Sunday, July 25, 2010

san francisco marathon

I thought I should memorialize how much pain I am in right now so that I am not tempted to do another marathon anytime soon.

Reminder: Pain pain pain! Two okay hours followed by two very unpleasant hours of pain pain pain! Find something other than pointless physical fitness leading to pain pain pain to fill void of meaning in life!

My last marathon, New York, was four years ago and my memory of it is focused less on the trauma I enacted on my body than on the thrilling experience of running through throngs of cheering spectators. How quickly we forget. I am a creaky old cow. It hurts to hoof it. San Francisco is a beautiful course in a beautiful city - highlights included the waterfront on the Embarcadero, the Golden Gate Bridge at daybreak with fog obscuring the tops of the towers and the Marin coastline, and the huge pine trees in Golden Gate Park - but why didn't anyone tell me this city has a hill or two? And that these hills would last 1-3 miles at a time?! After three and a half hours of this, even the 15" curb one had to step up at mile 24 seemed extraordinarily tall.

Funny sensations started in my body early; these turned into shin splints, instep blisters, and joint torture. I made a deal with my body that I would not run for a long time if it would just take me to the end, and eventually resorted to motivational mind games like cajoling myself to run to the next lamppost, run to the next traffic light, run as slow as you want but don't take it down to walking. I was better trained for this marathon than for either of the other two, but nonetheless I was not prepared to be steamrolled by pain. My overconfident first half trotting pace turned into a crotchety hobble and I barely got my ass to the finish in 4:05. R and O, who graciously biked alongside me at points, offering succor and energy gels, said that I looked really angry. Perhaps they mistook my pain rictus for my anger rictus? I really, really wanted to hail a cab.

On the plus side, after I finished, I ate a banana, a scone, a smoothie, two slices of barbecue chicken pizza, a white nectarine, two dozen cherries, almond butter and jelly on a plain bagel, nearly a pint of cookies and cream ice cream in a waffle cone, stir-fried veggies with ground beef and tofu and shrimp and rice, three Andes mints, a bag of Pirates' Booty, and a bowl of hot clear soup with Chinese soup balls. Now I am hungry again and I think I will have some wontons and nigori sake and then go to sleep.

Friday, July 23, 2010


July 7. K is back in town. We've been hanging out a lot. She's staying with her parents - originally it was only going to be for two weeks while she waited for the work visa for her next job, for a famous female British Iraqi deconstructivist architect in London, but the visa situation is taking longer to clear and now she is here indefinitely, but at least for another month or so. What's funny is I just found out that X is moving back to her parents' home. So the three of us - who have coupled in this order, B and X, B and K, K and X, B and X, B and K - will be back in Palo Alto indefinitely, living in our parents' homes. We met at the Oasis in Menlo Park yesterday. I was half asleep, but it was still fun to be around both of them. K and X got a little drunk because they got there an hour before I did and finished off a pitcher of Spaten between them. We didn't spend much time talking about the good old times, to my relief. Instead we caught each other up on the last ten years of our lives, during which we hardly saw each other. X noted that her drivers license photo was taken during her "married woman" phase, when she was dating a married straight woman, when she was a part-time personal trainer and Fish Market waitress living with a suspected pedophile whose thirteen year-old "daughter" slept in his bed in San Jose. Neither K nor I knew her during this phase. K told stories about living in east L.A. with a smoking Frenchman who stole money from her, and roommates named "Fairy" and "Coffee," and shitty, dangerous loft spaces partitioned by walls of bubble wrap. I made the sounds Joshua's girlfriend used to make when they screwed two feet away from me in the adjacent room in that railroad apartment. I had a grilled cheese sandwich that gave me amazing diarrhea three hours later. X drove home after distributing a few rounds of intimate hugs, her specialty. I appreciated the touch and held her waist very tightly. K and I biked home slowly, me steering her drunk ass away from the busier streets, listening to her comparing herself to her peers and talking about how she felt like she thought so differently from other people, and telling me that I was unhappy and something was wrong with me. I guess I am still something of a rube, because I still credit everything that drunk people say.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

good girls

[I will repost this once I've found a way to edit it for tone. For now, all I want to say is that it was enjoyable to spend time with your family, but I felt a little weird going back into the closet after being out for a dozen years, and I like being both Chinese and gay, and I'm sorry that I hurt your feelings.]

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

midday email from dad

Dad is very concerned that Boo will accidentally bite his tongue off when chewing rawhide. Original formatting retained.

Subject: i bought sub-way sanwich and bid my tongue accidentally..

dear mom and [bananarchist],
i bought subway sandwich and bid my tongue accidentally.
so i quit eating in the middle..
rinsing with dense salty water now.

please don't let BOO chew the dog-bone , very dangerous!!
if you watch the way how his tongue is turning around the bone ...
it will take a high-speed computer to calculate the location of his tongue,
and guarantee no logic bit error during the process!
don't let him eat the bone... please!


Monday, July 19, 2010

30 before 30

Last week, O turned 29, and in celebration, R and O and I went to a bar (in the 44.4% Asian town of Cupertino) where 100% of the other patrons were meaty, melanin underfunded types, nearly all men, many of them playing an aggressive version of Yahtzee requiring all players to slam leather cups filled with dice onto tables whilst hooting, one of them advising a younger man to trust women "only as far as you can throw them," and also where the three of us immigrants with graduate degrees pulled out pens and notepads, like we were TOEFL cramming, to participate in our favorite pastime, making lists. O and I made lists of thirty things to do before we turn thirty; R made a list of 31 before 31.

I turn 30 in two months, so the list is not as ambitious as New Year's resolutions. Here it is, minus the career-related ones I am too paranoid to post.

30 Before 30
  1. Take Mom and Dad to Crystal Springs Reservoir
  2. Take Grandma to the movies
  3. Move to [redacted], or make definite plans to move
  4. Record three more songs
  5. Participate in something performative (reading, music, other)
  6. Finish bedside book pile
  7. Discover two new bands that I really like
  8. Win one bet against O
  9. Run the San Francisco marathon
  10. Go to eastern California or northern northern California
  11. Buy more contact lenses
  12. Go camping again (Lost Coast?)
  13. Do another bike-about/food odyssey with R and O (balut in South Bay?)
  14. Try to go jogging with Mom (or encourage her to do some aerobic activity)
  15. Bike with Dad to Union City
  16. Find renters
  17. Decide whether Boo can live with me when I move
  18. Get to a stable place with S
  19. Do a weekday night hike with R and O and friends to spy on friends' relationship
  20. Spend time with BH
  21. Spend time with HK and KW
  22. Spend time with JY
  23. Try Richard's mountain bike at Arastradero Preserve before work one morning
  24. Learn to cook five more of Mom's dishes
  25. Do something nice for S's birthday
  26. Read "The Nine"
  27. Write something every day
  28. [Redacted]
  29. [Redacted]
  30. [Redacted]

Thursday, July 15, 2010

hey soul sister

Try to ignore this video (it will make you itchy) and just listen to this very popular song.

0:01 enter ukelele and voice. "Hey hey" section is howlable. The song is produced cleanly: all the instrumentation is distinct, and the words are well-enunciated.

0:13 enter words and drums. Catchiness of music must overcome cringeworthy lyrics. Bad visuals, meaning sacrificed to rhythm: "Your lipstick stains on the front lobe of my left side brains" and "my heart is bound to beat right out my untrimmed chest." Inconsistent metaphors, meaning sacrificed to rhyme: "Like a virgin you're Madonna, and I'm always gonna wanna blow your mind." The singer's voice is strong but colorless, most interesting when straining at its highest register, like Sting, but also good for a lilting head voice, as sung on the "I" in "I don't want to miss a single thing you do." Drums make the song. Is this in 2/2? The beat is samba-esque, with a kick drum on the downbeats (and a little sixteenth note before the second beat that makes all the difference), and a sort of unraveling, slightly decrescendoing snare that leaves the second half of the measure hot, empty space. The measures feel unfinished. It gives the song a humping-along momentum.

0:33 enter piano chords.

0:52 first chorus. Enter tambourine and shakers. Slight sound separation here. Most of the music is centered, except the bass (at 2:02) leans a little to the left and the hand percussion is pretty wide on the right.

1:12 instruments drop out when singer hits vocal crux of song, the word "tonight." Then instruments reenter, plus organ holding chords behind everything else. Brush hits on the snare on the back beat, coupled with ukelele strikes, also off beat, give the song its catchy Club Med country/reggae feeling here. Sounds like Jason Mraz.

2:02 enter electric instruments. An unnotable bass line gives the song a little flesh on the low end; clean quiet Telecaster chords are similarly unobtrusive, but the addition of these instruments counteracts the repetition of the verse melody. The rhythm and the singer's vocals are mixed so loud that the changes in instrumentation feel subtle in comparison.

2:21 bridge section. Only melody and chords change but rhythm and instrumentation are the same. "The way you can't cut a rug" is a nice resuscitation of a dead idiom, unfortunately nullified instantly by Sting saying, "You're so gangster, I'm so thug."

2:42 great transition here where all the noise drops out except vocals, ukelele, organ, and snare.

2:50 ramping back up with the instruments.

3:01 nice drum fill into a shuffle beat, which gives the effect of slowing the music down even though the tempo hasn't changed. Handclaps on the up beat at 3:11 return the rhythm to its rollicking Christian rock sound.

I find this song very attractive, even though like many pop songs the vocals are mixed so loudly that I am embarrassed by the music's earnestness. This production toes the line between sincerity and sentimentality. Who gives a shit? The music really works.

I may have spent too much time thinking about this song.

bear flag bonanza

N has started a new blog to sing the praises of the awesomest state. I contributed a post today.

Monday, July 12, 2010

another morning routine

Per your request, but much belatedly. I wake up. Shower. Correction, when I am not in a hurry, I brush my teeth in the shower. When I am in a real hurry, I do not brush my teeth. Otherwise, in between me waking up and me showering me brushes me teeth (good). Parts are dried, others left to fend for themselves (depending on flexibility, location of part, and if I am in a hurry). Breakfast is usually taken at work (bad coffee, a bowl of cereal -- there is a fridge in the office, where I keep my soy milk, no the cereal is not of the type that remains a gentle, blond lattice on the way out). Before breakfast, there is a commute. It is done by bicycle. Since this is a written record, I fastidiously wear a helmet, stop at orange lights, and help people as I make my way. It's a road bike, so the ride is pretty sweet. Lots of wind, freedom, self-propulsion. At some point, I joyously scoot to a stop in front of a booth that guards the entrance to our garage. The people who attend that booth are generally too busy to notice that I am standing there. I wait three to five minutes for them to raise the freaking bar. Raise the bar people! I yell, dance, and solve systems of linear equations until they take their eyes from the booth and plaster them to the yelling, dancing, solving lunatic. I show them my gov't issued ID. They raise the bar. I think hallelujah, but compose my face. I am at work. It is time for my work face. I walk the bike down the ramp, lock it up, approach the elevator. While waiting for it to recognize me, I think back on the wind, freedom, self-propulsion. Then the elevator comes and I begin looking ahead to soy milk. It will be fresh, the carton will be crisp. I will poor the milk before adding cereal. . . . All that happens after I arrive at the office, boot up my computer, and say hello to my co-clerks. If that day I had brushed my teeth (whether inside the shower or out), they generally respond with some pleasantry. Maybe a comment on the news. Maybe something about there being doughnuts in the cafeteria, which look suspiciously like the doughnuts that were spotted there the prior afternoon. We may argue what the likelihood is that these are the same doughnuts while I poor my fresh milk from its crisp container. Delicious. I eat the cereal tasting nothing but wind, freedom, and self-propulsion... but wait, what is that undertaste? Bandaged regret? Recollections of honeycomb! I burst into tears, hiding my face in the half eaten bowl of cereal. Like a big inverted porcelain teat. That is where the afternoon finds me.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

pretty baby

A song for cruel psychotic S, whom I love dearly, cruelty, psychosis, all of it. I'm sorry I haven't been who you've needed me to be.

Friday, July 02, 2010

two more morning routines

  1. 6:47. I usually set my alarm clock to pointy times, the non-round numbers that fool me into wakefulness. My room is corner windows and merciless light. It segues into warm water, clothing planned the night before. Liberal Radio wars with French press or stovetop espresso or manual drip, and I steel myself for the rituals that precede other rituals: my hour or so to write or draw before duty calls. The best of mornings, I forego home brewing and join legion wannabes in the neighborhood cafe. We are playwrights and limners and designers trying to be ourselves, fighting off the imminent closure of night.

  2. alarms on my and a's watches go off at 7:30 and we turn them off. i usually turn off a's because he's rarely bothered by the alarm. we continue to sleep. a second alarm goes off on my watch at 8:30, this is so i remember to take my no-baby pills. that's when i wake up, take the pill. pee, usually. i turn on my computer and check my gmail (basic html view!), the news, and world cup and wimbledon updates (lately). i'm trying to get off facebook. by the time i'm done it can be as late as 10. at some point in there, maybe while my computer is booting or the internet is connecting, i'll make and eat breakfast -- pseudo-muesli cereal with almonds and ground flaxseed. with yogurt, preferably, or buffalo milk if we're out of yogurt. i take a multivitamin. a will also probably have woken up at some point and he'll shower and eat. ideally my bowels will be ready for a shit at some point within the first 1.5 hours of waking -- if they're not, usually i'll go the day without it. i'll brush my teeth after i've had my chai. sometimes i shower (bucket bath) with a, depending on if i'm at a natural stopping point when he's ready, but sometimes i don't shower until noon or so. after futzing online, i study (microbiology lately) for a couple hours (for the boards) and then work on my thesis, which i currently hate and feel inadequate at. by about noon a will have started cooking lunch and we'll eat around 1:30.

    that's the usual, but if there's no water, i'll have to go to the outside tap and fill up three buckets, every large pot we have and all 5.5 water bottles. if there are leftover dirty dishes (because there was no water the night before either) i'll bring all the dishes out there to clean, too. at these times i feel like a real woman of the world. if there's no electricity, i can't use the computer, so i'll start studying first and/or just read (Faulkner right now).

    unless we're without basic utilities, i usually forget i'm in India until a) a turns on the tv or b) we go outside.