Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Doctor Tony.

Through some complicated game of telephone when I was 13, my mother got word of a Vietnamese herbalist in San Francisco. It was 2002, and after months of spraying that awful Rogaine formula on my head with no results, my parents were ready to try something new.

Vinh Khang Herbs & Ginsengs was located in New Chinatown in the Richmond District. During all the years we'd been visiting San Francisco, I never knew such a thing as "New Chinatown" existed. I was used to the overcrowded bustle of the "old" Chinatown that attracted tourists and film crews, but New Chinatown was different: it was quieter, cleaner, less grandiose--but the area was more diverse than its name hinted. The stores were a mix of Chinese, American, Vietnamese, Burmese, Irish, and more. It was as if this "new" area of an old city existed to catch the outcasts from the places they once called home. Would it catch me too?

The second we entered Vinh Khang, the mixture of pungent herbs hit me and I gagged. It was bitter and sweet at the same time, claustrophobic all around. I wanted to turn around and leave, but Mom guided me toward the tall glass counters.

Half of the tall store was devoted entirely to drawers of various plants and herbs. Two middle-aged Asian women worked efficiently, scooping contents from the drawers onto rows and rows of pink butcher paper. They barely stopped to read the labels of the drawers, they just knew what to grab. One by one, the women would pick up the papers filled with herbs and dump the mixtures into plastic bags, tie them shut with one quick gesture, and packed the bags away into larger plastic grocery bags. Neither women blinked an eye as they worked. 

Across from the women was an assortment of people waiting for their orders. Some were waiting to see the doctor, and when it was my turn, I walked to the back and sat on a stool as Mom spoke in rapid Cantonese with the man behind the counter.

Doctor Tony was an old Vietnamese man with dry, bony hands and gray hair. He spoke three languages, one of which was broken English. There was nothing remarkable about his appearance, though I wasn't sure what I was expecting. Was he a shaman? A magical healer? I wasn't sure what being an "herbalist" actually entailed.

Monday, September 29, 2014

out of sight.

I have a postcard board in my room that's made with pink elastic and a map of Paris. You can barely see the surface anymore because of all of the postcards and photos and tickets stubs and notable two-dimensional items layered on top, and it's too heavy to hang on the wall because it would surely just come crashing down with all of my memorabilia. It's a board that's traveled with me from city to city and state to state, and somewhere beneath the recent acquisitions--the tickets to Ellis Island and the zoo, and the postcards from Canada and France--are memories I've forgotten about.

Except for the ones I've surgically removed, that is. I don't even know what the point of all that was. If something exists in the background, how is it any different than tossing them in a shoebox somewhere in the back of my closet?

Friday, September 19, 2014

fill-in-the-blank friday: panda dreams.


  1. I like coffee shops, comfortable shoes, and this borderline autumn weather we're getting in New York right now.
  2. A life goal of mine is to hug a panda. It'll forever be on my bucket list, won't it?
  3. The last thing you would ever expect me to like (even though I secretly do) is High School Musical. No, really. It was so ridiculous, I couldn't help but love it.
  4. Some wise words that I love are "Life is too short to read bad books." Mengfei sent that to me in her birthday letter to me last March--and I just loved it. It reminds me that it's important to cut the bullshit from life and not just go through the motions.
  5. Most mornings you will find me rolling slowly out of bed...at 5 a.m. 
  6. Right now I am super into eyelid primer. Seriously, how have I not been using primer before? It makes shadow and liner last so much longer. (I'm currently using L'Oreal's Magic De-Crease Eyelid Primer.)
  7. Right now I am super over folding laundry. I'm staring at a pile of laundry right now that I feel like is just growing.

Monday, September 15, 2014

dining companions.

I don't like milk in my cereal. The only time I ever remember adding milk to my cereal was to a bowl of Rice Krispies to hear the snap, crackle, pop! and then accidentally adding too much milk and having the bowl turn to mush. And who likes soggy cereal? It's one of the most unpleasant textures, in my opinion. I have no use for soggy cereal! Who does?


Recently I was eating a bowl of cereal at the airport with a spoon and without milk (I've been told by, well, everybody that this is weird) and this guy kept staring at me until finally asking, "Did you forget to buy milk?" 

No, I didn't just forget to buy milk and then sat down and was like, "Oh man, no milk, better just eat this dry." If I wanted milk, I'd get up, walk back five feet to where the counter is, and ask from some milk. Leave me and my dry cereal alone.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

layers upon layers.



There's this episode of How I Met Your Mother where Marshall jokes about a condition he calls "revertigo"--the act of becoming a former version of yourself when you're around people from your past. It's not really a scientific term, but the act is familiar: when I'm around my high school friends, I act quite differently from how I normally act in the present. My sense of humor changes, my vocabulary is different, and I'm sure my body language is different too. It has nothing to do with living in the past, it's just about re-adopting old habits. In some ways, it could be about filling an expectation too: my high school friends knew me at a certain point in my life, and circumstances that happened during and after college have changed me since.

At lunch the other week, Minerva and I were talking about chapters in life and how glad we are we aren't the same people we were 10 years ago. Although we've retained some of our strange habits and faults, for the most part, we are different--not just older, but more mature, more cautious.

Is it all just a response to being more beaten down by life? Or have we really "grown up"? (What does "growing up" even really mean when I still enjoy gel pens and Pillow Pets?)