Monday, November 30, 2009

Deep Fried, Jump Jive Thanksgiving

This year, i doubled last years number of Thanksgiving dinners. After a stressful week back at work, i was in need of good friends, good food, and some relaxation. I firmly believe there's nothing like wine and turkey to cure stress-related ailments.

It all started with a last minute invitation to Ken and Steph's place on Friday night. They had arranged to deep fry from fire chicken in the kitchen of their 15th floor apartment. Dangerous? Check. Threat of massive apartment/people consuming oil fires? Check. Delicious, delicious turkey? Check. Deep fried Snickers and Twix bars for dessert? Check.

It was, obviously, an incredible dinner and it really stretched my stomach to prepare for the following night.

Sunday was my first attendance at the 6th annual Jump, Jive, and hey somebody kill the Turkey already, hosted by the lovely Mike and Helen Shyu. It's a tradition started in college for people that needed a home away from home to celebrate. There are few places that need this more than an ex-pat community in a very foreign land. In attendance were 29 classy individuals, two turkeys, and a few dozen bottles of wine.

Behold many pictures of the wonderful people present. As always, click on the picture for a larger version.

First, the parents-to-be, friends, and hosts, Mike and Helen Shyu.

The Feast

Mike Shyu. Tao and Alicia

Andy and Talia

Hsing-Hui and Martin

Jim and His Thoughts

Aya and Ken Su

Kelly and Barbie


Joe, Gareth's Hair, Niki, and Wang Bin

Jim + Dessert + Awesome Tao reaction

Helen + Dessert. Kelly, Gareth, and Jeff

Paper towel cowboy coffee (remember the exploding percolator from last year? we decided to go more organic this year)

Baby Name suggestions for the girl. (click to enlarge)

At past events, Joe strove to be in every picture i took. This time around, he must have been avoiding the camera, for i have few pictures of him. I finally caught up with him taking a nap, shown below, "voicing" his disapproval for my disturbance.

Thanksgiving has been my favorite holiday since High School, when I suffered through four of them because of my commitment to the Varsity Wrestling team. Since then, i've always appreciated the hard work and generosity that goes into preparing a dinner for dozens of friends. I am thankful for the friends and loved ones around me not just on that day, but all year long. You people, close and near, make life worth living. Thank you all.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Ugliest Cat

Satan has a cat, and it lives at the Wet Market in Boracay.

Tuesday night, a group of us went for dinner at the Wet Market, where the local fishermen display their daily catch. It's a pretty good setup, you just buy what you want (cheap!) and the restaurant next door prepares it for you (cheap!). Many of the creatures are still alive and kicking, and the rest were (probably!) caught that day. It was a pretty cool experience just to wander through there, and definitely worth it for dinner.

We settled upon tuna steaks, white snapper, prawns, and crab, seasoned with various rubs and marinades, grilled right at our table, and served with garlic rice. And for the record, i find it amazing that garlic rice has not yet been adopted by every cuisine in the world. It is, quite simply, superior to regular rice in every way. And THAT is a fact people.

So there we were, enjoying our fish, prawns, garlic rice, and bottomless Red Horse lager, stuffing ourselves to the tune of $9 per person. When suddenly, the earth began to rumble and a small fissure appeared, vomiting forth this...




pure-evil hell-beast.

It looked vaguely like a gremlin, so we named it Gizmo. It sat at our feet under the table and belched out a distorted cry, begging for something. As it went from one victim to another, it would occasionally brush a foot or leg, horrifying the person connected to it.

What did it want? Food? No... it wouldn't eat anything. Love? Nice try Giz. Petting? Unfathomable. Our souls? At one point, Mitch put a dare on the table: "Pick it up and let it lick your face, and i'll buy anyone's drinks for the rest of the week."

Therese, always the voice of reason, saw the glimmer in my eyes and was quick to veto.



Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Typical Day in Paradise

Boracay is an island of routine. From the first full day, we were sucked into a routine that would blend each day together in your memory. To spend a week there is to always lose track of time and day. You could usually guess the time within ±1 hour and, if you thought about it hard, you could figure out what day it was. But none of that mattered anyway, because, like the sensation of waking up 30 seconds before your alarm goes off, your body just knows what will happen next, even if you aren't conscious of it yourself.

A typical day in paradise went something like this...

9:00AM. Roll out of bed, slowly. Pull open the curtains, gaze at paradise from private balcony.

9:30AM. Breakfast at Real Coffee. Walk the beach or take a Trike, depending on urgency of
food. Truly, there is no better way to start the day than a Pesto Omelet and a real coffee (fresh brewed coffee with a shot of espresso). Everyday, all our friends had breakfast there. It was THE meeting place to reminisce about the drunken previous evening and plot plans for the day.

Of all the modes of transportation i've encountered in my travels, none are more convenient than the Trikes on Boracay. We normally paid about $.40 for any length trip and they come by every 10 seconds or so. A trike can fit up to 9 passengers "comfortably": 3 up front, 4 in back, and 2 more one the back of the motorcycle. Plus luggage on top. All that powered by a 4-stroke 250CC dirt bike. I'll support that!

11:00AM. Reslaxinate. Maybe you spend the next few hours on the beach, made of perfect white sand. No rocks, shells, trash, or seaweed. It is the most flawless beach i've ever seen. Wading out into the warm ocean, there is still nothing but soft sand. Or maybe you wander through D Mall (the island accent does not pronounce it The Mall, rather De Mall) and sip sangria or San Miguel on the beach and read. You might even stop by Jonah's for a Fruitshake.

2:00PM. Lunch. There is no shortage of incredible food on Boracay. I was surprised by the quality and value of every meal. Greek food at Cyma was amazing. Tapa's and Paella at Dos Mestizos was delightfully authentic. Pizza at Aria was worth a second trip.

4:30PM. Beach Ultimate. Everyday, the Boracay Dragons play ultimate. On their perfect beach. As the sun sets. It's incredible. Check out this youtube video, courtesy of Tao. Highlights: I get handblocked at 0:20, but catch the mack. I "d" a big hammer at 1:00. I tip to myself for a layout score in the endzone at 1:20. It was a good point for me.

Will after a particularly ridiculous layout.

7:00PM. Dinner. See lunch above. So many good choices on Boracay.

9:00PM. Drinking. The night starts at Beach Bum Bar, Hey Jude's, or somewhere in between. It always ends at Summer Place. And Buckets are always responsible for the ending. For you see, Summer Place offers a Bucket of Long Island Ice Tea for only 1000 Pesos, roughly $20. This bucket is usually not a good idea, for it is a bucket in the truest sense: a large, aluminum bucket that could fit over your head. Nonetheless, a Bucket is ALWAYS ordered, one after another, and it comes with a dozen straws so everyone can partake at once. There must be more than a liter of rum, gin, vodka, and tequila in each Bucket.

Sometimes one person drinks alone, basking in the refreshing cocktail, allowing the icy condensation of the Bucket to cool their warm body. Often, there are rules where someone must be drinking at all times, meaning you cannot stop until someone else takes your place. You may be exiled, fighting a losing battle against the Bucket.

Sometimes two join forces and battle to see who can drink the longest before fatigue or nausea take hold.

But usually, there are many, joined in the common cause of finishing a Bucket, before ordering several more.

And always, there is weirdness, low-light mayhem, and arm-wrestling.

Early AM. Jammers. Everyone goes to Jammers for food. Island life is hard.