Summer Updates

It’s been a minute since I’ve updated this blog. This summer has been a whirlwind of activity and I’m working on a couple of different things, so I’m playing catch-up with this post.

What I’ve been doing lately:

Every summer, I try to jump into as many natural bodies of water as possible. Pools are fine, but give me a Midwestern lake or river over a water-filled concrete hole any day. I spent a weekend with my family in Long Beach, Indiana, where I whiled away an afternoon bobbing along the surface of Lake Michigan, letting my toes drag over the sand. On another trip to the Chain O’Lakes in north-central Wisconsin, storms threatened to cut down on my swimming time and lent to a lazy day of pub-hopping and indoor board games. But one afternoon, the sky cleared up and the sun came out so we hopped aboard the pontoon boat, and even though it was only in the mid-60’s, I jumped in the lake. There’s something about swimming in a deep body of water where you can’t see your hand in front of your face, and you float along thinking of what kind of primal creatures might be swirling in the depths beneath your feet. My brother and I were the only ones in the water while the rest of my family stayed on the boat, and I paddled along as sunlight glinted off the surface of the lake and through the thick green trees, and it was heaven. These are the kind of days I dream about in late January when the icy winds howl around our cozy little house.

In the spring, I decided to give up on a novel that I had been working on. I was about 45 pages in, and the idea of my premise was no longer drawing me to the page. At the same time, I realized that a short story I recently started had enough teeth to sustain the length of a novel. Wah-wah-waahhhh. I abandoned my earlier project to a Google Drive folder of cast-off ideas, and now I’m humming along on my new premise, starting from scratch. I still have my first novel-length manuscript from 2014 sitting in a file, and the process of working on it taught me so much about my own creative process. I don’t look at bulk amounts of cast-off pages as a waste of time at all; they’re practice towards what will someday be a complete piece that I’ll be (hopefully) proud to share. Some projects tell you when they’re ready.

On the interwebs, I’ve been writing some other fun things:

  • Game of Thrones recaps for Heauxs, a pop culture site. Seriously, check them out–there’s tons of reviews and think pieces and travelogues written by some hilarious, intelligent, and incredibly talented people. Writing these weekly recaps is fulfilling all of my 2007-era Television-without-Pity dreams.
  • I performed a piece about ancestry and identity at Miss Spoken in July, and shared it over at Drinkers with Writing Problems.

Let’s see, what else… In pop culture, besides Game of Thrones, I’ve been obsessing over Twin Peaks: the Return, and catching up on Outlander. The former makes me want to revisit the Pacific Northwest, and the latter has me researching camping in Scotland. And speaking of camping, Kurt and I are going on a fall road trip to Acadia National Park, so I’ll be posting some new travel blogs in the near future. Send any Maine recommendations my way. We also have a canoeing trip coming up as well as a visit to the Ozarks, so I have a few more chances to jump into a lake before the end of the summer. I suggest you do the same.

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New York


The line outside the bar was one-in-one-out. My friend and I huddled in the December wind on a street in New York’s West Village, waiting for enough patrons to exit so we could be let inside. The bar was a half level below the sidewalk, and piano music and raucous singing drifted through the window near our feet. It was around 10 p.m. We had spent the day doing other vacation-y things: brunch in Brooklyn, visiting the New Museum where locals took selfies to a whole new level, cocktails in a speakeasy hidden off of a hot dog joint in St. Marks Place. Now, we were here–waiting to get into a packed-to-capacity piano bar that solely played Broadway show tunes. As the line inched forward, we made our way to the front and then inside. The small, packed bar area exploded with sound; a full capacity bar was singing at the tops of their lungs “How we gonna pay… how we gonna pay… how we gonna pay… LAST YEAR’S RENT?!”

I grew up worshipping MGM musicals with the same fervor my classmates had for hair bands; Gene Kelly was my Brett Michaels. In high school, I found my Happy Place when I was cast in my first real musical (outside of a grade school production called In Quest of Columbus where I played the railing of the Santa Maria).  While my all-girls Catholic high school in a north Chicago suburb was hardly the setting of Fame, I had at least found a place among the teenagers whose CD collections were dominated by original cast recordings. When people learned my name was Kim, they typically responded by blurting back Miss Saigon lyrics: “I have a heart like the seeeeaaa…… A million dreams are in meeeeee!”

img_9656At Marie’s Crisis Cafe, I was once again among my people. It’s hard to explain the power of music, the way it creates a sense of community and gives a venue full of people a shared–at times transcendent–experience. Hedwig sang it best: “All the misfits and the losers, well you know you’re rock and rollers, spinning to your rock and roll…” In the packed bar, regulars mixed in with tourists; a decent amount of patrons appeared to still be wearing stage makeup from earlier in the night. Most of the crowd recognized a song from the first few chords, and the energetic vocals from the pianist helped the stragglers catch up. There were enough professionals and music buffs present to break out into harmonies, fill in the backup chorus, and interject lines of dialogue. We broke out into goofy grins and joyous laughter each time we recognized a song, then dove right into belting it out along with everyone else. It was impossible to be unhappy in a place like this, where even the most jaded New Yorker wasn’t too cool to sing “Little Surrey with the Fringe on Top” in public. We tore through numbers from Chicago, Little Shop of Horrors, Mary Poppins, Hedwig & the Angry Inch, Oklahoma, Les Miserables, Showboat, and A Chorus Line while throwing back cheap domestic beers in the cramped tavern. We sang until 3 a.m., when we reluctantly called it a night and caught the subway back to our rented apartment. With the piano playing on in my head, I thought back to all those nights on the stage, with pancake makeup on my face and my feet crammed into character shoes, finding my joy through music and performing. A million dreams are in me.

 

 

Another Year

I turn 37 today. Here’s some things I did in my 36th year:

  • went from being a non-coffee drinker to a coffee addict #blackasmidnightonamoonlessnight
  • saw Britney Spears perform (again!) the same weekend as Mariah Carey in a 36-hour Las Vegas diva-thon
  • got my tenth tattoo
  • saw a Star Wars movie in the theater that I actually enjoyed and cried when I saw the female lead take the light saber
  • had my first 2 pieces of short fiction published
  • was a cheerleader at a roller derby bout (it’s never too late to make your eighth grade dreams come true!)
  • saw Yosemite Valley for the first time
  • got my motorcycle permit
  • ran into a black bear while camping in the backcountry
  • rode a mechanical bull and a mechanical rooster in the same night
  • got addicted to Neko Atsume: Kitty Collector on my iPhone
  • shot at tin cans with a pellet gun at my sister’s wedding

I started this morning at 5:30 a.m. by working out to the fierceness that is Beyonce’s new album Lemonade. Hopefully this will set the trend for my 37th year to be pretty badass.

Things I did this weekend

  • performed a karaoke rendition of “Eternal Flame” in front of a church that was literally on fire
  • sang a karaoke rendition of “Cool Rider” from Grease 2 on an actual motorcycle
  • karaoked a rendition of “Wrecking Ball” while swinging from a ladder
  • duetted on “A Whole New World” but accidentally kept switching between the Aladdin/Jasmine version and Peabo Bryson/Regina Belle’s riffs and stylings
  • danced with pom poms to *NSync’s “Bye Bye Bye”
  • shook my pom poms to the Spice Girls’ “Spice Up Your Life”
  • ponied and pranced with poms to Katy Perry’s “California Gurls”
  • felt grateful that I am friends with people who are more than happy to join me in singing and dancing, to the extent that we:
    • created a Karaoke Club that, one year after its inception, is going stronger than ever
    • throw karaoke parties in garages
    • spend Sunday mornings dancing and sweating to the music of esteemed artists including Katy Perry, Spice Girls, Ariana Grande, and *NSync

Singing and dancing truly make my happy. It’s my free therapy. Now, time for me to sign off and feed my fake iPhone cats. #blessed

The Year So Far

In my previous post, I shared my New Year’s resolutions for 2016. Items 1-3 on my list are all underway and progress is moving along nicely.

I’ve gotten past the point of coffee tasting like burnt garbage and even kinda crave it in the mornings. It feeds into my love of a good morning routine. Also, I have so many favorite mugs which I love to put to good use. This bullet point can be marked off as a success.

The sonicare toothbrush makes my teeth feel shiny and clean. I got past the rookie mistakes of 1). accidentally gagging myself, or 2). removing the brush from my mouth while still it was still on, causing a flurry of toothpaste to hit the bathroom mirror like slush flying from a semi on the interstate. I can safely chalk this item off the list.

My hip hop dance classes are super fun. I’ve also been trying to regularly attend Cheerobix, a dance fitness class (with pom poms!). Both are good workouts, and I leave class feeling invigorated and happy. I’ve always loved dancing though I never formally trained besides a handful of ballet lessons in early grade school. I’m not especially talented at it; I’ve been told I dance like a white sorority girl, and I am Asian. But I don’t care as long as I’m enjoying myself. My love of dancing began during my childhood of watching old MGM musicals with my mom and sisters. I was probably the only 5th grader in my class who’d seen every edition of That’s Entertainment. Today, I get excited for new Step Up movies. I once found out that my co-worker was dating a ballerina and it took all of my strength to refrain from bombarding her with questions at the office holiday party and tell her how many times I’ve watched Center Stage.

I’m so glad that my 2016 so far is filled with choreography. I may never become a professional ballerina, but I’m pretty sure I can hold my own in a drunk dance-off.

 

 

Happy New Year

2015 was a weird year. After the ridiculous spree of happiness and excitement that was 2014 (got married, honeymooned, bought a house), this year was a bumpier road. Loved ones had some hard times. I went through some job changes. The world often felt like it was falling apart. On social media, everyone seemed to be in a fight with each other, slinging angry memes and sparring with links.

But there were great moments too. My sister got married and her wedding weekend was incredibly fun. I saw Half Dome and El Capitan for the first time. We camped in a blizzard and it was the greatest. Scrolling through my pictures from the last year, there’s tons of shots of fun times with people I love.  In other words, it was a Year, full of highs and lows just like any other, with good times and hardships ebbing and flowing like the tide.

So far, 2016 is off to a good start. We spent New Years Eve at home with a few of our closest friends, playing board games, drinking champagne, and keeping things relaxed. It was nice, and I especially enjoyed waking up on the first day of a new year not feeling like I was run over by a semi. Last New Years Day, I barely crawled out of bed and spent all day on the couch, trying to keep down an omelet and letting Netflix run through an entire season of a Canadian travel show. Today, I watched some football, took a nap, did some writing, and got in a cardio workout.

My resolutions for 2016:

  • take hip hop dance lessons (they start Monday!), prepare myself for random dance-off challenges, start a crew (or krew).
  • purchase a Sonicare toothbrush. I did this today, using my Christmas gift cards for something I actually need (instead of, say, Star Wars t-shirts) like a responsible adult. My journey towards healthier teeth and gums begins.
  • train myself to like coffee. This is mostly an attempt to break my terrible Diet Coke habit, which is my current method of caffeinating.  So far, I can tolerate coffee with  flavored cream, but I’d like to acquire the taste to order it Agent Dale Cooper-style, black as midnight on a moonless night.
  • In 2014, I had my big writing goal of finishing a novel. This year, I’m taking it easier and giving myself to challenge of creating a Twitter parody account. Sadly, tweeting as Laura Ingalls Wilder has already been taken.

This should keep me busy until 2017. Happy New Years, all!

Winter Adventurers

“You know what’s happening this weekend, right? You’ve seen the weather forecast?” the park ranger asked the first of our friends to arrive at the campgrounds early on Friday afternoon.

“We know,” they replied.

“Are you here for the start of hunting season?”

“No, just here to camp.”

The ranger shook his head in disbelief. A winter storm was rolling into the area, expected to drop up to 10 inches on much of the Midwest. And we were driving up north, headed the opposite direction of the geese flying south for the winter overhead, to spend the weekend outdoors.
IMG_6684Winter camping is one of my favorites. Though the days are short and our beer freezes overnight, there’s something about the quiet stillness that makes the forest otherworldly. The world hibernates around us, but in our small circle around the campfire, we stay warm and pass the whiskey. Overhead, stark branches criss-cross against the silver sky. The snow falls steadily, piling up on our tents, our boxes of beer (no need for a cooler), our fur-trimmed hoods pulled up over our heads. Beyond the circle, whiteness obliterates the landscape; we could be in Wisconsin or Westeros. Coyotes yip in the night. Or direwolves.

We’ve camped in snow before. We’ve camped in 1-degree temperatures before. But this was our first time camping in a legitimate winter storm, one big enough to get a name: Bella. We were undaunted by this news; we are not the type to be scared off, especially by a storm named after a damn Twilight character. We may be crazy, but we’re tough, and this wasn’t our first rodeo. There’s a Norwegian saying that goes “There’s no bad weather, only bad clothes.” We were prepared with insulated sleeping pads, bags rated for 15 degrees, waterproof layers, a coat and Musher’s Secret for our dog.

IMG_6714We arrived, car by car, at our large group site. As Friday slipped into Saturday, the snow fell. It melted onto our coats, warmed by the fire. It piled onto our tents, causing rainflies to droop under its wintry weight. It buried bottles left out on picnic tables, turning them into ambiguous white blobs. It blanketed us from the rest of the world, silencing the sounds of civilization, leaving only our laughter, our breath as we blew into our mittens, the crackle of the fire.

On Saturday morning, the snow still fell. We stayed in our warm sleeping bags, our tents transformed into igloos. Finally lured out by the promises of coffee, campfire, and Bloody Marys, we emerged from our brief hibernation. Before we could eat or drink, we had to shovel inches of snow off the tables. The dogs frolicked in the fresh powder, losing tennis balls and frisbees. We posted photos to social media with Winter Storm Bella hashtags, declaring ourselves Team Jacob. Our friends back home called us crazy.

The snow eventually stopped; blue sky peeked out through the bare tree branches. We began to cook our Thanksgiving meal. Potatoes boiled over the campfire. Vegetarian curry stewed on a camp stove. A turducken dripped savory juices in the smoker. Just before sunset, we set up our spread over the picnic table, salivating before our feast.

“I wish the ranger would come by and see this,” my friend said. We ate our meal together, friends bonded by our breaking of bread under the most snowy extreme circumstances. Call us crazy; we don’t mind. We’re adventurers.

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