The Gaslight Café

We spent the New Year holiday hanging out with Johann and Hazel, proprietors of the Gaslight Café, and good friend Shahid, one of the many musicians who call the Gaslight home.

This has been my go-to place for the last year. I’ve seen many perform here, and I’ve even been on stage myself. It’s a wonderful community, and if you should ever find yourself in Kuala Lumpur, it’s worth checking their calendar to see if you can catch a show.

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 and

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,


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.


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.