I don’t know how to say this…

But as I read somewhere…

“I am going on a juice cleanse” is the same as “I am trying to learn how to code”.

Granted, I am opinionated about this, because I believe that life should be directed by one’s interests and not others’ interests. I know that I strive for authenticity and self-awareness. I considered blasting this opinion on Twitter and Facebook. But I am afraid of offending the friends who may be trapped in the “phoniness”. How am I to judge a lifestyle that they chose? I still love them for who they are, but cringe horribly inside when I hear…”juice cleanse” and “detox”. I swear if I hear the word “detox” again…

But I say all this only because the above has been amplified by my trip to LA, while staying in Venice. In San Francisco, the cold-pressed juice bars are far apart. Very few shops are vegan, raw, organic. And they certainly don’t blast into your face with the whole health-consciousness.

I feel sorry for those who are allergic to many great foods in the world. But for the rest of us? I don’t know.

This evening, left to my own devices, I wandered into a cafe. I was lure by the decor, the essence of recycled wood framed by metal rods. I ambled in, passing a few quiet conversations in corners, heading straight to the back where there seemed to be a small market of juices and other items. Then I hesitated. I saw the kale chips. Nearly $7 for a simple set of ingredients. I have made the same exact thing (sometimes even with conventionally grown kale) for less than $2. And staring me in the face was something that was more than triple the price. Then I stared at the yogurt. Slightly intrigued, but displeased with the $7 price tag. And the juices. Almost $10. I wondered how I would look if I walked out. Would I be judged on the fact that I definitely didn’t fit in (surely people could smell the carnivore inside me) Did I not look like I fit in? I caved and got the yogurt. Placed it in my pocket and wandered next door to buy a deconstructed (by request) BBQ chicken and mello yellow soda.

Then back at the airbnb, I ate like 4 bites and was satisfied. Happily.

This is me without sleep

My eyes want to shut, but there’s something running through my blood that keeps everything awake. Fear? Anxiety? Ambition? Completion? I feel a vise settling on my head. The eyes blink, and there’s a strain to open them again. A faint stab that goes unnoticed.

But the rest of my body? It wonders if I am catching a cold. My throat feels itchy. At the gasp of water or other liquid, it chokes a little bit. And I consciously resist because I am usually in public settings. I breathe slowly hoping to let the wince fade.

I just want to stop. Lie here for a moment and stop. I want the silence to settle around me like a thick blanket, enveloping me. Giving me a safe place.

Then I felt dizzy

Due to anxiety and other random context, I lacked sleep the last few days. So as I was running around LA today, I felt dizzy. Losing balance. Not quite a handle on reality.

And I felt: so this is what it’s like to be out of it. To be so fearful, exhausted, stressed. All at the same time.

He said, “Love.”

He spilled words. Words that described a love lost. A love that he found and put aside for so long. Then how he suddenly returned to it to find that it had already drained away. His voice eloquently described the pain, the indecision, and the mistakes. The words did not quiver, but I saw his eyes glaze as he described the passion that he wanted. “I want to be one,” he said. He wanted to be consumed and overwhelmed by love. “I did everything for her,” his words seem to say. “And she didn’t do enough for me.”

As a platonic friend, I sat across from him. “Are you disappointed?” I asked.

He hesitated. A look of surprise crossed his face. Then he agreed.

Then the words kept tumbling out across the solid wood table, wandering over the delicately placed raw fish, and towered over the steaming cups of tea.

“You will be okay,” I said. “Really. It will be okay.”

When I start cooking…

…my imagination goes wild. I dream of what I can do with my potatoes. Salted. Fried. Sliced. Baked. Steamed. With chicken. Roasted chicken. Marinated chicken. Chicken tikka masala. Fresh tomatoes. Seasoned with masala. Paired with a salad. Cucumbers and red onion. Olive oil. Sizzling with bell peppers. Jalapeño pepper. Strawberries and jalapeño.

I am suddenly starving as I write this.

When I don’t cook, I look at my refrigerator and my mind only thinks this: There’s nothing to eat!

In the room of writers

Because it was nearing the start time of 9 AM, I walked quickly to the screen right near the entrance. “Excuse me,” I said to a nearby bellhop. “Where is the Stanford room?”

“It’s one floor up,” he answered.

I scanned the lobby confused, searching for the way up.

“The stairs to your left,” he added.

I bounded up the stairs and found the room. As I was about to enter, a volunteer jumped in front of me and sent me downstairs again to register. I returned and found a single seat. In the back, squeezed between two people. As I stepped in, people sat in rows. Almost all women and about two men. Mostly white. My parents’ age. I wondered what their topics were like. The struggle of parenthood? The divorcees? Cancer? Maybe I did stereotype them quickly.

To my surprise, stories of living with cult bounded out. A story of living on the same street as the Beatles slipped out from an Liverpool woman. Then there was the father who was telling a touching (but stereotypical) story of his daughter who was misdiagnosed with a debilitating disease and now studies at Stanford.

I was impressed. Although like my own stories, everyone’s story started faltering into “woe is me, because I am victim.” And that’s exactly what the instructor focused on—to tear away from the desire to whine, to complain, but to present a story that is compelling and engaging to the reader.

To begin, let’s say this: “My dad always served ice cream after dinner.”

I used to think smart phones were great

Until the moment that they were everywhere.

You see, I am a child of technology. That is, technology shaped me. By the age of 13, I was surfing on the web and chatting with strangers. I found it easy to communicate on the Internet back in 1998, preferring that to whispering vocal words to people right next to me.

When new technology (as long as there was no cost), I would hop on it. I joined every social network I could.

Then the smart phone. You see, I had one of the early smart phones. A windows CE phone before the iPhone changed the landscape and how information was distributed. In the month that I had it…I was suddenly taken in by the ease of communicating…and the absorption that I found myself in the screen.

I hated what I had become in the mornings, turning over and reading my email right away.

I swore off smart phones quite immediately after that, claiming cost. I didn’t get a smart phone again (of my own that is) until 2010. And I found myself tapping, scrolling, swiping. As if I couldn’t get enough information. I wanted more. I always wanted more.

But now, I am at my brink. Even though I work in the industry (freelance, that is), I don’t want to be enslaved. I want to talk to people. I want people to see me in the eye. I want people to stop capturing the moment. I want people to stop trying to validate themselves. I blame the phone for this easy validation.

I want the phone to put aside. Because you know, this way, we have to face our own fears.

I wish that every place had a box like this.

I smelled the douchebaggery a mile away

What can I say? I walked into a big startup tech party last Friday, mostly because I got in for free. First, I can’t turn down anything free. Second, I like to watch (disaster). Third, someone asked me to come.

But as I walked the mile from my office, I smelled the douchebaggery.

I remember this back in 2006 when I attended a pool party sponsored by a startup organization. Back then, I was a little bit more naive, a bit more bushy-tailed, and very dense. The only people in the pool were giggling girls who seemed more like admins or booth babes. Everyone else was dressed for the South Bay summer in the geeky way that most of us were—fully clothed. I remember thinking, “This is it! This is how my life is going to begin!”

Then shortly after that, guys talked to me about the most boring topics ever. “Let’s talk about my business idea!” one proposed.

“Okay!” I said obliviously and agreed to dinner on a Saturday evening in Berkeley.

Needless to say, I almost brought my laptop. I almost had an approach from my UX experience. Until there was that non-oblivious side of me that called out, “um, there’s something wrong with this picture.”

So for nearly 7 years, I never went to another event like this again. Until last Friday. Where I saw a mechanical bull. Where I saw…booth babes? Where I had to navigate through crowds to find anything interesting. Where I desperately wanted to leave within an hour. At least, I got chocolate-flavored coconut water. Now, that was interesting.

Riding in the Rain

“Do you want to stay dry and cozy or do you want to ride in the rain to get all slippery and wet?” the contestant read from a card during a “Singled Out” game at tonight’s SFBC V-day event.

I would always want to stay dry and cozy. Several years ago, a friend challenged me.

“Ride in the rain,” he said. “You’re alone. You’re powering through. You find your strength.”

He said it with such emphasis that I filled with guilt when I would just take the BART or muni instead. But there are times that I would do it. I would ride letting my jeans soak and the water spray everywhere from my rear wheel (if I was riding my canondale). I hated it.

And avoided it for a year. Until today. I had forgotten why I disliked it. Today, I didn’t realize that it was going to rain due to California’s unstoppable drought. Then I walked outside. And it was. And because it was a bike coalition event, I couldn’t very well just wimp out and drive over. So instead, I hiked up my courage and rode in the slippery roads.

I hated how it sprayed in my face and the world seemed to glitter so dangerously.

“It’s so offensive…

…and I’ll never drink Coke again!”

While sitting at a Super Bowl party, I browsed through my Twitter feed and came across an outspoken friend who retweeted that tweet. I held a breath. Knowing that he often is ironic and comedic, I wanted to know whether he was serious and whether he supported that tweet. As I clicked through, I found more tweets about their anger against the offensive ad.

“Want a drink?” Chris asked.

“I don’t know!” I exclaimed. “I am not sure if I can drink Coke again. Do you have anything else not from the Coca Cola Company?”

He brought some amber looking liquid that was still not beer. As I sipped it, I softly played the ad on my iPod Touch. Not being able to hear over the beer pong players, I watched various clips of people. “Um, what’s offensive here?” I asked. “This is just bunch of people. I guess that it’s depicting Muslim girls eating street food?”

It took me almost 10 more watches (and finally without beer pong players present) before I heard why. Not English. Not all White people.

I instantly thought about my grandparents who barely spoke any English. And my mom whose job as a nurse at a public hospital requires the English language…yet she powers through anything that requires communication. I never had to be that Asian kid that had to translate for the parents. My dad spoke fluent English, and my mom just powered through anything through her thick accent without any shame or embarrassment. They’re American and so are my grandparents.

As a progressive Asian American, I had trouble understanding what was wrong with the America the Beautiful ad. Doesn’t that say something too?