Woop Woop

Hell's Kitchen Very Highbrow
9th Avenue, Hell’s Kitchen, after a summer storm.

A lot of the talk recently, and not just in the Ho-Ward household (I haven’t yet changed my name), revolves around babies.  Continue reading “Woop Woop”

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Chinese Mover Is THE BEST Affordable Moving Company in NYC

Except I would probably call, because they don’t have a website.

Tom was right. Moving sucked. But Chinese Mover made it suck a lot less because we could move to our new apartment without going broke. At the end of it all, I thought I would write a review for them on Yelp, but I was like, “No, it can be so much more heartfelt than that.”  Continue reading “Chinese Mover Is THE BEST Affordable Moving Company in NYC”

Saying Goodbye To A Room of My Own

Two weekends ago, Tom came over for moral support as I began to pack up my room. I didn’t get very far – I tossed a few clothes into boxes, threw away a small mountain range of magazines, and started to pack up my desk by removing the two bulletin boards I had hung on the wall above, where I pinned photos and mementos. I had removed just one of the boards when I started to cry.  Continue reading “Saying Goodbye To A Room of My Own”

The Sunday Seven: On Loving and Hating New York

“Who’s the landlord, Lewis Carroll?” asks my friend A.

Friday’s apartment hunt was slightly better. We saw units we could actually imagine living in, except in one the living room was too small and for another, the location was a half mile walk from any subway station. There had been one promising apartment on Carroll St., but it was taken before we arrived. And then there was the last apartment of the day, pictured above. Great location and new finishes. But obviously uninhabitable for people who like to stand up straight. Continue reading “The Sunday Seven: On Loving and Hating New York”

Photo Diary of a 2013, Part 2

At the beginning of April, I left the bustle of Asia and came home to this:

The road. 

I flew to New York to attend Columbia’s admitted student’s night and stayed with Albert, an architectural student from Taiwan whom I’d met many years ago through my cousin. He never slept and smoked like a chimney and was constantly complaining about his monumental workload, but ask him if he’d prefer to be studying anywhere else and he’d shake his head. “New York is where I want to be.” His apartment was my temporary home and despite it being dark, with critical windows facing brick walls, I could see how when life is full and you’re doing what you love (and hardly ever come home because you’re at studio), things like that matter just a little less.

“I haven’t slept in three days,” says Albert, “But I’ll sleep when I’m dead (or when I run out of cigarettes).”
I was, obviously leaning towards Columbia but two things helped seal the deal: 1. They gave me more money. 2. I found my dream studio, minus the nightmare of five flights of stairs and no elevator. Also, the passionate urging of others helped. “It’s New York! What the hell are you going to do in the middle of butt-fuck nowhere North Carolina or West Virginia! New York, Betty! New York!!! Every writer’s dream!”  
I have yet to set foot inside that building. 
With the minor detail of where I was to spend the next two years of my life out of the way, it was time to settle into a peculiar routine: three days a week I lunched with my grandfather. I would get to his house around 11AM, read for a half hour, then put together a simple meal while he watched TV or read the paper. We’d eat, chat about things – sometimes he would tell me stories, sometimes he would be quiet and shake his head, wondering what was to become of me. All the time he would think about his old half, my grandmother. Lunch was always short, a thirty minute affair at the end of which I would clear the dishes and ask him if he wanted dessert. 
“None for me,” he would say. But I would push and push and eventually he would share a pineapple cake or have a bite or two of ice cream. We would read for a half hour more and he would retire to take a nap. I would move to the couch and try to continue reading, but eventually, the whirr of the water pump in the fish tank, the breeze from outside and the warming afternoon sun would cause me to nod off and for an hour Grandpa’s house would be silent but for the slow, even breath of an old man and a young woman, an anchor and a sail. 
Because sometimes glasses just don’t cut it. 
And around these afternoons I saw friends… 
Coworkers who turned into great friends, Grace and Enny. 

 …family….

Babies galore at Lucas’s (on the right!) One Month Celebration held, where else? At Sam Woo’s in Irvine. 
May rolled around and I turned twenty-seven. A damn good age, if you ask me. 


I took a trip to Charleston to see Grace, a cellist who was playing in the Spoleto Orchestra (longer post to come). I fell in love with the south and southern food, but that was expected. I went to my first southern beach and wondered what the hell southern Californians were so proud of. We wore summer dresses. I let my hair down and played bingo and drank with classical musicians who were surprisingly raunchy when they weren’t playing classical music. We walked a lot, ate a ton, and I pretended to understand the opera she got me tickets to.

Woohoo, culture! 
Grace walking at Sullivan’s Beach. 
When we weren’t stuffing our faces with fried everything we were trying to walk it off.  
Like that one ride at Disneyland. 

And immediately after that, my mother suggested an impromptu trip to Kauai. She popped into my room one evening and asked, “How much are tickets to Kauai at the end of May?”

I looked for her, then asked, “Who are you thinking about going with?”

She seemed surprised, “Oh, you! Do you want to go?”

This is what’s called a no-brainer. So we went, just the two of us.

My mother thinks about her mother. 

On our last day there, we went swimming in the hotel pool, then my mother took a nap while I wrote a letter to my brother. When she woke, I asked her how she felt about barbecue. She said fine. I ordered it by phone and drove to pick it up. My mother stayed in the kitchen, peeling papaya and when I returned, I saw that she’d been crying.

“Mom, what’s wrong?”

She started crying again.

“I was just thinking about grandma.”

“What were you thinking about that made you think of grandma?”

In hindsight, it was a stupid and insensitive question, but I think my mother understood what I meant.

“I am so lucky that my daughter can travel with me and we can spend time like this, but I can’t do that anymore with grandma.”

I hugged her, because you can’t really do anything or say anything but hug a person who misses their dead mother.

“Let’s eat outside on the balcony,” I said, and she agreed.

I poured us each half of the small bottle of wine we’d gotten from the airline and when everything was served, she raised her glass to me, something I’ve never seen her do. My mother is not a big drinker.

“I wish you a good happy life in New York,” she said. Her voice broke and her face crumpled and I choked up too, but did not cry. I said thank you. I said, “I already have a good and happy life.”

My mother thinks about me. 

At the end of June, it was time to return to Taipei. This trip was much shorter than the first, but no less fun. For starters, my cousin Karen and I returned to Hong Kong:

Traveling for business, obviously.  
Before our feet started to hurt. 
Do this panorama some justice and click on it. 
My brother got married (again, to the same Cathy), at the W Hotel in Taipei. He cried the whole time and Cathy, was like, “What is wrong with you.” It was very touching. 
Bubbles and my brother’s tears. 
Some Ho’s and then some. 
I spent some quality time with family in Taiwan, and it felt a little different this time because I wasn’t sure when I’d next be back. 
My uncle at the office. He looks at numbers, then reads Buddhist scripture, and is in bed by 9PM. Every. Single. Day. 
My cousin Melody was also home from Boston over the summer, taking a break from breaking hearts. Over Din Tai Fung, we talked about the elusive Mr. Right and the ubiquitous Mr. Wrongs.  
I ate Chinese food as though my life depended on it, unsure of what awaited me in New York. Pasta, it turns out. 
And a lot of the time, marveled at the fact that this guy was in a relationship with a girl who really really likes him. “I don’t know why either,” he says. 

I returned to California in the middle of July, hoping to return to a somewhat normal schedule, but it was crunch time. There was another trip to Vegas with the girls I go most often and have the best time with: 

Elevator selfie. 

A short trip to SF. First stop, two nights at Erica and Carson’s:

TPE – HKG – SF! Taxicab selfies are now a thing. 
I had lunch with Emily from Pearl’s wedding. She lived in SF and was trying to convince all her single girlfriends to move out there. 
“The odds are so much better for women in SF,” she said, “I heard it’s hard to meet someone in New York.” 
I nodded; I had heard the same thing. But a month later Emily would make it very easy for me to meet someone in New York. 
“What about POI? He’s offensive and so is Betty.” 

And the main event: Jaime’s Bachelorette party, which was supposed to be tame but ended up like this:

The bachelorette and a very drunk man who liked very much to “back it up.”  

My cousin Wendy’s baby shower:

Remember earlier in the year she was in Vegas! 
And a quick succession of hangouts before I had to leave town: 
I watched a lot of movies with this girl, equally as obsessed with Benedict Cumberbatch as I was until we realized he was probably gay. But we still really like him. 

With cousin Michelle in Venice, aping an ape. 
At plate by plate with Enny, whose outfit was pretty much the talk of the town. 
Billy’s dad salting seasoning their salmon during a random weekend at their mansion in Upland.  
With Angie and Lynn at a Phoenix International event. 
Getting In n’Out with Grandpa. 
With Auntie Linda, a few days before leaving. 
Pint-sized houseguests from Taipei. 
An impromptu mexican feast at Grace’s.  
Then, on August 17, 2013, I moved to New York. 
Well. Sort of. 
The early days. 
Grace and Charlene were there to help make things better. We went to HomeGoods and bought mirrors and lamps, you know, essential things. They helped me haul three giant boxes filled with Forever 21 crap up five flights, something the UPS guy failed to do. 
Best moving service ever 🙂 Way better than UPS. 
Then in my giant mess of an unfurnished room, we got ready for my first girls’ night out in New York. 
And it was never this messy again. 
Cleaned up and celebrating Charlene’s birthday belatedly, at Robert in Columbus Circle. 
And it was back to California for Jaime and Alvin’s beautiful wedding in San Clemente. I’ve known Jaime since middle school, when we met in science class and giggled together at the teacher’s giant armpit sweat stains. Four months later, she and her husband would fly through a snow storm and battle massive flight delays to visit me in New York. 
With bridesmaid Emy, also an old friend from high school and Jaime, one of the most low-maintenance brides in the history of brides. Emy and I always look like her bodyguards.  
I like to think that some of my photos were better than the wedding photographer’s. 
At the wedding, just as I was sitting down to dinner, Emily texted me. 
“Hey! I want to set you up with someone.” 
“I’m game,” I said, taking a bite of fish. 
A few minutes later POI texted, asking me to dinner sometime the following week. I’d let him know tomorrow, I said. First I had to eat cake and dance. I was at a wedding, after all. 
The next evening, I boarded a red-eye flight from Long Beach to JFK. And just like that, it was back to New York. For longer, for real. 

On Packing and Moving East

I spent the better part of the morning getting quotes on hypothetical cardboard boxes filled with clothes purchased over the years from Forever 21, Zara and H&M. By the United States Postal Service and FedEx, shipping would cost more than my entire wardrobe. By UPS, it is slightly less expensive, but only slightly.

“What would the value of the items be, per box?” asked the Indian man over the phone. He owned the UPS down the street from my house.

I did a quick calculation, estimating that the average cost of each item to be around $15. Subtract things like the changing of the seasons and the fact that no one ever buys “Vintage” fast fashion, I realized my clothes were probably worth less than a UPS cardboard box, which costs $8.50. I could basically put one hundred cheap polyester tops in each box and…

“About $200 dollars,” I said with as much resolution as I could muster. I felt then rather tender and generous towards my belongings.

I saw, via landline, the Indian man raise his eyebrows.

“That…is….” he wondered how to say it nicely, “Well UPS declared value can reimburse you up to $100 if anything happens to your packages.”

“That’s fine,” I said quickly. I wondered how severe the pangs of loss I’d feel if anything were to happen to my boxes. I imagined a small gang of bandits, each holding a medium sized U-Haul box, howling with glee and racing towards their appointed meeting place. Some misty bank underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. They would tear open the boxes, see bundles of brightly colored fabric and hoot – because you know, sometimes polyester looks like silk. They could make a killing on E-bay. One of them would beam a flashlight on the tags and they would all be crestfallen.

“Who the hell spends over $300 shipping Forever 21 crap across the country?”

After I’d bought the boxes (from U-Haul, because UPS is certainly a rip-off) I slid open my closet doors and was myself crestfallen. My studio in New York is sunny and bright. It has four windows, which is three more than in the other units I saw. It has a full kitchen with space for a small dining table and a standard refrigerator for the giant tubs of greek yogurt I will stockpile. It has a bathroom with a triangular tub, checkered black and white tile and a sparkling white sink. There is not much room to dance around in (something I like to do in my home bathroom), but it has a window through which lots of light can stream along with the gazes of other tenants, for whom, one Halloween, I shall prepare some “Rear Window” action. It has hardwood floors, high ceilings, soft, cream-colored walls and it sits atop five flights of long, narrow stairs. There is no elevator in the building, but exceedingly sturdy legs is a small price to pay for sunlight, quiet, and other things that keep you alive in the big city.

My studio also has the smallest closet known to man.

It is smaller than Harry Potter’s broom cupboard, smaller than the closets found on Lilliput. Smaller probably, than the island of Lilliput itself. It is, to quote a million people before me, a crying shame. My closet at home is already not enormous, but my father, when he remodeled the house, had shelves and drawers built in to maximize the space, which I maximized to the point of it being maxed out. I also have an enormous dresser and ample space under my bed. I don’t think I qualify as a shopaholic, but I have a lot of stuff. Some of it, my friends chide, for a life I don’t live. I don’t have plans to reinvent myself in New York, but I would like to wear my leopard coat and sequined jacket and borderline bordello-esque heels without someone staring, then hissing, “What is it, Halloween?”

I have a feeling that sort of thing doesn’t happen in New York and if it does, the speaker is probably homeless and insane, instead of a man dining out with his wife and kids.

But for now, my father is reminding me the definition of “essential.”

“Are these heels essential right now? Is this leopard coat essential?”

Nothing is essential, unless you make it so.

My father reminds me that I’m going there to study, not to strut around in stilettos and sequins doing God knows what.

“Yes yes,” I say, waving him away, “I didn’t buy all these clothes just to leave them in California.”

“Yes, but NewYork is a walking city. You must wear sensible shoes. And when it gets cold,” he looks dubiously at the leopard coat. It’s not real leopard (you’re welcome, leopards), nor is it North Face, “You’ll need to wear something warmer than this too.”

Mentally, I start to allocate shoes to one box. Loud coats to another. Sensible things I can roll up and pack into suitcases. Sensible things are to be worn when moving in, when going to class. When riding the subway. And after one is moved in, the not-so-sensible things can be taken out, pressed and worn on the town with friends after the sun has set. Senses are both heightened and on the wane. But this is exactly right; one does not move to New York to be sensible.