Getting Credit for Asking

Back home in Seattle, I was the happy hour coordinator for a while. Every week I would send an email to the whole company, saying to meet me at a certain happy hour in town, everybody is invited, bring whoever you want; it’s just happy hour. I would always try to make the email entertaining by including a cute cat photo and an outlandish claim about a colleague; a little something for people to look forward to.

At first, it was weird. Seattle people are not used to open, standing invitations to happy hour. People would pull me aside and ask me discreetly who was invited; they’d RSVP (it’s on open invitation), or apologize profusely for not being able to make it. What I found most striking was that people were so thankful for me to writing this email every week with an open invitation and a cute cat photo. More than once, someone found a quiet moment to pull me aside and thank me for “what I was doing for the community.” For my part, I just wanted to go to happy hour. But not once did someone complain about me spamming their email.

It made me realize that people love to be invited to stuff. Even if they can’t make it, they still want the invitation.

So I do this thing now, where I invite people to join me in what I’m doing. It doesn’t matter if they live too far away, or if I know they have kids to pick up, or if I know that they don’t like sushi or superhero movies or karaoke; it doesn’t matter, I just invite them.  I invite people I don’t necessarily like. I invite people whom I know for a fact do not like me.

The worst that can happen is that they say yes, and I’ll have company for a little bit. I’ve been surprised several times by unlikely colleagues at happy hour. I’ve gone to foot massages with whole academic departments. Of course, karaoke nights are vastly improved by random unlikely participants who show up just because they were invited. Earlier this year, a coworker asked me what I was doing for February break; I said, “I’m going to Seattle, you’re welcome to join me.”  To my surprise my coworker accepted, and we ended up hanging out together in Seattle for a few days; I don’t regret it even slightly.

Of course, the most likely scenario is that people decline the invitation. They live too far; they have to pick up the kids, they don’t like sushi or karaoke or superhero movies. They can’t make it. But my theory has been that they still enjoy getting invited. They can’t make it, but I still get credit for asking.

There are, of course, people who get stressed out by the recklessness of my invitations, who feel bad about declining. Or sometimes they are annoyed that they have to make an excuse because they really don’t want to spend time with me. Look, I get it, I’m not always a picnic. But if someone has to resent me, let them resent me for asking them along to see a movie that I, myself, want to see anyway. They can say no. In fact, most of the time, I’m fully expecting them to say no; I still get credit for asking.

Lately I’ve been explicit about “getting credit for asking,” especially if they seem overly remorseful or if they go into too much detail about the reasons for the decline. “Oh well,” I say, ” at least I get credit for asking,” and hopefully my interlocutor gets the message that it’s not that big of a deal.

I was thinking about it the other day, and realized I might over-invite people due to my own insecurity about not getting invited.  A few posts ago, I stated the rule, “If I wasn’t invited, it’s none of my business.” When I posted that it wasn’t because it’s a rule that I always follow; it’s a rule I wish I could follow. It’s me trying to tell myself to not be sensitive about not getting invited.  I wish I could block out the sting of being left out of the fun. I wrote it to remind myself.

For the most part, I think spend most of my adulthood made of teflon, and I don’t worry about feeling left out; that stuff rolls off of me. But once in a blue moon, I feel less like teflon and more like an exposed nerve, and on those days I just wish people would invite me.

The worst that could happen is that I’d say yes.

Narration exercise: Toy Helicopter

My Honors Spanish II class is studying narration in the past with the pretérito and the imperfecto. As an exercise, I give them a story with the verbs underlined, and it’s their job to conjugate the verbs in the correct tense. Here’s a short story I wrote for them as an exercise, it’s called “Toy Helicopter.”

De niño, Juan Patricio era muy precioso y nada travieso.  Siempre obedecía a sus papás y a su abuelita. Se sabía muchas canciones y le gustaba cantarlas a su abuelita y sus tíos.  No tenía amigos o primos de su edad, entonces siempre jugaba con los adultos.  

Un día de navidad, Juan Patricio recibió un regalo tremendo. Fue un juguete: ¡un helicóptero en miniatura que volaba! Estaba muy ilusionado sentado al lado de su papá, mientras que su papá armaba el helicóptero.  

Después de armar el helicóptero en miniatura, el papá de Juan Patricio le dijo, “yo voy primero y tú después.” Entonces el papá se tomó el control remoto del helicóptero en miniatura y empezó a jugar, haciendo en círculos en el aire de la sala, parándolo en el aire en medio vuelo, aterrizando y despegando una y otra vez.  Juan Patricio se sentaba al lado de su papá, muy ilusionado, con muchas ganas de jugar con el control remoto también. Le pidió el control remoto a su papá, pero su papá no quería dárselo. “Es peligroso,” le decía.  

Juan Patricio quería jugar con su helicóptero pero su papá no se lo dejaba. Juan Patricio empezó a llorar en silencio, secándose las lágrimas con la manga de su pijama amarillo rayado.  Luego, empezó a sollozar. Su papá se dio cuenta y le regañó. “¡Ya deja de llorar!” le dijo, enojado.  

“¡Es que es mío el juguete, y yo quiero jugar!”

Su papá se levantó y se fue a su habitación y cerró la puerta, enojado que su hijo llorara. Juan Patricio se quedó solo con su juguete. Por fin podía jugar. Hizo unos tristes círculos con el helicóptero; sollozando, lo paró en el aire en medio vuelo, aterrizando y despegando una y otra vez, todavía sollozando. Se sentía triste y abandonado. Jugó sollozando unos minutos más, y luego regresó el helicóptero en miniatura a su caja y se fue a la cama.

Givers and Takers

A decade ago, back in 2009, Shawn of the Bread, my best friend from 7th grade, came to visit me in Shanghai. It was fun, we goofed around and I yelled at a cab driver. Kiwi J gave him the name “Shawn of the Bread” and we reminisced about middle school.

I remember telling Shawn of the Bread about a particularly difficult time I was having with T, someone who had been a close friend but at the time, not so much. It was a long and twisted narrative about betrayal and sabotage. Shawn of the Bread listened closely, and at the end, he said, “sounds like T is a taker.”  I didn’t quite understand.

“There are givers, and there are takers. You’re a giver,” he said, pointing to me, “and that T is a taker.”

At the moment, I remember thinking that analysis was way too simplistic.  Of course, I enjoyed the part where I was the giver–i.e, the good guy–and the other guy was a taker–the bad guy, but I didn’t find the analysis all that useful.

However, I immediately incorporated that binary concept into my own assessment of other people. Givers were generous and takers were selfish and greedy. I started thinking of everyone I knew as givers or takers, nice people or toxic people.

It’s a decade later, and Shawn of the Bread’s theory of “givers and takers,” is fully incorporated into how I see other people, but my understanding is has evolved.  I now understand “givers” and “takers” in terms of energy.  Now I realize there are certain people who energize me; these are the givers. Similarly, there are takers who take energy away from me; either I spend energy to be with them or they’re actively sucking energy away from me.

Obviously I’d rather be around givers, and I’d rather see myself as a giver. Obviously.  On my best days, for the majority of people, I think I am a giver. I hope I am.

Here’s the hard part; sometimes I know I’m a taker. I know people have to spend energy on me. Sometimes I feel myself actively sucking the energy away from them.  I don’t like it, but I see it happening, and I’m not always sure how to stop it.  Those are bad days.  That’s not who I want to be.

Back in Shanghai, I didn’t know how to respond Shawn of the Bread’s analysis about givers and takers. Now I see that back then, with T,  I was a taker.

So what do I do?  On days like those, I have to figure out how to be a giver again.




I’m a Friolento Now

1c1beee3-38b7-4be1-afd8-eae6f766ba96Last night my I went with R to glacial town of Idyllwild, California, where the temperature was an arctic 55ª Fahrenheit, easily thirty degrees colder than where I was down in the desert valley. I had prepared for the cold; long pants and a hoodie!  Up in the town the Californians were protected from the frigid alpine conditions by heating elements; electric rods in the ceilings and standing gas flame heaters among the tables.  I envied the tourists with knit caps and puffy jackets.

giphy-259Anyway, on the drive back down, I was cold, so I asked R if I could turn on the heater in his car. He was driving on dark, winding, two-lane roads, so I took the liberty of cranking the heat all the way to high so he could keep his eyes on the road and his hands at ten and two. We drive for ten or fifteen minutes talking about life and the universe, and suddenly he busts in with, “CAN YOU PLEASE TURN DOWN THE HEAT, YOU F*ING FRIOLENTO,” I looked over and he was in Stage 11 heat stroke, ready to pass out, his skin as red as a apple and a faint smell of pork roast. I was puzzled because I was just finally starting to feel warm again; and also rather pleased, since I was the one who taught him that word “friolento;” someone who is wimpy about the cold, and there he was using it properly in context.

So yes, I did turn down the heat, so my friend wouldn’t suffer. Not all the way down, because brr, but then he asked me a second time, so I went max AC and handed him a cold compress. Drama.

I moved to the Desert in 2016, and the heat was just oppressive; I didn’t know how I was going to survive it. It was so hot, it made everything ugly.

I was very surprised, however at how quickly I adjusted and became a friolento. I think it was a matter of a couple of months. My classroom usually felt comfortably warm, but when we’d have to go upstairs for a faculty meeting, my teeth were chattering. When we had Mass upstairs, I would warn people sternly to bring a sweater. When the outside temps get up in to the 90s (we consider that a cooler temperature here) I start keeping a hoodie in the car, to have with me just in case I have to go into a store or an office. People here keep their air conditioning set to “ice cream.” It’s so cold, lobsters and crabs start get visibly lethargic when they enter the dentist’s office.

So yah, I’m a friolento now.  I wonder how long it will take me to adjust, when I move back to Seattle, Washington in the fall of this year, to start the new job I just committed to yesterday. I wonder if I’ll feel cold when it rains. I wonder if I will crave the sunshine.

Nah!  I’m glad I kept all my flannel shirts.  I wonder if they’ll let me teach in them…

d2f6814a-633d-4cb3-ae84-1522c04dec6a-large16x9_9056ac56f2c04953a7f55bb7fcc3032blarge16x9_kennytaungIn case you’re wondering, the drive to Idyllwild and back was very scenic. I was glad to go and see it all for first time, and glad to celebrate the new job.


Thanksgiving Break 2018 and my bread recipe

I’m back in the desert after Thanksgiving in Vegas with my family. We went and saw Fantastic Beasts II, went to bingo, ate at my favorite Chinese restaurant Bund Shanghai, went grocery shopping at both the Mexican supermarket and the Filipino supermarket. What else is there?

Our family’s T-day menu was an 8 lb turkey roasted beer-can style; a roast lamb, shrimp pansit, tarragon mashed potatoes, slow-cooker dressing, stir-fried brussels sprouts, roasted brocoli, fresh baguettes. K made gallo pinto. The guests brought a not-that-sweet bibinka and some goat caldereta.

We failed to make the salmon, totally forgot about anything cranberry. For dessert, we got two free pumpkin pies from the casino, and the dessert eaters declared them disgusting. The guests brought another free casino pumpkin pie. My dad proposed giving them to the poor, but my mama vetoed cursing the poor with something that was not good enough to serve to her own family.  I think those pies got junked. The dessert eaters were in heaven sucking on some sugar cane that my mama bought at the supermarket.

K wants to make bread, so here’s my recipe:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 0.5 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1.5 cup water

Stir the dry ingredients together in a big bowl. Add the water and stir with the back of a wooden spoon until all the dry flour is gone; you’ll have a shaggy mass. Clean all the scraps from the sides of the bowl and dump it into the mass of flour. Cover and leave it alone until the next day, up to 48 hours. At the very least, give it eight hours. It will transform itself into a wet, sticky pool.

It’s ready to bake after that, but if you want to work it a little, you can fold it, let it rest, fold it again, let it rest… whatever.  Cook a round loaf in a Dutch oven with or without parchment; or  with a little more work you can shape baguettes.

So here’s the minimum gear you need for the dough: measuring cups, measuring spoons, big mixing bowl, something to cover it with.  Optional: silicone spatula, bench scraper.

Here’s the minimum gear you need for the round loaf: Dutch oven. Optional: parchment paper.  I’ve made a round loaf in K’s apartment before so I know he has all these things.

Here’s the minimum gear you need for baguettes:  baking sheet.  Optional: Silpat liner, sharp knife for slashing, little container for steam bath.  You can buy the baguette cradle if you’re into it; I would buy this one because it will make larger loaves. The one that I bought really makes ficelles, which are delicious but should be eaten hot and fresh… they get hard and crusty if you let them wait.

I enjoy hard and crusty but my mama adds stuff like flax and chia to her recipe and the finished product turns out softer. The last round of baguettes I made were yellow from turmeric.

Maybe I Should Hoard Fish Oil Pills

This post is for Bocatas, who didn’t ask for my advice.

So for my second round of laser eye surgery, the guy who was helping the doctor prep me for the procedure (I’m not sure if he is a nurse or an expeditor of some sort) told me to take flax seed oil pills.  He said they’ll help keep my eyeball tissues juicy and that will stave off dryness.

Off-handedly, he mentioned that fish oil pills were actually the best, but that most people were grossed out by fish.

I was like, listen dude, I have been Filipino a long time and I’m not afraid of no fish.  I chuckled to myself and muttered, “… desert people.” He looked up at me and said, oh, ok, with a look on his face like, “wow, that’s never happened before.” He told me that I’d be taking these pills for the rest of my life.

The time I ran out. Ever since the procedure, I’ve taken my 1000 IUs of fish oil pills twice a day. One time, I was driving to Vegas through the Mojave National Preserve and my eyes hurt, a stingy, stabby hurt. It took me another day or two to remember that I had let my bottle of fish oil pills run out, and that I needed to buy another. I bought the pills in Vegas, and my eyes went back to being juicy and stab-free.

The lady at work. One of my coworkers had the procedure done a few months before me, and I was picking her brain for information. She said the whole experience was great, which made me feel better about getting my own procedure done. Later, after the surgery, she complained to me that her eyes felt dry, and that drops didn’t help, and that sometimes her eyes felt stabby.  I asked her what kind of fish oil pills she was taking, and she said, “What are you talking about?” Apparently the nurse/expeditor didn’t tell her to take the flax seed oil pills. So I told her the whole flax seed oil/fish oil pill story, and she said, oh, I’ll take fish oil pills.

I checked back with her a week later, as she passed me in the hallway. Did the fish oil pills work?  Yep, she said, fixed everything, that was it. I’m fine now, she said, and then disappeared down the hallway.

Check-up.  I did a one year post procedure check-up with my ophthalmologist. I mentioned that I was taking the fish oil pills and told him about the lady at work. He didn’t seem that impressed; maybe he thinks fish oil pills are not that necessary.  He asked me if I ate fish at least once a week, and I was like, chuckle, “… what is it with these desert people?  I eat fish minimum fifty times a week!  He looked at me and said, you know you’re probably getting enough fish oil through your diet. And then he took a harder look and said, “I would worry about mercury poisoning, if you’re eating that much fish.”

Listen, if I die from eating too much fish, I will die satisfied. If I die from anything, please let it be from eating too much fish.  Also, I reduced my intake of top predator fish like tuna down to once a month, and now I eat lower mercury fish like salmon and sardines.

The Dreaded Yellow Bottle.  So another time my bottle of fish oil pills ran out, and I bought the yellow bottle instead of the green bottle because it was on sale.  I took it for about three days, and then drove back to the pharmacy and bought the green bottle at full price. I don’t know whether the yellow bottle was lower quality or bad product or what, but I felt the stabby eye pain and I didn’t like it.

Text message panic.  Another friend from work texted me very early in the morning complaining of stabby eye pain. I told her to wash her eyeballs out and see the doctor.  Later I checked back with her; she did see the doctor, and he told her to take some drops. Dryness. At that point I remembered OH RIGHT she had had the procedure too.  So I told her about fish oil pills in a series of several detailed messages. I checked back with her a few days later, and she said, yep, all better.

1400 IUs.  I emptied out another bottle of fish oil pills, and coincidentally I was in Vegas again.  I went with my mama to Costco and I saw that the green bottle was on sale, but not at 1000 IUs; only at 1400 IUs.  So I bought it, and took the pills and everything was fine.  Once that bottle was empty, I went back to my regular pharmacy in the desert and bought the 1000 IUs bottle.  I didn’t feel stabby pain, but I did feel a little dry and my focus was not as sharp.  It’s not bad enough for me to go back up to 1400 IUs, but it’s clear to me at this point that I actually need fish oil pills for now.

Maybe I’ll try to wean myself away from fish oil pills gradually, lowering the dose until I stop needing them. When the economy crashes and the republic falls, I don’t want to be caught dependent on these pills without a reliable of supply. Who knows when order will be restored;  it might take years for society to recover steady distribution. Maybe I should just start hoarding them.

Secret Chicken Stories

For the record, I only called it “secret chicken” because it was a mysterious place and people were more drawn to it that way.  I never actually kept it a secret.

Secret Chicken.jpgOrigin.  I was rehearsing the Shades of Praise Gospel Choir, for a baccalaureate mass ceremony.  I told them that I’d see them at regular 11am mass, then there would be time to eat a piece of chicken and then call time for baccalaureate was soon after.  K asks me, “wait a second, where are you going to get chicken?”  When I answer that I was just going to stop at Ezell’s, K tells me, “you know the best chicken is at the corner of MLK and Jackson.”  He was one thousand percent correct.  It must have been in June of 2000.

By the way, my order is seven wings, and as soon as I get them in the car I pop open the styrofoam clamshell so that the breading doesn’t get soggy with the steam.  The wings are not in segments; they are whole wings from drumette, to flat, to tip.  The breading was crunchy and peppery, and the meat was juicy and perfect.

Secret Chicken. One time after a Christmas caroling with students, I told my coworker L that we should stop for fried chicken wings. Immediately someone said “Ezell’s?” and I said, no, I have another place. The interrogation was swift and merciless.  WHAT IS THIS PLACE, WHAT’S THE NAME OF IT, WHERE IS IT, IS IT AS GOOD AS EZELL’S?  I had to confess, I didn’t know the name of the place.  At the time they didn’t have the sign, and the place needed a coat of paint. I said I didn’t know the name of the place, and somebody yelled IS IT A SECRET?  And from that point on, I called it “Secret Chicken.”  I bought two orders of seven wings and we sat inside the school van and ate it in the parking lot. The students and my coworker L marveled at the flavor, saying things like, “oh my God,” “I love secret chicken,” and, “it’s a secret.”

What is this chicken? One time I went to visit an elderly relative in the hospital, where about a dozen family members were keeping vigil.  I brought two orders of seven wings, and when I walked in they hugged me and were glad to see me.  I said, I brought fried chicken and my auntie said, oh that is so sweet honey, I couldn’t possibly eat, they’ve been bringing in so much food…  I opened the styrofoam clamshell and immediately everyone stopped what they were doing and turned their heads.  Not hungry auntie was suddenly hungry, and a few bites into it, she said, “WHAT IS THIS CHICKEN?!” While her mouth was full, she was asking me, “Honey where did you get this chicken?! This is my favorite chicken!”

Whenever I describe the place, I say, “it’s at the corner of Jackson and MLK, and there’s no sign, and I don’t know what it’s called.” Invariably people ask me what it’s called even after I tell them, and then they try to picture the place in their minds, which they can’t because it’s so nondescript.

Back then they only sold chicken under a heat lamp; there were wings, and other parts that weren’t as good as the wings. There might have been a hot link.  There were drinks on the shelves and in the coolers. That’s about it; I don’t think they even had chips. They had a big bottle of Tapatio that you could dress your chicken with. Now they sell jojos as well.  Fyi, jojos are fried potato wedges for you sukkaz that are not from the 206.

Yelp review.  One time I looked at the Yelp review of the place, and noticed one of the photos was gorgeous. GORGEOUS. Then I noticed there was a scoop of rice in the background, which I instantly identified as Niko Niko Calrose Rice.  I thought, did I take that picture?  I can’t have taken it, I’ve never written a yelp review in my life.  I looked at the name, and realized it was my cowsin M, who was still going there years after introduced him to it.  The photo does not seem to be there anymore.

She made it best. For a long time when I first stated going there, the lady behind the counter was a very kind Eritrean lady who seemed exhausted all the time.  The chicken was always perfect. A friend of mine asked her what the secret was, and she said it was just the recipe she makes for her family, nothing special. My friend didn’t believe her, but I believed it; salt, pepper, corn flour, fried perfectly without over-frying. Another friend of mine asked for the recipe, they told him no-wheat flour, so it’s gluten free, no extra carbs!  He owned rental houses in the area, so he stopped there all the time. Anyway, I started noticing that the wings were getting over-fried, and it wasn’t as good. I also realized the kind lady wasn’t there anymore. So finally I asked the man selling me the chicken; what happened to the kind lady who always used to work here?  Oh, said the man, she passed away about a year ago. I was so sorry to hear that. I also thought, she was the one who made the chicken the best.

A few years ago, they gave the place a purple paint job and replaced the sign. Now it says “Quick Pack Food Mart” which is still too nondescript to remember. I’m not a meat eater anymore, but I have fond memories of that place. I wrote this post because I saw a Seattle Weekly article.

The other places I liked to get fried chicken were: Ezell’s, Heaven Sent (basically Ezell’s), Chicken Express (more kind Eritrean ladies), and the old Takohachi, where the Stranger reporter went to get karaage after CD Ezell’s burned down in 2000. Seattle was really a wonderful place for fried chicken. There was an Ezell’s in the UDistrict when I was in college; the Hawaiians used to buy extra dinners for the homeless people. There was a time when my neighborhood seemed to be the epicenter of Seattle fried chicken, with three of my favorite spots only blocks away.