Sunday, March 26, 2017

Birthday Wishlist

Dear God,

First of all, I'm sorry for submitting this wishlist to you several days after my actual birthday. If you really are omniscient as they say, I suppose you already knew that I got drunk early (around 8 a.m.) on my birthday and didn't regain my sobriety until the following morning. And then, you know, life happened so I haven't been able to make time to create this list until now.

Also, sorry for not having been convinced of your existence.....even at this very moment. But I'll ask for your assistance anyway just out of desperation.

Please grant me Pilates superpower. Make me a better teacher than Joseph Pilates himself. I'm sure you are aware that I'm severely incompetent at everything else in life. I mean, for me, going a day without spilling my food or putting  my clothes on inside out is quite a miracle. You know I once believed I was a pretty good writer. I even went to grad school and got a degree in Creative Writing. But look at this blog, God. Look at it. I'm lucky the university is kind enough not to revoke my degree. Pilates is the one and only thing I might have a real knack for. And I've been working my butt off on it. I've been training so hard I can hear my trapezius and gluteus maximus scream obscenities at me in my sleep. So make this career happen, please.

For my kitchen, I'd love these 3 things:
1. Cookware, utensils and dishes that clean themselves right after use
2. A refrigerator that audibly reminds me a few days before something in it is about to become stinky, moldy, or rotten
3. Masaharu Morimoto...well, maybe Bobby Flay and Marc Forgione, too....well, just give me all of the Iron Chefs except Geoffrey Zakarian.

For my home spa, I want an infrared sauna, equipped with four pairs of biomimetic hands that can massage my whole body at once. I also want a needle projector that can launch its projectiles at extremely precise acupuncture points.

For my bedroom, I'd like to get a snore absorber and a dream eliminator, both of which are for my husband. As you know, I'm an insomniac. And it hasn't been very advantageous to share a bed with a chronic snorer who, once in a while, would jump up in bed and turn on all the lights because he thinks the giant spider in his dream is real.

Please make some size adjustment for my left and right boobs. Right now they're kind of lopsided.

Please allow me unlimited access to George R.R. Martin's brain.

Please give me Herculean pelvic-floor muscles...well, I guess that's part of my Pilates superpower. I apologize for being redundant.

Please give me a mastery in the art of not giving a shit. Well, I think I still want to give some shit, though. Let me rephrase. Please help me give a shit judiciously. And please grant me the strength to give absolutely no shit to things and people that ultimately don't matter.

I know I'm not supposed to use this occasion to ask for something with vengeful or malicious purposes, but you must understand that an acquaintance of mine has recently annoyed me quite a bit. And he is utterly clueless about my indignation. His oblivion is by far more disturbing than his wrongdoing itself. You know whom I'm talking about. Right, God? Right? Yeah, him. I'd really like you to take away one thing that matters to him tremendously: his lustrous beard. Make it all fall out in one night. Please also deprive him of the ability to regrow it. If he does try, let it be sparse, patchy and breathtakingly pathetic. But please have some mercy and spare his eyebrows, lashes, as well as his head and body hair. Without that beard, all he has left is his plain, dumb face. That's a harsh enough punishment already.

Now the last thing on my wishlist, dear God, is for you to go back and reread this from the beginning. I've made many detailed, specific requests. Please don't skip or overlook anything. Make sure you fulfill them all correctly. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

My Online Dating Profile


Hi potential boyfriend, I chose this profile picture NOT because I'm into slasher films. This is just the way my face looks most of the time.

I'm a few inches taller than Peter Dinklage, marginally more attractive than Danny DeVito, and have no discernible talents.

Do not expect me to say anything witty, intelligent or remotely sensible.

Do not expect me to wear clean socks.

Do not expect me to smell like clean socks....or anything clean.

Please bring proof of employment and residence to our first meeting. Mind you I'm not a gold-digger. I just want to make sure you don't live in a cardboard box under a freeway.

My first language is Thai, but I can communicate in English adequately. If you can't speak either Thai or English fluently, however, I suggest we both take a sign language course, or better yet, intensive telepathy.

Just because I like yoga, Pilates and meditation, doesn't mean you should take me to a hippie vegan restaurant on our first date. I honestly can't go a day without meat or seafood or at least eggs. But if you really want to take me to a meatless place, I guess I'll cooperate, pretend to enjoy my meal there, and maybe even compliment the food out of respect. Once we're done and ready to leave, I'll grab a sharpened pork-chop bone from my purse (yeah, I carry that around all the time) and stab you in the heart. In. The. Heart.

I have horrible taste in music. I can't sing. I can't play any instrument. So if you're a music snob, please don't bother to read the rest of my profile. Leave. Forget about me. And never come back. It's just not meant to be.

I adore beards. If you don't already have it, please grow one. Not the "swamp people" kind of beards, though. More like Deandre Levy's beard. If you'd never heard of him, just google him. Once you see him, you'd know the man puts a lot of effort into taking care of that majestic beard. His beard routine probably goes like this: wash with fragrance-free baby shampoo, gently massage with Moroccan oil in a circular motion for 30 minutes, 55 strokes of brushing, 2 capsules of beard vitamin before each meal, and play Beethoven no. 9 to the beard right before bedtime.

I have to confess I'm not that into sex. Four times a month is my limit. If we do it more than that in one month, the extra sessions will be deducted from the following months. For example, 6 times in March means only twice in April. And twelve times in October means no coitus for the rest of the year.

Another confession: I'm lazy and socially awkward and, let me say this once more, do not smell clean. So instead of going out and partying, I recommend this one simple activity we could do together--it's called reading. You have a book of your choice, and I have mine. They have to be real books, though. Not eBooks. (But if you're so gungho about saving trees and shit, fine! Bring your iPad or Kindle or whatever.) Then we sit on a couch or a bed or a trampoline or the edge of a cliff, and quietly read our books together, while holding hands. Wouldn't that be nice?

Things that make me happy: my mom sitting silently (which almost never happens), toe socks, lobster head fat, that sensation of putting my hand into a sack of rice and wiggling my fingers, the resurrection of Jon Snow.

Things that make me sad: cellulite on my thighs, soggy fried chicken, the possibility that ghosts may not actually exist, the fact that I used to watch The Apprentice, the castration of Theon Greyjoy.

I think you've heard enough about me now. If you're interested, please DO NOT contact me. I'm kind of in the process of negotiation for an open marriage with my husband. This unfortunately could take time. He might eventually agree to it when I'm in my sixties or something. If you want to stick around and wait, feel free to do so. It's only about 30 more years. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Pilates Teacher Training with Rael



"Om, are you breathing?" my instructor lovingly yelled at me from across the studio. A couple weekends ago, my teacher-training journey officially began at BASI Studio in Costa Mesa. Less than an hour into the lesson, I already got yelled at (LOVINGLY!) by Rael Isacowitz, the founder of BASI, my teacher and my Pilates God. We were doing a breathing exercise, so of course, I was, um, breathing. But I guess I was breathing too stingily, timidly, ineffectively. Instead of responding "yes," I just looked at him, wide-eyed and repeatedly nodded like a dashboard bobble-head. "Breathe deeper," he said, then ran over to me and adjusted my tilted head back to center. 

There are many Pilates principles to abide by, but awareness and precision seemed to be Rael's main focus. And sadly, they are the two qualities I innately lack. I'm a pathological daydreamer, always colored outside the lines as a child, and never follow any cooking recipe to a tee as an adult. Everything about Pilates goes against my nature. But that might be why I fell in love with it in the first place. It makes me "live in my body," an unfamiliar experience I can also kind of get from meditation, yoga and swimming. But none of these three really grants me as much mind-body connection as Pilates does. 

Where do I usually live if not in my body? Well, a lot of places. Sometimes nonexistent places. Sometimes alone. Sometimes with someone or people. For example, my body might be sitting on a toilet, doing its morning routine, but in my head, I'm having a meaningful conversation inside a tipi with my swoonworthy acupuncturist. (Note to husband: Do not worry! Judging from his cadence and obsession with my toe socks, the needle man is more than likely gay.) My "world of mind" often feels so real, even more real than reality. I daydream when I shower. When I eat. When I cook. When I try to write. When I try to sleep. Even when I drive (lucky for fellow humans, I rarely drive). 

With Pilates, there's little chance for a wandering mind. The second your mind drifts could be the moment a split turns into a plunge that ends up as a kiss between your delicate lips and the metal foot bar. Okay, that's an extreme example. But it's the same idea with any Pilates exercise; even while doing something much less advanced than a split, mindfulness is of the utmost importance. 

Rael could detect my sneaky mind, though. He knew it wasn't always there with my body 100% on the mat and reformer. And he yelled at me a few more times that weekend (always lovingly). My breathing was too choppy, my rhythm too hasty, my movement too inattentive. I must have been one of his worst students, but I had the best times learning from him. As loud, critical and insanely intense as he was, I enjoyed every moment of the training. Rael is my best teacher. Not just the best Pilates teacher, but the best teacher I've ever had, surpassing the sarcastically witty Professor Wright who got me hooked on creative writing in third year of college and the adorably funny Professor Toise who made me love Henry James in grad school. 

I mean, yeah, he's eccentric. He'd get way too excited just by seeing a student tucking their pelvis at the right time. He probably knows his emotional intensity is a bit much, but he can't help himself. He fucking loves Pilates. And he loves teaching even more. And it shows. Even his sweat smells like a cocktail of passion and dedication. It's like every moment he spends teaching us matters so, so, so deeply to him. I don't know for sure if Rael carries this same intensity, this same passion, with him outside of class, but I think he probably does. And that's a great way to live. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

An Inspiration from My Thailand Vacation


It was a blustery morning when this group of holy men strolled into the parking lot of Legendha Hotel, where my family and I stayed on our vacation. The wind, crisp and relentlessly ruffling the ends of their saffron robes, didn't seem to bother them. My mom and some other hotel guests had lined up with packaged food in their hands, waiting for the alms round to begin. Growing up in Thailand, I'd never given much thought about monks and their extremely modest way of living. Seeing them roam the streets was as uninspiring as seeing a mailman put letters into my mailbox. To the young me, they were just boring orange people who walked around in the mornings, wore the same outfits all the time, got food for free, meditated most of the day, and didn't do much else. 

As an expat revisiting my home country, I found this to be a lovely sight. The youngest monk in the middle was only six and had been ordained at the age of three. It would be preposterous to imagine a toddler saying, "Gee, I'm sick of having my parents feed and clothe me. I'd rather wake up at four every morning and fend for myself!" He apparently didn't enter monkhood on his own volition. And yet, he was one of the happiest kids I'd ever seen. Having to get up early, carry a heavy alms bowl around his neck, and walk barefoot for miles didn't seem to put a damper on his day. 

To him, this daily routine wasn't drudgery. To him, not having a say in what he eats wasn't a bad thing. His eyes grew wide with excitement as he saw those people who showed up for the alms giving (although technically as a monk, he wasn't supposed to express any emotion!). He couldn't even really tell what kind of food he was about to receive, whether it would be some of his favorites or not, but he couldn't have looked any more elated and grateful. There was unrestrainable curiosity in his little face and a slight sense of mischievousness in his smile. 

When I was his age, I was sometimes served breakfast in bed, my mother would never let me go outside without my shoes, and I'm sure my wardrobe was much more abundant and stylish than his. I had what's considered to be a normal childhood. Well fed. Well protected. Not neglected. Not abused. I also remember, however, a chronic sense of inferiority at that early age, due to the fact that my mother somehow managed to put me in a "rich kids' school" although our family wasn't that wealthy. Most of my classmates had cooler shoes, cuter barrettes, better toys, and were, of course, driven to school in nicer cars. 

It all started from there--my lifelong habit of comparing myself to others, trying to be seen as "one of them," striving to be better than (or at least about as good as) those I envied. And it wasn't just about social status. Somehow the chronic sense of inferiority also made me view my copious quirks as personality defects. I often tried to cater to whatever "audience" I had in front of me; fitting in was my ultimate goal. I would only be my completely genuine self to those who, like me, had their own quirks. Needless to say, in my thirty-something years on earth, I feel like I've had tons of acquaintances and very few friends. Yeah, pretty fucked up. 

I'm not saying seeing that child monk was my light-bulb moment. The encounter was more like a reminder of what I'd been contemplating. Before this vacation, I'd been tired of my old pattern of thinking for quite some time. I already reached some of the goals that I'd set out to achieve, which definitely gave me some satisfaction. But still, there was no real sense of contentment. I was still on the hamster wheel, constantly trying to fulfill the ideal concept of who I thought I should be, questioning what people were thinking of me and things I did, pathetically longing for others' admiration and approval. And then when I saw him--the child monk, so deprived of worldly privileges but so jolly and so unapologetically himself--it confirmed how crappy my lifelong attitude had been. 

No, I'm not moving into a monastery. I'm not giving up HBO, my iPhone, ice-cream feasts, and late night margaritas. Neither am I taking a soul-searching journey across the globe like that lady who wrote Eat, Pray, Love. (Well, I'd actually love to but don't have that kind of budget!) But I've made some drastic changes. I quit my job (the good-sounding, nice-paying job I wretchedly hated). I'm taking a year off from working. I'm going to finish my Pilates teacher training, write more often, spend more time on my graphic-design hobby, go through stacks of the partially-read New Yorkers dating back to 2013, and do whatever my curiosity leads me to do. I won't call this a soul-searching journey. I don't need a flashlight, GPS or spiritual sherpa to find my soul. I've always known who I am and what I want. I've just never had enough courage or self-compassion to accept it. At this very moment, I still don't. But I'm working on it. 

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Thailand Food Adventures



Peking Duck - Hua Seng Hong Restaurant, Bangkok

Fact (NOT hyperbole): this ducky dish possesses the mystical power to convert duck haters into duck fanatics. Unlike Peking duck served in the U.S., this one is made with duck skin only, and its non-greasy crispiness is unparalleled. Wrap a piece of this crispy goodness in a soft, silk-thin rice pancake along with fresh vegetables and a spoonful of hoisin-based sauce, put it in your mouth, and a tastebud euphoria shall ensue! 


Spicy Stir-Fried Razor Clams - Krua Bang Tabun, Petchaburi

At a glance, these clams may seem like solidified Martian sperm. Upon closer observation, well, they still resemble some sort of alien secretions. Beauty might not be one of this dish's attributes, but deliciousness certainly is. As weird-looking as they are, these razor clams are cooked to perfection--tender, boldly flavored, and delicately spiced with aromatic herbs, rendering this dish an absolute must-try. 


Spicy Crab-Roe Dip with Sea Beans - Krua Bang Tabun, Phetchaburi

Made with rich, unctuous crab roe and a bunch of who-knows-what ingredients, it is a dish that seems deceivingly simple but is surprisingly complex in flavor. It comes with fresh vegetables including cabbage, string beans, cucumber, galangal (ginger's close cousin), and the most succulent of all, blanched sea beans topped with thick coconut cream. Crab-roe dip and blanched sea beans, in my not so humble opinion, should make it to the Food-Duo Hall of Fame, alongside peanut butter and jelly, hummus and pita, biscuits and gravy, and other world-renowned pairs.  




Khao Perp (Sukhothai Noodle Soup) - Khao Perp Yai Kreung, Sukhothai 

Flavor-wise, there's nothing extraordinary about this dish--just a delicious bowl of noodle soup with a nice broth and good ingredients--but the unique preparation of it and the restaurant's surroundings are what make one's experience here a little dining adventure. First of all, the noodles are prepared fresh right there in the outdoor kitchen, on the rudimentary clay stove with huge firewood branches partially sticking out. What's more? This family-run open-air eatery is charmingly situated in the courtyard of their own house, in a pretty remote area of town encircled by lush greenery.  A few chicken coops and wandering house cats add to the homespun atmosphere. And thanks to the family's genuine hospitality, one can't help but feel more like a guest than a customer. 


Colorful Thai Pasta and Curries - Khanomchin Baan Na, Sukhothai

I don't usually use the word "cute" to describe food unless it's an artistically frosted cupcake, a resplendent jar of assorted candy or a cake model of Snoopy. This curry-centric restaurant, though, is an exception, offering an outstanding demonstration that savory dishes can be cute, too. Colorizing pasta isn't such a hard task, but arranging it into neat bite-size bundles deserves extra appreciation. Accompanied by a dazzling array of authentic Thai curries, served in dainty ceramic bowls, it is a meal to remember indeed. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Oz


Going to a restaurant to cook your own food might sound counter-intuitive, but there's also something indulgent and exuberantly festive about Oz Korean BBQ. As nondescript as its interior looks, as pedestrian as most of the food items are, I do love this place. At $20 for all you can eat, it's like meat lovers' Disneyland. 

The scrumptious, multi-sensory experience begins as the tabletop grill is turned on and trays of raw marinated meat are served. Grab the tongs, throw some meat into the shallow pit, listen to the griddle sizzle, and watch your Galbi ribs turn from pink to brown, all while luxuriating in a billow of barbecue aroma (Yes, your hair and clothes will inevitably smell like Bulgogi for hours afterwards!). Once in a while, especially if you cook fat-laden pork jowl or belly, there will be flare-ups big enough to cause a little bit of excitement, but not so threatening that you have to be concerned about your eyebrows. Most diners eat and grill at the same time with no intervals. It does require multi-tasking skills and watchful eyes; those thin slices of meat cook and burn fast. Sometimes we even see ambidextrous eaters wielding chopsticks in one hand and tongs in the other. 

Juicy piles of Bulgogi populate most tables. Extraordinary? No. But it certainly meets the standards of one discriminating Bulgogi-inspector, aka me. The chili pork and sesame beef deserve a good round of applause for their bold flavor and velveteen tenderness. The Galbi ribs, both the Korean and Hawaiian versions, are well-seasoned and succulent. However, there's no clear distinction between the two, except for the chunks of canned pineapple (unmistakably canned pineapple!) strewn on the latter. Most seafood items, such as calamari and shrimp, suffer a bit from timid seasoning. But the jumbo spicy mussels are sure to not disappoint adventurous palates. 

Once the grill is off and the table is cleared, I'm usually ridden with guilt. I secretly rebuke myself for my earthly indulgence, bloated belly, overworking digestive tract, and repulsive Bulgogi burps. And yet, such self-shaming is quickly overcome by the sense of euphoria emanating from my gluttonous soul. "So when are we coming back here for another debauchery?" the inner glutton always asks. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

How to Let Loose Your Inner Gecko


Give your inner gecko a gangster nickname and start using that name at Starbucks. Even if you've been going to that particular Starbucks for years and all the baristas have known you as Mo, just politely insist they must now call you "Demonicus Goo Goo." (Yeah, that's actually my inner gecko's name.)

Make a pilgrimage to a place like Thailand or Mexico, where deep-fried bugs are considered hearty snacks. Tip: crickets and grasshoppers are the most cherished among geckokind. 


When feeling threatened or irritated at work, either by a boss or a coworker, don't engage in an altercation. Instead, spit at your workplace offender, utter rapid guttural hisses and ominously crawl away. 

While dining out, you may choose to maintain proper restaurant etiquette but you must also stay true to your reptilian nature. For example, NEVER put a forkful of steak into your mouth. Rather, hold the fork about an inch away from your face, then snatch that piece of filet mignon with your powerful tongue.


Don’t bother creating a self-aggrandizing profile filled with filtered selfies on a dating site. Simply attach an audible file of your mating call. (The barkier, the more lascivious!) That alone speaks volumes. 



Disclaimer

I will take no responsibility if the following (but not limited to) issues occur: cricket-scented loose stools, phantom tail syndrome, acute tongue cramps, irrepressible aversion to human language, loss of relationships, involuntary commitment to a mental hospital, expulsion from society.