Archive for the ‘ Personal Info ’ Category

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.

They All Look Alike To Me

The guy I’ve been dating was on vacation last week in the woods of Wisconsin. He looks like this:


So you can imagine my surprise when I saw this picture on my newsfeed (posted by Snoop Dogg) on Facebook:
Borrowed from Snoop Dogg's Facebook page

At a passing glance, it looked like my guy was hanging out with Snoop Dogg. Closer inspection revealed that it wasn’t him at all. The tell-tale points:
1. Snoop Dogg probably wasn’t hanging out in Wisconsin.
2. The guy in the pic parts his hair differently (and it’s a slightly darker shade of blonde).
3. The guy in the pic has rings on. My guy doesn’t wear jewelry.

In my defense, it’s only been a couple of months since we’ve started dating. While I’m pretty confident that I could pick him out in a crowd, it’d still take me a good minute before I can confirm it’s him. The old saying holds true: “All you [white] people look alike.”

This Is Harder Than I Thought It Would Be

I don’t blog as much as I used to. Possible reasons:
1. The people who got me started on blogging on a non-Livejournal website rarely blog these days.
2. It’s all about micro-blogging. (If you want to stalk me on Tumblr, you can do it here. I don’t post regularly on that site, but this could always change.)
3. Not working in some form of customer service doesn’t really bring in fresh ideas/funny stories.
4. Working in entertainment is kind of neat, but you can’t really talk about what you’re currently working on. (Confidentiality agreements and all that.)
5. I don’t feel like my writing style is up to par these days.
6. Death does not get easier to process as I get older. (Not my own mortality, but the taking-away of people part.)

When things really throw me for a loop, I tend to revert back into things I’m familiar with, and a lot of that is compromised of pulling out books and journals from my teenage years. On a whim, I pulled out this book:



I received a copy for my 11th or 12th birthday and read it dozens of times. Eventually I moved onto the harder stuff (Haruki Murakami, Junichiro Tanizaki, Ryu Murakami), and Banana Yoshimoto became my go-to book when I wanted something girly to read.

After Lisa’s passing, I went through my bookshelf and pulled Kitchen to read. I knew it was going to be an easy read: no elaborate storylines, no drama-filled love affairs, no violence. It’s a book I could read just for the story.

Or so I thought. Right off the bat, there was a death of a close relative, followed by the stages of grief. All I could recall was the transsexual mother and a budding love story.

I’d never see my own grandmother again. Never again. I don’t care for the loaded sentimentality of those words or for the feeling of limitation they impose. But just then they struck me with an unforgettable intensity and authority.

That’s just the English translation. I have no idea how close it is in the original Japanese text, but those sentences really struck a chord in me. And then there’s this:

To the extent that I had come to understand that despair does not necessarily result in annihilation, that one can go on as usual in spite of it, I had become hardened. Was that what it means to be an adult, to live with ugly ambiguities? I didn’t like it, but it made it easier to go on.

“Moonlight Shadow” is a short “encore” story that also deals with death and grieving (and had somehow completely slipped my mind). In this story, a young girl gets to “say” goodbye to her boyfriend who was killed in a car accident. Because she lost her love so abruptly, she finds immense relief in being able to wave goodbye to his spirit.

It sounds cheesy to write this (and I’m wincing as I type this out), but this book literally pulled me from a dark spot. There were so many times I came across a passage where I wanted to shout, “THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I’M FEELING RIGHT NOW!” There were a few times I came across a passage that gave me hope about dealing with last November and December.

I’ll never be able to be here again. As the minutes slide by, I move on. The flow of time is something I cannot stop. I haven’t a choice. I go.

I just came across that line while looking up passages I wanted to include here. Absolutely love it.

The next post will hopefully bring me back to my usual smart-assed self, especially since I’m doing the whole online dating thing again. But in the meantime, thanks for sticking with me while I’ve been in limbo.

Close To Home: Part 2

After nearly nintey-six hours of waiting in uncertainty, I finally got word from Japan. And it’s all good (or at least as good as it can be): my relatives in Fukushima were inland far enough to escape the tsunami and are all alive. A cousin in Tokyo had a better stroke of luck in contacting people by phone, then called us with his findings.

I cannot even begin to tell you how relieved I am that they’re alive. Over the weekend I kept my attention focused on the news, getting frustrated when no new information was coming forward. I had to limit my exposure to just what I found on the internet because I couldn’t stop crying whenever I watched television. One of the pictures that’s been floating around the internet from Japan pretty much sums up how I felt over the weekend:



Sunday night was spent at my grandmother’s house. Originally we’d planned to get together to celebrate belated birthdays (and we still did), but we couldn’t help but keep our eyes glued to the screen: my grandmother has NHK (a family Christmas gift) and it was on the entire time we were there. Pictures of our relatives were on the coffee table and my grandmother was pointing out the ones she hadn’t heard from. It was surreal: potentially a quarter of my heritage had been completely destroyed by a natural disaster, but all we could do was wait.

Monday night we’d finally heard from most of the relatives in Fukushima, which was a relief. The only one we hadn’t heard from was Fukui-chan, my grandmother’s cousin, who lives in the Sendai area. She’s probably the same age as my grandmother (who just turned ninety), and all I could think of was what I’d seen in pictures: old people being carried out on the backs of soldiers (best case scenario).

Last night we got a call around 9:30 on the landline. Usually that means something bad has happened, but this time around it was good news: Fukui-chan is okay and is currently staying with her daughter. With that, I felt like I could finally stop worrying about a small part of the tragedy and start worrying about my country of culture as a whole.

Japan has a very, very long road ahead in the recovery process. If the threat of nuclear distaster wasn’t in the air, I’d recommend that they burn the debris and try to start from scratch. There’s too much damage everywhere to even start picking things up and disposing of them properly. How any of those people have the willpower to go back to where their house stood to look for something to salvage is beyond me. And since I can’t go over there and phsyically help, I’ve sent donations through Red Cross and World Giving (found via this link on CNN).

Of course, there’s a very big THANK YOU to everyone who sent good vibes and well wishes during this whole thing. There’s a huge comfort in knowing that I’ve got support from the internet, especially when I’ve done little more than interacted with you through Twitter. I sincerely believe that this helped me find my family safely, and that if we keep sending positive thoughts, the other missing people will be found as well. (At the very least, the dead will be found and identified so that they can rest in peace.)

My only bit of humor at this point is that the nuclear crisis may bring Godzilla into being and that he could save Japan. How, I’m not sure. But he’s done it before.

Close To Home

Like many of the major disasters that have happened during my short stint on Earth, I was a little bit late in finding out about the tragedy that struck Japan on March 11th.

My friend Sherry sent me a text at about 7 AM, asking me if I heard about what happened in Japan. The last thing I’d seen in the news was the resignation of a cabinet member because he accepted foreign money during his campaign, and I thought that’s what she was referring to.

She told me that there was an 8.9 magnitude earthquake.

My first thought was that large cities collapsed, similar to what happened in China back in 2008. It wasn’t until I turned on my computer did I realize it was much worse.

Footage of the tsunami showed waves wiping out homes, cars, entire towns like they were crumbs on a tablecloth. Fires were consuming buildings like they were kindling. Crowds of people trying to reach higher ground, watching the wreckage float past them.

It’s horrible for anyone to look at.

Being as American as I am, I can’t help but keep at least one foot in the country of my cultural heritage. I scan the LA Times and Wikipedia for news. I watch NHK when I have the chance. By birth, I’d be the cousin once removed from the lineup. Two-thirds of my name is Japanese. You’d better believe the earthquake had me concerned.

My concern turned into high-level worry when I heard about the power plant in Fukushima. My maternal grandmother’s family is from that area, and we still have cousins who live on the family land. The pictures I had seen of the place showed little more than your basic Japanese country house, complete with a small scale vegetable garden and a convenient trip from our ancestors’ graves. (If I was asked to spend the night during a visit, I’d do the bare minimum stay.)

I stopped watching the news as of yesterday. For one, the lack of information is incredibly frustrating. For another, the images of the wreckage and the survivors leaves me in tears. It was enough to see small children being scanned to see if they had any radiation contamination and to hear that iodine tablets were being prepared for distribution.

We finally got some news about family today. A cousin of my grandmother has lost her house. We’re not sure how the others are faring; we can’t get through on the phone. Another cousin in Tokyo managed to call us to let us know he and his family are okay; my grandmother gave him a list of numbers in Fukushima to try.

I’m trying to lose myself by following Tweets and posts on Facebook, but I feel guilty. I’ve got power, food, water, and a relatively solid roof over my head. I don’t know if my relatives have even that much right now.

I know I haven’t been a bundle of joy to be around these past two days, but I feel so helpless.

Magical Thinking

It’s exactly a week from my birthday, and if I make it to that date, I will officially be exempt from membership for the 27 Club. (I know I’m not famous, but I like to play it safe.)

I kind of miss celebrating my birthday with people I’m not related to by blood. Unfortunately, the Sunset Strip Music Festival usually falls the same weekend I try to plan something, and most of my friends live in that general direction. Traffic is murder, and no one in their right mind would venture outside of their homes unless it was absolutely necessary. Gone are the days of picnics where people have to identify themselves with a nametag and I somehow require bandages on both knees:

IMG_0037


I’ll still be counting down the days, and will have a box of bandages at my side, just in case.

Under Maintenance

This year for my birthday, I’m giving myself the gift of mental health. I can afford to treat myself to this, as I found employment in April and [finally] received steady health insurance this month.

Back in 2008, I was surprised to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Treatment for both of these began, and I was on the road to becoming a more functional being in this society. Things were looking up, and I was able to reach goals that I thought I’d never be able to do (like sticking around to see a chick flick by myself while being surrounded by female cliques of three or more).

When I was laid off from my job in December 2009, I was in a rut. I didn’t have the means to be able to keep up my treatment and had to stop. Thankfully, I was at a point where most things didn’t bother me too much and I figured that as long as I took precautions on my end (breathing exercises, going to the gym, and staying as mentally active as possible), I should be okay. And I was, up until a month ago. Small symptoms started popping up, but they were small enough for me to pass it off as just being a bad day.

It’s small day-to-day things you take for granted that made me realize I couldn’t pass things off as just being a bad day: getting out of bed, making myself presentable, interacting with people on the most basic levels… This started pushing other things to the side, things that I take pleasure in: seeing friends, blogging, baking, and volunteering with dogs.

It’s uncomfortable to be in this place, to say the least.

Don’t IM Me, I’ll IM You

It’s been a little bit quiet over here, but that’s mainly due to a bum finger. (Yes, I’m still trying to get back into full typing mode.) In the meantime, enjoy this piece I wrote for the now defunct Anti-Social Networking blog that I co-wrote with the Slackmistress, Felicia Sullivan, and Sevenlies.

Talking. It’s overrated and compiles 60% of my job. Naturally by the time I get home I don’t want to talk to anyone for a couple of hours. It’s a quick hello to whoever is in the house and then I’m watching the Food Network or taking an early peek at [adult swim]’s weekend lineup. If you call me between the hours of 5PM and 7PM I let it go to voicemail. My mom thinks I’m being rude, but I pay for voicemail and I’m going to use it as I damn well please.

Me talking went out with this phone.

The best way to get my attention these days is to text me. (I would say IM or email, but my neighbors found out that I was “borrowing” their wifi and am reduced to sharing the PC with my dad for the internet. Hopefully TimeWarner [ha!] will come out and remedy this quickly, as the modem doesn’t seem to want to cooperate with my router.) And that’s actually my preferred method of communication. I would much rather type out an email to another hotel for room rates than pick up the phone and speak with the GM’s secretary or the Director of Front Office.

I used to love calling people up for a quick chat or to catch up with a friend, especially after high school graduation. If we did catch each other online, one would type “Hey, I’m gonna call you in about 5 minutes so we can talk.” It totally made more sense that way: I talked much faster than I typed. I would say that IMs and emails were only 30% of my chosen form of communication.

My European History AP teacher once said that instant messaging was taking us backwards, that instead of talking to people in person or over the phone we chose to be like primitive man with symbols in the shape of emoticons. I scoffed at that. We’d still talk to people over the phone. Instant messaging was just a cheaper way to talk to relatives in other countries.

But one day the house two doors down from mine from me proved me wrong.

My neighbor and her sister used to IM each other but were sitting across from each other. One would be in the kichen on her laptop and the other would be in the dining room, which was smack next door without any walls inbetween them! Instead of opening her mouth to ask for ice cream, one sister would IM the other with her request. The other sister would get up and go to the freezer, scoop out some vanilla, and place the dish next to her sibbling. And I was inbetween them, taking advantage of their HBO connection from the spare shabby chic armchair.

At the time I thought it was funny. They were silently communicating with each other but yelling out to answer their mom when she asked what our plans were later in the evening. It seemed too silly IM someone when they were right next to you!

Then it happened: I got an apartment with a gay friend and our bedrooms were separated by the living room and the kitchen. We were probably only 20 feet away from each other, but one night a message popped up on my screen:

J: Kath-er-yn!!!! I’m hungry.

K: What do you want to eat?

J: Dunkin Donuts!

K: We don’t have that here. Do you want to go to the store?

J: I don’t want store-bought.

K: Let’s get ice cream.

J: Diddy Riese?

K: Okay. You drive or me?

J: I’ll drive.

K: See you in the living room in 5 minutes.

And with that, we’d had an entire conversation via AIM.

It didn’t hit me until a few months later how we were now communicating with each other. He used to yell out to me or walk to my room and then scare the hell out of me. Sometimes I would go in his room to complain about work. And sometimes we’d just end up in the kitchen at the same time because we needed a drink. But now this was slowly grinding to a halt.

He would IM me if I wanted an apple martini. I would IM him to ask if he could move his car. We would IM each other to ask the other to come into our room and give an opinion on the outfit we planned to wear to dinner. My AP teacher had forseen this all.

The thing is, it just became so much easier to type things out than to talk. My roommate and I spoke the bare minimum at home but would send lengthy messages once we were in our bedrooms. Part of it was the convenience but a good chunk was because we were working retail and had several shouting matches with irrate customers over the course of the day. We were wiped out and didn’t want to speak another word.

Gradually I stopped calling people and moved exclusively to emails and instant messaging. It’s faster, leaves a trail, and means less interaction I have to make. You can also customize colors and backgrounds if you are so technically inclined, but I’m partial to traditional white background with black text.

Every now and then I get a burst of nostalgia and will call up about 10 people in a day to say hello. This, of course, is responded to with a text message or an email.

The topper on the cake? When I do get together with my old roommate, we email each other at work to set up a dinner date. This is then followed by a calendar invite via Outlook.

A Politically Correct Moment with Yours Truly

There’s a lot out there on the internet, and a lot of it is offensive. With websites like Rotten.com and TMZ.com, there’s no lack of gross-out pissed off attitude floating around. You get used to it if you’ve been on the internet for at least 90 days (and that probably applies to children as well).

Thing is, certain words still get me angry.

“Jap” is definitely on the top, if not the #1 word on my list.

The funny thing is, it wasn’t directed at me. It was on another Asian person’s online dating profile – an adjective he used to describe his hair.

This isn’t the same kind of angry I get when I see some of the dogs that are with us at Bill Foundation. That kind of angry is a whole other blog post (but would involve me ripping out the heart of the human who abused a cocker spaniel mix to the point where she snaps at anyone who makes eye contact).

As I mentioned on Twitter earlier, you can consider me old fashioned for not liking the term. You can use the term “Nip” or, if you’re in a rush and don’t want to play guessing games, I won’t get too touchy about being called a “Chink.”

But please, refrain from the abbreviated J-word. Thanks.

ピンク レディー & I

I was browsing through the produce section at my neighborhood Trader Joe’s and saw a sign for Pink Lady apples.

pink ladies


With fondness, I recalled the Pink Lady from my childhood. Not this Pink Lady, but this Pink Lady. And even though they broke up the year before I was born, they made the circuits of the Japanese variety shows that my parents and grandparents loved to watch every week.

This is the only song I really can remember them singing:



Imagine my surprise when I saw that there’s a 30th anniversary version of this song, sung by the same two ladies.



I had to add the song title to the duo’s name before I found it on YouTube, because I’m guessing that wasn’t the biggest hit they had during their short lived career. If you ask my dad nicely, he’d probably be able to belt out a collection of their greatest hits between 1979 and 1980. I’m sure if I dig through the record collection, I might find a “Best Of Japan” somewhere.

The best part about this flashback experienced with you guys? Seeing how they’ve improved the way “Wanted” gets pronounced.