shutitdown: livin' for the anecdote

shutitdown: taking one for the anecdote

The exciting news over here is that I am moving to Cambodia for an undefined period of time (probably 4-6 months) to work with a microfinance organization as a Kiva Fellow.

Today is my last day in South America and I'm looking forward to getting back to the land of the free, home of the brave for a few weeks before I head to Cambodia.

I'm blogging more regularly at mybigfatface.com if you need a fix.

Last month I posted a story on Splice Today about attending the feast of the Black Nazarene in Manila. Check it out.

I really enjoyed my time in the Philippines. It's a country where they take their Catholicism so seriously that they're willing to crucify themselves and where they take their karaoke so seriously that singing 'My Way' off-key can get you killed.

I've applied to be a Kiva Fellow and have selected the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia and Samoa as the countries I would most like to work in. I'm not going to write about it more in case I don't get it, but I should find out soon. Fingers crossed.

In Japan, people love:
Throwing peace signs (mainly when there's a camera aimed at them)
Photobooth pictures
Shaving their arms (the girls)
Getting drunk and talking in English
Sleeping anywhere they can, mainly on public transportation
Wearing germ masks
House music
Taking their shoes off and on. At a lot of restaurants part of the place has no shoes allowed and part of it doesn't, so the waitresses take
Cantaloupes that cost $150

In Japan, people hate:
Stealing. You can leave you purse on a table in a nightclub and wander away for 45 minutes and it will still be there when you get back.
Wearing short sleeves
Their teeth, they always cover them when they laugh. People say this is because of some ancient tradition but really it's because it's snaggletooth city.
Eating in public
Talking on cell phones in the subway

Call me a weeaboo, call me Rina, I don't care. I love Japan.

Tokyo is like being in a roomful of people whose cellphones are all going off at once.
Tokyo is like a stuffed animal is humping your skull.
Tokyo is like being in a pinball machine waiting to be flippered.
Tokyo is like every car on your block being an ice cream truck all playing different songs.

So as you can probably infer, Tokyo is complete sensory overload. The vending machines have TV screens and shout at you. The giant screens on the buildings that are just a few feet apart are playing different advertisements, loudly. Arcade games beckon you from six-story game parlours in high-pitched, improbable voices. Women stand outside stores with loudspeakers, trying to cajole passerbys inside. The street cleaners play "itsy bitsy spider" to warn you of their presence.

Tokyo is the most amazing city I've ever been to, it's a complete mind-fuck. I spent my first two weeks in Japan there and had to pry myself away to try and see some more of Japan. I've been hiking, I've seen temples, I've seen shrines, I've eaten ramen. And then, I rested.

Now I'm in Yufuin, in the middle of nowhere. During my explorations today I did not find anyone that would cop to knowing English, including any of the guests at my hostel. I spent the day watching the leaves change color, which is a major draw around these parts. Oh, Japan.

I've been too busy with my other blogs, the new mybigfatface.com and the old discofinger.com.
Things I have learned to say in Japanese so far:
  • Excuse me
  • Thank you
  • I like tripe
  • "All you can eat"
  • "All you can drink"
  • Can I have some water, please?
Right now I am sitting on the train next to a young man in an adorable school uniform who is picking his nose and studiously examining the results. He's been rolling his boogers between his fingers for a few minutes, looking at it as if it might possibly unlock the secrets behind the human genome and possibly bring about world peace. For a country that is so civilized, this kid sure likes to to pick his nose.

I love trains. Trains in Tokyo are particularly exciting. First of all, I will spend the majority of my time on them completely lost. Also, there's a 99% chance that I will be the only Westerner (read: round eye) on any given train. The majority of my fellow passengers are wearing suits or uniforms of some kind all seem to be very busy, despite it being 11am. People here love wearing suits. When I was here last summer they were having a campaign to try and get men to stop wearing ties or at the least, loosen them. Apparently it had something to do with a heat wave and trying to cut down on excessive air conditioning. I don't think it worked though, because they sure love their ties.

Last summer Bla and I wanted to go to the Tsukiji fish market. The deal is you have to go at five in the morning if you want to see men shrieking at each other over tuna the size of 5th graders. The night before our planned visit we were perched in a bar called 'Ghetto' in the Golden Gai--a bar that could seat only four people and that was owned by the star of a Japanese action film who also owned a restaurant called 'Horse' that only served the flesh of that mighty beast--we realized that we'd be fools to leave and try to wake up so early. We'd have a much better chance of staying awake with our new friends at Ghetto and going straight to the fish market from there.

Of course we hadn't considered the effect of the fish market on our compromised systems--compromised by Japanese action film stars teaching us exclamations in Japanese accompanied by shots of soju. Needless to say, the visit was terrifying and exhausting, and we hopped back on the train around 7 or 8 to finally get back to our hostel and go to sleep. Of course we hadn't realized that this was rush hour and the train would be absolutely, horribly jammers. Despite the stories of women getting groped on such trains, the other passengers gave me and Bla a wide birth. Reeking of ghetto, soju and salmon, I can't say that I blame them.

Luckily my chatter about my diminutive bag seemed to tickle the gate agent when I checked in at Heathrow. My first leg of the journey was London to Helsinki and then the second was Helsinki to Tokyo. I calculatingly threw on a pair of pearl earrings and deliberately didn't wear sneakers. Despite it being eight in the morning (early for the unemployed), I amped up the level of banter with the airline personnel, replete with quips and giggles. And the Finnish gods were smiling on me, because as I approached the gate, the agent said, "there's been a change to your ticket." My heart dropped because I had already managed--through sheer, unadulterated charm--to weasel my way into a really good seat.

You can't take that away from me, I thought, while knowing, of course, how easily they could. Because really, for today at least, that exit row seat was all I had. A ten hour flight begs for a bulkhead. But as I sadly relinquished my boarding pass, I saw the new seat number. 4D. Oh yes, I had gotten the coveted upgrade and have begun my backpacking trip in the front cabin drinking champagne and swaddling myself in cushiony duvets to try to sleep. Try, of course, because I was attempting to go to sleep at 6pm my time.

Two weeks ago I had a brilliant idea that I was going to avert jet lag by waking up 20 minutes earlier every day before I left, with the end goal of being up by 3am for the few days before I left. This would be another example of my attempts at self-improvement through unrelenting self-abuse. Obviously, the plan did not go as hoped, despite me programming my ipod to play Bobby Brown "My Perogative" at full volume in the early hours of the morn. The best I did was waking up at 4am. That night I fell asleep at 7:30pm, and is if to mock my attempt to violently wrest control of my own circadian rhythms, slept for 12 hours.

So despite the plush reclined seat, a couple of valium and some bubbly (only after the sushi, miso soup and soba noodles, of course), your valiant hero tossed and turned for hours before drifting off and dreaming of frequent flyer miles.

The past 72 hours have been, perhaps not surprisingly, hysterical ones for me. The movers came on Monday to take my stuff back to the States. It went shockingly well, all things considered. When I moved from California to Ireland I had 24 boxes. When I moved from Ireland to London I had 19 boxes. And now, moving from London I had a dainty 14 boxes. If you ever needed solid proof that my life trajectory is moving in a positive direction, look to the details of my customs forms. A hoarder I am not.

And of course, desperate to prove this fact, I decided that I could manage my round-the-world trip with a carry-on size bag. When I go visit New York for a weekend, I can't keep it to a carry-on size bag. So why I thought I could do it now is anyone's guess. The two people I showed my bag to before I left both started laughing hysterically when they saw it. "You're fucking joking," one of them said, flabbergasted.

The other said, "Well, it will be a great conversation starter...like, so, you here for the weekend, mate?"

I had made a well thought out and very conservative list of items to bring. At T-24 hours I started panicking and adding things willy nilly. I need to bring a thermometer, right? I'm not playing Russian roulette with my health, here. I've brought at least 8 or 9 over the counter remedies for various ailments that I like to diagnose myself with frequently, and another 3 or 4 under the counter medications to help me "chill out." In the last few hours I added a self-help book, a polka dotted tank top, a collection of gummy candy that looked like pizza, a grimy white t-shirt, compression bags, hair serum, nighttime moisturizer (to compliment the daytime moisturizer, body lotion and hand lotion I already have) and a guide to reading menus in Japanese. I had to sit on my bag to get it to close.

The plan had been to "travel light" but by the time I made it to Paddington Station I knew that I had royally fucked up. Once I boarded the Heathrow Express I sat down on the floor and unpacked my entire bag. "Be ruthless," I kept muttering to myself under my breath, trying to avoid the stares of the businessmen wondering why I was counting and recounting my underwear and talking to myself. "Be ruthless." By the time the train pulled up to Heathrow I had filled one of the compression bags up with items that I had ruthlessly abandoned and made a solid commitment to myself to divest myself of even more of my possessions on arriving in Tokyo.

One of my friends was trying to understand why me, of all people--me, who considers a trip to the mall a sacred journey, me, who thinks of bric-a-brac as a fundamental human right, was even bothering to try to travel light. The only reason I can give is that I like challenging myself. I like putting myself in situations that I find very difficult, like Thanksgiving dinner with my family. I have a believe that the more excruciating I deliberately make my life, the better a person I will become. And this is why I have packed this child-size bag.

I am now officially unemployed, and no longer live in the UK. At least, not right now. I realized that a fundamental shift was taking place when I began planning my trip in dollars. After spending the last year in sterling, and the year before in euro, I don't think in dollars anymore. But when I started deciding about how this trip was going to go, I found myself budgeting in dollars and pricing things in dollars. This was not deliberate. It is interesting, though. I think I'm perhaps shifting my brain back towards America.

But when filling out my customs forms, I came to the question "What city to do live in?" I have no answer to that. I also have no answer for "Occupation?" When I checked into my hotel today I struggled over "Address?" for ten minutes. Where do I live today?

I've got two more weeks of work left. In the UK, you have to give four weeks notice, and I had to give five due to my length of incarceration at my company. After my last day, I am taking four days off to regroup, and then I fly to Japan.

From there I go to Korea and then China. After that I will try to go to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam in no particular order. I'm thinking of making it a full-on RTW and going to Africa and checking out some of the parts of Europe that I haven't been to yet. I'm not sure how long I will travel for. I mean, I've emotionally budgeted around 12-18 months. I think if I start working before then I will probably kill myself, and quite possibly take out the entire typing pool in the process. But I don't actually want to say "Oh, I'm going traveling for a year." Because honestly, I might decide to go crawling back to my parents after four months.

The thing is, I am fairly certain that I hate traveling. I really like having my own space and my own things and my own sheets and my own pillow. I also know that this trip is going to be very difficult for me. I plan to spend 3-6 weeks in China. I don't like spending more than 45 minutes in Chinatown. It seems that me and the Chinese have very different ideas about personal space, for one. So I'm not sure exactly how I will handle this extended trip. Probably the same way I deal with my trips to Chinatown--with a snotty look on my face and trying to fit as much food in my maw as I possibly can.

But don't get me wrong, I am really, really looking forward to this. Just the fact that I have the opportunity to do this makes me so happy, and dare I admit, proud of myself. When I was 19 I never would have dreamt that I would have been able to do something like this on my own. I thought this was the sort of thing that only people with rich parents and chaperones were able to do. Six or seven years ago one of my biggest resentments was how little I had traveled, how I hadn't been able to do an exchange program in college or live abroad. And now I've been living abroad for three years, had to get extra pages added my passport and have enough frequent flyer miles to go around the world. And that's pretty amazing.

I just got back from a week long trip to New York. More like a week long binge. As my Asia travel date looms closer, I thought I should gorge myself on food that I associate with America. Note that I did not say "American" food. I know that this would set all of my politically correct readership on edge.

Near the end of my trip I started to tell my friend Iris my list. "It's funny that none of these American foods are actually from America," she began. Of course I had anticipated her attack and had only said that I personally associate these foods with America, but make no claims as to their actual ethnic associations or origins. She backed down in fear and took another nibble of the fried Oreo we were sharing at the feast of San Gennaro.

Highlights:

  • The deep-fried Oreo
  • pizza from Little Frankies
  • a reuben (for breakast, no less)
  • macaroni and cheese
  • tacos
  • Italian hero
  • homemade pizza and grilled eggplant (in your face, aubergine) courtesy of platetoplate
  • a root beer float from Stewart's (oh god I love you)
  • Italian rainbow cookies

    I very nearly finished the week off with a McBurger at the airport but backed down at the last minute and took a sleeping pill and a couple of Nyquil instead. This was far more effective, and left me with the same amount of slobber on my face but with the addition of six hours sleep. Back in London, dreaming of double-stuff Oreos.

  • I've just discovered the American tv show Hoarders. Finally, a television show has managed to capture one of my greatest fears. Each show features two people or families that have collected enough possessions to put them in danger of foreclosure or having their children taken away or just being completely, shockingly disgusting. The floors can't be seen and boxes of garbage are piled to the ceiling. Every once in a while I hear about people who die when they're crushed with a pile of their own possessions and I've always wondered how exactly that happens.

    I've known about hoarders before seeing this show. I used to live in the flat next to one in California. This poor woman was a complete nutcase. We both had flower boxes outside our doors. I filled mine up with herbs and watered them every day and used them for cooking and was pretty pleased with myself for having such a green thumb. She put bark and plastic flowers in hers. The backseat of her car was filled with garbage that obscured the windows and she'd cover it with a blanket, as if the rest of us wouldn't notice.

    One time she was locked out her her apartment for three days because a pile of her stuff fell over and blocked the door. Of course she was too scared to call the landlord--if he saw what she was doing he'd have kicked her out--so she sat outside for three days trying to dislodge the stuff behind the door by pushing sticks through the mail slot. Eventually, she got back in. She was completely insane in this really suburban, middle-aged hippie sort of way. She asked that I never knock on her door, but that I call her special voicemail line if I ever needed anything. I suspect she didn't want me to see her "stuff."

    I never had any concept of what was truly going on in the next flat over until I saw this show. I had always assumed that hoarders were collecting worthwhile things. For example, my father has a tendency towards hoarding but it's always German antiques and cookbooks. My mother refuses to throw away armchairs that clutter the living room, but from an objective standpoint they aren't junk-heap material. I thought that's what hoarding was--having too many things because they're still nice enough to keep. (I'm consciously trying to not mention my father's collection of phone books). But on Hoarders, people are just collecting garbage. Rotting pumpkins, empty Coke bottles, pizza boxes, scraps of paper, dolls with no heads. It boggles the mind. And what is most unbelievable is how some of these people find someone else that compliments their complete insanity, like the compulsive shopper who is married to a compulsive hoarder. She brings stuff in and he won't let it go. It was really terrifying.

    And everyone on the show eventually breaks down weeping because of their "stuff." They don't want to get rid of their "stuff." "It's my stuff!" they wail. "I don't want people touching my stuff!" "My stuff is all I have!" It was profoundly depressing. I saw this on the back of reading an article in the New York Times Magazine, The Self-Storage Self a few days ago, while at the same time waiting for all of the storage companies I called to get back to me with price quotes. I'm going to go travelling around Asia for a while and need somewhere to put my "stuff." And now I'm gripped with fear.

    Stuff is one of my obsessions. I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a compulsive shopper, but I certainly love accumulating. Out of fear, I've counterbalanced this habit by being a compulsive thrower-outer. I throw a lot away. I go through my apartment and donate bags to charity. I'm so terrified of being one of these people where their entire lives are controlled by their stuff that I throw things away and get rid of things constantly. I get rid of more than I buy and manage to hold on to the sides. But just barely. And don't ask about the boxes I have in my parents' garage. That's my stuff.

    I've been in a bad relationship for nearly five years now. It has its ups and downs, but it's finally started to dawn on me that no matter how much I wish it might, it's never going to make me happy.

    So last week I finally cut the cord on yet another shitty relationship and told my boss I'm quitting. This was very exciting, because I've essentially been playing a game of last man standing at work. Of the ten people that I started with, as of two months ago, I'm the only one left despite the betting pool putting the odds on me going first. This is because I love to hang around in a bad relationship feeling sorry for myself. Anyone who has ever seen me with a boyfriend can attest to this.

    I've long compared my job to an abusive boyfriend. Or like, a really, really cute abusive boyfriend. A boyfriend that's so cute that all of your friends and family are really impressed and secretly surprised that you landed him. And they all tell you that you'd be a fool to dump him because you all suspect that you'll never do this well next time around, and you should really try and make it work and appreciate him more. But in your heart you know that he's actually a really shitty boyfriend and that being really cute isn't quite enough. And that's sort of what it's like to work for one of the top companies in the world. It's not really quite enough. And the fact is, you shouldn't live your life terrified of change--there are way cuter jobs out there.

    So I told my boss (and his boss) that I'm leaving to go travel. It's weird how emotional it all feels. My job has been the one constant in my life for five years. I've lived in three countries, the boyfriends have come and gone and I've gotten one meaningless promotion after another. And even though my job is about as empty as a job can be, it was something to hold on to. Because when you are at a loss for what you are doing with your life, having a really cute job is still something.

    Although I've only managed to put one show out (and another one is airing tomorrow!), Heart 2 Heart has been a massive success. And by massive, I mean that 500 people listened to it. That may not seem like much, but when you consider that on any given week only 3 or 4 people listen to me, 500 is a lot.

    Over the weekend in London we had the Magic Waves Festival, which was awesome. Straight up slammin' Italo action. While shaking it on the dancefloor, I was introduced to a guy by a friend of a friend. His name sounded familiar, but I didn't have long to think about it. Within moments he was trying to ram his tongue down my throat. As I valiently attempted to maintain my composure, I had a flash. Where had I seen his name before?

    The Heart 2 Heart inbox. My first groupie.

    The other day I saw a guy wearing a t-shirt that said "I Am Not a DJ."

    Damn, I thought to myself. There's one more guy I won't be fucking.

    When I used to think about moving to England it was with the belief that upon arrival I was going to take up with a guy with long, delicate fingers who was a cross between Jarvis Cocker, Richard Ashcroft and Morrissey. We'd mainly sit around, partially disrobed, taking loads of drugs and wonder when his band was going to make it big. He'd breathily hiss pithy, observant statements about modern shopping centers and pensioners in my ear in an adorably sexy accent that made him seem smart and worldly. It goes without saying that he'd have an excellent vocabulary.

    The majority of the men I've run across in England are one of a few types. There are the hooligans with giant, thick necks and shaved heads who have an affinity for darts and pinky rings, or the ones I more commonly come across--boarding school boys who are very sweet, studied Greek, and give the impression of custardy innocence. They make me feel like common people, if you will.

    I've since found out that all of my English dream boyfriends were actually from Northern England. I am now considering the idea that I may have made a slight geographical mistake.

    Last week I had the pleasure of being dragged to a couple of San Francisco strip clubs by one of my old friends who was getting married a few days later. I've always been fascinated by strippers. This probably started when I was a teenager. My much older boyfriend had let slip that I was the first non-stripper he had dated in years. Luckily for me, I wasn't technically old enough at that point to become a stripper myself, so Micah had to content himself with marrying a stripper while we were going out and not bothering to tell me.

    One of the things I like about strippers is that even the well adjusted ones seem pretty messed up. They're just like me, except with better bodies.

    Because Stacy had insisted on having this fairy-tale wedding and humiliating her best friends in the form of the canary yellow bridesmaid dresses, we decided to fully deliver on her dream. My suggestion that we go to a karaoke booth was ignored, and instead we ended up on Broadway having labia waved 10 inches from our faces. From what I've seen of drunken hen parties in Dublin (they are everywhere, there), the point of a bachelorette party is to humiliate the bride-to-be. The talk should mainly consist of what a tramp she used to be, and she should be forced to wear a crown of penises for the duration of the evening. Unfortunately, due to the 22 hours I spent traveling in order to attend the nuptials, I had lost my voice soon after arrival and was unable to speak for two days. I had to content myself with using hand gestures to convey what a slut she had been, and had a few pretty solid rounds of charades. I also demanded, in sign, that she wear a pair of glow-in-the-dark penis earrings.

    We touched down on Broadway and went into one of the dirty stores there. Anything on Broadway proper isn't really that dirty, because it's aimed at assholes on hen or stag parties like ourselves. Did manage to have a good aul chat with the meth head working at Big Al's though--he told me, among other things, that he advises against using a product called "Anal-Eze" because it reduces sensitivity, and what he likes about anal is that it realy fucking hurts. I tucked away this tidbit of knowledge to chew on later, and we proceeded to our first strip club.

    They told us it was going to cost us $15 each to get in. Stacy, previously the demure bride, was enraged by the $15 door fee. She dredged up an employment episode from a decade early that I had nearly forgotten about, and insisted that when she had worked the door at one of the Broadway clubs, they never charged an entrance fee to women. The dude working was like, "Wait, what? You worked over here?" Turns out the manager at her club was the same one as the manager at this club, and Stacy insisted that he come out and give her free entry. She seemed unconcerned by the fact that she had been unceremoniously fired from said club for stealing from the till, and managed to get us all in.

    A high percentage of the girls in our group insisted that they couldn't get a lap dance because that would be "cheating" on their boyfriends who were not invited to our little girly soiree. They also said it would be "cheating" to sit too close to the stage or "cheating" to tip the strippers, who are, you know, trying to feed their little crack babies/habits entirely off tips. I wouldn't be one to get a lap dance myself, primarily because the dancers seemed unwilling to spend our seven minutes together discussing my problems with intimacy, which is all I'd really want from an encounter with them. I don't know that being polite to a stripper would technically constitute cheating--this may be why my relationships aren't particularly "successful," but frankly, it seemed like a way for my cheap-ass friends to weasel out of tipping the dancers. So like many other strip club patrons, I ended up blowing a "wad" on the dancers.

    One of the clubs went to was the one that used to be known as the goth strip club. It brought back fond memories for me--dancers that would dance to Sisters of Mercy and looked completely uninterested in anything, let alone stripping. But this time, there were no goth strippers to be seen. Apparently that business model wasn't working so they decided to re-brand by having girls with names like Whiskey and Imani dance to "Baller for Lyfe." One of the girls fell in love with my friend Mary (who could blame her) and in the midst of her attempted wooing, told Mary that he real name was Candi. Her stage name was Esther. Oh, the misfortune of a girl born with a stripper name who chooses to strip under an old lady pseudonym.

    All in all, was a great evening. Hadn't seen that much vag since college. To top off the stripper weekend, I nearly had the opportunity to see the stripper my ex-boyfriend married while we were dating shake her patootie at a genuine goth strip night. Although her junk was not particularly appealing a decade ago and probably hasn't aged well, I was willing to go for you, dear reader. "This would be great blog material," I thought. As it turns out, the bridesmaids were forced to set up tables all night while the groomsmen were off drinking beer and shirking resonsibility, so we were unable to have the pleasure of going to strip clubs two nights in a row and seeing my sex rival show her middle-aged naughty bits to a crowd of men dressed in all black and wearing eyeliner. Next time, California, next time.

    *ps. If anyone knows what that song is on the urban dance radio stations all the time right now that goes "baller for life" please tell me. I need to add it to my "routine."

    Late last night I got back from a 10 day trip to California. For the first time, I actually felt homesick once I got back. The weather, the burritos, the people without all of those pretentious intellectual pursuits...sigh.

    Anyway, I was a little jetlagged out of it this morning and forgot to put my wallet in my purse. Once I got to work, I realized I didn't have enough money on my Oyster card (translation: subway transit card) to get home. Embarrassed, I bummed a fiver off of one of my co-workers and went to the station to try and put it on my card. I had exactly £0.30 on my card. I jammed the fiver in a few times, but because it was so tattered (my co-worker insisted on shoving it in my pants repeatedly before letting me keep it) that the machine wouldn't accept it.

    Enraged, I got in line (queued) and finally had a real human help me. I told him that I just wanted to add enough for one bus trip, so could he please put £0.70 on my card? He looked at me and said, "You already have £2.70 on there, love. Save your money."

    I don't know if he added the money on there because I looked poor, or the machine did it by mistake but it made my whole goddamned day. Thank you, England.

    The highlight of my working day is when I walk down the hall to the toilets and see that the disabled toilet is vacant. The hall is long, and to the left is the regular ladies room--a room full of the sounds (and smells) of my colleagues evacuating. This bathroom, this stable of toilet stalls, mocks me, giggling at the fact that so long as I'm employed I will never, ever have a moment to myself, even when I'm taking a wizz.

    So when I walk down that long hall, and look to the right and see that the little red light on the door to the disabled toilet isn't visible, and that I'm going to get to spend some time alone pissing in a room that's nearly as big as my entire flat, my heart jumps. Not seeing that red light is enough to buoy my mood right up to the point that I stop thinking of how appealing spree killing seems, which otherwise occupies a significant portion of my day. And yes, I do realize how depressing it is that the highlight of my career is the time I get to spend frolicking around a toilet meant for people with multiple sclerosis.

    But yeah, I feel fondly towards these toilets for the disabled. So fondly, in fact, that I tried to crash one this morning around 6am at Heathrow. I was speedwalking, honing in on that sweet disabled action. I had nearly made it inside when some uppity immigrant completely cockblocked me and was like, "This is HANDICAPPED toilet."

    I understand why people with really shitty jobs like to hold on for dear life to whatever inane scraps of control they can eke out of their meaningless, demeaning lives and are always telling me things like that I can't use the handicapped toilets. Like, I get that. You scrub airport toilets. Telling people off is pretty much all you have. But toilet-scrubber woman, can't you take one look into my empty, soulless eyes and realize that pissing in a handicapped toilet is all I have?

    So I advanced. "C'mon. Let me in."

    And she retreated. "It's handicapped. Handicapped toilet."

    And I parried. "Those are just guidelines. You don't actually have to be handicapped to use it."

    And she repeated. "Then why does it say handicapped?"

    "It doesn't actually say handicapped, it just has a picture of a person with wheels. In fact, I don't think you're supposed to say handicapped, it's sort of offensive these days," I say snottily.

    She waves at me with her filthy, diarrhea covered mop. "Out. Handicapped toilet. For handicapped."

    "C'MON," I plead.

    She has had it. She's waving the mop dangerously close to my person. "For handicap only! Are you handicapped? Are you?" She clearly hasn't considered my emotional health and can only see two thick, but able, legs.

    "My vagina's broken. Want me to show you?" I say, tugging on the hem of my dress.

    "I call security now." While we wait for them to arrive, I sodomize her with the mop.

    Last week there was a tube strike in London. This was a big deal for Londoners, who are generally total pusses. Like the time it snowed this year. It snowed like four inches max and the entire country shut down. When it happened, I was on a plane that got diverted to a racetrack in Scotland because English people are so flustered by inclement weather that they can't do things like land planes. The next day when people finally managed to stumble into work, wearing Wellington boots and shooting coats and carrying their laptops in cartridge cases, they'd fall dramatically into their chairs moaning "it's bloody treacherous out there!"

    Although they were both incredibly chaotic, I was less impressed with the snow than the tube strike. On the first morning of the tube strike I woke up early, dreading the walk to work that I was being forced to do by the commie tube workers. It's not an outrageous distance, a couple of miles, but nothing I'd really, like, choose to do at eight in the morning. To be fair, the only thing I'd choose to do at eight in the morning is be either fast asleep or dancing to Niagara Flow in someone's kitchen. But as I lay in bed and attempted to make the arduous journey to consciousness, I heard honking. Lots of it. This propelled me out of bed and out the door to hang over the railing. Since I live in a housing project, there's a lot of hanging from railings so I didn't exactly stand out.

    Outside there was gridlock. Major gridlock. And honking. Loads of honking. As someone who thrives on the misery of others, I found this motivating enough to put on a pair of sensible shoes and hit the streets. And I found a London that was like no London I had seen before. It was a London much like New York, actually. The streets were jammed with people who were elbowing each other and not bothering to say "pardon." On Westminster Bridge there were two double-decker buses broken down in the middle of the bridge. Hundreds of people milled around them, some angrily sitting on the curb sulkily smoking cigarettes or threatening to throw themselves off the side of the bridge. Women, unequipped to commute by foot in high heels, staggered around looking shell-shocked. Men would ride by unsteadily on bikes--two of them that I saw fell off. It sort of reminded me of those zombie/rapture movies where everything just shuts down and people are forced to conquer the crippling effects of modern technology and fend for themselves. It was complete and utter (manageable chaos). Definitely my kind of buzz.

    To my knowledge, my mother has never "blown" anyone, homeless or otherwise.

    Mom: Hey, why are you calling me a slut on your blog?
    Mom: Blowing people in the soup kitchen?
    Mom: That's a little harsh, even for shutitdown.

    I was just reading this really good blog by a 23 year old American living in London. Her blog is what mine could have been like if I wasn't such a pussy. My blog, like the rest of my life, is dominated by fear and shame with a pretty serious side of self-loathing. Having a good blog requires a complete faith in one's own abilities as a writer. Because in order to truly have a good blog, one has to really, truly believe that their own writing is good enough to be worth the humiliation of complete self-exposure and the wrath of one's friends.

    For example, my friend the other Lina was great blog material for a while. It was great having a foil--a blond, Swedish version of myself. But after I hired male strippers for Lina's college graduation party, she finally (was) revolted. She accused me of deliberately posting unattractive pictures of her, for one. And perhaps more shockingly, she suggested that one of the main reasons I had hired strippers for her party was for blog material. This stung, partially because it was probably true. But the valuable lesson I learned from this incident is that it's better not to tell your friends that you have a blog so you can post as many unflattering pictures of them as you want and tell all the weird stories about their fucked up sexual experiences and they will never get mad at you.

    My mother has also gotten irritated with me because of my blog. She doesn't like how I portray her as a caricature of herself. I tried pointing out that I don't like how she behaves like a caricature of herself, but to no avail. She decided that she didn't like it when I posted little vignettes about her shrieking "big black cock" without mentioning once how she cooked for the local soup kitchen. Or if I do write about how she works for the local soup kitchen, but imply that she blows everyone that comes in, that bothers her too. There's no winning with some people.

    One of my friends who has one of those really personal type blogs, like, she talks about her feelings and every time she is within spitting distance of a penis, told me that she feels really weird reading my blog because it's so personal. I don't get this. I think it's really hard to read my blog because it's so fucking boring--I never post about anything really interesting and personal because I'm too scared about the fallout. I don't want my dad to think I'm a slut and I don't want my mom to bitch at me about calling her a slut, so there's not a lot left to say, is there?

    I can't write about any of my friends that know about my blog, which eliminates most of them. And I've gotten so paranoid that I don't write about the ones that don't know about it, because I'm certain they will find out and whine. And I can't write about my job, because I work at a company with a "blogging policy." And I don't like writing about how badly my dating life is going, because my ex-boyfriend that's stalking me (still) reads it and I don't want him to think that our relationship failure was like, my fault or something. And I don't write about my past, because I'm scared that it will come back to haunt me. And I don't want to write about how precisely I'm completely wasting my life, except in the vaguest terms, because it makes me feel like a complete asshole. Mainly because I'm entering middle age and living my life like a 19-year-old with a trust fund. I'm basically a fat, aged version of an American Apparel ad campaign and I have no idea how it happened.

    Although it's not the right season (apparently this is a late summer, early fall sort of buzz), I've been all over these moon viewing noodles lately. They're from my favorite new cookbook, Washoku: Recipes from the Japanese Home Kitchen, and I can't get enough of them. Essentially they are udon noodles in a light, sea-n-soy broth with green onions, fresh grated ginger and a nearly raw egg. I added some enoki and shittake mushrooms because I can.

    Going to Ikea always makes me reminisce about the days long ago when I dated a Swede. He used to take me on dates to Ikea. We'd eat at the restaurant, filling up on Swedish meatballs and lingonberry jam, and then hold hands on our way to the food shop where we'd buy herring in a tube and negerbolls.

    I put up with this sort of malarkey because I had let him convince me that being an ex-pat was a life that was filled with longing: for home, for friends and most of all, for food. How hard it must be, I thought, to move so far away from home and in an entirely different country. So I agreed to eat disgusting Swedish meatballs at Ikea, and in my heart, truly felt for the poor guy. I'd go to the Swedish store in Oakland and buy him funny little Swedish candies like Plopps, and just generally try and humor his reminiscences of how perfect life in Sweden was.

    Having been an ex-pat now for coming up on three years, and having tried a lot of Swedish food, I now realize what a sap he was. Moving away from Sweden and missing Swedish food is like recovering from depression and missing that feeling of emptiness.

    I can't say that there's not a lot of food from California that I miss--the burritos and Korean food particularly. When I was in Dublin, I missed them badly. But once I moved to London, which is a major city (much like San Francisco) I didn't walk around like missing the food of my home country was this cross I had to bear, and one that everyone else in the world should sympathize with. (Of course that doesn't stop me from shoveling as many super burritos down my gullet as I can possible stand every time I go back home.) I've learned that these things are manageable. I will probably change my tune once I move to Asia and can't find pancetta to put in my homemade tomato sauce, but for now, I'm surviving.

    Guess who's got a face for radio?

    Check out my radio show, Heart2Heart. It aired on Thursday to intense critical acclaim.

    You can download it here.


    Let me know what you think--I know that I talk too fast but hopefully the unadulterated sincerity will make up for it.

    So I said I was going to have an all-ramen weekend and I damn well did. Above is the ramen that I spent about 7 hours making today. Why is that egg a funny color? Oh that's a seasoned soft-boiled egg, or ni tamago. Other toppings: spinach, green onion, toasted seaweed (nori), pickled bamboo, chasyu pork and kamaboko. Basically what I am trying to say is: in your face, humanity.

    Other high point of the weekend: was in Fabric, one of the largest UK nightclubs and my vision of hell. I try to avoid at all costs, but when one of my pals from the Chicks on Speed was DJing there, I consented to grace the place with my presence. Alex clearly knew how much of an effort it was for me, because she played Spacer Woman and then says into the microphone "This is Italo disco! For Lina! She loves Italo!" Or something like that. Now Fabric isn't the sort of place where one would usually (or ever) hear dedications, so between that and the guy that followed us around trying to show us his abs, it was a pretty sweet night out.

    I had my first run-in with this pinko health care system they have over here last week. I went in for a check-up and did the blood pressure test and they weighed me and measured me and did all the same things that they do in America except that they have to pay for it in the US of A.

    Then the doctor asks me if I'm sexually active. I never know what this means. Like, when they ask you this at your check-ups when you are 16, what they are really asking is if you are a virgin. They want to know if you need std checks or lectures on condoms or to be forced to carry around a flour sack in a romper for a week or two.

    But at my age, I am never sure how to answer. I'm pretty sure they assume anyone who has suffered through as many years on earth as I have has also endured the indignity of coupling with a cretin or two, so what exactly are they trying to ask me? Do they want to know if I've been "active" lately? How active is active enough to give an affirmative to this question? Is giving the idea occasional consideration enough?

    I gave a hesitant yes, which isn't precisely true, per se. But then the doctor, a blond who couldn't have been a day over 22, asked me when I had last engaged in intercourse. I panicked. I managed to cut the exact number in half before mumbling out my answer. She didn't seem impressed but just went on to her next awkward question.

    This is what my life has come to. I lied to my doctor about my sexual "activity" so she wouldn't think I couldn't, like, get any.

    My plans for this bank holiday weekend revolve entirely around ramen, although I may take a short break for udon. I've gotten three movies, Tampopo, The Ramen Girl, and Udon and bought a grip of pork ribs. I can't pretend that I don't hate white people that are obsessed with Japanese culture--everyone does, right? But I think being obsessed with Japanese food is acceptable. At least, I'm telling myself to get through the day.

    Sushi was my favorite food as a kid, but apart from sushi, I never had any interest in Japanese food until I went to Tokyo last summer. I'm not going to bore you with the details, but I spent 10 days gorging myself. Then I missed my flight home--cried, stomped around the airport, ate a bowl of unagi and then went back to Tokyo and spent another day gorging myself. Heaven.

    On my way out of town, before going back to Narita to wait stand-by for the next flight I stopped at a ramen shack. It was 5am and I couldn't resist one final bowl. Of course said bowl of ramen meant that I ended up missing the train and had to take a $200 cab ride to make it to the airport on time. Sort of puts that $20 ramen I posted about a few weeks ago to shame.

    Listen, I know you all hate me. But just subscribe to my Twitter feed and I'll try and be a better person and stop posting so many music articles here and just keep this page to food and negative feelings.
    One of my favorite things about going to the States is the US border control. When they are done exaiming my passport, they always look up for a split second and say "Welcome home."

    The way I usually test this out is to head straight to the ladies room and try and flush a few things down the toilet. If it works, I know I'm home.

    In America, murderers have gotten rid of dead bodies by flushing them down the toilet, bit by bit. In Europe, they haven't figured out how to design plumbing systems that can handle a tampon. I kid you not--the boxes in the States that proudly proclaim "flushable!" in Europe advise you to keep the reminder of your lost motherhood opportunity in the trash--the toilets won't take em.

    But tonight, as I disembarked and ran headlong into Newark's sweaty embrace, I couldn't help but think about how amazing America is. The plumbing! What plumbing!

    Every time I go to The Netherlands--which is pretty often at this point--I'm tempted to get this really expensive ramen in the airport on the way home. I mean, anytime I see ramen I'm tempted, but this place is particularly hard to ignore. The Amsterdam airport is pretty great by airport standards, except there are no seats. Other than the ones at the ramen shack. And I'm usually starving by the time I arrive. I like to think that it's the universe's way of telling me to eat more ramen.

    I've given in twice now and although I'm horrified by the price, I'm also secretly delighted. Because I'm worth it.

    So I've clearly been having a very difficult time updating this site. This is mainly because I've finally surfaced from a major depressive episode that's lasted the last 15 years or so. This means I have a lot of ground to cover, and quickly, before everything comes crashing down on me again. So I've been writing and cleaning and putting together Ikea furniture and shopping and trying to get everything in order as quickly as possible. Because of course this will all result in an epic fail. If we're making predictions, I'd say it will probably be at the hands of some semi-literate dude that I didn't mean to get involved with and who breaks my heart. If the past is any indicator of the future, anyway.

    I've been writing about music all over the place lately and am in the process of writing a bunch of articles right now, including one about the Egyptian Lover. I'm really excited about this one because he's so fat and amazing. Writing articles is a lot easier than editing my novel, which is basically just like flossing. I'm sure in the long run it's worthwhile but it just seems really tedious and bloody whenever I try it. I really hate editing which is why I like blogging. This is basically because I'm a lazy, slovenly person at heart. I'd signed up to take a food journalism class because my other big hobby lately, other than music writing, has been gaining weight. Over the last two days I've made bahn mi every two hours or so because I got an entire loaf of bread and didn't want it to go stale. Sigh.

    All I want to do with my life is travel around Asia and get fatter and fatter. But what am I supposed to do when the money runs out? Haven't figured that one out, so am staying put for the summer, I guess. I guess I can handle one summer here if I at least get to go to Malaysia and eat a boatload of laksa at some point in the middle.

    In other news, I moved out of my last flat. So I am on my fourth flat in six months. This time, I'm living with my favorite person. Me. I will never live with another human being as long as I live. Granted, moving in with a failed child star and a failed model was destined to, well, fail, but it was seriously demoralizing. I guess I'll have to give a whole post over to the two of them, but I'm still too exhausted by the ordeal. At least I'm alone again.

    A number of dance songs were released in Italy in the late 1970s and early 80s, but only a handful of them can truly qualify as Italo "hammers." These up-tempo tunes have driving synths, unintelligible lyrics and bubblegum choruses and instantly cause cheers to erupt on the dance floor when they hit the decks. The hammers are some of the most well-known from the Italo disco canon--far from being obscure within the genre, they are the songs that aficionados will spoon-feed to new recruits as their entry into the world of Italo disco.

    ...read the rest at Italo Hammers: 10 Bad-Boy Gems of Italian Disco on Splice Today.

    I'm not only dead sexy, I'm also prolific.

    Check out my interview with Speculator on Infinite State Machine.

    Speculator's an interesting dude who is working on a lot of music projects that you probably haven't heard of yet. But there's no time like the present, eh?

    I'm going to Amsterdam this weekend for more italo and Holland electro. I'm such a glutton. Last weekend I went to the Bloc festival, which is this electronic music thing in England. They also had an italo day. I'm clearly far too old for this sort of thing, but as long as I have flatmates and don't have a mortgage, I might as well live it up.

    I've been working on writing and have been skipping the gym to do it. As such, I'm fat and prolific. I should have an article on Splice Today tomorrow, and an interview on Infinite State Machine soon. I will post links when it all happens. I'm working on a piece (in my head still) called "Loving the Mix and Not the Man." This is to try and talk myself out of loving DJs so much. I need to stop. I don't know what my problem is. Why is it that I need to obsess over imaginary (or sort of real) people? Is this the ultimate proof that I have no real enthusiasm for other people, and as such need to project personalities onto them in order to feign interest? Things I think about has I head back to Holland to continue my stalking.

    In other news, my slumlord has refused to fix our heat for 3 weeks. We've had no heat or hot water for three weeks. I've given notice and have to find a new flat, which will bring me to four in six months. London is really a lot like Dickens described it.

    So the other day my mother sent me this article about Korean tacos. Not just a Korean taco, but a Korean taco truck. I love Korean food, I love tacos, and I love street food. This could possibly be my most favoritest thing in the entire world. Mainly because I hate everything else.

    Unfortunately, I don't live in Los Angeles (thank you, christ), so I had to make them myself. I've been penpalling with Jennifer of the EatDrinkTalk cooking school (read: I've been harassing her via email) and with her enthusiastic encouragement, decided to give it a go. Results below:

    The picture doesn't do it justice because I still haven't read my effing camera book. This was one of my favorite meals ever. I made it with spicy pork, seasoned cucumbers, kimchi, seasoned green onions and seasoned soybean sprouts. However, I think almost any combo of Korean BBQ meat and banchan would be delicious. Beef bulgogi with kimchi and radish? Savage. Galbi with spinach and kimchi? Deadly. I think you'll have to include kimchi in everything if you want to be safe.

    Recipes:

    Spicy Sliced Pork aka Daeji Bulgogi

  • 1 pound sliced pork sirloin
  • 1.5 tablespoons chili paste
  • 1.5 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (1/2 inch) piece of ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon sesame oil
  • black pepper
  • 1 green onion, chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 white onion, chopped (optional)
  • Korean pear (optional)

    1. Combine the sliced pork with the chili paste, sugar, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame oil and onion, if using. Let marinate for appoximately 30 min. (You can also throw in some mashed Korean pear to help tenderize the meat, if you're feeling up to it.)

    2. Stir-fry the meat until thoroughly, usually around 5 to 7 minutes. Add black pepper if needed. add green onion, if using.

    Banchan: Seasoned cucumbers, kimchi, seasoned green onions and seasoned soybean sprouts. Most Korean side dishes are seasoned with garlic, salt, sesame oil, red pepper and rice vinegar. I'm not going to put recipes here because they are super easy and all over the internet and none of you are going to make this anyway. If you do want to make anything, check out my favorite Korean cooking site: Maangchi

  • My latest claim to fame: I was the first "Review of the Day" on Yelp UK. This is probably the greatest accomplishment of my life to date. If you're following me on the Internet or whatever, check me out on Yelp.

    And if you're really all into my Internets, the good people at YTMND have sponsored a discofinger contest. Remind yourself of what discofinger is again, and get cracking.

    My latest piece on Splice Today about that time when I worried I might be a lesbian but then it turned out I was just listening to too much Bikini Kill: Riot Grrrl, Then and Now

    I recently had a ten day trip to California. On the way to the airport, as we passed the last burrito truck that I was likely to see for the next six months, I pasted my face to the rear windshield and wept. There's just something about a two-pound (and I'm talking weight, not currency) burrito that makes me homesick in a way that nothing else can.

    I took these pictures at El Tonayense in San Francisco's notorious Mission district. Back in the day, you could get a piping hot homemade tamale and a ballon of heroin from the same woman. She only kept one stored in her vagina, but I leave you to imagine which.

    I visted my friend Liz in the Mission when I was in California. It certainly has changed. Maybe I've changed. I don't know. What I do know is that if I had walked around in the Mission with a big, expensive camera ten years ago, I wouldn't have a big, expensive camera to take pictures of burritos with anymore.

    When I see a burrito, all swaddled up in aluminium foil, lying in its basket on a bed of chips, I often think of the baby Jesus in his manger.

    So yeah, I know. Burrito joints with vegetarian options aren't "authentic." But this is San Francisco. Everyone's a veg these days, but they are missing out when it comes to burritos. My friend Duncan wrote something about trying to vegetarian and still eat burritos and I often think of it when I'm nearing the end of my burrito.

    "And the grease pocket. The best part of a burrito is when you get down to the nub, where all the pork juice has filtered it's way down into the last bit of rice and beans and tortilla. Pure chewing satisfaction. Flavor country. Let's just say, when the water from the lettuce gets down there, it's not quite the same feeling, okay?"

    When I lived in California, El Tonayense used to be one of my favorite burrito places. Then one time I found an entire piece of that wax paper that they put in the chip basket inside my burrito. I had eaten about half of the burrito when I got to the wax paper, which filled the rest of the thing out. It was pretty amazing to try and figure out how this fist-sized paper got in there. They offered me a new burrito, but who can eat more than one of those things? Since then, I'm happy to report, the only things in my burritos are the things that belong there.

    Have I written about italo here before? It's one of the only things I truly love. Anyway, I was chatting with my pal Kenny about italo the other day. I should mention that Kenny is angry, bearded and tends to wear t-shirts with band names on them. If Kenny were into computers, he'd wear shirts with unix jokes on them, but he's into gay disco. And he's angry.

    So there's this guy in Dublin. He has a moustache. If Dublin were to have a scene, he'd be a scenester. He is, to put it politely, a cunting moron. Anyway, rumor has it that he's gotten with the program and is starting an italo night.

    Here's what Kenny had to say about the fact that a guy with glittery jumpers is trying to co-opt Kenny's favorite ultra-gay, ultra-cheesy, '80s Italian disco music:

    "blood is going to spill over this bullshit. stay the fuck away from my music you cunts"

    From: Dan
    To: Lina, Max
    Date: Sat, Feb 14, 2009 at 6:24 PM
    Subject: Happy Valentines Day

    Dear Children.

    Happy Valentines Day. I love you, even though you rarely respond to my emails.


    Lina: do you think i should make a separate blog about food
    Lina: and just have this one about my misery
    Patrick: no
    Patrick: just add more misery
    Patrick: more misery and a pinch of sage

    I've been debating this one because I get the sense that the majority of the people on here who find me through foodie sites probably don't want to hear about my ongoing struggles with clinical depression and shitty boyfriends, but loyal readers of the site don't really have any interest in Vietnamese sandwiches.

    So what's a girl to do? New blog? Old blog? More food? Less food? More depression? Can't offer you any less, 'fraid to say.

    Sometimes I think that I'd probably be a lot better off if instead of people in my life, I only had Vietnamese sandwiches. This one is a ham and headcheese with pork pate from Banh Mi Ba Le Vietnamese Sandwiches in El Cerrito, California.

    Vietnamese sandwich recipe:

  • baguette/French bread
  • Vietnamese ham, sliced
  • pork ham, sliced
  • Vietnamese pate (note: you can get Vietnamese ham, pate and other unidentifiable meats in tubes at many Asian markets)
  • daikon radish, julienned
  • carrots, julienned
  • green onion, thinly sliced
  • cucumber, julienned
  • red onion, thinly sliced
  • cilantro/coriander
  • jalepeno or other chili, thinly sliced
  • mayonnaise
  • Vietnamese soy sauce
  • salt and pepper
  • Sriracha (optional)

    1. Cut the baguette to a proper sandwich size, and cut a deep slit in it (but don't fully separate it)
    2. Sprinkle the carrots and cucumbers with salt and pepper, let stand five minutes until supple. Toss with soy sauce and squeeze out extra moisture.
    3. Open the bread, add mayo and layer all ingredients in sandwich
    Note: This recipe is incredibly versatile, add or substitute ingredients as you like and it will still probably be pretty damn good.
    4. Add some sriracha (hot sauce) if you like a little heat

  • Someone was telling me the other day that she's started hanging out at the bead store and making her own necklaces. This is, I think, much like Korean B-B-Q that you cook yourself at the table, or fruit -on-the-bottom yogurt. Just like Tom Sawyer conning his pals into giving him gifts for the privilege of painting Aunt Polly's fence, the "man" gets you to do all of the work, pay extra for the privilege and think you've gotten a swell deal. Don't fall for it.
    I've been meaning to post about a headline I saw on one of the London papers the other day: 'Good manners sank Britons on the Titanic.' Infinitely irritating, right? Now, I'm not sure if I've mentioned it yet, but I'm starting to think that the English are mostly dicks. This is sort of embarrassing to admit, of course, because right now I'm in California and people keep asking me why I moved to London. It's started to become slightly shameful to keep giving answers like "well, when I was sixteen I had a major crush on Jarvis Cocker."

    But since moving here, I've stopped noticing or liking the accents (except when they say literally, that's still hilarious) and tend to focus on the more irritating aspects of the culture. Case in point, the daily free papers that are strewn all over the train and the drivel found within.

    Britons on the Titanic had less chance of surviving than their brasher American counterparts because of their good manners, according to research. While most of the British followed queuing etiquette, allowing women and children to get to the lifeboats first, American passengers pushed their way to the front. (Article, Article)

    Luckily for the British, they've learned a thing or two since 1912. I've often found that a refreshing way to start the day is to be elbowed in the stomach by a banker in a bowler attempting to get a seat on the Tube. I try and pretend that this is indicative of a truly equal society--there's no evidence of the British "stiff upper lip" in play when they're pushing aside old ladies and pregnant girls in hopes of finding a place to sit. So go on, United Kingdom! You've nearly caught up with us--maybe the next time an ocean liner sinks you'll fare a little better.

    I know I’ve written about Bangkok street food before. But like all obsessive, boring people, I like to come back to my favorite topics time and time again, worried that if I don’t mention it, it might just disappear.

    The street food in Thailand was phenomenal. There were the dumplings, delicately balanced on a Styrofoam tray, doused in soy sauce and with nary a utensil save for a toothpick. They weren’t dumplings so much as thick rice noodles wrapped around a variety of vegetable fillings, and they weren’t delicious so much as they were mysterious. How is it that in a country where a vegetarian could starve to death (at a minimum, there’s fish sauce on everything) I managed to get dumplings filled with greens?

    My first night in Bangkok I was alone and terrified. And by terrified I mean hungry and by hungry I mean ravenous. I was too timid, of course, to try and get food at any reasonable time, and my traveling companion wasn’t due to arrive until nearly midnight. So sometime after ten at night I ventured out of my hotel and wandered onto the streets of Bangkok. I needed to be at the hotel when my friend arrived and didn’t want to stray too far from there. I didn’t have a map, and between the jetlag and having no sense of direction to speak of anyway, making more than one or two turns could be disastrous. So I walked up and down the same street a few times, checking out all of the street food vendors and wondering how I was possibly going to order anything. These are the sort of things that paralyze me—not knowing how to communicate and being nervous about acting like an American dickhead, saying the same things over and over in English more and more loudly in the hopes that someone will finally understand me. So instead I just walked around until finally starvation drove me to stop at one of the cart vendors and attempt an order. This is probably a good thing because if I had walked up that street one more time, they would have taken me for a farang prostitute.

    I pointed at a ground pork dish with chilis and holy basil, pad kaprao moo, which was served with a pile of rice for less than a dollar. It was so spicy that my nose was running and tears streamed down my face, but I was nonetheless grateful for the fact that I was gorging myself alone on a plastic deck chair perched on the curb of a nearly empty street, save for the woman cooking over a sterno flame under a tattered yellow and white umbrella.

    At the Khao San Road (which we went to just to see what all the fuss was about, and hated) there were woman standing every ten feed or so holding giant woks and expertly frying eggs into steaming piles of pad thai. After watching a few of them, I finally realized why the pad thai I made never tastes quite right—apparently a least a cup of oil is required for each portion. I thought it was delicious and disgusting, but I’m known for having a stomach of steel. My traveling partner was less resilient, unfortunately.

    There were little sweets that looked like miniature tacos, ready-made curries on carts parked on roads teeming with cars and minicabs. Sticky rice with all types of fillings and toppings, savory and sweet. There were the grilled bullfrogs on skewers that we avoided and the grilled everything else that we couldn’t stop ourselves from stopping for every ten paces or so. There was mangosteen and unripe mango and green papaya salad and bags of cucumbers with nam prik sauce. There were plastic bags filled with ice and condensed milk and flavors ranging from tea to blue raspberry, hollowed out coconuts with straws sticking out of them and plastic cups filled with all kinds of fruits, from limes to pineapple to watermelon and others that I didn’t recognize.

    But more than the food, it was the whole street food scene that I was impressed by. A vendor would have a cart, some source of heat and possibly a few chairs. Sometimes they would have their husband or wife as their sous chef, some of them would have a friend standing their chatting their way through the curries or sometimes they would be alone. Some of them had terrible food and some of them had dishes to rival anything I've ever tasted. My favorites were the women with the blank faces wearing shirts with nonsensical phrases on them sitting on stools, gripping giant cookers with their florescent shorts-clad thighs and frying skewers of just about anything. I think about my current job, which involves skewering nothing but my soul and I pine for my own food cart.

    Max: i've decided it's time to start dating again
    Lina: why?
    Max: because if im going to grow old and be miserable i want to take as many people down with me as i can
    Two and a half years ago Brandy was a snotty, alienated fourteen-year-old who posted worrying comments on my site. Now she's all grown up and posting gems such as the one below.

    Lina, do you ever read a piece of writing and feel that your soul has become just a little bit emptier? It's exactly that feeling that makes your writing so unique.

    For this, she is the shutitdown commenter of note. Thanks, Brandy, you always brighten up my day.

    London is a terribly lonely place. Every day I interact with at least a dozen people that are actively trying to remain indifferent towards me. The bus drivers yell at me here. Sometimes I try and chat up the waitresses when I order takeaway just to have someone to talk to. I'm sort of warming to the Big Smoke, though. This is mainly because I tend to embrace people and things that reject me and blatantly don't want me around.

    "Why is this happening to me?" I asked my mother in tears the other day. My housing situation had taken a turn for the (even) worse and I was about to move to a hotel rather than sleep in the gutter. I suppose it bears pointing out that I have no friends to speak of, and my letting agent had ripped up my lease in a fit of letting agent-ness.

    My mother then made loud, angry regurgitation noises over the phone and said sagely, "that's what London's doing to you." I'm not sure if she meant that London was just trying to evacuate me, or if it was actually chewing me up and spitting me out, but either way she's not far off.

    Since then, I blackmailed my new landlord and moved into a flat that is an active construction site. On Sunday morning I woke up to three builders staring into my bedroom. Right now I'm sitting here, under the covers typing and I have goosebumps. Tomorrow, I've been told, they are planning on putting a hole in my wall to the outside. It snowed today. I asked if they could maybe finish it the same day as I wasn't particularly fond of camping. "Don't worry, love. The 'ole will only be about as big as this 'ere," the 'ead builder said, pointing to a packing box that was two feet tall.

    But all that said, I get a kick out of the East End. I went to the Brick Lane market on Sunday and was pleased as punch to find a Japanese deep fried street food stand set up. Last night I had a curry with my new flatmate who seems remarkably sane and visited my new local (that means: the closest pub to my home) and found that they have a pretty decent jukebox. My flat is just above a Thai restaurant so no one is going to blame me for the stink this time, and I'm just a few minutes away from about fifteen Vietnamese restaurants. 'appy days.

    My latest piece is up on Splice Today: Searching for Jesse Camp. The true story of my first forays into stalking.

    In the spirit of whinging, I've compiled a short history of some of my more memorable flatmates.

    DJ Nizzy Nice: The time I moved in with an Indian man to prove that I wasn't a racist. Passive-aggressive notes ensued.

    The punk drummer: I moved into this Williamsburg, Brooklyn with a man 15 years my senior. Joe was a drummer, but luckily didn't play at home. The kitchen was zebra striped, the living room was red with a giant chandelier draped in feather boas, and my room was purple. Luckily Joe and I got along very well, and he would regularly share tidbits of general knowledge. One fact that I've never forgotten is that brazil nuts are also known as "nigger toes."

    My ex-boyfriend: While changing the sheets, once I found a stash of drugs under the mattress. Eviction (his) quickly ensued.

    The French student: My first foray back into living with other people happened in Dublin last year. I lived with Bertie for a year. Bertie was miserable living in Ireland and stayed in his room 90% of the time. The other 10% of the time I berated him about never putting dishes away or cleaning the house. Bertie finally took up with another French student and had his girlfriend living in our house three or four nights a week and never introduced me to her. In retrospect, I feel sorry for Bertie. However, I also sort of feel like it's his own fault for not being very sound. He wasn't very fun.

    Gooballs: Lived with me for a month while I packed for London. I was introduced to the fellow through a friend. The night that he moved in he told me, "I used to have a drug problem but I don't anymore, like. I learned that drugs are like people. If you don't respect them, they will fuck you over." Because he was from Cork, even semi-frightening statements such this still were amusing due to his outrageous accent. He broke a window and invited a lot of seedy characters over during his short tenure.

    The Italians: My most recent flatmates. Sabrina and Lucio were "just friends." Within a week of me moving in, one of my friends asked me what was up with my flatmates. "What do you mean?" I asked innocently.

    "Uh, they're obviously boning," she informed me.

    As it turns out, this was true and they seemed to get off on the illicitness of the situation and used my presence as a prop for foreplay. When I would come home I would often find them on the loveseat (the only piece of furniture in the living room) making out. When I entered the room, they would try and pretend they hadn't been sucking face, and stare fixedly at the TV while Lucio adjusted his pants. I found this very uncomfortable-making.

    Later, they evicted me for "cooking too much Asian food." The next day I told Sabrina that I thought her habit of falling asleep with her light on and bedroom door open in the hopes that Lucio would stumble in on his way to his room, was pathetic. I should note that said stumbling-in only occurred every few weeks, but Sabrina kept her vigil up on a nightly basis. Lucio later threatened to report this incident to the police as well as having me prosecuted for libel. I helpfully tried to explain that it wasn't libel since I had only said it. Now I suppose since I've written it on my blog it's actually libel. I'm sure this will please the Italians.

    In the latest turn of events regarding my eviction, my flatmate tried to order me out with 4 days notice a few days ago. Since then, he has been firing off emails every evening around 2 am threatening me with a variety of legal punishments if I do not vacate immediately. In one, he threatened to tell the police that I called the female flatmate "pathetic." I can only imagine what the police would make of such a claim, and would be happily willing to accompany them to the police station just to watch the hilarity.

    Unfortunately, what my flatmate doesn't know when he started this faux-legal battle is that I have long dreamed of being a fake lawyer. In my New Year's resolutions for 2008 I stated that I would like to make a career out of writing pseudo-legal documents. While not a career, arguing with my flatmate via email is still incredibly satisfying. There's nothing that quite wakes me up in the morning like a whack of rage.

    I know that getting irritated with him is just giving in to trolling, but it's hard not when someone tries to beat me at my own game. It also irritates me when people make such shameless attempts to sound smart, I nearly take it as an attack on my own intelligence. He must think I'm stupid, I think to myself. He can't possibly believe that I would fall for this shit. This just ratchets up my fury because in addition to attempting to evict me and threatening to sue me, he clearly thinks I'm a moron.

    Just since beginning this post I've received another email from the flatmate. This in response, I guess, to my saying that I'd likely stay in the flat for the next ten weeks and wait for a court order to leave just to make him miserable. Just to be generous, I'll provide you with a sample:

    Again, let me be clear that the remarks you made on our presumed attempt to unfairly overcharge you are unsubstantiated, factually incorrect and libelous. In saying this, may I remind you that this country has a stricter stance on what is considered libelous than you may be used to in the USA. Since you are understandably keen on your legal rights, I suggest that in the future you carefully consider those of others, who may be far less gracious than me in responding to similar accusations.

    Current possible responses: LOL, unsubscribe

    The other night I made one of my favorite Korean dishes, ojinguh bokkeum, spicy stir-fried squid. I made it with not only squid, but mussels and shrimp as well, just for a laugh. The next night, soon after I polished off the leftovers, my flatmate came home for a chat. After about an hour of inane small-talk he finally got to the point. I'm being asked to leave my flat because my cooking stinks. As in, actually smells too bad for my Italian flatmates to handle. "We just didn't realize that you'd cook so much Asian food," he said lamely. "When we were advertising the flat we had decided that we weren't going to let any Pakistanis in for that reason, the curry, you know."

    Interestingly enough, I had let some Chinese cabbage go to waste last week because I thought making my own kim chi might be sort of inconsiderate. Now that they've decided to evict me, though, I'm going to put a few prawns in the lining of their mattresses while they are gone for Christmas. We'll see who stinks then.

    When I lived in New York I used to live above a pizza joint called 'Little Frankie's.' Ever the lazy slob, I'd order delivery from upstairs and sit around playing video games while the poor delivery man walked my pizza up four flights of stairs. I ate a lot of Little Frankie's during this period of my life. I think it's likely that I was also clinically depressed, but the pizza certainly did help temper that.

    Little Frankie's pizzas were amazing. Very thin crusts and simple topping were the key. After I left New York and went to California I found a few places that had good pizzas. Dopo on Piedmont Ave in Oakland was one. But the wait for Dopo was ridiculous, and so were the prices. So I started making my own pizza. Not by my own hand, mind you. I bought fresh pizza dough at Trader Joe's and despite it already being made for me, spent a good long time wrestling it into a circular formation and onto a pizza pan. I also ate a lot of pizza during this period of my life.

    But then when I moved to Dublin, I gave up on pizza. No one would deliver gorgeous thin pizzas, and no one wanted to sell me ready-made dough. I thought my pizza life had ended. But recently, being inspired by the grocery delivery services available around here, I decided to give it a go. Somehow, having yeast delivered just made the whole thing more manageable and I decided to make pizza from scratch. I'd been hearing and resenting Fran's casual "oh, we have homemade pizza twice a week at least" stories for years, so I figured I might as well make her recipe.

    I was remarkably pleased with myself. The crust was thin but not mushy, my guest was delighted and I was full and smug. Pizza? Yeah, I made you.

    Fran and Dan's pizza dough recipe, adapted from the Cook's Illustrated Best Recipe bible: Fastest Pizza Dough

    • 1 1/2 c. warm water (about 105 degrees)
    • 1 envelope (2 1/4 tsp. rapid-rise dry yeast
    • 1 tbs. sugar
    • 2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
    • 2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
    • 2 c. whole wheat pastry flour, plus extra for dusting hands and work surfaces
    • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
    • extra olive oil for oiling bowl

      1. Set oven to 200 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn oven off.
      2. Meanwhile, pour water into a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast and sugar into water and mix. Add oil, flour, and salt and mix until the dough is cohesive. It should be soft and a little sticky. (If it’s too sticky add a tablespoon or so of extra flour at a time.)
      3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead by hand with a few strokes to form a smooth, round ball.
      4. Place the dough into a deep, lightly oiled bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel (or plastic wrap). Set the bowl in the oven for 40 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.
      5. Remove from oven, punch the dough down, and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a chef’s knife or dough scaper to halve, quarter, or cut dough into eighths. Form each piece into a ball and cover with a damp cloth. Let rest for 5 -30 minutes.
      6. Set one dough ball aside and wrap the rest tightly in plastic wrap. Store them in the freezer.
      7. Place a large cookie sheet in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
      8. Using your hands, flatten the dough and stretch it outward with your fingertips, rotating the dough to form a circle or oblong rectangle. Use a rolling pin to further flatten it, if you like.
      9. Gently transfer the dough to a pizza peel dusted with flour or cornmeal (we use a flexible cutting board — we don’t have a pizza peel) and top as desired.
      10. Use a quick jerking action to transfer the pizza from the peel (or cutting board) to the hot pan in the oven. Bake for 5 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the pizza. Serve immediately.
    1. Breakfast Cereal

    When I was a girl, when we went to the supermarket my mother would come up with an arbitrary number, I think it was around five or six, and say that we could only have cereal that had a lower sugar count per serving than this number. Upon reflection, I suppose it wasn't arbitrary, because it managed to eliminate anything tasty from our breakfast options, including that fence-sitter Honey Nut Cheerios. We were left with a sad array of possibilities: plain Cheerios, plain Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, and Fiber One. This stopped me from getting the much need morning buzz and was probably the reason I turned to coffee at the tender age of fourteen. The world seems a lot bleaker at seven in the morning without sugar or caffeine, and this was the state of my life when a babysitter suggested to me, around the age of eight, that I could just dump sugar on my cereal and it would taste better. Oh, Mother, if you only knew how those babysitters corrupted us! Anyway, after that, I would spoon at least three or four tablespoons of sugar onto every bowl of cereal that I ate, and by the time my parents actually caved in and started buying decent cereal and snacks I had grown indifferent, realizing that I was master of my own destiny.

    2. Cinnamon Toast

    Another creative way to eat sugar. Make toast, blob some butter on it, and sprinkle liberally with sugar and cinnamon. Resent children whose mothers bought them Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal.

    3. Chocolate Chips

    Despite being raised in the house of the child of a health food nut, I am also my father's daughter. Luckily for me and my brother, my father was unwilling to cave to many of my mother's culinary demands. It is because of him that we often had chocolate chips in the house for various baking projects. (I know that she going to jump in here and insist that she was the one who made the chocolate chip cookies, and yes, Mom, I love you for it.) We would raid the chocolate chips in handfuls on a daily basis until they were gone. This was the easiest sugar injection in our lives, and one we had to keep secret from the parents. They at least, to their credit, pretended to not notice our sticky hands and chocolatey faces as we bounced off the walls.

    4. Baking Chocolate

    Baking chocolate was sort of the child's equivalent of "ghost-busting," where crackheads pick up any bit of dust or gib of dirt off the ground and smoke it "just in case." As I remember it, baking chocolate was unsweetened, but still smelled enough like chocolate that I would attempt it occasionally.

    5. Ovaltine

    According to the family legends, Ovaltine was the one sweet food my mother was allowed as a child, because her mother had been convinced of the health benefits of all of those vitamins. As such, we were also allowed Ovaltine as children. Malted Ovaltine actually tastes healthy and is not good. Chocolate Ovaltine, though, tastes like real chocolate milk to a child who has been sugar-deprived. If you added twice as much Ovaltine as recommended, it only gets chocolatey-er.

    6. Anna and Jeannette's House

    Anna and Jeannette were the twins that lived up the road. They had an elderly aunt to watch them every afternoon who was notorious lax with the cupboard monitoring. Additionally, their mother apparently did not have great refusal skills, as she purchased any snack food that her five daughters may have possibly wanted (and had five daughters). When I went to Anna and Jeanette's, I could have as many fruit roll-ups as I could eat, Oreos, gummy candy, ice cream and any number of treats that would inevitably spoil my dinner.

    7. Egg Nog

    Another mom-allowed after-school snack born of desperation. Milk, egg, sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, give it a stir, some food coloring to make it seem processed and you're laughing. See previous post here.

    8. Sugar Cubes

    Yes, I'll admit it. I ate sugar cubes. After about three, it would set my teeth on edge and my cavities would start crying for mercy.

    9. Old German Christmas Cookies

    My father, ever the optimist, would often make Christmas cookies for at least a hundred people, despite the fact that we only knew thirty. This would often leave us with a store of hard, German cookies for months after Christmas. They were generally hidden behind the vinegar, because he didn't want my mother pointing out that he had made too many, just like she had told him he was going to. Luckily for him, I would raid these every so often. They were hard as rocks; you'd have to suck on them for a while before even a little bit would begin to crumble. These cookies were a great way to kill time and get a sugar fix.

    10. Baking

    In the end, I had to learn how to bake. God was not going to bring the cake to me, so I had to learn to make the cake. I think I started baking at around age ten or eleven, in the desperate grip of post-school sugar withdrawal. I started with the Joy of Cooking One Egg Cake which has only eight ingredients and can be made in under forty minutes. I've never looked back.

    Tonight I ate dinner alone in my windowless room, feeling sorry for myself. This is the wost Thanksgiving, ever I thought. Then I remembered the Thanksgiving dinner that I had in a San Francisco homeless shelter and I realized that I have had significantly worse Thanksgivings than this. I'm thankful that despite everything, I still have the ability to wallow in self pity.
    The other night I mysteriously had a craving for the drink of my childhood. Perhaps not so mysteriously, as it's exactly the sort of thing that someone on a weight gain regime--which I clearly am--would long for. The drink is called eggnog, and consists of a glass of milk with a raw egg dumped into it, sugar, and a dash of nutmeg. My mother would put this in the blender and add a liberal dash of food coloring and then pour me a tall, lactic glass of teal or lavender eggnog.

    I wrote to my mother to get confirmation of the recipe and got this in response:

    "Are you accidentally writing to the wrong person?"

    And then when I insisted that I remembered said eggnog very clearly, I got this:

    "Maybe you're remembering your birth mother."

    And finally, the concession:

    "I'm willing to believe I made egg nog, though, because I felt it was my maternal duty to pump you kids full of protein and dairy, and back then raw eggs weren't regarded as a health risk. And I've always loved food coloring."

     

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