Monday, April 12, 2010

What I've been up to

Dear Bay Area friends and family,

Facebook is handy but there is only so much one can write on one's "wall." And I like writing long passages sometimes. Plus, when I write a blog post, I feel like Doogie Howser at the end of every episode. I can hear that synthesizer music in my head right now, LOL.

I miss all of you and think about you and the Bay Area often. For the most part, I feel comfortable in Phoenix but every so often, there will be days where I still feel like I'm in a prison and need to bust out.

Work is OK. I'm going through a spell right now where I'm not writing very much. It sucks but I suppose it's either that or have no job. I'm hoping to eventually work earlier hours but right now they need me to stay later because I'm the only editorial assistant for the whole AP West Regional Desk right now. The person who was hired as a second assistant has been on medical leave right now, unfortunately. And his health, of course, is first and foremost the priority. I continue to send positive thoughts his way and hope he returns to work. It also hurts to see other people working on stories or get sent on out-of-town training. But I keep telling myself that there has to be a reason for all this. My hard work and patience will eventually come back to me ten-fold.

I hurt my ankle in December. It's still a booger. I can't run very much, which, if you know me, is like Superman now trying to live without powers. It really sucks not being able to even consider entering any kind of race right now. I'm too paranoid about injuring my ankle again. I will probably have to see the podiatrist again, argh. I've had mostly weird, not-so-good experiences with doctors in Phoenix. Hopefully this won't turn out like that where something else was wrong originally. Because in February, it seemed like my ankle was on its way to healing itself. We shall see.

April 7, as I mentioned on my FB page, marked four years(!) for my living in Phoenix. I've been reflecting on the whole experience so far. Despite all the misery and my "down with Phoenix" rants my first year living here, I wouldn't go back and change anything. Living out here has actually reshaped me as a person in some ways. You know, sometimes I shake my head in amusement when I recall how painfully shy I was as a kid. Mom will be the first to recount how I would never look anyone directly in the face. I can't figure out why my first instinct as a toddler was to be in protective mode around anyone who wasn't one of my parents. Not sure how I developed into someone who wanted to be a journalist, which requires interviewing people and asking sometimes probing questions. A journalist is someone who should be able to socialize with just about anyone, look past what you see and try to see someone for who they really are--even if you only have a short time with them.

Living out here has really pushed me to reach out to people and I'm glad for that. In the last two years, I've made friends with families, Hispanic people, gay people and very hetero people (read: firefighters). None of this certainly would have happened if I hadn't felt free to go up to people. And even if we don't seem to have anything in common, I can somehow relate to them. For example:

I met this Mexican American artist two months ago who does a lot of paintings and murals. He has introduced me to the fun of Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling). It's done kind of underground and it is bloody violent. I'm not trying to sound British. There literally is a lot of blood. If anyone ever comes to visit, you can bet I'm taking you there. It is off the beaten path. No pun intended. Anyway, I asked him to sit down with me for coffee so I could learn more about it and we talked for three hours. (He's married in case any of your minds' are going there). Now, I'm hoping to pitch a story on it.

A few days after New Year's, I went for a walk and I saw down a side street, someone had this very large metal sculpture of an Earth on their lawn. So, I made a turn to go get a closer look. And this old woman was sitting on the driveway of the house. (I know this is starting to sound like a folk tale). No she did not ask me about Sir Gawain or offer me magic beans. I asked her about the sculpture and turns out it belonged to her son, who does work with metals when he's not at his day job. Well, Jo Ann then invited me into her home (she lives in the pool house behind the main house) to look at stuff her son made. We ended up talking for two hours. And she stuffed a can of olives in my pocket before I left (all I did was ask here where she bought that brand).

Well, I've visited Jo Ann twice since then. The last time was actually the day before Easter. She's been so nice to me, that I wanted to do something nice for her. And of course, all I could think of was cupcakes.

So I brought over a dozen--too many for her, her son and his wife and their three children. So, Ella, 8 years old and the oldest of the three, and I walked over to the fire station to see if we could pawn off some. I'd forgotten how much fun it is to spend time with a kid that age. She is a cute girl with cute 8-year-old observations. Well, we knocked on the door of the station and nobody was home. We were about to turn around and go home when the firetruck arrived just back from a call.

Man, next time I go to a fire station, I should borrow someone's kid. They bent over backwards to entertain Ella. I had no idea the Phoenix Fire Department had all this stuff--crayons, coloring booklets, bracelets(?). Is it wrong that I wanted the fire-hydrant-shaped eraser? I told her "In life, when someone offers you free stuff, take it!" Then one of them offered to let Ella ride around the block in the firetruck. Of course, I went with her. I don't know what that says that riding in a truck now feels like old hat to me, hehe. I wasn't sure if she was having a good time but when we almost got back to her house, her father was on his way out to pick up dinner. She ran up to him, saying "I got to ride in a firetruck and I have evidence!" So adorable.

The family invited me to stay for dinner and they are all really nice people. Being a single gal has its ups, but sometimes nothing beats hanging out with a whole family. After dinner, Ella wanted to show me pictures from their past vacations to Disneyland, hehe. My favorite part was when her little 5-year-old brother, Cobie, climbed onto my lap and said "When I grow up, I'm going to live in Disneyland and anybody can come visit me." When I left, their dad said I was welcome over any time and Jo Ann said I don't have to feel alone. Aaawww.

The day after Easter, I made more cupcakes because I didn't want to throw out perfectly good extra frosting. So, I brought cupcakes to this other family I know, a Chinese family that runs a Japanese restaurant (long back story), Blue Fin Sushi, down the street from my office. They are descended from the Ongs of Phoenix, which is an offshoot of the Phoenix Tangs. Different name but same character, which is also the Chinese character for my name. Every few months someone asks me if I'm related to the Tangs, who used to have lots of businesses in Phoenix and go back three generations here in Phoenix. They all came from the Guang Dong province and Hoyping, which is where my Mom's family is from. But not my Dad's, so I don't think I'm directly related. I learned about the Hoyping connection when last month, Betsy (the matriarch of the family) invited me to go to the Ong Family Association Spring Banquet. For my non-Chinese buds, large Chinese families often have associations and spring meetings in a banquet setting. So for one night, I got to go to a Chinese banquet without having to be related. Though I've never been to a Chinese banquet where the raffle prizes were things like a digital scale, a hand-truck and a fire extinguisher (WTF?).

I digress. So the day after Easter, I brought cupcakes to them and wouldn't ya know, about a minute after I get there, six firefighters walk in to grab lunch. So, like a bad reflex, I offered them some.

Only one guy took one. As for the rest...wusses.

Where was I going with this post?? Oh yes, friends. My wonderful friend Daniel always makes me ask the question "What did I do to deserve..." Over the weekend he gave me a very cool just-because-gift. If you scroll down and look at the photo of my dark purple (well, eggplant mousse) accent wall, you'll see a "before" shot of nothing on the sloping wall next to the steps. Now look below and you'll see: He gave me my own railing!

Daniel and I met through his fiancee (yay Leah!) who I met through Craigslist. Another example of what happens when you reach out.

So guys, I think I've caught you all up on a lot of things. I miss you all and hope to visit in May. My heart of course belongs to the Bay Area. I could see myself living there some day in the next few years perhpas. And when I do, I won't just be falling back into a familiar cocoon. I'll be reaching out to people just the same like I do here. I get reminded all the time here...EVERYBODY has a story.

With love,