adults-only pool, a family pool that is shallower, and a long sprawling main pool with a swim-up bar and little islets with water jets. They have a long sprawling expanse of beach right outside the resort.

pool-and-swim-up

I’d wake up in the morning and then either order room service or stop by the breakfast buffet. A sausage, mushroom, and mozzarella omelet on my balcony overlooking the ocean. Or maybe mimosas at the breakfast buffet while I loaded up on waffles, smoked salmon, freshly made omelets, cheeses, bacon, and fruits. Then I’d spend the day taking a paddleboard or kayak out onto the water and riding the waves. The Caribbean Sea picks up a bit of temper by the time it hits Mexico so there was definitely some action in the water. Lunchtime I’d go to the poolside grill and grab my body weight in guacamole and pico de gallo, seafood ceviche, burgers, hot dogs, and chicken wings. Then I’d laze the afternoon away in the pool, swimming up to the bar and shamelessly sipping on Miami Vice after Miami Vice.

day-view

Dinners we were spoiled for choice. Our first night we went to the Market Grill which is styled like a Brazilian rodizio, with skewers of meat traveling from table to table. Sirloin, filet, chicken thigh, beef short ribs, picanha, round after round as they brought it to our table fresh from the grill and sliced it in front of us. For meat, Scotch is best, so Blood and Sands were the drink of order.

sashimi-and-sushi

On the second night we went to Bana, their Japanese restaurant in the center of the resort. Best location, excellent food, terrible lighting and hot. Still. Dock and avocado eggrolls. Seafood shumai. So many pieces of sushi and sashimi. Octopus, scallop, tuna, salmon, soft shell crab, eel. And lychee martinis! They also had the best dessert, fried banana tempura with a chocolate sauce and green tea ice cream and black tea ice cream.

blue-corn-sopes-with-shrimpOn the third night we went to Mole, which to be honest with you I had the least hopes for. It was Mexican modern, and I’m not a big fan of Mexican so  I wasn’t too sure I would enjoy it. But man was I wrong! For appetizer I ordered these little blue corn sopes with shrimp and spicy sauce and mixed greens. Wonderful bite sized amuse bouches. I went all out for the entree. Entrees actually! All-inclusive after all. I had a goat canneloni with a cream sauce. The goat was tender and flavorful with the earthy spices of Mexican cuisine goat-cannelonibut stuffed into wondefully al dente pasta sheets and served with a rich creamy sauce. I also had the pulpo (octopus) roasted with garlic. Just the right level of toothsomeness and char. Dessert was a tres leches cake that they finished table side by pouring a tiny pitcher of condensed milk over and watching the cake absorb it all was definitely entertaining before digging in. I definitely wanted an appropriate drink but wasn’t feeling like margaritas so instead had caipirinhas. The lime was refreshing and helped me power through all those courses!

roasted-garlic-octopus

Our final night we ate at Fuego, which is the Paradisus’s Peruvian inspired restaurant. I had the highest hopes for this. I love Peruvian food. Of course I had to start with a ceviche of crab and shrimp. Then a bowl of mixed grilled seafood including squid, octopus, shrimp, and scallops. Followed by the thickest, richest, creamiest version of lobster bisque I have ever had. Then a pan fried sirloin with mushroom risotto and a parmesan tuile and then a roast breast of duck with sweet potato puree. Still room for dessert and drinks! I had plenty of Pisco Sours to keep me company and finished with a coconut creme brulee served with almond liquer ice cream.

The food was great but the luxury of eating whenever and whatever was just so freeing. I still feel new and fresh to the all-inclusive experience so any opportunity to order a drink at a bar or some food was always taken. Late night my brother and I would order room service. Buffalo wings, omelets, cheesecake, nachos, burgers, hot dogs, our poor hotel staff having to keep lugging everything! Because of my connections with the travel company they placed us on the highest floor with the best view so they really had a trek each time.

paradisus-cancun-room

Of course we couldn’t spend the entire time eating! On our second day we took an ATV tour of the jungle and got to ride them on Maroma Beach, one of the world’s best beaches. The ATV tour was fun but not as thrilling or challenging as the ATV tour I did in Cabo where we were riding on and over sand dunes and drifting in the dessert and going up cliffs. But it was just challenging enough for my family and the rest of our group apparently! There was one couple who were riding together. We hadn’t even left the parking lot, just going single line heading out, when you see them riding top speed streaking across the line turning wide. I think the boyfriend didn’t know how much kick these machines had. They ran straight. Into. A palm tree. Knocked it right over and they got stuck over its dead body. Luckily it was a young tree whose roots weren’t so deep yet. Then, as we were riding along the road heading into the jungle, my parents missed the turn and were headed into the highway. Our guide races in front of them and tries to signal them to stop and turn but my mother, riding as passenger, thought he was just being friendly and told my father to smile and keep waving back.

night-view

We also visited Dubai Palace, Cancun’s largest and newest casino. Cancun just recently legalized casinos so the selection is pretty sparse, unlike Aruba or the Dominican Republic. Still we had a good time, and in fact my father and I won around $1200 Mexican pesos playing some card games. It’s not much, around $50USD, but to them it sure was a big deal!

It was a great trip, with just the right amount of relaxation and activity. Most of all it was great to spend some time with my family. We haven’t had a vacation all four of us in a long while. My brother and I had the VIP room since it was under my name and my parents stayed in another room a few floors below. Still we were always together, either at the beach or by the pool, and we always ate together, though my brother and I would also have our late night snacks! We would even play cards in our room and play penalty games to punish the losers. I think I most cherish though the ability to just go bar hopping with my brother and drinking together.

It was a fun time and I think my family is hooked on the all-inclusive now. I still have a few more free rewards nights to use so I anticipate we’ll be back next year! Maybe a different place in the Caribbean though.

Honestly I needed this after finishing NaNoWriMo, and it was a refreshing restart. Ready to get back into things though! Missed writing, missed this community, and ready to start up again!

Day 153

Man: 125 Loneliness: 28

 

 

 

Day 91: The Man and the Taste of Identity; ‘Daring’

Philippine Flag.png

So apparently October is National Filipino-American History Month. Another reason for a guy to love October I guess. Filipino-American History Month was established by the Filipino-American National Historical Society back in 1988 but was only recognized nationally starting in 2009. The FANHS decided on October as the first recorded presence of Filipinos in the US was on October 18, 1587 when ‘Luzones Indios’ (natives of Luzon) were brought on the Spanish galleon Nuestra Senora de Esperanza to the shores of Morro Bay, California.

It’s pretty cool and all. And I am damn proud to be Filipino-American and that they have set aside this month for us and everything but I’ll be honest with you…I can’t say much to Filipino identity or notable people or culture, really. When I say I’m Filipino, I really mean that my parents are from the Philippines. I never, and I emphasize never had any desire or interest in joining any Filipino culture clubs or anything in high school or college. It actually just *shudder* made me cringe just to think of it. UAASO, United Asian-American Student Organization, was the largest Asian club on campus in college and it was completely run by Filipinos. You’d think I would’ve run there with arms wide open, burst through the doors and yell ‘My people! I have come to you!’ Instead I went the complete opposite direction and became President…of the Chinese Student Association.

I think it might be a Filipino-American thing though, honestly. When I visit the Philippines it’s not like I think ‘oh god I can’t stand being around all these Filipinos’. I find the native Filipino spirit and personality very friendly and agreeable and a lot of fun. But Filipino-Americans around here…eeh…yeah not so much.

My family and I are perfectly content and happy to be proud Filipinos…on our own. We really don’t feel the need to broadcast this to everyone or to be with others just to tell ourselves how happy we are to be us. We still behave and act and think and do things in very Philippine ways. Yes we have a painting of the last supper hanging in our dining room (and another in the kitchen). Yes we point with our lips and pick things up with our feet. But we never thought we would ever want to make that our ‘thing’ or identify with all of this. We just wanted to do it because it made sense, whether culturally, historically, logically, or emotionally.

Don’t ask me about famous Filipino figures. Don’t ask me about Filipino art or music or literature or film. I feel like sometimes I purposely go out of my way to avoid Fil-Ams in pop culture because it would just feel like lazy adoration. Like, I’m not going to like or listen to the Black Eyed Peas just because apl. de. ap. is Fil-Am. I’m not going to listen to Bruno Mars for the same reason and I don’t want to give people the chance to assume that of me. Having Dante Basco be the voice of Prince Zuko was pretty bad-ass though. And yes, I admit I did have a crush on Vanessa Hudgens. But an awesome TV show and a pretty face precede any sort of national or cultural affiliation!

I think one of the reasons why I have such a disconnect with Filipino culture here in the US versus actually in the Philippines is because of how fluid it seems to be. One of the greatest strengths (and conversely greatest weaknesses) of the Filipino is adaptability. We are the second largest Asian ethnicity in the United States and why we are so numerous (and why you probably didn’t even realize that) is because of how well we can assimilate into our environment. We really don’t want a lot of attention drawn to us. We would much prefer to be known for how easily and quickly our neighbors felt safe next to us. Hahah. But because of that I’ve always struggled with the concept of ‘authenticity’. I don’t know what it means to be ‘Fil-Am’ when we have no real strong sense of community or identity. A first generation Filipino-American growing up on the East Coast is going to turn out a whole hell of a lot different from a West Coaster and I really don’t feel comfortable or at home with either. I grew up around other ethnicities. My best friends were and still are Taiwanese, Korean, Japanese, and white. My entire sense of Filipino identity was derived only from my parents who also quite notably did not really interact with other Filipino families. (I understand their reasons now but…hardly seems apropos considering we’re supposed to be celebrating Filipinos right now. Hahah.)

Even our food, which is usually used as a mark of cultural identity, differs from place to Adobo.jpgplace. We cannot even unite on what should be on our plates. This is more than just a regional anomaly. This isn’t like categorizing Chinese food as either Szechuan, Hunan, Cantonese, or Mandarin. A dish can change from family to family and interpretations abound. You will often times find more ‘Filipino Fusion’ restaurants than you will ‘authentic Filipino’ simply because almost all Filipino food is fusion. No one wants to unify or define Filipino dishes for fear of singling out certain areas or ethnicities or offending the myriad Filipino families who can cook the same dish a thousand different ways. Who would get to define what Filipino food ‘is’ and how would we even establish their credibility or criteria for such a task.

Still, when it comes to cultural identity, you can talk to me about food. I know food. Filipino dishes still share many of the same characteristics despite the variances. I love Dinuguan.jpgthe hearty and flavor-packed ‘sabaw‘, or sauce that comes with each dish. A lot of Filipino food is stew-based and the rich sauce that is the result of that long stewing process is so good over steaming white rice. Unlike many East Asian dishes that focus on exemplifying and stressing one or at most two different flavors at a time, Filipino food is about packing as many flavors and textures into one dish as possible. For this reason many of my friends have had to become ‘accustomed’ to Filipino food because of how strong the flavors are. Now they love it and when they crave hearty and rich, they know where to go.

Filipino food is also all about being daring. We never let any part of the animal go to waste Balut.JPGand we’ll be damn clever about it too. I love dinuguan, a pork stew of belly, ear, and offal braised in pig’s blood (regional varieties include my preferred one which lessens the amount of vinegar and adds hot green pepper for punch). There is of course the infamous (though utterly delicious) balut. Easy shock-TV material for the uninitiated  but really, it’s just a fertilized duck egg.

 

Okay I get it, that might be a bit…tough to swallow. (HAH. Get it. Swallow like to eat and swallow like the bird which comes from an egg.) You don’t have to jump off the deep end just yet. To be perfectly honest my mother and father were born and raised in the Philippines and refuse to eat balut. Personally I think it’s a great breakfast alternative. Regardless, if anything at all, I would highly recommend that this October in honor of Filipino-American History Month, please, find your friendly neighborhood pinoy and ask them to take you a restaurant. Try some Filipino food if you haven’t yet had a chance. I guarantee you that there isn’t one too far from where you are. We’re everywhere. We’re just very good at blending in. But everyone is going to need a nurse or a nanny!

Day 91

Man: 72 Loneliness: 19

 

 

 

Day 73 Supplemental: The Lover’s Guide to Swedish Furniture Making; ‘Fragile’

ikea-summer

Call me crazy, but there’s something about a bellyful of crawfish and the smell of balsa wood that get the romantic juices flowing. Hahah. So let your friendly neighborhood Man share with you some of his secret insider tips to successful romantic dates at your IKEA.

First off, I want to make this very clear, I was doing this waaay before the movie (500) Days of Summer used IKEA as the setting for one of the sweetest movie date scenes I’ve ever seen. The movie came out in 2009. I saw it for the first time on DVD, though we’ll assume it was released on DVD the same year. I was 19 at the time. I was already dating and driving when I was 18. So you know…just saying. I didn’t copy nobody! This is all genuine, 100% Man. But (500) definitely nailed it too. Just watch:

I will always promote IKEA as an excellent date option that is creative, unique, romantic, and very personal. I wouldn’t make this the first date (unless there’s some sort of established inside joke or connection or you know, you met there) but it is definitely a great date to get to know the person and harmlessly imagine the future. It’s a no-risk, high-reward, low-pressure situation. So let’s call that oh I don’t know…date 5 or 6?

Crawfish Sign.jpgFirst, let’s grab dinner at the Cafe. Did you all know that IKEA has a cafe that serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Great food, incredible cost. Very DIY. Grab a tray for you and your date and get in line. I recommend the standard meatballs, mashed potatoes, gravy, and lingonberry sauce. Perhaps the two of you can also share a smoked salmon plate. And, trust me on this, IKEA has some of the best fries ever. Very much like Belgian frites, the fries at IKEA are thick cut but twice-fried for a super crispy crunchy outside and a light, fluffy, warm inside. There are some very nice desserts but please, take my advice, pass on it for now and save it for a little afternoon coffee date. Dessert comes later!

I like grabbing a meal from the IKEA Cafe for a couple reasons. Yes, the food is actually surprisingly good. And yes, the cost is incredibly economical. It was a godsend for a piss-poor college student. But it is exactly that college dining mentality I wanted to recreate. The fine dining and gourmet restaurants are all good and fun. First couple of dates, you want to bring out the best. In everything. Your personality. Your interests and hobbies. Your mannerisms. And of course, the food. But life isn’t always about the best. The best is easy to get used to. You want to know that the two of you are going to be okay with…the medium. Not bad. Not the best. But medium. That’s why I like to take a date here. It’s nice to date someone who knows how to appreciate a fine meal. But it’s equally nice to date someone who can still appreciate meatballs at a furniture store. It’s a…’can we be comfortable with each other’ kind of thing. Who doesn’t want someone who can rock the LBD at Le Grand and a plaid polo and jeans at IKEA? I don’t think I could date someone who only wanted one or the other.

Alright you’re full, you’re happy, you need something to do. Time to explore! IKEA is literally a playground for adults. There are the scattered apartment configurations (780,Ikea Showroom.jpg
550, 400, even 280 sq foot models!) and then there are all the model offices, bedrooms, bathrooms, and kitchens. I love walking through all of them. You get a real feel for the personality of a person during these visits. Their style, their preferences, and their priorities. You sit in the model kitchens and you see how the two of you could work together. How do you orchestrate your movements in those tiny kitchens. I go to the fridge. She goes to the stove. For a brief moment we are only inches away from each other. We could get closer…we could touch…get lost…ah! But don’t spill the sauce. Don’t burn the roast. And we need to get the ice from the freezer. So we keep dancing around each other. In the offices, we talk priorities. Whose office are we in. What do we do in this office. Who do we do it for. What are we dreaming of. I see past, present, and future. In no certain terms, with no judgements or conclusions, we talk about where we see ourselves. I admire a woman with direction. In the bedrooms words are picked carefully. This bed is comfy. Why don’t you try it. How do you sleep. Which side of the bed. Check out this killer walk-in closet. It even has a viewing mirror and a chair. So for example…maybe I sit here…and you say something like…’I need help picking an outfit for this meeting’ or ‘what should I wear to tonight’s party’ or ‘what do you think of this I picked up today’. What do you think of that arrangement. Play house for a little bit. Have fun. Pretend and let the fantasy live in IKEA. No one has to bring it out, no one has to assemble it just yet. Let me pretend to cook for you at the kitchen island. Let’s entertain guests in our tiny-ass apartment. Let’s check out the plates and silverware.

ikea-sundaeAlright! You’ve successfully navigated the maze of the IKEA showroom. I mean come on…the metaphors practically jump off the screen at you by this point, no? Let’s get our just desserts for walking together all this time (hitting you over the head yet). Right after the registers is the IKEA snack bar. Dollar hot dogs, cinnamon buns, please don’t ever get their abomination of a pizza, and of course, frozen yogurt sundaes and cones. Dollar dollar billikea-cone y’all. I personally prefer the cone. Your date may want a sundae. Strawberry or chocolate sauce with that?

You just had an incredible time at the same place you bought your dorm room furniture. Who knows. You may have to return one day to pick up furniture for your apartment. Or just go back because it’s fun and it’s playful and the showroom changes all the time to showcase the new designs.

Just remember. Be careful. Like our hearts, the furniture may be ömtålig. (Check the Daily Prompt to figure out what that one says in Swedish.)

 

Day 66: The Man and the Brudah

Happy Birthday.png

It is customary in my family that on birthdays after our prayer (Filipino Catholics represent y’all) I say a few special words reserved for the celebrant. Yeah big surprise, wonder how I ended up with that responsibility.

Today is my brother’s 22nd birthday. Twenty-two years ago I got a little brother and a best friend. Though I guarantee you there were times where I wasn’t sure we were gonna make it together. We had a nice dinner at a family-owned Italian restaurant in town, exchanged gifts, and we are now off to the movies. But before I go, I wanted to share with you the words I decided to dedicate to my dear younger brother from his Kuya (big brother).


 

Boobalah, Munch, Tikboy, Bruuudah. Happy birthday. Today you are 22. I want you to know I am tremendously, immeasurably proud of you. I see a wealth of possibility and potential and I commend you for staying true to yourself your entire life. I’ve never worried about the man you would become. I never questioned your decisions or the path you chose to take because you have never struck me as less than completely genuine. It’s okay that our paths and choices have led us to different destinations. It’s alright that we don’t always see eye to eye. You have been steadfast and firm with me and I know you’ve been that way with everything else.

Birthday Cat.gifYou face some immense responsibility now. You are out of school and the world is going to call on you to use your skills and talents. Remember to use them for the betterment of yourself, your family, and your world. You have a responsibility to fulfill the role you were always meant to have and it is on you to discover what that is. You will take on more responsibility, as I have, to take care of Mama and Papa and you will have to contribute more to the family. This you should take on with pride and enthusiasm.

You know the world is very different now. The expectations and the rewards are grossly unbalanced. There are a lot of people who would want to take advantage of your skills and use you rather than help you. Be aware, be smart. I am not worried because I have never promised you anything that I did not believe I or the world could guarantee you. You are clever enough to see the world for what it is and still find joy and happiness and satisfaction.

You are no longer a kid. You have always been my best friend but now you are also my Sugar.gifequal. I respect you and I admire you and I work to make you as proud of me as I am of you. I will always be there to be your guide, your mentor, your confidant, and your number one fan. Make us all proud. Make yourself proud. You are my brother, my blood, and I love you.

 

Day 66

Man: 49 Loneliness: 17

Day 66 Supplemental: The Man and the Annoying Dinner Conversation; ‘Sandwich’

This is one of those moments where I wish there was a faster and easier method of delivering my thoughts to you than typing. My mind races and my fingers stumble and there is only coherence and order and structure in the infinitesimally brief electric jolts of my brain. The whole of what I wish to say flashes in my mind at the speed of thought but disappears by the time I can think of the first letter to type.

And what praytell, you may ask, is causing such a frenzy of thought and inspiration that I Idiot Sandwich.gifshould want to share with you so immediately? It is this:

What is a sandwich? When is a sandwich not a sandwich and what makes a sandwich so?

The conversation begins innocently enough. The ‘sandwich’ is something so intrinsic to our very existence. It is so common in our vocabulary that the assumption is that if we are asked to define what a sandwich is, it would be so easy to capture its essence.

You can use the dictionary if you’d like. It really would be not much more help. The dictionary is lazy and timid. It must remain neutral. So you receive the simplest and lowest common denominator of ‘sandwich-ness’. It is by no means a satisfying enough portrayal of what we think we know of sandwiches.

I propose to you the following items: the taco, the hot dog, the lobster roll, the Reuben, the grilled cheese, and the argument-inducingly named ‘open-faced sandwich’.

options

Are these all examples of sandwiches? Why or why not?

I assume many of you have considered at first thought that surely that which makes up a sandwich is ‘some filling encased in an edible container’. That would certainly allow for all six, yes? Now how do you feel about the hot dog or the lobster roll? Tempted to say it has to be two pieces? What about the open-faced sandwich. And what if the hot dog bun splits in half.

There are a lot of layers of understanding and interpretation behind this seemingly simple question.

There are matters of intent. Can you say the pitmaster who spends all day making pulled pork, which is then served on bread, was really just making sandwiches all day?

And what about of efficiency. If we have a more specific and particular name for something, we tend to use that over anything less specific. We call a hot dog a hot dog because it is more specific, though a hot dog could still be called a sandwich. We call benches benches and not chairs though they are certainly equivalent.

And what about of context. Certainly most of us would recognize a sandwich as usually being two pieces of bread. But in Scandinvaian countries they have open-faced sandwiches. Can we apply imperial rule to dictate that what they have created must be categorized as completely different entities?

Did you know that New York has a sandwich tax? As such in order to profit as much as possible the New York state legislature has legally broadened the definition of sandwiches to include burritos, gyros, wraps, and pitas? Certainly if it is of legal benefit or discredit, we are going to be more or less generous with our definition.

Sandwich.gifThis is a fascinating conundrum. One that threatens many friendships and will certainly be a part of heated discussion tomorrow with my friends. I think ultimately though what this humorous and hopefully lighthearted conversation will convey is that…it is really impossible to know anything completely and absolutely objectively. We will always offer our own shades of meaning because we cannot know everything about what is without really discussing what isn’t. So a sandwich becomes difficult to define to capture all of its iterations without ending up discussing what a sandwich isn’t. And that’s why we disagree. It’s because we see the shadow of a sandwich from different angles and different light sources.

If we can’t agree on something as fundamentally simple as a sandwich, what about the real matters of life? Of justice, of truth, of morals and ethics. It becomes so…lost in translation. The best we can do is understand that definitions change based on perspective. And what do we do with that. Well we can’t keep at each other’s throats over hot dogs, that’s for sure. We’ve all seen and processed the shadows on the walls from our own vantage points.

Such then must be our understanding and expectation of relationships as well. Of love. We all know it intrinsically within ourselves what love should be and feel like. But we often times cannot agree on love without discussing what love isn’t, and thus we fight and fall out of love again because we are not the same.

My mind is exhausted and yet still racing. Sandwiches, who would have thought? Hahah. A lesson to be learned of love and expectations and definitions. A warning to be wary of context and application. What makes a sandwich to you?

 

Day 64: The Man and that Thing in His Eye; ‘Twinkle’

Beautiful liked to tell me that one of the major things that initially attracted her to me and was always so alluring was the passion I had for the things I loved. I can recall so many nights spent sharing stories and dreams and plans and hopes and how vividly it all came to me and the excitement in my voice, my eyes, my hands as I shared with her. I think there was something so natural about that relationship. She enjoyed watching me, being carried away with my wild dreams and gestures. I enjoyed being watched, feeling her gaze on me as I indulged in my hopes. A storyteller is only a storyteller if he has an audience, and the best way to his heart is to give him your eyes and ears.

I am normally a very reserved person. I prefer to observe and absorb as much as I can in large amounts until it becomes unbearable and I literally burst with stories. It is a common misconception to believe that the loudest and the most outgoing of us are the ones with the best stories to tell. I’m sure that plenty do and are, but you should never discount what the watchful and observant gaze can tell you. I am so much more occupied with capturing stories than telling them that I am sure to never run out.

There is constantly this ongoing battle within me between the one who watches and the one who shares. My hands were meant to wave wildly in the air with grand gestures mirroring the grandiosity of my verbosity. My voice was meant to rise and fall and inflect Jeremy.gifwith such passion and immediate transformation. Often times my fingers stumble over themselves trying to capture the words as they form in my mind. I can hear and see whole thoughts and images so vividly in my mind that I could so easily paint for you and transport you but the process of thought to hand to keyboard is oft times so much harder for me than thought to voice. I have finished all of this and right now my hands are actually just trying to recall everything I’ve already said in my mind. This is why I tell stories and not poetry. I could never figure out how to distill so much emotion and energy and wild fervor into the restrained fiery tempest of poetry. Instead I find that so many words fly in and out of my head that the fact I am able to restrict myself at all is a feat.

The thing of it is I also know that I secretly (or not so secretly) crave an audience. I am not content to be an unheard or undiscovered voice. I crave specifically that physical interaction. I love a live audience. I want to feed off of live laughter or gasps or cries. It isn’t just a coincidence that Beautiful felt that way when I spoke. I am, without ego or vanity or pride, aware of the effect of empassioned speech. I never feel as confident or as self-assured as when I am in the throes of sharing something I love. I spoke before of theeye-roll power of humor in attraction and how I was aware of that too and how it characterized my interactions with women. Even more so than that is the way I feel when I get a chance to speak about my passions. This is so much more than lazy, uninteresting, uninteractive self-centered speak. This is a way of engaging both people because when you speak with that enthusiasm and energy even listening becomes a more active experience. You listen with your eyes and your ears and your mind. You watch as I move from point to point, my arms flying with direct purpose translating thought to physical motion. You see every micro-expression as my eyes light or my brows furrow and how my mouth races to catch up with my thoughts. You hear the love and action in my voice. There is pleading and yearning and hope and despair whenever I need to invoke it. I find the best ways to connect to you, to move you, to transport you. I want what I see in my mind to be as vivid in yours.

Give me an opportunity to speak to you about food, about drink, about movies, literature, video games, martial arts, and I guarantee you will never see me as confident, smooth, articulate, and/or eloquent. Let me regale you with my stories. Let me strut with raw power and command across the stage of your mind. Let me undress you with my words as I wrap tantalizing, tempting, teasing words with my tongue. Let me move you and inspire you and sell you on my dreams. I wear my prose like a fine well-tailored suit and my speech could get me onto any red carpet.

The thing of it is though, for me, this is a very deep and personal relationship. It is a connection of words and thoughts and mind that…I choose not to want to share with everybody. The audience I crave is…an audience, really, of one. While I feel my most confident when I speak, I also find something incredibly attractive in someone who listens with such rapt attention and care. I don’t want some doting mindless audience of ‘yes’ bobbleheads. I want that one person who sees how significant it is to share. She would be the best, most engaging audience. I will feel inspired to keep talking and more importantly take words to action because of how much of me she sees and hears and believes. I miss and so incredibly desire that feeling again of being someone’s center of attention when I share. Someone who finds my hopes and dreams attractive not because of what they are but because of what they make me.

I never lost that twinkle in my eye. I just hope that someone will see it again.

Day 64

Man: 47 Loneliness: 17

Day 62: The Man and the Daily Prompt; ‘Cake’

I love to cook. I hate to bake. If you’ve spent any time doing either, you’ll very quickly realize that though they may appear similar, they are two completely different things for very different people. A chef and a baker may inhabit the same room but they are from very different worlds.

Like most writers, I am a man of passion. Impulse. Prone to getting carried away in the moment. In order to do well in our craft we must feel on a grander and simultaneously more minute scale than most people. We Souma.gifhave to feel the very rhythm and emotion of the earth in the smallest nerves of our body so that we can distill every external and internal inspiration into cohesive physical thought and word. Such is the task of the chef. My cooking largely depends on my mood and the inspiration I draw from within and without. A chef’s emotions can largely affect the taste of a dish. If he is having a particularly bad day and is angry, you may find more hints of pepper and spice than normal. If he is in a happy mood, you will taste more sweetness and perhaps freshness. The stereotype of the troubled emotionally erratic chef in the kitchen is not so far off from the real deal. Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsey, and David Chang, all culinary idols of mine, all have reputations of being particularly volatile in the kitchen. It is this fiery personality that pushes towards boldness and innovation. It is the tortured soul that breaks down barriers and constantly chases new frontiers. A creative spirit that needs consistent feeding. Confidence and insecurity also broadcast into the dish. I notice that when I attempt something for the first time, often it is…’unfinished’. Perhaps lacking in seasoning or not fully matured. I am unsure of myself and therefore am more hesitant to carry through with a dish. This is in contrast to dishes that I have made time and time again. My ‘go-to’ recipes that always guarantee satisfaction. I can move through those dishes with ease and confidence and so the flavors are boldly pronounced and vibrant. They are aggressive and complex.

Never try asking a Filipino for a recipe. It’s not that they won’t share with you, it’s that they won’t know how to. See in the Philippines we cook by what we call ‘tantsa’. One of my more regular readers and commenters, a native speaker and incredible writer in both languages, can probably speak better to the translation, but to me it equates most similarly in cooking to the phrase ‘cook by taste’. ‘Tantsa’ is more than a method, it is a culinary philosophy that purports that cooking is done not by calculated measure but by cooking with the eyes, the nose, the tongue, but most importantly the heart. There is no measure to how much of any one ingredient you need to put into a Filipino dish. You know it when you recognize it deep in your soul. We all grew up with these dishes and you’ll notice that most provinces have their own take and without any need for formal Pusheen Processinstruction or procedure we all gravitate to being able to replicate those dishes ourselves. It’s this wonderfully interactive and reactive dance of taste and adjust and feel that ties you so deeply and personally to your food.  I love garlic. To me it is one of the best ingredients around. Sauteed. Simmered. Roasted. Fried. As part of the dish or just garnish, I cannot exist without garlic. So my dishes oftentimes feature a bit more garlic than recipes call for. Certain areas in the Philippines are known for a characteristic preference towards spice and so their dishes all have some level of heat usually more than is customary or the norm in other parts of the country. My aunt makes the best dinuguan (a native dish similar to blood pudding) I have ever had but she makes it unique to her style and no restaurant or Filipino cookbook would have ever thought to do what she does. My mother’s callos is hands down the finest example but that is from years of tweaking the recipe to the very distinct and selective taste buds of my family. So your chances of getting a callos like my mother’s are pretty rare unless you come by one time! Five different restaurants can have five different interpretations of adobo, arguably the Philippines’s most notable, significant, and hard to define unofficial national dish. Every house has a different take, and all because the spirit of the dish may be the same but the heart, the ‘tantsa’, is fiercely unique. When I cook I may have all the ingredients but I certainly don’t have all the measurements. I move with the dish as it transforms and speaks to me and there is this two-way communication that I think is unique to this cooking. If I feel particularly garlicky (clearly not cooking for a date) I’ll run with it. If I’m feeling eggy I’ll crack a few more shells.

But do you know what happens when you feel particularly eggy when baking? Your whole dish changes. You balance the fine line between a souffle and an omelet. Your bread changes all of its characteristics: texture, smell, taste, crust. Your cupcakes and muffins blow up. You don’t mess with a baker’s recipe. Unlike the ‘tantsa’ that is a literal roll of Pusheen Bakingthe dice, baking is an exact science. The best, most efficient and effective methods, measurements, and modes have all already been established. The mark of a good chef is his ability to create. The mark of an expert baker is his ability to replicate. Consistency is key. Capturing the exact precise moment that cooking becomes more science and alchemy than improvisation and art. Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way disparaging baking or trying to claim one over the other. Like I said, they inhabit the same room but different worlds and if anything, I am in awe of how difficult and unforgiving and inflexible baking is. My friend is the baker of the group and I am constantly amazed and impressed by what she is capable of. It’s very interesting when we are in the same kitchen doing our thing. She sees me flying by the seat of my pants, constantly adjusting and readjusting, while I watch her careful and exacting, knowing exactly what to expect when and how and why even before she adds the ingredients. There is a very clear and vivid picture in her mind at the start whereas I am chasing an emotion felt on the breeze. I have a very realistic image of myself; I know what I am and am not capable of and so I recognize talent in things I cannot achieve myself. I admire bakers. I could not inhabit their world. I don’t have the patience or the ability to absorb the vast knowledge base needed. They are artisans and scientists and craftsmen all at the same time. I am a whirlwind of impressions.

I am happy though in my world. It speaks to me as I speak to it. My emotional state characterizes more than just my cooking, it speaks to my relationships, my writing, and my perspectives. I need to feel when I cook. I need to feel when I write. I need to feel when I’m with someone. And in the meanwhile, I’m perfectly content buying my cake from the store.

Day 62

Man: 46 Loneliness: 16

Day 58: The Man and the Road; Chicago, IL

I’ve just finished a lovely meal here in Pittsburgh that I want to share with you all but before I do it has reminded me to bring you back in time to my first trip to Chicago. I had been meaning to write about this meal ever since I had it but right soon after was the craziness of retreat, meditation posts, weekend with friends, and busyness in Pittsburgh. There is some finally some quiet and peace in my life and so I’d like to revisit what I have to tell you all, with no exaggeration, was one of the best meals I have ever had. Chicago is now permanently engrained into my memory because of the fantastic food scene in the city and the gem that is…

Quartino in Chicago, IL.

Quartino is located three blocks off Chicago’s famous Magnificent Mile, very close to the equally famous Pizzeria Uno, originator of the deep dish pizza. It is a two-storey building with seating on both levels and an outdoor patio. When I was there it was hustling and bustling and with the temperature not nearly cold enough, I opted for a seat inside. Eschewing my normal post at the bar I took a seat at a table in the main dining room.

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I am a big proponent of the open kitchen. I think it allows diners to engage with their food long before it arrives at the table and I believe people should know more about their meals. A look, even a cursory glance, at the amount of skill and the techniques used to coax out every incredible flavor heightens your awareness of the dish and informs your senses in a very tangible way. What I love about Quartino’s layout is how comfortably casual and intimately informal it is. The seats and tables are all wood and the plates are piled high for you to grab and share with the people you’re with. In the back you’ll see the full kitchen and can watch as the chefs shuffle from station to station preparing orders. In-between is their charcuterie and fromagerie. All kinds of incredible imported and house-cured meats hang from the display window and their entire selection of cheeses is housed there as well.

Ambiance and the best scenery aside, it was time to get to the meal itself. Before diving into the dishes, it is important to note one of Quartino’s key appealing features. The restaurant addresses the age-old dilemma of reconciling the fact that the best Italian restaurants serve family style, meaning to share, but with portion sizes so large that often times diners who wish to try a lot are limited to only one or two or three (depending on company) dishes. Borrowing from their neighbors, Quartino serves some incredible Italian dishes in a very Spanish way, as tapas-sized portions still meant for groups to share and enjoy. Or you know, one very hungry man. This meant a lot of dishes and a lot of good drink. Now did one affect the other, perhaps, but you can’t break up a good pair.

On to round 1!

Quartino Round 1

Drink: Negroni

Dishes: Angus Beef Carpaccio and Taleggio

If possible, and especially in Italian restaurants, I like to begin my meals with a classic, THE cocktail of Italy and perhaps the world, the timeless Negroni. To me this is the best cocktail in the world. Perfectly balanced sweetness and bitterness to open the palate and excite the appetite.

The Angus Beef Carpaccio was served with a crunchy, bitter salad of shaved celery and arugula. A generous helping of shaved Parmiggiano Reggiano and a drizzle of EVOO to add that richness and salty creamy tang. The beef was so toothsome. A wonderful play of textures. Tender but meaty slices of Angus beef. Crunchy crispy celery and soft arugula. The thin slices of Parmiggiano Reggiano crumbling and melting in your mouth.

The taleggio, made from cow’s milk, was complex and tangy. The aroma of the cheese fills your head when it arrives at the table. There was a nutty, earthy, slightly bitter taste in the rind that holds together a semi-soft almost creamy texture of cheese on the inside. It spread so tantalizingly on their house-baked rye bread and the apricot jam paired beautifully. The sweetness of the jam balances with the rind and the rest of the cheese rounds out the flavor.

The thing about carpaccio and formaggi is that there is very little involvement in the kitchen with the preparation of these dishes. But it is a great indicator of the level of quality and attention to ingredients that the restaurant chooses to present. I knew very quickly from these two dishes that I was not going to be disappointed. The meat was fresh and flavorful with a strong taste and texture. The cheese was pungent and aromatic.

On to round 2!

Quartino Round 2

Drink: Coletta

Dishes: Wild Arugula Salad and Pappardelle

The Coletta is a very versatile pre-or-post meal dish of bourbon enhanced with vin santo (an Italian fortified wine often served as desert) and Ramazotti, a type of Italian bitter. Much more spirits forward with less sweetness than the Negroni and a wonderfully velvety feel as the bourbon coats the mouth and lingers on the tongue. The drink is smooth and silky with just the right amount of body.

I am not usually a salad man but I love arugula and could not resist. That bitter peppery bite is just so irresistible and Quartino further enhances that with oranges, farro, hazelnuts, and a house-made goat’s milk ricotta. You need no further dressing as the oranges give off their sweet aromatic juice and the ricotta spreads as you press down with your fork. The hazelnuts were such a good addition to the dish. They were slightly roasted to give warmth and smoothness.

Housemade pastas are very difficult to prepare properly. If you’ve ever made pasta from scratch you’ll know that the big difference between that and dried pasta is you can never fully get yours to al dente. Still their housemade pappardelle was thick, broad, and had just the right texture. You could hold a ribbon between your fingers and feel that bounce and firmness to the touch. I am usually not a fan of tomato sauce but this was almost like having a meat dish. Shredded juicy chunks of braised beef short ribs were all over the sauce. The tomato sauce was just tart enough to separate the flavors of all the ingredients. You could pay attention to the pasta and the sauce independently and see that both were prepared with care.

I absolutely could have knocked myself out just gorging on their selection of housemade and imported pastas. The portions were as advertised and so I knew there was still more left in me to continue. I’m glad I ordered the salad because the lightness and freshness of the vegetables and fruits lifted the heaviness of that beefy meaty robust tomato sauce and thick pappardelle.

On to round 3!

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Drink: No Nino of Mine

Dishes: Roasted Baby Octopus and Procini & Truffle Risotto

Sticking to the whiskeys, my third cocktail was a mix of amaro, rye, Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur, and bitters. Sweeter than I would have anticipated or liked, perhaps wrongly times in my meal, but still a strong cocktail.

Let me tell you, this was the best round of all. I could have contented myself to repeat this course tenfold, forgetting all the rest. It all came together right here. Clearly, as you can see in the picture I had forgotten myself and dug in before I could take the pic. The aroma of the truffles in the risotto was so luxurious. The porcini with the intense flavor. That firmness of the mushroom compared to the creaminess of the risotto. There was bite in each smooth mouthful. Luxurious and rich yet light enough to enjoy more than once. I usually feel with truffle dishes the aroma drowns out other senses and it becomes heavy on the palate. Luckily the cocktail and the octopus were able to cut that. But man alive, that octopus. I miss it already. Just…they should have sent a poet. There was just enough char to make the edges of the tentacles crispy and smoky. I loved the feel of the crunch on each tentacle, especially over the suckers as that was where they had the most interesting surface area and char. The meat was tender but spry. You would take a bite, there’d first be the charred surface and then this wonderful texture of flesh. Not at all rubbery or runny. I love when my meat has just enough fight to make the eating interesting. I couldn’t decide if I preferred the thinner, crispier ends of the roasted octopus or the slightly chewy meaty part closer to the main body. Underneath the tentacles are some braised escarole as well with some thinly sliced red chilis that invigorate and revitalize. One main taste seriously lacking in the meal up until this point was heat and the chili provided just the right amount.

I loved every course of that meal. I think there were some real stars though. That octopus blew me away. The carpaccio was a delight to the senses. Such a pleasure to bite into. The salad captured my attention and my imagination. The added complements to the arugula were so intelligently chosen. If you are ever fortunate enough to be in the Windy City, please do visit Quartino and see for yourself. I have not even begun to scratch the surface of their offerings.

Day 47: The Man and the Fortuitous Madness; ‘Moon’

I’m not kidding, I sent this email to my friends two days ago. When I saw that the prompt was ‘moon’ I thought, how fortuitous, I could show you all what madness you would be in for if you were ever unfortunate enough to have to take a vacation with me.

Please note, this is just what I write for a simple, TWO NIGHT THREE DAY trip to the POCONOS. Last year we did five days in Vegas and I wrote a novel. 

But I’ll tell you what, no one can argue that my friends aren’t prepared when we go on trips together.

So without further ado, the email I sent my friends to prepare them for our vacation next week.

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Hello lovely people,

In a little more than a week we will be on our second annual Little ‘Un. Congratulations on achieving this milestone in consistency and travel.

As a reminder, we will be away from Saturday, August 27th, to Monday, August 29th in the beautiful Poconos Mountain area in eastern Pennsylvania.

Prepare for a weekend of excitement! Intrigue! And perhaps even….MURDER! Or maybe just some good food, good drinks, and good company. You know, whatevs.

Of course before we embark on this most epic of journeys, it would be most prudent to prepare properly, please.

Proposed Itinerary

Saturday, August 27th

We shall all congregate at the house of [name removed] on Saturday no later than 10am. This will provide us with ample time to go to Total Wine to procure our alcoholic purchases and, I recommend, have lunch together at Green Papaya to discuss preparations.

Upon completion we will begin our trek to East Stroudsburg, PA. Estimated travel time will be an hour and a half with a cruising altitude of…zero feet. We anticipate good weather and a smooth ride but your captain does advise that you have your seat belt on at all times.

We will unload our noble vessel of all our earthly belongings and begin claiming rooms at the house. We will also take inventory of the supplies provided by the house kitchen (as all meals will be prepared in-house) and once we are comfortable and confident in our selection, we will begin the task of grocery shopping for the duration of our stay.

Dinner on the first night will be expertly prepared and provided by none other than our dynamic duo, [name removed]!

Our nightly entertainment for the first night will be a visit to Mount Airy Casino Resort, a lively, upscale casino resort 11 miles from Camelback Mountain on the Pocono Plateau. May the odds be ever in your favor!

Sunday, August 28th

A hearty and filling breakfast will be provided by the Korean Culinary Conquistador, [name removed]!

I would recommend that breakfast be scheduled and provided at 10am.

Sunday is our day of outdoor adventure and fun!

I would direct you to this site, which lists all of the outdoor activities at our disposal at the Skytop Lodge, the premier family and conference resort in the Poconos. Located only half an hour away from our temporary palace activities INCLUDE, but are NOT LIMITED TO, archery tag, a treetop course, lawn bowling, hiking, paintball, and clay shooting! Spots fill up fast so I recommend we discuss and book as soon as possible. Our gated community also has its own park and canoe/kayak lake as well.

This is the most transient of elements in our trip, completely open to customization and recommendations. Please let your server provider know if you have any requests.

After a full day of physical activity what better way to relax and reenergize than with an overly complicated and prepared meal by your very own humble author.

Night’s activities will include games, drinking, drinking games, and games of drinking, and when drunk enough, completely violating the community’s ridiculous ‘quiet time’ rules and howling drunkenly at the moon.

Monday, August 29th

We will prepare for the long road home with a meal by Iron Chef Taiwanese, [name removed]!

Afterwards I think a visit to the Pocono Bazaar on the way home would be a fun side-trip. Who knows what strange and unique wares we’ll find and ultimately not buy?!

Is what I’d say if it weren’t for the fact that Pocono Bazaar is closed on Mondays! So…iono…we’ll figure it out. We will endure. We will remain calm and carry on. God we better do something though. Maybe local back home? Get on this, guys.

What to Bring

Now that you have all been made aware of the activities and itinerary, let’s discuss provisions!

Please remember that the house DOES NOT PROVIDE LINEN SERVICE. Therefore you will be required to bring your own linens, towels, etc.

Apart from daily attire, please bring something for our casino night and active wear for our day of adventure.

Along that note, for those of you so inclined, please remember to bring bug spray and sunscreen. Brown don’t burn, baby.

For our game night, I will bring a deck of cards and Spot It. If you request any other board games from me, please let me know. Otherwise if you would like to bring any, please feel free to do so.

Money

The cost of the accommodations is $726 to be divided by five, which is $145/person. I have already charged this amount to my card so you would need to pay that to me either in cash or, if you prefer by check, I would need it asap, to make sure it is in my account before this month’s billing statement.

At the beginning of the trip I will have a full tank of gas, and at the end when I refuel we will split the cost of fuel plus any tolls incurred.

Aside from this, please bring enough in your budget to account for casino night, any activities we decide to book on Sunday, and the cost of your groceries as well as any provisions we purchase as a group (such as water).

Speaking of which…

Food

As you know, one of the more interesting and exciting twists to this year’s trip is that all of our meals will be in-house. You are free to do whatever you choose for your allotted meal, picking any dishes from any cuisine or preparation. We will have a full kitchen and outdoor grill at our disposal. Please bear in mind that while we will go grocery shopping in PA, if your dishes require any unique or particularly difficult to find or highly specific ingredients or instruments, you will need to bring these along with you. Or if you need only a specific amount of an ingredient that you happen to already have, by all means to help you control cost feel free to bring it. There’s plenty of space in the car to accommodate for Kitchen Stadium.

Weather

It is still summer and therefore hot weather wear is highly recommended. However we are in the mountains and in very shaded wood areas so bring layers.

Additional Information

Attached you will also find the house rules provided by our lovely hosts.

Well there you have it. The wild ramblings of a man with too much time on his hands and too many things to concern himself with when traveling. I hope you found it as amusing and useful as I did, and not just overbearing. Hahah. 

I really am excited for this trip though. It’ll be great to be out in the woods to clear my head, spend some time with friends, and I love the opportunity to cook and gamble and drink and everything else we’ll be doing. 

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Day 47

Man: 31 Loneliness: 16

Day 43: The Man and the Double-Dipped Cherry; ‘Complicated’

I got to do things yesterday that I didn’t think I’d get to do for a long time.

I got to experience some firsts again.

I love my friends. I’ve known some of them since elementary school. And because of that, I feel I know pretty well what we’re going to be doing every week. Eat, drink, play some games, watch a movie, chat, call it a night.

I never really looked to them for the excitement and variety in my life. I always looked to my relationships for that. First time to Mexico, that was with a girlfriend. First time hiking, girlfriend. Bouldering, girlfriend. Coney Island, girlfriend. Et cetera. Et cetera. So when my last relationship ended and I decided to take on this experience, I also thought I would be submitting myself to an understanding that my life would be simple, predictable, consistent, for that amount of time as well. I don’t hold that against them. God only knows with my job being the way it is and my emotions always on a day to day basis a little consistency and reliability is certainly appreciated. I have no problem with grabbing a good meal and having some strong drinks either out or at my place with friends. I have no problem with playing card games or board games or watching movies or just talking somewhere with a good ambiance. But that would never really extinguish a desire in me. A thirst for more. I crave new experiences. I am a frenetic ball of energy that needs to vent, to be let loose in some direction. So I was understandably a bit concerned in the long run what I was going to do. I could of course pursue activities on my own. But for even the most solitary of folk, I believe there is a limit to how much of the human experience can really be felt on one’s own. We are social beings, forming communities for survival and prosperity.

I was worried my life would become too simple without my usual outlet (girlfriend) to explore everything I wanted to.

But yesterday proved me wrong. It showed me that my friends, the relationships I already have, can also be a source of new and exciting things. I have discounted my friends too much. I have underestimated their own propensity for adventure. I am humbled and a bit ashamed of myself for that but I see them now for so much more than just the same old same old. I mean, my friends have all had very dynamic lives without me really noticing. Two of them have just recently changed careers and positions. I am so proud of them for chasing after more than what they have and acknowledging their self-worth. Another friend is just now beginning a brand new relationship for the very first time and I can see how much it has changed him for the better. (God I miss that. Hahah.) They have all been equally hungry for life and I was too busy focusing on someone else’s plate rather than theirs.

So we’ve started to do more new things. We’re exploring interests and activities and hobbies. I am allowing myself to let go of plans and pre-conceived notions, I’m learning to be more flexible and share more of what I want to do with them rather than hold it back and prevent myself from really living and enjoying myself during this year of singlehood.

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Your humble author channeling his inner Legolas. Or Green Arrow. Or Robin Hood.

Yesterday we tried something I’ve always been interested in and, I found out, another friend has always been interested in too. A new archery range opened up nearby and they had a Groupon for an hour’s rental and use of the facilities so we decided to give it a try. It was so much fun and there is a certain peace and tranquility in the sport. The guards and equipment make you feel like a superhero and there is a deep and profound satisfaction in the sound of the arrow leaving the bow, even before you concern yourself with whether or not you’ve hit your target. We had some friendly competition and they even tied balloons to our targets once we were more comfortable for us to try and compete with. As I mentioned I discovered that one of my friends had actually always been interested in this as well which was a pleasant surprise and in fact we are seriously considering purchasing our own bows in the future to practice and improve and become more involved in the sport. I think there is great potential in pursuing this interest and I am equally excited for the opportunity to pursue a new hobby with one of my friends and also for the potential it unlocks for future blog posts.

 

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I would love to see if you could all guess which hand is mine.

We also went to the Hoboken Pilsnerhaus for the first time. It is a biergarten in north Jersey with a plethora of imported beers on tap and a large menu of German cuisine, including an indoor grill which would have been awesome if a) it wasn’t already 100 degrees outside b) the grill wasn’t also contributing even more heat into the facility and c) the proprietors weren’t so stingy as to not have air-conditioning inside the building. There isn’t enough beer in the world to make you forget about the heat and humidity. It’s an awesome place and again I got a chance to get really serious about a passion of mine (good food and drink) with a friend. Comparing beers, ordering a few different styles, we definitely could have made a session of it if it wasn’t so unbearably hot and crowded. A note for the future, we should go back for Oktobertfest, or Winterfest, or just ‘you won’t need A/C weather’ fest. The beers were excellent and of a wonderful variety of taste and feel and aroma. The food was wonderful. We started with a grilled sauteed mix of calamari and German sausages with rosemary, garlic, and paprika. From the grill I had two very large but wonderfully seasoned currywursts with crispy shoestring fries and a wonderfully peppery and crunchy housemade sauerkraut. This place is such great fun with the large communal wooden tables and the old world warehouse feel (I just wish the warehouse feel didn’t also include feeling like I was in an old hot warehouse). Had I not been with friends, I actually would not  have even known of this place. It was my friend’s recommendation to go here after archery.

 

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No I do not read or speak Korean. No not all songs are in Korean. This was just taken while my Korean friend was up and he figured if we didn’t know what he was singing, we couldn’t tell if he was messing up. He was wrong.

Even more significant and thoroughly surprising than the biergarten buzz was our Korean karaoke carousal. Yes dear readers after heat exhaustion and heavy drinking, we decided we wanted to spend the rest of our night singing (screaming). I have never been to a Korean karaoke studio before. One of my friends  goes semi-regularly with his friends in the city and another used to go in college with his Korean club (go figure). It would be a brand new experience for two of us though. I had always wanted to try one of these. I am a particularly compelling case of tone-deaf but I cannot deny a deep national heritage of wanting to sing karaoke. If you’ve never been, Korean karaoke studios are great because you rent a room per hour regardless of how many are in your party, the room usually has some sofas, strobe lights, a great sound system, and they are all BYOB and BYOF. We stocked up before heading to this particular one with some beer, some sake, some jelly wine (Yes this exists and it is incredible. Imagine a giant lychee pudding cup only alcoholic. And if you don’t know what a lychee pudding cup is, get an Asian friend and head to your nearest Asian market. This was the best after-school sweet and the best part was sucking up the sweet juice before munching on the lychee and the pudding and this wine perfectly captures that with a slightly emulsified jelly like filling.) and plenty of Asian snacks. You know, rice balls, sushi, fried chicken, it was a real party. I learned I love singing badly with friends. I learned that I am not, surprisingly, the worst singer in the group. I also learned who was the best (still not me). I also learned I really need to step up my old school hip hop game because I can’t get by on singing pop songs. I swear to you the next time I go I will have memorized No Diggety by Blackstreet and U Can’t Touch This by MC Hammer. Maybe I’ll even throw some Salt n Pepa in there courtesy Shoop. Confuse the hell out of my friends. Hahah.

I had an incredible time yesterday, and it goes t show me that I do not have to wait to live. Just because I have decided not to pursue any relationships this year does not mean I can’t have fun with the ones I already have. Life does not have to be simple because you are single. It can be argued that it is definitely simpler than being in a relationship, but by no means does that mean it must be. Life is full of adventure and spice no matter who you choose to live it with. It is varied, complex, and dare I say, even complicated.

Boom. Drop the mic.

Day 43

Man: 27 Loneliness: 16