San Francisco Scenes

While browsing through files on my laptop, I came upon several photos taken during a “walkabout” through San Francisco in mid-June.

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Festival of Lights

During my one night in Laos, I was lucky enough to catch the celebration of Diwali, the Festival of Lights.  In the evening I walked around to various temples that had been beautifully decorated with lights by the monks.  Most of the monks seemed reticent to have their photos taken, so I tried to focus more on the lights themselves rather than on people.  It was a truly lovely sight.

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I Got Skills!

With Trump’s America looming on the horizon, an Italian friend commented that it’s about time for me to leave the States.  An expat friend in Bangkok said he expects to see me back there sooner rather than later, based on Trump’s presidency!  (He’s always told me that I’ll end up living in Bangkok, anyway.)

It’s no secret to most of my friends that I’ve wanted to leave the country and move to Bali, of course!  I was only considering making a move, but not seriously trying to take any steps.  However, what with Noy’s passing, Trump’s upcoming Presidency and many changes in the management of the company that I work for, it’s beginning to look more and more appealing.

The first and most obvious step to move to either Bali or Bangkok would be to learn Bahasa or Thai.  Unfortunately, there’s nowhere in San Francisco to take classes in either of those languages.  I’ve tried learning a little bit on-line, but my attention span is short when I have no one to really practice with after completing a lesson.

My next thought was to learn some “alternative” skills that could be used abroad, possibly without having extensive knowledge of another language.  After a few barnstorming sessions with me, myself and I, bartending classes popped into my head.  I spend a fair amount of time at bars, hate the majority of cocktails made anywhere/everywhere in San Francisco (but usually like them in other cities/countries) and bartending looks like it could be fun.  So…  I finally signed up for a bartending course.  This particular course will take up four Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., beginning in February.  We’ll practice in an actual bar and everything will be provided.  Students are merely told to show up with a notebook and pen.  Maybe, if my bartending shows any promise at all, I can “guest bartend” for an hour or two at some of the bars I frequent!  Then again, maybe some of my bartender friends can give me a few tips.  Of course, having a second income is always a bonus, even if it involves working a few hours per week, being a bar back or only working at special events.

Becoming a wine sommelier also appeals to me.  I looked into taking courses on that, but they are much more intensive (which doesn’t bother me) and are held on weekdays only.  I can’t afford to pay the high price for the wine sommelier courses AND not work at my regular day job, so that’s out for now…  However, if major changes continue to happen within my company and they were lay me off and give me a package, I’d sign up for those wine sommelier courses immediately!

Naturally, teaching English as a second language is an option for those wanting to move abroad.  I can take classes for that on weekends in order to get my certification.  My friend who teaches English abroad is urging me to do that, of course.  Some of those places said that they can basically guarantee placement, too.  I’m a tad skeptical of that, but will do more research later.

I figure those 3 “skills” will better prepare me to put out my feelers abroad.  Even if completing a wine sommelier course anytime soon isn’t possible, taking a few more generalized wine courses would be beneficial.  I just have to move forward, though.  Hopefully, this bartending course will give me some new energy and ideas.  Wish me luck!  If I successfully make it through the bartending course, I’ll need to start practicing my fancy moves, a la Tom Cruise in “Cocktail!”

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It’s Better in Bangkok

Get your mind out of the gutter!  I’m not referring to THAT!!!  (Actually, I wouldn’t know; never tried it.)

What’s better in Bangkok, at least in my opinion, seem to be the dentists and skin clinics/dermatologists.  My first experience with a Bangkok dentist was in May, 2015, and my first experience with a Bangkok skin clinic was this past, October, 2016.  What prompted me to try a dentist in Thailand was the plethora of dental clinics I saw when visiting my Italian friend, Emidio, in Chiang Mai.  He’d told me that many expats go to Thailand to have dental work done as it’s definitely cheaper than in the States or in Europe, plus most dentists and their assistants are trained in the U.S. or in Europe.  As for the skin clinic, I’d shown another expat friend in Bangkok the scar on my right knee that I’d attained by falling on Bourbon Street in New Orleans!  He’d assured me that it could easily be taken care of in Bangkok, although the skin clinics probably wouldn’t be quite as affordable as the dentists (yet still cheaper than in the United States).

In May, 2015, I’d noticed a dental clinic across the way from my condo.  The place was immaculate and appeared to be quite modern.  They did both evening and weekend appointments.  I’d asked if they could do teeth cleaning for me.  Although they were full, they took down my E-mail and promised to send me a message if there was a cancellation.  Sure enough, they sent me a message later that evening.  I went in and had my teeth cleaned with the “water laser” or whatever.  It was quick, painless and cost approximately US$29.  I had it done again by the same dentist in October.  The dental clinic has since changed their name, however.

I did some on-line research for the skin clinic prior to my Bangkok trip.  I was looking for a place with a good reputation, not overly far from my condo with affordable prices.  That led me to ProDerma.  When I inquired via E-mail if they could laser my scar, they asked me to send a photo, which I did.  They assured me that it would be gone within about 4 treatments of US$55 each.  I only had time for two laser treatments on the trip, as they’d said something about the treatments had to be at least 10 days apart.  The women who worked at the clinic were extremely nice.  When they informed me that they’d have to give me a shot to the knee cap WITHOUT numbing cream, I was quite nervous.  One woman in particular did her best to calm me, saying that it would be quick and not that bad.  I took the shot to the knee, which stung.  They then put some type of cream over the scar to protect me from the heat of the laser.  My eyes were covered and the doctor lasered away.  The scar isn’t very big, although it’s a little dark and raised.  The actual lasering only took a minute or two.  After the first treatment, I barely noticed a difference.  After the second treatment, I didn’t notice much of a difference until maybe a week later.  It’s definitely lighter now.  My plans are to return to Bangkok next March, perhaps, with the hope of staying long enough to have it lasered at least two more times.  They may also laser the sun spots/age spots on my face during my next visit.

In case you’re interested in one or the other, here’s the pertinent information:

The S Sathorn Clinic

459/20-23 Suanplu 8, South Sathorn Road

Bangkok, Thailand 10120

+66 (0) 2287 4922

thessathorn@yahoo.com

Dentist:  Monthisa Aiemkrasin, DDS

ProDerma

BTS:  Sanampao

02-6198407

prodermaesthetic@gmail.com

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White Magic

For the past couple of years, I’ve wanted to get a sak yant tattoo while in Thailand or Cambodia, but could never find the right place to have it done.  First, let me explain what a sak yant tattoo is.  These are “magical” or “bamboo” tattoos that purportedly began in Cambodia, where it’s known as yantra.  These tattoos are composed of geometrical, animal and deity designs that offer the wearer power, protection, love, fortune and other benefits.  I’ve read that warriors used to have such symbols on their garments when going into battle, then simply began tattooing the symbols directly onto their body.  They are supposed to be tattooed on you by an Ajarn (i.e. teacher) who’s studied and been trained in such things.  Previously, they used sharpened bamboo sticks to tattoo, as opposed to regular tattoo needles/guns, thus, they’re often called “bamboo” tattoos.  Nowadays, many Ajarns also use steel rods.  They say that the Ajarn queries you about your life and your goals, decides what tattoo to give you and decides the placement of the tattoo.  He tattoos you, then blows on it to imbue it with his magical powers.  Once the tattoo is finished, you are also given a set of rules to follow. If you do not follow the rules, it renders the powers of the sak yant nil.  Being a superstitious Asian/Pacific Islander, as well as having ties to the Thai culture, I definitely wanted one.  The problem was finding where to get one.  The most famous place to get one is at Wat Bang Phra, a temple outside of Bangkok.  I’ve heard that it takes quite awhile to receive as there are so many people waiting.  What concerned me, though, is that new bamboo sticks/steel rods and ink are not used on each individual.  Therefore, I did research to find an Ajarn in Bangkok who sterilized their equipment and who were known for their work.  Of course, the Ajarn who did the two sak yant tattoos on Angelina Jolie is the most famous at the moment, but he also charges exorbitant prices (for Thailand) in the wake of his fame due to having her as a client.  Obviously, I went with someone else.

My sak yant appointment was booked about two months in advance.  I paid in advance as well over PayPal.  For my hard-earned money, I was promised pick-up an hour before my appointment, drop-off after the and an interpreter.

When the morning of my appointment arrived, I was nervous, to say the least.  Petz and Lek were waiting for me in the lobby of the condo I was staying at.  Both spoke English relatively well and did their best to put me at ease during the drive to the On Nut area, though neither of them have a sak yant.  Both are very nice guys.  I asked about an offering, which they assured me that they’d already prepared.  Upon arrival, I was instructed to pray with incense and repeat the words (to the best of my ability) that were spoken by one of the Ajarn’s assistants.  By this time, Petz had control of my camera, so was taking photos and making videos of my experience.  The Ajarn spoke to me, through them, asking me about my life and what I wanted – fortune, love, success, etc.  My response was that I want change in everything – work, life, friends – and the means to accomplish that change.  Based on that, the Ajarn chose the budd sorn for me, which represents change and success.  He said that it would look nice if placed just below my neck in the middle.  Although I was wearing a loose black top, it wasn’t quite loose enough for the Ajarn to tattoo a little further down.  Thus, they gave me a men’s shirt to put on backwards and had me change in the restroom.  I’d made my offering to him by then, while he chanted/prayed.  Then I sat in front of him with my back towards him and awaited the start.  He showed me the clean, wrapped steel rod/needle and the new gloves that he put on first to put my mind at ease.  Lek took over my camera while Petz sat on one side of me and the male assistant sat on the other.  They pulled my skin taut while the Ajarn began the tattooing process.  Various people have said that the sak yant tattoo is less painful than a regular one.  Others have said the opposite.  My consensus is that it’s slightly MORE painful than a regular tattoo; it definitely stings.  We took a few little breaks.  Petz took my camera back while the female assistant helped the male assistant to pull my skin taut.  The tattooing took about half an hour.   Then my back was wiped off and a square of gold leaf was applied.  Lek tried to explain by saying something about the properties of the gold were to seep into my body.  The Ajarn blessed me/prayed more, then gave me a card with a chant/mantra to be repeated three times daily both morning and evening, along with a Buddha amulet.  Petz said that I was perfect – no fidgeting, no grimacing and very little blood.  He said that many people bleed a lot when getting tattooed.  We took some more pictures, then the guys dropped me back at the condo.

The sak yant process was unique and I will consider getting another from him in the future.  If you are interested in receiving a sak yant from Ajarn Neng, you may contact them at Arjanneng Thaisakyant via Facebook.  As stated before, it’s possible to pay them in advance through PayPal as well.

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Making Merit

When in Luang Prabang in October, I definitely want to see/attend the morning alms giving ceremony, although they say it can be a bit of a zoo.  Apparently, there are tons of people shoving their cameras in the faces of the monks, using flash photography and selfie sticks.   My plan is to take my Nikon with the incredible zoom, so as to be able to take photos from quite a distance without interrupting the flow of things.  They say that men are able to stand face-to-face with the monks (but not actually looking them in the face), show them their offering, then place it in their bowl/bucket, after which the monk will say a chant/prayer to the person giving the offering.  Women, however, must be lower than a monk, so must kneel to make their offering.  They also must have their arms, legs and chest covered.  One of the VPs from our L.A. office just told me the other night that he had attended the alms giving ceremony in Luang Prabang.  He said it was well worth seeing.

I would also like to see an alms giving ceremony in Bangkok, but have no idea quite where to go.  Does anyone have suggestions?  I see that there are tour groups offering tours to alms giving in Bangkok, but that is definitely not an option for me.  I would like to go to a temple that is smaller and out of the tourist limelight, but not too far on the outskirts of Bangkok.  More than likely, it’s best to ask around the neighborhood that I’ll be staying in where they would suggest.

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Never Get Tired of NoLa

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My most recent trip to New Orleans was mainly for Satchmo Summerfest and White Linen Night.  My 6:00 a.m. flight that Wednesday morning from San Francisco to Houston was not off to a good start.  I was, as usual, sitting in a window seat half asleep.  My stomach began cramping which led me to the realization that, OMG, food poisoning was kicking in!  Having had food poisoning kick in midway through a flight from Paris to Seattle in 2013, I was NOT looking forward to the next 5-6 hours!  It was torture to disturb the elderly couple sitting next to me whenever I had to use the facilities, as it took them quite awhile to exit their seats.  Once we landed in Houston, I immediately ran to the ladies’ room there.  I THOUGHT I was already feeling better until boarding the flight from Houston to New Orleans.  I dashed to the facilities shortly after boarding, then again shortly after take-off.  It might have been due to the ashen look on my face, but the flight attendant knew that I wasn’t feeling well.  When I explained that it was food poisoning, she did everything she possibly could to make things easier for me.  She brought me Sprite and some lemon slices to try to settle my stomach.  Then she let me sit in the last row right next to the bathroom.  She even let me use the bathroom shortly before the plane landed, though she emphasized that it was at my own risk and asked me not to exit the bathroom until after the plane had landed.  Upon landing, she asked if I’d rather be the first person off or the last one.  I opted to be the last one; she helped me with my carry-ons, too.  At the New Orleans airport, I spent another good 20 minutes minimum tossing my cookies in the bathroom before feeling well enough to make my way to the baggage carousel and the shuttle.  Once on the shuttle, I passed out for the most part, except for those excruciating stomach cramps.  At my VRBO rental, yep, you guessed it, a few more hours of intermittently tossing my cookies in the bathroom, then finally being able to lay down and nap for awhile.  After napping, I managed to shower, change and attempt to go to dinner.

Speaking of the VRBO rental, it was lovely and oozed NoLa/French charm, with some Asian touches as well.  The attention to detail in regards to the lighting fixtures, rugs, pillows and artwork was perfect.  It was like my own little Creole cottage a few blocks above Bourbon Street – close enough to walk to everything, yet removed enough to not deal with all of the noise.

My dinner reservation that Wednesday night was at K-Paul’s.  Beings it is one of my favorite restaurants, I didn’t want to cancel.  When my waiter (Edgar) came, I explained that, due to my food poisoning, I wouldn’t be eating much and wouldn’t be drinking at all.  However, I would still be ordering the three-course prix fixe Coolinary menu, eating a few bites of each, then have him pack up the rest.  My choices were the fried green tomatoes with shrimp remoulade (SOO good!), the stuffed pork chop marchand du vin (also very good) and the bread pudding (another very good one).  Rather than staying up late, I retired early after dinner.

My stomach seemed to have calmed down for the most part on Thursday morning.  In anticipation of a total recovery, I went to Rouses to pick up some boDSCN0659ttled water and a 6-pack of Heinekens.  My next stop was Napoleon House.  The older host was the quintessential Southern gentleman in a striped shirt with a bow tie.  He said “Hi, doll!  How can I help you?”  I wanted to sit at the bar, so he responded with “I can make that happen,” as he led me to the bar, pulled out a seat and continued with “This seat has your name on it.”  I eased myself into drinking by having a beer.  The bartender, Kieth, asked if I was hungry.  After explaining the previous day’s food poisoning, I attempted to eat half of a muffaletta.  Meanwhile, another staff member behind the bar was yelling out area codes like 504, 619, etc.  I asked if he was talking to me.  He was!  Apparently, some of them had been placing bets on where I was from.  Even though I assured them that I live in the 415, they jokingly continued to call me “619.”  I asked the host if I could take his picture, which he obliged.  He then insisted on taking my picture with a few of the staff.  En route back to the apartment, I stopped at Trashy Diva for a little retail therapy, buying a dress on sale.  For Happy Hour, it was The Empire Bar inside Broussard’s.  They have Absinthe Happy Hour from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.  At the suggestion of the bartender, Michael S., I had the Duplais Blanc absinthe with an order of shrimp toast.  Since they have an actual absinthe dispenser, Michael told me to meet him at the end of the bar.  He placed two sugar cubes on an absinthe spoon over the absinthe in the glass, ran the ice water over it for dilution purposes, then instructed me to stir and drink.  Though I asked him if they ever lit it, he assured me that their bar is very anti-fire!  Dinner that evening was at Eat for their butterbeans with shrimp.  Since they are a BYOB kind of place, I took along two of my trustie Heinekens, but only drank one.  I then went to Patrick’s Bar Vin.  Alas, Patrick wasn’t there.  After a glass of pinot grigio, I tried a new (for me) place – Arnaud’s French 75 Bar.  Lisa attended to me with a Honi Makai, which I really wasn’t feeling at all.  Once I paid my bill and was about to leave, the head bartender, Chris, came over to ask about my cocktail.  Since he knew I hadn’t enjoyed it, he promised to take it off of my bill, although it had already been rung up.  At the time, I wasn’t aware that he’s a “famous” bartender, who helped to re-establish that bar and the French 75 cocktail in particular.  After finding out that I live in San Francisco, he told me to look up one of his former bartenders at a Cajun/Creole restaurant there.  Chris also suggested some good Cajun restaurants outside of the Quarter.

For breakfast on Friday I walked a little ways out of the Quarter to Majoria’s Commerce Restaurant in the Central Business District.  Service was quite friendly.  If you were getting food to go, you ordered at the counter.  If you were eating there, you sat at a table and the waitress would come to you.  Nothing on the menu was more than $9.00 and the portions were hearty.  I had the CBB (half biscuit), which was a biscuit with a cheese/jalapeno/sausage sauce and an egg.  It was less than $5.00!  Then it was on to the Satchmo Summerfest in Jackson Square.  They were charging $5 admission, though everyone got a wristband with in and out privileges.  I watched several bands, but took a break and went back to Napoleon House when it got too hot.  Kieth welcomed me back, as did the other guys who called out “619 is here!”  Never having had a Pimm’s Cup before, Kieth said that the regular one was probably good for me.  I really enjoyed it; quite refreshing.  I also had a side of jambalaya, which was merely ok.  Then it was back to Jackson Square for more music.  For Happy Hour, I decided to give Vacherie a try, since it was so close to my apartment.  I had a couple of glasses of sparkling wine at $5 each.  The bartender, Thomas, asked “What took you so long?”  I had no idea what he was talking about until he reminded me that he’d spoken to me briefly when I’d walked by at least three hours earlier.  My dinner plans for Friday night were to eat at Jacques-Imo’s outside the Quarter.  As I was standing outside waiting for my Lyft driver, someone across the street was calling my name.  It was John, who I’d met working at Camellia Grill a few years ago!  He told me that he now works days instead of evenings and would be there on Sunday.  Unfortunately for me, Jacques-Imo’s had a sign that said they were closed until August 17th.  There really wasn’t much else in the area that appealed to me, so I took a Lyft back to the Quarter and went to Coop’s Place to try their “famous” jambalaya.  The service wasn’t overly friendly, the atmosphere was ok, the gumbo (rabbit, chicken, andouille) had a kick to it, but was very dry.  I wasn’t impressed in the least.  I later walked down to Frenchmen Street intending to check out the Wild Magnolias at dba and the Wild Tchoupitoulas at Checkpoint Charlie’s.  I perused the Frenchmen Street Art Market, too, but, much like last time, nothing truly caught my eye.  As I was standing outside sweating up a storm and listening to a brass band play on the corner, Steve struck up a conversation with me.  Since I was obviously very, very warm, he suggested that we go inside Dat Dog (where it was air conditioned) and he’d buy me a drink.  We ended up in there for at least three hours talking, drinking and people watching.  He was a nice guy and we had some interesting conversation.  Steve (who’s black) made me laugh when he said “The one thing about white people down here is that they’ve got SOUL!”  He said that because we were watching the two white tattooed bartenders bust some moves behind the bar!  He walked me partway back to my apartment, but I insisted that it was fine for me to walk the remainder of the way by myself.

Saturday afternoon was lunch at Galatoire’s.  Though I thought they opened at 11:00 a.m. and my reservation was for 11:30 a.m., they actually didn’t open until 11:30 a.m.  The host directed me to the bar next door at Galatoire’s 33 Bar and Steak.  I wasn’t up to drinking alcohol just yet, so the bartender was more than happy to give me water.  Once Galatoire’s was officially open, I ordered their three-course prix fixe menu – crab and okra gumbo (fine), chicken bonne femme (good) and custard with fresh berries (good) for a mere $20.00.  The gumbo didn’t blow me away; the chicken bonne femme was quite flavorful, though I was less enthused about the bone and skin; and the custard was good, not too eggy.  When my main course took awhile to come out, a staff member ran by and deposited a nice piece of garlic bread on my table with an apology for the wait, although I still had a warm baguette.  Several other staff members came by every so often to see if I was ok or needed anything. Saturday afternoon found me back at the Satchmo Summerfest.  This time when it got too hot, I dashed into Muriel’s for a quick drink.  I ran by Napoleon House again, but the bar was packed, so headed back to the apartment.  I’d read that the Wild Magnolias would be playing at Howlin’ Wolf at 10:00 p.m., so thought I’d try to see them again after White Linen Night.  Once in the apartment, I changed into a pretty white cotton dress from Bali, then had the Lyft driver drop me off over on Julia Street.  He said he’d just started driving for Lyft, that I was his second customer and that he’d already dropped his first customer at White Linen Night.  Several blocks of Julia Street were blocked off.  Art gallery doors were open and everyone was encouraged to go in and check out the art.  There was also a DJ in the street, plenty of food and drink to be had and even free WiFi.  Of course, the vast majority of people were wearing white.  It was such a nice summer evening event.  I wandered through some of the art galleries taking pictures, then walked back to the Quarter.  I went into Orleans Grape Vine for something quick to eat.  The male bartender who was about to get off was rather jovial.  The female bartender, Charlotte, on the other hand, seemed a tad surly.  I didn’t want to drink alcohol; only wanted water.  When I ordered still water from the male bartender, Charlotte made some comment like “Oh, major excitement – still water!”  I think she was being sarcastic because I’d asked her what the soup of the day was, as well as what was in the gumbo.  Both had crawfish, which I don’t care for, so I’d said to her “Well, both of those are out!”  I ended up ordering shrimp remoulade.  It was fine; the seashell-shaped dish it came in was far more interesting.  I stopped in to Patrick’s Bar Vin again, but Patrick still wasn’t there.  After a couple of drinks, I took a Lyft to Howlin’ Wolf.  Ok, so I arrived a little after 11:00 p.m., expecting the Wild Magnolias to still be performing.  I thought they’d play for half an hour, take a break, then play another half an hour.  Instead, a group of self-described “country” boys in a band with a horn section were cranking out some R&B type music – covers, as well as originals.  They were Tyler Kinchen and the Right Pieces.  A group of young girls were screaming directly in front of the stage.  Although the male singer was strutting about the stage in that Southern white boy way, I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.  I found the band wildly entertaining in a slightly disturbing (to me) way.  I stayed until their set was completely over, went back to my apartment and had the crap scared out of me when I entered in the dark, forgetting about the cat statue near the doorway!  After catching my breath, I went back down to Bourbon Street for a nightcap – a mudslide-flavored frozen daiquiri!

Breakfast on Sunday morning was at Camellia Grill on Chartres Street.  Although you just squeeze in wherever you can get a seat, John ended up being my waiter after all.  I ordered a bowl of gumbo, which, though not spicy, was good.  He was joking with me, saying something about me sneaking into town.  When I was leaving, he insisted on paying my bill.  What a nice guy!  A second line was scheduled for Sunday starting at 11:30 a.m. from St. Augustine Church in the Treme all the way back to the Quarter and the Satchmo Summerfest.  I walked down Governor Nicholls into the Treme, slightly unsure about the neighborhood.  There were so many pretty houses, though, and no one paid me any mind at all, except a homeless man who was very hungry.  He said that he’d really appreciate it if I’d go to the corner store and buy something/anything for him to eat.  Being short on time, I simply gave him the cash in my pocket, which he appreciated and thanked me profusely for all the way down the block.  When I reached the church, several people were hanging out on the stoops in front of the neighboring houses, waiting for the sermon to finish and the second line to start.  They started at least half an hour late, but it was SOOO much fun.  I wanted to dance along, but I was mainly running from one side to the other trying to nab a few great photos.  Whatever the first street was, it turned onto Esplanade and then on to Decatur back into the Quarter.  There were a couple of brass bands and steppers, some baby dolls, VIPs in cars, a man on stilts, etc.  People lined the streets taking pictures and joining in.  By late afternoon I went to try out Café Soule.  At first, I was the only customer.  I ordered jambalaya.  Although it didn’t taste quite “authentic” to me, I really enjoyed it, for some reason.  The restaurant was very cute inside in that French way.  As I was leaving, a couple at the bar motioned me over.  “We were sitting you next to you at Napoleon House the other day.  You’re from San Diego, right?”  they said.  I laughed and explained that the staff there likes to call me “619,” but I live in Northern California.  They were a very nice couple from South Carolina.  We mainly talked about which restaurants and bars we’d been to, as well as our travels.  They also told me a funny story about their friends booking a place with AirBnb for the first time.  Well, it ended up being a TRAILER, which they had to share with another couple, so…  they left!  Anyway, I’d had the waitress pack up my leftover jambalaya with some plastic cutlery and two to-go cups.  I’d run into the homeless man and his friend in the Quarter, and he was STILL thanking me.  When I went to look for him again, I could only find his friend.  So I gave his friend the leftover jambalaya and two Heinekens (plus the to-go cups) from my apartment.  Since someone had paid for MY breakfast that morning, it was only right that I pay it forward as much as possible.  Back at The Empire Bar, I ordered more absinthe from a different bartender named Michael.  This Michael didn’t put the absinthe in the dispenser, however.  He merely put the sugar cubes on the absinthe spoon over my glass, then handed me a small decanter with the ice water in it.  He was rather friendly with me, so I told him that he’d probably see me later that evening when I had dinner at Broussard’s.  He didn’t, though, as I had dinner there without passing by the bar again.  Broussard’s three-course prix fixe Coolinary menu was only $19.20, which was quite a deal because I had a chicken/corn/whatever soup (good taste, but a little watery), chicken Pontalba (the BEST thing I ate on the entire trip!) and bread pudding (complete failure; spongy and bland).  The service was extremely good.  I made one more stop at Patrick’s Bar Vin (still no Patrick!) before calling it an evening.

My intended breakfast on the final day was to be at Jimmy J’s.  Being too lazy to walk those last two blocks, however, I ended up dining at Café Fleur-de-Lis instead.  I ate the breakfast poutine, accompanied by a bacon Bloody Mary!  I had to go out with a bang!  My waitress, Claire, was hilarious.  I hadn’t quite finished my bacon Bloody Mary, so she gave me a to-go cup and I was on my way!  I wandered around taking more pictures.  One of the staff at Soniat House was kind enough to let me into their courtyard after he saw me gazing inside longingly.  It was beautiful and serene in there.  Once the shuttle picked me up and deposited me at the airport, I couldn’t resist eating one last time.  I had gumbo and jambalaya from Dooky Chase’s, but they were both mediocre.  I should have saved my money.

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Sunny South Beach

The end of May marked my return to South Beach for a week.  My AirBnB rental was near Washington and 8th, not that far from last year’s rental.  On this trip, I made it to the beach every single morning or afternoon and it was so relaxing for me.  My daily routine was generally sunbathing at the beach, shower, lunch somewhere in the area, window (or actual) shopping, brief rest, Happy Hour, possibly dinner and a few more drinks.

I saw a few of the bartender friends made on the last trip, but also made a few new bartender friends.  Someone said that I “collect” bartenders from around the world!  The best Happy Hour was on Thursdays at TiramesU, where women drink completely free for a couple of hours.  Say “hello” to George while you’re there.  Also, stop by Joe’s Stone Crab to give Brandon a shout out.  My favorite new bartender is Zorr, who bartends at the bar in the Blue Moon Hotel on Collins.  How can you not love a bartender who refers to you as “Beloved” and says that he likes your energy?  Go check that man out now!  You’re sure to be a fan.

One of my favorite meals was the Jamaican jerked chicken salad at Jimmyz Kitchen over on Alton Road.  I also really liked the arepas and empanadas at Charlotte Bakery on Washington Avenue.  Finally, if you’re vegan, make sure to eat at Full Bloom Gourmet Vegan on Belle Isle.  One of the owners is Alessandro, who used to live in San Francisco (where we met).  The restaurant has fresh, healthy cuisine, all of the décor is eco/green and the view outside is beautiful.

What I wasn’t aware of when booking the trip was that the Urban Beach Week takes place over Memorial Day weekend.  Thus, South Beach was swarming with tourists and policeman.  It was a bit much for me, so I doubt I’ll ever book during that time again, but it was still a great trip.

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Addendum to My Thoughts

In actuality, this is an entirely new post since it’s not attached to the “Gathering My Thoughts” post, but it’s still in the same vein.

In addition to losing the person I love most in this world, I’ve come to the realization that the loss of him also makes me feel old(er).  While he will always remain at 58 3/4, I will continue to age.  We once thought, or hoped, that we would grow old together.  We pictured ourselves doing many of the same things, but at a much slower pace – still being completely affectionate, still playing cards and board games, still watching all kinds of movies and possibly still doing dances like the Body Language and the Freaky Dekey!  I thought I’d live to my 80’s or 90’s, but now I don’t want to.  I can’t imagine 20 or 30 more years without him.  It’s been 7 weeks since his passing and the pain doesn’t go away.

In my checkered history of boyfriends (and other men in my life who weren’t “boyfriends”), no one has ever taken care of me in the way that Noy did.  He cooked for me (I possessed no cooking skills whatsoever), we cleaned together, we did each other’s laundry, he drove me to work when we lived in Burbank and my job was in West L.A., he picked me up from work whenever he could and he babied me when I was sick,  In college, when my hair was down to my waist, he took incredible joy in washing and brushing it.  When we lived together in L.A., I used to stand on the ledge in the shower and wash his!  I remember going out for his birthday with another Thai couple one year in L.A.  We drank at a bar or club over on La Cienega, but ended up at the Red Onion on Wilshire Boulevard.  We drank and danced, and danced and drank, and apparently drank some more.  When I woke up the next morning feeling queasy, there was a trail of clothes from the front door to the bedroom.  I felt like tossing my cookies, but couldn’t quite do it.  Noy volunteered to stick his finger down my throat, even if it meant that I would get sick all over him; I declined.  When I did finally feel able to toss my cookies on my own, he bundled me up in his robe, just in case I had an accident.  Once my stomach felt better, he went out and got wonton soup for me.

Our Chow Chow, Pea, was actually my dog, in the sense that I bought him and did most of his training.  Although his real name was Kolohe Pea, which meant “Naughty Bear” in Hawaiian, we called him Porky Pig whenever we were talking about him because he made a snorting/snuffling sound when he was happy; we referred to that as the “happy pig” sound.  I worked in the morning and Noy went to work in the afternoon.  Before Pea was completely paper trained, I instructed Noy to put Pea in the bathroom with newspaper, a water bowl, a towel and a toy whenever he left for work.  Yet when I’d get home from work, Pea would be out and running around the apartment, although Noy insisted that he’d put him in the bathroom every day before he left.  One afternoon we decided to see how he got out.  We put him in the bathroom and sat in the living room waiting.  Pea simply continually ran into the bathroom door until it eventually bounced open (it didn’t fit the doorway exactly), then he’d run to the sliding door between the little bathroom hallway and the dining room, stick his fat little paws in the corner and keep pushing at it and scratching until it opened, too.  It took him less than 5 minutes to escape the bathroom!  Pea was a fat little puppy who loved to eat.  At first, his little legs were too short to go down the stairs without him bumping his nose.  He had the same problem with curbs, so I’d always pick him up whenever we got to stairs and curbs.  Of course, he grew to be 35+ pounds, at which point, I refused to carry him around.  He had a funny habit of insisting on sitting in Noy’s lap while Noy drove, though.  Most dogs want to sit with their face sticking out the window of the car.  Pea did, too, but he had to be sitting in Noy’s lap while doing it or he just wasn’t happy!  Noy didn’t mind, so we’d indulge him.  Noy’s nephews told me that Noy had a pug in Thailand that followed him everywhere.  When I asked what his name was, they told me it was “Chow Chow!”  They never understood why he’d named him that, until I told them the story of Pea and showed them pictures.  He really did love Pea and vice versa.

You know how superstitious I am.  Noy and I were always meant to be, according to my beliefs.  My lucky numbers are odd ones, particularly 3, 5, 7 and 13.  His birthday was 5-30-57.  He came from a family of 5 children that were born girl-boy-girl-boy-girl; he was the second child and the first son.  I came from a family of 5 children as well.  Ours were born boy-girl-boy-girl-boy; I was also the second child and the first daughter.  Both of us even had a mole on nearly the same spot on our backs.

In college, I used to vividly dream that he died in my arms.  I didn’t dream it only once, but several times.  It seemed so real that I’d awake crying, then immediately call him to make sure that he was ok.  Although he didn’t die in my arms, I’d rather he had died in my arms than for us to be apart when he passed.

The other part of my superstition has to do with a black crow.  On January 2nd of this year, when I was in L.A. walking around our old neighborhood, possibly 4 blocks or so up the street from where we used to live, a black crow appeared and followed me for two blocks, squawking loudly the entire time.  I admit, Noy was the first thing that came to mind.  I didn’t think about it too seriously, though, because he hadn’t been sick recently and his health seemed to be holding steady.  On February 27th in San Francisco, as I was down at Fishermans Wharf, another black crow appeared in front of me by the cable cars in Aquatic Park.  Once again, he was quite noisy.  Although he flew away very briefly, he came back to the same spot in front of me and squawked.  The following afternoon over near Japantown, another extremely noisy black crow followed me for a few blocks again.  Once more, Noy came to mind, but I refused to believe that anything was wrong.  If he was sick, I was sure that he or his family would tell me.  At that point, I didn’t know that he’d already been in the hospital for nearly two weeks.  We generally communicated via Line every 2 or 3 weeks.  I’d sent him a message, but he hadn’t answered it yet.  I wasn’t alarmed because we didn’t necessarily answer each other right away; it might take a day or two.  Besides, he often went on weekend trips with his friends from high school and/or college.  I should have followed through on my initial feeling and checked on him, just to be sure of his health, but I didn’t – something I’ll regret forever.  Now my two loves, Noy and Pea, are together again.

The only other time I’ve felt such a loss was when my Filipino grandmother passed away in the late 70’s.  I’d just spent the summer with her in San Francisco, but had gone back to Kansas to start my next semester of college.  When she passed away, my only solace was Noy.  As soon as he found out, he drove over to the dorm, picked me up and took me back to his house.  For the next two, maybe three, days I did nothing other than sleep, cry and occasionally eat.  Noy would hold me while I cried, he’d feed me, he’d kiss me.  As usual, he was so caring.  Now that he’s gone, I find no solace in anyone.

 

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Gathering My Thoughts

My thoughts are still a jumble of memories and emotions.  For the most part, strangely, I don’t think it’s hit me yet how completely he’s gone from my life.  There are the photos that he sent to me via the Line app; there are messages on the Line app and a text or two on my cell phone.  There are E-mails that I sent to him.  After having lost touch with him for 25+ years, it kind of feels as if he’s on an extended vacation somewhere without internet.

When Noy came to pick me up at BKK back in October of 2014 and we saw each other again for the first time in all those years, it struck me how much the cigarette smoking and alcohol had aged him – far more than I’d expected, considering he’s only a few years older than me.  He’d walked right by me in the airport.  I can’t be sure if he wasn’t really paying attention or if he actually didn’t recognize me.  Although he definitely looked older and more frail, I immediately recognized his sweet face.  Always after that, whenever I saw frail-looking older Asian men, I wondered if they’d been beautiful young men like him.  It made me feel bad for the way that I sometimes dismiss older people when passing them on the street, in the store, at the movie theater, etc.

Shortly after we’d met and began dating, we’d celebrated Noy’s 21st birthday together.  We didn’t go out to dinner or dancing or anything like that.  Two of his three sisters, his younger brother and his older sister’s boyfriend were there, though.  His older sister and her boyfriend made some Thai food, while his sister that’s the same age as me made a pizza with whatever ingredients she could find.  There’s a Kodak of all of us, sans Noy (since he took the photo), sitting at the table frozen in time.  Who knew that 38 years later, he wouldn’t make it to his 59th birthday, but I would once again be reunited with those two sisters and his brother in Bangkok to send him on his journey?

We used to go to the movies a lot, both in Kansas and in L.A.  In Kansas, when we were in college, the walk-in movie theaters cost $2.50 and the drive-in movies cost $2.00.  Rather than popcorn and Swedish fish, we always took our own shrimp chips and Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate bars; I’d inevitably exit the theater with chocolate smeared somewhere on my clothing!  The first movie we ever saw together was “The Goodbye Girl” at a walk-in theater.  We also saw “Star Wars,” “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease,” among others, in Kansas.  He had a bunch of international friends, most of whom were single, who often went along with us – guys from Colombia, Venezuela, Lebanon, Vietnam and a few other Thai guys.  In L.A., I remember seeing “The Road Warrior,” “The Breakfast Club,” “E.T.” and “Year of the Dragon” with him, three of them at Mann’s Chinese Theater.

The year and a half or so that we were apart (him in Kansas, then in Arizona; me in Northern California), I’d written a “diary” to him.  It was a thin, blue “Thinking of U” notebook.  Whenever I’d miss him, I’d write something in the diary to him.  I also wrote in there after he came to see me over the holidays and after spending Spring Break with him in Arizona.  I wrote in it a few days before flying from Casper, Wyoming to L.A. to live with him and begin our life together.  I wrote to him in there once after we’d broken up.  I wrote on the final page after we’d reconnected via telephone, but had yet to see each other.  When I saw him that October, I gave the diary to him.  “It must be bad,” he said.  “It’s not bad at all!” I insisted.  Neither of us ever mentioned the diary again.  I wasn’t sure if he’d ever actually read it, since he didn’t like to read in English.  It wouldn’t have surprised me if he threw it away or never looked at it at all.  However, when he passed away, I asked his family to see if they could find it.  If it was still around, I wanted it back, so as not to forget any of those precious memories that I’d written about.  One of his nephews managed to find it and sent me a picture of it on Line to make sure that it was the correct “diary.”  The nephew is still currently in Bangkok, but is returning to the U.S. at the end of this month.  He’s promised to bring the diary with him, then mail it to me from his home state.  In the picture that he sent me, there were several other papers stored inside the diary.  That makes me believe that Noy at least opened it and read part of it, probably using some of those papers as a bookmark.  It also makes me wonder if reading it rekindled all the wonder of our first love and was instrumental in his decision to return to the U.S. to visit in June, although it will never come to be now.

A few weeks ago, the person that introduced us back in college called me.  She said that she’d been thinking about me and wondering how I was doing.  Obviously, she’s aware how hard I’m taking this; she just wanted to tell me that she’s there for me.  When I was with Noy in L.A., I was sort of insular, in the sense that I only had 2 or 3 people that I hung out with.  If I wasn’t doing things alone or playing with my Chow Chow, I was usually with him and/or his Thai friends.  Therefore, most of the people who knew our history together were from our college days; I’ve lost touch with many of them.  It’s difficult for me to talk to any of my current friends about him, as I don’t think any of them truly understand how deeply I loved him or how much I’m grieving.

Every night when I go to bed, I sleep with his picture over my heart.  I’ve never slept well in San Francisco, anyway, but now it’s even worse.  I wake up constantly throughout the night and always call for him.  I know he can hear me.  I felt his presence a couple of days after my return from Bangkok, the weekend after that and a few more times.  Yet, because I’m selfish and miss him so terribly, I wish that he’d come to me every night to make this transition a little easier.

It’s probably hardest for me in the morning.  I remember how I kissed him and my Chow Chow “goodbye” every morning before I went to work.  Noy would be half asleep in bed and my Chow Chow would be sitting by the window, waiting for my kiss on the top of his nose.  Even when I’d be angry with Noy, I’d always kiss him goodbye because I’d be so worried that something might happen to him that day, then I’d regret not kissing him.

I went to a movie last night by myself.  It was about some guy remembering his youth, his lost loves, his friendships, all the parties, etc.  When he finally spent the night with the woman who was probably his deepest love, it showed them cuddled up in the morning together.  Even that made me cry.

All the clichés ring true.  “Hindsight is 20/20.”  “You never know what you had until you lose it.”

I don’t have a point to this post; just reminiscing and continuing to mourn the loss of him.  Please bear with me while I try to get through this.

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