Dallas

One Way Ticket on a West-Bound Train

Sometimes, you just have to YOLO and figure you aren’t getting any younger, so you might as well just buy the shoes!  Take the trip!  Kiss the guy in the bar that bought you a drink!  Move across the country….again!

Back in June, I got a new job in a new location, and therefore bought new shoes.

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No….wait, that’s not the point (though they’re pretty, and I’ve actually worn them!).  The point is that I quit my job at Yale, packed up everything I owned into two small shipping boxes, and flew to my new home: Dallas, Texas.

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Dallas was….fine.  Not bad, excruciatingly hot in summer, and traffic was awful.  Not the best place, not the worst.  So when the opportunity to move to the PacNW came up, I thought, “Hey, I’ve always wanted to live there, it will be wet and raining, but it will be lush and green.  Let’s go!”  Of course, it wouldn’t be Seattle (damn), but it would be halfway between Seattle and Vancouver, BC, which is almost as good.

Of course, I got all excited and forgot about the actual moving part.  This means lots of packing and shipping (again), but it also meant a road trip for the things they wouldn’t ship, like firearms, booze, and liquids.  (Also, for things that I refuse to ship, like some of my pandas).  I took some time off of work, rented a car, and mapped out a route for the 2400 miles between my old home in Texas, and my new home in Washington.

After some whirlwind packing, tearful goodbyes, and one last burger from my favorite Dallas burger place, I set off on my one-way road trip, leaving Dallas in my rearview.

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Birthday Weekend, Part 1

My third 29th birthday was last Thursday, and what better way to celebrate than a weekend getaway to…Dallas.  No, I didn’t go to Cabo, no I didn’t go on a cruise, or even New York City.  Instead, I packed a bag and set off for the winter warmth of Texas.

Of course, birthday weekend wouldn’t be off to a good start without some birthday present (to myself), in the form of new running pants.  Now all I need are some running sneakers to match 🙂

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These are super fun – the squiggles are actually silver.

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I was told these look like the 80s threw up on my black pants.

Upon my arrival in Dallas, I was greeted with a sushi dinner (being Friday and Lent and all).  It was at a place I’d been to once before, and they were nice enough to let me use my Groupon on a Friday night.  I think I have a new favorite sushi spot in Dallas, though only if there’s a deal.

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IMG_20160304_195029643The first picture is missing a few rolls that came later, and yes, you do see two of the same rolls in each photo.  They’re hands down my favorites – the black caviar one is called the White Russian…what can I say?  I love Anna, I love this sushi roll – I just love my white Russians.

Somehow, despite the weekend being insanely busy, I managed to hit a vintage market (which was actually more of a disappointment – I was hoping for much more.  Maybe next year, though) coupled with a home and garden show.  I got in trouble for taking photos, but there were some cute little cacti and lovely cards.  I also bought some hot pepper-infused jelly.  I recommend the blueberry and the jalapeño mint.

 

 

 

Post market, it was such a beautiful day, I wanted to take advantage of the weather and the marginally safer streets, and went for a run outside.  When it’s 77 degrees out and winter everywhere else, you’d be a fool to not do something outside.  A short 5k around some of Dallas’s main arteries meant that I should probably reward myself.  I had wanted to go to a brewery for ages, and finally made it:  Deep Ellum Brewing Company.  $15 gets you three pints, a souvenir glass, and some prime people watching.  And folks, my PSA soapbox comment:  Just because you think you are hot stuff and wearing leggings in public does not give you permission to go commando.  Especially if the leggings are already stretched tight.  That material stretches further when you bend over, and when that material stretches and becomes transparent….ooof.  That was NOT a Grand Canyon I wanted to visit.

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Dinnertime meant a trip to meet some friends at Chino Chinatown, which was in a fancypants area with lots of restaurants I want to try.  It’s a Latin-Asian fusion, and I have just four words for you:  Duck.  Fat.  Fried.  Rice.  Everything was delicious, but really, that fried rice was divine.  To die for.  I could go back and eat just that.  The drinks were inventive but not terribly strong, so the beers beforehand were helpful.  I’m not an alkie, I swear.  I just enjoy feeling bubbly 🙂  Good conversation, good food, nice area.  I couldn’t really ask for more for my birthday.

Like all good things, weekends come to an end, and unfortunately, so do birthday weekends.  I flew back to reality this past Monday, and have been stuck in an office for the last few days.  Friday brings about Birthday Weekend, Part 2 in DC, when I head down to see some racing friends.  I think I’m pretty lucky – who else gets to have two birthday weekends?

Hao (No)Bu Hao

When I lived in China, one of the first phrases I picked up was “hao bu hao.”  Roughly translated, this means “good no good,” and means something like, “Okay?” or “Is this good for you?”

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It was even the title of my senior Honors Thesis – a guide to getting around at Zhejiang University and Hangzhou, China.

It’s no surprise that I enjoy Asian culture – specifically the food.  And I remember when Nobu opened in New York – the lines to get in, the rave reviews.  So when I had the chance to visit one of the newer additions to the family, Nobu Dallas, I jumped.

And like so many overhyped and overeagerly anticipated events, I sat in the big restaurant, framed by heavy doors and surrounded by very loud, fairly underdressed, drunk Texans.  The tasting menu had pretty small portions (albeit very good food), and despite the server being decent in everything else, two of the six dishes had cilantro on/in them. A full Benjamin in alcohol later (which was only four drinks – total), I wasn’t…unsatisfied, but I didn’t feel like I had a $300 meal.

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First course – salmon sashimi with wasabi cucumber salsa, ponzu sauce, and watercress.

It got me thinking about things that get overhyped.  Movies, books, TV shows, restaurants, plays…I remember being BEYOND excited to see Ragtime on Broadway…only to be completely disappointed with the show, despite the rave reviews from, well, everywhere.  Even college was overhyped – by the time I actually figured out that yes, I am going to do XYZ here, the college experience had been lost on me.

Why do we do this?  And how does the groupthink affect us SO much that a lot of times, it’s a letdown?  Someone close to me doesn’t get excited about…well, anything.  I’ve been told it’s because things get so hyped up, that if they don’t come to pass in the way you wanted them to, it’s a big disappointment, and rather than be disappointed, have ground floor expectations so that your two options are a) elation, or b) no change.   Rather pessimistic, if you ask me, but I do see the point.

It’s just that I had heard so many amazing things about Nobu, there is a year-long wait list to get a reservation, it’s SUPER FAMOUS!!!  And upon sitting there, eating, drinking, and generally being….not overwhelmed (can you be just whelmed?), I realized that, like many other things in my life, my expectations were not managed, and I was a bit disappointed.

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The second course – tuna sashimi with CILANTRO DRESSING and daikon radish and CILANTRO. Sigh….what a vile weed.

Sadly, if I were asked, “Nobu, hao bu hao?”  I’d say “No, let’s go somewhere else, I have to hold the first hao.” At least this time around.  It wasn’t bad, per se, but it was just ok – like so many other things that are larger than life, till you actually get up close and personal.

But let’s not be hasty – I’m not one to be disappointed, and done with it.  Forever the optimist, I am known to always give second (and third, and fourth, and seventy-eighth) chances, to anyone, for anything.  That being said, should someone want to take me back to Nobu, to try the black cod, I could be convinced.  As long as they hold the cilantro.

Jenna Does Dallas, Part 4

Ahhhh, New England.  Where there’s a good pizza place, a Dunkin’ Donuts, and an Italian bakery within a five-mile radius of….well…anywhere you are.  Where you can get a sofgliatella (my favorite), or a lobster tail, or a real cannoli, and/or a decent slice of pizza, and an iced dahk roast in the middle of winter.

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A search for an Italian pastry shop in Dallas left me high and dry.  There’s not a single one with anything more than a cannoli – but apparently I can get authentic Russian cakes, and there’s even a Russian banya in Carrolton.  I figured that if the white half of my (far more common) identity was nowhere to be found in the midst of what is touted as the new up-and-coming city, there was little hope for the other (Asian) half.

But I was wrong.

After brunch with my cousin, I took in the sunshine, and a short drive later, I found myself in what could only be described as K-Town.

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All Asians and extremely limited English,  complete with crappy drivers and parking jobs!  It was like being back in China! – well, except it was Korean.  And the awkward moments when they ask me a question in Korean, and I can’t answer,  when they obviously expected me to be able to…Feeling both out of place and completely at home, I entered KoMart, which is a giant grocery store.

Let me tell you – I was not prepared.  I’ve been in massive Asian grocery stores, I’ve seen live animals in nets, and watched ahjumas cooking giant vats of kimchi or beef.  But that it was in Texas, with cowboy boots, and no English…that was the part that really got me.

It both hilarious and mindblowing to know if I ever decided to be an actual Korean, instead of an imposter, I’d have an easier time in Dallas than in New Haven.  Of course, my actual Italianism would suffer – which is something I have trouble wrapping my head around, since I always figured that in the states, being Italian is easier than being Korean.  There are a few Korean churches and Korean groceries within a block or two of me at home, but by and large, Wooster Square and the Italian influence is far more palpable, and probably why I feel most comfortable in that environment.  It’s just what I grew up with.  It’s a crazy paradigm shift when I go to Asian neighborhoods.  But!  Back to KoMart….

A bit of meandering around the store, up the tea aisle (and picking out some fancy buckwheat tea) and down the ramen aisle (grabbing Black Shin Ramyun) led me to the back of the store, to the huge cases of both fresh and frozen meat.  And upon finding these cases, I also found my absolute favorite part of American-Asian grocery stores: Engrish.

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…Because who doesn’t want five-layer bally?

 

 

 

Jenna Does Dallas, Part 3


Let me reiterate:  Dallas was cold.

But during the one nice day I had, not only did I find a tiny (man-made) body of water, I  also walked around downtown.  There are several different neighborhoods in Dallas, much like any city (and I am still attached to the ones in Manhattan), but I found myself wandering to both the closest and most interesting – the Arts District.

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It’s a pretty area, with lots of shiny buildings and interesting graffiti on some of the walls, and a few theaters and concert stages.  Not quite Broadway, or even Temple Street in New Haven, but still a nice place.

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A bit of google maps later, I found myself at the Dallas Museum of Art.  No, it’s not the Mueso del Prado, or the MoMA, but it’s got enough  to keep me happy, and oh….yeah…it’s free.   This $25 entrance fee (or €14) thing is pretty steep, if you ask me.

There was some interesting art – old Mexican sculptures and masks, a handful of Mondrians, and a spattering of ancient Egyptian and Japanese relics – but the best part was the modern art chairs…..well, obviously.  It’s a freaking panda chair!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

16_usiUSaxtbdTLSll8M6_MPRBwL6_7kwZr6Rqyx4NUO=w1015-h802-no Worry not, I was not arrested for trying to steal save said pandas from a fate worse than death – being crushed by a massive American derriere – but I did have to drag myself away.  Oh, pandas.  My weakness.  I spent a few hours meandering through the exhibits, and though I missed several really great ones (Pollock, Renoir, and International Pop Art), there was enough to remind me that art is everywhere.

Jenna Does Dallas, Part 2

I’m finally getting around to posting this, as I’ve been busy digging myself an igloo.  Seriously, the Northeast can’t catch a break lately.  I mean, it’s been frigid since December.  Or maybe that’s because I had no heat for most of that month…?  Either way, it was cold December and January, and now to kick off Febrrrrruary, we’re getting a metric fuckton of snow.

First, there was this, the Monday before the Super Bowl (26 Jan):

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I’m in the 24-36″ of snow range.  Granted, we got like eight inches of fluffy powder, and the poor eastern part of CT, RI, and MA got completely pummeled with up to 34 inches, but at the same time, phew for me.

Then, there was this on Monday, 2 Feb:
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This storm was a lot worse because it happened during rush hour on Monday night, and we were supposed to get 4-8″ of snow, but we got closer to the 8-12″ range.

It’s getting to the point where I’m starting to confuse Moscow with New Haven.

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Can you tell which is which?

If that’s not enough, we’re getting MORE snow.  We got a few inches this morning, and we will get a few more inches this weekend.  No rest for the weak and the weary, I tell you.  So one would think that an escape to Texas would be most welcome.  A weekend excursion to the South, where sunshine and warmth are abundant and there are always green leaves….if you can find any trees, that is.

Photo courtesy of scratchwireless.com

Photo courtesy of scratchwireless.com

I was eager to escape the winter weather, and was expecting a wonderful, green, lush landscape with mid-70’s temps during the day (yes, even in the dead of winter).  And I fully admit the weather here has taken a turn for the worse since my jaunt to Dallas, so maybe I should have saved my trip for now, but alas, I am not a meteorologist.  (If I were, I’d get to be wrong all the time and still make 6 figures, which doesn’t sound so bad.)

When I arrived, it was nighttime, and it was cold.  Forty degrees cold.  When I woke up the next morning, and tried to go outside, it was cold.  Fifty degrees cold.  My light spring jacket that I had packed wasn’t enough.  I spent much of my time indoors, and wrapped in a fleece blanket.  It was like Madrid-weather-expectation-versus-reality all over again 😦

Somehow, I got one nice day.  It was sunny and 68 degrees.  Talk about your crazy weather shifting.  It was a veritable heat wave!  And I so I took full advantage and managed to get outside, and even find some trees.  But leaves? BAHAHAHAHA.  No leaves.

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And that water?  It’s a reservoir.  Nice place for a walk, run, bike, or stroll, but I missed the salty sea air.  Ain’t no coastline in Dallas.

Perhaps it will warm up if I decide to return sometime closer to spring, or if my next visit occurs in the summer, maybe I’ll be begging for the slightly cooler temps of New England.  Just a word to the wise – don’t expect warmth just because you’re South of the Mason Dixon.

In any case, the one nice day was enough to make me happy with the weather – looking back it was the best of both worlds.  Sunny and warm during the day, and getting to snuggle under a blanket at night.  And there was even a body of water.  Not a bad weekend, if I do say so myself.

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Jenna Does Dallas

It had been a really bad day, and after some discussion, my credit card balance was suddenly $460 higher and I was arranging transportation to New Haven Tweed Airport.  I was given the opportunity to visit Dallas, and get out of New England for a while, and so I jumped.  Queen of Impulse Travel, I tell you.

When I think of US cities I want to travel to for a fun weekend, Dallas doesn’t immediately jump to the top of my list.  In fact, Austin is actually up there, but otherwise it’s generally places like New York and Chicago.  Despite this, I figured why not, I’d not been, and I had someone there willing to let me stay and show me around.  Nothing to lose!

Tweed Airport is….small.  Really small.  Sure, security is easier, but when you play passenger roulette and you end up next to a propeller and smelling fumes the whole ride to Philly….it might be worth the 45 minutes to go to north to the big airport and not worry.

2014-12-19I have to say, the little prop planes really freak me out.  They’re so dependent on weight and weather, and you can feel every little thing that happens – give me a giant 747 any day.  Luckily the flight was just over an hour, so I had barely managed to get through a handful of songs on my playlist before we had to prepare for landing.

After deplaning, I ended up with quite a bit of time to kill.  A few hours, actually.  I was a little hungry, and a lot thirsty, and so I figured if I was going to be getting food poisoning from anywhere, it might as well be from airport sushi.  (The roll was 100% cooked, I drank more than enough alcohol to kill anything in it anyway, and I did not get sick.)IMG_20141219_142154183_HDRI’d gotten lucky with my seating assignments – window and exit row – the whole way down.  I also won passenger roulette, and had no one next to me on either leg.  Of course that didn’t mean it was a super pleasant flight – on the first leg I felt like I was getting a contact high from the fumes and a bit airsick from the turbulence, and on the second leg the lady next to me decided the empty seat between us was going to be hers, so I was still sort of smushed.  But being able to stretch my legs was nice.  Sometimes you catch a break, and sometimes you catch a really great sunset over the tarmac.

IMG_20141219_163511675_HDRSomething something something, rotation of the earth, slower, something something, flight takes longer.  I think the actual flight from Philly was around 3 or 4 hours.  It was going to be pitch black by the time I got to Dallas, but while we were at cruising altitude, I got to see some really interesting blues.  Unfortunately my phone can only capture so much.

IMG_20141219_170627437Because this vacation was sort of an impulsive getaway to clear my head and regroup, there wasn’t anything planned.  I spent most of the weekend relaxing and running errands.  I got to see some of downtown (a limited amount, though), and we drove around a bit.  The roads are horrific.  I can’t imagine how my poor suspension would feel.  But, I am astounded at how much cheaper things are in Texas.  Everything seems less expensive.  Especially gas.

IMG_20141231_075809While there weren’t many plans, there was one thing that had to be done:  fix my computer.  Luckily for me, I am surrounded by handy people that like to try to fix things.  For the last year or so, I’ve had to dangle the charger off the side of a table and create tension in order for the port and pins to line up to form a good connection.  It has to be the port, we decided.  Taking it as an excuse to order parts and new fun tools, the trade off was fixing the computer for a batch of my famous biscotti.  After taking the whole thing apart and realizing we were still down one tool, and after running out to get it, installation was a success!  But that did not do much good, as the problem seemed to be coming from my charger.  Sigh.  It’s always something.

IMG_20141221_132131892While most of the time was spent doing not much of anything, there was one thing I absolutely had to do:  Texas BBQ – I couldn’t really go there and look at myself in the mirror if I passed up that opportunity.  A short drive to Deep Ellum brought me to Pecan Lodge.  It’s a pretty cool place with a really decent bar, but I wasn’t horribly hungry, and the place closes at 3pm on Sundays.  Despite the vast menu of things to choose from, half a pound of burnt ends and some sausage were the ultimate decision.  They were really delicious, and while I couldn’t eat a lot, had I been hungrier or able to eat more, it could have turned into an expensive meal.  I think up here, in New England, I’m used to Kentucky-style BBQ, and Texas is very different.

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Monday morning brought my first experience using Uber.  It’s….interesting.  I realize it’s a decent car service to have, but with all the recent horror stories, I might be apprehensive to use it by myself.  Of course, it was a super nice car with a super nice driver, and I also wasn’t alone, so I wasn’t terribly worried, but I might not use it if I could help it.

As the sun rose over Dallas, I said goodbye to the city.  It was such an impromptu visit, there wasn’t a lot of time to arrange events, and many people were gone for the holidays.  I don’t think it will be my last trip there, and there’s still much to explore.  I found it a bit surprising, but I am very much looking forward to the next time I’m in Texas.
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