We Need To Talk

Note: this draft has been a long work-in-progress, partially due to laziness, partially due to stress, and partially because my parents didn’t want to announce anything until after my father’s treatment started. After several weeks of delays, he finally started chemo and radiation two weeks ago.
Note 2: The last draft date was back on April 9th so all of this is really, really old.

“When you have a moment, we need to talk” are words you never want to hear from one of your parents, even if you’re in your thirties. Those words were reserved for special occasions, usually bad ones.

What my mom wanted to talk about was this: my dad received confirmation of stage four throat cancer.

“It’s not the bad stage four,” she quickly added. “It’s the best of the worst.” Which shocked the hell out of me. I thought stage four was just one smidge away from it being death.

Slowly, she brought me up to speed on how my dad discovered he had cancer: there was a general checkup and his GP didn’t like how his tonsils felt. A scan was taken and a small mass was discovered on a tonsil. A biopsy was done and the mass proved to be malignant. The only silver lining to this was that it hadn’t spread to a lymph node.

The first thought that came to mind was of George Harrison; he had throat cancer twice and passed away because of it.

The second thought was of my dad losing his hair. Apart from some minor thinning (due to aging), he’s had a full head of hair as far back as I can remember. I’d have to try and find him some soft beanies; bonus [for him] if there was a New York Yankees logo on it.

The third thought (and totally random in my opinion) was that I may not have a father around to walk me down the aisle (if I ever get around to getting married).

I found my dad in the kitchen and promptly burst into tears. He pulled me into a hug, which was startling for me: my dad is about as Japanese as you can get (i.e., stoic). The last time he comforted me like that was when I was around four; I used to run to him after my mom yelled at me for misbehaving.

Like how he used to, he spoke quietly, interjecting small jokes to try and cheer me up. He told me he wasn’t dying, that the cancer hadn’t spread, that he wasn’t going to lose his hair but it was a good thing he’d always had a full head of it…little things like that.

Fast forward two weeks. A second biopsy showed that the cancer hadn’t spread, and was actually better than what the oncologist originally diagnosed. My initial fear of “my dad is going to die!” has faded a little bit, but there’s still a nagging pang in the back of my mind. I know my parents aren’t immortal; no one is. I’m in my thirties; my parents are in their sixties. All people die. This is fact.

It’s having a solid possibility of what will bring a parent’s death that jarred me. The reality is there (opposed to just thinking, “it’ll happen down the line”). And that’s the scariest part for me.

I’m not sure what to do or expect, even though it’s been two months since my parents told me about his cancer. Life has changed a little bit: meals are [kind of] planned out, schedules are being shifted to accommodate doctors’ appointments, and more visits to the drug store for prescriptions and basic medical supplies. The next few weeks will be difficult for sure but what can you really do?

You Can’t Fool Me (I Hope)

I was browsing through OK Cupid this evening when this came up:

okcwhitey

I’m still not sure if that’s the same guy with two different profiles or if they really are two separate people. Then again, I’m the girl who couldn’t tell her blonde-haired boyfriend-at-the-time apart from other blonde-haired guys (especially those who hang with Snoop Dogg/Lion).

At Your Own Risk

Everyone’s on the “It’s the 20th anniversary of the Northridge Earthquake! Where were you when it happened?” bandwagon here, and I thought I’d share the shorter (and maybe funny) story.

We’d just moved into a new house, and it was the first two-story place we’d ever had. People had warned us that you feel earthquakes more on the second story and this proved to be true. Small ones (less than 3.0 on the Richter scale) felt just a little bit stronger and we swayed a fraction of a second longer. Knowing that, my dad (the same one who gave me this sense of humor) decided to play a long-running joke on my mom.

My mom used to be a light sleeper, so any hint of movement would wake her up immediately. My dad would to see if she was sleeping and then he’d start shaking the bed – slowly at first, then gradually build it up to resemble a really bad earthquake. My mom would wake up, freak out, and yell for my dad to come get me and then head downstairs.

“Oh, you mean this?” he’d ask, and continue shaking the bed. She’d hit him, call him an asshole, and then they’d go back to sleep. He did this about twice a month for a year, and she hated it.

Fast forward to January 17, 1994. The quake hit fast and fierce, and woke up both of my parents at the same time.

“Cut it out! It’s not funny anymore,” she said.

“It’s not me. This is the big one. We need to grab Katie and go downstairs.”

My parents waited until after a few aftershocks to tell me this story. We had a good laugh, then tried to go back to sleep.

As far as I know, my dad never played that joke again on my mom.

Wrap Up

Glancing over my Twitter and Facebook feeds, it looks like 2013 was a crappy year for a lot of you. While I did get out of a year-long relationship, there was plenty that made up for it. For example:

1. Paid off my car loan.
2. Paid off most of my credit card debt.
3. Went to Russia and met some very nice people.
4. Ate a ramen burger.
5. Became a Friend of Tom for reals.

Things I’d like to accomplish for 2014:

1. Write here more often.
2. See how far I can make it freelancing in Production. (Because no one really wants to work in Entertainment in this town.)
3. Meet up with you more often.

Happy New Year!

Moscow and Beauty Queens and Cameras, Oh My!

I’ve got a few days to go before my trip to Moscow and yet I’m still in disbelief that I’m going.

Because, really, who makes Russia their “must see” destination? Certainly not this girl.

On Monday I fly out to Moscow, which will be my home for almost twenty-eight days. After three consecutive Miss USA Pageants, I finally got selected to be a part of the Remotes Production crew for Miss Universe. I’m super excited, super nervous, and super dreading the jet lag when I get back.

Things I know I’m going to miss:
1. The relatively calm weather of California. It’s going to be chilly and rainy when I land in Moscow, with snow towards the latter part of my stay. (I don’t even want to think about the limited amount of sunlight.)
2. Female companionship. Being with Remotes means I’m mostly in Boys’ Town, and even though I love working with these guys, there are days I just want to dish about clothing and accessories.
3. Tacos. Just because.
4. Having all of you “around” within a reasonable time zone. The distance between LAX and Moscow (according to my flight itinerary) is just a tiny bit shy of seven thousand miles, and with a time difference of eleven hours, communicating with people back home will be tricky.
5. Being able to recognize text. At least when I was in Germany, I could make out certain words because we share a similar alphabet.

Did I mention that I was excited and nervous?

I can’t even figure out a way to end this post. So I won’t.

Where I Get All Preachy About Ramen

Ramen has been a staple of my diet since childhood. As a little girl, I used to be thrilled whenever my mom or dad would boil up a packet of Sapporo Ichiban brand instant ramen for dinner. When I got a bit older, my dad introduced me to real ramen: a large bowl of steaming broth, carefully folded noodles, thinly sliced pork, and all the various toppings that get added at the last minute. I made a point to order a bowl of ramen whenever we went out to eat, even if I couldn’t finish it. (My dad would eat his bowl and the half that I’d left. もったいない [don't waste], as my grandma would say.)

With over twenty-five years of ramen eating experience, you’d better believe I take my noodles seriously. That’s why I’ve stood in line for hours at noodle festivals. There are hundreds of ways to make a bowl of ramen and I want to try almost every one. Most of the bowls I’ve had recently I don’t really care for, but that’s because I base every bowl on the first good one I had as a kid. (It sounds bad, but I’m more of a shoyu [soy-sauce] base girl – it’s what I grew up on.)

Torrance held a ramen festival this weekend, boasting twelve different ramen vendors with the added bonus of sushi and top-notch tempura over rice. Based on previous experience at the Noodle Bowl Festival in Santa Monica this year, I prepared myself for long lines. And I knew it was going to be worse since the event didn’t charge admission fees.

Since it’s the first time they’ve held this festival, I can’t fault them too harshly for the lack of organization. I sincerely believe this was a major learning experience for the vendors and the event planners. What I will say is this:
1. Signs for parking and lines need to be added. Ropes for lines would definitely be a bonus. Cars were circling; drivers were asking people in line if they could park in the lot. The line to get into the event spilled out into the parking lot, making it impossible for cars to drive through.
2. Tickets for the event need to be sold or admission needs to be charged. I realize that keeping it open encourages large crowds and the exposure would be huge. But when you read tweets and blog posts about people giving up after waiting for three hours or the vendors running out of food, it gets pretty discouraging. Tickets will help keep crowds to fairly reasonable numbers.
3. Signs and/or maps posted around the event to show where each vendor was located. There were two courtyard areas with stands and it was almost impossible to see the vendor until you got to the front of the stand. Then you had to figure out where the end of the line was.

yokocho ramen festival


That was the bad part. What I feel that most don’t realize is that noodle festivals can be tricky. You can’t mass produce bowls of food in anticipation of customers. Ramen is a relatively fast dish but there is a lot of preparation involved – doubly so because of the presentation factor. Some advice for those who are newbies:
1. Good ramen takes time. I honestly cannot stress this enough. Even with large crowds, bowls have to be made in small quantities at a time. If you make too many at once, the quality does go down.
2. LA is a (and I hate this word) foodie city. Any kind of event that isn’t ridiculously exclusive will bring in herds of people. Get to an event early and don’t bitch about the wait time.
3. Bring cash. This event did take cards, but the line for cash was always shorter.

Why do I put up with this craziness? I LOVE NOODLES (SPECIFICALLY RAMEN) TOO MUCH TO MISS OUT ON SOMETHING LIKE THIS. It’s the potential of having so many different kinds of noodles in one place that makes it intriguing, even though reality points out that maybe two bowls is all you’re getting at the end of a six-hour day. Although I think I’m tapped out (energy-wise) for food fests for the rest of the year, I’m definitely game for the next round of noodle-based events.

いただきます!(Itadakimasu!)

If you follow laist, you probably saw this post about ramen burgers. If you haven’t, I’ll wait for you to read it.

Are you caught up? Good.

Ever since I had read about ramen burgers through LAist’s sister site, gothamist, I was craving something I’d never had before. The concept intrigued me. The image weirded me out. Was it possible that the twain had finally met?

What sold me on the concept was the description of the flavor. In short, shoyu ramen with a hamburger patty would be available to hold in your hands in the form of a sandwich.

Mind you, when I saw the name “Keizo Shimamoto,” my gut reaction was to think that another eccentric man from Japan wanted to make an extremely popular dish even more convenient. Japan is famous for taking food to crazy levels, and this guy was adding himself to the list with his creation. What I didn’t realize is that he’s a nissei (second generation), just like me. We’re American as it gets, but there’s still a strong tie to our country of culture.

Anywho! When I found out that his ramen burger was coming to LA, I wanted to try one. I emailed a friend to see if she was interested and she was. I warned her that we’d have to go early since they tended to sell out quickly and offered to get her coffee on the ride over. (It always pays to bribe your friends, especially since this meant all plans to sleep in were now cancelled.)

From what I’d heard about Brooklyn, the burgers were practically gone before they officially opened. I’d seen several people retweet/repost the laist article on several social media sites and worried that we’d face a massive crowd at 8:30am. All worry faded when I turned into the driveway of Mistuwa and saw only a handful of cars and maybe thirty or forty people lined up.

Eleven o’ clock rolled around and people were getting antsy. In the hours that passed, we’d been offered paper fans, tee-shirts, and bottled water. Someone announced that we would be allowed to go into the store shortly. Something delicious was being prepared – you could smell beef cooking. I sincerely prayed it was the burgers.

ramen burger


Groups of about ten to twelve people were allowed inside at a time. Everyone from local news crews to people passing through the store had their cameras and smartphones out to capture the organized chaos going on behind the glass.

ramen burger


The guys behind the grill were trying to time the patties and the “buns” so that both would be perfect.

ramen burger


Sauce was spooned on, followed by a handful of arugula and a sprinkling of green onion.

ramen burger


The whole thing was popped into what looked like a sheet of paper, but a quick pull turned it into a convenient container.

ramen burger


We had to hunt down a table. The whole food court was packed with regular customers and all of us who came for a ramen burger. We managed to find a spot and dug in. Three people sitting nearby asked how the burgers were.

ramen burger


It was exactly as I hoped the ramen burger would taste. The noodles were al dente with a little bit of crunch on the top, the sauce melted a bit with the meat and turned into soup, and the green onion gave it that perfect kick. It was literally a mini-bowl of shoyu ramen with hamburger – similar to what I’ve done with instant ramen and leftovers. And the wrapper kept almost all of the juice from dripping down my fingers, leaving a perfect last sip of broth at the end.

When I finished the last bite, I was sad it was over.

ごちそうさまでした, Shimamoto-san! Thanks for a great meal!

(The rest of the pics can be found here.)

Edit: You can see the back of my head in a CBS news story here. I managed to grab a screenshot:

ramen burger cbs

I’m currently temping for a fashion school downtown. It’s definitely a whole other world for me: model sketches, clothing designs, sewing machines, mannequins, and all the other stuff you’ve ever seen in the movies.

There’s a bunch of boards on the walls outside of the office that are covered with student projects. The closest board to me is a Bob Mackie (yes, the designer for some of Cher’s more elaborate costumes) mentored project, which basically comes down to shiny and extravagant. My brain kind of exploded when I heard that Mr. Mackie is a great supporter of the fashion program and that more jeweled decor on fabric could happen in the near future.

I shared this feeling on Twitter during my lunch break yesterday. This is what popped up this morning:

Untitled


That. Happened. End of story.

Lesson Learned (RE: Comedy)

Mark asked me if I wanted to go to a comedy show in Santa Monica. Since my birthday is fast approaching, I’m not really in a social mood, so I declined. “It’s okay,” I thought to myself. “I’ll be much more comfortable at home watching something on Netflix.”

netflix fail


So that just happened. I even refreshed the screen to see if it was a fluke but no such luck. Looks like it’s going to be a DVD night tonight.

Because I Laughed At A Typewritter Ribbon Joke Last Night

Being unemployed means a fair amount of dead time exists between the hours of 9PM and 6AM. To fill those hours, I’ve been watching a lot of things on Netflix. So much in fact, that I’m running out of things to watch.* I’m actually looking into the recommendations the site keeps pushing on me to view, and it’s been about fifty-fifty in terms of like/dislike.

The Jack Benny Show has been popping up lately, and I think it’s due to the fact that I just finished a documentary on Johnny Carson. The first scene is with Jack Benny and Rochester going over a draft of Jack’s biography:
JB: Let’s see what you’ve got that’s written already, huh? Oh, for Heaven’s sake. Rochester, look at the way you’re typing. Some of the words are so light, I can hardly read ‘em!
R: Boss, I’ve been asking for two years to buy a new ribbon!
JB: Why should I buy a new ribbon?
R: Because pulling the old one out and dipping it in grape juice is ridiculous!


I laughed at that. Because I think I’m one of the few people of my age group who grew up on the typewriter.

That’s right, hipsters. Yours truly grew up using a TYPEWRITER. While my friends had word processors or a Macintosh computer, I prepared sheets of typewriter paper with margins and clacked my way through about five pages on the life and times of some historic figure. If I wanted to make text pop, I typed out the word, retyped it (to make the ink darker), and adjusted the roller a notch so I could underscore it. And I always had to reuse ribbon (thankfully never to the point of having to re-ink the thing).

Don’t even get me started about formatting the whole thing. One tiny mistake and I’d have to start the whole page over.

I felt incredibly awkward coming in to class with my one sized font while the other kids had different fonts, sizes, and styles. Eventually my parents got tired of having to listen to me type away into the wee hours of the night and invested in our first computer when I started high school. It took fourteen years for me to catch up with the rest of the world.

Unfortunately I didn’t come out unscathed. Having been trained on a real typewriter, I am the current day nightmare for editors in regards to formatting. It took me a long time to stop indenting paragraphs with five spaces before I discovered the tab button. I hit space twice after a period (it’s taking me forever to type this post trying to break the habit). I detest the automatic setting of ten-point font when hitting enter to start a new line on Word. But I’m slowly adjusting.