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Hostess No Nos

August 27, 2009 in Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland

I just ate some Hostess Ho Hos.

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They were disgusting.

Then I took a drink from the glass next to me to get the taste out of my mouth, moments before remembering that I’d filled the glass with orange juice. That was even more disgusting.

Ho Hos and orange juice! Stop looking at me that way; I am not your child. It was a mistake. Besides, these are the things you do when you have one week left until you re-expatriate. You visit your favorite store for the last time. You stock up on your favorite deodorant. You prepare to be without. I know what’s coming – the random tug at the lonely heartstrings. Living in Japan, I missed ludicrous Americana like Kraft Mac and Cheese and Hamburger Helper. I repeat: I am not your child. I chose the Ho Hos because they were cheap, and because I’ve a soft spot for all things Hostess since my Hostess Cupcake essay helped me get into graduate school. Gratitude is nice and all, but I shoulda gone with the Ring Dings.

I make a to-do list. I notice that when looking at apartment locations on maps, I’m beginning to recognize neighborhood names. I stuff a trash bag with things for the Salvation Army. I slip things I lovingly collected in Japan into the hope chest I’ve stored in my brother’s apartment for nearly 3 years, making the massochistic mistake of reading my high school diaries while reorganizing my vintage belongings. I half-heartedly plan a get together for my latest “last weekend” in New York City. It’s small, intimate. I had my great big Going Away bash when I moved to Japan – a giant karaoke Sayonara Party before I even knew what a Sayonara Party was. To plan another seems greedy. I’ve done this before, and on a much grander scale. I already know who I’ll keep in touch with and how I’ll do it. I already know that I’ll talk to my mother every day and that Facebook will keep me alerted as to what kind of coffee my friends are drinking.

Moving to Dublin is my second wedding. It makes sense that it should be low key and, naturally, at the Oscar Wilde Salon. Guinness for everyone.

The Days are Just Packed

August 19, 2009 in My Funny Irish Friend, New York

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In New York City, in the summer time, my cool, logical friend Sean and I:

  • Take a stroll down to the South Street Seaport.
  • Raise a glass to the pianist of the house at Marie’s Crisis
  • Slurp udon in Little Tokyo
  • Examine The Flatiron Building
  • Argue ceaselessly over tipping
  • Suffer heatstroke during endless waits for trains that never come regularly
  • Feast on the famous Cotija cheese-lime-and-chili dusted grilled Mexican corn at Cafe Habana in SoHo

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  • Wait on line for burgers and dogs at Shake Shack
  • Catch “500 Days of Summer”
  • Rent a row boat and navigate it through the pond at Central Park

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  • Flirt with the chaos/misery of Times Square
  • Enjoy a pint or three at an Irish Pub in Turtle Bay
  • Indulge in yoga classes in the Village
  • Search for calligraphy supplies in Chinatown
  • Natter over soup and sandwiches at the Seinfeld Diner
  • Eat: cupcakes, Mexican food, falafel, hummus, kebabs, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, Pillsbury Grands! Biscuits, and sushi.
  • Pay respects to the Temple of Dendur in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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To come in the remaining 5 days of Sean’s visit:

  • Dinner at Kenka Ya in Little Tokyo
  • Pizza at Grimaldi’s in Brooklyn, followed by dessert at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory and a walk back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Rooftop barbecue in Brooklyn

The days are just packed, my friends. Packed.

Expatriate? I Hate You.

August 18, 2009 in Ex-Patriate Games, Ireland, spazarific

Announcing plans to expatriate can elicit a variety of responses. Perhaps the most popular are “You’re moving where?” and “What?” Also popular are “For how long?” and “That’s fantastic.” Occasionally, however, plans to expatriate might inspire these two remarks:

  • You’re so lucky.
  • I hate you/I’m jealous.

I’m not particularly fond of these two responses and I’ll tell you why.

You’re so lucky – Luck is when you hurtle down a 4-story flight of stairs and escape without a scratch. It’s when you dig through a public toilet tank and come up with a fistful of 100 dollar bills and chocolate chip cookies. Saving up for, say, school tuition over a period of 2 years, putting together a portfolio, coordinating graduate school applications between 3 countries, and being accepted to a master’s program based on the strength of said portfolio is not luck; that’s hard work. A move abroad doesn’t usually fall into someone’s lap. An expatriate makes a decision, sticks to it, and puts their plan into action.

I hate you/I’m jealous – I understand that in our culture it’s considered exciting to be envied by your peers so “I hate you/I’m jealous” is probably meant to be a compliment. But why hate? And jealous of what, exactly? That someone has made the hard decision to leave home for an extended period of time? That someone says “yes,” instead of “no” when it comes to taking chances? “I hate you/I’m jealous” probably means jealous that someone is going to live in a beautiful country. Well, it’s not exactly a closed community. It takes hard work to prepare and a little bravery to make the decision but living abroad is hardly impossible, and certainly not worth “hating” someone over.

I’ll tell you what’s worth hating, though – those of you who’ll be eating Stove Top stuffing on the fourth Thursday of November while I’m being mocked by my classmates for wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving. I’m already jealous. And turkey? I hate you.

いいな?

August 14, 2009 in Ex-Patriate Games, I'm Learning Japanese ... I Really Think So, Japanese Mix, Looking, My Funny Irish Friend, New York, Oishii, spazarific

Sean and I are having lunch in Little Tokyo on St. Mark’s before our yoga class. Little Tokyo wasn’t Little Tokyo when I moved to Japan. There were a couple of sushi places, a JAS Mart, and the now-famous Kenka Ya; one of New York City’s first izakayas. I visited Kenka Ya once with Erma. I remember thinking it was such a unique location.  Before I moved to Japan, Japanese food in New York City consisted of sushi, tempura, udon, teppanyaki, katsu don, and robatayaki. Now I find takoyaki, curry, gyu don, okonomiyaki, ramen, and yakiniku. There are Japanese signs and writing all over the menus. I can’t tell if it was always there or if I only notice it because I can now read it.

So, somehow, in New York, we’re in the same place as we were 6 months ago. Sean has gyu don and I have ebi ten. We are the only non-Japanese people in the udon shop. The food tastes exactly the same as the food we ate in Japan. J-Pops is on the sound system and we hear Japanese spoken around us. If we stop for a second, we can imagine that we’re back in Osaka and nothing has really changed.

“いいな,” I tell Sean.

“いいよ,” he replies.

Flappers and Philosophers

August 13, 2009 in Looking, My Funny Irish Friend, True Fairy Tales of New York

It’s been almost 10 days since I last blogged. Probably about time I came up for air.

I’ve been in the thick of it, you see. I don’t know if I mentioned it or not, but a large part of the reason I wanted to be home in New York this summer was to help plan my dear friend Erma’s wedding. After nearly a year of breathless anticipation, the feverishly awaited wedding weekend has taken place.

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The bride-to-be and a bachelorette party guest dance underneath the Washington Square Park arch. This is the only picture I am able to share of an insanely wild night out that was off. the. freaking. CHAIN!

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I don’t think I have to explain at this point why this picture of the Wedding Cake dsplay was so utterly and amazingly fabulous to me. The cupcakes were baked by one of the other bridesmaids and I’d been dying to sink my teeth into them ever since Erma told me the cupcakes were, in fact, a done deal. Guinness Chocolate and Lemon flavors – to honor, respectively, the groom’s Irish heritage and the warm weather of the summer season.

The wedding was an Art Deco-themed affair. The bride wore an ivory silk mermaid gown with a plunging V-neck that looked as though it could have been worn at the 1933 Oscars; complete with a birdcage netting-paste jewel brooch-and-white plume veil. The bridesmaids wore short, fringed dresses in turquoise or navy blue. The groom and groomsmen wore light gray suits with black ties. The officiant was an Earth Angel in summery all-white.

There was a jazz band. There was sangria. The passed hors d’oeuvres included tofu spring rolls, ceviche cups and soup dumplings. How many soup dumplings can a person eat in 2 hours? I’ll tell you. Or maybe not.

The couple’s first dance was to Sleepwalker by Santo & Johnny – performed by the musically-inclined members of the bridal party.

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Guest book, peacock feathers in the urn and a vintage hat box to collect gift envelopes.

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And the band played on.

It was an absolutely perfect day. I still dream of the soup dumplings and the jazz-infused cocktail hour. I long for another occasion to don my Art Deco bridesmaid gear. The grand feat that was my approximation of an Irene Castle bob must not be forgotten, my friends.

There’s always a bit of a let down after such an intense bout of planning. I was in Japan for 7 months of Erma and Bill’s engagement, growing more frantic by the day so eager was I to dig my hands into the wedding activities. As soon as I landed in New York, the summer became a whirlwind of trips to the craft store, discussions about catered menus, trial runs of bridal beauty, and secret plotting amongst the bridesmaids for the bachelorette party/bridal shower.

The wedding was August 9th. Now that the wedding is over, it means that summer is almost over as well. Sean is here – say hello, Sean! He arrived in New York a week ago to be my official date for the wedding. How do you like that? Look what else I picked up apart from Japanese and PTSD eikaiwa flashbacks when I moved to Japan. Sean bought a black gangster hat especially for the occasion and since the wedding, when we stuffed our faces with ceviche, soup dumplings, and cupcakes, has joined me in sighs of: “いいだった、ね~”

Together again after 3 months, we have rainy afternoons at the Met, walks along the South Street Seaport, and, in public, complain to each other in Japanese. Today – August 13th – we will head to Little Tokyo on St. Mark’s and, later, to my beloved Marie’s Crisis. It will be a Village-rific day … or at least it will be when he gets out of bed.

There are exactly 3 weeks until I move to Ireland and once again leave the incubus of my loved ones. It feels harder this time around.

Untiss Untiss Untiss

August 4, 2009 in New York, spazarific, The Odd Siblings

So my friends and I are all hurtling down the slippery slope to 30. It’s all we can talk about.

“Dude,” we say. “I’m turning 30. Don’t ask me to be out until midnight.”

“Dude. I’m almost 30. I’m not taking this passive aggressive crap from my boss.”

“Dude. I’m going to be 30 in November. Am I still allowed to shop at Forever 21?”

“Dude, I need to hit the gym. Now that I’m turning 30, I can see every cupcake I eat making a cupcake-shaped bulge in my thighs.”

Turning 30 for us will not be what turning 30 was for the generation before ours. Thirty is the new twenty, they say. Women’s Lib has changed everything. People of both sexes delay marriage and parenthood in favor of building careers, continuing educations, or enjoying their independence so that stage of blissful, self-indulgent self discovery lasts several years longer than it did for our parents. We buy a few more pairs of designer shoes, take a few more exotic trips, date a few more losers. Our parents had more time to adjust to being grown ups than we did. Maybe that’s why by the time that stunning number 30 creeps up, it seems unbelievably strange.

Ali is the first of us to hit this all-too-adult-sounding age. Ali lived next door to Momo and I our Freshman year at NYU. At 18, he used to stroll into our dorm room, wearing a Kangol cap and serenading us on his acoustic guitar with songs he invented about us on the spot. He liked to torture Momo with a terrifying plastic figurine of Pinky, from Pinky and the Brain. He named his band “Slut Magnet.” These days, like me and the rest of our college buddies, he’s a careerperson in a committed relationship. We still giggle at Chef from South Park and we love Rock Band but we have bills and jobs so we are, of course, very serious and grown up. It seems unbelievable that we’ve known each other for over ten years, that we were teenagers when we all met at Freshman Convocation. For his 30th, Ali’s girlfriend has arranged a surprise party to be held on the rooftop of a hotel’s lounge in Times Square. It is certainly an excellent view and an enigmatic place to spend a milestone birthday. It is also quite the change of pace for me. In New York, I favor 2nd Avenue Irish pubs: a jukebox, Guinness on tap, copies of The Independent abandoned on a barstool, dark paneled walls. Despite thorough tutelage from Gia during our reckless single gal days, I’ve never really learned how to behave in a nightclub. In the spirit of expanding my horizons, I embrace the challenge.

I bring Diego, who knows how to behave in a nightclub and has always gotten along well with Ali. At the hotel, there is a velvet rope and a long line of yappy 20 year olds texting and wearing sparkly bandaids around their hips. We aren’t at the venue for more than 30 seconds before I’ve already humiliated my brother by cheerfully asking the bouncer if all of the people in line are going to The Ali Party. When Diego grabs my arm and orders me not to talk, I’m honestly surprised.

On the elevator ride to the penthouse, two teenagers complain about “the fugs” who’ve been let in tonight. Upstairs, a woman wearing a headset ushers us to the rooftop terrace, where Diego and I are squashed between various strangers’ body parts as I hunt for people I recognize. It’s a beautiful night – mild, cloudless, and clear. There are are cushioned benches and wire tables underneath a partial casbah-style canopy but because it’s so crowded, there is no place for us to sit. The neon cacophony of Times Square screams 20 stories below and untiss, untiss, untiss throbs in our ears. The smell of vodka, rufies, and date rape hovers in the air.

Diego: Do you want a drink?

Liv: No. I want to DANCE!

Diego: [whispering] Don’t.

Liv: What? Did you just say ‘don’t'?

Diego: Yes. It’s a silent, screaming plea.

I pout, because I really do want to dance. Untiss, untiss, untiss: the beat is infectious. I’m sure I can remember some moves Gia taught me back in the day. Untiss, untiss, untiss. Diego pays $8 for a Corona; I sip a club soda, which spills on me as a rake-thin girl swats her clip-on ponytail into my straw. Untiss, untiss, untiss. Untiss, untiss, untiss. The beat overtakes us both and we dance – you know, as siblings do in clubs – bobbing our heads like the fellows from Night at the Roxbury. We catch ourselves, shudder, and shake it off. I shouldn’t dance anyway. The Evite said, “Ladies – dress to impress!” so I’m wearing four inch high heels. I wore heels every day from age 14 to 24, but dude – I’m going to be 30 in March and just can’t take the pain like I used to.

“Ugh,” says Diego, who will be 28 in November. “All the girls here look like the Kardashian sisters.”

I shift my weight from foot to foot, trying to alleviate the throbbing. The Kardashian and Hilton families are still filling all of the seats so I make a move to sit down on the edge of a large plant pot until Diego shoots me a dangerous look. I try to focus on the twinkling lights of Times Square, realizing that I’ll be in Dublin for my 30th birthday. I wonder if I will have any friends to celebrate with.

Ali arrives, fighting his way through the restless crowd and blinking in surprise to see us there. We clap for the birthday boy in time with the dizzying beats of untiss untiss untiss and swoop in for hugs. One of Ali’s friends hands him a whiskey shot.

“Dude,” says Ali. “You know I don’t drink. It’s really nice that you all are here, but, man, I’m 30. You should have come over to our place and had some tea.”

August

August 3, 2009 in Ex-Patriate Games

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Today is Monday, August 3rd. It is now exactly a month until I move to Dublin. That makes a month to find an apartment, a month to get rid of the unnecessary junk I’ve accumulated in the past 3 months of living in my brother’s apartment, and a month to get my fill of things I love here in New York. Again.