Photo Diary of a Year: Scenes from 2013, Part 3 (The Last Part)


The view from my window, taken during New York’s first snow.

I set out to make new friends, but was met at the airport with old chums from middle school. Among the best feelings in the world: being greeted by familiar faces outside an unfamiliar airport.

 My New York welcome crew.
I also imported some friends temporarily from California during September and October when it seemed everyone wanted to visit. I welcomed them with open arms and a very nice air mattress.
First there was Angie, the makeup artist in town for Fashion Week.
First guest ever!

Then my cousin Michelle…

And my big gay smile.

Then Grace and Enny, who shopped and instagrammed a storm.

Slaves to social media. Enny is saying, “You’re one to talk.”
And a few weeks later, Fiona and her mother…
I am not her mother.

And new friends too, whom I look forward to spending more time with in 2014.

My neighbor Nancy.

A fun group of Columbia architecture students from other (Asian) countries.
Anita, Louis, Albert, Tanya, Mim and I wining and dining ourselves.
And of course fellow writer friends.
I spy two Californians and a sex columnist.

There were cultural excursions too.

An eye-opening Hopper exhibit at the Whitney.


Halloween in New York. “Are you guys a circus trainer and his cat?”            “….Yes.”
The Great Wall of China comes to New York.

Subway shenanigans…

These two clowns were gracious enough to smile for my camera.
Reading Thoreau on an empty car.
And long walks, sometimes alone, sometimes with Courage through the city…
Once every blue moon the roads are repaved. It takes about a month for the road to be repaved completely.
 …and through Central Park
Newly weds! Or people pretending to be newlyweds for an online bridal boutique!

There was much (almost too much) eating and many jokes about contracting gout and how actually unfunny that would be. I have yet to have a bad meal in New York.

Pasta and calimari at Celeste.
Dessert at Cocotte.
I went out a lot. But there were nights too, when I stayed in.
Sometimes, I went to school.
Still, not quite sure what that building is, but it’s very photogenic.
Throughout, POI and I kept in touch via text and phone. Occasionally, I wrote him a long letter, the best one which got lost in the Royal Mail. To this day its whereabouts remain a mystery and I imagine some confused man or woman in England has in their possession a rather witty sonnet, the references in which are lost on him. At the end of October, I went to London for the first time and when I returned, we began to video chat.
POI’s idea of a good conversation.
When school let out, I returned, this time for longer. During the week, he went to work and I walked around the city.
I have a strange obsession with double decker buses and graffiti (not clowns).

Atalia from Oxford paid us a visit.

At English afternoon tea with an Australian.

Lauryn from Singapore and I managed miraculously, for the second time that year, to be in the same city at the same time.

In 2014, Lauryn will come to New York, where we met ten years ago.

There was a day trip to Cambridge and the following weekend, a three-day jaunt to Paris in which POI and I ate, walked, ate, walked, then ate some more. Seeing me ooh and aah at every pastry shop and bakery we walked by, POI mused, “You would be a fat cow if you lived here.” That evening, he stuffed himself with cheese and just one of the many duck legs we would consume in three short days, “And I’d be a fat bastard.”

Where fat cows and fat bastards should like to reside.
Together, we returned to New York in bona fide winter. For POI, it was life as usual. For me, it was cold as hell. But in the days following our return it grew increasingly warmer, as though to welcome Jaime and Alvin, newlyweds from Orange County who were visiting New York for the first time.
Teeth chattering.
And then it was time to head home for the holidays. POI and I said goodbye in the crowded belly of Times Square Subway station.
“You gonna miss me?” I asked, wondering when we’d spend more than three weeks in the same time zone.
“I think I’ll be alright,” he said shrugging, “I’m back in New York now so I’ll have more distractions.”
Sweet-tongued smart one, he.
Christmas in New York.
The day I left, New York was seventy degrees. But California looked like this:
Laguna Beach, California in December.
My father had not intended to buy a Christmas tree this year, but my cousins Melody, Min-Chieh and Vikas were driving down from the Bay Area to join us, and my brother and his wife were back in the States, permanently now, for the first time in years.
Can you spot the vegetarian?
Feeling more festive than usual knowing that his children would be at home again, if even for a short time, my father thought, “A Christmas tree is probably in order.” He was right.
There are about ten ornaments but that’s how we like it.

On Christmas Day, my grandfather, who celebrates his birthday by the Lunar Calendar, turned eighty-seven. Earlier that week he had told my aunt, “I never dreamed I would live this long. I just never thought it would happen.”

It happened, and seeing him happy, we were happy.

A day later, Grace turned twenty-eight. We would celebrate along with Elena’s birthday after the New Year over a long, late dinner in Costa Mesa. We talked much as we did at Thanksgiving, about the future, about the past, about each other and about others. We concluded, “Things change.” Dessert was brought out – a magical banana bread pudding and a dark chocolate cheesecake, which we shared with contented, familiar smiles. Some things never change.
On December 31st my father brought three large dungeness crabs to my grandfather’s house. My mother made fish and braised pork knuckle. My aunt and uncle came over too, my uncle carrying his trademark case of beer to share with my brother, who along with his wife were leaving for Austin the next day. They had moved back after three years in Shanghai and would be short-term Texans. California was, geographically, my brother’s end goal. And for now, he was here with family. 
My grandpa nursed just one beer that night, but it warmed him. 
“Happy New Year,” he said smiling at us, “Happy New Year.” It was only 8:30PM but a half hour later in New York, the ball would drop and POI would say the same, his text slightly slurred.

I fell asleep before midnight, but in dreams I looked ahead to the new year.

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