Seoul -> DC -> NYC -> London -> Seoul … In Seven Days

Attempting to come out of a jet lag blur to say that I spent an incredible week in the Western hemisphere, which included a lot of time on planes and briefly, a train to New York. (After getting used to the bullet trains of Asia, the Amtrak feels like a damned stagecoach, not gonna lie.)

The notable thing about this trip was the lack of group activities; it was a lot of one-on-one dinners and breakfasts and coffee meetings with friends for whom I care deeply. And it all included a lot of freaking out about what is next for us in America and the world.

Things that common-law work spouse Matt Thompson said to me over burgers will stay with me, about how we need to lean more heavily into our archives and history, in general, to better understand what’s going at the dawn of Trump. And the work advice from people like Kate (who used to work with me) and Chuck (who is about to not work at NPR anymore) will make me feel better about the state of things in my career. Ultimately, the time in DC was so compressed that I had to fit in time with my BFF Sudeep by straight-up scheduling a walk together to the Triple A office, get a coffee to-go, walk to Treasury to get something back from an official, and then walk partially back to his office. That was the sum total of our reunion. For my other BFF, Sara, we scheduled a Chik-Fil-A dinner followed by a trip to Target. No joke. There was just no time.

On the flip side, the days lingered and melted into each when there were fewer people to see — in London, for a weekend with Friend Matt (seems everyone is named Matt, it’s all very confusing, but at least I can’t trip things up this way). He wanted to get to a top-ranked restaurant he hadn’t been to yet, and to go to an all-night barn party/jazz jam session out in the country, and since I was going to spend my final time in America just gorging on the fast food I’ve missed (Whataburger, where have you been all my life), it wasn’t too much of a burden to join Matt on his more classy trip to London, instead.

Serendipity and luck were in our favor all along: We almost missed our flight but didn’t, no belongings were left or lost, and little things happened to time out just as needed. We stayed at a flat* in Covent Garden near the theater district, and while walking home from a late night dinner we saw signs for a show featuring Sir Ian McKellen(!) and Patrick Stewart. When Matt checked about getting tickets the next day, he learned it was closing night, snagged two tickets and we got in to saw the dense and (obviously) well-acted show. I joked that it was about the frailty of existence for rich white men, and then we read a review, in which the reviewer explained that essentially the play was about the existential ennui of rich white men.

There was also delicious food, libation I so longed for and trips out into the English countryside, one night for the most random, bohemian jazz jam session-cum-birthday party filming. I can’t quite describe it except to say there were some ballerinas and lots of soldier costumes, plus a gong bath. My first gong bath!

* I try to code switch to British terms like flat and queue and crisps where appropriate.

AAJA 2013: Baby in the Big Apple

Eva and Momma time in the hotel room.
Eva and Momma time in the hotel room.

Just back from a really fun and satisfying time in New York for this year’s Asian American Journalists Association annual convention. I’ve been part of AAJA since I was in 10th grade, thanks to a reporter for The Dallas Morning News who called to interview me about a student council project, I think. Whatever it was, I mentioned after the interview I wanted to be a journalist one day and she immediately encouraged me to join the organization. Since then, AAJA has been responsible for making connections that have shaped my life.

In 2002, AAJA hosted its national convention in Dallas, and that’s where I met Sudeep, who became my best friend and is responsible for introducing me to my husband Stiles. Stiles is not Asian-American by blood but often identifies with my peeps, so he joined AAJA in 2008 and has since been a much more involved member than me. He consistently reminds me to renew my membership, he has attended more AAJA conventions than I have in recent years, and he speaks on more AAJA panels than I do. He trumped me in New York, speaking on three panels to my one. I’m so proud of him!

This year, the programming really kicked things up a notch with fab workshops and thoughtful panelists. I loved seeing writer (and Twitter user) Jay Caspian Kang totally go anti-Twitter at a conference where social media networking was predictably de rigeur. Kang called Twitter a “circle jerk” and said he thinks less of people who tweet all day, saying it undermines your seriousness as a writer. That argument is for a whole different post — bottom line, exposure to unexpected points of view makes these confabs more interesting.

I regret not getting to spend more time with old friends, since that’s what is always so great about attending the annual AAJA confab. It feels like family. But I was a little time and resource constrained because of my actual family. The traveling baby, Eva, came with us (she’s a journalism convention pro now). She got to try some halal truck food, visit FAO Schwarz, have lunch with my old friend Tim, get overwhelmed by the lights and the tourists in Times Square, go shopping on Fifth Ave and take lots of her usual naps. She also enjoyed exploring the hotel room and goofing off, as you can see.

The SoHo Pop-Up Shop

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A post in Mashable today about a new pop-up store in SoHo reminded me I hadn’t blogged about my trip to New York two weeks ago. It was the first of three weeks in a row of short work trips: New York, then Houston, then Eden.

Following a late dinner with some NPR colleagues and supporters, Friend Matt and I opted to walk back from the meal through his SoHo neighborhood. It had rained — monsooned, really — in New York that afternoon, so the streets seemed strangely fresh and clean. And at midnight on a Thursday, it felt like we were the only ones wandering that ultra-glam New York neighborhood, winding up and down streets lined with gorgeous display windows of designer stores.

I only snapped two photos during our walk: Freedom Tower as we crossed the still-wet, shockingly still street, and the breakdown of the SoHo space used for pop-up shops. This is the space now occupied by Baublebar, as featured in the Mashable post inspiring this post. Delta had been its most recent occupier, but as you can see above, the countdown to its big launch had passed.

freedomtower

Six Observations After Six Blustery Hours in New York City

About a year ago, when I ran into my DC-based writer pal Robert Draper while he was on his way to interview someone for his book, I told him that whenever the book came out and he got invited to go on The Daily Show, I wanted to go along.

The book — Do Not Ask What Good We Do: Inside the U.S. House of Representatives — came out this Tuesday, and Draper actually remembered my request. He invited me to join his brother John, girlfriend Laura and longtime pal Colin in attending the live taping at the small Daily Show studio (CAMERAS VERBOTEN!) on the Upper West side. (I tried to hear any distinctive laughter from our little group, but it’s all pretty muddled.)

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Robert Draper
www.thedailyshow.com
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So I went up around lunch and came home after the show. But because it’s Nueva York, there was plenty of randomness to observe and experience.
Continue reading “Six Observations After Six Blustery Hours in New York City”

48 Hours in New York

Whirlwind doesn’t describe it. Highlights:

-Excellent Pork Chop House (no, it’s really called that), on a street off a street off a street in Chinatown. Just walking around that neighborhood sent me back to Asia for a dizzying hour. The smells, the spitting, the meat hanging in the windows… ahhhhh, delicious.

-Taking a journey through the last decade of my life, vis a vis the various friends who were able to meet despite my seriously brief windows of availability. First it was ColeH and SummerH (friends from my Twitter life in Austin); then Walton (a genius writer friend of a writer friend in Dallas); Drew (from journalism at Mizzou); Dr. Jerry (my opthamologist friend from my time in Taipei); Stacey (my old professor); Joe (from my early days at Mizzou); Chelsea (from Austin); Andrew (from the summer internship after high school). That said, I basically did nothing in New York except eat, drink coffee, drink vodka and rush to the next place to meet someone.

-The twenty minutes we sat at the Ace Hotel bar within five feet of superproducer Danger Mouse and kept talking about him loudly, only to not actually go talk to him.

-Talking to strangers, since NYC is clearly not a talking-to-strangers kind of place. Ended up chatting it up with a guy named Tom at PJ Clarkes, a bar that’s been the same since the late 1800’s and featured quite often in Mad Men. Turns out Tom used to be general manager of a soccer team called the New York Cosmos. On the other side of me at said bar was a New Yorker who appreciated Tito’s vodka, the Austin-distilled favorite. I told him I’d send him a bottle (we have no shortage of Tito’s back home), he seemed both shocked and appreciative.

-But what am I talking about? We were there to accept my first and only national Edward R. Murrow award. The Texas Tribune won two, actually – one for me and my friend Todd’s project, Stump Interrupted, the other for the Texas Tribune as a site. Evan couldn’t make it to accept for the site so I ended up having to pick up both awards and well, what an honor. Brian Williams, Soledad O’Brien, the NBC News President – they all showed to individually accept their prizes – it was an honor to be among them. Also great to see old friends from BELO, as two BELO stations accepted overall excellence prizes.

-Keith Olbermann won a national Murrow for writing and couldn’t have been nicer as random newsies went up to get photos with him. I later found out he did Countdown in a tux last night, so I guess he was able to make it from the studio to the awards dinner pretty fast.

Lowlight:

-Roger Hu, my little brother who lives in Beijing and who I don’t see but once a year, was in New York at the SAME TIME. Not only that, his hotel was TWO BLOCKS AWAY from mine in Midtown. But we didn’t get to see each other. He had to leave for another work call in Boston the same day we discovered we were both there.

ME: Why don’t you just take the train to Boston?

ROGER: Cause I rented a jet.

(Groan)