Thinks

Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend

I like baseball. Games are fun, there’s great team spirit, and as we have all learned from Season 2, Episode 1 of Sex and the City:

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Deep down, I’m still an East Coast girl, and so I like the Red Sox. And living in Washington, it’s obviously that the Red Sox are barely a concern to the Mariners fans (and vice versa). The Seahawks-Patriots hate is an entry for another day, but safe to say, I can wear something that has the “B” or something that says Red Sox on it, and not feel the hatred of a thousand suns when I go to the grocery store.

By a stroke of luck, I managed to get myself invited to a Mariners game, with some friends, of whom we will call Sandwich, Louboutini, and Sandlot, Sandlot’s dad, and Sandlot’s dad’s boss.

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Eat it up, bitches.

Because they were from work, the tickets were for the Diamond Club. These aren’t the box seats, high above the third base line; these are seats directly behind home plate, with a special tunnel access to an open bar, a giant buffet with breakfast, lunch, and all the typical ballpark snacks you can imagine. It was a gorgeous day, they were playing the White Sox, and I had great seats!

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There’s nothing like a sunny summer day at the ballpark.  Safeco Field is by far one of the loveliest I’ve ever been to; it’s clean, well designed, and easy to navigate.  The baseball diamond elicits a feeling of familiarity for every red-blooded American, and the Mariners even won!

I don’t remember how much I ate and drank, but I’m sure my nutritionist-RN friend would not have approved. There were hotdogs and sausages (and we tried out the Silicon Valley Season 4 Hotdog-Not-A-Hotdog app), Ezell’s Famous Chicken (SO overrated), burgers, roast beef, nachos, a giant tuna carving station, salads, pastas, an omelette bar, fruit and pastries, regular sandwiches, and all sorts of candy.

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And Cracker Jacks. Because no ballgame is complete without peanuts and Cracker Jacks.  And beer that you can drink at two in the afternoon without judgment.

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Crabbing, Canoeing, and Coconuts, oh my!

If you’re from New England, it’s a good bet that you have gone crabbing at some point (or at least know people who have participated in this fond past-time). You tie a bit of raw chicken/fish to a string, throw it out into some brackish water, and wait for the string to pull taut. You then slowly pull the string towards you, lest you frighten the crabs, and when you can finally get it high enough (they are piggy scavengers – they don’t notice if they are being lifted in the water as long as they are being fed), you take a net and scoop it out of the water as fast as you possibly can.

My uncle lives on a canal where he can dock his boat, and the dock also makes an ideal place to crab. Gem and I had nothing to do on our last day, and we called to see if we could hang out and try our luck with the nets. We did not fare so well, but we did catch a few!

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The first victim.

After a few hours of no bites (literally), my uncle suggested taking the canoe out. We soon discovered that a canoe’s turning radius is only slightly less than a semi-truck, and if we are wrong and you can actually turn a canoe on a dime, well then, we are just bad at turning. My uncle had suggested rowing up to a few neighbors with the mango, lemon, and avocado trees and asking for some, but we had a hard-enough time going straight and not crashing into the retaining walls that managing to get to a dock might have been more of a challenge than our sunburned bodies were ready for.

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We did manage to pick up a few coconuts that had landed in the water (after several unsuccessful attempts), and I was super excited to open it and see what was inside. Seriously, the coconut trees are awesome, but if they fall off onto your head, they can kill you. So, when we managed to grab one from the water, it was a treat! It was, unfortunately, waterlogged and inedible, and made a nasty brown mess on the driveway. (We did get one that my dad managed to peel – yes, peel – the next day.)

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While we lost a good six crabs to our solidly poor netting skills and the fact that they are just crafty creatures – they pretty much give you the finger when you get them to the surface, go to net them, and then they let go of the bait and spread their legs like they just did a mic drop – we ended up with five of them. When we got back, my mom had arranged for a cookout with the family, and also steamed our catch for the day. We were munching on salad, rice pilaf, and crab, and talking, telling stories, and laughing while the sun set. It was a perfect last full day in Florida with the fam.

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“Sex Definitely Happens There”

Spoiler – this has no photos. You’ll see why.

We had no plans on one day, and after an early brunch, Gem and I were driving around, trying to figure out something to do before the Cardboard Regatta at noon, when Gem suddenly said she could go for a massage.

“You know, one of those Asian nail places that give you a shoulder massage while you’re getting your nails done. Let’s find one.”

A little Google Mapping and a few minutes later, we found several places that either didn’t offer massages or have any openings for hours. We resolved to finding an actual massage place, and we identified a business close to my parents’ house that seemed to be exactly what we were looking for.

It’s at this point that you will have to use your imagination, because we could not take photos. We also could not get out of there fast enough.

We parked and walked into the massage parlor. Eyebrow-raise #1 was not such a big deal.  The windows were tinted at maybe 10%, but then again, this isn’t a huge shock because it’s Florida, and they are trying to keep things cool, right?  Eyebrow-raise #2 came when we took a look around the lobby. It looked a lot “nicer” than the $15, 30-minute massage place we’d expected. The walls were a darker purple, the curtains were heavy dark velvet, and there was fake marble. Then, we saw that there was a menu of services and prices on the counter. They were asking for $80 for a 60-minute massage…something is off here?

Then, the true nature of this massage parlor revealed itself.  (If you haven’t guessed by now, you are as naïve as we were.)

Two women came out from a side room where they’d been chattering in an unidentifiable Southeast Asian language (Thai?), and a third relaxed on the couch in the side room, trying to hear what we were saying. Gem and I had saucers for eyes. We weren’t exactly what to make of it.

One woman was an Asian-50s, – still looking good, but definitely older. She was wearing an electric blue romper, with her biddies pushed up till they were coming out of her neck, and her entire cleavage was visible. She had full makeup, big earrings, her hair was done, and her nails were long. The other girl was younger, about 5’11”, in giant heels, and had on lace boyshorts and a bright orange tank top that left absolutely nothing to the imagination.

The older woman (we’ll call her Blue) wanted to know if we wanted a massage, and started quoting us prices that were $10 off the advertised price. The younger one looked us up and down. Gem and I are both under 5’2”, and we were not dressed for the occasion – we were not wearing makeup, we were just looking for a diversion before heading to the beach where we would inevitably get rained on, and we were tired.
Blue kept trying to sell us on their services, and I was trying to make excuses that it was getting late, and we needed to get back to the other side of town for the Cardboard Regatta. Gem stood there, frozen. The woman on the couch got up, and Gem noticed a hula hoop in the other room where she was sitting.

After a bit more of polite, then earnest declining, Gem and I went for the door, and Gem couldn’t get out of there fast enough. As we power-walked to the car, Gem said, “Sex definitely happens there.”

Editor’s note: After some research, the owner of the massage parlor was indeed arrested for prostitution in 2010. Then we found a rave review from a month prior, where a single dad took his two girls and they all got massages. Take that for what you will.

A Long December

I’m a few days late in writing this, but I suppose it’s better late than never.

This last year was mildly eventful, and my recap, once written out, looked like more than I remembered:

March
I turned 31.  I’m officially into my 30’s.  I think they should start digging a grave now…it’s all downhill from here 😦  When did I get so old?!

June
I quit my job at Yale, after 5 years.  It was bittersweet, and I’m lucky to still have friends there.  I miss them a lot.

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I started working for United Health, and moved to Dallas, Texas – the land of Pecan Lodge BBQ and Tacos y Mas.  You would not believe how attached you get to $1 crispy tacos until you don’t have them anymore.

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My parents sold the house I grew up in and moved to Florida.  They owned it for 26 years, and it’s where some of my best memories are.  It was really, really hard to see that Sold sign.

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My dad was diagnosed with lymphoma.  He’s undergoing treatment and is almost done, and will be moving back to Florida in March.
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September
I celebrated two weddings on opposite sides of the country:  One in RI, one in WY, on back to back weekends.  I also taught my mom how to take a selfie. #mistakesweknewweweremaking

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November
I packed up and moved to Washington.  We’ll see how it goes, but it’s really gorgeous when the sun is shining.

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This is the point in this blog entry where I usually write out my resolutions and lofty goals for the new year, instead of reflecting on how I did on last year’s stuff.  True to form, I am sure I failed at last year’s, and here are my lofty ones for this year:

I am going to blog more.  I promise.  I want to run a half marathon (my goals are getting more realistic).  I need to read more, and since I just found my Kindle, I will be able to.  I want to hike Mount Rainier and explore the national parks around me, and also eat my way through Vancouver, BC.

I have little challenges for myself for each month, like in January I need to run 100 miles, and in February I am going to try not to spend any money outside of bills and necessities.  Those will be fun, and anyone can do something for 30 days.

But my big, overarching resolution is to stay positive.  Surround myself only with people that are good for me, make me happy, and bring joy and kindness. I know it’s trite, but negativity is a poison and choosing to focus on the good is difficult – it’s something I know I need to work on.

Here is to a wonderful, happy, productive 2017 full of adventures and

Falling For You

Ahhh, fall.  The colorful leaves, football season, the brisk air, the pumpkin spice everything

It’s my favorite season, even though I don’t have school planners to decorate anymore (go ahead, laugh it up). There’s something special about the cooler weather, when my allergies change, and when I have to sleep snuggled deep in several blankets.  Also, it’s when people don’t look at me like I’m insane when I drink hot tea all the time…

The only thing better than October in southern New England is October in northern New England. It’s cooler, so things usually happen a bit earlier, and fall really feels like it’s in full swing.  This past weekend, I trudged up to Vermont in my rental Jeep (don’t ask) and spent two glorious days in a 1700’s farmhouse, surrounded by all that is fall, all that is New England, and all that is family.

My whole family was there to celebrate my grandmother’s 90th birthday.  We were at Reading Farms Estate in Reading, VT, on the way to Killington and right near Woodstock (no, not that Woodstock).  It’s a spectacular old farmhouse that sleeps what feels like 50, has ponds, a barn, hiking trails over hundreds of acres, and amazing views. 
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There were giant trout in this pond, but there was a “NO FISHING” sign…They wouldn’t have noticed if we took one, maybe…though we had plenty of food anyway.  There were pellets you could throw in the water, and it was a veritable feeding frenzy.  My aunt and cousin did this all weekend.  Any time we couldn’t find them in the house, they were outside feeding fish, and giggling. It really is the simple things in life. IMG_20151003_104522619 IMG_20151003_112548107 IMG_20151003_112726806_HDR

The best thing about the leaves being late to change this year are the half-and-half trees.  Splashes of color in what would otherwise be a monochromatic view.  It’s a good reminder that life goes on – no matter how hard the green tries to stay, it will eventually become bright orange and red, and change will happen. The only thing we can do is look forward to next spring, and starting over.

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My Top Three Reasons to Go to Hong Kong

I really wanted to go visit Anna.  The Russian government, however, had other ideas for US citizens trying to visit Moscow, and the trip was put on the back burner due to the fact that getting a visa was really, really frustrating and expensive.  While this was a huge and disappointing setback, I still wanted to travel internationally this year, and a lucky glance at a discount airfare site and a leftover gift card meant I was going to Hong Kong – for 8 days, for less than a pair of Louboutins – USED Louboutins.

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Yeah…airfare was less than that. I shit you not. Image from ebay.com. These also have the potential to live in my closet.

I never had a burning desire to go to to Hong Kong; lots of friends have been/have family there, but I don’t know that I’d have ever said, “YES, THIS IS MY #1 DESTINATION OF CHOICE!”  But it was uncharted international territory, two of my “adventure” criteria, and I was all for it.

After the eight days there (which is just about the right amount of time for a first foray), I now have my top three reasons to visit – for which I’d gladly go back.

  1. The Mix 
    It’s a vibrant, bustling city that has Louis Vuitton, Dior, and YSL on one corner, and cheap eats and chintzy fun stores across the street.  There are hundreds of expats (waaaaaaay more white faces than I’d expected), so it’s not like you’d stand out like the Great White Hope as a visitor from the United States.  According to today’s Google search, it ranks #3 for “Top Financial Centers in the World.”  There’s a rapidly growing, ever-modernizing city, there are quiet mountain tops with panoramic views for hiking (and believe me, it’s a steep elevation change, and not the easiest hike), there’s varied cuisine, there are beaches…

    Those sweeping panoramic views I was talking about.

    Those sweeping panoramic views I was talking about.

    There is literally something to do for every type of traveler.  If you want to be active and explore, there are twisting streets and steep hills.  If you want to relax on the beach, there’s that, too.  There are plenty of bars with actually useful happy hour hours (more on that later), if you want to get your drink on.  Most of the younger generation understands at least a little English, so you aren’t totally lost.  And as a major metropolis, you aren’t cut off from technology, civilization, or (most importantly) indoor plumbing – unless you want to be.
    IMG_20150912_094633908Hong Kong, like the other cities I’ve visited in Asia, is the perfect blend of first and third world, and it’s a great destination for anyone that wants to experience something new, while not being too far away from the west – at least in spirit.

  2. The Shopping
    Ok, ok.  I’m not a shopaholic.  Definitely not.  Aside from the appreciation of the beautiful fashion, I could not relate to this movie at all.  Cher and Dionne would be so disappointed in me – I suffer from buyer’s remorse more often than I actually buy things.

    Image from movieposters.com

    Image from movieposters.com

    That being said, there’s a shopping culture in Hong Kong that will excite even the most reluctant of marketgoers.  Everything you see on Ebay, the super cheap electronics, phone cases, flash drives – it’s all there.  Clothes, trinkets, combs, souvenirs.  Jewelry, scarves, tea sets, journals.  You name it, it’s there.  In some districts, it’s like Madison Avenue on steroids.

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    Hong Kong had more designers in a concentrated space than this – it honestly blew my mind.  Image from lightuptheholidays.org

    When you’ve got every major designer in the world, along with four and five carat diamond rings and incredibly opulent jewelry, staring you in the face, it’s hard to not get swept into the shopping culture. I’m telling, you – even Fred Leighton and Harry Winston would have had runs for their money.  And it was everywhere.  The jewels, pearls, jade, gold – it was magnificent. 
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    A small vignette: I was waiting outside a jewelry store, looking through the windows, and a few minutes later, I somehow found myself seated at a counter, trying on diamond rings.  When lovely 1.5ct brilliant cut solitaire with a pavé band was placed on my finger, I told the sales person it was beautiful.  “You like?” he asked, probably hoping to make a sale.  “Yes, it’s gorgeous,” I told him.  “$60,000,” he said.  “Sixty.  Thousand.  Dollars,” I repeated slowly.  “Hong Kong dollars?”  “No,” he said, quickly.  “US.”  I could not take that ring off fast enough. 

    The first time you step foot in the shopping districts on the Kowloon side, it’s overwhelming, but after walking past a few stands, you get the hang of bargaining, arguing with the shopkeepers and walking away when you don’t get a good price. It’s like a game, a battle of wits (which you should never go in against a Sicilian, when death is on the line).  And when you walk away, and they chase you shouting “Okay, okay, your price, okay!” the feeling can only be described as triumph.

  3. The Food
    Hong Kong food isn’t “Chinese” in the sense that there’s a chicken dish named after the mysterious General Tso, and you’d be hard pressed to find an egg roll in the sense that we’re used to.  Instead, there’s amazing claypot rice, dim sum, and congee.
    IMG_20150909_214454320For those of you who are gastronomically adventurous, and for those of you that would prefer the comforts of home (in the form of burgers, pasta, pizza, and the like), Hong Kong has just about everything.  And if you are just a tiny bit adventurous, and you want multicultural meals every night of the week, Hong Kong has that, too.  Korean, Japanese, Indian, Mexican, Nepalese, American, Thai, Italian…you name it, Hong Kong has it.  It’s not as diverse as New York City, in the sense that you have ubiquitous options on EVERY corner – in Hong Kong, it’s only on MOST corners.
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    I’m not ashamed to say I needed a burger fix –  fried onion straws, bacon, pulled pork, and cheese. And a side of thrice-fried duck fat fries.

    There are cured meat stands, fresh fruit stands, food carts, teeny shop fronts with Peking duck and steamed crabs hanging out front.  There are live fish markets, restaurants where you can pick your protein and they will cook it for you, and if you’re looking for something fast, there’s portable dim sum and meat on a stick.
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  4. IMG_20150913_185848630IMG_20150911_085043694
    IMG_20150912_142726927_HDRWhile I did get my fill of Chinese food (please, God, no more grease), the variety made eating more than bearable.  I actually did eat Indian, Korean, and Italian/Asian fusion dinners, and it was all delicious, and a welcome change.  By day 3, bananas, tangerines, and giant peaches were in my hotel fridge, along with oatmeal, dried berries, and walnuts for breakfast.  Yeah.  Just in case you need a bit of digestive help, there’s Quaker Oats there, too.

What began as a “last resort” vacation turned out to be one of the most interesting, most culture-surprising, and rewarding trips I’ve taken in a long time.  Yes, my epic road trip was, in a word, epic, but this is in a league all its own, and it has convinced me that Hong Kong is truly a place to find an adventure around every turn.

Artificial Ceilings

Recently, I started listening to podcasts.  My two go-tos are Freakonomics and The Tim Ferriss Show, both of which I find incredibly interesting.  Last week, there was a rebroadcast on Freakonomics – an interview with Kobayashi Takeru, the guy that revolutionized the world of competitive eating.  If you’re interested in the whole thing, here is the link.

Image from trendingsearches.net

Image from trendingsearches.net

The idea of eating even more than two (ok, three) hot dogs in one sitting sort of makes me want to yak, so when you say “as many as possible, and oh, the world record is X,” I want to crawl into the fetal position and die.  But it was this talk of the former world record, which was 25 1/8 hot dogs, that really struck me.  He destroyed that record, on his first attempt at the contest, and devoured 50 hot dogs.

Speaking through a translator, Kobayashi explained the idea of an artificial barrier, which is something I think I struggle with on a day-to-day basis:

I think the thing about human beings is that they make a limit in their mind of what their potential is. They decide I’ve been told this, or this is what society tells me, or they’ve been made to believe something.

Today, I reasoned that perhaps I’d been giving myself artificial barriers.  And I began to think about what might happen if I removed them.

I decided to start removing barriers at the gym.  I had the idea that I could only run at a 6.0 mph pace – maaaaaaybe 6.1 if I was feeling really ambitious.  But my coworker, who also has bad knees and rarely runs, told me that he sets the treadmill at 7.0 mph.  This got me thinking – yes I have short legs. No, I’ve never been particularly fast. But no, I’ve never tried going faster.  I just assumed I couldn’t do it.

Image from amazon.com

Image from amazon.com

And so, tonight, I tried something new for my warmup run.  Instead of starting out at 5.8 mph, I set the speed to 6.5, and ran for 1.5 miles.  For the next lap, I increased the speed to 6.6, and for the last two laps, I increased it to 6.7.  And what do you know.  I did it.

It was a happy moment – I felt accomplished and proud, and I realized that my dream of a consistent 8:45/mile pace is actually closer than I thought.  I am motivated, I am determined, and I now have the confidence I can do it.

Image from simpsons.wikia.com

Image from simpsons.wikia.com

And what if I applied that thought to finding a job?  Usually, it’d be, “I’d never get XYZ position, they never hire people with my kind of experience, I’ve never gotten an interview there before”…but if I bust through that wall and apply, you never know.  What if I applied this to finding a boyfriend?  “That guy would never talk to me, he’s out of my league, I can’t date that far up, I know what my limit is”…but maybe that limit isn’t actually there.

What if we all thought like this.  I realize this is a bit rose-colored (I’m probably still high on endorphins), but blindly accepting what we believe are the limits of our own abilities can hinder us – we stagnate, we don’t grow, we never achieve.  History is full of brave souls and amazingly intelligent individuals, but the only thing that makes them different from us is that they didn’t accept the limits society gave them.   What would we all achieve if we followed their example?

It’s just food for thought, but when your mind starts to wander, and you think of all the great things you might do….it’s a temping proposition to push the limits.