2012, My Year in Renew

26 Dec

It was tough, bitter, wild, with an unexpectedly sweet finish. A brief summary of my past year in picture and caption.

JAN: GIRLS RULE

My first serious writing venture comes to life and I experience the harrowing rigor of production. The reward is worth it when I see three charming, eccentric ladies show off their comedic chops and do what me and my friends do: dance around, play dress-up, and hit each other.

MAR: WHAT CAN A FILM DO

Heart + Talent

JAKE: Heart + Talent

I get starstruck. I watch one of the most moving film and music performances at the Castro Theatre. Seated in the rafters, with several hundreds in the stadium below, we watch a documentary about a young boy who turned to the ukulele as a friend and outlet during difficult times, and grew to become an international star. I’m inspired by Jake Shimabukuro as an artist and person, because he always pushes his craft, and ultimately the work he does enhances the lives of those around him.

JAN-DEC: GIMME BABY!

All I want to do is play with babies. A typical scene when me and my big sister see a baby: Me: Ooh! Baby! Gimme gimme gimme! Sister: No, she’s my baby! Me: No, my baby! … Meanwhile, actual baby mama stands by nervously. We’re not childnappers, this is an inescapable biological thing.

Cranky! Except today, when he liked me. Maybe he thought I was his mom? But no, this is not my baby.

Baby Ethan: Hello Cranky! Except today, when he suddenly liked me. Maybe he thought I was his mom? But no, this is not my baby.

She is going to be an athlete for sure. Oh, and this is not my baby.

Baby Lulu: She is definitely going to be an athlete and I’d totally be her trainer. But she sure ain’t my baby!

aka Mashed Potatoes. Sophie is my favorite, sooo adorable. Also not my baby.

Baby Sophie: aka Mashed Potatoes. Sophie is my favorite, a perfect ball of baby dough, and so calm. She, also not my baby.

JUNE: WEDDING OF THE CENTURY

At long last, my older brother marries his girlfriend, a funny and patient woman who can endure his obnoxious ways. The trade off is the most lavish wedding I’ve ever attended. It includes a pre-ceremony cruise, vows on the beach, a live Mariachi band and actual fireworks at the reception.

It's Not a Dream, It's Your Wedding!

It’s Not a Dream, It’s Your Wedding!

JULY-PRESENT: LET THE NAGGING BEGIN …

After brother gets married, then comes the barrage of emails, phone calls, and texts from mother. And always with that same tired question: WHEN ARE YOU GETTING MARRIED? I’m forced to resort to a tactic of distraction and begin sending her shiny gifts in the mail. This is forrealz people!

Cute, innocent bunnies...

Cute, innocent bunnies…

MAR-PRESENT: ODDBALL FRIENDS & FILM

I get to punch someone I just met, and we later collaborate on a number of music and film shows at Oddball Film and Archive. My latest show is one of the best yet, inspired and attended by my father. (Later, my dad advises I keep my shows to 30 minutes and have a cookie break half way through.)

Back in the day: Father's High School Graduation

Back in the day: Father’s High School Graduation

NOV: GIRLS STILL RULE! 

We are blessed to shoot a second season of Nice Girls Crew, which is way more hilarious this time around. At one point, I watch Tsai Chin chant Who Let the Dawgs Out! with Michelle Krusiec, Lynn Chen, and Sheetal Sheth, and I think to myself, “My dreams are coming true.” To see a world-class veteran acting out my weirdo scenes is surreal and exhilarating. On top of that, we add Leonardo Nam and Parvesh Cheena to the crew, who are both totally nice and frickin funny.

Foolin with Parvesh Cheena, Comic Genius

Foolin with Parvesh Cheena, Comic Genius

We're not worthy! T and I pose with Madame Chin

We’re not worthy! T and I pose with Madame Chin

DEC: TOUCHING THE VOID

I become ill.

The sickness begins with a sore throat, and one day I wake up without a voice. Three days later, I get my voice back, but what follows is much worse: uncontrollable and violent coughing fits, which are amplified at night. It’s nearly impossible to sleep, and the day job and email inbox don’t let up.

After a few weeks of this, the coughing improves and morphs into a severe head cold. I can tell you I’ve seen a lot of snot in my day, like in the past twelve days specifically.

Card from a friend displays uncanny similarities to my condition

This bunny displays uncanny similarities to my condition

By now, I have been sick for more than six weeks, and I am feeling beaten down, mentally and physically defeated. I’ve never been so weak for this long, and work is getting busier even as the days get darker.

One afternoon I’m in bed, wrapped in a heating blanket with the space heater on full blast. I have a frigid sensation in my body, and I realize no matter what I do, I can’t seem to get warm, inside. Hours pass, and I’m still awake. I do not have the chills, I have the feeling of being frozen inside my body.

What ensues after that is a life-altering experience I’ll only summarize here (I’ll tell you in person if you want the full story). Essentially, I faced something like death, but what I can only describe as the glacial abyss. And the word terror doesn’t do it justice.

I was, I think, miraculously restored, and several things happened as I came back to life. First, I had a thought (I won’t say “vision,” just in case you think I’m cray cray) of God planting a seed in my palm, out of which a forest grew, and I became the countryside. The second thing is the magnitude of past decisions and future uncertainties seem to disappear. The third thing is that I thought of the scientific theory of the soul, and how the mass of a human doesn’t quite equate with the sum of its physical parts. But I learned from this experience that in fact the soul is not measured by its weight, but by its warmth.

I’ve heard insatiable needs are a sign of psychological problems, and a source of constant dissatisfaction. But now I emerged extremely grateful to have a soul, joyous in fact, and I saw with clear eyes the folly of orbiting around what has happened and what will happen. It’s the source of life that’s key, and everything flows from there.

And so, I felt a great burden was lifted and a question was answered. I got up and hopped in the shower, beaming from ear to ear, having been restored, brought back from the edge. I turned my face to the shower head and opened my mouth. As the hot water goes in, I feel my body heat up and the iceberg melt, filling me with warm fluid.

DEC 24: COOKIES FOR CHRISTMAS!

I learn how to bbq AND I make these cookies. Hey, they don't have to be pretty to be yummy.

I learn how to bbq AND I make these cookies. Hey, they don’t have to be pretty to be yummy.

Hey guys, whatcha doin in there? You making some chicken and potatoes? Ooh, that smells nice. I'll take some chicken and potatoes. Helloooo. Guyssss. ... Sigh, no one ever listens to me.

Hey guys, whatcha doin in there? You making some chicken and potatoes? Ooh, that smells nice. I’ll take some chicken and potatoes. Helloooo. Guyssss. … Sigh, no one ever listens to me.

Portrait of My Sister, with German Shepherd

Portrait of My Sister, with German Shepherd

NOW: THAT DOESN’T MEAN…

It’s been a good year, and altho I’ve undergone a transformation of sorts, it doesn’t mean I’m walking around with glazed eyes spreading peace love and joy. I still get frustrated at work, I still have road rage, and yes, I am still bloody sick. It’s the fundamental change that’s happened, and it’s made me immediately more calm and content.

So the challenge now is to hone in on this change, to grow upon this fundamental-ism inside me and try to make it more perfect, more whole and more lively. I’ll be spending my 2013 creating the best possible growing conditions for my new garden, and if I do it properly, I have no doubt I’ll see the fruits of labor and the beauty of life sprout from every corner.

2012: Doomsday. Rise of the Baby

9 Oct

WHO: Princess’ 1st Birthday Party
WHAT: Decorations, Childcare, Lei-bearer
WHERE: Oakland, CA
HOW MUCH: Less than Expected
WHY: Money

At the height of my odd job stardom, I took a gig that was vague enough that I couldn’t explain exactly what I’d be doing, and far enough from BART that I had to get a ride from my older brother. The job was for some gathering involving children. Briteney was my contact, a woman who spelled her name at least three different ways during our communication.


After a phone call, she very professionally insisted I sleep on it and let her know if I wanted the job the next day. How to explain I would eat ice cream out of a compost bin for a few dollars. …  So, I called her back the next day with a resounding Yes! I’ll take it! And was given the following party instructions. I have often struggled with this idea of a dress code because, really, what’s appropriate? And who in the world has Luau gear lying around?

As always, I improvised. I whipped off the covering to my desk chair and used it as a sarong, threw on a tank top, and topped it off with a Hawai’ian Kukui nut necklace I’m sure I got for free at someone’s wedding.

My brother drove me to Bryteni’s house in East Oakland, a burgundy one-story, neighbored by similarly modest homes, all rimmed with hazardously tall grass.

“Christeeen. Are you sure about this?” my brother asks.

“Oh yeah, don’t worry, I’ll be fine, it’s safe!” I mumble while hopping out of the car.

A young man answers the door, and introduces himself as Bryteni’s husband. A few minutes later, Bryteni and her daughter emerge from the bedroom, dressed in spot-on identical outfits.

Ma-Mini-Me

Turns out, it’s the kid’s first birthday, and the theme of the party is a Hawai’ian Luau. My job was to be Mommy’s helper: setting the picnic table, putting up decorations, and Lei-ing everyone who came in. Bryteni was not a micro-manager. In fact, she left it to me to do what I thought looked best.

This might have worked out if I was one of those people who was adept at decorating, but as it was, I might as well have been some hairy street man from the dumpster.

I do my best impersonation of a girl, and line the tables with sheets, hang up decorative palm trees, and litter the picnic tables with candles and crafts. Not bad, not bad.

A cupcake tower for her majesty!

Soon, kids of various ages, from 1 to teens, populate the backyard, and it’s my job to not only entertain them, but also ensure their safety.

The kids naturally group into those who like to gather, those who like to hunt, and those who like to sit and stare at the sky. I split my time blowing bubbles with the shy kids, collecting lemons with a group of entrepreneuring girls, and most importantly, controlling the hyperactive 9-year-old on the playground.

I knew immediately that this wild child was something to be channeled, not controlled, with his spastic fist throws and kicks and the way he triumphantly pulled out anything rooted in the ground. Not a bad kid, but an energetic 9-year-old is among the most dangerous creatures on earth. They’re at the stage where they’re strong enough to physically hurt you, but thoughtful enough that one can appeal to their reason and empathy.

Balancing the two deities of his unpredictable behavior was crucial: I had him ride the power wheels, assist with the lemon-collecting gals and even sacrificed my own safety by playing human basketball hoop.

Can I just eat mac n cheese forever, please?

After 3 hours pass, things began to settle down, and I take a break with the bubble-blowing sideliners, two girls and one boy, who had been pensively covering themselves with the goopy substance all afternoon. With each dip, at least one child spills some of the soapy liquid on themselves or on me, but at least it’s not a life-threatening offense. They are very quiet, but they take to me because I let them bubble in peace. Around the corner, the lemon girls pull up with an overflowing cart of lemons.

“Lemons for sale! Lemons for sale!” they shout enthusiastically.

“Ooh! How much?” I ask.

“Five dollars.”

“Five dollars! Okay, I’ll take two.”

I pull out invisible money and hand it to them, as they happily take it and move on to the next customer.

Rufio, stoically bearing his Luau gear

Unfortunately, one of the  many tiki torches lining the yard falls down just then. This, of course, immediately triggers wild child, who grabs the firey object and runs around with it like a forest child on the hunt. Along the way, he begins knocking the other torches down, until all tikis are on the ground. The other boys, seeing something new they can do, also pick up the sharply shaven spears and run around with them.

“No no no! Don’t do that!” I holler.

I intercept wild child, and for a second, he looks at me and stops in his tracks. Then proceeds to swing the torch at me, like this is human T-ball. I expertly grab the stick out of his hand, and he instantly drops it and stomps away. On to the next destructive adventure!

After the leader drops his weapon, it’s easier to get the other boys to stop. Sheesh. Boys.

Easily the most dangerous children’s game ever invented

I painstakingly stick all the tikis back in the ground, and return to my peaceful bubble-blowers. As I watch the carefully balanced chaos circling the backyard, parents seated at the table, kids swirling around them, I think about the prospect of having a child. Biologically, I’m at the ideal age for having children. But I have wrestled with the thought of bringing a life into this world, particularly at this point in time. Aside from all the practical terms of why it’d be a bad idea for me (i.e. no money, no home, no husband, absolutely no cooking ability), I considered what  it meant to usher a life into this world; this planet so mercilessly drained of its resources, its communities systematically broken down, the destruction of beauty and the indoctrination of beastly individualism, and all of this wrapped gaudily in the world’s favorite pastime: hyper consumerism — made me think what kind of world I would bring life into.

Should you manage to raise a child to be a balanced, thoughtful, and empathetic human, it was still terrifying to think of how pain would mar their life: the suffering of disease, poverty, the knowledge that some things were simply never going to exist again. To face the perpetual death of culture.

Could you create life simply to rear a soldier for the forces of good, knowing full well the battle you’d be sending them to? Having a child wasn’t simply about the need to breed, or care for something, or to create a miniature version of myself to carry on my blood and my name. It meant bringing a new existence into this world, somebody who might end up being a lot like me; and did I think it was worth it?

It’s all fun and games until the donkey’s gut bursts with snickers

The arrival of a pinata instantly galvanized kids from all corners of the yard into an anxious frenzy. Hung precariously on thin rope, the pinata suffered glorious blows from gleefully desperate children, until it exploded, and candy rained down. Everyone hit the deck and scooped up piles of treats like crazy.

After the pinata, Bryteni excused me and her husband gave me an envelope with cash, unfortunately for me $10 short of what was promised. The two bubble girls, seeing me leave, took my hand and tried to bring me back to bubble-blowing corner. I explained I had to go home now. They looked at me silently, then let go of my hand and returned alone.

Outside, I waited for my ride, and focused on a strong glass of scotch. The cries of children were still vibrantly ringing from the backyard, and I was relieved, if not a bit sad, to escape from the chaos. I had to admit it was fun playing with the kids, but I could walk away from them any time I wanted. I can only imagine the pain and pride of having a princess of your own was something remarkable I had to experience to understand.

Papa Smurph Part II

6 Jul

In case you missed the first one, another angle / insight / exploration of my dad as dance machine.

Viva La Papa

30 Jun

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted on here — I’ve been busy, well, trying not to be broke. In the meantime, I wanted to share a lil treat from my brother’s wedding which recently passed. This is my dad breaking it down for all the youngins. Sean Paul, gimme a beat!

P.S. Check this out tonight, too.

One in a 100

28 Mar

WHO: Amtrak Holiday Party
WHAT: Poker Dealer
WHERE: Emeryville
HOW MUCH: $20/hour
WHY: Money

STORY: It was a chilly Friday night during Winter Holidays 2011, and one Bart ride and Emeryville Go Around bus trip later, I was in what seemed like corporate wasteland. Those who’ve visited the teeny city know what I mean (buildings, clean streets, no people). I spotted one such building lit romantically with dim chandeliers and bustling with smartly dressed middle-agers. This was one of my first gigs and also the first time I’d be dealing poker. I walked in defiantly, if not a bit nervous.

At a meager 5’2″, I had some difficulty wading through the crowd of high-heeled redwoods to locate the “game room” at the back, tucked behind purple velvet curtains (mmhmm, purple velvet). I found John, the man who hired me, an amiable big-bellied fellow who looked descended from a long line of van-driving entertainment men. He pointed me to my table and handed me a new deck of cards. “Just hang out for awhile,  we’ll get started in a few minutes,” he said. I eagerly settled into my dealer’s seat, unwrapped the cards, and spread them meticulously on the table, face up to show the players all the cards were there.

Another 20, and they opened up the velvet curtains to the party goers. A range of salt-and-peppered gentlemen and pungently perfumed ladies filtered in. “Oh my god! This is SO fun!” “I don’t know how to play! Can you teach me how to play! I DON’T KNOW HOW TO PLAY!” “They have a wheel? Now that’s a game I can play!”


How to Deal Hold ‘Em… Sort of

Everyone got one gold coin, which they could exchange for “$1,000″ worth of chips to play craps, black jack, or no-limit hold em. At the end of the night, the person with the most chips got a grand prize (an apple iPad!)

The first to sit at my table was a friendly couple, I’ll call them Jill and Jack; Jill, a thick white woman who worked for the company and Jack, a close-shaved black man who “banged nails for a living.” We quickly struck up a conversation and Jill told me about all the properties the company owned, including the neighboring Amtrak station. We also celebrated her recently obtained bachelor’s degree. Cheers!

After the table filled up, I began to distribute chips in exchange for gold coins. A young, Justin Timberlake type sat down and cooly engaged me in poker talk — the local card clubs he frequented, what games were good, what limits he played. He complimented me on my chip-handling skills. Well, thanks. He then turned to his friend for more poker small talk, and knocked over his fresh cranberry vodka all over the felt, including on the beautiful spread of cards. Never good to be too cocky at a poker table, IMO.

Several apologies and paper towels later we were back on track. Hands were dealt, people began playing (badly, of course), and all was fun and well in amateur poker hour. And then Scrooge showed up. Scrooge (not his real name, obviously), was a wiry and mean-spirited older white man. He raised every hand, gloated every win, and violently splashed the pot every bet (a poker no-no). I’m all for aggression at the poker table, but this man wasn’t there for fun. He was there to humiliate his opponents.

After about an hour, Jill had lost all her chips, while Jack was still hanging on with a few hundred. Jill wished her honey good luck, and got up to peruse the other games. As people busted and as attention spans waned, the table began to empty. Jack got up to find another beer and, I presumed, to play a different game. About 30 minutes later, Jack returned, and to our great surprise exclaimed, “Hey! Where are my chips?”

“I thought you were gone,” Scrooge mumbled. “Here!” Scrooge threw some chips back to Jack.

“YOU TOOK HIS CHIPS?” I gasped.

“I thought he was done playing,” Scrooge defended. “Besides, that’s more than what you originally had. I’m giving you like a hundred more.”

Lo and behold, Scrooge had slid Jack’s chips over to his own stack after he got up while no one was looking. WTF. NEVER do you take someone else’s chips at a poker table. In fact, it’s illegal to give your chips away even if you wanted to.

Jack, though perturbed, took it surprisingly well, and sat down to play. Thanks to some intel from a couple of players, we found out Scrooge was an extremely wealthy accountant. Of course, with all the dialogue of class and ethics happening at the time, this was a painfully obvious metaphor of the 1 and the 99. And this one was a total jerk.

Eventually, the MC called an end to the night, Jill returned to the table to fetch Jack, and both of them shook my hand and thanked me for dealing a good game. Satisfyingly, Scrooge, tho deep-stacked, was not among the top winners of the night. I cleaned up my table, took my rack back to John, and waited outside for the last Go-Around. Scrooge shuffled by me, head down, and gruffly wished me a good night. Even more than I despised him, I felt sad for this man who was going home alone, unattractive, and probably unhappy. I realized riches come in all forms, but no amount of money can rival the value of an honest man.


Geraldine performs the theme song to “Creepy Poker Video”

Fingerless Film Reviews

2 Mar

Lately, a lot of people have been asking me what my favorite films are at the festival where I work. Usually, I recommend films based on the person, but I wanted to take a moment to list some of my favorites.

This is a hard choice, because in film, I believe there is no such thing as thumbs up and thumbs down. It’s a horrible, horrible practice our friend Mr. Ebert has ingrained in the minds of the American public, b/c films are complex and can’t, and shouldn’t, be fated to be dumped in the “good film” or “bad film” bins. Films are like people, there’s one for everyone, and these are the ones that I have a bit of a crush on.

RYANG-KANG-DO: MERRY CHRISTMAS NORTH!
I saw this film at the Busan Film Film Festival and immediately emailed the distributor to beg for it for our own fest. Directed by a former North Korean defector, RYANG-KANG-DO is one of the strangest and most hilarious films I’ve seen this year. It starts off with a shabby, snot-nosed North Korean kid who discovers a care package, delivered via balloon from NK’s southern neighbors, full of Christmas gifts. From there, all the wonderful trappings of capitalism and consumerism ensue. It’s an incredibly smart take on the North Korean narrative—witty, endearing, and (I think), a big F.U. to all of the poverty porn films made about the country.

A LOT LIKE YOU
A lot has been made in Asian American circles about the intersection of Asians and whites. Far fewer have been made about Asians and other people of color. In A LOT LIKE YOU, Eliachi Kimaro is the daughter of a Tanzanian father and Korean mother, and the film unravels an important and shocking personal history when the director/subject travels back to Tanzania to her father’s hometown. Moving, and an enlightening piece for all mixed-race Asian Americans.

IN THE FAMILY

I saw this one at the San Diego Asian Film Festival, and I have to admit I was terribly jealous, because their curators had discovered an amazing talent and an amazing independent film. This is one of those rare gems film festivals drool over. It’s about a gay, Asian man who lives in Tennessee and finds himself in a custody battle for his son. And it’s 3 hours. One of the best indie films you’ll see, Asian American or otherwise. Period.

NINJA KIDS
I think by now Takashi Miike can sell himself. But I gotta talk about one scene in this movie, in which two former ninjas, now cross-dressing hair stylists, are telling the story of their demise in a Kabuki-inspired, maraca-shaking, gong-banging, song-and-dance number. Days later, sitting at my desk, I giggle at this, sigh, and think about how wonderful the world is.

RETURN TO BURMA
A lovely first film for a director who wanted to show what Burma is really like. Documentaries have been made about Burma, but in this narrative, you get a sense of someone who wants the world to feel the country, not just read about it in the news.

VIETTE
I often find filmmakers’ best work is their first. While I hope that’s not true for my friend and director Mye Hoang, I mention it b/c first films have a lot of guts and a lot of heart, and when you walk away from something this rife with emotion, you remember it.

Fight Club: Living the Dream

20 Feb

Lately, I’ve been preoccupied with the day job and haven’t quite had time to write about odd jobs, but I thought I’d post a very significant milestone I recently achieved: getting punched in the face. For years, I’ve asked male friends to help me fulfill this lifelong dream but was constantly rebuked with “Sorry, I can’t hit a girl.” Finally, with the help of a group of progressive-minded young adults, I was able to achieve this dream, and was not only punched in the face, but also got to punch someone else in the face. A momentous occasion indeed.

It feels like a bolt of lightning. Thank you Dave Kim.

I did use my left hand. And clearly he’s also a glutton for punishment.

MISSED CONNECTIONS: An Update from Mr. Funman

1 Feb

A few weeks ago I posted a job offer I received and had to kindly turn down. Recently, Kevin sent this message. It actually clarifies things a lot.

Life Styles of the Rich and Awkward

23 Jan

WHO: Mr and Mrs Dallas
WHAT: Server
WHERE: San Francisco
HOW MUCH: $10/hour + “tips”
WHY: Money

I am ... uncomfortable.

The woman’s name was Dallas, and the post asked for a server to help with her holiday party. After a few email exchanges in which I extolled my holiday-party skills, Dallas gave me a ring. As expected, Dallas had a healthy southern accent and in a pinot-induced slur asked, “So you’ll definitely be here, right? I’m so scared you’ll get a hot date at the last minute and cancel!” I wasn’t sure how to respond to that, so I just said, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there.”

Dallas’ home was in Noe Valley, a good 30 minute walk from 24th Street BART Station. Missing the bus by a fraction of a second, I decided to trek it by foot. The walk began nicely, with the sun setting and people bustling about Mission Street with baby strollers and fruit carts. As I continued westward, the streets became less populated and the dusk turned dusty; soon, I was walking in a gray darkness and up hill after hill after hill. I wavered between allowing myself to look at the block numbers and telling myself that was stupid and to keep walking. About half way there, I was beginning to sweat, so I stopped for a breather and checked my phone. A text message from a close friend read, “Be careful, there’s a serial killer loose in San Francisco.” Whatever.

At last I arrived at the house and before entering, whipped open my backpack to find my bottle of Jameson (I was going to a party after). I took several small sips, straightened my button-up, and climbed the stairs to the front door. DING-DONG! Heavy footsteps followed, and the door swung open. A thick, defiantly blond woman appeared, haloed by an abundance of indoor Christmas lights. “Halllllooo!” Of course, this was Dallas.

Like a tipsy drill sargeant, Dallas marched me through her home, which was a mix of colonial-inspired armchairs, pointy Christmas objects, and colorful paintings—some purchased, many created by Dallas’ husband. I should mention that throughout this, I was terribly uncomfortable because the rigorous walk had given me sweaty shirt back (I know that’s gross, I know.) But I felt better when I met Dallas’ husband, who was one of those men that are constantly sweating in any and all conditions. Upon seeing me, he put down his half-opened bottle of wine and exclaimed, “Oh perfect!” I don’t know why, but I can only assume it’s because we were both sweaters.

Janet vs. Tri-Tip

In the kitchen, I met Janet, long, lean, maitre-d fighting machine. Janet was the antithesis of Dallas—she spoke swiftly and never above a whisper, and as head of the back end apron-wearers, looked perfectly Gosford Park. As I later found out, Janet used to work at the Berkeley Women’s Faculty Club, and eased me into my role for the night: operating the wine bar (equipped with an oxidizer), serving guests drinks, and searching the grounds for crumpled napkins and soiled plates. Luckily, a housekeeper would be joining us later, so I was not in charge of washing dishes. Yay.

After orientation, Dallas was shifting nervously from one hip to another and swinging a green goblet of wine, so I took the liberty of asking her more about herself. She was an exec at an accounting firm who currently “had no boss,” and had remarried and moved into her husband’s home a few years prior. The Christmas Party was for her underlings because she was, for all effective purposes, the woman with no boss. This shed light on why her emails ended with the quote: “If you are not losing a game every once in a while, you are playing in the wrong league.”

Said underlings began to arrive, and Dallas gave each group a tour of the home. It always began with the household blueprints (bathrooms here, coats there, tv upstairs), followed by drink service by yours truly, and then a heavy-footed romp throughout the house. An uncanny sensation moved through me as I watched her use the same phrases, the same affectation, and the same self-deprecating jokes—over and over. The guests consisted of gray-haired farts, voluptuous South Asians, and an older Iranian man who’d accompanied his Filipino wife to the party. There was also a fortune teller who, by the end of the night, successfully rendered several of the women to tears. (They were also really drunk by that time.)

Mommy, there's a naked lady in the background! And I think her legs are broken...

At the center of the party was the lavish food spread: Homemade crab dip, tri-tip sandwiches, and platters of chocolates and caramels. After pouring some wine and laughing at old white man jokes, I went back to the kitchen where Janet was checking on the tri-tip. A party of 20 could barely finish one and Dallas’ husband had made 15! I peered into the oven as Janet lifted the foil and poked at them—juicy, simmering, delicious. So she cut me a slice. And that’s when it started.

Janet continued to slip me morsels of cheese, chocolate, and other samplings from table of food glory. And then she gave me a slice of bread topped with caviar, and I fell instantly in love. If ever I desired to be rich, it was at that moment. I wanted to eat caviar on a scone, I wanted to take a cavier bath, I wanted to make cavier sandwiches and give them to the poor and needy. I wanted caviar in my life. Me and caviar, together forever.

Having had a taste, I became a fiend for the little black eggs, and soon it became all I could think about. I watched the guests move in and out of rooms, and at every opportune moment grabbed a spoonful of it and ran back to the kitchen where I would scarf it down guiltily in front of Maria, the housekeeper.

Maria, Caviar-hater

“MMMM, you have to try this!” Maria took a bite and shook her head. “Not that good,” she said with a sour expression. Oh well, more for me! As my caviar capers continued, I spent more time in the kitchen with Maria, putting away dishes and stuffing my face with the salty rich man’s food. I found out that Maria was a regular employee of the household and was basically paid to clean and listen to Dallas talk. (“She’s my best friend!” Dallas exclaimed.) We chit chatted about the food, the price of gas, and I told her how I walked 10 giant hills to get to the house. “You don’t have a car?” Nah, I don’t need one. Maria had a car because she had kids to bring to school, and the houses she cleaned were scattered throughout the city. Soon after, her sister showed up to help, and the three of us patted down wine glasses while picking at a plate of chocolate-dipped cookies. Much later, after the guests  would leave, Maria and her sister would do a deep clean of the whole house. But my chariot was arriving much earlier, so when they began the white elephant, I bid farewell to my fellow apron-wearers, changed into tights and a pair of boots, and grabbed my cash from Dallas, Princess Warrior.

Outside, I walked down the frosty street to a corner where my friends whisked me away to another land, this one filled with short skirts and plaid shirts. On the dance floor, it was hard to tell who would be the future Dallases, and who would be eating nobbie leftovers and listening to real-life All My Children. But I guess you could just watch who was buying drinks, and who was packing Jameson in their bag.

Missed Connections: The Internet is a Scary Place

11 Jan

ADVERTISEMENT: “Strong Female Assistance”
IMPLICATION: Perhaps an arthritic old woman who needs help out of bed?
ACTUAL JOB: Not an arthritic old lady. No, not at all.

There are a lot of jobs I apply for and don’t get. I average something like 1 in every 15 job apps. And then there are jobs I do get, and definitely don’t want. Like this one. Gah!

 

 

 

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