Monday, December 11, 2006

I have been Santa-ed by Staples

Part laziness, part lack of excitement--there aren't too many reasons for my not updating this blog since Thanksgiving. The last couple of weeks had some ups and downs. Here's a quick rundown:

Day after Thanksgiving--interview shoppers outside, get thrown out of Wal-Mart.
Saturday after Thanksgiving--my mother comes to visit for a week.
Dec. 2-3--attend my friend Sunanda's wedding reception (Mmmm...Indian food!) , go on a cupcake crawl to a couple of bakeries around LA, catch up with several old friends, eat lunch on the patio of a cafe on Melrose (it was just a very LA thing to do--an interesting thing for someone who just came from Phoenix)

In the last week and a half, there have been at least 3 occasions where death kept me overtime at work. I keep getting obit assignments like half an hour before my work day ends.

Maybe about 10 days ago, I had to write an obit for this clown named Emmett Kelly Jr. I felt like Mary Tyler Moore, laughing yet feeling bad about Chuckles. Clowns kind of scare me. That was just a strange assignment.
Last week, I had to write a couple of obits, including one for a soldier who died in Iraq. It did get to a point where I really did not want to talk to another person who had just lost a loved one. You have to remember to show some sympathy and not just dive into asking questions. And "I'm so sorry for your loss" always feels so trite. Well, I'm crossing my fingers that I won't have to talk to anyone for any obit as we get closer to Chrismtas.

Ah, now on to the anecdote behind my entry title. I ordered a bunch of personalized items as X-mas gifts from to be picked up at my local Staples. I get this message on Dec. 1 from my local Staples that my order will be ready in five days. So, I show up six days later -- going out of my way off my usual route home--and the guy can't find my order. Since I was out of town last weekend, I was able to call this morning and talk to the woman who manages the print center. She assures me that my order will be ready by 6 p.m. tonight because the printer will be fixed by noon. So, I show up after work and this really nice, older gentleman named Hank looks everywhere and he can tell that I'm getting frustrated. I recount how this is the second time I was told my order would be ready and it's not. So, he finally gets a hold of the manager I spoke with and is stuck on the phone. Meanwhile, a couple of people are lining up for Hank's help. And I'm sitting on a stool off to the side looking very bored.

Being me, I have to project my exasperation to other customers. I ask a woman in line if she's waiting for a personalized item. She says no and asks me what's wrong. Being me, I quickly dive into my plight and how I'm the reason the clerk is stuck on the phone. She gives me her sympathy and says she' s just there to make copies for her daughter but doesn't know how to make 2-sided copies. So, I show her how to use the copier and make her copies for her. It was at that point I figured intros were in order and the woman introduced herself as Elaine.

At that point Hank gets off the phone and Elaine tells him she was already helped, lol. Hank says to me, "I know. I've been talking you up big. I said (to the manager), 'Here's this girl who's mad at us for misplacing her order and she's helping our customers.'" So, Hank then gave me the bad news that the manager had rushed someone else's order thinking it was mine. So, mine was still not ready!

I started giving a schpiel about how Staples should at least deliver my order to my office. It's ridiculous to keep coming out there for nothing. Luckily, Hank read my mind. He said the manager not only agreed to have a courier deliver my order to my work, but to give me my order free of charge. Elaine, who had stuck around to hear how my situation would be resolved, went "GOOD!" It was funny to have this woman I just met sticking up for me, LOL.

If it all holds true, then my X-mas budget will have a signifcant bump. What a funny day. And to think I was worried it would be a completely crappy Monday because some woman called me a f---ing bitch this morning cuz where I stopped on the road during a red light, I was blocking the driveway to a Burger King she wanted to get into. Geez, if I had acted like her at Staples, I would've gotten squat--and rightly so.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Happy Turkey Day

However, I feel like the only turkey. I don't get Friday off. Darn. I have to go out before 5 a.m. on Friday to cover the Black Friday shopping craze. Double darn. Thankful, thankful, what am I thankful for? Heck, I'll be thankful when it's Saturday!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Toying with a Rockwell

Ziggurat is the latest cool word I have discovered. According to Webster, it is "an ancient Mesopotamian temple tower consisting of a lofty pyramidal structure built in successive stages with outside staircases and a shrine at the top." It's also what's used to describe Maya II, this public installation erected by Norman Rockwell's son, Jarvis, in downtown Scottsdale. After his father died in 1979, Jarvis began collecting all sorts of toys--mostly action figures. I have no idea if one event had anything to do with the other. But in a nutshell, a bunch of volunteers helped him line up hundreds of toys on a pyramid. It's the second time he's exhibited his toys (hence the II in Maya II and Maya is sanskrit for "illusion"). The installation can be interpreted a number of different ways: a slice of childhood nostalgia, a commentary on how the same devotion people feel for deities is sometimes conveyed to pop culture idols, a commentary on mass consumerism, etc.

The piece definiteily stops people in their tracks. I went down to the atrium of the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts where it's on display. It was pretty interesting to overhear other onlookers get excited when they saw an action figure they recognized. Just about every cartoon and comic book character was represented. They were grouped together to set up all these little stories taking place on one narrative. I spotted figures from "He-Man" (Evil-Lynn), "The Simpsons," every Disney movie, many popular Marvel and DC comics, Princess Xena hugging an MC Hammer doll, "Star Wars," "Star Trek," and Japanese pop art from Yoshitomo Nara.

The best part was that Jarvis was there himself and I got to chat with him for a few minutes. A really adorable, jovial 75-year-old man. For those of you who don't know, Norman Rockwell is one of my favorite artists. I like the sentiments and images he portrayed in his art, though I know it was all part of an idealized reality. But it was so cool to talk about those things with his son. He thought I was right on when I said everyone wants those feelings of comfort that a Rockwell painting evokes, even if it's all part of a fantasy. I told him I always wanted to go to the East coast and see a "Norman Rockwell" town. Jarvis said he grew up in that kind of place and it wasn't like his Dad's works. He was pretty frank. He said his region had one of the highest suicide rates. It got so cold in the winter, there was no TV and not much else to do. People were lonely or suffered from anxiety. It's funny. Norman Rockwell was popular before Andy Warhol and other pop artists came along, before there was a pop culture. Now, his art has sort of become part of popular culture and here's Jarvis poking fun at it in a different medium. I know there's some irony in there somewhere.

Maya II -- every fan boy's dream -- at least as much of it that could fit into a camera lens. Posted by Picasa

Why is Spock holding a purse? Posted by Picasa

Jarvis sets some toys straight. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


In some ways, Halloween is sooo much cooler than Christmas. For the occasion, I thought I'd experiment-bake. I followed this recipe from my cupcake recipe book for "Buried Alive" cupcakes. See below my rather morbid cupcakes. Gives a new take on 'candy ass.' I was going to stick a leg too but it looked too much like some other body part of the male anatomy. Hope y'all have a great and somewhat spooky day!

Butt wait, one more shot Posted by Picasa

Reaching with both hands Posted by Picasa

Buried up to his neck Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

No such thing as Santa

Excuse me while I vent for a bit. So, at work, we have to sign up next to each week on a calendar grid for time off requests. For some reason, the time between X-mas and New Year's was done in December of last year! So, I totally have no pull on that. I wanted to ask for Tuesday, Dec. 26 off. My co-worker urged me to go ahead and ask anyway because, as she said, "It's Christmas." Alas, I got shot down by my boss right away. So, this means I have to make it back to Phoenix on Christmas Day. Grrr... I suppose I could just spend Christmas here but...COME ON! Holidays are supposed to be spent with family. The only nice thing is my mother was generous enough to agree to fly with me. I don't think I could deal with flying solo back to Phoenix on Christmas, while other people will be with their families. I hope Santa Claus finds other ways to show me some love. Right now, I ain't feeling it.

In the "Oh no you didn't!" department, I caught wind of this via
Angry Asian Man's blog:

Chinese Laundry Bag

Nobody knows laundry like the Chinese? If the copywriter thought he/she was being funny...WRONG.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Memorial plans gone amok

I swear, I am still interested in keeping up this thing. It's just a lot of time, I'm not sure what I do is worth writing home about.

Anyway...a week ago, I attended this press conference addressing the controversy surrounding Arizona's Sept. 11 memorial which was unveiled, blessed, sprinkled with pixie dust, etc. on the fifth anniversary of the attacks. The press briefing was led by the chairman of the memorial commission, a firefighter. My story made the A-wire, which means the national wire. Bob, one of our sports writers, told me he saw my byline on Yahoo!

Arizona Sept. 11 memorial to be reviewed

I haven't seen the memorial upclose. But it's a bunch of stainless steel panels placed in the shape of an ellipse, surrounding a piece of debris from the World Trade Center. Each panel has quotes taken from news reports made during and in the aftermath of Sept. 11. This whole brouhaha started because some very conservative bloggers called it an anti-American shrine because some of the quotes are critical of U.S. policy and action. And then the dorky Republican candidate for governor, Len Munsil, who is behind in the polls, ran with it because he is struggling to gain any momentum. He's so not a contender. His campaign actually issued a press release more or less saying Janet Napolitano, who will likely get re-elected, doesn't care about kids because she wouldn't change a set date for a debate that falls on Munsil's kid's birthday. Hehe, when George W. was in Phoenix last Wednesday stumping at a fundraiser, he gave "Lee Munsil" a shout-out. Sad.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Mom, I'd like you to meet...

My mom is in town this week. Though it was a pre-planned visit, her trip coincides with my attempt to overcome whatever post-viral syndrome I have. In case you're not one of the 100 people I whined to, I got sick in July from dehydration and have not been the same ever since. Every time I think I'm getting back to my idea of normal, I have some kind of setback. Last week, I visited the white porcelain god. I have no idea why I felt the need to hurl. And the next night, I felt something similar and ended up falling asleep on my back, sprawled across the bathroom floor. At least I think I slept, not passed out. No worries, I lay there for only half an hour. Now I'm riddled with leg and neck aches and have to reintroduce heavier foods to my belly. Let me just take a moment to vent: I F***IN' HATE PHOENIX SUMMER WEATHER!! I think World Cup players have shown soccer balls more kindness than the climate here has to me. I've already seen my doctor here twice and there's not much more she can say than "drink plenty of fluids." And I know this sounds silly, but when I come back to visit in October for my high school reunion, I plan to go see a doctor at the Sunnyvale clinic, as though being a Sunnyvale doctor will automatically make a physician more comforting in my eyes. Well, I hope by the end of October, I'll be healthy and able to handle the junk food I like.

It's been kind of neat showing my mom what a typical work week is like for me, what my "Phoenix life" is like. On Monday, I showed her our new bureau -- though we haven't moved in yet. I was going to take her into our current office to introduce her to a couple of people, but then I remembered one of our off-color sports writers was in there and our broadcast reporter who typically yells out curse-word laden tirades. So, I changed my mind. The next day, Barb, our accounts payable person, asked me what Mom was doing to amuse herself. I said she was down in the lobby reading since I got to work. Some others, including my boss, overheard. They were worried that Mom was bored out of her mind. Despite my saying, "She's getting oxygen; she's fine," they thought I should urge her to go somewhere. Anyway, since they now knew Mom was in the building, I think they thought I was trying to hide her or something. So after we ate lunch, I brought Ma up to meet everyone. But I made sure to coach her first (i.e. Do NOT start any sentence with "When Terry was little..."). It's kind of funny; you think that elementary school is the last time you do the open-house thing with your parents. But turns out, that's not always the case. I felt like that again--showing Mom my desk, my computer, some of the things I enter, etc. And instead of meeting my teacher, she met my boss, Ed.

Mom's journey into my world continued after work that same day. I took her to the homeless shelter where I spend most of my Tuesday evenings reading to children whose families live on the premises. Hehe, all the regular volunteers who know me all started their intros to Mom the same way: "I thought she was your mom but I didn't want to assume..." I should've scared them and said, "What? You think just because we're the only two Asians in the room, we must be related?!" And some of them recognized her from when they flipped through my camera a few weeks back and saw pics from my free ice cream party.

I was so happy later on. One of my favorite girls, Hannah, 5, showed up for the first time in weeks. I thought she and her mom had moved on or found housing. Hannah is just really cute and bossy in that adorable way that only little girls can get away with. Mom and I shared blanket space with her and took turns reading books to Hannah. I told Mom beforehand that a lot of the kids here are extremely cute and she ended up agreeing with me. So, my mother is the first person to really get a glimpse of how I spend my time. I found it's really fun to share things like that with someone.

Mom is only sorry that she didn't get to meet my co-worker Jacques. He's on vacation in Italy. He is also a character who makes work pretty interesting for me. I had no idea that we'd get along so well. Jacques is currently fixated by this series of filmed vignettes chronicling the life of Chad Vader, Darth Vader's underachieving younger brother who is the day manager at a grocery store. It's pretty amusing--at least Episode 1 is. These episodes were made for some film competition by some guys in Wisconsin and have found fame on YouTube. Anyway, Jacques currently likes to address me as "Commander Tang" and Ed as "Emperor." If any of you are curious, it's a total trip into geekdom.

Chad Vader: Episode I

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend, we walked the streets of downtown Bisbee and made it in time for the tail end (pun intended) of the pet parade. Posted by Picasa

We passed by this bar that's by the border, on the Arizona side. It was quite hetero actually. Posted by Picasa

Sandy and I also checked out this fully operational RV-turned-diner. Dot's Diner sits in a trailer park where you can rent out a renovated RV for your stay. Pretty cool and anachronistic. Posted by Picasa

Back when it was a mining town, I guess Bisbee also had other old-fashioned activities going on. Posted by Picasa

A little sticker that pretty much captures Bisbee's hippie spirit. Posted by Picasa

Busy little Bisbee

I can't not talk about my mini Labor Day weekend break spent in the town of Bisbee. An old mining town, a lot of hippies and artists started moving there in the '80s turning the place into something trendy. I've never been anywhere quite like it. It's up in the canyons, so everywhere is elevated and lots of stairs to get to the residences farther up. I felt like I had walked onto the set of a quirky, small-town dramedy. All we needed was people talking fast like they do on "Gilmore Girls."

First off, when Sandy and I got to our hotel, the Bisbee Grand, we had to check in at the "saloon." Every bar there is called the saloon. But no, there are not men in chaps. Though some guys do wear a cowboy hat. Our room was the total opposite--lots of perfumey, Victorian goodness. I thought a flower shop had exploded all over the wallpaper.

Downtown Bisbee is like a grid--more like gridlet--of four streets. Lots of art galleries. And among all the galleries, there's a small general store and lots of vintage stores that sell old junk. Think your grandparents' attic multiplied 10 times. I saw a toy store where you can buy Castle Greyskull, Snake Mountain or that old Fisher Price phone with a face that you could pull everywhere--I used to have one of those. There's also a store run by "The Killer Bee Guy," who specializes in removing hives and making honey butter in various flavors--rum, orange chocolate, mustard, truffle. I bought blueberries and cream.

I saw several old hippies and people smoking handrolled cigarettes. That weekend, they closed down one tiny street called the Gulch to have a myriad of events: a pet parade--which went on despite the rain. All these people dressed up their dogs, cats and even pony. One dog had butterfly wings on, poor thing. And some guy was passing out popsicles to everyone. There was also a chili cook-off and a watermelon triathalon (sorry to say, I missed that). A new friend of ours, Jonathan who is a reporter for the Bisbee Review, and Ted, an editor for a bigger paper nearby, showed us around. Jonathan, who has lived in Bisbee for the past six months, said his first assignment was to cover "Pie Day." A small group of people decided to celebrate Pie Day, 3-14, by having a pie fight. They bought 20 pies and the whole thing lasted a few minutes.

Bisbee is actually made up of three areas: Old Bisbee, and the village communities of Lowell and Warren. Lowell barely qualifies as a village. It's business area is 10 storefronts, all deserted except for a organic grocery co-op and the Bisbee Breakfast Club, which serves really good eats. Bisbee is really close to the border town of Naco, which straddles both Arizona and Mexico. Sometimes they have cross-border interaction through baseball games. Jonathan said some people used to have border volleyball games--you hit the ball from one side of the border to the other. I wonder if border patrol would allow that now?

All in all, I recommend visiting Bisbee at least once just for the pure novelty. Plus, you could run into Dog-Cat-Mouse guy!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Waiting for Goudeau

I'm sure the five people who read this thing have been waiting in suspense for a new entry. Speaking of living in suspense, yesterday was a Krazy day in the office. Late Wednesday night, Phoenix PD announced an arrest of man who they say is forensically linked to two sexual assaults that police classified as crimes committed by the Baseline Killer.

The Baseline Killer is a man, described as African American or Hispanic, who is accused of a slew of robberies, sexual assaults and homicides that occurred in the past year. He inherited the Baseline moniker because the first few crimes began along Baseline Road, which is in south Phoenix. Supposedly he has worn a wig, dreadlocks, a fisherman's hat and/or a Halloween mask. And best of all, judging by a map of where all his crimes happened, I am centrally located in the territory he's covered. Anyway, the suspect police arrested is named Mark Goudeau. After comparing him to the composite sketch, one could argue there is a resemblance. But then again, a reporter in the office says a guy that works at Honey Bear's BBQ down the street looks like the Baseline Killer. More importantly, I don't think people can necessarily go out walking at night now. I think they have yet to link this guy to the homicides and sexual assaults that are strongly connected by forensic evidence, but not connected to these sexual assaults he's charged with.

So, the reason I'm writing about this is because...guess who got sent to sit outside his house in the hot sun waiting for a family member to come out and be willing to talk to the media? Good thing I had my umbrella. With no sunscreen, I had to shield myself somehow. Oh, and it turns out this guy lives not far from me. Three blocks and a few streets southward. Must be Kismet. Stake-out situations like this are when one questions one's career choice. Whether you're a cameraman or print journalist, you're living and dying for those hours for any glimpse of a subject. You feel like a vulture trying to get a scrap of meat. Luckily, after two hours, my boss gave me the okay to come back.

I should be talking about more upbeat subjects. I spent Labor Day Weekend in Bisbee, an old mining town south of Tucson--which makes it very south of Phoenix. Now it's this artsy, hippy place. I swear I felt like I was on the set of some quirky, small-town dramedy a la "Northern Exposure." It would take a whole other entry to explain. So, I'll save it for the weekend and post pictures.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My cousin Sierra pretends she's Sunnyvale's latest woman firefighter.  Posted by Picasa

My friend Mike taking a turn with the fire hose--a task few men can turn down. Posted by Picasa

My new firefighter friends and I (The camera makes me look bigger, BTW. Just a little disclaimer I thought I'd throw in). Posted by Picasa

My beautiful ice cream sundae station. Too bad you can't quite see the chocolate fountain.  Posted by Picasa

One sweet party

Finally, I can add a new entry. On Sunday, I, um, sorta got sick from eating too much ice cream. But I felt better by Monday evening. And yesterday, I removed a splinter from a co-worker's finger. I'm just doing great things left and right this past week!

Anyhoo...if I do say so myself, I am now officially the coolest neighbor in Sunnyvale. Ever. I am still basking in the glory of having pulled off one of the most memorable block parties in our cul-de-sac. I still can't believe I managed to do it all from Phoenix. Guess it reveals my inner Martha Stewart, control issues. But it was pretty much how I pictured--several of my neighbors, friends and relatives mingling and enjoying themselves. But I couldn't have done it without the help of my mother and our neighbors Earl & Debbie. Debbie and Earl did all the barbecuing of hamburgers and hot dogs, they brought out their four patio tables and umbrellas to their driveway and they were just so gracious to the people who weren't neighbors. And our next door neighbors Dave & Kathy were great too. They have a knack for making anyone feel welcome.

Of course, having ice cream on hand for everyone was a bonus. I got carried away setting up a sundae bar. I don't know what it is, I love setting up festive luncheons or dinner parties for people. I would do it more often if I had more $$. I like seeing people have a good time over food. Weeks before the party, I already envisioned how I wanted the ice cream station to look. For this, I splurged at Bed, Bath & Beyond when I saw this set of glasses that are shaped like waffle cones; I thought they'd look great holding all the toppings--crumbled Oreos, M&Ms, nuts and cherries. I decided to bring out my chocolate fountain and used a tiered buffet of trays to put out strawberries. And I wanted to avoid putting the ice cream in our red cooler. Luckily, Sunday morning, I found a big, sunny yellow beverage bucket at Albertson's for 75 percent off--costs me $4. As you'll see in the pictures, I don't mess around when it comes to dessert.

But the absolute highlight that elevated the festivities was the appearance of some firefighters from our local firehouse. I had completely forgotten that I had invited them. Then, sometime before 1:30 p.m., while everyone was eating on the driveway, we saw a yellow fire engine enter the court. Everybody was totally surprised, myself included. I ran up and introduced myself as the hostess who requested the fire engine. I met Vicky and Don (How awesome was it to meet a woman firefighter!). And everyone went gaga over their engine -- adults and kids. There's just something about boys and men around firetrucks. People were swarming the engine. And I told Vicky and Don the story of how I won Dreyer's ice cream last year because of how Dad almost burned down the house. Hee-hee. After eating some ice cream, Vicky and Don let people take turns operating the fire hose. And they handed out stickers and cards to everyone.

At 3pm, a second fire engine came. Everyone was asking me things like "How did you get TWO?" or "How much clout do you have?" Funny. Turns out, the other engine, manned by the lieutenant, went to another party that was kind of a bust. So, he and the other firefighter decided to check out my party. They all agreed mine was the best. LOL. Anyway, one of my neighbors, who apparently has had fantasies about being a fireman, said everything I do is gold--according to his wife.

It was definitely a day to remember. I loved seeing everyone getting along. I finally got to meet our new next-door neighbors, Luis and Fabiana, who are from Brazil. Both so nice. They brought a pitcher of that Brazilian drink, Caipirinha. It's made from lime, sugar, ice and a Brazilian liquor called "cacasa" which is made from sugar cane. They warned everyone it was made with alcohol. So, of course I go into the house to get something and find my 15-year-old cousin Jonathan sitting on the papasan all quiet. I said "What's the matter?" He said "I drank some of that 'lemonade.'" I told the story to a couple of people. By the end, everyone had heard. Luis and Fabiana at first felt bad and I reassured them Jonathan knew what he was doing. So, the running joke was mentioning lemonade with air quotes.

Everyone says I have set the bar for neighborhood parties but I shouldn't feel like I have to top it in the future. That's nice of them to say because I don't think I could. I'm glad it all worked out. To think, I was going to invite Shao-Lin monks too!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Looking for normal (healthwise)

Well, I think I'm starting to get back to feeling like my old self. Even my appetite is starting to come back. Earlier this week, I barely made a dent in some baked chicken I ordered and couldn't stomach a burrito at the Pink Taco in Scottsdale, which I went to for the first time. In case you didn't know, Pink Taco is a synonym for part of the female anatomy. Supposedly, there is a pink taco dish in Mexico that resembles know. Anyhoo, today my aunt Karen took me to a Chinese buffet (you will not believe how many of those there are in Phoenix). I started out small with just soup, rice and vegetables. Soon, I found myself chomping on a fried chicken drumstick, two crispy wings, two crab puffs, and two little pieces of sesame chicken. After lunch, we went on to a bridal shower for Nancy, my (distant) cousin Darrell's fiancee. There I wolfed down a chocolate strawberry and a piece of ice cream cake--peanut butter chocolate with white cake. I think it's a safe bet I probably gained back the weight I lost after I got sick.

The bridal shower was expectedly girly and festive. But I admit, sometimes I'm a sucker for that stuff. Nancy's high school pal threw the party at her house in Paradise Valley, a really ritzy burb next to Phoenix. Her house was amazing; I felt like I was at a party in a Martha Stewart Living spread. Mediterranean, Spanish style house with granite counters and a granite island in the kitchen. Her friend clearly loves to throw parties. She threw all the takeout food in shiny chafing dishes to make it presentable and had tropical-theme decorations and favors. It was all very organized and pristine. Makes me want to throw a party. Anyone out there in need of a bridal shower/party planner?

Wednesday night, I set foot in a Wal-Mart for the first time. Ever. I just wanted to see what the attraction was. My first impression, it's like Target but bigger and rowdier. Yeah, it's nice they have a lot of affordable stuff feels a little sterile and less classy. Not that I blame people for shopping there. I will be going to the dark side from time to time. As a hobbyist baker, I'd definitely go there for baking stuff; their spices and everything are incredibly cheap. I bought myself a 24-cup cupcake carrier. Yes, it sounds ridiculous but I like the idea of making cupcakes and transporting them easily. And it just looks so handy.

Well, it looks like this weekend, I should be able to eat some of the ice cream I won. Woo-hoo! Can't wait.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Being sick sucks

It's been a while since I posted. The main reason is that I became ill with a fever and other crappy issues two weekends ago. I thought I was getting better but this past weekend, while hanging in LA, I felt ill and flu-like again. I've been having trouble sleeping and my appetite has gone somewhat south this past week. I really hope that the health Gods will smile down on me soon. It doesn't help that in the past week, I've gone out twice in the terrible heat to help cover a story.

You've all heard I'm sure about the serial shooter spree in Phoenix and how they have arrested two guys--Dale Hausner and a guy who was staying with him, Samuel Dieteman. Last Friday, I was sent to Mesa, a city east of Phoenix, to go to the complex where Hausner lived and interview his neighbors. That was fun: "So, how does it feel knowing the serial shooter was living in your front yard?" But I got one girl who was refreshingly candid. She said her friends saw those two guys together so much, they speculated they were a gay couple. I think Dieteman is the more short-circuited one. According to a Glendale police record (Glendale is a suburb northwest of Phoenix), he once pulled a Wendy's employee across the counter and punched him, nearly beating him, because they put mustard on his hamburger! Imagine if they had put pickles.

Then on Tuesday, I got sent downtown where the roof of a parking garage due to be demolished collapsed on a construction worker. It was pretty scary. Everyone was waiting word for when rescue crews would get him out. The poor guy, who is my age, had literally tons of debris and concrete stuck on his legs. When you have all that weight, the danger comes when it's all lifted. Blood hasn't been circulating and toxins might be released. Last I heard, he's still in critical condition at the hospital. I really, really hope he makes it.

Well, gotta get back to drinking more fluids. Must feel normal again.

Monday, July 31, 2006

The Alice in my Wonderland

I don't mean to toot my own horn, but "beep, beep Baby!" Kidding. I'm just kind of stoked that Yahoo!News picked up my interview with Alice Cooper.

Alice Cooper to break ground on Arizona teen center

Monday, July 24, 2006

Angel with the red beret

Should I feel safer at night knowing that the Guardian Angels have taken to Phoenix streets, mainly the streets that bind my neighborhood? For those of you who have never heard of them, the Guardian Angels is a volunteer patrol group with a twinge of vigilantism. They started in New York City in the '70s when The Son of Sam killer had everyone terriied. Now they have chapters all over the country. They don't carry weapons--only handcuffs to make a "citizen's arrests." They are supposed to be trained in first aid, CPR and self-defense. The founder, Curtis Sliwa, flew in Saturday morning to rally a group of 24 Angels who flew in from all over the West Coast region. They are trying to start up a Phoenix chapter so we have permanent patrolling until either of the two serial killers are caught. Out of curiosity and proximity (they converged right down the street from my building), I stopped in at their meeting spot behind a McDonald's. Because of my work connection, I ended up speaking to Curtis on the phone. He said it was like coming "full circle" meeting at McDonald's because he used to be the manager of one (ooookay). Anyway, as you can see, some media outlets showed up. I think they were happy to be able to report something new pertaining to these serial killers.

Later on Saturday, I drove out to Chandler, a suburb about 25 minutes from Phoenix to visit my cousin George. He's one of several newly discovered third cousins I have out here in Phoenix. I hung out with him and his dog, Sabrina.

George has been really great and hospitable. I mean, he's a straight guy who willingly watched The Devil Wears Prada with me. He lives in a boonies part of Chandler in this new housing development. His home is only 6 months old. Dude, he's not even 30 and bought his own house. And what a house. Makes me tempted to buy property. His house is like a castle--not in size, but in decor. The entryway is a cylindrical extension of the house with a cone-shaped roof, remniscent of a turret. All the doors inside or long and narrow and very vaulted ceilings. He also has guest quarters. It's a huge place for one person. He also has a swimming pool ... and a lovely pool it is. See below...

George's house

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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The sun will come out tomorrow -- unfortunately

Sweltering temps continue to rear their ugly heads here in Phoenix. Yesterday, I got sent out to do man on the street interviews (I suppose I should say person on the street) to get various opinions on a proposed initiative. A reporter is doing a story on this ballot initiative that voters will get to decide on in November. If you ask me, it's kind of lame. The initiative, if it passes, would institute a $1 million lottery every election year. Voters who vote in a general or primary election will automatically be entered--twice if they vote in both. The money would come from unclaimed lotto money. The group who put the initiative on the ballot is headed by a Tucson opthamologist. This guy thinks having a lottery will encourage more people to vote and thus, bring out more voters that are representative of the people. Other people think it's a waste of money.
So, in 100-plus degree heat, I was pestering Joe and Jane Schmoes at the county elections office, outside of Starbucks and at a gas station.

Not surprisingly, for every person who wanted to speak and told me to pull up a chair, I got people who acted like I was trying to sell them something.
"No thank you!" "I don't vote. Voting is a waste of time!!" "Voting is against my religion." (Jehovah's Witness)The first person who agreed to talk to me was this 55-year-old woman named Rosie Coyote. Yeah, that was her real name. With the name alone, I would have loved for the reporter to quote her. But then again, she didn't seem to want to take me very seriously. Here's how some of our conversation went:
"Do you think this initiative is a good idea?"
"You must be against it if you're asking me why." (Dude, lady, it's my job to ask people why, along with any of the other five Ws)
"What are you? 21? What are you doing out here? You in school?"

Guess it's hard for me to look and sound like a tough-as-nails reporter.

Anyhoo, I'm curious what some of you think of an initiative like this. I think the money should be used for something else instead of being given to someone for exercising his/her civic duty.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

A city of tension

So, it's possible Phoenix may hit national headlines soon with the Southwest equivalent of the D.C. sniper. Unfortunately, right now, people think if the heat doesn't get to you, a cold-blooded killer will. Even worse, Phoenix seems to have inherited two psychos for the price of one. There are two sickos running around, terrorizing people. One is a "Serial Shooter." This person started out shooting dogs, horses and even a burro. Then he/she graduated to people. This crime series, now adding up to 34 incidents, includes five homicides and several people getting wounded while walking or waiting for the bus late at night.

The other is called the "Baseline Rapist" or "Baseline Killer." This guy, a black male, started out robbing and sexually assaulting women. Then he graduated to assaulting and/or abucting his victims before killing them.

I know some information since I covered one of the press conferences on the Baseline cases. Alas, the police are remaining tight-lipped about the physical evidence linking the crimes. Sigh...everyone in the city is on high alert. You can sense the paranoia in the air. Unfortunately, I live in the part of central Phoenix where many of the Baseline Killer's crimes happened. I try not to spend too much time worrying. After all, there's a difference between being careful and being paranoid. I don't go out at night very much to begin with. If I do, it's to meet someone at their home or in a public place. No stopping at a gas station or convenience store. Don't think there's much more I can do beyond that. Cross your fingers that they catch at least one of these whack jobs soon.

A funny aside: the quickie article I wrote on that press conference generated some play. Someone from either FOX news or a FOX affiliate called wanting me to talk about the case on TV. Luckily, they called on a Saturday when I wasn't there. It's also good since I only covered the conference. I am by no means an expert on the case. Still, it was funny. The idea of being on TV makes me want to go into a bomb shelter.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Family Circus and Circus Freaks

So, never thought at work, I'd be on the phone with Bil Keane, the cartoonist behind "Family Circus." My boss asked me a while ago to update the guy's profile since he's a well-known Arizona resident. I had called and called this woman at King Features Syndicate, which runs his strip in 1,500 papers. She never got back to me. Then lo and behold, earlier this week, I see an article about him in a local Phoenix paper. The reporter on that was nice enough to pass Keane's home phone number on to me. A very sweet, very talkative man. He's 83 and still does seven cartoons a week. He lives by himself in a house in Paradise Valley at the base of Camelback Mountain. In case you couldn't guess, that is a very ritzy area. He just came back from spending Fourth of July with his kids at the new house of his son, Glen, who lives in So Cal. A bit of trivia: Glen Keane was the lead animator on Disney's "Tarzan" and animated Tarzan skating down tree branches. Bil was very genial. I felt bad for him. He talked about how his wife Thel, the model for the mom in "Family Circus," has been living 10 minutes away at an assisted living facility for people with Alzheimer's. He tries to visit her every day, sniff. She's still very sweet but has lost all memory and can't really read either. I know this is girly, but I couldn't help but think of "The Notebook," which is also about a man trying to reach out to his wife who's stricken with Alzheimer's.

On a lighter note, I should start posting "weird story of the month ... or week" on here. Some of the stories that come in to AP or in Arizona newspapers are just so bizarre. In Bisbee, a kind of hippie town three hours away from here, a court dropped loitering charges against this man the residents call "Dog-Cat-Mouse guy." His panhandling schtick is he poses with his mouse, which he's trained to climb on his cat, which he's trained to climb on his dog.

Here's a link to a photo.
Bisbee lays off Dog-Cat-Mouse Guy

I think this guy has his own freaky family circus. And apparently he lives in a stinky RV with all his animals. You'll find he didn't spend much time on the names either.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Thanks to everyone back home who celebrated my birthday with me. A great huge gracias for anyone who made time to have lunch, go to the beach, clubbing, etc. I had a really great visit which made it harder to get on the plane last night. I'm at work now . Anyhoo, not too bad.

Here is a link to my first official AP byline story. It got picked up by 4-5 newspapers in the state. Not too shabby.

Donald O'Connor estate on sale

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Twas a nice birthday after all

Now that my real birthday has come and gone, I have to say it turned out better than I thought. I admit, I had predicted an empty day seeing as I was living in another state by myself. I was fighting the urge to throw myself a pity party. But I realized, just because I don't know enough people in Phoenix to fill a Denny's booth for any grand birthday shindig, it doesn't mean I'm alone.

I lost count of how many people sent me birthday wishes via e-mail. I got several phone calls from, some from people I hadn't heard from months. So, I was pleasantly surprised. Dinner-wise, I couldn't think of anything to do, so I just ate some leftovers, hehe. But then I got stir-crazy and decided to go get some gelato. I bumped into my neighbor Alysia and her dog, Jesus (pronounced the Spanish way -- see previous entry for his picture). Alysia, BTW, is the one who cut my hair. I told her I was gonna get some sweets for my birthday and she insisted on coming with me and treating me. It was nice to sit with her and Jesus is the first dog who ever rode in my car. It's interesting to drive while a dog is trying to crawl into your lap. Once we said goodnight, I entered my apartment and my roommate Gaby, who felt bad for not having dinner with me (although she shouldn't have), bought me this huge Mexican dessert. It's a layer of flan with a layer of jello. Talk about feeling touched. There was only an itty bit of space in the middle, just enough for Gaby to ask the baker to write "Terry." See the picture above for how adorable it looked. One meaningful gesture is worth more than 20 hollow ones. So, all in all, a pretty good birthday.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I'm a year older

I want to be in my twenties forever, hehe. I treated myself by staying up way past my bedtime to watch a 10pm screening of "Superman Returns" last night. I give it high marks overall. Yah for Bryan Singer for making a non-campy take on Supes and constantly tipping his hat to the 1978 Christopher Reeve version. The film has its moving moments. And Brandon Routh is pretty darn winsome as both Clark and Superman but as Superman, he does remind me of Reeve. Too bad Reeve wasn't around to make a cameo. But I like how Superman is a lovelorn workaholic, just on a bigger scale. He goes in overdrive in doing good deeds to forget that Lois is taken. Anyhoo, I'm a Superman geek still.

Today, I get to have my first story edited at work. My boss likes to have a one-on-one chat once a month to make sure I'm feeling okay about everything. A few days ago, it turned into a mini evaluation and he said he was really pleased by my work so far. Can't ask for better than that. Happy birthday for me...

Monday, June 26, 2006

Back from L.A.

I remember in the fall of 2001 feeling so sick of Los Angeles. But now, being there feels almost like home despite the smog and slew of synthetically enhanced people. I suppose if I grew up in Phoenix, any visit would feel nostalgic. But I had one of the most perfect weekends. It's so nice to catch up with friends and not have any drama or get into fights because you normally get on each other's nerves.

Sunanda and her boyfriend, Rich, were the consummate hosts. Saturday afternoon, they willingly took me to The Grove. It's this shopping plaza between Beverly Hills and West Hollywood that tries to make you feel like you're in a little city. For those of you up North, think Santana Row but on a bigger, more crowded and somewhat hipper scale. They have a trolley that goes around and a fountain which spouts in rhythm with music (It's quite odd to see a fountain dance to Lionel Ritchie's "All Night Long") . The Grove has all the typical upscale shops. It's mostly a celeb-spotting place but I didn't see anyone. :(

Sat night, I got to see Sunanda's parents who made "Terry's chicken" for me. (There's a chicken dish they make really well. And they have it in their heads that I can't live without it which is sorta close to reality).

Sunday was my favorite part. I was lucky enough that my friends Brent, who lives really close to Sunanda and Rich, and Sandy were free. The four of them were nice enough to help me celebrate my birthday a little early. We ate lunch at Cafe Brasil while watching Holland lose to Portugal in the World Cup. Brent made me an awesome card and sent along some earrings that his wife, Rebecca, made. And I got a card from Sandy with a new shoulder bag from the Angry Little Asian Girl product line. Hopefully, when people see it, they won't think I have anger issues, hehe. How I got such generous friends, I'll never know. I capped off the day with a stroll along Venice Beach and dipping my feet in the ocean. I haven't been to the beach in soooo long. And it was nice and cool. I'll never take California weather for granted again!

Saturday, June 24, 2006

My first assignment: Make 'Em Laugh

I've sought sanctuary in L.A. this weekend to escape Phoenix's 113-degree heat. My good friend from college and old roommate, Sunanda, was kind enough to host me. I'll also get to see her parents who plan to serve me a dish they've dubbed "Terry's chicken." In a funny coincidence, when I arrived, I met Sunanda's friend, Terry Pang. Spooky! But in her case, Terry is short for Puhterry. I soooo wish I were kidding, but I'm not. And if anyone tries to call me that, I will have to hurt you.

So, shortly after my last entry, where I said it was a sloooow week and nothing was going on, that's usually when the tide, of course, turns a bit.

Warning: the following paragraph gets a bit gory. This job may be the only one I ever have where my boss asks me if I want to look at body parts. Thursday afternoon, I hear my boss, Ed, ask the news desk supervisor if he wants to look at a picture but alerts him that it's pretty graphic. Then Ed said "You can look at it too if you want, Terry. It's a picture of heads." For a second, I wasn't sure what he meant. Could be heads of lettuce, ya know? Then I can hear the two men in Ed's office. Basically, a few days ago, three Mexican police officers and a civilian were ambushed in some area outside of Tijuana and beaten and decapitated. The AP San Diego bureau was covering it and thought that one of the dead men was from Phoenix. So, the photographer sent Ed a picture and the e-mail subject line was something like "Picture of four heads -- gruesome!!!!" I went back and forth about whether to go look. Then our head I.T. guy went to look at it. Finally, the Pandora in me went to look. It was pretty disturbing, all four were on a table . And a card with a number was next to each one. This isn't as callous as it sounds but Ed said "It's like a line-up." It's really terrible that there are barbaric people out there who could do that. I, surprisingly, did not have nightmares that night.

Now, you're probably wondering why the title of my post is "make 'em laugh." Well, a real story assignment fell into my lap. This woman had been calling me off and on about how the family of Donald O'Connor (if you have not seen this man sing and dance the number "Make 'Em Laugh" in Singing In the Rain opposite Gene Kelly, then shame on you!) will be selling off items in his estate. She sent me a fax on Thursday. Donald lived in Sedona for about nine years, up until his health declined -- he died in September 2003. A co-worker and I were talking about how much we would love to go this sale -- I mean it's essentially a celebrity garage sale. Ed heard us and told me to look into doing a story on it. So, yesterday, I interviewed Donald's widow and daughter over the phone. And then I tracked down this guy who owns an auction house in L.A. to talk about if this kind of sale is rare and what determines a celeb item's worth. We had such a nice chat, that he invited me to come tour his auction house whenever I'm in L.A. He said it's like a celebrity museum. He deals with a lot of funny stuff ; they just sold off a belt Elvis wore in a Hawaii concert for $66,000 and William Shatner's kidney stone went for $25,000. The things trekkies buy!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

28 on the 28th

There really hasn't been much to talk about since my last post. Sunday night, my boss asked me to come in Monday at 7 a.m. . Wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. A huge wildfire broke out in Sedona, which is a two-hour drive north of Phoenix, Sunday afternoon. Huge in scope and in threat. Currently, it has reached the west side of the main highway there. If it crosses and reaches the east, there are hundreds of homes and businesses that could be in danger. One of our reporters had to drive out there Sunday night and she's still there. So, I shouldn't complain about having to get up early to help man the phones and take dictation. I'm not sure I could deal with being told to drive out at the drop of a hat 10 o'clock at night.

I tried a kickboxing class at Bally's. The instructor basically took a page out of Billy Blanks school. Man, it's been a while since I've done hardcore exercise. I was huffing and puffing after 15 minutes. Sad.

Drat, it's six days 'til my "golden birthday," or whatever they call it when your age matches your day of birth. I want to stay in my twenties forever. Some scientists oughta get working on some kind of time machine.

I have no idea how to celebrate it. Any suggestions? It's the first time I've had to do the birthday thing solo and it's on a weekday. I don't know anyone here well enough to say 'hey, let's go out and ... yah me!" So, I guess I'll just make sure after work, I'll try to pamper myself--pedicure, manicure if I have time, eat the food I like, see the movie I want to see. And though I don't enjoy seeing movies by myself, I'm desperate to see "Superman Returns" and I can't wait. I take it as a sign that opening day was changed and coincided with my b-day. Also, it's bad enough I haven't been to a movie theater in months. If I could have anything, it would be a lifetime movie theater pass. I feel like I'm so behind pop-culture wise.

Well, back to work on a somewhat slow day.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A weekend update

Amazing how things can change. Last Sunday, I had no real plans for this past weekend. Now, I can recap several interesting and odd things that happened.

First, I decided to get a haircut on Saturday and I went to the salon where my next door neighbor works. Alysia works at an Aveda salon called Salon Tru in downtown Scottsdale, which is even more uppity than downtown Palo Alto. It was pretty cool to get to know her better while she was working on my hair. She's 27 and her dream is to do actors' coifs on movie sets. She reminds me of Kirsten Dunst in Spider-Man because she's really skinny and her hair is currently colored bright red. She was telling me how hard it is to cut her own hair and the first thought that popped into my head was how the one person who has a hard time cutting his own hair is Superman. Scissors would break and he's got to use his heat vision and a mirror. I was about to say it, not as a joke, but as a serious comment, and then I realized "Oh wait, I'll truly cement myself as a dork in her mind." Definitely good to think before one speaks. Anyway, we got to know each other better and how often can you say your neighbor washed your hair and massaged your scalp?

Saturday night, I hung out with this girl named Marianne. I met her at a potluck I got invited to because of my connection to Sandy. It was just me and her at dinner. I was sort of nervous we wouldn't have anything to talk about. But we actually have a lot in common. I told her how it's my dream to one day live and work in Spain for a year because I spent a month there. And she asked where and I said "This little town called Salamanca." She was totally amazed because she had actually spent a semester there the same year I visited. Talk about a funny coincidence.

We went to a Borders Books later and were looking at this Asian American magazine called East West. This girl overheard us talking about it and said she freelances for the magazine. She and Marianne started talking (Marianne used to be in journalism too) and Marianne introduced me as an assistant with the AP bureau. The girl said "Oh, I think you have my old job." That's when I realized she was the girl who had the job before me and was abruptly "let go." Can we say awkward? She was really nice but the first thing she said to me was "How do you like it? It's really stressful, right?" I wasn't sure what to say. I didn't want to lie and say that my job totally sucks. But if I talked about how much I liked it, it would've sounded like I was implying that things not working out there was more her fault. Her husband was with her too. The vibe I got from both of them is that the experience was pretty painful for her and that I'll eventually grow to dislike the job. Before we parted, she gave me her business card and said to contact her if I had any questions or wanted to bitch about the job. Yikes! All I can say is that I'm glad I didn't encounter her my first week on the job otherwise I would've been even more of a nervous wreck, expecting the worst.

So, I'm cautiously optimistic about my prospects for a social life. Marianne invited me to this gathering at a bar Sunday night. Basically, a bunch of Asian American journalists who are all in their 20s formed their own social group. They all belong to the Asian American Journalists Association. I got there and did not see Marianne. Luckily, not too many Asians in Tempe. So, I just went up to the only table with a bunch of young Asian Ams and found them to be the group. It was pretty fun. It's been a while since I've been around people who talk about how there are so many brands of soy sauce and where the best Asian grocery store is. Although they started getting into a debate about whether Phoenix or San Francisco had better looking people. Someone said she thought people in the Bay Area were on the ugly side. Apparently, her friend once made a calendar of Berkeley students and none of them seemed to be pin-up material. At that point, I felt the need to chime in. San Fran has plenty of hotties! Though not sure how many of them are straight.

Anyway, I'm not sure how often I'll see them. But last night was a good start.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Here's the scoop

Sometimes I wonder at what point my sweet, pure child-mind transitioned into an in-the-gutter adult mind. You may have seen a headline about the passing of Billy Preston, known as "The 5th Beatle." He was an awesome keyboardist. Alas, he was pretty sick with a heart infection. Since Preston died in a Scottsdale hospital, our AP bureau was expected to write the obituary.
Billy Preston obit

I don't have any credit, but the paragraph and quote with Preston's friend, Andrae Crouch, a gospel musician, was my contribution. I got to interview him over the phone and write up that part. There was one quote that I didn't use because of how it could be interpreted. And of course, Crouch is grieving for his friend. So, he's not going to think about how it sounds. But can you imagine if I had put in "I never saw any man handle his favorite organ like he did." No disrespect to Mr. Preston!

So, in my bid to create some semblance of a life for myself, I went to an orientation for this group called I hear community service is always a good thing to try. I spent an hour after work at a homeless shelter where volunteers are needed to read to the children--that is when they can pay attention. Because I was new, I wasn't recognizable to any of the kids. So naturally, none of them would come over to me in the beginning. Still, it was a little unnerving sitting there without any kid for 10 minutes. Brought back memories of picking teams in P.E. Fifteen minutes in, a 5-year-old boy named Reuben took pity on me though, hehe.

Oh, the real news scoop is that I won a bunch of ice cream from Dreyer's again! I thought it would be funny to enter again just to see if I could win. Well, I got an e-mail from the company today confirming I am a "grand prize winner." Yup, party at my parents' house at some point during the summer. Gee, I still have some of the toppings I bought for last year's party. All that stuff has a really long shelf-life, right?

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Getting fired up

I'm in my room now trying to hide out from the heat. The mercury has hit triple digits this weekend, around 109, 111 degrees. It's not as bad at night. Unfortunately, in some parts, that's when there's wind and dust gets into my eyes about every three seconds.

With the start of scorching summer temps, it means the start of wildfire season. It also means more work for me. Last Thursday, I stayed at work three hours later because my boss needed my help making phone calls about this huge fire in Sedona, which is 2 hours north of Phoenix. It was the first fire to actually destroy a home and threaten residences. So, I was on the phone trying to track down someone in charge of the evacuation shelter. Unfortunately, sometimes it means calling someone who tells you to call someone else. And before you know it, you've called four people and you still haven't found the person you need.

In other news, my car was fixed on Wednesday. But not cheaply. A module that looks like a little box controls all the headlights and high beams, it blew a fuse. I had to get a whole new module. At least the dealership was able to send a shuttle driver to pick me up after work. My driver was this petite, sweet-looking blonde named Sharla. She looked like she was a college freshman. But she actually just finished Arizona Automotive School. Talk about unjaded and polite. Here's how part of our conversation went:

T: So, how long have you been a shuttle driver?
S: Oh, this is my second day.
T: Really? How's it going so far?
S: Really good. All my passengers today have been really nice ... I feel really blessed.

OK, I think it's great how positive she is. But come on, it's her second day of work. Not her second day coming out of a coma.

On Friday, Sandy and I walked around downtown Phoenix for First Fridays. But it wasn't long before I wanted to duck into a cafe for refuge from the dusty winds. Later on, we met up with this guy I met on the plane ride back to Phoenix from San Jose last Monday. His name is Hirad. He, this other girl in our row, and I had struck up conversation. Turns out he went to UCLA as an undergrad the same years as me. And he's also a California transplant. We met up with him and his friends at this art gallery/night club called Paper Heart. And before anyone goes winking and nudging, I was just looking to make a new friend. It wasn't like there were insta-sparks on the plane or anything. And there weren't any at Paper Heart either. So, nobody go making any off-the-mark assumptions. It was kind of hard to socialize anyway at Paper Heart. Aesthetic, the heavy metal band playing, was horrifyingly, screechingly loud. I also think that band had anger issues. Some of their song titles included "Killers all look the same in God's eyes" and "Go to hell and die" (well, I know "go to hell" was somewhere in the title). And like Sandy said, cacophony doesn't count as music.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Tuesday was really Monday

Having just come back from holiday, Tuesday easily felt like a Monday--in every way. I was running late for work. When I got to the company parking garage, I found that my headlights refused to turn off, even with key out of the ignition and the headlights knob turned to off. And my high beam indicator light kept blinking. So, I had to get all my important work done as fast as I could before running out to my car dealership. Luckily, Chevrolet has a shuttle service to take people back to their work/home. Too bad, there was a half hour wait for it. Oh well, I was driven back to work by a nice, elderly man. At the end of the day, I had to take a cab home because my car still wasn't ready, . But I had a really nice cab driver who told me how an Asian guy (actually, he said "oriental") puked on his cab door last Friday and he had to charge him $50. At least the guy was lucid enough to apologize. And luckily, whatever the guy consumed was mostly comprised of water.

Anyway, I had a nice visit back home. My only complaint is that it went by so fast that I didn't get a chance to call up any friends. So much time was set aside as family time, I din't want to try and cram too much in. I don't like doing McDonald's drive-thru visits with several people in a short time just so you can feel less guilty and know that you more or less hung out with everyone. Next time, though, I definitely hope to see some old pals. I spent a good party of my time channeling my inner Martha Stewart--without the domestic Nazism--and make a lunch for all my female relatives. If I do say so myself, it turned out pretty well. As you can see below, I had these plants for centerpieces. I saw in a book called The Secret Life of Food how to make faux flower pots with chocolate cake and cookie crumbs for soil. Oh, and my 7-year-old "niece" (cousin's daughter) subjected me to the joy of High School Musical. It's that Disney Channel TV movie that's all the rage with the pre-teen audiences. Lord help me, but I actually enjoyed it. If a man has an inner child, a woman has an inner teeny bopper. Sidenote: if Lisa is reading this, I think you would definitely like this movie.

Well, I certainly hope my Wednesday turns out a lot better than my Tuesday that was a Monday in disguise.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Never mind the cha-ching

Shhh...I'm doing this entry during my lunch hour. Sorry if it's unprofessional but I need a little diversion.

Alas, I was mistaken about my paycheck. I think I'm owed like two days of pay, not two weeks. I'd forgotten how much the government will take of one's hard-earned money .

So, the state of Arizona definitely has its share of kooks. I saw this press release from the governor's office yesterday announcing that Gov. Janet Napolitano had officially signed a bill banning bestiality into law. You would think not committing lewd acts with animals would sort of be a rule that goes without saying. The fact that they have to make it a real law is creepy. I believe this whole thing was spawned by an incident where last year, a 52-year-old fireman tried to do some nasty things with his next-door neighbor's pet lamb.

Well, guess I should get back to work. Have to tie up loose ends before I go home this weekend--my first visit since moving here. Alas, I won't be able to see everyone I want to. But a short visit is better than no visit.

Friday, May 19, 2006

My first paycheck...cha-ching...well, more like ping!

Yes, I really have gone almost six weeks without a paycheck. I got caught in a terrible web of HR issues. Apparently changing anything about my profile in the company system is more work than pulling a whole mouthful of teeth. The clueless HR lady who handles all the Phoenix bureau's new hires mistakenly put my job down as part-time instead of full-time. I finally got my first paycheck yesterday. Unfortunately, it's only for the most recent pay period, not for the first four weeks I worked. By starting work on a Friday, I knocked the whole AP payment system off its axis, or something akin to that. Hopefully, in a few weeks, I'll get the rest of what I'm owed. Still, I have more money than I did last week. Here's to that darn glass only filling up half-way.

I shall end this post on a totally different topic. The other day, I was thinking about Asians in the media. And I asked Sandy "Do you think William Hung's 15 minutes are finally all used up?" Not to disrespect him, but I'm so tired of seeing an Asian get recognized for having no talent. Well, I must have stirred up something in the universe because today I read this: William Hung crowned 'Artichoke King'.

Stupid-ass Castroville. The Artichoke Festival's arts and crafts director openly admitted more or less they're using him. They want him to perform for his musical butchering skills. Argh! Make him go away and get a real career.

Monday, May 15, 2006

On the road to Tucson while nefarious activities await at home

For someone who honestly believes she has no social life here, I had a surprisingly fun-filled weekend. Saturday, I left the house at 7:45 a.m. (yeah, it was a little tough) and started the two-hour drive eastward to Tucson to visit my friend Sandy, who just wrapped up a school year at University of Arizona. But mid-way through the drive, I detoured to the city of Casa Grande for an awards luncheon given by AP. Every year, our bureau gives out awards for lots of different categories to our member newspapers who subscribe to our news service. I guess it's a good way to foster a cooperative relationship and pat all those Arizona newspapers, big and small, on the back. I went to the luncheon early to attend a seminar on reporting and another on photography. The entire affair was at the Francisco Grande Resort. It's a funny site in the middle of all this desert. Casa Grande looks like Gilroy but without agriculture. And here you have this resort. The first thing I saw when I pulled up was a guy with a visor and golf shorts standing by his car door serenely folding some business pants on a hanger -- to give you an idea of the crowd that hangs out there. Anyway, both seminar sessions were interesting, especially the photography one. Part of my job is to call the photo editors at every member paper and remind them to submit more stand-alone photos to our bureau; in other words, I'm an incessant nag. During the photography session, which was led by a western region photo editor, a photo editor from the Prescott Daily Courier raised his hand and said "I know you want us to submit more photos to AP. But it's really hard sometimes to find photos. And they--I mean that new gal there is always calling us." And that's when Matt, an AP staff photog and one of my co-workers, chimed in: "And she's sitting to your left." Lucky for the editor, he didn't come off sounding annoyed or anything and I know he wasn't insinuating anything. Still, it was funny to see him caught off guard.

At lunch, I got to sit next to my boss. All nine of us from AP shared a table with Senator Jon Kyl--the keynote speaker--and his wife Caryll. I got to shake both their hands and Mrs. Kyl thought we met before. She said I looked soooo familiar. I had to ignore an urge to make a comment about Asians looking alike. For those of you who have no idea who Kyl is, he is John McCain's junior-ranking partner-in-crime. They both made Time magazine's Top 10 list of America's best senators (neither of California's made it...wah). One of the Senate committees he serves on is the Senate Judiciary Committee which means he got to preside over all those fun Supreme Court Justice nomination hearings. He's a lot more conservative than McCain. I actually kind of like McCain. Alas, he was not a speaker. Oh, after Kyl left, his challenger in this year's election, Jim Pederson, came to speak. It's sad to see that long-winded answers is a quality that crosses party lines. The only highlight I took away from lunch was the salad (see picture below). So, of course, I took a picture. Boy, the pics in this blog must make me look like a pig.

Anyway, I finally made it to Tucson at 4:30 p.m. and spent the night. Sandy was kind enough to take me around for the rest of the weekend. I got a taste of two different neighborhoods through our meals. Saturday's dinner was at Feast, a yuppie but yummy restaurant. With colorful walls and gourmet imported goods on the shelf, it had a Dean & Deluca feel except plenty of places to sit down. Sunday brunch, we ate at Tooley's Cafe which feels like Santa Cruz but in the desert (see pic below). Rusty, antique furnishings, brick wall, flies buzzing around--which pretty much characterizes the entire Lost Barrio, the name for the block Tooley's is on. Except for the cafe, the rest of the block is full of funky, Southwest-theme antiques. But with my income, I could only afford brunch and a glass of prickly pear ice tea at Tooley's.

Oh, gee, this post is getting long and I haven't even touched on the nefarious activities. When I got home at 7:30 last night, the first thing my roommate Gaby told me was that somebody tried to steal her truck from the complex parking lot, making it the second time that's happened! Only this time, the two security guys here caught the criminal party. It was four Mexican American guys who live in the neighboring apartment building. Supposedly, they are sitting in jail right now. Honestly, can't be that hard for them to find a legitimate way of making money that doesn't involve stripping a car. For the first time ever, I bought a club for my car last week. I used not have to worry about that. What a shame. Oh, the other bad development is much more disturbing. When I left Saturday morning, I remember seeing a little dixie cup with milk that someone left on a pathway in our complex for the cats that run around. I thought someone was trying to be nice. And there were several of them scattered throughout the building. Well, last night, one of my neighbors who sits on the board of directors of the condo complex told me that in the last few days, they had seen a lot of cat vomit around the place. And this one resident has openly said he hates cats and will do anything to get rid of the strays who come around. So, everyone suspects he is the one who put those cups out except the cats are more likely drinking the Kool-Aid rather than milk. Someone is actually getting the milk analyzed to be sure. I really hope it's not true because that is just frickin' disturbing. And here's another great fact: I heard this guy is friends with a resident in our building who has a reputation for being racist. Gee, I think Melrose Place was less freakier. Anywho, for now on, I'll have my ears and eyes open for any suspicious objects or cups around the building.

The outdoor patio of Tooley's Cafe. Seriously, if Mexico and Santa Cruz merged, they might have eateries that look like this.  Posted by Picasa

The world's tiniest leftovers box, courtesy of Feast where one can find "tasteful take-out." Posted by Picasa

Cutest way I've seen to present a salad. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

No hablo china, por favor.

Saw the season finale of "Veronica Mars." Palms-down the best TV show on right now. Ok, that was random. Time to switch gears.

So, this past weekend, I ate at a Mexican fusion place called Barrio Cafe and dim sum at The Great Wall. Guess where I ended up using my so-so Spanish-speaking skills? Yup, the Chinese restaurant. Funny how things work out.

Barrio Cafe is this very popular Mexican restaurant in a somewhat sketchy area. My roommate warned me that in there back parking lot is where someone broke a window in her car. Even my Aunt Karen told us not to go there. But, the place has such a reputation, I was determined to go. My mom and I just parked across the street in this Mexican strip mall and jay-walked like everyone else around Phoenix does so well. Barrio has an artsy Mexican decor and despite the neighborhood, all the customers were white. I only saw one Mexican and he was an employee. Food-wise, this eatery has a special place in my stomach. Unfortunately, I forgot my camera. So, I can't show the food. But if anyone knows of a Mexican restaurant in the Bay Area where you can get churros stuffed with caramel made with goat's milk with vanilla ice cream and candied pecan bits on the side, please let me know!

The next day, we took my roommate Gaby out for dim sum. She had never tried it before. And if you know my mom, you know that is a travesty she must correct. When it comes to Chinese food, the woman can go all Jehovah's Witness on you. At the table next to ours sat three Chinese guys. They were joined belatedly by two Mexican guys. One of the Chinese men was their boss and he invited them to lunch. One of the Mexican dudes started chatting with Gaby. Guess he was drawn in because we were the only other table with Chinese and Mexican groups being represented. But he was really surprised when I started speaking Spanish too. It was really odd for him to hear espanol coming out of my mouth. He said I should teach Chinese to Gaby. And that's when I had to shamefully admit my Spanish was much better than my Cantonese. If Gaby wants to learn Chinese, she's better off hanging out in Ranch 99. Yup, Phoenix has an interesting make-up of people.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Wow, it's been a month.

I have officially been living and working in Phoenix for a month now. Man, didn't think I'd make it past the first week. It was dreadfully slow. Things are better. I at least feel like I've gotten to the point where I feel comfortable joking with co-workers. Before, I was keeping it formal and focusing on learning the ropes. I have to say, so far, it's proving to be the nicest workplace I've been at in terms of the people. I doubt my boss, the news editor, would fly into a tirade at other staffers littered with curse words like f*** or c*** (I've heard it all). And even when everyone is focused on their work, they don't give off an I-can't-be-bothered vibe. Now that I'm at my Nth journalism setting, there are a few workplace truths that seem to be universal.

1. Advertising/marketing and editorial departments never mix. Our sales staff works out of the office right now 'til our new bureau is finished. Even when it's done, I heard they will rarely be seen -- like they're too important to mingle with us.

2. The guys who cover sports are almost always rambunctious, frat-boy types. The main sports reporter here, Bob, is really cool and really, shall we say, vocal. I can always hear him from the other side of the room. He's really liberal and looks a tad like Mark Twain, except in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts. He openly talks about his personal life. Bob is in his second marriage, which he said "is better than his first -- in an odd way." Or a reporter will give quotes over the phone to Bob and he'll say "I put the 'dic' in dictation!"

3. Editorial assistants (my position) always get the odd research and go-fetch tasks. I have to do things sometimes like go down to the county courthouse and track down a search warrant affidavit or lawsuit. I've also been learning how to browse the public court records on-line. Yesterday, I had to find out any information about this Jamaican man who was just sentenced to 13 months in jail for trying to enter the country illegally. Apparently, he paid a Mexican doctor in Arizona to remove skin from his toes and attach it to his fingers to "clean" his identity. Sheesh, the U.S. is great but I don't think it's worth surgically altering oneself.

On another subject, my mother is visiting me this week. Yesterday, we went to First Fridays. During the first Friday of every month, downtown Phoenix galleries and some retails shops open 'til 11 p.m. It's actually pretty cool. I didn't know Phoenix had this whole artistic, somewhat punk subculture. Musicians and artists can set up shop pretty much wherever. Someone put all their paintings on display in an empty U-haul truck and decorated the inside with X-mas lights. One band set up speakers and lights in a dirt parking lot and the drummer sat on the back of a pick-up truck and the rest of the guitarists stood on the ground in front of him. It's like NYC's East Village in the desert. You either come away thinking 'Wow, Phoenix has a great bohemian atmosphere' or 'Wow, more people in Phoenix need jobs.'

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Turning Japanese -- just for dinner

For the second time, I ate dinner with Auntie Karen at Kyoto in downtown Scottsdale -- a very fashionable Santa-Monica-Santana-Row-ish area. This time, we ate with her two sons, Darryl and Derrick, and Darryl's fiancee, Nancy. They were very kind to not make fun of me when I whipped out my camera upon seeing a new dish and said "Nobody touch it yet!" Kyoto is like Benihana's (might be because the owner bought the restaurant and its equipment from Benihana's) in that one section has those special teppanyaki tables with a cooking area and they clap and sing for anyone celebrating a birthday. But they have a section just for people who want to eat regular fare. I learned after my first visit that it's better to forego teriyaki meat and rice. Sushi is plenty. I already have a favorite item, which you can see further down. The volcano rolls aren't anything I've had before. They wrap up baked salmon, shreds of crab meat, avocado with cream cheese and a spicy sauce on top. And the cheese has been melted to a consistency that's just shy of being too thin. Each roll sits on a lemon slice giving a bit of tartness. Thanks to the cheese, the roll is a little heavier than most. As for the other image, how could I not take a picture of the caterpillar rolls? Pretty cool how they take advantage of the avocado, a piece of octopus for eyes, and sprouts for antennae. Presentation makes such a difference.

Anyhoo, time to start a new work week. Good news though -- my foot is much better. I can walk without it hurting anymore. Walking is highly underrated.

True-to-form caterpillar rolls are the main draw on this sushi platter. Posted by Picasa

Volcano rolls lit by a flaming pile of salt. Posted by Picasa