Come back to America

Upon finding out I am visiting her after a long time, this is a sweet response from a best friend of mine.

I am coming back to America.  I am coming from Europe in which I have stood in line with crowds of people at 4 AM still waiting their turn to see some art in a museum…to Southern California where I hear of people lining up at 4 AM to buy Apple products.  I need to take care of tedious tasks such as meet with my accountant and give a monetary donation to the library (er, I mean pay a long standing library fine).  Also, I want to finally see what the rave is all about surrounding “The Avengers” movie.  Such action movies are not my usual genre, but while other girls were reading fairy tales, I liked comic books and Greek mythology.  A few days ago, I finally watched “Cinema Paradiso” which displays the joys of watching movies and I recommend it to you because it gladdened my spirit amongst all my “busy-ness” lately.

But most of all, I am coming back to America to meet with friends and family — friends who have just gotten married, friends who are turning a year older, friends who have new children (one of which is still growing in her stomach), and then I will fly back to Oahu to visit my parents and more friends.  My parents are disappointed in me that I did not visit during the past winter even though I was in the vicinity of Hawaii when I visited Japan, the Philippines, and Taiwan — all on separate occasions.  I suppose I am not exactly the best daughter in the world.  Why the reluctance to visit the popular tourist destination of Hawaii?  I love my parents but it can be difficult living in the house with them because FOX news is on the tele almost all the time and during dinner I am sure the talks of whatever Republican candidates they favor will be heightened with the nearing elections.  Here is a short article that wrote of a study’s finding: “no news is better than FOX news“.

Although I am not looking forward to being amongst droves of summer tourists, this foodie is excited to return to her favorite eateries on the island.  My itinerary will include Mariposa Restaurant (the only time I set foot in a Neiman Marcus); Japanese food at Shirokiya and Don Quijote; Alan Wong’s; Vegetarian dim sum in Chinatown; then a walk several steps along the clanking of Mah-Jong being played along the river to pick up manapua at Char Hung Sut for my parents; the Maunakea Marketplace lined with food stalls selling Laotian, Japanese, Filipino and other Asian foods; high tea at 1024; and not forgetting to pick up some blueberry cream cheese scones as my favorite post-surfing snack.

Although a contrast to his usual bright work, this was my favorite out of the book by photographer Carl Warner.

Since I am on the subject of food, I would like to introduce a book I recently read about playing with your food — “Foodscapes” by Carl Warner.

A donut as an eyepiece? I am guilty of playing with my food — although not as creatively.

In the book, it was amusing to see the photographs and try to decipher what ingredients Warner utilized in order to set up the scene.  Turning the page, Warner explains what elements he cleverly put together to make realistic vistas.  This book made me smile and giggle at his whimsy art.

I have not seen food art make an impression on me since years ago I was at SFMOMA to see Janine Antoni’s “Lick and Lather” in which a sculpture of herself was done in chocolate by licking.

Photo courtesy: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

The book that kept me company during my trans-Atlantic flight was “Invitation to Sociology” by Paul L. Berger.  Coincidentally, I found this mind-stimulating read in a flea market located in a city known as an origin of great thinkers — Athens.  I know the book may seem like a bore.  In fact, as I was waiting to catch my flight to San Diego, California someone asked me what book I was reading and after telling him, he responded, “I hope it’s because you are studying sociology.”  After replying “no”, he said, “uh, that’s not exactly light reading, why would you read such a thing?!”  I just flashed him a quick look of annoyance with a facial expression that read, “Who are you anyways?”.

I would think that even fellow blog writers may find sociology helpful because a writer must reflect and interpret her society.  Do not be wary of this book because, Berger introduces some sociological terms and yet avoids much of the technical dialect.   This book would be an “easy read” for current sociologists.  Bottom line:

Sociology is an attempt to understand.

I learned the need of literacy in history and philosophy when “practicing” sociology because the book incorporates ideas of philosophers such as Satre and Alfred Schütz.  Additionally, Berger explains how this “-ology” is different from other sciences.  As an undergrad, I studied Cell and Molecular Biology and I marveled at seeing new things in the laboratory.  Berger writes that sociology differs in that:  “It is not the excitement of coming upon the totally unfamiliar, but rather the excitement of finding the familiar becoming transformed in its meaning.”

The fascination of sociology lies in the fact that its perspective makes us see in a new light the very world in which we have lived all our lives.

Here are some of my other picks within this book:

  • The sociologist is interested in understanding for its own sake.  He may be aware of or even concerned with the practical applicability and consequences of his findings, but at that point he leaves the sociological frame of reference as such and moves into realms of values, beliefs, and ideas that he shares with other men who are not sociologists.
  • Most of us do not set out deliberately to paint a grand portrait of ourselves.  Rather we stumble like drunkards over the sprawling canvas of our self-conception, throwing a little paint here, erasing some lines there, never really stopping to obtain a view of the likeness we have produced.
  • Society does not stop at the surface of our skins.  Society penetrates us as much as it envelops us.  Our bondage to society is not so much established by conquest as by collusion.  Sometimes we are crushed into submission.  Much more frequently we are entrapped by our own social nature.  The walls of our imprisonment were there before we appeared on the scene, but they were ever rebuilt by ourselves.  We are betrayed into captivity with our own cooperation.
  • In the end, Berger elucidates how we can picture ourselves as puppets in society, but with the “possibility of stopping in our movements, looking up and perceiving the machinery by which we have been moved.  In this act lies the first step towards freedom.”

Although my friends do not share my enthusiasm for reading books without a storyline such as the one described above,  I am excited about spending time with them in Orange county and Los Angeles.  But first, I land in a city whose perfect weather and blue ocean greets you steps away from the airport.  Standing in line to board the plane, someone asked me what I thought the weather would be like in San Diego.  I told him it would be the usual 25 Celsius, sun, and clear blue skies (if you want an easy job, come to San Diego as a news weatherperson).

Here, I’ll be enjoying some of my favorite eateries on the same street: El Zarape for Mexican food and Zia Gourmet Pizza whose interior art seems to be ever-changing because the owner is a graduate of UCSD’s visual arts program.  Then to the best dessert place in San Diego, Eclipse Chocolate!

But my closest friends live in LA and OC so a lot of days will be spent catching up with them over more amazing food in Little Saigon:  refreshing dessert Chè at Thach Che Hien Khanh, to Gala bakery for Vietnamese iced coffee that is so good I buy two at a time, the best Vietnamese spring rolls (yes, better than mine) at Brodard’s, and banh xeo (“Vietnamese crepes”) at Nha Hang Van’s Restaurant.  There is a language barrier at all these places, yet my stomach understands all the delicious eats perfectly!

I will also fly to my favorite city in the United States — San Francisco (a close runner-up is Chicago) — to indulge in more friendship and tasty eats.  Actually, this same time last year, I was walking to a friend’s place and bumped into Sandra whom I lost contact with about seven years ago.

Luckily, my friend’s (whom I nickname “paparazzi”) constant camera clicking caught this chance meeting between me and a friend whom I shared many laughs with.

The only thing I do not get a thrill out of visiting my friends is going shopping.  For some reason, I did not inherit a gene commonly shared among other females and I only buy probably two pieces of clothing per year.  I still own clothes that I purchased 14 years ago because I try to buy clothes that still look fine despite the changing fashions — somewhat like the women in the community written about in B.F. Skinner’s “Walden Two” (excellent read!).  The sewing and cross stitching skills my grandmother taught me as a little girl come in handy when needing to fix a broken strap or hole in the fabric (such skills also made it easy to earn my Girl Scout sewing badge).  But I don’t complain when they take me shopping…and they do not complain when I hang around the dressing room reading a book only to lift my head to give my opinion.  If I forget a book, I just end up dancing in the store because some of the stores play great dance music.

I met most of my friends at least 5- 10 years ago and sometimes I admire at the differences in which our friendship transcend.  For example, I am the only vegetarian.  They look into where Rihanna is playing next while I wonder which museum will be featuring some Caravaggio.  I don’t know who is on the cover of the current issue of Cosmopolitan or People magazine, while they have not heard of “The Atlantic”.  They go to church every Sunday, while the only times I set foot in a church is to admire the art and architecture.   So, yes, there are times I feel disconnected, but we get along so very well and no matter how long without seeing each other, it seems we leave off where we last laughed.  And I do sometimes feel disconnected when I am with my parents whose views do not align with mine.  Yet, undeterred by the fact that I am not following the path they planned for me, they never fail to support me in anything I choose.  It is comforting to realize that despite the additive obstacles of time and distance, the connection between my parents and my small circle of friends are strong bonds because I know that they love me for who I am.

Ferrara, IT. Il centro mediavale: Built in 1135.Romaneque & Gothic architecture. The main door depicts “St. George killing the Dragon”.

A few days after I left Ferrara, the earthquake happened in the area.  It was unfortunate to recall the awe of of biking and walking through Ferrara’s architecture when speculating what damage was done to such historical remnants.  While I have been to Northern Italy before, I realized during the trip to the Emilia-Romagna region, that it is home to some of the friendliest Italians — namely in Parma, Bologna, and Ferrara.  Reminded of these events, my next reads will be by an author born in Northern Italy and graduate of the University of Bologna.  Umberto Eco is the author of a book called “On Beauty”.  He also wrote some children’s books such as “The Three Astronauts” and “The Bomb and the General” that I will look for in the public library — after I pay those library fines.  Until then…..

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