Tax Day

Today is tax day here in the States. It’s the one glorious day of the year when after spending the last year having taxes taken out of your paycheck automatically, you may have to cut a check to the IRS for even more money! That was me this year, and it was a very miserable moment dropping those into the mail. Little people have to pay big taxes. I automatically hit “delete” on any Tax Day sales emails in my inbox this morning.

As I was writing out the envelopes for the tax vouchers yesterday, I remembered that last year, I e-filed and paid everything online using Tax Slayer, and I told my parents that for the first time, I would not need their CPA’s help (and he would not be getting my fee). Ed was concerned as always and asked what program I would be using. When I told him Tax Slayer, he immediately started doing all these Google searches and found a site that tore Tax Slayer apart with all its harsh criticisms. “You should have used Turbo Tax like I did,” he admonished. I sent him back the same domain with a different page that basically had the same critiques of Turbo Tax. He didn’t say anything in response.

It hurts to remember it now. I never thought then that 2013 would be the last year that my brother would ever do his own taxes, and even worse, that it would be the last year of his life. Ed worried about everything, even the little things like what tax program I was using, even when he was suffering so deeply inside.

It’s like his death is a part of me now – it’s not a devastating shock or even a past tragic event to me anymore; it’s like his death has become a huge part of my identity and how I perceive the world and look toward the future. Not everyone (or maybe anyone) notices it or can see it, but I feel it every single day.

I wish he were here today to scold me about not using Turbo Tax again.

South Indian food Meetup

I’ve realized that of the Meetups I’ve been to, the most interesting times have been when the group is a big mish-mash of different people from different countries and parts of the world, and we’re generally eating ethnic food. Interesting food is what brings interesting people together.

Tonight, I went to a South Indian food meetup in Midtown East. I arrived later than most of the others because I get off work later than they do, so initially it seemed awkward because no one was talking. No one really started talking until we started talking about different food, which led to discussions about politics, cultures, and living in different parts of the world. We had two Indian guys from India, a girl from Malaysia who studied in Delaware and now works here, another who went to school in D.C. and now works at the Federal Reserve, someone else who is originally from Singapore, but his family immigrated to Sydney when he was young, and now, he never spends more than two years at a time in one place because of his contracting job as a statistician. We had two teachers, one who teaches kindergarten and another who teaches community college courses on substance abuse in the Bronx. Three of us work in tech.

I learned a lot of interesting things tonight. I learned but forgot that Alaska was mostly made up of men, but didn’t realize that the men who are there, due to the fact that Alaska is in the middle of nowhere, gets 23 hours of darkness for half the year, and is cold as hell then, results in five times the number of domestic violence cases as the rest of the country (this is told by the guy who never lives anywhere that long from Sydney). I also heard interesting hypotheses on why Australia is so Asian yet remains racist – hypotheses that I can actually believe. Maybe this will be my new goal – stop going to fru-fru restaurants for Meetups and stick with the well-priced, ethnic holes-in-the-wall. I definitely was not bored tonight.

Crying outside

After a night out for Greek food and seeing The Cripple of Inishmaan with Daniel Radcliffe, we came home and shut our door to hear a woman screaming in the hallway of our apartment building. She’s yelling in a language I do not recognize, and I believe she is on the phone because I don’t hear another voice responding to her. After a bit of yelling, she just starts sobbing. The sobbing lasts for what seems like forever, and it’s extremely loud. I can even hear it over my electric toothbrush with the bathroom door shut.

I feel sad for a while and realize that the first thing I think when I hear this person yelling and crying over the phone is, “Did someone close to her just die?”

That was me almost nine months ago.

Maybe too soon

Planning the next vacation with my parents probably isn’t the best thing when my dad is calling me now, nitpicking at all the little things that happened during the last trip that he didn’t like. The one that is one of the most ridiculous is the black car service that was parked outside our hotel, and my dad walked up to him to ask how much a trip to the airport would be. $27, the guy responds. Obviously, it’s not going to be a deal; it’s a black car service! The trip we ended up taking via a regular yellow cab was $15. I’ve heard this about ten times since it happened, and will very likely hear about it again in the next week. “Remember when…” Yes, I remember. Now, can we stop rehashing something so pointless?

Was this a highlight of our trip? Of course not. But it’s something he wants to complain about as much as possible.

Spices galore

I’ve lived in New York for almost six years and have never been to Kalustyan’s until today – it was the highlight of my day. For anyone who is unfamiliar, Kalustyan’s is a pretty well known specialty foods/spice store in Manhattan that’s been around since the 1940s. It has aisles and aisles of every spice that you never even could fathom existing. I think I counted about 15 different types of paprika – just paprika.

I suppose for the average New Yorker who has about ten inches of kitchen space, never cooks, and lives off of delivery and dining out, this wouldn’t be surprising. But for someone like me, whose happiest moments are spent traveling, eating, or cooking, this is a bit of a shock. It’s always been on my list of places to visit, but I just never got around to it. And then today when I Google Map it, I find out it’s just a few blocks away from my office. I’m there.

It was a fun experience perusing the aisles and picking up the few Turkish and Middle Eastern spices I had on my list, but it was definitely a very pricey place. Pickled mangoes and limes I could find at Patel Brothers in Jackson Heights were marked up almost triple, and most Chinese sauces were at least double what I’d find them for at Hong Kong Supermarket. My mom’s beloved chewy ginger candy was marked at $10/pound when I could easily buy it off of Canal Street for about $2. It’s a novelty for me since I haven’t really explore Middle Eastern spices like pul biber and and urfa pepper much before, but maybe I will save my next Middle Eastern spice run for a hopefully cheaper trip to Bay Ridge.

Planning the next one

Three days later, I’m still in travel withdrawal. So I’ve been spending bits of free time researching the next place we will be visiting for pleasure – the Adirondacks in upstate New York, and more specifically, Lake Placid. I have TripAdvisor links for hiking trails bookmarked and even have a Yelp list of restaurants that sound promising in the area. Thinking about other things seems so dull in comparison.

I’ve even started thinking about the next trip I want to take my parents on – something that could span three to four days, include good food and cultural sights, and not be too long of a flight from San Francisco since my dad hates flying. Vancouver might be an idea for next year for all of us. Chris and I have never been there, and my parents have never even set foot across the border. And it also helps that Vancouver has lots of Asians, so my parents would feel right at home. :)

Should vs. Must

I think I am going through one of those phases again when I feel disconnected from the world. It doesn’t help that the day started out gloomy, and I’ve been waking up to a persisting soreness on the left side of my jaw. This is what happens when you grind your teeth, even with a mouth guard.

Then my friend sent me this article about the crossroads of “should” and “must.” Then I felt even worse. What if your job = your career = your calling? Is my calling to work in ad technology? Was it my calling to have spent over four years working at a digital agency, or nine months at a technology company before that? Maybe most of my life has been spent doing “should” and only very recently I’ve really started on the “must” – as in traveling or photographing because I love those things. Or maybe I don’t really know what my “must” is that could be my career.

Traveling withdrawal and a miserable Monday

I came back to work today feeling sluggish and in withdrawal. I tend to get like this when I have traveled somewhere I really enjoyed and realize that I have to return to my daily grind at work, which is never anywhere as exciting. I only told two people on my team I was going to the Grand Canyon with my parents prior to leaving. When we had our Monday morning team meeting, I told the rest of them I went. They seemed more excited that my fellow colleague saw Captain America than the fact that I traveled to one of the greatest wonders of the world. This is my world five days a week.

America the Beautiful

We left Arizona this afternoon and had to come back to gloomy, rainy New York, which is still keeping spring at bay for us. I am still obsessing over how gorgeous it is in Arizona and how even more excited I am to see the rest of the American Southwest. There are endless scenic trails to hike, red rocks everywhere, and cactus that grow up to 100 feet tall here. We were lucky during this trip and saw a rattlesnake, a hare, a lizard, and a running deer. Whenever people scoff and say that there’s nothing to see in the United States outside of places like L.A, San Francisco, New York, or Chicago, this crazy fury comes over me. I’ve been to all of those places and more, and I still feel like I have so much left to see of this beautiful country. Arizona is the 31st state I’ve visited, but in just 2.5 days, I actually barely saw any of it. It was like a quick flirtation that had to come to an abrupt end. It’s sad to think that most Americans, who are already the least traveled people on earth, wouldn’t even appreciate the varied beauty of their own country that they call home.