I smell like rotten eggs

We’re dedicating about a day and a half to Yellowstone National Park. This park is massive, and you could probably spend weeks exploring it, not to mention hiking all the day-long trails and camping out here. But, we don’t have time for that, so we’re making do with what time we have. What was surprising in a good way to me was how accessible Yellowstone is. They really make it handicap friendly by creating boardwalk ways to see the majority of the major sites, whether it’s for the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Grand Prismatic Spring, or any of the dozens and dozens of geyser/spring spots throughout the park. You don’t need to hike to see any of these things; you can just walk right on up. Old Faithful geyser even has benches that wrap around the geyser so that you can comfortably sit and wait for the geyser to erupt, which the visitor center has approximations of time of eruption for (and is actually really accurate!).

Old Faithful wasn’t as dramatic as I thought it would be. Maybe it’s because it’s slightly overhyped in general, but it didn’t shoot up as high as I imagined, nor did it even last that long. I was underwhelmed by it compared to other great sights to be had in the park overall. I actually preferred watching the Castle Geyser erupt more, mainly because it’s far longer, it’s not predictable at all, and, it’s actually much older than Old Faithful.

And because Yellowstone is the park of geysers, everywhere we went, it smelled like sulphur/rotten eggs. It was a very surreal experience to be surrounded by all these live geysers that could literally erupt at any second without any notice. Without even realizing it, both of us probably smelled like sulphur the entire day. When we came back to our hotel to rest for the night, I had my evening shower. As I washed my hair, I could smell the sulphur in my strands as I shampooed, and the stench was so strong!

Picking up “hitchhikers” in Glacier

We’re starting our national parks trip at Glacier National Park in northern Montana. We’re so far north in the U.S. that we’re literally just miles away from the Canadian border. Glacier actually spans both Canada and the U.S., just that once you cross the border and go through Customs, it’s called Waterton Lake National Park (of Canada). Glacier is the pristine and much overlooked little sister of Yellowstone, since most of the time when tourists are coming out to Montana and are not local or coming from neighboring states, they are primarily going to see Yellowstone, as it is the first and oldest national park of the national park system, and because of that one of the most famous. When we decided to go to Yellowstone, I knew I wanted us to at minimum also visit Glacier, especially since based on photos I’d seen of it, it would have much in common with what stunned me about Banff in Canada, which was the sparkling turquoise lakes and the endless snow-capped mountains and glaciers. The saddest part about Glacier is that it is slowly dying; in the early 1900s, 100 glaciers existed here. Today, we have only 30 left. I hope more and more people will visit (and not cause harm) to this place of beauty. What’s this place going to be called once the last glacier permanently melts due to global warming?

What I didn’t expect us to do during this day visit to Glacier was pick up some hitchhikers while in the park. Granted, we weren’t on some random road in the middle of nowhere and were already in the park, and it was a married couple with serious hiking gear plus their friend, who happened to be a missionary spreading the gospel through China, but visiting. We were walking back from some lake overlook, and they made some friendly conversation with us and explained that they mistook the timing for the free (and severely unreliable) national park shuttle buses, and asked if we could drive them to Logan Pass, which was where we were headed already. Otherwise, they’d have to walk all the way to Logan Pass, which was quite a long distance from where we were at that moment. We relented, cleared the backseat of the car, and in exchange, they gave us all their tips about Glacier. The couple met and fell in love as summer workers right here in the park 12 years ago, and though both not from nearby, moved here and have decided to settle here. They are regular day hikers in the park and literally know it like the backs of their hand (they were able to recite exact heights of mountains to us and tell us all the little nuances of each, plus the hiking trails, which were helpful for us to know given our limited time).

Walking around the park with the bits of hiking we had time to do, all I could think was… wow. They loved this place so much after meeting and working here that they both decided to uproot, move, and settle here. And now they have a five-year-old child at home (with his parents who even decided to move here, too!). That is true love for a place, no doubt. It reminded me of the story I recently read on my college travel Facebook group’s page, where one woman grew up going to Glacier for one week every single summer for about 15 years as a child, and once she and her siblings left for college, her parents relocated to a small town right outside of Glacier so that they could enjoy the national park year-round.

And this place smells so good. I kept thinking about that beautiful, fresh forest scent as the day went on. Places like this have the power to really change people and their life decisions. That is just so magical.

Huckleberry

Until the last couple of years, I never actually realized that huckleberry was a real berry or fruit. I thought it was some fictitious fruit that Mark Twain named his famous Huckleberry Finn character after, and that the huckleberry pie I always read about in children’s stories when I was young was just a fake and delicious dessert meant to tempt me to crave a new sweet. I tried researching to see if they could be found in New York, and unfortunately, no sources could help me.

So I was excited to learn that huckleberry is indigenous to the general Pacific Northwest and mountains of Idaho and Montana, and huckleberry is actually the state fruit of Idaho. It cannot be cultivated and grows only in the wild, so they are a local fruit to this area, and an expensive one at that given that you won’t find a huckleberry farm anytime soon here or anywhere. The stereotype is true: bears who roam the forests in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming stuff their mouths with these berries when they encounter them. It’s comical that there are some truths to childhood fairy tales.

They are difficult to find fresh unless you literally pick them during hikes, but so far, we’ve seen so many signs for huckleberry pie and huckleberry milkshakes. I can’t wait to finally try this fruit from children stories in real life right here in Montana where it’s native.

Macy’s trigger

Today, my dad turned 69. It’s the fourth birthday he’s celebrated since my brother has been dead. Each time his birthday comes around, I am reminded once again that just ten days before four years ago, Ed committed suicide, and each year is a another year without Ed to see the dad he hated so much get another year older. My family doesn’t celebrate birthdays, anyway. Nothing is really worth celebrating to them.

Macy’s, a place where my brother worked for 12 years, is gradually shuttering its stores around the country. The location where Ed used to work is closing, so my dad suggested to my mom today that they go in to see what was on sale that they might need. My dad didn’t feel like going in, so my mom went in. She barely lasted 10 minutes before she suddenly started getting really dizzy and nauseated, and it peaked when she saw a young Asian man who vaguely resembled Ed working in the domestics department. That’s the department Ed used to work in. She left and told my dad she wasn’t feeling well and had to go home and lie down.

Our dad was never one to talk about feelings. He still isn’t. And so my mom felt relieved when I called her today so she could talk about it with me. She immediately burst into tears when I called. “I just miss him,” she sobbed. “I could have helped him, but I didn’t take him seriously. Why didn’t I do something to help?” She reminds me again of that day two weeks before he died when he came up to her and said he didn’t want to live anymore, that he had nothing left to do with his life, that he didn’t blame anyone but himself anymore. She didn’t even tell me this happened until the evening he went missing on July 22 of that year. “I should have done something then,” she added. “But it’s too late now.”

I felt really terrible and feel for my mom when she is overwhelmed by all these memories and feelings of guilt, but honestly… at that point, it was too late to help. The help was needed — long, long before that awful low point. Why didn’t she or my dad do anything earlier than that — you know, when he was a child and needed the love and attention of his parents rather than the verbal abuse and yelling and beating? Or, how about wishing your son a happy birthday while he’s alive rather than “remembering” his birthday once he’s dead?

I feel conflicted all the time about the two of them. My parents have so much pride and joy around my life, with going to and finishing school at a prestigious high school and then college, of working and slowing increasing my “rank” career wise, of living an independent life where I don’t rely on my parents for money or physical protection. My mom takes all the credit for my success, even for how I met Chris. So if they are so quick to say that all my successes can be attributed to them, then why can’t they just admit the fact that at the same time, they should also take responsibility for my brother’s life and suffering and pain?  Ed had so much potential at so many points of his life, and they didn’t want to believe in him even when they say in retrospect now that they did. I always hated that we were treated so unequally, and I still resent it now when I receive money from them or birthday or Christmas gifts. I actually really hate it and immediately am reminded that Ed never got those things ever after he turned 18.

I comforted her anyway because I have to and because I think it’s the right thing to do. I try to soothe her because I know my dad never will. But I’m still pissed. I probably always will be about this… until the day I die and finally join Ed.

The other half

A colleague asked how our move went, and as I was showing her photos of our new apartment, her eyes widened and lit up as she exclaimed about how “adult” and beautiful our new space is. “Wow, so this is how the other half of New York lives!” she said, stunned, admiring the natural light and the bathroom space.

All I have to say is, this isn’t how I grew up, and these apartments are not at all exemplary of where I’ve come from.

Post college, I was constantly humbled when people had no idea what Elmhurst, Queens, was. Even when my apartment was huge with a renovated granite kitchen and a brand new oven/stove, it didn’t matter because people are so location-obsessed in New York. And it didn’t help that slowly but surely, I started discovering the roaches all over the kitchen and the bathroom. Even my mom discovered them on her second visit and was constantly chasing them around the kitchen to kill them. She asked where they were coming from. I told her it was a combination of bad foundation, old home, plus the disgusting landlords downstairs.

Then, I moved in with Chris to a much smaller space on the Upper East Side. Though the building was good with monthly check-ins with the exterminator, plus an elevator and laundry in the basement, the biggest scare I would have is cleaning under the kitchen counter to find the occasional dead roach, usually at least one to two inches long. And one memorable morning, I woke up to use the bathroom to discover a centipede and all its scary legs walking all over the bathroom tiles. That wasn’t fun.

This is a very different place than what I’m used to. It still doesn’t feel quite like home yet, and I still feel like I’m walking around someone else’s house. But hopefully soon, it will start feeling like my home.

Goodbye, Upper East Side

We came back to the old apartment to do some last bits of cleaning, and to sell and discard some last items. Once we emptied the remaining bits out, it was literally just a few reusable bags at the door with remaining belongings we’d bring back to the new apartment, plus the couch, sofa, curtains, and shelves that we sold to the next tenant who will be moving in at the end of August. I sat on the couch with the AC running and looked around at the place. I spent over five years in this apartment, cooking in that area, sleeping in that back room, sitting on this couch. And now, it’s coming to an end. It seems a bit sad. Even though the floor boards were coming undone and the brick walls were constantly shedding dust and sand and all kind of other disgusting things, I grew to love this place.

Onto the future. At least in the new building, I know I won’t have dead roaches randomly waiting for me or sand that comes out of a chimney.

Natural light

Even though moving day was a long and tiring day, I ended up waking up naturally at around 6am this morning. I felt a little confused, and though I lingered in bed for a couple hours, I immediately realized why I woke up; we didn’t pull the bedroom blinds or shades down, so the morning light streamed through the window.

I cannot remember the last time I had this much natural light in my bedroom… ever. Even in hotels, I usually take advantage of those thick window curtains where you can mask out every bit of light, just because I could. Outside of hotels, I’d never seen such thick curtains before.

This place is going to take time to really feel like home. Everything feels like an adjustment so far.

Concierge

Even though we hired movers to move all our boxes and lone bookcase, I still had to cart over a number of bags of things I didn’t want them to deal with, like our perishables from our refrigerator and freezer, jewelry, and random loose items from the kitchen and bathroom that could have become messy. I went to the apartment building first to get the keys from the building manager so the movers could enter, and as I unloaded all my things, the concierge came and asked if I needed help bringing my items to the room. I insisted I didn’t (and didn’t fully register that this is normal service in the building), but as I met with the manager, I left all the items near the service elevator. When I came out, they were all gone, and when I went up to the apartment unit, a porter came with all my items hanging from hooks on a cart and asked me where I’d like all my bags placed in the apartment.

I guess this is part of what I’m paying for, huh?

Race, even in furniture buying

It seems like in a day and age of Trump running the United States of America, everything seems to be about race. When you are anything but white, you have to think about race all the time. And when you’re white, it’s easy to take for granted the fact that you have that privilege. Like in this guy’s case that I’m about to describe, he thought he could take advantage of being white by “paying me later” when trying to buy our dresser.

After seeing our Craigslist ad, this guy said he’d be over on a Saturday and rent a truck, and his friend would come to help him move the dresser out of our apartment. As he’s on his way, he called me to let me know that his friend would be meeting him, but he’d probably get to the building sooner, and so, “Don’t worry about the Hispanic guy hanging out outside your building. He’s not there to rob you; he’s my friend just coming to help me transport the dresser. He’s a good guy.”

That phone call already started the bad taste in my mouth about this guy.

Then, when he arrived, his friend opened the truck door and he came into the building when I let him in. He introduced himself and asked, “It’s okay if I Venmo you, right? Can I do it later?”

Um, no. I expect the money before you leave my apartment and take my stuff. You need to pay me now.

He immediately looked exasperated, as though I asked him to give him some exorbitant amount of money for the dresser or was making him go out of his way. “Well, now I need to get my friend to give me my phone so I can Venmo you now, then.”

That… was not a problem. Your friend was literally 50 feet away. You could easily have him go get your phone. What, when this guy goes to a store, does he take merchandise out of the store and tell the cashier, “Hey! I’ll pay you later?”

So he Venmoed me, no problem. Then, they took the dresser out and he left. But I was still annoyed. Even though we got a decent chunk of money for the dresser, the entire experience made me mad. First, he stereotyped his friend and projected his stereotypes of Latino people onto me as though I would feel unsafe seeing a brown man coming into my apartment (ha, because my husband is brown, too), thus exuding the classic “I’m not racist, I have a black friend” attitude. Then, he expected to get away with “paying later,” and I’m almost 100 percent certain he did that because he’s a white guy who thinks he can be trusted just because of his race. And as though it were really relevant, he said he was a resident at Columbia.

Yeah, I don’t care who you are — black, white, orange, rich, poor, a tree hugger, or a doctor. When you come to my apartment after seeing my Craigslist ad, you pay for the furniture you said you would buy. Then, you take it out. And then you get out immediately.

Why did this annoy me again tonight? Because tonight, we had a guy come with his brother to buy and dismantle our bed frame, and not only was he extremely polite and hesitant to even enter our apartment, without question he paid us immediately in cash before he touched a single part of the bed. And this guy was black. And I can guarantee that he did this because he’s hyper aware of his skin color and how he’s perceived, and he knows for a fact he’d never, ever get away with what that white guy did and pull a “I’ll pay you later” stunt. It probably would never even enter his mind the way it did with the white guy who bought the dresser.

That made me so mad. It made me mad that this African American guy was so polite and really didn’t have to be that polite, and it made me mad that that white guy was so nonchalant about paying because he’s got white privilege. Everything is about race, even furniture buying and selling.

our hood

After work today, I went home to pick up two massive bags of old blankets to walk up to the ASPCA about 14 blocks away. As I walked up First Avenue, I noticed all these new wine bars, restaurants, and little shops I’d never really noticed before. It must be because I just never really paid attention, as well as the fact that this neighborhood has changed so much over the last five years I’ve lived here. It’s become trendier, more diverse cuisine has become available and actually stuck, and of course, more expensive and shiny high rises have gone up. Every day this neighborhood is changing, and soon, we’ll be gone and won’t see it evolving anymore.

New Yorkers have such an attachment to certain neighborhoods. I’ve grown to really love the Upper East Side, which I once thought as a food-and-drink area was quite mundane. Now, it’s flourishing with all types of cuisines. I noticed a Chinese-Hawaiian fusion spot on First Avenue in the 90s today, as well as a hip looking Korean spot just a block over.

I wonder what interesting things we will find in the new neighborhood. Who knows – maybe in another five years if I come back to this current neighborhood, I may not even recognize it anymore.