Strip at Night

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On Sunday, November 17th, I accomplished a feat I didn’t ever deem possible. I ran my first half-marathon – the Rock N Roll Half Marathon in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was 13.1 agonizing yet exhilarating miles. I set quite a few personal records for myself: I ran the longest distance I’ve ever ran, as my longest distance was around 7.5 miles. I ran along The Strip in Vegas at night with all of the city lights and the drunken crowd cheering me on. I crossed the finish line injury-free. And I did it all in 2 hours, 55 minutes, and 56 seconds.

I’ve never been an athlete, much less a runner. But for some reason, I made a rash commitment nearly a year ago and paid my dues for this half-marathon in Vegas of all places, so I knew I had to follow through with it. We went out the night before, got a table at Light, danced in high heels, took Patron shots with strangers, danced to Alesso and cirque de soleil acrobats, ate ridiculously late night pho, and stayed up until 6 AM. Woke up the next morning, carbo-loaded at a buffet, changed into running gear, and off we went! Probably not the most advisable pre-marathon regimen, but I don’t regret a thing about it. There is something to be said about about being twenty-something and making irrational, spur-of-the-moment, YOLO decisions and being able to get away with it. 

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The half-marathon itself was surreal. Miles 1-6 were fairly doable, as adrenaline was high, the night was still young, and the distance was short. I kept a slow but steady pace and just kept slow jogging – never ran, rarely walked, just kept slow jogging. I realized that as soon as I walked, I was caught my breath but it felt harder on my joints and muscles. Miles 7-10 were painful; the desert weather really started to kick in, and the course started getting windy and dark in a residential neighborhood full of potholes. It was during this midpoint that I lost sight of the finish line (literally and figuratively). My knees started giving out on me, and I became acutely aware of every little bit of pain on my lower extremities. Then something miraculous happened around Mile 11-13.1. A stranger started running next to me and kept pace alongside me. We started talking, and I learned that he was a 67-year-old man with a pacemaker who was running his 4th half-marathon. He had depth perception problems due to nearsightedness, so it was difficult for him to see potholes, but he was still running faster than me. He kept glancing at his stopwatch, so I asked him how we were doing on time. He shared that he wanted to run under 3 hours. Fair enough. So for the last 3.1 miles, I ran with him. 

At one point, he walked to catch his breath. At more points, I walked in huge steps just to catch my breath and keep pace with him. I didn’t want to let him down. I cautioned him when he got too close to unexpected potholes and reflectors. He told me that I didn’t train or hydrate nearly enough (both stark realities that, by this time, I was acutely aware of and kicking myself for). He told me to read a book once in awhile, regardless of how busy I am with school. When the finish line was close enough in sight but still far enough from reality, he reassured me, “It’s in the bag.” So I felt it only fair to cheer him on when we were 15 minutes away from the finish line. “RUN!” “This is what you trained for.” These were the lines plastered on the asphalt that I read in coach-like fashion. Just before the finish line, I lost momentum and he maintained his pace. His drive and determination was palpable, even from behind. Even though he was 41 years my senior, he beat me by 4 seconds. We both finished under 3 hours.

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For a moment in time, I experienced my real-life version of Tuesdays with Morrie. An inspirational story of a 67-year-old man with a pacemaker who still outpaced me. At 26 years old, am I not supposed to be at my life’s prime? Sure, I beat him in age and ease of running, but he lapped me in time, in wisdom, and in drive. What excuse can I possibly give now, as all my lame excuses pale in comparison to what this man has so diligently trained for and achieved.  I tried to find him after the finish line, but wasn’t able to with the frenzied crowd.

After the race, I was determined to reach out to him and thank him for inspiring me and helping me finish under a time I didn’t even consider feasible. Thanks to Google, I located him on LinkedIn. We emailed back and forth and turns out, the feeling of gratitude was mutual. So what is the takeaway from all this? Be yourself, be strong, be awesome, be genuine – you never know who you are inspiring. Take advice – accept it with an open heart and learn from it. And lastly, reach out and give thanks – because life is too short to keep all the gratitude to yourself.

Years from now, what I will remember most from my first half-marathon was the man I met at the end of the race who coached me on running and life in less than three miles’ time. And that, my friends, was my Sunday with Bob.

Best,
Phoebe

Guilty As Charged

In high school, English was my favorite subject and E.E. Cummings my favorite poet. Poetry fascinated me because it made me wonder whether the poet intentionally divided the stanza as so, or whether English teachers over analyzed poems for the sake of torturing scores of students. To this day, I still wonder. But something that I am sure of is this: I am drawn to Cummings because of the way he deliberately defied the rules of English – and yet ironically, he was a poet.

I have written poetry since high school, and while writing takes work and is considered as such, poetry flows naturally. My poems are charged, polarized with opinion and driven by inspiration. Writing requires editing and re-wording and proofreading, but poetry is my spur of the moment relay of mind to blog as imaginary pen to paper. So forgive me for typos and for breaks that don’t make sense, but this is how I feel right here, right now: guilty, as charged.

consider me guilty as charged
for committing every cardinal sin
in the unspoken breakup bible how
was i to know there were steps
methodologies and predictabilities
to these tragic life defining events

consider me guilty as charged for-
saking my sanity for the sake
of reaching some sort of clarity or
better yet apology which i have yet
to receive which i would trade
for this deafening decibel of silence

consider me guilty as charged
for falling into this cycle of
passive aggressive downward spiral
into a black hole of uncertainty
and mind games with my vivid
imagination to blame as my worst enemy

consider me guilty as charged
for not knowing yet desperately
wanting to know stalking yet
badly wanting a calm and collected
control of self caring still yet
knowing that care is not my right

consider me:
guilty, as charged.

Best,
Phoebe

One “Free” Day

20130824-115922.jpgMy family vacations as a child consisted of being stuck on an Asian tour bus, driving hours on end. I felt bad for these tour guides because it was their job to drone on to a sleeping and snoring audience. The overarching theme of these tours was quantity, not quality – how many famous monuments, statues, buildings, and parks can you see in one week? At each destination, we’d all shuffle off the bus, follow the guide as he waved his little flag, and keep an eye on our watches to ensure we would return to the bus within the allotted time. Morning calls were always at an indecent hour and exacerbated by re-packing day in and day out because we stayed at a different hotel virtually every night. Sadly, there is not even one piece of information – not one factoid I can remember from any of these trips! And what was the absolute worst was the food. Meals consisted of what must have been the cheapest group meal the tour company could negotiate – a very, very sad version of “Chinese food.”

Food is very important to me, and I’ve always been very particular about food (I feel bad for my mom for (still) having to put up with such a picky child all these years!). My yelp profile tagline reads “I plan my day around food” for a reason. It’s not mere sustenance, but an enjoyable experience, an extracurricular activity even. For me, EVERY MEAL COUNTS. If I have a bad meal, it means I wasted one of my most precious resources – tummy space. So maybe it’s a reaction from eating poorly on vacations that when I now plan trips, I’m very keen on researching and seeking out delicious eats wherever I go.

Thanks to advance preparation, I have had some awesome, once-in-a-lifetime experiences:

  • I met chef Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison when the lunch set was half of what it is now.
  • I stole Tyler Florence away from the kitchen during the first couple weeks of WayFare Tavern’s opening.
  • I taste-tested beef noodle soup made by Eddie Huang himself at Baohaus.
  • And I’ll never forget the Momofuku Fried Chicken Lunch where 6 of us gorged on a fried chicken feast (feeds up to 8 according to their website, by the way), and basked in all our fatty glory before each of us paid a longer-than-usual visit to the loo.

And thanks to Google, food bloggers, Yelp, Instagram, Anthony Bourdain and the plethora of other social media documenting the ever-evolving food scenes around the world, my odds of having a bad meal can be shaved to nearly none. Having gastronomic indulgences can be sought out, planned, and duly executed. As long as you do your homework.

Well, that’s pretty counter-intuitive for what should be a “vacation.” The essence of a vacation is to steal away from your everyday life, to expose your senses to the foreign, to immerse yourself in a world that is not your own, and relish in it. Sometimes all the research, all the planning, can take away from that very purpose and the sense of exploration and discovery.

So, on a recent business trip to Tokyo, Japan, I let loose and just decided to go with my intuition. Other than any pre-existing and latent knowledge, I went without creating a list of must-try places and without any master plan in hand. I wanted to go with the flow and see where the wind took me. I only knew that my hotel was located by Tokyo Main station and I would have barely a day to myself to explore.

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Thanks to jet lag, I woke up super early and ended up on a 2-hour walk around the entire perimeter of the Imperial palace and gardens. I meandered into a random side street and perused a small, local grocery shop before I finally made it back to Tokyo station where some of the restaurants had finally opened. Inside Tokyo station I discovered a “Ramen Alley” with about six of seven ramen shops. I ended up eating at two of the ramen shops that day; the first one as my breakfast, and the second as my lunch. Breakfast was a perfect simple and light option; and I really hit a home run with my second one. It was a chicken-based broth, and it was like chicken soup on steroids! It was so delicious and I am so thankful Japan’s ramenyas have bar seats for single diners so that no other customer had to witness me devouring my bowl. As a mid-morning snack, I tried a “stand-up” sushi bar where the prices start at about $0.75 per nigiri piece. This is super cheap, especially for Japan. The quality of the fish was average to above-average, but much better than anything you’d get in the States for that kind of price.

I’m sure I could have found out about all of these places before my trip, and I’m sure I missed out on THE BEST (fill in the blank) that I was oh-so-close to, but it was really fun to just discover things on my own. I may not know the name of the ramen shop, and I might not ever find it again, but it was an experience all my own.

The truth is, I’ll never stop researching or bookmarking places to eat because that’s just not in my nature. And I have to admit, on my last day, I finished work earlier than expected and went to try a shabu shabu place my friend had Instagram’d. And I did go back try the sushi restaurant I hadn’t been able to try on a previous trip. But I think every vacation deserves one ‘free’ day where nothing is planned, to explore and discover something for yourself, not just because some food celebrity raves about it. And then you’ll have a truly special memory, not just something that’s been checked off your list.

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Special thanks to our dear friend, guest blogger, and honorary fourth teaspoon, Jennifer W. of San Francisco, for sharing her urban living, budgeting, and traveling tips! Auditor by day, city dweller by night and avid Warriors fan on the side, Silicon Valley native Jennifer is a Berkeley grad who is reveling in all that the Financial District has to offer. Check out her other post here!

Never Working A Day In Your Life

Who would have ever thought that one day I would be quoting Confucius. But here am I today, quoting a proverb that I never thought I was allowed to say till I reached my late twenties – maybe even to my mid-thirties. As many of you know, a couple months ago I made a difficult choice of leaving my job to focus on nurturing myself and my family. This choice was also backed up by certain benchmarks, my graduation for one, and the overwhelming need to throw caution to the wind and do something not-sensible and not-predictable.

You know how they say if you love yourself, life will love you back? Well, that’s exactly what happened. Whether you believe in the same God as I do, or you believe in karma, or in whichever faith or mantra you choose to believe in, I feel that in all beliefs, the underlying truth of it all is that life is what you decide to make of it. Ten years of unpaid internships and what was it all for? There was no academic credit, no monetary gain, it was a choice. A choice to do something to better myself, to build onto my identity capital, and long story short it was something that I loved to do and I told myself that my passion was going to get me somewhere. I was so hungry for it. Confucius said by, “Choosing a job you love, you would never have to work a day in your life.” And you know how the longer you wait for your meal, the better it tastes? Hold onto that thought, hold onto that hunger, because once your meal arrives – it will taste so good. I’m happy to say that I’m now a full-time, employed individual with benefits and all. And I have to tell you, time has never passed so quickly and I’ve pinched myself several times to see if this is real because I’m so grateful and blessed to be able to get paid to do what I do. Stay hungry, believe in your capabilities, and know your strengths, because it’s hard out there and when push comes to shove, you’ll be the only one able to back yourself up.

XX. Tiffany

A Salon That Will Blow You Away!

Modern interiors, vibrant yellow hairdryers, and the clinking of champagne glasses. If this sounds familiar, than you too have frequented the Drybar just a bit too many times like I have. Drybar first opened their doors in 2010 and I remember I was immediately curious when I got the invite. Already drawn in solely by aesthetic alone, their catchy slogan of “no cuts, no color, just blowouts” came at an affordable flat rate of $35. I was not the only one drawn in because before I knew it, the era of blowouts began. Salons offering blowouts started popping up all throughout major cities and social media/news articles were raving about the sleek variety of services offered. However, I still hold Drybar as The Holy Grail of all Blowbars and with dozens of locations springing up due to high demand, I highly recommend you to see what all the hype is about and I promise you won’t be disappointed. Drybar is the perfect host to a morning retreat with your girls for a round of mimosas and blowouts or just for some perfect me-alone time. I prefer the latter, just me and whatever chick flick that’s playing on their big screen TV – and let’s not forget the bubbly.

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Dry Bar, New York

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Their Menu of Concoctions

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Perfect for special occasions or just for no reason all.

XX. Tiffany