Success!

winners The only thing worse than having peers who are more successful than you is having people who are younger outdo you. (My friend Jenn came up with the latter point when a young alumni from her college starred in “Carrie, Part 2.”) You know Morrissey, lead singer of the Smiths? He recorded the very peppy, sweet-sounding tune “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful,” which makes me laugh.

Do I want my friends to be well, happy, productive, and successful? Of course I do! But I wouldn’t mind cornering one of those adjectives for myself either. I have a friend who is an internationally renown poet (in fact, I no longer refer to her by her name but by Internationally Renown Poet, and she’s friends with all the young, hot novelists whose books are being turned into movies. She’s a really nice woman and when she heard me bemoaning my average fate, she tried to comfort me with “Don’t worry, you’re young. You’ll get your book published,” which I thought was very sweet, but I also think untrue. I don’t live in a world where you can presume success is yours the way she, and the other top literary talent of the country, are able to. I might have a few years ago, as a promising young undergrad at a prestigious Ivy League university, but baby, those days are long gone along with my awesome (never appreciated) metabolism rate.

Briefly, I thought of joining the Alumni Club, to, I don’t know, somehow assimilate myself into greatness, listen to lectures, quote Kierkeguaard and Kant over a hot toddy and cigar in tastefully decorated, revered halls. I would breathe a sigh of relief, knowing I have finally arrived. BUT the fees to join are insanely high and frequent, and I don’t really need to spend money like that to fantasize when there’re plenty of places I can do that for FREE, like I dunno, at the library, in front of the boob tube, over my favorite jigsaw puzzle, etc.

The trick is to be happy anyway. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!!!!

Philly!

Phillywaffles My friend Becca and I traveled to Philly to visit Sung-Ji, Greg, Danny, Kirsten, and Danny and Kirsten’s brood of Simon (7), Bishop (3 or 4), and Koan (1 or so) “what is the sound of one cheek farting” Kashock. (Not my koan joke; see Katherine Min’s short story about dating a monk.) As soon as the boys arrived to Sung-Ji’s house, they hit the ground running, relaying from the living room to the kitchen and back, wrestling, using each other as horses, smothering each other. It was like being in a pin ball machine all of a sudden. Amazing how little they were and yet the entire atmosphere exploded once they arrived.

Sung-Ji made an amazing chicken pot pie and salad with a fancy dressing I like talking about but will probably never make. Then two kinds of waffles and maple syrup sausage for brunch the next day. All weekend, I skipped my friend Jesse’s advice of always being at a “five” on a hunger scale of 1 to 10 and got seconds, which made me feel like this:

Miss Piggy

which is too bad because really, we would all prefer to feel like this:

Dolly Parton

No heat!

heat miser! Oh man, when my folks moved to Brooklyn this fall at my behest, it was a gigantic, life-changing move — for them. They left their house of more than twenty years in idyllic, suburban New Jersey, to a smaller apartment, a more low-maintenance home near me, a total big deal. We moved them, so that the two of them would no longer have to shovel snow, drive a car, climb onto the roof to empty the gutter, or obsess over the flooding garage. But now, every time something goes wrong with their apartment, I feel an overwhelming amount of guilt. Although I really try to help their sense of well-being, I flip when things go wrong, and the transition has been anything but smooth or cheap. First of all, with any NYC-area property, you spend less time looking at it than a piece of clothing — that’s how nutty the market is. And only after living in the new pad have problems come up. The latest being the LACK OF HEAT.

Last Thursday was their first night with heat or hot water. As usual, Dad goes with the flow and Mom bemoans her tragic fate in life. After we agreed they could survive the night in their apartment, I watched Fox News announce it as “the coldest night of the year,” estimating the number of homeless and families without heat would DIE that night, which freaked me out. I worry about them — they are officially seniors, frail and tiny, as well as 100% fat-free. (Their lack of body fat makes me wonder if I am adopted, among other characteristics they exhibit). Like, among my nicknames in Korean for them (list is short, due to the fact I don’t speak the language) is meh-doh-chee (this tiny, puny dried fish) and kah-shee (fish bone).

While I was away this weekend, they somehow figured out who to hire to do this and that, something to do with a five-year-old boiler being dirty and needing to be replaced for five hundred dollars, which stresses us all out and makes me feel entirely responsible. I can’t help it — I feel responsible for the weather, the weird, sneaky things the pad reveals. But hopefully, HOPEFULLY, life will slow down and things will quit falling apart.

Mice Redux

No pictures. My kind super felt sorry for me and installed glue traps around my apartment–by the radiator, beneath the stove. They’re not humane, sorry to say. Heard awful stories where the poor mice get stuck on them and cry and scream, then eventually starve to death. Hideous. I can’t even deal with fishing, people (holding the pole for hours and chatting, yes; actually feeling something alive struggling for its life at the end of my line, not so much).

Luckily, there is mercy in the world and the mouse has not returned. The only thing the glue traps have ensnared are the edge of my stockings–and let me tell you, they’re powerful. I had a mini-trapped-mouse experience. Like just imagining something trapped in the trap with me was enough to inspire me to flail around uncontrollably around my kitchen, dragging the 25 cent contraption all over, yelling “gross, gross, gross.” 

Eight Seconds in Madison Square Garden

bullriding Saturday night, David and I got invited to box seats in Madison Square Garden for a bullriding competition. The whole contest for a million dollars started with a prayer (“bless our riders, our livestock, and bless this great competition of bullriding”), an appearance by Rudy Giuliani (Really? Running for president requires he do this on a Saturday night?), and some U.S. soldiers.

Each dude gets released from a pen on top of a bull which from all the way at the top of Madison Square Garden, still looks like a mac truck. I think the object is to stay on a bull for eight seconds with one hand in the air, like that movie starring Luke Perry, keep your chaps on and not get trampled on. Then after getting spun and tossed off the bull like crazy, you have to scoot quickly and get your bum on top of a fence so you don’t get…gorged. After watching ten or twenty, I finally stopped screaming. It’s just scary–when a dude falls off and the bull is stomping so wildly they literally fly high in the air, you just worry they’ll stamp on someone’s chest or hand or head or pinky. I don’t know. As I watched the bulls 360, I thought to myself, Not an activity for say the nausea-prone or the pregnant.

I worry about the lives the bullriders lead. They can’t really be more than high school educated and, like minor league baseball players, they have to travel to each town and muster up enthusiasm for a dying demand for this particular life skill.

There was one rider called “Mike Lee.” I got excited. Was he Korean? Nahhhhhhhh. In fact, most of the crowd seemed to be caucasian with cowboy hats on except for this one small group with yarmulkes.

Mice advice

mice Just as I was settling down for a nice post-xmas, nerdy relaxation of watching back-to-back 24 episodes, red wine, and tax preparations, a little brown mouse darted past me from beneath our stove to under our hot pink living room couch. Eeek!! My friend Jenn actually befriend her mouse visitor, but for me, dude, it positively shatters the feeling that my apartment is a sanctuary.

What do you do? My husband asked that I look for humane traps, like a mouse motel, and while I don’t really want to pay extra for a mouse to enjoy duvet covers, I also don’t want to deal with dead little creatures. I searched for traps at my local Rite Aid. There’s a whole section for mouse solutions–mouse traps that have in Sspanish Mata ratones all over the packaging, there are gigantic blocks of mysterious green material that mice apparently nibble on and then just die. My husband, Buddhist that he is, cannot abide by ending a mouse life. Me? I can’t either, for entirely different reasons. Not for any motivation as lovely and profound as the transmigration of souls, but simply because I am squeamish. I can’t really bear to even kill bugs for this reason, so I’m cool with David politely escorting cockroaches out of our apartment without smooching them into squashed afterthoughts. (Eeeew. Even imagining this gives me the heebie jeebies. Do you see why I’m okay with a lack of nature in my life?) I shouldn’t have told my mouse tale to my parents, who react to my once-in-a-while coughs as a sign of like threatening illness, but things have been slow and they need something to fret about.

Please little mouse, just go hang out somewhere else.

I heart Koreans!

Koreans at the Olympics

Here’s a joke I heard at my 10th year college reunion:

So Will Smith and Tupac walk into a Korean restaurant. (Tupac–just so you know how old this joke is.) When the waitress comes over, Tupac says “I’ll have rice, kim-chi, and bul-go-gi.” Will orders “rice and kimchi.” When the waitress walks away, Tupac leans over to Will, whispering so as not to embarrass him, and says, “Will, you can’t just order rice and kim chi. You have to order rice and kim chi and something else, like I order rice and kimchi and bul-go-gi.” Will, in his normal confident stance, just smiled and sat back. “Don’t worry, Tupac,” he says, “I’m getting jigue with it.”

Jigue, for peeps who don’t know, is a Korean dish. My cousin Aimee stared at me with a straight face after I reported this one to her, as I started to fall off my chair, but I love this joke!!! She has certain paramaters with jokes–like they have to be really funny or something, in order to laugh. Me? Low standards baby! Especially if I’m telling them.

tupac

James Kim

Kim and kids So Monday night, I was all set to make my triumphant return to the gym (had been sick for a week), and decided to do one of my senior citizen routines, which entails like a walking machine and watching TV (I don’t think many calories are burned, but hey, I’m out there). I had been dimly aware of this story about a family stranded in the snowy woods, but saw the detailed beginning to end details according Paula Zahn. I’m sure you know the story — this family of four driving from Seattle back home to San Francisco after Thanksgiving took a short cut and ended up getting snowed in. After seven days, the father, 35-year-old James Kim, decides to try to get help. The mother and two girls are rescued, but James is missing for another two days.

You see this kind of story, I feel like, once a year, so you get numb to it. People lose people. It happens all the time, but for some reason, I feel devastated they didn’t find him in time. I thought they would. I don’t know if I related more to it because the guy is Korean, b/c the couple is my age, b/c his wife has a really cool haircut, b/c the kids are pleasantly pudgy-cheeked, b/c they seem like an adorable family or what, but I get upset when I think about it.

What gets me are particular details, the disappointment of search and rescue team–how the Sheriff Anderson of Josephine County abruptly walked away mid-sentence from the camera after he announced they found his body.

I think about the tremendous, powerful expression of James’s father’s love. This dude wanted to find him. He hired his own helicopter to search for his son, he arranged for care packages including clothing, food, and letters from family to be dropped from the sky, to give him hope that they would find him soon. And while all this was going on, this media frenzy, and his family working hard, James was wandering in the woods, actually slogging through cold water. Who knows what he was thinking. I can’t believe it didn’t work. I’m so disappointed. It should’ve worked.

Anyway, if you want to donate money, you can go to www.jamesandkati.com. (Yes, I am obsessive.) There are a lot of blog chats about pros and cons of James’ logic to get out of there, but I really don’t care about that part. I guess if I wanted to walk away with something positive about this situation there are a few things. I was heartened to see all these non-Koreans rally around this guy and not see race as a barrier (yay!) and I think it’s uniquely American when people pull out all stops to save one person. Remember Clinton with that teenage kid about to get his bum whipped in Singapore? Perhaps some would see us indulgent or impractical, but I choose to believe it’s because Americans care about each other.

God and Football

turkeyWe recently spent Thanksgiving in Kentucky with my in-laws. My in-laws, lovely people, are very Christian, so I try to clean up my language the week before. I already know, I shouldn’t say “God” or “Jesus” in casual conversation, and that I probably shouldn’t say “Sweet cheeses” either, but no matter how conscientious I am, something else pops out of my mouth that normally doesn’t. When my sister-in-law asked if it was okay that I watch her daughter (b/c Heather’s four and a turbo-force) I said “Sure, it’ll be baptism by fire.” Or when I woke up before 10 a.m. one day, I greeted everyone “I’m awake! It’s a miracle!” Are these no-no words? I don’t know. We have such starkly different beliefs, we really tip toe around that stuff.

It’s a different part of the country, people, from New York City, I mean. Creationism is a hot topic in the front page of the paper. Northern Kentucky U. just formed “NKU Students Against National Coming Day,” etc. It’s sort of like visiting the set of “Footloose.” No drinking, no cursing, no evolution, no taking the Lord’s name in vain, no dancing. I actually don’t mind those things, and though I think the creationism vs. evolution discussion is sad, I actually NEVER talk about evolution in my daily life, but no DANCING??? How do people decompress without wiggling their bums around the living room? And football–sports seems to be something that everyone is obsessed with in KY (well, everywhere really, but NYC, you can still watch Bette Davis flicks in theaters at least). While I happily eat hotdogs and drink beers at Mets games, I don’t actually pay attention to the event at hand. To do so reminds me of studying for the LSATs–I could get a handle on it, but it takes effort and doesn’t come naturally.

Still, it was maybe my sixth time down in the “land of sacred hunting ground,” as my husband calls it, and every time, I get more comfortable with his family. David’s sister is the best hostess. She makes sure there’s plenty for us to eat, so we snack every 30 minutes (yes!). She does our laundry, lets us do our laundry before we leave. She lets us sleep for hours. We get to recuperate from NYC life under her roof. The other thing about Kentucky is that it’s beautiful–lots of rolling hills and all that. In Louisville, there are exquisite parks designed by the same dude who did Central Park, but what I realized on this trip is that I really don’t need nature. I’m okay with concrete. I like the sidewalks of New York. Instead of trees and hills, we get to gaze at the landscape of buildings and skyline. This causes my poor husband great consternation for a number of reasons I won’t get into right now. He would like to live in Kentucky again one day is one reason, and while I enjoy our visits, I could never be happy there. It’s not just that the state has a microscopic population of Asians. It’s also because when I visit, I feel like a minority in terms of how I dress, how I think, what I like to do, eat, and see. Poor guy.

Ice skating is romantic and fun

Bryant Park ice skating rink or it was in my imagination. Last night, my husband David and I ventured to Bryant Park’s iceskating rink. After three years of saying “we should go ice skating,” we were finally doing it. Yeah! It’s before the holidays, so there wasn’t this monstrous, forbidding line wrapping around the park, but there were other signs that maybe we should’ve turned back. I fell twice last night. For the first fall, I wiped out faceforward on the steps, with my gigantic backpack pinning me earthward, and bloodied a knee–and this was before I got on the ice. Uh oh. I am at an age where when I fall, I just lie there. I’m no longer easily embarrassed about looking foolish, and really, on some days, my spirit is such that I just want to lie down on the ground anyway. Once we got in, rented our skates, shoved our belongings into a locker the size of a gnome coffin (sorry gnomes), we were on our way! Luckily, there weren’t many people like me desperately clinging to the walls around the rink, so I had the area to myself. Eventually, I let go and went a couple of rounds on my own giggling with nervousness, observed a gray-haired lady drop down on her bum, and quickly, soon followed with my own tremendous fall. I pitched face forward thunderously, and got the wind knocked out of me. At this point, I would very much like to bawl like a six-year-old, but then I remember, I’m in public and I’m 34, so I just lay on the ice not moving, which I think made the staff nervous because suddenly a succession of three male employees with official yellow jackets were by my side and skated me off the rink. They were so fast! David even kicked one of the them in the knee by accident in all the eagerness to help. After I got interrogated by the EMT, I was free to sit on the bench, and tried to figure out whether I wanted to venture on the ice again. I’m all about the “get back in the saddle” and I didn’t want to disappoint my husband. Only when when David very kindly said “let’s go home. We don’t need no stinking rink” did we leave. He’s good to me.

I was on the ice all of ten minutes. Awesome.