Saturday, January 31, 2009

Hamburger Dress

I want this. Real bad.

XX: These Days (part 2)

continued from previous entry...

All the while, something inevitable was lurking behind us. James' flight back to the states was on the 9th of January. It was a little bittersweet. Him leaving meant that he could be out of the painful cold and back in the comforts of the U.S. (things like efficient plumbing, good customer service and atmospheric warmth, which I'm sure he was happy to get back). But it also meant that it was separation time again, which of course made me sad because I was getting closer to having to experience withdrawals. Luckily, I could still hold on to Shawn for another 10 days...

Outside the Tate Modern (James' last night in London... photo courtesy Shawn)

After we dropped James off at Heathrow that Friday, Shawn and I decided to head into Earl's Court on our way home for some provisions. At his request, we picked up some longoniza... and then mostly for refilling my stock, 3 boxes of Pocky, a bag of rice, a box of corn starch and some chitcharon.

Just as James suspected, the weather was relatively nice for the rest of the week.. Most of the time, Shawn and I just hung out (with exception to the times he would hang out with Helen and I stayed home attempting to finish up my essays). I'm a little surprised (but not really) that we remained harmonious throughout - given that extended periods of time with friends could turn into a really bad thing. But it didn't so I can only suppose that we really ARE pretty good friends. (*_*)

I spent a lot of time that third week being utterly distracted with getting my plans together for Shawn's birthday surprise. And in between, we got terribly drunk in my basement from my housemates' cocktail party, saw Slumdog Millionaire at the Barbican, went to the new Westfield and had some sushi, went on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Natural History Museum where we saw a REAL GIANT SQUID, ate cupcakes, drank lots of tea, and did a bunch more normal-ish activities. That is, until I was successfully able to secure Eurostar tickets to Paris.

Happy Birthday, Shawn!

Sounds like an extravagant birthday present, I know. But really... how could I NOT take advantage of him being here on his birthday and Paris just being a relatively cheap train ride away? It's not every day you can say you went to Paris for your birthday. Plus, I hadn't been back since I was 15 and it just seemed like the perfect opportunity. Since we had seen most of the sights on previous trips, we just focused on spending the one night/one day looking for lesser-touristy stuff.

Cafe de Deux Moulins (The Two Windmills from Amelie)

Moulin Rouge (no, the big elephant was NOT there)

Jim Morrison's grave

Shakespeare and Company (the bookstore from Before Sunset)

Les Deux Magots (The Two Magots? j/k I don't know... this place had some sort of literary/philosophical significance but we couldn't read the whole sign because it was in all French)

We went to a bunch of paper stores (to feed Shawn's obsession), drank as much coffee as humanly possible- because it's better there than anywhere else in the world I've been to (perhaps only Italy can beat it but I don't know for sure), and went back and forth across the city in the Metropolitain.

Pretty harmless sight-seeing, I would say. Except for the necessary tourist-esque photograph in front of the Arc...

Come to think of it, we crammed A LOT in those 36 hours. And we got back to London just in time to eat at Falafel King (that's not what it's really called but apparently that's the new nickname) one last time, and to have all of Sunday to veg before Shawn went back to the states on the 19th.

I guess the only significant thing that I haven't mentioned yet is that I finally started reading Twilight (the first book) the night before we left for Paris. With all the sightseeing and the last day to hang out with Shawn, I still managed to finish it on the tube on my way home from Heathrow on the 19th. And Shawn anticipated that... because he gave me New Moon (book 2) as a thank-you gift that Sunday.

It was all over from there. When I wasn't eating or sleeping, or trying my hardest to be a grad-school student, or watching the first movie, or ordering the next book, I was reading. I'm surprised I was even able to get out of the house to celebrate my friend Natalia's birthday last weekend. I even had to slow down reading book 3... because book 4 hadn't arrived in the mail yet.

So, I just finished Breaking Dawn (book 4) yesterday. But honestly, my decision to begin the series couldn't have been more perfect timing, because my unhealthy obsession with the books seriously dulled the separation anxiety that I barely even noticed it. Which is why it took me so long to blog. I kept getting distracted by the dashing vampire, Edward Cullen.

So that's it... back to real life again. I've got internship applications to fill out, situationist theory to read up on (yes Shawn, Society of the Spectacle is officially on my reading list), a dissertation proposal to craft, a March trip to Barcelona to plan, and a personal brainstorming session for the brilliant novel that I one day hope to write...

These days have been intense - moreso than I would have thought possible crammed into such a relatively short period of time. Exhale. Sigh. But at least I'm feeling inspired...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

XIX: These Days (Part 1)

I'm back. To real life, anyway.

The last month has been wild. It would be an absolute injustice to try and describe it all through a bunch of meaningless words... because no matter how hard I try to develop a coherent story in my head, it simply ceases to exist in the proper way. It just comes out in my imagination as a series of images and wordless emotions, which look more like blurry, silent home-videos inside a darkened room, than anything else anybody would really fully understand.

Most of my friends and family have already heard some of the stories... about how we went to Edinburgh for New Year, about the long-awaited Beatles pilgrimage to Liverpool, and the brief few weeks afterwards where I got to smash my two worlds together (Simi life meets London life). Oh yeah, and I can't forget about the spontaneous one-night birthday celebration in Paris.

So instead of attempting to document every single minute little detail in what would surely turn into a thousand too many paragraphs, I'll try to take a more reflexive route. Which means, I may quite possibly write things that make no sense to you whatsoever, that serve more as personal reminders to myself about how I felt. Sorry in advance... but I promise to add in some photographs for nostalgia's sake.

I suppose I'll just pick up where I left off. After Christmas, Kim and I didn't have much more to do but wait for Shawn and James to arrive. So when they finally got here on the 28th of December, I was all but exploding inside my own skin for the excitement of seeing them. We were waiting for them inside Heathrow airport, and I'm pretty sure I was jumping up and down in anticipation for what felt like forever - because we knew their plane had landed and that any minute, they'd come walking through the doors with all their luggage. So when they finally came out, both wearing all dark colors and the only two in the entire airport wearing sunglasses - I felt absolutely hysterical.

Here comes the rockstar... and his accountant.

It was a fantastic feeling to see them. The few months in between, where they were there and I was here, all of a sudden seemed to have disappeared. The waiting was over and our friends were here - and it couldn't have been more surreal. For the first few hours, I couldn't stop looking at them. How strange.

After my initial hysteria started to wear off, we were finally on our way to begin the holiday. There was an excruciatingly long bus-ride to Edinburgh- somewhere in between point A and point B, we stopped at rest-point that looked like Baker's Square. There was a VW van... we could've been anywhere in the world. It was freezing but we smoked a lot of cigarettes anyway. Inside the coach, we TRIED to get some sleep and we played a little bit of musical chairs in the back of the bus. Shawn and I exchanged iPod's for a little while, then at the end, he found a battered copy of "Angels & Demons."

Edinburgh was cold. There was a leftover French funk in our room at the hostel, so we had to get air freshener. We drank A LOT, we talked to a ton of random people walking through the streets drunk in the middle of the night, saw people in kilts, watched the torch ceremony, ate warm donuts, had a temporary run-in with the devil (who was waiting for us in a wrapped package under a Christmas tree), gazed at a fireworks display and danced the nights away. We never saw the light of day until it was time for Shawn, James and I to leave days later.

The last 24-something hours of being in Scotland (Dec. 31 - Jan. 1), we stayed awake the whole time. I was miserably tired and I vaguely remember being babied while the guys took care of checking out and everything else. The girl at the reception desk was rude. And at some point, I was on the couch in the hostel common room, trying to get warm and squeeze in a few minutes of sleep before catching a 12:30 train to Liverpool. Eventually, we took a cab to Kim's dorm to say goodbye - and minutes later, found ourselves heading south back to England.

Liverpool was something else entirely. It was seedy, but the people were nice. And the lady at the cafe had super-long acrylic nails. We went on a Magical Mystery Tour... which turned out to be a spiritual journey through everything Beatles... including the real Penny Lane, the real Strawberry Fields, the real homes of the fab four, and the real Cavern Club. We went on a hotel-hunt for Ringo, then later I stood next to the spirit of John Lennon inside a museum, and we all celebrated being there by going to a dirty McDonald's. The last night the three of us were there, we experienced the heebie jeebies- which maybe should have warned us about the short series of unfortunate events that would follow...

On Jan. 4, while buying train tickets back to London, James had a fraud problem with his debit card and had to cancel it. Then, our train back to London from Liverpool was experiencing technical difficulties. A ride that should have only been a few hours turned into a 7-hour ordeal. We got on each other's nerves a little bit - probably from all the stress, the lack of sleep from the last week, and having to wait in the blistering cold through an unorganized mess of coach transfers. Which reminds me... I still need to go to Euston station to try and claim refunds for our tickets.

When we finally got back to London, we were exhausted. I stole the cushions from the downstairs couch so James would have something soft to sleep on. Shawn and I crammed on my single bed. The next five days were a little weird - partly because of the 24/7 close proximity the three of us were in, partly because James was in an unfortunate debit card situation, and partly because everywhere I wanted to take them seemed to be closed. I had no idea what was going on - maybe all of London was still on holiday. Still, we made the most of it by continuing our Beatles journey, walking around A LOT (of course in our billions of layers of clothing), having late-night dinners at "Falafel King" and seeing the city from the top of a giant ferris wheel.

The days just seemed to fly by. It was a bit unnerving to watch my two worlds collide the way they did... seeing people from home in a completely different context. But I was still having a great time, and I was happy to be with them. All the while, something inevitable was lurking behind us...

To be continued...

Friday, January 9, 2009

The New Year

Happy New Year!

Before I begin posting about recent adventures, I feel compelled to reflect a little bit on 2008. A year ago today, this is what I wrote as my last sentence:
"I'm hoping 2008 will be better than 2007. And it'd be great if it was anything close to 2003. So this is the new year..."

In retrospect, I realize how ridiculous of a statement that was. And not because I was hoping for better times, but because in a way, I desired a piece of my life that had already come and gone. Now, if living in London for the last few months has taught me anything, it's that life can change in the blink of an eye... and that incredible, new experiences are always around the corner. Clinging to the past just makes you blind to the present. But I guess that's always been a bit of a tendency with me.

Fortunately, I'm in a wonderful place this time around - and I think I can talk about 2008 with a better mindset than my last year-in-review.

2008 was one for the books. It had all the good old traditions and the usual bits of "everyday" life - Big Bear trip with friends in January, working a lot throughout the spring, family get-togethers and epic nostalgia sessions... but it's also been a year of intense change.

I spent a lot of time this year assessing the value of my relationships and have again reorganized my "most important people" list. Sounds terrible, I know... but we ALL do that - admit it. The good news is that there's been some consistency, which makes me feel good because I know I'm not incapable of maintaining closeness with some people. Others have been (for lack of better words) "promoted" to the top tier of my friendship chart - mostly because they've been just extraordinary friends in the last year. And others have fallen down the ranks a bit, but I have no bitterness. I'm not going to name names, because that would just put the cherry on top of my pretentiousness sundae... but I'm pretty sure they know who they are - and that's what really matters. Some of the most important moments of the last year have come down to one thing - being unafraid to tell people how much I love them.

This becomes more and more important to me as I get older... and nothing else can better remind me of that except for death - which has been another serious theme of 2008. Too many family members, friends, friends of family, family of friends and even far-away celebrities have died in the last year. It's been a major reminder of our mortality and perhaps the best way to deal with it (at least in my case) is to see it as a sign of changing times - not necessarily in a negative way, but as a lesson in enjoying life as much as possible. Rest in peace, dear ones.

Other notable first-time things that have happened in 2008 (in no particular order):
-Fran got a B+ in science
-My little brother moved back from SF
-I got back in touch with my roots in the Philippines
-I quit my first job that was actually part of my career track
-I saw Radiohead live... TWICE...
-I was part of an art show
-I bought my first pair of all-black, leather converse
-I started wearing skinny jeans
-I went to Thailand
-I learned to crochet
-I moved to London
-My best friend got engaged
-I went on a late-night rendezvous down Mulholland Drive
-I tried cannabis in Amsterdam
-I saw Scotland for the first time
-Kim moved to Edinburgh
-I made latkes
-My mom smoked hookah
-Nathan graduated from high school

Things that have stayed the same throughout 2008 (in no particular order):
-Fran still plays the piano
-I still smoke cigarettes
-Becky is still my best friend
-Converse are still my favorite shoes
-I still wear dress socks with designs on them
-I still drink coffee religiously
-I still love Harry Potter
-Procrastination is still my favorite pastime
-Sushi is still the best food ever
-I still love writing (no professional regrets, whatsoever)
-I still want to marry Jack White
-I still play music
-I still love home

For the most part, even though a lot has changed in my life, I still feel like the same person - except now, I'm much more comfortable in my own skin. But I guess that's the ideal situation as life goes on.. 2008 has been the most amazing year of my life, despite some of the tragedies. But I won't say that I want to repeat it - because each new year should bring about a new set of valuable experiences - just as important as the ones we already treasure and file away in our minds. Welcome 2009!

"In the end... the love you take, is equal to the love you make..."