All readiness aside

It’s raining in LA today. And by rain, I mean downpour.

I’d planned to run all my errands for the week today. I checked the weather—drizzle and rain all day. Immigrating from a country with a monsoon season, I never take “rain” in LA seriously. I grabbed a long coat, threw on some waterproof boots, and stepped out.

A light drizzle pranced on the top of my head—little taps of soft chills cooling me through the warmth of my coat. By the time I stepped out of a shop, it was pouring. I had no hood, no hat, no umbrella. I couldn’t help but laugh—almost maniacally, my cheeks puffing under my mask, catching large droplets from the sky.

Chunks of mud creeped in between the crevices of the soles of my boots. Determined to shake most of it off before I got to my building, I stomped in shallow puddles, and what initially seemed like a chore became a determined frolic in downpour with the city.

As rain soaked the wool of my coat, I was transported back to my childhood, with not a worry for runny makeup nor unkempt hair, nor for delicate papers that would smudge and curl, nor for a scolding from my mother. Rain has a way of doing that—washing away what we have, whether or not we hold tight to them. Today was a good day to let go.

Down the rabbit hole

When you catch yourself in a spacey state, can you recall your last complete thought?

Saturday morning sunshine.

I caught myself adrift, in an out-of-focus glance in the direction of the plants on my table. Suddenly, I remembered a mentor of mine. His name popped up at the edge of my consciousness, like some sort of welcome intrusion, and I felt the urge to call him. His number was disconnected. I decided I would look him up. I felt a rush of anxiety, unsure but anticipatory.

He passed away last November. The last time I’d seen him was with my now ex-partner. A history buff, we brought him a book from a museum we last visited. He served us the most balanced lemon cookies.

Rest in power, Dr. G. I’ll catch you down the rabbit hole.

Living trinkets

It’s the end of the first week of 2021, and it’s more chaotic than I could have ever expected. I’m working 60+ hours during the week for a month, on top of side projects and series I’d forgotten I’d signed up for.

I’m working on re-establishing balance. On my way back from my favorite grocery store in Koreatown, I passed by a plant shop and brought home some little friends.

Here’s the Pilea I picked up! The pot is an old terra cotta that I painted over with acrylics. The succulent was gifted to me by the shop!

My new little green friends are in good company with their neighbors.

A brief snapshot of the end of 2020 in Los Angeles

I was making carbonara for lunch while on FaceTime with a good friend. We were laughing about the berry cobbler he baked recently and how it sent us to another dimension. Baked was an understatement. We get disconnected because the WiFi cut out. Whose? It doesn’t matter anymore. I jump on a call regarding COVID-19 vaccinations and the public health messaging around it. I forget to put myself on mute while I’m grating cheese, so the moderator does it for me. “I can’t hear you, you’re on mute,” they say. I get a notification from my neighborhood watch phone app that there’s a house nearby that’s on fire. I open the app and read in the comments that it’s a “crack house” but that most hope everyone’s okay. I close the app and briefly unmute myself to answer a question. I step outside and see that the Santa Ana winds are raging and blowing the smoke westward. I finish the call as I am eating pasta. I get a notification from Calm asking how I’m feeling. LA Times: The UK variant strain of COVID-19 was discovered in Colorado in a man with no travel history. I am putting my phone away.

A very Covid Christmas to you and yours

If you aren’t goth prairie chic during Christmas while home alone during the COVID-19 pandemic then idk wyd ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

It’s past one AM and I’m just wrapping up Christmas Eve. Celebrating with family today and tomorrow are usually big traditions for us, but with ongoing concerns around COVID-19, my family and I opted to celebrate from afar.

When we would celebrate, we would gather with all extended family able to unite in Southern California, which often resulted in over fifty family members partying under one roof. I miss being in each other’s physical presence. I miss playing board games until midnight. I miss competing for prizes during self-deprecating relay races. I miss taking corny family photos by the Christmas tree.

This time, we celebrated over video chats over Zoom and Facebook. Though I didn’t get to eat the vast buffet of foods I’m used to having when we each pitch in a meal and eat family style, I cooked for myself Hainan chicken with butter garlic rice, served with homemade pickles. Though far from ideal, I got to catch up and eat with family from Los Angeles to Orange County, to the Philippines and Australia. We made a lot with what we had, and I’m grateful for our yearning to connect, and not to mention, the means to match.

Hainan chicken! (Chef’s kiss)

Not to be deterred from the holiday spirit, I dressed up and even spiffed up my face. I’ve made it a point to be more comfortable without makeup, especially since I spend so much time at home now. That being said, it’s a special treat to get dolled up, get weird, and be a little silly.

I hope you all have a fun and safe holiday! Peace and blessings.

Body counts

I’m sitting on a roof catching the sun while I still can. It’s a quiet afternoon, as quiet as it can be near downtown. I’d just gotten off the phone with a friend in the throes of a COVID-19 infection. Total people I know who’ve contracted the infection: eight and counting. Total people I know who’ve died from COVID-19: one.

I remember sitting in on a meeting in July, right after one of my relatives died of COVID-19. Folks on the call were talking about how the California government was overreacting to the precautions we were taking to try to mitigate its spread, that all things considered, it was more important to maintain our regular lives than to live in fear of catching the illness, that all in all, COVID-19 wasn’t really as bad as our public health agencies were making it seem. I had to excuse myself from the rest of that call.

It’s easy to take a self-centered approach to all of this. It’s easy to say, hey, well I’m not affected and I don’t know anyone else who’s gotten it, so why should I be worried? I don’t think we should be living in fear. They are right about one thing—that we can’t live in fear, at least not for too much or too long. Fear, while at times compelling us to redirect our motivations and actions, also blocks us from moving with clear intention.

I consider myself rather cautious, especially because I live in close quarters with my neighbors and my parents are vulnerable to severe disease. I’ve come to accept that at some point I’ll contract it too, regardless of how careful I am. Yet, I, too, no matter how outwardly healthy I appear, live with a pre-existing condition that renders me vulnerable, but I’ll get to that if the time comes.

I wonder what those same folks in July are saying now. In the US alone, we’ve surpassed 254,000 deaths. In Los Angeles County—almost 7,400 to date.

I think I’ll paint today.

Reflections of Wilshire Boulevard

Koreatown is the densest neighborhood in all of Los Angeles, but a stifling stillness still plagues this city, the economy of which depends heavily on the hospitality and entertainment industries. We continue to sit in the purple tier, indicating widespread COVID-19 test positivity rates and cases and requiring the most severe reopening precautions. While many businesses have been making due with limited hours and reliance on takeout and delivery services, many small businesses, including long-time favorites, have had to shut down permanently. Is there an end in sight?

‘Tis the Night Before Elections, and all through the house…

A crisp fog looms over downtown, obscuring the skyline.

Tomorrow is the official U.S. Election Day of 2020 and I’ve been volunteering at the polls at a local center in Los Angeles. I just got home an hour ago, and it’s almost 10 PM here. Tomorrow’s going to be an even longer day, and while we expect that many have already mailed in their absentee ballots, it’s gotten even busier over the last few days. There are over 6 million registered voters in LA County alone.

We’ve registered many first-time voters, eager to have their voices heard for the first time during this momentous election. Personally, it’s my first time volunteering at the polls. I wouldn’t have even known that volunteering as a poll worker was a thing, had it not been offered to me when I had to sort out my registration a couple of months ago.

I’m proud to be part of this election, doing my part in some way, no matter how the elections turn out. I’ve spent many afternoons and weekends canvassing and phone banking for local candidates I believe in. There’s a fervor that’s palpable with so many during this cycle, and it’s exciting to see so many younger people involved. Two of the volunteers at our center are college freshman. When I was their age 16 years ago, there’s no way volunteering for anything election-related would have even occurred to me, nor would I have wanted to.

The times are a-changin’. It’s been a polarizing election cycle, with families and friendships being blown apart with outspoken beliefs—some of mine included. Regardless of how the votes tally, the U.S. has been building up a collective sense of existential crisis that will require repair for decades to come. Whether we can come together and rebuild bridges is another story, or maybe it requires demolishing old bridges to build new paths? I won’t pretend to know the answer. All we can do now is brace ourselves for what’s to come.