Sunday, January 7, 2007

It's Still Home

I've really gotta be more timely with the postings. You know how sometimes you get a message from someone with whom you're not close and you don't respond right away, but the thought of responding lingers at the back of your mind? As more time passes, the inertia that needs to be overcome to respond becomes greater and greater until it seems almost insurmountable. (At least that's what you convince yourself.) After a couple of weeks, you surmise that you can't respond with a short, "Hey, nice to hear from you." With the passage of that much time, you really should have an essay ready, no? (Either that or a handy bout of pneumonia so that you'd at least have a halfway decent excuse for the delay in responding.) And then the thought of writing that essay overwhelms you, and you let things drift into oblivion. Well, that's what almost happened to this entry ... sort of.

I meant to write quite a few entries while I was back in Texas over Christmas and New Year's. (I'm always meaning to write, among other things.) But I got distracted. (And I'm always so easily distracted.) It seems odd to write about New Year's a full week after the fact, but ... well, why should it?

For the first time in a long while, I had an extremely enjoyable time back home. No irrational flare-ups from any family members. No persistent obligations to shuttle from house to house to yet another house. No incessant screaming from the kids. (Well, there was that trip to Toys 'R Us, but I brought that on myself. I took my niece and nephews there and told them that they could have whatever they wanted. Poor kids were so overwhelmed that they couldn't figure out what to get. They left annoyed and empty-handed.) Even stayed up one night until 3:00 having a thoughtful conversation with my parents.

And I had the occasion to experience a couple of long-delayed firsts. My oldest sister invited me out for drinks. After I got through the initial paranoia of being mistaken for a couple (it's happened a few times), I had fun. On Christmas night, my cousin visiting from L.A. invited me and a buddy of mine out for drinks with him and his friends. I didn't get home until 5:00. (Those crazy kids. Put us fogies to shame. And who knew such diversion is available in Houston on Christmas night?) So, what are the firsts? I'd never gone out for drinks with any of my sisters or cousins. That kind of thing happens when you go through the first 24 years of your life without drinking.

When Thursday rolled around, I drove up to Dallas with a couple of friends. (But not before my mom not-so-subtlely pointed out that I'd be spending more days in Dallas than Houston. Sometimes, there's just no pleasing her, I tell ya.) Spent the first night at a dingy, yet character-endowed, bar where I couldn't help but feel self-conscious holding a Stella while most everyone else was holding a Bud. Oh well. Whattaya gonna do? (On the bright side, each Stella only set me back $4. That's Texas for ya.)

The next night, we stayed in at a friend's place and played a round of Pop Cranium. (Not as fun as the original Cranium, I must say.) Girls versus boys, and the boys won handily. (Of course!) The night after was spent at an outdoor terrace bar that presented a soothing view of the skyline. (Who knew such places exist in Dallas?) That was followed by a trip to a rather stylish gay bar. (Didn't know that such places exist in Texas, did you?) Quite amusing.

And then New Year's Eve rolled around. Probably the best I've had. But that's not saying much, since I almost never go out for NYE. Before this NYE, the most entertaining one I had was from the year before -- spent at a spacious loft in the Village with a peculiar mix of people that included several who were decked out in latex bodysuits. But that wasn't so much entertaining as it was a unique opportunity to see the ultra-weird side of NYC that you usually only glimpse on late-night cable TV.

NYE in Dallas was entertaining in a more basic way. Photos will do a more efficient job than words in describing the mood.

From New Year's Eve Weekend in Dallas

(Hmm ... I think I may have just violated the spirit of my self-imposed rule against identifying anyone by name in this forum. Oh well. It was a an arbitrary rule anyway. Besides, I still haven't identified anyone by name.)

Before the main event, we stopped by a get-together at the three-story condo of an Internet entrepreneur. (Yeah. It's as fancy as it sounds.) Right before the somewhat large group dispersed, the host made everyone give a toast to what he or she was thankful for from the year that was coming to an end. At first, I thought it was a rather hokey exercise. But it turned out to be quite amusing and sincere. I was thankful for good friends who showed me how fun Dallas can be.

So that was the holidays in Texas.

Oh ... I almost forgot about the food, which is perhaps one of the most important aspects of any trip I take. Had the requisite Christmas Eve feast of turkey, stuffing, sushi and japchae. (We're Asian, after all.) And there were heaping helpings of mom-made beef noodles (her signature dish), dumplings, fried rice and fried chicken. Authentic Tex-Mex. Two visits to Taco Cabana. (Sure, it's fast food, but it's yummy! Usually.) Barbecue. And a big ol' blob of chicken fried steak. My arteries begged for mercy, but I had none to give.