Sunday, November 30, 2008

Back from a lovely extended Thanksgiving weekend in my hometown. This pretty much sums up how it went down:

Guess which one is mine?

Also, dragged my man to see that bane of all man-ness, Twilight:

Sigh. It was just as Lainey at Lainey Gossip said: you will hate yourself for wanting to see it, and then loathe yourself for seeing it, and then despair knowing you will watch the next two or three installments of cheese yet to come.

Even though the movie is pure cheese, Robert Pattinson as Edward and Kristen Stewart as Bella both have huge careers ahead of them. Both are beautiful and talented, and they both seem to have good heads on their shoulders.

And holy smokes, Robert Pattinson. My my, is that 22-year old boy (!) fine. And also apparently a sweetheart. Great American accent too. And that sex-hair is something. else. entirely. What do the Brits put in the water?

So, anyway, in addition to the despair mentioned above, I also despair at my shameful cougary. And cougaring Cedric Diggory at that. Ugh.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Will be away on holiday for the next few days. Wishing you a very happy Thanksgiving full of good food, family, friends, and of course, gratitude.

Oh yeah, and about that gratitude: with the dollar continuing to tank bigtime, and the seemingly infinite taxpayer-funded bailouts of banking crooks coupled with huge layoffs happening all over the country, it sometimes feels a little easier to be bitter rather than grateful.

So hey, check it out:

How Rich Are You?

We are obsessed with wealth. But we gauge how rich we are by looking upwards at those who have more than us. This makes us feel poor.

We wanted to do something which would help people understand, in real terms, where they stand globally. And make us realise that in fact most of us (who are able to view this web page) are in the privileged minority.

We want people to feel rich. And give some of their extra money to a worthwhile charity.

I'm the 294,782,609 richest person on earth!

Discover how rich you are! >>

This was a nice site to stumble upon. And while we shouldn't forget the extent of the wealth of the few and what is and isn't being done with that money, this is also a good reminder that if you are viewing this web site you are in a privileged minority. A reminder to be thankful for what you have and to share with the less fortunate, that riches are more than money, and that it is most important to live your life well.

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people’s approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

Tao Te Ching

Happy Thanksgiving y'all!

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Sorry in advance to the blog-reading boys: I must share about my latest thrifting acquisitions, because I have scored big time in the last few days, and my best thrifting partner -- the currently world-traveling yoga girl (only the internet binds us at the moment) -- must know these things.

I have been searching in vain for a pair of workhorse black heels for about 2 years. These things are like jeans -- they have to be perfect for you or they will never be worn and just collect dust. And if there's one thing my yoga girl has taught me about acquiring a workhorse wardrobe item, is that you should wait rather than settle.

I waited. And oh yes, it was worth it:

These Calvin Klein heels are PERFECT -- they are versatile and classic, have a 3-inch spike heel to avoid the office-lady look, they fit like a dream, and are padded in all the right places. They are brand new and I got them for 7 dollars. Squee!

I also picked up this Calvin Klein silk dress. On and off, it is gorgeous.

Alright, and my label-whoring wouldn't be complete without a nod to one of my obsessions as of late, French label Lacoste. Found the cutest little black flats:

Lest you think I abandon my vintage roots -- check out the baby pink 1950s wool cardi that I got for a song, and that fits like a glove:

And no post is complete without more vintage kitchenware; this time, it's Homer Laughlin (manufacturers of another fave I collect, the Fiesta line) and some cute little cups and saucers:

I will never tire of the satisfaction I get from finding timeless, functional, high-quality things for next to nothing. It's funny, because every now and then I get a gift card for some medium to high-end department store and I just don't know what to do with myself. Everything is laid out all pretty and neat-like and I just am so...uninspired. And c'mon -- $75-100 for a crappy shirt made in China? (Ben Sherman, I'm looking at you).

I usually end up buying ridiculous things that I would never think to buy normally -- like the funky two tone Puma sandal-flats I bought last year (that sit on my shoe shelf most of the year). So anyway, give me the thrill of the hunt, the quality of old-school tailoring and timeless labels, and the satisfaction of getting a bagful of stuff for less than it costs for lunch!

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

(City Hotel in Columbia, California, 1928)

Ghost Busters Hunt For Hotels' Haunts

Oh man oh man oh man. My father, my sister, and I all used to work at these two hotels -- often alone -- and holy smokes are they HAUNTED! I'm glad someone is spending some time checking out the paranormal phenomenon there. I don't know why a whole television show hasn't been dedicated to these twin sisters in my hometown, the Gem of the Southern Mines.

My father was head of maintenance for both hotels, and he was there all the time when the hotels were closed for the winter. Over the years during these closures, he would repaint the dining room ceiling below the parlor in the City Hotel numerous times, and each time he would hear someone run across the parlor repeatedly, causing the dining room chandeliers to shake.

On Sunday at the City Hotel, the team placed cameras and held sessions throughout the hotel, including the wine cellar, the banquet room, kitchen and a room upstairs, rumored to be haunted by Elizabeth, a woman who died in childbirth either in the room or in the bed.

People have reported hearing a woman crying, Greer said. It is the most common report at the hotel...

Once dad was carrying a case of wine upstairs to the parlor and found a woman dressed in period clothes, crying on the settee and saying over and over, "my baby, my baby." He turned around to set the wine down so he could sit down and comfort her, and when he turned back around she was gone.

The parlors are the most active areas in both hotels.

Saturday night in the Fallon Hotel in room 2, the team detected heat spots in places where there was no reasonable explanation for them and spiked electromagnetic readings, showing when the electromagnetic field is disrupted.

Rooms 2 and 3 at the Fallon are parlor rooms, and they both have their share of the creepy "someone's watching you" vibe. The heat spots thing is interesting and strange. It wasn't room 2 or 3, but room 1 -- connected to the parlor but separated by a dim landing and flanking a rarely used staircase that always smelled of burning -- that most everyone I worked with felt was the creepiest, because it was always freezing cold, even in 105 degree weather.

Down the hall, in room 5, rumored to be haunted by a young boy, things got interesting.

Shaw, in a soft, calm, reassuring voice, asked what the boy's name was. "Is your name Jimmy? ... Or is your name Daniel?" Shaw asked. "We brought these toys for you."

"Jimmy," as the lore goes, is the grandson of the hotel's founder, and died in a fire that gutted the hotel in the mid 1800s. He had a penchant for stealing kids' toys (which we would find months later in the middle of the bed of a just vacated room) and for running up and down the halls, sometimes late at night when guests were trying to sleep.

My dad, after retiring from maintenance, began caretaking for the Columbia Cemetery, where the boy is buried. He would leave toys on the boy's grave to try to keep him from stealing the guests' toys.

Besides toilets flushing themselves, the feeling of being watched or followed, icy cold spots (even in the most extreme heat waves), and items disappearing and reappearing, most of my stories are second-hand. But I did have one experience I'll never forget.

According to Shaw, there are many types of hauntings, the most common being residual and intelligent hauntings. A residual haunting is a moment in time, like a film clip stuck on repeat. For example, sightings of women walking down staircases. The residual does not know we are here, versus an intelligent haunting which knows we are here, Shaw said.

Intelligent hauntings are either trying to scare or "mess with" people or are trying to communicate something, Shaw said.

I was cleaning room 1 by myself at the City, which is a parlor room -- cold as ice 24-7, and rumored to be haunted by the aforementioned "Elizabeth" or by the only woman hanged in California (her portrait hangs below the room in the saloon).

It was summertime, and the weather outside was hot, dry, and still. To buck the ever-present chill in the room (and to bolster my courage) I decided to open a balcony door to let in some sunlight, heat, and banjo music. I began cleaning the room, when suddenly the balcony door slammed shut. I was startled, but then perplexed, because there was no breeze or draft to speak of. So I opened the door again and kept my eye on it, dusting and sweeping for a good 15 minutes. The door stayed open the entire time.

I decided at that point to test my burgeoning theory as to why the door really shut. I turned my back on the door, only to spin around again quickly. The door was quickly closing on its own.

I said aloud, "okay, I'll keep it closed," gathered up my cleaning supplies, and hustled out of there! I never cleaned a room by myself again -- even going as far to beg my mom to go with me one stormy morning to the Fallon so I could clean one lousy room. It was in the parlor.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

These are a few of my favorite things...

In one tidy package. I also love my scarf.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Since my work moved to downtown Oakland, not only have I had the pleasure of taking in some thrifting on a regular basis on my lunch hour, but I also get to have the fantasticity that is Oakland Chinatown at my fingertips.

I love Oakland's Chinatown. I like it much better than San Francisco's. The difference is that in Oakland, Chinatown is a community where people live, work, and shop for their everyday necessities, and it is less of a tourist attraction.

Don't get me wrong, there are really great shops in SF's Chinatown, and there are plenty of people making their homes there, but it still has that tourist trap vibe. In Oakland there are no tourist attractions, just great food and great markets (and lots of designer knock-off spots). The closest nod to tourism would be the sidewalks, painted with lovely and colorful designs:

Anyway, since all of the shops are catering to residents, accordingly, you get all kinds of wonderful places where you can get wonderful things...

Tasty meats:

A plethora of fruits and veggies, super cheap:

And shops crammed with everything under the sun:

But my favorite thing about Chinatown is definitely this little shop:

Cam Huong makes the best banh mi in Oakland -- so good that when my ex-coworker and I would go there for lunch, his Vietnamese wife who lived in San Francisco would always ask him to get one to bring home for her.

Also great for these lean economic times -- only $2.50!

Mmmmm, tofu and pickled and jalapeno goodness...

I bought a grilled pork sandwich for Trevor, but he scarfed it before I could take a photo. They are that good!

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Another wonderful thing about my trip to Nihon: Trevor passed his sakki test for Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu -- which was administered at the Japanese main dojo in Nodashi, Chiba-ken -- and received his fifth degree blackbelt! He is now a licensed Bujinkan instructor. I am so proud of him. Congratulations to my sweetness!

Check out his East Bay Bujinkan page for more info about Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu.

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At long last! Here is my Japan fashion, shopping/trends, and wackness report -- smallish, but fresh!

1) Vinyl Vinyl Vinyl

First and foremost, *surprise!* I did some serious damage at the record shops.

I picked up too many records to list, but some of my prizes include: Public Enemy's Fear of A Black Planet, Portishead's Dummy (with postcard insert to join their fan club), Beastie Boys' Check Your Head, Gang of Four's Entertainment, Sun Ra's The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra, Killing Joke's What's This For...!, a 4AD copy of The Birthday Party's Prayers on Fire, The Creatures' Boomerang, a plethora of Pogues records, and an Italian pressing of Nino Rota's soundtrack to Fellini's 8 1/2.

All in all, I bought about 50 records and only dropped a little over $200 -- meaning I bought plenty of those records for under 500 yen ($5)! And this was after sadly finding my regular downtown haunts picked over pretty thoroughly. But I discovered a place where I cleaned up, at a fraction of the cost of the Shibuya and Shinjuku shops. Sorry, I'm not telling where!

I do, however, want to pimp this really small but lovingly cared for record shop in Shimokitazawa, where I picked up my Tom Waits Swordfishtrombones and Sun Ra record:

2) Fashion report

Japan, land of Lolitas, Fruits, and people dressed as anime characters, can get a little overwhelming. What are the real people wearing?

The three biggest things I noticed this time around:

-- Weaves. OMG, they were everywhere!

-- Tights. Specifically, day-glo, bright/deep jewel tone, or patterned tights with knee high (and often hooker-esqe) boots and those infernal and unwilling-to-die formal shorts. I am not into high-heeled boots, and I will NOT wear formal shorts, but I did snatch up plenty of bright tights on Takeshita-dori.

-- Russian-style furry hats. I think 90 percent of the female population under 40 in Japan owns something that could be placed in this category. And hey, I wanted mine! But while I loved the look on Japanese women, I just didn't feel like I could pull off the volume. So, I compromised:

But no matter what the trend, the classics still endure...

3) Drink trends

Always killer food in Japan, and delicious Japanese Coca-Cola (I believe sweetened with stevia), but many drinks have lacked in days past. Not so this trip.

Coffee in the late 90s and early 00s commonly used to be served already sweetened and creamed; you had to order "American kohii" to get an unadorned cuppa. But since Starbucks crashed the scene a few years ago, coffee is gaining prominence, and getting better every time I visit.

This was an "American kohii" I ordered in an independent cafe in Asakusa. What I got was an Americano. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised. Beautiful!

And another thing: in 2004, you couldn't get a good glass of whiskey to save your life. And while there were plenty of swank bars, the nice ones were prohibitively expensive and the cheap ones were...atmospherically challenged. But just a couple of weeks ago, in Osaka, I went to a daytime cafe/nighttime whiskey bar chain called Pronto, where I had a glass of 12 year-old McCallan for $6. They also had quite a few other high quality bourbons and scotches for around $6-8 a glass. Very reasonable.

My friends and I also happened upon a bar in Kichijoji called Funny Fly, where we were treated to more reasonably priced, medium to high-end whiskey in a tiny, dark, smoky, jazz-laden slip of a space.

We also got the fancy ice cube treatment I've been hearing so much about:

Apparently, there are swank places that actually hand-carve their ice cubes into the oversized faceted ball shape you see above, but here's a tip: I found trays that make these cool ice cubes all over the 100 yen shops. Must pick one up next time.

4) Social dynamics

Japan is changing. Slowly, painfully, for better or for worse -- but it is changing.

It shocked me that I saw a significant amount of obese Japanese. Not overweight, but obese. Chalk it up to all that great cheap whiskey and delcious ramen, as well as a country where fast food is becoming a mainstay and portions are getting bigger.

I was also shocked to see rampant hand-holding. This practice, that Trevor and I engage in like it's going out of style, made Japanese we know uncomfortable just a few years ago. But this time in Japan, I even saw a middle-aged salaryman and housewife couple holding hands! Awww, labu labu.

The dog-as-accessory seems to be gaining as a practice too. There were so many little dogs being paraded around Tokyo, with their little dog outfits. Little dog outfit shops were taking up space in every corner of the city.

One can, however, take this too far:

This is a big dog. Little dogs are bred to suffer the indignities of wearing tiny hats, sweatshirts, and leg warmers; big, strapping, working dogs like this one should not be dressed up like clowns. Look into his eyes -- he wants me to save him.

Last but not least, no post about Japan and its awesomeness would be complete without a bit on the Japanese toilet. My love of the Japanese toilet is well-documented. But while I have extolled the virtues of the Japanese toilet for some time, I haven't shown what makes it so wonderful until now. Courtesy of the Narita International Airport, here is the Japanese toilet, in English!

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Friday, November 07, 2008

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Reason number 5,233,347 why I love Oakland:

This car has had a handwritten license plate for as long as it's been parked on my street -- maybe 2 years? I had to chuckle today because I noticed the handwritten expiration has finally been replaced with one that is in 2009.

Why stop at April 2009 though? Even if the car is registered for April, you're supposed to get pulled over -- or your unoccupied car is supposed to be ticketed -- for not having real plates anyway, so why not go all the way and sharpie in a 2015 date for cheekiness' sake?


Wednesday, November 05, 2008


(Fujisan and sprawl from the Osaka to Tokyo shinkansen)

It was another successful trip, full of fantastic food, good friends (thanks Hiroko and Satoru!), orgies of vinyl shopping, and wacky done the Japan way.

You know, I realized as I was uploading my photos that I didn't take very many. I think this is definitely because I've documented much of "my" Japan in the past. But more so, I've been there quite a few times already, and it never seems to change. And I know this sounds a little doucheoisie of me, but I'm rarely shocked or awed anymore by the the lights and noise and wackiness and beauty that is Japan.

I am, however, totally enamored of the food. The food in Japan never disappoints, and as my language and reading skills get a little better each time, I end up at places that are better and better.

I know I've been getting all food blog on your asses lately, and if you don't care for that, apologies. But Japan is the mecca for deliciousness done in a million different ways. I thought I'd highlight my favorite food adventures, and then post a bit later about the other things that draw me back to Japan, again and again.

My highlights...

1) The best ramen I have ever had -- "modern-style" red-miso ramen with pork and garlic, at Hakata Ippudo in one of my favorite places to visit in Japan, Kichijoji.



This place offered unlimited fresh ground sesame and pickled chili bean sprouts for your soup, as well as cloves of raw garlic that you could crush into your ramen. And yes, those are both garlic flecks and fat globules in that broth. And yes, it was AMAZING.

There's apparently one in New York. Hopefully the West Coast is on their radar!

2) Organic salad bar and steamed vegetables at Noukano Daidokoro, in the town Trevor and I lived in for a spell and still love to visit, Kunitachi.

The presentation was gorgeous:

It was also a gorgeous space, with low tables on tatami, and Western-style rough hewn tables on polished dark brown floors that overlooked the tree-lined main street. The hallways were constructed of shelve-filled walls housing growing plants that were served in the restaurant.

We also had full access to their free organic salad bar. If you know Japan, you know how difficult it can be to get the amount of greenery Westerners are used to. This salad bar was phenomenal, with perfect veggies you placed into a martini-style glass and dipped into housemade mushroom salt or olive oil. And I had something I had never had before, salt green -- a succulent with a distinctive salty taste:

3) Batteriffic goodness in Osaka.

Took a side trip to Osaka this time around, via the Tokaido bullet train -- by far the most pleasant train travel I have ever experienced (except for the leg in the smoking car -- good god!) for ease, comfort, speed, and scenery.

Osaka is a nice place, with nicer folks than Tokyo, but in a lot of ways it seems that once you've seen Tokyo, you've pretty much seen every metropolitan area on Honshu.

Oh, but the food! Osaka is the official birthplace of two of my favorite Japanese fast foods that incorporate batter, okonomiyaki and takoyaki.

Oh lawd is the takoyaki in Osaka good. My mouth is still slightly burned from scarfing down molten octopus goodness.

4) Japanese bread and pastry shops.

Ah, the Japanese breadshop. Strangely, it is often what I miss most about Japan. This is probably because I usually stay away from white bread in the States, forgoing it for more healthful options. Not so in Nihon.

Japanese rolls and pastries are an art form -- light, fluffy, consistent in size and shape, golden brown and never burnt, the epitome of what white flour can become that shames anything I've ever seen in the States. Sugar is used sparingly, and many doughs are often sweetened with stevia -- cutting the calories of each lovely roll, bun, and danish. And at any given train station or grocery you will find at least one bread purveyor, smelling sweetly of butter and goodness, with more donuts, rolls, danishes, or meat/cheese-filled goodies than you can shake a stick at. Coupled with a glass of cream-like Japanese milk (a glass of which I had at Mister Donut last week that should definitely merit a mention on this list) it is heavenly.

I might just kill for a "milk soft" roll from Danish style Little Mermaid in Kashiwa right now.

One particular shop in Tokyo station had something I'd never seen before. This is part of what makes Japan great:

5) All of the delicate kohada (shad) and briny, creamy uni (sea urchin) that I could eat.

Love these two, and unfortunately one is seasonal in the States while the other can be nasty in the wrong Japanese joint. Mmmm, I was lucky to get my fill this time around of these two bits of yumminess.

6) And of course, things are never the same around Japan without mutant fruit.

Those grapes are like plums! What you can't see in this photo are the Asian pears the size of mini watermelons. Proper.

More Japan-ness to come in the next day or two!

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Just checking in! Japan is marvelous. Will have a photographic journey to post in about 3 days.

P.S. It is really almost 1 a.m.

P.P.S High five -- am drinking Chu-Hi!

P.P.P.S. Yeeee!

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