29 December 2017

There's No Place Like Home for the Holidays

The weird thing about visiting my parents in California for a week is that sitting here in my big comfy bed with my orange cat Momo laying by the foot of it snoring, the heat running without me having to worry about paying for it... it honestly almost feels as if the past year and three months of living on the East Coast never happened. As if it was all some long, crazy dream.

I've had a lot of fun the last few days, and if I'm being completely honest with myself, there's a part of me that doesn't want to go back. Seven days hasn't quite been long enough for my emotional brain to remember that living with one's parents isn't quite as fun as having them spoil you for a week because they never see you. Despite my logic brain trying their best to remind my emotional brain, emotional brain just drowns out logic and sings:

Oh there's no place like home for the holidays... For no matter how far away you roam... If you want to be happy in a million ways... For the holidays, you can't beat home sweet home...

Look, I know no one does Christmas/Hanukkah/Yule/What have you like New York City. But the truth is, California will always be my home in my heart. You can keep your White Christmas - give me 65-degrees-farenheit all December, please. The Silicon Valley is the Valley of my Heart's Delight, and if I had it my way, I'd have taken a month off to visit rather than just a week. A week just isn't long enough to do everything I want to do, to see everything I've missed and some things I never got the chance to see. I'm already counting down the days until the next time I return to the Bay Area (next June for my high school reunion) and I don't even fly back east until Sunday!

I do miss my three-legged cat back in New Jersey, though. 

At the same time, though, New York is consistently in the back of my mind. San Jose is just as sweet and quaint and cool in its own way, but I've changed. I'm less of an easy-going pushover now. And okay, I'm a little more snobby sometimes - there has been more than one stop this trip where I've been like, "okay, it's cute, but in New York we have this similar thing that's so much bigger!" Honestly, I don't know how my family doesn't think I'm completely insufferable.

I can cook a lot better now, too - look at this fondue spread my mom and I made!
 I think, on some level, I will be happy to return to the East Coast. I do want to go to Hamilton Grange next weekend, I am curious about the axe-throwing place they just put in Brooklyn (expect my Viking ass to do a future entry on that), and I am eager to take my GRE and get a head-start on working towards the future that I moved to the east coast for in the first place. I just... don't want to leave California yet.

Honestly, if I had it my way, I'd live half the year in New York and half in California. Perhaps do spring and autumn in NYC and winter and summer in the Bay Area. But unfortunately, I'm not rich, that kind of lifestyle is just way beyond my means.

Anyway, I'm just rambling about how happy I've been the last few days, compared to the last few months (I had been, frankly, quite miserable for the latter half of October and almost the entirety of November and December - Seasonal Affective Disorder, you guys. It's a real hell and a half). But if you want, read on for a day-by-day summary of this little week of heaven. If not, I'll see you all in New York!

23 December 2017

An Adventure in the Old School East Village

Tonight is the night, folks! Tonight, I board a plane (ew, a red eye flight) back to San Jose to spend a week back home! Meaning today I get to finish packing and cleaning up my room which has, in the course of packing, become an absolute mess! (Okay, okay, my cat Alice is part of that messiness too, since she likes to kick her litter up out of the box!!!) This, of course, means I am not leaving New Jersey today - which means that yesterday was my last day in New York City for the entirety of 2017.

And, since it's me, of course I wanted to do something that reminds me of my one true love, history. But rather than cavort in the 18th century, I decided I'd rather be a flapper for the day - after all, my love of the 1920s New York City scene is well documented, and I've been in a 20s mood lately. And unlike the 18th century, there are actually quite a few 1920s NYC haunts still around, if one knows where to look.

Having already agreed to meet a friend for my last NYC hangout of the year, we decided we'd make an afternoon out of it and planned the whole thing around visiting the Museum of the American Gangster in the East Village, a neighbourhood I know well (since I've been working in that neighbourhood for over a year).

Of course, we had some time to kill beforehand...

09 December 2017

Living That Bicentury Life

In my continuing to update you all on everything that I should have been blogging about during the ongoing crisis that was the entire month of November (which may or may not qualify as a midlife crisis - hey, I don't know how long I'm going to live!), I feel like I should tell you all about two of the good experiences that did manage to make their way into my life and nestle between all of the anxiety.

And of course, as usual for me (I'm beginning to expect that my normal does not at all resemble that of the general population's...), last weekend and the weekend before that both involved hopping back in time for a bit to the 18th century - to the 1780s, to be precise, and the end of the American Revolutionary War.

Thank you Eliza for the photo! (Also features Cheney of Not Your Momma's History)

It seems that, try as I might (lmao I'm not gonna try to stop), I just can't stop living that bicentury life. I just can't help but live with one foot firmly planted in the 18th century and one in the 21st. (Which I guess means my crotch is right over 1899? Maybe don't think about this image too hard...)

So I decided to do a brief overview of my jaunts back into the 1780s the past two weekends for anyone who wants to live vicariously through me, as I understand we can't all be time travelers part time.

On Friday, 24 November, I attended the Evacuation Day festivities at Federal Hall National Memorial, just down the street from Trinity Church. And on Sunday, 3 December, I attended an event at Fraunces Tavern to commemorate George Washington's farewell speech to the Continental Army that was given in the Long Room in 1783 - complete with a very special guest.

06 December 2017

Do You Know the Way to San Jose? (On Homesickness)

First off, before I begin answering the "WHERE HAVE I BEEN FOR OVER A MONTH" question (the short answer is "having a month-long existential crisis"), I'm gonna request you all listen to this classic song:

If you substitute NYC for LA, that's just about how I've been feeling for the entire month of November. I mean...

"Dreams turn into dust and blow away
And there you are without a friend
You pack your car and ride away
I've got lots of friends in San Jose
Do you know the way to San Jose?"

Let's back up just a bit, shall we?

16 October 2017

Ghost Stories of New York City

Who is that in the study's window...?
Yesterday at the Grange, I heard phantom whistling at the back of the house after one of my tours.

This is not the first time this has happened to me. In fact, I made a comic about the first time I experienced it, even though Sarah and I determined it was probably an auditory hallucination:

But now that it's happened again, 2 months later, I'm not so sure anymore. Is it possible it could be a ghost?

Logically, I'd have to say no. I don't believe Hamilton Grange is haunted. There'd be a lot more stories about Hamilton's ghost if he were still sticking around. I'm fairly certain the guy has no unfinished business keeping him on this mortal plane. And even if he were to stick around in the house that meant so much to him, the building has been moved from its original location. Twice.

But it's fun to think there might be a paranormal explanation to the whistling. Is it likely? Not really. But imagining I might come face-to-face with a ghost is fun, especially this time of year! It's happened before, after all - back at Winchester I had quite a few paranormal encounters. I never got a bad vibe from the ghosts of the Winchester house. The spirits there are pretty benign, and will respect you if you respect them.

The Winchester Mystery House is, of course, notorious for its hauntings. Hamilton Grange is not. But that's not to say New York City doesn't have its fair share of ghosts, Aaron Burr being only one of the most famous. And that shouldn't be too surprising. It's had a very large population for centuries. That's a lot of people dying. Statistically, if ghosts are real, there should be a higher-than-average number of them in New York City. And there are. If you know where to look.

I'm going to give you three New York City ghostly tales, starting with one with a connection to Hamilton and Burr. But I encourage you to look up more yourself. New York has a fascinating paranormal history, and I'm barely scratching the tip of the iceberg here. And hey, if you have a ghost story of your own you'd like to share, be it NYC-related or not, please tell me in the comments or on my facebook page.

Quick and Easy Vegan Ramen

One of my favourite meals to make from scratch is ramen. It's simple, it's filling, you don't need a recipe, and it's very easy to customize to your own tastes. Do you like corn? Throw some canned corn in there. Do you dislike tofu or mushrooms? Leave them out! Pretty much the only thing a bowl of ramen needs to be called ramen are broth and ramen noodles. I'm only going to show you my favourite ramen recipe, a recipe I created myself, but feel free to add or take away ingredients as you see fit.

I'm going to be real with you guys. I did go to the Mitsuwa up in Edgewater, NJ to get some of the ingredients for this. Most of the Japanese ingredients in this recipe, however, are entirely optional. But the ones I do use are available at Mitsuwa (California friends, there's a Mitsuwa in San Jose on Saratoga Blvd near the 280 exit) or at Whole Foods. Tofu is becoming more and more readily available at regular grocery stores, too.

Anyway, here are the ingredients I used, the asterisks (*) noting which ones I got at Mitsuwa:
  • Vegetable broth or veggie bouillon cube
  • Miso paste* (Though it is optional, I strongly suggest including it. I've made ramen without it before and it is so much better with!)
  • Ramen noodles* (It's worth splurging for good ramen noodles, but if you're unable to find them, the noodles from the instant packets are okay. Throw out the flavour packet if you're using instant ramen noodles.)
  • Tofu*
  • Crimini mushrooms
  • Enoki mushrooms*
  • Dried seaweed*
  • Spinach
  • Garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, and spices
So here's what you're gonna do to make this delicious dish...

1) Boil a small pot of water with a bouillon cube, or vegetable broth. (Meat eaters can use whatever broth you want.) If you're not vegan, you can also soft-boil an egg in this broth that you can later use to top your ramen!

2) Slice one or two crimini mushrooms. Chop your tofu into the amount of cubes you want and save the rest in a tupperware container of water for future recipes. Mince one or two cloves of garlic.

3) Heat a small amount (about two tablespoons) of olive oil in a pan. Add the minced garlic and heat until fragrant.

4) Add miso paste to the boiling broth. Stir. (The amount you add is up to you. I have a squeeze bottle so I added one squeeze.) Then add the ramen noodles to the boiling broth.

5) While the noodles are cooking, stir fry the mushrooms and tofu in the garlicky oil with salt, pepper, and spices to taste. (I use powdered ginger and just a little cayenne pepper.) If you like other vegetables, you can add them to this stir fry too, just remember to add them in small amounts! This is a very quick flash fry. This shouldn't take longer than 5 or 6 minutes.

6) Spoon the noodles into a serving bowl and top with broth. Using a spatula, add the tofu-mushroom-whatever veggies mixture to one section of the bowl. Top the other sections with enoki mushrooms, spinach, and whatever else you like. (Non-vegans, this is where you chop that soft-boiled egg in half and place it right on there.) Sprinkle some dried seaweed on top.


So there you have it. A simple recipe for a delicious dinner! If you try it, let me know if you enjoy it! Let me know what modifications you made!


11 September 2017

Meeting the Norse Gods in New York City

You came to New York City for college. You expected it to be different from home. But who could have expected this?

Odin is your college professor who speaks in a western drawl, who always wears black cowboy shirts and cowboy boots, who seems to relish looking out-of-place even in a city as diverse as New York. While your classmates whisper possible ways He lost his eye, no one dare asks Him how it really happened. After finals, He invites some of you to a dive bar near campus and buys drinks for everyone. He challenges you, a dangerous glint in His eye, to go shot for shot with Him. You know better to accept this challenge.

You meet Thor at a BLM march. He's the massive guy screaming down a fascist dickhead who dared show his face, but when you see Him again later, He's all smiles as He passes out snacks. He goes to a lot of these marches, He says - for black lives, yes, but also for immigrants, for women's rights, for gay rights. If the cops show up, He says He makes "a good human shield!" You're unsure if He's joking. His laughter is infectious either way.

Freyr shows up next, at the farmer's market in Union Square. His squash are the longest, His peaches the plumpest, His berries the most fragrant. "Try an apple," He urges you. It's the reddest apple you've ever seen, and when you bite into it the flavour explodes in your mouth and the juices dribble down your chin. "How much?" You ask Him. He asks you to pay Him in song.

You take a train to New England one day for a change of pace, and strike up a conversation with an old gruff fisherman in yellow coveralls. You help Him pull up a net of crabs and He teaches you a sea shanty, and offers to buy you a drink. It's only on the train ride back to the city, when you open up your wallet and find a $50 bill that definitely wasn't there before, that you realise this was Nj├Ârd.

Thor invites you to Pride, but you lose Him in the massive crowd, and in the chaos, your rainbow tutu gets torn. The most beautiful woman you've ever seen comes to the rescue with a sewing kit and some glitter, which She helps you apply to your body and face. She's looking at you as if you're the only person in the crowd, and when She smiles, you know it is Freyja. She dances with you, then lets a cute butch cut in. When you turn your head, She is gone, but you get a date with that cute butch for the coming Tuesday.

You meet Loki a week later. He's busking on the subway, doing magic tricks better suited to a Vegas stage than the 6-train. The kids on the subway love Jim. Somehow He swindles you out of $5, but you later find Him using all the money He got to buy a homeless man a hot meal. After this, Loki keeps showing up in the same places you go, a different face every time, but you always know it's Him. You resist His attempts at friendship for a long time, but within a year you'll count Him among your best friends.

You go, on a whim, to a BYOB knitting class. Frigga is the teacher. At this point you're not surprised by that. You've never been able to get the hang of knitting before, but with Her guidance, you have a scarf going in no time. The act of knitting a scarf makes you think of a beloved great aunt who used to knit and who died when you were in high school. You're so embarrassed when you start to cry, but Frigga holds you close and lets you cry against Her. She invites you and your girlfriend over for a home-cooked meal the next evening. You go and She's made your favourite comfort food. You are surprised to see your old college professor there.

You still refuse to go shot for shot with Him.