Happy 2011

Happy New Year to all!

Mrs Portfolio and I moved into a new apartment for the new year, on the Upper East Side of Manhattan! Emphasis on east, but hey, we love the place and are really excited to be in the city after three years across the river in Hoboken. I’ll post some pics soon. Pull-out couch is available to friends swinging through town 🙂

Hung out with some friends yesterday watching football. I am further convinced that the Packers are going to win the Superbowl on the back of Aaron Rodgers. It really is looking like his year. The story of how he was passed over in the draft six years ago provides some great perspective on what is driving him. It’s going to be a great game against Evil Rapist Big Ben and the Steelers…

In other family news, Will finished just one shot out of the money in his latest effort on the Florida Professional Golf Tour. Hang in there buddy! Check out Will’s new blog for updates on his season. And Gia has a new blog too! Wow, Portfolio Family blog network!

Twenty Ten

Don’t call it Two Thousand Ten or Two Thousand and Ten. We’re done saying “Two Thousand” now. It’s a relic, appropriate only for history professors or others who want to sound dignified. That’s my two cents. We can still hang out.

Two Thousand Nine was a cool year, I think. A lot of people are down on 2009, with good reason. Lots of lost jobs and houses, for sure. I don’t want to sound insensitive to that, but things are going pretty great for me and I’m happy. I got problems, sure, but I don’t have life-threatening problems. And I’ve got a lot of good people around me to help out, starting with Xianyi, and extending through my family, to my friends all around the world.

What else was cool about Oh-Niner? I saw a bunch of good concerts, which was a goal of mine, so – mission accomplished. Black Keys back in February kicked it off. Phish on the lawn at Merriweather, where I ran straight into my cousin Nick while roaming the grounds and shared a beer with him. Phish again, this time at the Garden, with the incredible light show courtesy of Chris Kudora – WOW.

I was twice at Carnegie Hall, once as a date to the symphony with Xianyi, and once with her, Dave and Tom for Arlo Guthrie. Amazing theatre. My goal for 2010 is seeing more historic NYC venues – Beacon top of the list (sidenote: too bad Cirque de Soleil’s 6-month run will block the Allman Bros from doing their gazillionth show in a row at the Beacon this March).

We did two great weddings this year. One was an entire adventure vacation, and the other was an intimate affair at home, and our first trip to the Cape.

Finally, at year’s end, I managed to launch two sites for family members that I’d been working on with them. Check them out at alexanderbabies.com and suzannekellow.com.

Xianyi is in China right now with her parents, her Xiao Niang, and DouDou. They are probably waking up right about now to have some tang yuarrrrr… don’t forget,

吃八个

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.

Festival of Lights

We returned from Chengdu last week, safe and sound. I was back at work Tuesday, but Xianyi had taken an extra day’s vacation and so she went back Wednesday. She’s more than made up for it since then, however, as her boss has put her in charge of a new project that has kept her in the office late all week and most of the day Saturday.

Parents
Parents

Our last days in Chengdu were spent bowling with Xianyi’s parents, and then traveling to Qing Bai Jiang, where we stayed over with her Aunt and ten-year-old cousin Dodo. We had a nice lunch prepared by Auntie with some of her friends: an old guy we called Uncle Pang, and a co-worker of Auntie’s named Bing. Uncle Pang brought over a huge jug of homemade paojiu, which he and Bing and I toasted with repeatedly. After lunch we spent the rest of the day at a local tea garden, where Dodo and a boy her age collected tadpoles from the pond, and we all flew a kite.The next day we returned to Chengdu and had dinner with some of Xianyi’s friends from middle school. We met Si Lu, one of her best friends from the old days, at the same bridge where the two of them used to meet when they were cutting class together. Soon we were joined by several others, and we went to a nice little homestyle restaurant. It was here that her friends discussed whether this year is truly the year of the golden pig, as everyone says, or if it is in fact the year of the earth pig – as they had read in a local paper. They say people are lying to themselves because they want to reap the rewards of a golden pig year. Or maybe the government is pushing the idea to get people to buy more stuff?

Whatever year it is, it’s here. Tonight is the Lantern Festival, the last night of the New Year festivities, 15 nights after the New Year. People are lighting fireworks all over the place, right outside our house. It’s so loud we can’t hear the TV. Car alarms are going off. We’re eating tang yuan. Happy New Year.

A relaxing week

The New Year's Feast
The New Year’s Feast

All week, we’ve been doing little besides eating, sleeping and reading. I finshed one book and started another. Xianyi has been in a blissful mood for days as she constantly feeds on her mother’s cooking. And this little computer and wireless internet are keeping me from getting too bored in between meals and naps.

One of this year’s blessings has been the weather: Chengdu is pleasantly warm and dry. The first year we visited Xianyi’s parents for Chun Jie (2004) was a cold, wet nightmare. It rained every day. The cold was biting, especially since they don’t have any heat except for an electric blanket. In fact, the following year, they bought a space heater just for me because it was obvious how miserably cold I was the first year. And I used it all the time, though it didn’t help much. But this year, it’s been great.

Despite the warmth, however, Xianyi’s mom still implores me to “Chuan yifu!” (put more clothes on) every chance she gets. And her life comically revolves around food. Her last words before going to bed every night are, “If you get hungry, boil some eggs.” One night, after she had retired and we were still watching TV, she called out from the bedroom, “Are you guys hungry? I can make you some rice.” Her food is delicious, though. And she certainly can’t be blamed for her food-centric ways; as a child, she was poor and food was a constant concern. Not an uncommon thread in China.

The other night we went out to see Dan and Tenzin, though we only caught up with Dan. He has been DJing at a local club, which, as it turns out, was one of Fang Bian Mian’s stops on the infamous Tour. It has been completely re-done since then, however. When we walked in, the first thing we saw was Dan at the controls:

Dan the Man
Dan the Man

Besides us and about 50 staff, the place was dead. Such is life on the Tour. The manager, Nick, introduced himself and showed us around his very large, very nice, and very empty nightclub. We had a drink, chatted a bit with Dan, and came home.

Year of the Golden Pig

Pigs in Shanghai
Pigs in Shanghai

Spring Festival is upon us, and so the Portfolios have embarked on their annual journey back to Mrs.P’s roots in Chengdu.

2007 is the Year of the Pig, and it is a special Pig Year, in that it bears the additional quality of being Golden. This makes it a twice-per-century event, and that means only one thing in China: people are lining up to get married and have babies. The pig is already considered a prosperous zodiac sign for a child (perhaps because healthy babies are fat? or maybe pigs are perceived to have good lives because they just wallow around content all day?), so the added Gold status just makes it even better.

Mrs.P happens to be a pig, so this is her year. When I first learned about the Chinese zodiac, I assumed that this was an auspicious thing; in fact it is the opposite. When your year rolls around, you are supposed to be wary of evil spirits. How do you fend them off? By wearing red underwear, of course.

We arrived in Chengdu around dinner time yesterday. The city looks much the same as I last saw it a year ago – in fact, it looks much as we left it when we moved to Kunming in 2003. The only major distruption to the cityscape we noticed on the ride from the airport was the massive construction on Renmin Lu, where they are building Chengdu’s first subway line, to be completed… someday.

Mom and Dad had dinner prepared and we pretty much got right down to eating and drinking. Dad and I had fiery baijiu while the ladies sipped orange drink. It was a sumptuous feast of all Mom’s specialties: cold spicy chicken, twice-cooked pork (???), fish, various vegetables only available in China and hence lacking English names (to my knowledge), ??? (basically pork fat laden with sugar and sweet bean sauce, which sounds kind of nasty on paper but which tastes like sweet heaven), and my personal favorite, bamboo with fried beef.

We had planned on going out to the temple at midnight to pay our respects to Buddha, but we were too tired and went right to bed.

Today Xiao Niang (Mrs.P’s aunt) and her daughter Dodo came over to hang out with us. They live in what might be called a suberb of Chengdu, QingBaiJiang (Green White River). Doudou is ten now and much taller than when I saw her a year ago. We brought some clothes for her, including my old Superman sweatshirt. We also took her out to the Metro hypermart and bought her a new jacket (as well as one for me). She also bragged to us about how she came in the top five of her class, despite her teachers telling her she was a bad student. Ha!

*This post made possible by a generous loan of his old computer and wireless internet card from my boss. So despite the in-laws having no heat or a/c, and a squatter toilet that doubles as a shower drain, I am still surfing the net. Yeah, baby!

2007 – Year of the ‘Stache

Stache Guys

For the love of God, I need to take a break from talking about visas. And since it’s long overdue, may I announce that 2007 is officially the Year of the Stache.

Back in December, when a bunch of us were out singing karaoke on a random Tuesday night, we came up with the idea to do something special for the new year. And that something wound up being growing mustaches.

Day 6Originally it was to be a contest with a monetary prize. But a lot of folks chickened out and so it became clear that there wasn’t enough mass to create a worthy pot. So instead, it’s just all about the pride. It began with me, Turley, Michael, and Coley. Since Coley dropped out we have added Dan and Imani to our ranks. And there are some great statements of facial flair coming out of this endeavor.

Check out the full Year of the Stache gallery.