Dear Lei...

 I'm fine like really although...

1. I think I could start doing botox- I think I see the slightest sign of a line, a droop at the corners of my mouth, that could do with the tiniest bit of lift, but this is only on some days. On most days, I can't see it. I can't see anything. I look at my face and scroll through my Mac's Photo Booth going all the way back to 2008 and there is hardly a change, and that's what I think I'm looking for- a change.
A change to what, I don't know. It's not like I'm not trying. I've perfected trying-  to keep closets organised, bank balances healthy, skin moisturised, vitamin supplements and meds ingested without fail. On Sundays, I prepare for Mondays- coordinate my outfit for the week, sorting out my lunches.
Lately, I've been spraying on three different scents in the morning when I get ready for work. I read somewhere that this is to ensure you give off a great smell all day; when one layer wears off, the next one takes effect.

'You're just so put together', is a line I hear quite often and even as I graciously acknowledge that with a smile, I think- what the fuck am I putting together???? Aren't we all supposed to get it together?? 

2. It's true what sociologists say that at some point, it becomes harder to find friends. Whether it's my age, my choice of jokes, my lack of children, my choice of pants that makes this extra difficult, I don't really care. Most adults- and I use this word very ambiguously rather than pegging it on actual age- are so goddamned fucking dull. And stupid. I don't think I can invest emotionally anymore in someone still struggling with the same stuff I struggled with at 25. If you think calling someone fat is morally wrong, how do you expect to deal with your own weight issues???

3. Loving someone is easy

4. Patience can be learned.

5. If you don't think of yourself first, you're in no position to help others

6. You can reprimand yourself in the third-person when you start treating others cruelly, or judging them too harshly- when yes, even if they fucking deserve it.

7. That while I miss you and my family, I've finally stopped pining for home. This is home.

8. Is $260 too much for a pair of jeans?

9. I'm busy as hell and this is the cliche of my life. Cliche yes, but true. It's a treadmill I won't be getting off anytime soon.

10. I should read more; I think I'm becoming illiterate, like metaphorically.

City life

I don't think it's morbid when I think, one day in the future, I'll slip into a city anonymously and just die in some room, albeit an elegant one. With a view. With everything sorted.

During the weekend, the city was jam-packed as if somebody had poured people out of a jar and they streamed in all directions. There were sirens and police (we were to find out later that an Indian woman with her four-month old son clutched in her arms, jumped off her 14th floor apartment); a gaggle of Chinese protesters; cyclists; kids doing Pokemon Go; belligerent drunks shouting at each other with slurred, spiteful words. It was disorienting and kinetic at the same time. I calmed myself down with a venti Macchiato at a local Starbucks which in a country chockful of cafes, was sadly far in between. But when the working week rolled in, everyone was just gone and there was this noticeable predominance of greyness in the streets and laneways under the shadows of the tall skyscrapers.

On a bus ride to what was claimed as the biggest shopping mall in the Southern Hemisphere, I realised that people's lives were set-up elsewhere- I saw leafy suburbs; Mediterranean styled houses with tiled roofs, filigreed balconies; narrow streets punctuated with fit housewives in athletic wear pushing prams.

People only come to the cities when they had to. A day at the museum, or the mall or the parks was just on a list of to-dos and not stuff one did on a 24-hour cycle, but for some, maybe it could be the life. For seven days, it felt that it was mine; the canister of coffee-pods that counted down the caffeine breaks; the trips to the kebab shop where on the 4th one, the owner counted you as a regular; the trams that you hated (the ones with the narrow steps where everyone struggled to get into) and the ones that you were fond of (any tram after 9pm, blissfully half-empty).

And for the occasional treat, some new exhibit at the National Gallery. They had Degas over the weekend and it was like meeting someone at a bar. The duration of a drink or a conversation felt curated, filtered as it often is.

I'm not only known for paintings of ballet dancers you know; I've made great paintings of racecourses and female nudes. Towards the end of my life, I discovered photography and wished that if I lived longer enough, I could have done more of it....

I nod solemnly thinking, I know the feeling. I twirled the ice in my glass and it sparkled like so many broken gems. I reached for my phone, switched the camera on to take a photo, but the lighting was just too dark.

The Internet is distracting

Waking up this morning at the leisurely hour of 9:45 I resisted the urge to check my phone as I normally do. I thought, I'm not Warren Buffet who needed to know if my net worth had plummeted in the 9 or so hours I was sound asleep. I was nobody and whatever notifications I had received during the night and the early hours were of ZERO consequence. After brushing my teeth and settling with a cup of coffee, I finally checked what the internet had for me:

- @rchive_co was now following me on Twitter (why in the world would I be interested in DRM-embedded proprietary e-readers??)
- from the NYTimes which I subscribe to: One suspect in a Dallas ambush that killed five officers is dead. He 'said he wanted to kill white people," the police chief said. (ZERO sympathy for the STUPIDEST police force in the world).
- Snapchat was updated (its amusing but I'm officially too old for it).

Remember when the typewriter was the only tool you used for work? TV then wasn't much of a distracting temptation. Instead, it was an incentive to get some work done so you could reward yourself with a new episode you waited for a full week to see.

These were the distractions on the computer screen on the way to work:

1. Lotto frenzy; little country going crazy over the highest possible winnings in its history at (a paltry) $40m. Some greedy bitch plunked $10,000 for tickets and you think, it will be a cosmic injustice if she wins all of it, but who knows? The world is over-flowing with injustice at the moment that it's fitting if she did.

2. Of course it got me thinking, what if I won the $40 million? I'll be one less Aucklander-With-A-Housing-Dilemma and buy 'Island Retreat' designed by Fearon Hay Architects on Waiheke Island. Nothing like being away from it all.

3. Downloading and playing (albeit briefly- the idea of wondering around looking for imaginary rewards and creatures is retarded) Pokemon Go.

4. Continuing obsession with pork

Desk for success

I think my suspicions about myself are correct- I'm an optimist! I got a new desk at work (actually it was a co-workers' who needed to get a shorter one) and wanted it because it was about two feet longer. 'Two feet' I told my co-worker, can make all the difference. In work. In life?

1. I could have three computers running all at the same time (I currently use two and switch one to the other seamlessly).
2. I could put more plants (Leila found transparent planter boxes online from this Auckland concept store. She wants one, but I may get one for myself first).
3. I could have my cutting mat on my desk finally (for when I do my mocks and design drafts).

Funny how some wouldn't care about how their desks looked; or cared as far as printing photos of their loved-ones on office A4 sheets and scotch-taping them on their cubicle partitions.

I hate plastic document trays. The office cunt asked me once where I put my to-do papers (she's the sort who thinks she could hide her contempt of everyone by being manically polite) and I told her matter-of-factly that I didn't have one because it wasn't necessary; I actioned papers as soon as I got them.

a serious lack of creativity

Don't get me wrong, I'm still creative. I have to be because it's a large part of my job. And work allows me nice, expensive shoes; a possibly comfortable retirement; organic granola and avocados (they're currently $3.50 each, for small, gnarly looking specimens). But there are moments, honest moments, when the filter is off and your mind clears of everything that you realise, what else is there?

RIP Bill Cunningham

Reading the Fashion section of my favourite New York Times will never be the same again. The original and the best street fashion photographer has passed away. New York will never be the same without you..

Hey Lei

Tried to borrow
someone else's words,
something shinier, something more clever
than this tired old bones
that shuffled home (went to the movies with Matt)

I'm too old for Xmen, superheroes
don't exist anyway and look
they're voting for a moron to the white house,
how's that for a blockbuster Hollywood fantasy??

Didn't we plan
to meet in the US of A?

You look cold and alone
in that photo near the Golden Gate

Next time,
before we're truly, truly old
before I truly, truly forget

Let's committ and I promise,
that I shall take a better photo
than this..

happy birthday!


I just died: Nike now ships to New Zealand

I had strayed to the website a few weeks back and thought it had been aborted; Nike New Zealand website opening in May it said and May was half-way done.

And now it's live. And now I'm thinking, how many can I buy? Lol.

It's like being given access to a candy store you used to admire from afar, but the catch is that you'd still be paying for what are essentially, prices pegged at current conversion rates.

But as Imelda Marcos always says, life is too short for cheap, ugly shoes and madame will see 90 yet (and probably outlive Rody Duterte at the rate he's going).

Why I love winter

The main comfort of winter is that it makes you not want to care. 

I've been beside people on the train or the bus who smell of days being unwashed (I know this because I've seen Matt skip days in between showers because of the cold). But Matt is a kid, while these are adult people who shuffle about in their drab woollens and mismatched polyesters, reeking faintly of shit, food (like you go to bed in the clothes you've worn while cooking) and uncaring lethargy. Sure, I had my moments, like hours in bed finishing off 'The Good Wife'; 66 episodes x 45 minutes = 2970 minutes/49 hours.

There are several episodes in the show where Alicia, reeling from the after-effects of her lover's death, walks through her routine like someone barely alive, but my tragedy is anything but. And yet, the weight of ordinariness, of 'normalcy' is equally heavy. What to do?? Is this it?

But I get up. I resist the urge to fry something. I do my exercise. I worry about my face and buy something from Sephora. I try to blog.

And I make sure that when I go out for the day, the outside matches perfectly what's inside because I deserve nothing less.

Sans Rival!

I think admission tests to culinary schools (if such things exists) are like this. They give you a recipe, most likely of something you've never done, and see how well you do.

But because lately, I approach cooking with more courage than writing, I never had any doubts that I wouldn't fail cooking a recipe I've never done before. But honestly,  I almost did though, twice; 1) in baking the meringue and 2) making the French buttercream- but I soldiered on, pausing to Google answers to such important questions as, 'why are my meringues soft?' and 'what to do with a runny buttercream'?

Important questions indeed because the cake has only two components- meringue and buttercream. There are endless variations to the recipe, some using pistachios (it does give a nice colour and flavour) or different buttercream flavours but the ingredients are startlingly basic for what looks and tastes like a complicated confection - eggs (egg whites and yolks), cashew nuts, butter, sugar and vanilla.

The quantities of these ingredients determine the size of the cake as discovered later. I used the recipe from this site. So you start with making the meringue and there is only one requirement for this- make sure it's well done. I think I didn't beat it enough which I discovered when it didn't harden even after it had cooled.

But this is fine- though it can break when it cools and takes on the consistency of a pancake- because you freeze it anyway and the softer meringue is kinder to your teeth (really firm meringues when frozen are quite chewy like nougat). And make sure you have the sizes right and be able to fit everything in your oven. You wouldn't really want the meringue to sit and deflate as you wait for the disks to cook and cool (you can make them square if you want) before putting in the next batch.

With the meringue disks done as best I could make them, it was on to the buttercream. Nothing is scarier than pouring near boiling liquid (in this case, sugar syrup) into egg yolks, or to figure out- sans a candy thermometer- what it means when 'it's done when it forms hard but pliable threads when dropped into cold water'.

But you just have to look I guess and there it was, the syrup breaking off into distinct thread-like filaments when dropped into cold water. Pour into the whisked egg-yolks and whisk as if your life depended on it and apparently (in another Sans Rival recipe) you're meant to chill this mixture a bit but I didn't know this until after. So about 15 minutes into whisking it with the creamed butter (creaming means working the butter at room temperature; made the mistake of putting it into the microwave which melted it- cream not melt!), it was still runny. So I Google checked and it said to chill it a bit which I did. So I did that- chill and whisk, chill and whisk until it achieved what I think to be a pliable texture.

So I started assembling the cake- four to five layers would have been perfect- and slapped on the cream. I must admit it wasn't pretty (the bottom shot below was obviously set-up to make a slice look as nice possible) but the proof is always in the eating, and fast forward four to five hours later after freezing it- Sans Rival! Just as I always remembered it...

PS: Stick to the required number of egg-yolks. I think I had one or two more than what was asked for (I had double or twin yolks so..) and at a hot temperature when the frosting melts, I can still taste the egg-yolk.

Things I Miss

Don't get me wrong- I've never been happier or truer to myself- a bit anxious, unsure (who isn't tell me, at any age, at this point in time??) but I can't help to grieve a bit, to miss, want, some things...

1. Getting on a bike. But Kiwi drivers are intrinsically selfish and stupid. When they get behind a wheel, they only have one thing on their mind- their destination- and God help anyone who is in their way.
2. Driving a scooter
3. Really fresh seafood, like fresh-water shrimps jumping out of the pot as they slowly feel death turn their pale pink bodies deep red
4. Eric
5. My nephews and nieces when they were much younger and when they loved and needed you unequivocally 
6. Myself at 17 when the only people I actually needed was my mother (first) for the emotional connection (strange but true) and my dad (for the financial support).
7. Myself at 18 when all I had was my imagination and my belief (proven to be so untrue) that I needed to be friends with the world to write ( I don't)
8. Myself at 21 when all I had was Leila and where a trip to her apartment with yellow roses in hand was (thankfully, blissfully) the only thing I can remember of that time
9. When Leila and I were in the middle of a crises that seemed to be at that time, cataclysmically unsolvable; when we revelled in our belief that we were done for. But of course we had the luxury of time then, of youth and that deep inside, we knew that everything would pass and that we would be disappointingly unchanged.
10. My room in Pangasinan pre-2008; computer, nice bed, internet-connection, money flowing into my account 24/7. Good help who changed my sheets every five days.
11. Co-workers who actually were judgy because the fact is this- I'll take a judgemental person any day over a sanctimonious one.
12. A new shiny thing like an iPad Pro (like really)
13. Street pork barbecue
14. An isolated Pangasinan beach
15. My mother and I shopping together
16. My siblings when we were all kids and playing Duplex house with make-believe identities; Ronnie just turned 44 this year.
17. My dad when he makes dinners like steak and hamburgers; it's really never the same when we do it ourselves
18. Getting drunk because I'm the happiest, sexiest drunk in the world
19. Reading and finishing two books in a week
20. School like going back to university and being the best in class; the one person whose work always ( like 9 out of 10) gets picked up by the professor to be read in class as an example of how things are done. Now, it's hard to write without any sort of competition. Need to sort this.