Easter Party in Catonsville

Bob and Michael (Susan in the background)
Bob and Michael

I rode the Chinatown Bus down to Baltimore for Easter Weekend and had a great time at the Barbagallos! Katie and Bob really know how to throw a good party, and I had so much fun catching up with everybody. I saw a whole bunch of the Boyland clan, and it had been awhile.

I played golf with Nick and Will, and we realized with some amazement that it was the first time Nick and I have played together. I once played with Will back in ’07, when he had gotten stung on the hand by a few wasps who were living in one of the ball-washers. This time, he almost got stung again as he was sitting in the cart! I had several pars and a few nice drives, but I mostly rode the bogey train, and on the back nine I was struggling against physical exhaustion and just started hacking it up. First round of the year is a 94, and I was just glad to break 100 (and have the low round of the group :-))

On the way back, I was glad I could speak Chinese. The bus was late, or so I thought, because I was waiting in the wrong place. When I found the bus, they were ready to leave, but another person and I were running and flagging it down. The Chinese driver looked at our tickets, waived her on, and told me I couldn’t board. My tickets had something wrong with them. So I started speaking Mandarin to the guy, asking him what was wrong with my ticket, and we went back and forth for 5 minutes while everyone waited. He gave me the phone number I had already tried several times with no one answering. I cajoled him to call them himself, and he did, and they said let me on. Disaster averted! But when I boarded I could feel everybody looking at me, like, Who’s this asshole who just delayed us 10 minutes? So I said, “Sorry everybody! Thanks for picking me up!”

A Long Summer

So much has been going on, and yet so little of it has been written about it. Rather, nothing at all has been written.

We’ve had a steady stream of guests coming through town for the last two months and it’s been fabulous – it helps to get us out of the house; otherwise we’d just stay home all the time!

The first week of June, Sam was in town from Kunming, China. I hadn’t seen him since we’d met up in London during my one and only business trip there in January 2008, so it was great to be back together. Of course, it also meant that I was going out almost every night of the week, but hey, that’s what’s required sometimes. Gotta make some sacrifices.

Sam on stage with Gates of HeavenWe went to one of Zack’s Gates of Heaven shows, in which Sam was asked to come on stage and play a hand drum with the band, but one of the members of the band walked off stage in the middle of the song, never to return, and that’s how the show ended, rather awkwardly. Plus they dress in robes and play very avant garde electronic music, and the gig was at the Stonewall, the famous landmark of the gay rights movement – all in all, a pretty strange evening. Zack also took the three of us out to his parents’ house in NJ, where we got to hang out by the pool, which made for a great Sunday.

Sam left after about ten days but soon after, Hiroshi showed up. While he had a hotel room, it still meant more partying for us and good times. We saw an art exhibition that one of his buddies put on, in which he dressed completely in red and even painted his skin red, and performed elaborate tea ceremonies with whomever would sit down with him. Except the tea was sake. All the paintings there were also red, and done in some kind of waxy medium (perhaps it was just paint, but it seemed like wax). Hiroshi is a baseball fan but said he hadn’t been to a game in 15 years, so when we noticed that the Subway Series was happening that weekend, we decided we had to go. Zack deserved all the credit for putting that together, as he happened to run into a buddy outside CitiField who had 2 extra tickets, free. We scalped the other two and so each ended up paying $20 to see a great baseball game (which the Yankees won – I like very much!)

Soon after that, Jarrett and Candice arrived for their US tour, and stayed the first night at our place. We went out for a crazy evening, heading out to dinner with Eliot and Lexa, then off to Pianos to see Zack, and finally to Arrow. There was a lot of carousing into the early hours, but I had to leave at the ass-crack of dawn to catch a flight to Chicago, to attend Sandro’s wedding (this was the original reason Sam was in the US). Let me just say in passing that I love public transport, but I will never again take it to Newark Airport because they just don’t make it convenient at all. I had to wait 45min for a connection in Secaucus. I could practically walk to Newark in 45min!

I met Eli at the airport and we flew out together. Sam arrived soon after us, and we were all suddenly at the Taste Chicago fair in Grant Park. Sorry, Chicago, but your cuisine was not well represented. I had an OK slice of deep-dish pie, a terrible bunch of Buffalo wings, and an awful lobster tail. Oh, and that all cost me like $30. Thanks for nothing.

We had more important things to do there, however. Since we were getting the whole band back together for the first time in five years, I felt we would need a drum kit. So I had gone to the trouble of finding the only place in town that was open on July 4th and might rent us some drums. Steve Maxwell’s Vintange Drums was not only open, but they were ready to accommodate us. Well, not at first. But we talked them into it. Actually, to assuage their fears that we would run off with their equipment, we just bought a kit for $1,200 – with the understanding that they would let us return it for a full refund on Monday, and only charge us $150 for the rental fee. This worked out perfectly.

The wedding weekend was a great hit thanks to the drums. The band was in full form again, we met some great people, and Michelle’s family really took care of us. All of the sudden I was back in New York, and met up with Wrisley for a Junta gathering on democracy. While I was away, he had been up at Eliot’s house with both our wives, drinking wine and shooting guns and doing other fun Lithgow stuff, like 4-hour Sunday lunches.

Nate has also been around a lot this summer. We’ve gotten in a few rounds as we do – including a trip to Union Vale up in New York last week. We were tagging along with Will, who was getting in a practice round for the Met Am qualifier. I caddied for him in that on Tuesday, but he failed to make it, shooting a disappointing 83. Still, it was a learning experience. I think he was a bit golfed out after having played 4-5 days in a row, plus double-looping on Sunday.

This has been a rambling post, but that’s what was required to get back on track. The goal is to get more focused and more frequent from now on. Also, if you’re wondering what happened to the design of this blog, I put it on the Classic WordPress theme because the Portfolio 1.0 theme was breaking down on us, having been built for WP 2.0, and us now running 2.8… things were just getting too heavy. I am trying to work on Portfolio Theme 2.0, but don’t expect it anytime soon. I am a man with too many projects.

That reminds me of one more project I recently decided to take on: business school. But I’ll leave that for tomorrow or next week (or next month?)

Aunt Jeanne’s 80th

Aunt Jeanne's 80th Birthday

Aunt Jeanne turned 80 a couple of weeks ago and I was there to watch her cut the cake. Happy Birthday Aunt Jeanne!

Mom and Gia were going down for the whole weekend, hitting up everybody along the way – Mary outside Philly, Katie in Baltimore – it was only a week after we came back from Thailand and I didn’t want to hit the road like that again. Xianyi had to study (of course – that’s how she gets those scholarships, baby!) but I couldn’t miss this.

So I left the house before six on Sunday morning and took the Chinatown bus down to DC – was there before noon and took the metro up to Silver Spring. Mom and Gia picked me up and drove me to the party. A few hours later they drove me back. But rather than go right back, I had other plans.

I skipped over to McGowan’s place for a while, and then Tuck picked us up and we went out to Clyde’s, a DC burger and beer institution. The irony is that, many years ago, while I was a student at Georgetown, Aunt Jeanne took me out for brunch at Clyde’s. This was a different branch though – they have clearly made a ton of dough, as this place is huge.

AND it’s right next to the Chinatown bus, so I was able to run over there right after downing my last beer.

Just as I was thinking how I was so clever and sturdy, pulling off a one-day bus trip to DC, the cold that had been latently hanging around all week hit me with full force. It was kind of a miserable ride back. I arrived in NYC Chinatown after 11 – and that’s not exactly home yet. At night, it seems, the PATH is always a half hour wait. By the time my sick ass crawled into bed it was nearly 1am.

I slept through my alarm on Monday and was feeling awful – had to bag work and sleep in. But I’d still say it was all worth it.

Wedding in Thailand

What a week!

I have been meaning to write about our trip to Thailand since we got back a week ago, but just couldn’t find the will to sit down and get it all out there. I guess maybe I just wanted to bask in it a little longer before trying to sum it all up.

If I had to describe the whole experience in a word, it would be laughter. Put 50 old friends back together for 3 days and nights partying in celebration of a joyous event, and what you get is barrels and barrels of belly-laughs. Smiles plastered on for days. Aching stomach muscles and streaming tears.

We left on a Friday night and after 30 hours, 3 plane rides and a 90-minute taxi it was lunchtime on Sunday and we were on a blissful slice of beach called Khao Lak. Jarrett and Candice were there to greet us, and after we checked in we got changed and walked to a little family-run restaurant next door, where we could sit and look out at the endless sea while eating fish caught that day, slow-grilled in banana leaves and served with sweet and hot sauces for dipping delight.

After lunch we went down to the beach and went swimming in the warm, blue water. It felt like diving into a giant bath – a sauna. We laid in the sand and felt the warm sun on our faces. Later the sky darkened and he heard thunder, but were safely ensconced in our cabana by the time the storm rolled through.

The rains came once each day, but rather than dreading them, we welcomed their arrival. They offered a respite from the action, and some pretty spectacular lightning and thunder. But they never lasted long, and the evenings were free and clear for revelry.

It was a bit of a downer when we realized the rains were going to arrive at the time they’d planned the wedding ceremony – sunset. But Chris, Coley and Dan came up with an ingenious idea – they brought sand up from the beach, along with kelp and shells, and created a little circle of love for the happy couple to stand in while reciting their vows. And lucky me, I got to be the third pair of feet in that circle.

For my friends Jarrett and Candice had decided to bestow upon me quite an honor: they wanted me to marry them.

The idea cropped up about six months ago, I think, and at first I wasn’t sure if it wasn’t a totally hare-brained scheme. I assumed it was Jarrett’s idea, we having been close so long and him being my best man in China – so I reached out to Candice to make sure she was cool with this, because I know weddings are really about the brides. It’s her day. So I was really happy and humbled when she said they had decided this together.

Reverend Rind
Reverend Rind

The plan was vague for a while, but it was always assumed I would have something to say. For six months, I gave this nearly no thought whatsoever. I am a procrastinator by nature, and the weight of importance attached to significant events tends to make me procrastinate more. Also, every time I started to think about what to say, I would think about being back in boarding school with Jarrett – which I knew that no one wanted to hear about at a wedding. Plus I was always using a “best man” speech as my reference, and I had to keep reminding myself that the basis should probably be something closer to a sermon – or what have you.

Anyway, it turns out the day of the wedding I have written absolutely nothing. But I did do some preparatory work the night before. Candice’s grandmother was the oldest family member at the ceremony, and being the grandmother of the bride puts you in the role of matriarch. I had never met this woman, but I knew that she had hosted Jarrett and Candice at her home in Shanghai. I engaged her in conversation during the dinner party for fifteen minutes or so, introducing myself and complimenting Candice, and asking her opinion of Jarrett. When she said she really liked him, I knew I was golden for the speech. This woman speaks only Chinese, so I was also feeling very confident in my language abilities, like “I still got it!” But she was very kind.

The next day we did a run-through of the ceremony in the afternoon, on the beach, before it started raining, and then I took an hour back in my room to put some thoughts on paper. In the interest of preserving the historical record, here is what, to the best of my memory, I wrote:

Welcome to Thailand! And welcome to the wedding of Candice Lin and Jarrett Wrisley. We are all gathered here today to bear witness to the consummation of a love that has grown, through fits and starts, over the last five years.

There is perhaps no greater testament to the characters of these two individuals than the fact that so many friends and family traveled so far to be with them here, on their special day. Our friends Candice and Jarrett only had to ask, and we would not have missed it for the world.

Of all the guests here today, I would like to single one out in particular. Candice’s grandmother has hosted the young couple many times at her home in Shanghai, and she has had the opportunity to get to know the man courting her granddaughter. Last night she told me she was happy with Candice’s choice, because “Jarrett is a good man.” When you have grandma’s seal of approval, you must be doing something right.

Jarrett’s own grandparents are surely watching today’s ceremony from their own special seats, and I know that they would be proud to see their grandson and the beautiful, intelligent young woman he has chosen to be his wife.

The Lins and the Wrisleys have all expressed to me how happy they are to see this union, to know that these two wonderful families will be forever joined.

That wasn’t exactly how it went, though, because I got nervous at a few points and forgot my lines. The second time I blanked, I had to consult my notes because I just couldn’t remember my own name! I was lucky to have a very friendly crowd.

There were two poems read by Natalie and Michael, and then we did the vows, which was easier since I just had to read what they’d written out, remembering to project and enunciate. And they had some laughs built in there, which was nice.

I proclaimed them husband and wife “by the power vested in me by … my two good friends!” Cheering, kissing, smiling and weeping. It was truly, truly sweet and beautiful.

Rindy Marries Candice and Jarrett

Year of the Ox

X and I celebrated the Chinese New Year last weekend with two days of feasting. On Saturday, we took the long train out to Flushing for the first time to see the Chinese community out there. What an excursion – it takes over an hour to reach Flushing on the subway. When we arrived, we checked our info and started walking along Roosevelt Ave, looking for a specific restaurant: Xiao La Jiao (Little Hot Pepper). We walked for like 20 blocks looking for the place in the freezing cold, only to reach the end of the street without finding it. A phone call to the restaurant told us that we had gone all that way in the wrong direction. Sweet.

So we walked all the way back, and it turned out that the restaurant was almost right outside the subway station. Seems that the address X had pulled off the net was wrong – perhaps user-submitted.

Ma La Yu - Spicy Fish
Ma La Yu – Spicy Fish

Anyway, we sat down and ordered a huge pot of ma la yu – spicy fish. There was enough food there for five or six people, though it was just the two of us. We took it home later, froze it, and X just finished the last of it yesterday.

Sunday we met up with some new friends for lunch in midtown – Sichuan Express. There were four couples in total, all people that passed through Shanghai at one time or another. Some of them we’d met over there, some here. One couple brought their four-month-old baby boy. We shared a big hotpot meal and toasted to good luck in the new year.