To and From Point Reyes

I love riding. Not because I can go faster than walking. But because I can keep moving once I put power into earlier revolutions. I am moving without any energy at all.

When I went to Point Reyes with people awhile ago, I decided to capture it all on GoPro, to finally do the things that GoPro offers all adventure seekers to do. But it sat heavily on my head and it hurt, especially when I was suffering through a long climb and I could feel my helmet settle into my sweating skull. And the ridiculousness of the video files which often meant that I would take forever to edit. And the horrible user interface design of GoPro Studio. Never use that, because it never considers how a video editor, particularly an amateur one, can take advantage of its power. And the performance, there’s nothing that I can say about that.

But with effort, I produced the video above which minimally captures the small victories that I had. Going up inclines and descents. But it didn’t capture all the beauty of Point Reyes, the raw oysters, the cooking that chris did at our airbnb, the grand ranch in Marshall where cows (to be made into beef) roamed freely, the barn used for weddings all festive with a vintage chandelier and soft hay, and the moments when we had a car drive our bikes around (ssshhh!).

But this is the best part of the trip: To glide along the water on a well-paved road like I was skimming the surface of the bay.

Have you ever…?

The other day, Chris’ childhood friend shared a post on Facebook:

$80.00 what about you? Now tell the truth!

Posted by Laurie Hall on Saturday, April 18, 2015

He wrote, “$240….yea, I was pretty bad before I met my wife… :/”

Like the clickbait article reader I am, I thought about how it worked for me. As expected, I came up with less than $20. And these are questions that probably appeared in the “Never have I ever” games (which I have never ever played).

But what if the goal is to come up with excruciating awkward statements?

What if it was:

  • Digging for treasure in public and eating it
  • Laughing so hard that you peed a little (thanks CoH!)
  • Left bloody marks on a seat in a public place during a period
  • Write a long, angry personal email while on company time
  • Leaving the scene after (gently) backing up into someone’s car
  • Taken extra snacks from the office so that you have snacks during the weekend
  • Been the giver or recipient of an “accidental brush”
  • This are my questions when driving

    Why is there traffic?
    Where is everyone going?
    At this hour?
    Did that BMW SUV take a shortcut?
    Should I follow to save time too?
    Why is this Honda Accord following me so closely?
    Should I be annoying and press my brakes?
    Maybe I’ll change lanes?
    Does she always follow everyone so closely?
    If she has some parking sticker, does that mean that she’s going to San Francisco?
    Why is she in a rush?
    Who would drop trash in the middle of the freeway?
    Was that an accident?
    Why is the big company shuttle taking 280?
    Do shuttle drivers get to choose the most efficient route?
    Are the shuttle drivers contracted to take the same route even if it’s slow?
    Is that the Honda Accord ahead?
    Will I make it on time today?
    Will the onigiri that I bought be enough food?
    Where is the Honda Accord?
    Did I just pass the Honda Accord and showed off how the deliberate tortoise wins?
    Why is everyone driving?
    Why are there four police motorcycles passing through
    Where are they going?
    Will they pull anyone for being an obnoxious driver?
    How many people noticed the police motorcycle?
    Where is the Honda Accord?

    Dance like nobody is watching

    In my dreams, I am flying. From foot to foot. Hands swinging. I am moving across the floor. Flowing with the music. I glide, I step, I kneel. It’s all synchronized, it’s all perfect.

    But then you see, I wake up. My childhood dream of being a dancer (and singer) completely left me the moment that I started classes. Ballet was horrifying as I couldn’t understand what it meant to move with the rhythm and bend my knees. Turn left didn’t make sense. Separate the feet while moving my arms was an impossible mountain to climb. Likewise, in chorus, my voice came out as a whisper. As I soon learned in my piano lessons, I don’t have sense of rhythm. In my head, I heard the music but my body didn’t feel the beat. It just wanted to move whatever way it wanted.

    Some may say that it was the lack of training or the fear of embarrassment that I never improved.

    But then when I fall into my dreamworld, I can dance. When I watch youtube videos, I am mesmerized by the elaborate choreography. I see myself in them, gliding across the floor. I am the smiling chick, the douchey guy, the big party rapper.

    I am on the dance floor at weddings. I regularly attended 80s night (until I started being annoyed by obnoxious people).

    More than ten years ago, a friend and I passed by a student group blaring pop music across a field. “How disruptive,” she said.

    Her words didn’t register with me. Instead, I lightly swayed my hips and said, “It makes me want to dance.”

    What is happiness?

    On Friday night, I visited my parents for dinner. After dinner, I helped my mom fill out a screening questionnaire for a potential research study (she loves those things because the incentive can be quite generous). Then we came upon this question:

    Describe what happiness means to you.

    She struggled for several moments and asked me to type her dictation. Something along the lines of “to be satisfied, to not want”. The question requested for 5-7 lines. She had two and I pressed her to come up with a few more. Eventually, she asked me to fill it for her.

    I said no, do you want me to leave to give you privacy?

    No, she said. And after I ad-libbed a few more words, she was able to come up with three lines.

    But what is happiness? And do most people have trouble to describe the word in words? Even succinctly? Like my mom?

    After writing every day for so long, I have gotten in the habit of letting words pour out. Pour endlessly and trust that I will be able to edit it later. (Or not as I usually do.) But with that question, I could imagine many answers. From cliched — to have shelter, health, and food. From spiritual — a bright light beating shining around me. From emotional imagery — the way that I feel when I stand underneath bright sunlight, the warmth brushing across my skin reminding me that I am still here. From memories — just like how as a kid my father handed me a bowl of ice cream, the right amount, the right temperature, all delivered with a loving smile.

    What makes it difficult to describe something so simple? When I can easily create those words?

    Or that some people naturally think more than others? That words become easily our form of expression? What if you’re a person where expression was so limited and you were never invited to express? And so you never developed that skill to get other people to understand you? That the words that you spoke were all that existed? How trapped that would be for me to be constrained in a box of no words, no language, no flexibility, no windows.

    Searching for General Tso

    Now beyond the torment of my 20s, I ponder about my roots. Why did my parents come to the United States? What was it like for my grandfather when he passed through when he was young on his way to Peru? What did my family think about all the non-Chinese people here? How was it like to be in a land where Cantonese was not spoken? What was strange to them? Why did my uncle’s brother open a Chinese restaurant in the middle of nowhere in Michigan? Did it feel like betrayal?

    I know some of the answers. The most common answer: opportunity. But what was it like to be somewhere they had never been before, knowing that they never would return…or even want to return to their childhood home?

    But perhaps there’s no answer. Their home in China was not the same anymore after the Cultural Revolution. But the question remains. I am at that age where I find it difficult to uproot myself and start over somewhere else. And maybe that’s luck and luxury here. I am content with what I have and if I do uproot myself, it would only because the momentum was caused by something exterior to me—fellow peers, the rejection of this American society, my comfort disconnected, or just fleeing something so inconsequential.

    And so quite naturally, I was intrigued by The Fortune Cookie Chronicles—an exploration about the history of simple post-meal treat in American Chinese restaurants. Here’s the spoiler: it does not originate from China.

    Then today, I saw Searching for General Tso, a documentary film exploring the history of General Tso’s Chicken. Much like the fortune cookie, it didn’t quite originate in China. Rather, it wasn’t even a dish eaten by General Tso, but a dish originally named for the chef’s role model of integrity and strength.

    For me, I have felt uncomfortable with the mix of American culture and Chinese culture. I am born here in the United States. Yet, I am not quite white-washed, but I am not the enamored of the Chinese culture. When I was younger, I rejected the entire culture—it was the other. The proof that I couldn’t blend in with my Caucasian-dominant school and the curly brunette girls (who oddly were Jewish) who teased me mercilessly. But in school, we read books like the Under the Mango Tree and Woman Warrior, books of Asian culture, but that didn’t appease me. I was awkward and couldn’t relate to the characters. My parents, being Westernized and raised Catholic in Hong Kong (a British colony during their childhood) lacked much Chinese superstition. 4 wasn’t a bad number and nor was 8 a good number. Ghosts didn’t haunt us at night. I didn’t even know all of this until I read The Joy Luck Club. And eating Chinese food was my least favorite thing—instead I preferred spaghetti with meatballs and tacos.

    Who was I? I always keep reminding myself that I am just me. Of all the experiences, it’s difficult for anyone to categorize me as an ethnicity or a nationality. I am made out of my experiences. And so when I hear the question “where are you from?” I hesitate and say only my current home: “San Francisco”.

    I had only 30 minutes

    It was approximately 10:10 when the plane touched the tarmac at LAX and my flight to SFO was in 45 minutes. The plane slowly taxied to its assigned gate. I looked outside studying the numbers of gates on the outside. 72. 71. 70. My SFO gate 76 should be there somewhere. Somewhere.

    The plane was already 30 minutes late.

    I could feel my head tense, plotting my escape from the window seat of the 21st row. Do I push my way forward, demanding to let through, past the haughty passengers of first class and economy plus? Do I yell shamelessly about my plight in catching my connecting flight.

    10:15 PM.

    The plane connected with the gate and I heard the swish of the door. And the rustling of passengers. The click of the seatbelt and I stared in front, silently begging that passengers be noble in their pursuit of deboarding. No blocking the aisle. They want to get out of the metal tube as much as I did. This ain’t vacation. So hurry it up.

    I check the United app again. 10:27 it said when the boarding would end. Did my credit card cover this? Did I use my Chase card to cover this flight? How will I make it to the 11:00 AM meeting? Would I even be able to sleep if I had to stay in LA? I mean…

    I tapped messages to Chris who was relaxing at the SFO lounge. “I might be stuck in LA,” I wrote.

    10:19 PM.

    Time always moves slowly in moments of anxiety. My fellow neighbors noticed my fidgeting and said kindly, “Please. Go ahead.”

    I thanked them profusely as I pushed forward. My backpack swinging and a paper bag teetering in my left hand. With a swift motion, I grabbed my rollaway. In the rush, I pulled the handle up and dropped it. I picked it up. Buckled my backpack so that it was firmly against my body. In preparation. I tailgated people in front of me, trying to be respectful, but now inhaling deeply for the next moments.

    10:22 PM

    I spin to my left upon entering the terminal. And ran. I sprinted, my eyes following the signs for gates 70 – 79. Swaying left, then another left turn, down the gate, pass the eateries, past gate 70, past gate 71. I wondered what people thought as I had never ran as hard as I have in the last 20 years. Dying like Peter Gregory in HBO’s Silicon Valley crossed my mind, but a hippo isn’t chasing me. My bag flew with me and I felt

    But then within a minute, I just couldn’t run any longer. I slowed down to a walk. I realized my gate 76 was all the way at the end. I took a deep breath and jogged now at a slower pace. In the distance, I saw the gate. A lone man stood there, waiting. Was that the final boarding call?

    10:27 PM

    “Is it still open?” I asked breathlessly.


    I struggled to get my digital boarding pass up. “Am I the last one to board?” I asked and placed my iPod touch on the scanner.

    “I think so,” he said in calm tone.

    I walked now and the attendants smiled at me. “Be careful with your bag,” one said as I swung around the corner, still breathing hard.

    “I have the window seat,” I said, upon arriving at row 23.

    “You made it,” my seat partner said. “You made it.”

    10:35 PM

    I started wondering if this story was even interesting, knowing that I was never the only one that experienced travel struggles.

    But I sighed instead and started watching the free entertainment provided on the plane.

    I can tell these stories

  • That time we experience a “Roman Holiday”, including being questioned by the Roman police
  • The time that I actually “met” someone over a wrong number phone call
  • When I found ice cream in Bangkok
  • How Chris magically unlocked my door when he accidentally left my keys inside
  • That afternoon when I lost a cheese wheel inside Chris’ car
  • How Toad was lost and found at a food festival in San Francisco