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.