U.S. naturalization ceremony

I originally planned to be in San Francisco from Sunday through Sunday to maximize time with family, friends, and colleagues, but I had to cut it short when we received a notification a couple weeks ago that Chris’s naturalization ceremony was scheduled for this morning. He had applied to become a citizen last August after all of the political nonsense that this country is facing with Trump being president. Trump as president has really spurred a lot of people to become more politically active, which is great news. Chris wanted to have his voice heard, so this was the result.

You’d think that if you were being sworn in to become a citizen of a new country that it would be a celebratory event, that it would be an occasion that would be happy, full of smiles, music, and praise. Well, that was not what I witnessed today. As soon as we entered the courthouse, all of our phones and any “smart” device were confiscated, neatly placed into a “smart phone cubby” that was organized by medallion number. No electronics of any sort were allowed into the building; they’d hold it for you. Then, as visitors sat down, the new citizens had to have all their paperwork organized and ready for when the officers needed them.

And, it’s no wonder that they ban all electronics and thus recording devices because it is absolutely disgusting what you’d see if I actually videoed what I saw today. As a country, we should be ashamed of how we treat newly naturalized citizens. There was not even an ounce of warmth, of respect, of anything positive in that room in the entire three-plus hours I sat in there waiting.

I witnessed some of the most inhuman interactions today. There was a line to get your papers checked, and a second line to get a second check done. It wasn’t clear that there was a second line given how people were organizing themselves. An officer says to someone walking towards the line, “Are you lost? The line is right there!” as though he’s some total incompetent blind person. Another officer berated another person who didn’t have her papers organized as though she was a little child; this new potential citizen was at least in her 40s. Every interaction I witnessed made me more and more angry. I was just bracing myself for how they were going to treat Chris when he got up there.

When Chris finally got to the front and was showing his papers, the interaction seemed pretty benign; no meanness or tone of arrogance coming from the officer, which was not what I’d previously witnessed.

Two hours later of waiting with no electronics, phones, or books in hand, the “ceremony” began (can I add that there was a rack of magazines that were roped off that said “do not touch”? How more evil can you possibly be when you’ve stripped everyone of their smart phones?). We recited the pledge of allegiance, a judge came out to give a speech to basically encourage everyone to vote… because of course she would do this since she’s a lesbian with a family, and has her own agenda to push.

She said that of all the judges she’d spoken with, this ceremony was what gave them the most joy in their jobs. That was total garbage, every word out of her mouth; they got to sit in there in their robes for ten minutes to talk about the hopes and dreams of becoming an American, yet they didn’t have to sit and wait through the last two hours of being stripped of electronics, being dehumanized in line, talked to like children, or the last five, ten, fifteen, or however many years it took all these people, mostly people of color, to get to this dehumanizing room to get ‘naturalized’ today. Everything about today’s ceremony was crap; there wasn’t even a moment where I thought, if I were getting naturalized today in this room, I’d be ecstatic, proud to be here. We were both just eager to get the hell out of there as soon as possible. All I could hear out of Chris’s mouth were expletives under his breath. And I couldn’t really blame him. But I honestly could not feel that happy, either, even though his “status” would be changing. It was a truly terrible experience for the entire three hours we were in there.

We ended the day with a beautiful omakase dinner with two good friends and drinks downtown. We had to have something to look forward to after such a crappy U.S. government experience. But this marks the end of my love’s immigration hell. This is truly the end.

And as Chris reminds me, now he doesn’t need me anymore and could divorce me. Heh.

Between the World and Me

This month, I’ve been slowly reading the journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates’s book Between the World and Me, a collection of letters he’s written to his young son to prepare him to be a part of a world where white people dominate and black people have historically and through this day been discriminated against. It’s not a long book at all, but it’s one of those books that you have to digest a little bit at a time because its sentiments are very painful and raw. It’s taken me some time to fully take in what Coates is expressing. It’s a bit jarring to think that we live in a world where the color of our skin really matters so much  many decades after events such as the abolishment of slavery, the Civil Rights movement, and even having a half-black president of the U.S.

I’m disgusted, but not surprised, to see the negative reviews of white readers who have read Coates’s book on Amazon, stating that they felt that Coates was attacking them for being born white with inherent privilege, that they should feel guilty for being white and never knowing what it’s like to be discriminated based on skin color. It’s one thing to be aware of one’s privilege; it’s another thing to altogether act as though it does not exist and to be defensive about it. It’s as though they are blind to the pain of people of color solely because of their own privilege, or they choose not to see it. The inability to see what causes pain, even when it’s right in front of our eyes, is obviously a very human reaction, a sort of defense mechanism to protect oneself. But being defensive, however human that reaction is, fails to serve anyone well or to help our country or world progress. We need more empathy, a stronger and greater desire to understand the experiences we personally have not experienced ourselves, but experiences we are cognizant exist and are the everyday reality for others who look different from us, who lead completely different lives from us, who see the world through a different lens because their world, frankly, is not the same as ours, even though we may ignorantly believe we all live in the same reality.

This is one of those books that I think everyone should read, but I know not everyone will.

 

a dream within a dream

It’s as though the morale is so down in our current office that they decided to fly out one of our team managers to host a happy hour for us tonight at a fancy cocktail bar half a block away from our office in the Flatiron. We already had a happy hour to increase team camaraderie last Thursday, but we had to have yet another one today. It’s not that I am complaining about it; it’s more that although I do like nice, well made cocktails that I don’t have to pay for, I think the problems are deeper than what can be solved by getting tipsy with my colleagues.

I originally thought I’d only stay for a drink or two, but I ended up staying out until nearly midnight, which I definitely did not plan at all on doing. Two venues, four drinks, six hours later, it was as though everything just felt like a big blur. But I was extremely cognizant of everything around me. I could feel myself enunciating every syllable clearly to detract from the fact that the alcohol was seeping into my blood and affecting my head. Is this period just a phase, a big haze that will eventually end and morph into something else? I kind of feel like I am floating and things aren’t quite real right now, and I’m not sure why. That then reminded me of this poem I enjoyed by Edgar Allan Poe when I was 13, studying his poetry and short stories. It’s when we ask ourselves what is real vs. what is not, yet we think everything we are experiencing is real. The poem goes something like this:

A Dream Within a Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.
I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand —
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep — while I weep!
O God! Can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Transatlanticism – Death Cab for Cutie

The world feels like a blur. The mood today is like this song from Death Cab for Cutie. My good friend from college got me into this band at a time when all I knew was mainstream pop music.

The Atlantic was born today and I’ll tell you how…
The clouds above opened up and let it out.

I was standing on the surface of a perforated sphere
When the water filled every hole.
And thousands upon thousands made an ocean,
Making islands where no island should go.
Oh no.

Those people were overjoyed; they took to their boats.
I thought it less like a lake and more like a moat.
The rhythm of my footsteps crossing flatlands to your door have been silenced forever more.
The distance is quite simply much too far for me to row
It seems farther than ever before
Oh no.

I need you so much closer [x8]

I need you so much closer [x4]
So come on, come on [x4]

Dinner in Forest Hills

Tonight, our building’s handyman, who is now one of our friends, invited us over to his place for dinner with his wife and his big (and very diverse) friend crew. We met the week we moved into our building last July, and it was like “like” at first meeting. We immediately bonded over cooking and food, and we won him over by giving him a taste of some whisky we had. He loves bacon and applying sous vide to anything; his wife bakes obsessively and has even catered sweets for one of her good friend’s baby showers. Occasionally when I am planning to cook something and I run into him in the building, I describe what I am cooking, and he will stop by and have a taste or two. “If you make it, I will put it in my mouth,” he always says. There are few things more satisfying than hearing that someone has so much faith in my cooking ability that he will literally eat anything I put out.

It was his turn to impress us tonight: he made pernil (slow cooked pork shoulder), baked mac and cheese made with smoked gouda, dubliner, and gruyere cheeses, and sous vide fried chicken drumsticks. His wife made a lemon tart, a three-flavored cheesecake, and all the appetizers, including deviled eggs that were made with pickled beet dyed egg whites. The sous vide drum sticks definitely won me over, and now an iteration of that is on my list of things to make with my own sous vide precision cooker. What was even more exciting was that a bunch of his friends also love to cook, and so we had a very interesting and intense session of cooking technique discussion while watch

Happy hour and karaoke night

One of my colleagues I’m friends with was in town this week for work, so we organized a small get-together for dinner and karaoke after our scheduled happy hour with our cofounder, who was also in town. I think after a lot of the announced changes this week, we were really due for some fun and relaxation outside of the office, so this night’s outing could not have been better planned coincidentally. We went out, talked about senseless but funny topics, and sang about three hours of karaoke until our vocal chords were cranky and strained. It felt really good to let a bit loose and to just not focus on all the serious and annoying things that have been going on.

I have a subgroup of colleagues I can actually call friends, people I somewhat trust and can feel like I can be myself around. Tonight was kind of evidence of that – no judgments. We’re all in this together, and we’re supportive of each other. It’s a good place to be even in difficult times.

Announcements

Communication is always key in any relationship. It occurs in multiple forms that continue to evolve as technology evolves. There’s the in-person communication, which, to most normal, rational people, should be considered the best and highest form of communication. There’s video and/or phone communication. There’s e-mail, which most people universally agree, sucks as a main form of communication. There’s also text, electronic chat, Snapchat, Facebook messenger chat, etc.

So when it comes to things like big team announcements, like who a new leader may be, wouldn’t it make the most sense to make it the most personal and to announce that in a live team meeting rather than in an impersonal email?

E-mail is seriously the worst. So much for respect.

Dog like

My colleague and I were having a conversation about stress management and how people in general take life too seriously and do not enjoy the moment. We both love dogs and think they’re one of the best stress relievers, one of the easiest ways to put smiles on our faces in the office (when we are lucky enough to have a four-legged visitor, that is). I told him about the time I went with a fellow colleague to an animal shelter because she was considering adopting a dog, and there, I fell in love with the most adorable white terrier mix fluffy dog. It was love at first sight. His fluffy fur, his big smiley face, his tongue hanging out, his speedy wagging tail, his energy. He was so enthusiastic and eager to see and play with us… but both of his back legs were out due to an abusive situation he was rescued from. He didn’t seem to mind, though; he continued running around like a happy dog and as though he had no care in the world. His two back legs were dragging, but it was as though they didn’t exist to him. He just wanted to play and be loved. When he goes on walks, he actually has a “wheel chair” for his two back legs so that they don’t drag. In a few days, he would get picked up by his new owner, who had experience caring for handicapped dogs.

So then we said, what would it be like if we could be more dog like, if we could just live and enjoy and stop stressing as much as we do? We’d have less trouble sleeping and concentrating. The past would truly be in the past. We’d focus on what’s right there in front of us instead of worrying over the future and what’s going to happen in a week or a year. Dogs just don’t care what their disabilities are; they barely know they’re disabled (right?). They live and enjoy the moment, then pass out and sleep.

“Be more dog,” my colleague said. “Maybe tomorrow will be more dog like?”

It’s rarely that simple, but at least we can strive to be more in the moment for just a few seconds extra every day… is it possible?

Another departure

And like it wasn’t already enough for our office to deal with, another sales person who I get along with well, the only female account executive in the New York City office, announces today that she’s resigning. What fun.

“It’s going to get worse before it will get better,” my colleague friend says to me to reassure me. “I think she’s the last shoe to drop for now.”Let all the flies drop and then we can celebrate. All the volatility, all the changes, all the angst… we’ll be okay eventually, right?

I blasted sad love songs the rest of the day. And continued listening to them when I got home. I’m way too invested in this place.. that is why this is all getting to me and making me sad. When did I suddenly become so obsessed with this company and my work?? Why do I care so much?

 

Bad theater

In a city as diverse and and rich in culture as New York City, there’s endless options for food, theater, and entertainment. Chris always says that if we were ever to leave New York City, one of the top things he’d miss would be the easy access to live theater of all price points, genres, and theater sizes. It would be sad to leave that behind. It’s something that people here in the city definitely take for granted.

So it’s really disappointing when you pay for a show, even if it’s cheap, and after 2.5 hours, you wonder what the actual point of the show was and lament that you just wasted 2.5 hours of your life sitting silently while agonizing over the plot and exaggerated angsty acting of a bunch of actors. From the first half hour, I sat there and wondered where this was really going. And when intermission came, I was tempted to walk out, but I figured… Chris wouldn’t want that, and hey, maybe the second act would actually get better? It felt like it got worse. And I wish I could have just put in my wireless ear buds and listened to my audio book for the second act to at least be somewhat productive.

 

In turn-of-the-century Mississippi, the local minister’s daughter walks the line between piety and sensuality with the neighborhood doctor who grew up next door. Jack Cummings III, Artistic Director of the award-winning Transport Group, helms this sultry Southern Gothic masterpiece marking Tennessee Williams’ long-overdue CSC debut.