Around The Block: Hurricane Sandy

As of 11 am, we still have electricity and Internet capability here in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, so I thought I’d blog.

I just came back from a walk around the block to see which business were open, and which were closed. The 24 hour fruit market across the street? Open, because as one of its cashiers says, “We don’t have a door, so it’s not possible to close.” The liquor  and wine store? Also, open. “If it happens, it happens,” one of its owners says, and continuing, “We’re not going to close.”

As Kate says, “our wine shop is the chillest wine shop, because it’s owned by a couple of Polish guys who aren’t going anywhere.” Even, during a hurricane, it’s “whatever happens, happens.” I hope they have insurance for natural disasters, because I would hate to see them take a lot of damage, especially since they just expanded.

The business that seem to be open are the ones where the shopkeepers live locally so that they can return home should anything turn for the worse. The aptekas (Polish for pharamacy) across the street, for example.

Pub, pizza place, and day care are all closed as to be expected.

Hope everyone is staying safe.

Be well,


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Weekend Photo: The Autorama Drive Through Movie Theater

One of my favorite places from college: the drive through movie theater. As you can see, there’s usually a trade-off between screens. They usually pair a movie you want to see with one you really don’t want to see. This was a major sticking point for people I invited, but my point was, “the movie doesn’t matter, it’s the drive-through!”

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Lunch Time in Times Square

An Ice House Being Dismantled in Times Square

I intern at a company whose office are in Times Square. At first, I didn’t really like it. Want to take a break outside? Get ready to go down 11 floors, and deal with wall-to-wall moving advertisements and floods of tourists. Want a moment of quiet? Deal with people constantly coming up to you and asking you, “you like comedy?” or “you like drinks?” Recently, however, I’ve started to come around to it.

Even in Times Square, it is possible to find calm, which I experienced when I did yoga there for Summer Solstice. And as I continue to head out to the square during lunch, the fixtures of the square become kind of comforting: “there’s the naked cowboy playing the guitar, as usual,” or “hmm, today there’s a naked Indian, I wonder if there’s space enough for the two of them.” Once I even ventured into the M & M shop to see what all the fuss was about.

Even better, sometimes upon leaving the office, I come upon things that are genuinely delightful–like the ice sculpture house that I saw get dismantled. For a moment, I stop, snap a picture, and join locals and tourists alike in just looking on. When the moment’s up, I head back inside.

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Brooklyn Beautiful

I rode down to my grandmother’s in Bay Ridge the other day. Here’s a visual representation of the trip–along with its mishaps.

Getting out of Williamsburg was rough. I have a terrible sense of direction.

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First Hour Of The Day: Listening For Pleasant Sounds

Years ago, everyone wanted pleasant sounds and, except for a few orders during wars and earthquakes, things were very bad. But then the big cities were built and there was a great need for honking horns, screeching trains, clanging bells, deafening shouts, piercing shrieks, gurgling drains, and all the rest of those wonderfully unpleasant sounds we use so much of today.

Kakofonous A. Dischord, Doctor of Dissonance explaining his job to Milo in The Phantom Tollbooth


In this apartment, there is a very small window of the morning during which the sky is pink, the birds are chirping, the ventilator for the kebab shop is still off, and, most importantly, the construction has not yet begun on the street.

As I write at 7:35, I hear the engines for the trucks start up. In about five minutes, the drilling will start, and the claw will slam into the street, pealing off the pavement like a layer of fruit roll-up. The building will shake.

I sip my tea, and enjoy the last few minutes of pleasant sounds.

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First Hour of the Day: Finishing Zadie Smith & Waiting for a Sports Shop to Open So That I Can Buy A Helmet

Here we come, Brooklyn!

Context: Bike, bike, bike. I got a bike yesterday from Joyce’s Richard. I rode it home over the Williamsburg bridge; it was exhilarating.

Morning: In bed, finished Zadie Smith’s newest novel NW. Have you read NW? Please comment below with your thoughts, if yes! (Kate’s started, but stopped, and has picked up reading other novels; Joyce hasn’t started yet.)

Breakfast: Toast with a cup of tea. PDF of bike map of Brooklyn. Routes to visit grandmothers in Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst.

Plus: dim sum for lunch with maternal grandmother.

Minus: no crate on the bike = no quarts of soup & limited quantities of leftovers and/or Chinese groceries.

Minus: paternal grandmother is in a rehab center.

Plus: It’s a beautiful day.

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Guest Post: Free Fall

Stress, as imagined by Joseph Lai and drawn by yours truly.

The following post was written by Joseph Lai, read more about Joseph here.

The underlying fear behind every decision eats away at my soul.  This fear is born small, just a tinge of doubt.  Then this monster feeds on false perceptions.  I say to myself, “that could happen.”  More doubt fills my soul; negativity seeps in.  The monster grows.  Each time the problem grows larger than it is.  I say, “If I don’t get this internship, then I won’t get a job, and I’ll live at home and I’ll be a loser.”  All of a sudden, not getting an internship amounts to banishment from society. I’m immobilized by the fear of being a social outcast; the situation is unbearable.  I can’t sleep.  I get out of bed at 3 am.  For several hours, I research companies and internships. Alternatively, I philosophize about what I want in life and from a career.  This only temporarily deters the monster.  It is still in the room and soon it grows again.

This is what stress sounds like:

In avant cellist Zoe Keating’s “Zinc,” the singular notes dance and float like a leaf falling from a tree.  Lingering, twisting, and falling beautifully on the ears.  “A cascade of C’s” is how Zoe Keating describes the next part.  In my mind, a river grasps the leaf and throws it downstream towards the brink and towards the waterfall.  Off it goes, over the edge.  C after C, a cascade of water overtakes the leaf.  It falls helplessly.  In the end, it’s still the beautiful lingering note floating down the river bank.

This image perfectly illustrates stress.  We live life free of care until a situation takes hold of us and pushes us towards change or a decision.  Right to the edge, we struggle helplessly.  At a certain point, there’s only one option and that’s to take the dive.  We close our eyes, clench our teeth, and ball our hands into fists.  Our gut leaves our stomach and lunges into our throat.  But when we accept this fear, we open our eyes and the world is beautiful, exhilarating.  Stressful situations are only stressful when you perceive them to be.  They can be stressful situations, or routes to freedom.  Once we hit the bottom, we realize we are who we were.  Change doesn’t come about from one decision but from a series of decisions.  A decision is a small divot in the larger picture of our lives.  It is blue on black.

I believe of all this, and yet it is still still difficult.  I am working on embracing the fall.  I want to be comfortable with the anxiety in my life, with the knowledge that I can’t control life.  I want to be patient.  I want to rest in the knowledge that I did what I could in any given situation.  Then, I want to walk away.  That is all I can ask for.

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My Boston Marriage

Gazing across the river, Emma and I decide on a future house (and boat) in Maine.

“Boston marriage as a term is said to have been in use in New England in the decades spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries to describe two women living together, independent of financial support from a man.”

-Wikipedia entry for “Boston Marriage”


In college, my friend Emma and I would talk very earnestly and excitedly, when we got on the topic of living in Vancouver together one day. “We’ll ski, go to hockey games, cook dinner, read books, see the occasional movie, and go to bed early like an old married couple.” We describe our selves as such, because this is the life we led together one winter term in her family’s home in Jackson, Wyoming. We borrowed foreign movies from the public library, and rooted for the local hockey team: the Jackson Hole Moose.

We’re joking, of course, when we say we’ll do all this. But sometimes it can be difficult to tell. Hearing us say that we would bring Emma’s sister along to Vancouver to pretend she was our daughter while house-hunting, my boyfriend at the time looked at us earnestly, and asked, “you two are going to live in Vancouver?” Emma and I laughed and said, “No, no, it’s a joke. Well, kind of a joke.”

It’s a joke that stays alive because we both like to plan and takes flights of fancy.

The other weekend, I took a Chinatown bus to Boston to see Emma, and my friend Laura, whose birthday it was. On Sunday, we drove up to Portsmouth, NH to spend the day, enjoying fall in a classic New England town. No sooner had we finished our brunch, and a tasting of wine, did Emma and I start musing on our future in Portsmouth.

Looking across the river to Maine (pictured above), Emma said, “we could live in Maine, and have a boat and commute across to Portsmouth everyday.” Emma would work at the local theater company, and I initially in the food/retail/hospitality industry to supplement my writing and volunteer work at the local, non-profit yoga studio. When we passed a real estate agent’s office, we stopped to look at house prices. “Only $300,000 to go!”

From houses and jobs, we started thinking about the community organizations we could infiltrate and stock with our friends. Never mind that they are scattered across the country:”Holly could work at the newspaper!” “Emily could be a pastor at the church, and Desirae a rabbi.”

Emma and I would also be substantial supporters of the local economy–from the local wine and ice cream shops, to our favorite French bistro, to decorating our house with candles from the candle shop, and lanterns from the town’s 1,000 villages.

I would even forgo meat, cooking vegetarian food for Emma’s sake; I’ve done this before for other vegetarian friends and housemates. I would, however, eat meat and seafood at restaurants. We are in New England after all, and there are a variety of oysters from the region that I must try!

I think I could be quite happy in Portsmouth, NH.

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New Moon Kirtan Tomorrow!

In this house, we love our kirtan, call-and response chanting in Sanskrit. (See latest chalkboard art, here, and here for reference.) Sitting on the floor after dinner with a glass of wine is very likely to result in Joyce leading Kate and I in rounds of “Shiva Shiva Shambo” or “Sita Ram.”

Chanting, especially with a energetic group of people, feels so good–whether or not you are interested in yoga, or Sanskrit. “It feels like summer camp. When else do you get to chant?” says Kate.

Coming out of bi-monthly kirtan sessions, I find myself running circles around Joyce and Kate, skipping, and jumping ecstatically  “It’s okay,” Joyce says, “people will just assume she’s drunk.”

Tomorrow is new moon kirtan at the Integral Yoga Institute in New York, and I can’t wait.  I probably shouldn’t have had a caffeinated cup of tea this morning; my leg is shaking. In the meantime, I’m listening to a very upbeat rendition of the Maharityunjaya Mantra. Enjoy! It’s perfect for a chilly, cloudy day in New York. I love the instrumentation. What do you think?



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Chalkboard Art & Childhood Art Classes: A Portrait Of Siblinghood

Under my sister’s watchful eye, I draw a lotus. The text, “Shiva Shakti Om” was chosen because it is one of our favorite Sanskrit chants.


“ Before the world existed, before it was populated, and before there were wars and jobs and colleges and movies and clothes and opinions and foreign travel — before all of these things there had been only one person, Zora, and only one place: a tent in the living room made from chairs and bed-sheets. After a few years, Levi arrived; space was made for him; it was as if he had always been.”

–Zadie Smith, On Beauty


It never fails to astound me or Joyce that when people hear us interacting at the Yoga Studio, they do not assume we are sisters. “Do they think I would be this bossy with a friend?” Joyce wonders aloud. (For my part, I think people are scared that if they are wrong, we’ll respond angrily and say, “So you think all Asians look alike, do you??”)  Because it’s not just any bossiness, it’s that particular bossiness that comes from being the eldest child, and knowing your younger siblings for a lifetime.

Recently, I was sitting on the kitchen floor, deciding what to draw for the chalkboard. “A lotus,” I announced. “Make sure you make it more graphic,” Joyce chimed in. “What do you mean?” I asked, gazing up from the iPad where I had pulled up photos of lotuses. “Make it flat,” she answered. I looked at her quizzically, so she grabbed a pen, and drew what she meant on the back of an envelope. “Ah, I see, yes that looks very nice,” I said. I grabbed a pink chalk, and with my eyes on my sister’s example, I began drawing. I was soon interrupted. “Don’t look at mine when you are drawing!” exclaimed Joyce, exasperated. “Yes, of course not.”

Sitting there on the floor, with my sister hovering above me I was reminded of our childhood “art classes.” I would be doing something perfectly easy, and simple like playing pick-up trucks with my brother, when Joyce would interrupt us and announce, “we are playing art class today.” I’d hold my breadth, and wait to see if we were going to do something fun like papier mache, or collect leaves and flowers for collages. Sometimes, I let out a sigh of relief, but sometimes, Joyce would lead us to the porch, and my stomach would fall. I knew what was coming up: still-life drawing. Waiting for us would be some mishmash of fruits made out of glass, wind up clown dolls, bowls, and my glow-in-the-dark troll, whose hair she had demolished into a buzz cut. Then, she handed our blank pieces of paper, and pencils, and say, “begin.”

When I tell Joyce now how much I dreaded art class, she is surprised and not a little hurt. “But it was my favorite game!” “Yes, your favorite game.” “I tried to make it fun. I really did. I collected magazines so that you could cut out pictures.” “Yes, yes, yes, I know,” I say.  She’s had two glasses of wine, and is thinking about it too hard; she says, “I really felt it was my responsibility to give you and Joseph and arts education that was also fun, but you hated me.” “No, No. Just at the time, I didn’t always see it that way.”

I continue reassuring her–“We don’t hate you now,” I insist–while she goes on to tell me that I need to lighten up the front of the lotus with some contrasting colors, and deepen the back petals so that it will “really pop.” Even I must admit, the lotus does look a lot nicer with added yellow highlights, and the lettering much better with blue shadowing. So, I suppose art class was successful.

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