Grad school…

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Takes a lot out of you. 

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Which is why you need lots of coffee.

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On most days, I make  (meaning I press a button) coffee to-go. But on this day I’m on spring break, so I get to drink out of a mug.

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As well as eat cereal out of a bowl while, get this, taking my time.

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I spent most of break on this couch. I read a lot and wrote a lot and slept a lot. I originally wanted to take a trip, but turns out being a grad student means having very little money. Just like being a professional means having very little time to spend that money.

The universe thinks it’s funny.

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Being a wallflower goes against what our professors tell us. The industry doesn’t favor wallflowers, they say. We must seize the day. Say our piece. Be in people’s faces.

But I think that assumes too much. Wallflowers see the world differently. They listen and absorb, and speak only to add value. They too seize the day, say their piece and get in people’s faces. Just sneakier. And, dare I say it, smarter.

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A reminder there’s life elsewhere.

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This needs no explanation.

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Postcards from different places, mostly New York, quotes and, ahem, manifestos, drawings by me and others, and some ad-like objects from first semester.

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My apartment has become a shrine for all the things I don’t have time to read. Here lie the magazines I subscribed to back in the days I had just a little more time to read them.

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I love that desk. It just sits there, looking pretty.

So there you have it, friends. I’m still alive. I still have much to tell you.

The Many Faces Of

In New York, I bid farewell to these fools and headed off to DC for five days of trademark law fun. Each year, thousands (about 10,000 this time around) of lawyers from around the world gather in one city to discuss, educate, learn and, ahem, enjoy, while my team covers the sessions and produces the daily newsletter.

When I arrived late Friday night, the front desk apologized for not having a king-sized bed waiting for me. They told me I could switch rooms the following night.

Whatever, said I, she who falls asleep in non-discriminatory spaces. A bed is a bed, after all.

I started regretting this when I saw my room lacked a full-length mirror. I mean, I’m not that vain (okay, I am), but who goes on a business trip without being able to see if her suited-up self is acceptable? Further, the interior was strange. Lime green dresser. Cheetah print bathrobe. A partition in the wall with a too-high rod and a curtain for a closet.

But then, there it was. What it lacked in me-sized reflections, it made up for in this.

Clearly, all problems can be solved with a bit of distortion.

Note the many evolving phases of the iron and ironing board. With little time to dilly dally, I was only in the room to sleep, dress, undress and sleep again. You don’t want to know about Hurricane Bathroom.

Happy Tuesday, friends.

20 Aprils

The girl cried. Hard. Her aunt tried to soothe her: you’ll be back, don’t worry, it’s only for a little while. Nearby lay the youngest, 7 at the time, 8 in a month to be precise. She was annoyed. Very, very annoyed. Crying, she thought to herself, is for wusses.

It was 1992. The next morning, they were headed for America.

***

The youngest woke up. What time it was she wasn’t sure. Even more difficult to tell was where. Flying over the ocean, perhaps, into the abyss. No one else stirred. She cried.

***

It was cold, this New York. There were people everywhere. They walked everywhere. To the laundromat. To the grocery store. To the Rockefeller. What happened to the trees? The grass? The dogs and cats and rabbits and chickens? Here, they were quiet. The neighbors could hear every creak and squeak and thump.

***

“Where are you from?”
“The Philippines.”
“That’s where your parents are from. Where are YOU from?”
“The Philippines.”
“You left when you were a baby?”
“I was 8.”
“Why don’t you have an accent?”

***

So much happens in 20 years, yet 20 years pass in a blur. The girl is now a nurse. The boy wizard a computational biologist. The youngest a journalist. All in different cities. One in New York.

They never did go back; it wasn’t for a little while.

It, it turned out, was home.


A rock and a white place

By some accounts, on one certain sixth day, living creatures were summoned to fill the earth. But on another sixth day, a band of ne’er-do-wells in Vegas summoned all their strength to rouse themselves from the dead (a figurative kind of dead; this is a lighthearted entry, after all) for some physical activity.

What can I say – We were an ambitious sort. It wasn’t enough that we’d barely slept all week, had danced the night away more than once, with one of those instances occurring on the eve of the new year, some (ahem, one) of us in multiple-inch heels with no spare flats to save our feet from certain doom.

Exhausted, dehydrated and drawn to anything neon so long as it promised us the chance to spin a fortuitous wheel, we looked those five days in the eye and proclaimed, “Hogwash!”

We were going hiking.

***

Red Rock Canyon. The name, taken literally, conjures images of a canyon of red rocks. Figuratively, it conjures images of a canyon of red rocks. So, how we ended up on a canyon of white rocks was entirely, well, my fault.

While the boys were busy studying a map of the canyon at the visitor center, I may or may not have been busy studying a live tarantula in a tank. It was just so hairy and motionless – Did you know its bite is only as poisonous as a bee sting? I sure didn’t.

“Trail 3,” our resident driver, Marco, said once we got back in the car. “Calico Tanks.”

“Trail 3, eh?” I mused, unfolding the map.

This trail starts at the Sandstone Quarry parking lot. It winds through a wash and there may be seasonal water present in a natural tank at the end.

My eyes glazed over and wandered to…

Trail 5. Keystone Thrust. This trail is accessed from the upper White Rock Spring parking lot. It takes you to the most significant geologic feature of Red Rock Canyon – the Keystone Thrust.

Perhaps the “white rock” part of the description should have been a clue, but there were thrusts! And keystones! And significant geologic features! This Keystone Thrust in particular sounded magical, as if at any moment we would stumble into swords in stones and baby Ewoks.

I had to go to there.

“Hey!” I said. “This sounds way more interesting.”

“I guess we could do that,” Marco replied.

Working through my phone’s spotty reception, I attempted to Google some images of the thrust while Marco called the others.

“Hey guys…”

My phone laboriously loaded photos.

“… we’re going to Trail 5 instead…”

Loading.

“… Karen said it sounds more interesting…”

Still loading.

“… It’s just past Calico Tanks.”

As I waited for the thrust, we happened upon the glorious red rocks. Surely our parking lot couldn’t be too far off, I thought.

“Got it!” I said, triumphantly holding up my phone to reveal images of the rocks.

Really white ones.

Outside my window, the red rocks zoomed past. So did the parked cars. And so did the many people who figured out that in order to hike among the red rocks, they had to go to them.

“So uhh,” I began, “apparently the thrust is a geological anomaly!”

I gulped.

“Geologists from around the world come to study it!”

It was time to panic.

The air grew thin; I felt my throat tighten.

“You’ll be fine!” Marco said, thinking my fear of heights was getting to me. “You just have to conquer your fears.”

I imagined everyone taking pictures with the white mountain, later regaling friends with the time they, fighting exhaustion, drove a ways away from the city center to look at some pretty regular rocks. They’d think of me, and their cheeks, in a cruel reminder of what they didn’t see, would turn red.

At Trail 5, the parking lot was noticeably emptier. We tentatively set foot on the gravel lot.


Phil, ever the supportive boyfriend, quipped: “So, what did you guys do at Red Rock Canyon? Oh, we went to see the white rocks.”

“Red rocks are so mainstream.”

I plotted his demise.

What made it worse was that Marco tried to take the blame. There was only one thing to do; I would sacrifice myself to the next available wolf.

But for several minutes, there was nothing. Hikes, believe it or not, can be pretty monotonous when you’re dreading the nothingness you’re walking toward. When Marco decided to climb a nearby crest, we all followed.

Monotony over.


Normally I have an incredible fear of heights, especially in the presence of rickety ladders, rail-less roofs and laws of physics-defying elevators. But when allowed to ascend on my own terms, on my own two feet on fairly stable ground, I do just fine.

Which is why I was able to do this.

And this.
Scaling it or feigning imbalance on the edge, however, would have been an entirely different thing. Which is what some of the guys did in completely undocumented fashion, as I was curled up elsewhere in the fetal position.

In the end, no one seemed to mind that we ended up on the white part of things.


And the best part was from far away, the red rocks were still pretty spectacular.

2012!

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I am officially the worst deliverer of blog entries known to man. If it’s any consolation, I hate me, too. Each day that passes without a new entry is just another reminder of all the stories I’ve yet to document and likely will soon forget.

On the upside, I’ve made it a resolution to update more in 2012. Which means more insights, more pictures, more random stories and all around awesomeness.

Speaking of awesomeness, I rang in the new year over six days of mayhem with some beautiful people in Vegas. I know what you’re thinking – SIX days?! It was daunting, for sure, especially for someone like me who around Day 2 was already unenthused with the Strip. Luckily, there were mountainous hikes, finger games, bouts of Jeopardy, pickle-juice pouring, movie trivia and spontaneous spelling bees to be had.

All in all, the excellent company made for excellent times.

More on the mountainous hike (and other promised entries) later. In the meantime, check out our New Year’s Eve pictures, courtesy of Lavo.

Hope your year is off to a great start.

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