Autumn Summary

After all these years traveling, I finally completed my first ever round-the-world trip (eastward). Did not encounter any edge-of-the-world cliff anywhere. Oh well, there goes my membership to the Flat Earth Believers Association.

For one month, I lived in a house whose mere living room covered about four times the entirety of some of my previous places (ten times, if you count some of the smaller Japanese guesthouse rooms I’ve occupied in a long distant backpacker past).

Rekindled with the joys of the quasi-permanent guestlisting and realised that a VIP booth and free-flowing booze make even the least appealing parties considerably more fun.

Had one of my classiest moments, ever, documented on camera: wearing punk red wig and Bowie-inspired make-up, downing Kettle One straight from the bottle. Retrospectively explained a lot about next day’s crushing hangover.

Realised why California (/the US) was so awesome: nearly everything being illegal therefore provides endless occasions for cheap thrills to the sheltered bourgeois crowd. Walking into a banal SOMA-warehouse-turned-illegal-afterhour-club turns as exciting as entering a prohibition-era speakeasy with Al Capone.

Stuffed myself on the cheapest, bestest Indian food available outside of India on a near-daily basis. And then Suraj’s über-delicious homemade dosas.

Ate at a very hippy restaurant but couldn’t bring myself to actually ask aloud for the “I am Beautiful” dish, nor the “I am Elated”, “I am Joyful” or any of the other mushy, chakra-enhancing, tree-sodomising, touchy-feely-named items on the menu.

Partied on a luxury cruise boat with Sarah Palin and two olympic beach volleyball athletes.

Smoked hookahs on a rooftop overlooking the Embarcadero waterfront.

Spent a night of unrestrained exhilarating fun celebrating Obama’s victory. Those many bar-special “freedom shots” (aka Jameson) with Lauren and Desi: a more discutable choice. That hangover the following morning definitely didn’t taste like freedom.

Did the beer and patio thing with friends at Zeitgeist.

Sat in Dolores Park for a warm, sun-filled, November afternoon. Smoking bowls and eating baked goods from Tartine nearby.

Tried attending the premiere screening of Milk at the Castro theater, only to get turned down at the door once it appeared that way too many entrance passes had been handed out. Found solace in that people who got in before us had probably been queuing for the entire day.

Attended a house party wearing suit & French cuffs, went to a fancy James Bond-themed club event wearing flip-flops.

Visited a Moroccan whorehouse, faithfully reconstructed in our basement.

Balanced all the deliciously greasy egg-n-bacon brunches with healthy and equally delicious foods of all horizons. Had pretty damn good ceviche at La Mar, but even better one at Desi’s Poleng Lounge. Poleng became my favourite eatery in the city (get yourself there right this minute and order their lightly grilled, sea-salt edamame: you’ll never look at edamame the same way ever again).

Missed a flight (fucking iCal and its retarded handling of time zones) and decided to change my travel plans altogether.

Saw the icy blue Water Cube and the fiery red Bird Nest glowing in the chilly night.

Ate spicy bullfrog on the lakefront near Hou Hai, which incidentally tasted just like spicy chicken, only much, much harder to eat with chopsticks (small bones every-freakin-where).

Stood under the lukewarm Winter sun, watching Tien An Men square unfold to near-infinity in every direction under the watchful eye of Mao.

Wondered if China had awakened yet, as giant snappy red flags atop the mausoleum floated in a spotless blue sky.

Played some strange card game with the locals in Tian Tan park. Also that dice game I learned a couple years back in Chengdu.

Totally kawaii-ed out on a bunch of furry Chinese stray cats lounging on the outskirts of the park.

Barely contained my excitement upon speaking my first real sentences in Mandarin since I took that one class last year. Peed my pants upon realising I coud understand and answer up to three generic questions about my country of origin and occupation, to locals who ostensibly did not even know the English word for “China”. Somewhat regained composure when it appeared I could only further extend the conversation with a polite “Sorry, I don’t understand”.

Stumbled upon that plane you rode in when you went to visit your aunt in Africa, 30 years ago… the one with 4 seats on each row and a single-channel radio that you could listen to through headphones that looked like stethoscopes: China Air bought it and uses it daily for their Beijin-Tokyo flight.

Smuggled two pandas (names: ペキン and シャンハイ) to Japan, at the risk of triggering an unprecedented international crisis.

Finally realised some of my (limited) infatuation with japan subconsciously took root in a secret nerdy obsession of mine: intricacies of urban planning and transit optimisation. Just watch how most train connections in japan consist of: walking out one train, across a platform, onto a waiting and immediately departing train… and you will be wondering, as I am, if Japanese public transit planners have somehow figured the secret of NP-completeness problem-solving (Western ones certainly haven’t).

Attended a Japanese burlesque show. Really liked the cool Asian-styled choreography on some of the acts (Japanese schoolgirls doing the dragon walk, for the win). Nearly more so than all the pasty twirling and gravity-defying patriotic C-string (complete with shiny Hinomaru).

Strolled down Todai campus’ alleys: filled with little grandmas way past studying age, busy capturing the essence of bichromic autumn trees (ginkos, I believe) on watercolor. The campus cafeteria also serves a pretty mean agedashi tofu and a whole selection of hallal dishes.

Rode the Tokaido shinkansen on a two-day return trip to Kyoto for the third time in six months and started wondering about frequent riders discounts.

Saw few ducks on the banks of Ducky River, but lots of pigeons.

Wondered how the guy who could barely get his way out of valence calculations ten years ago, ended up standing in front of Kyoto University’s Graduate Scool of Biochemistry and Pharmaceuticals‘ finest, in a bid to join their rank…

Wore suits (for work or for fun) more often in 2 months than in all of the past 2 years.

Did the clubbing and morning ramen thing with friends in Shibuya.

Had one quick drink at Albatross in Omoide Yokochou and a few more in Golden Gai.

Saw photography exhibits and strolled along the river in Meguro.

Spent a day rummaging stores from Kichijoji to Harajuku and from Shibuya to Shinjuku, hunting for christmas gifts.

Came to the conclusion that Russian TV comedy is essentially centered around fat hairy men in cheap drag singing Russian covers of disco classics with funny lyrics.

Bought two bottles of Русский Стандарт and also some of that vodka that makes you go blind if you drink more than one glass at a time: gotta plan for new year’s ahead of time.

Landed in Paris and realised it was the coldest-motherfuckin-freezing place I had been to, so far this year.

I am currently lodged firmly under a goose-feather conforter with freshly imported Swiss chocolate at arm’s reach and not planning to move until the end of Winter.

3 comments

  1. Yay, update! Saw your email, but I’ve been having 65-hour work weeks AND trying to make time for family, so thoughtful emails to friends have basically fallen on the wayside.

    Sorry to miss you in NY(glad you made your EWR-SFO standby flight though).

    Keep us posted as to the results of your Kyoto interview!

  2. It was fab to see you in the Big Mikan the other week my friend. Sorry we were running around like mad chooks and couldn’t come out to play as often as we would have liked.

    I guess having the plague didn’t help either.

  3. And you brought good friends to the End Up. Start dancing in the early evening and the whole night will be fine. Even when you try to explain your late-ass self to your girlfriend after the stumble home.

    Hope we live in the same city again some day.

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