year30, writing, travel

The Grand Move: Updates on the road, Days 9 to 12

Day 9: San Antonio to Austin, TX

The only real reason we decided to put San Antonio on our itinerary was because I insisted on seeing a live San Antonio Spurs game. Since we've successfully checked that off our list, we decided to leave town and head to Austin, where there's a lot more happening (read: FOOD). Before we left, though, we made sure we paid San Antonio proper homage and went to its downtown area.

Downtown San Antonio

We did part of the River Walk, which was expertly laid out and connected. We didn't really take a lot of photos while we were there (at least I didn't, maybe J did), but here's a quick look at the map, courtesy of San Antonio River Walk's official website:

We only did the loop part of the River walk, shown on this map.

We only did the loop part of the River walk, shown on this map.

We passed by the Alamo and took around 20 minutes to breeze through the exhibit. We weren't allowed to take photos, so if you want to find out what's there, you'd have to look it (J's favorite line to get out of photography duty: "You can Google better images of ______ than I can take, babe!") up or go there yourself. Or you know, YouTube.

Food and drink (San Antonio)

For lunch, we ate at El Milagrito Restaurant for our first Tex-Mex in Texas. J got the chipotle enchilada (it was fine), and I got the lengua with ranchero sauce, which I would have enjoyed, had I not bit into the random green pepper that came with the dish. My tongue burned for the next couple of hours and I couldn't eat anything for a few hours. Lesson: DO NOT bite into an unidentified garnish from the pepper family.

Road trip discussions

Before zoning out on a few albums for our short drive to Austin, I told Jason about an article I read compiling some of television's worst moments this year and the fact that it included the Family Guy / The Simpsons crossover episode. While I liked both shows separately for different reasons, J admitted to liking Family Guy better. "Family Guy is just smart funny, like, continuous streams of laughter funny. The Simpsons just makes me chuckle for a short time like, oh haha that was funny." I haven't seen an actual episode of the new generation The Simpsons, so I can't really refute him; I mainly remember loving The Simpsons when I was 7 or 8. I also find the jokes on Family Guy a tiny bit more relevant. I just hate it when they waste ten or so minutes on a fight between Peter and the damn chicken.

UGH I hate it so much. J, on the other hand, finds this utterly hilarious.

UGH I hate it so much. J, on the other hand, finds this utterly hilarious.

Playlist

We decided to do whole albums and chose one each. We have impeccable taste, if I say so myself. My pick [1] and his pick, consecutively:

Austin Accommodations

Centrally Located Private Cottage in Austin

Cabin in Austin, United States. This cute little backyard cottage promises to make your Austin visit comfortable, convenient, and because it's away from the street and in my backyard, really private. Step inside the little green cabin to a large comfortable bed, kitchenette, ful... View all listings in Austin

Our Airbnb host, Marcos, was very thorough. He made sure he sat us down before even showing us the small cabin he had in his backyard so he can discuss the map of the neighborhood.

This rental was within walking distance to the South Congress (SoCo) and South First St. (So-Fi) areas, so we had lots to do! We walked along So-Fi, which Marcos called the "funky street" (SoCo was the "trendy street") to try and get our bearings and find some place to get merienda or drinks, and we were both overjoyed to discover that this street was Food Truck City. Definitely coming back for lunch one of these days.

For the moment, though, our mission was to find me some margaritas, so we went to a place called Polvos, which the Web hails as the place to get margaritas in our vicinity. Verdict: So good and OMG SO STRONG. I don't even know how I managed to drink two. J only had one and had to switch to beer because the margaritas were starting to give him acid reflux.

By the time we finished our drinks, we felt so woozy and tired. We walked all the way back home, where we instantly zonked out.

Day 10 to 12 in Austin: Holy briskets, Batman! (and the art of pigging out while on tour)

Seriously, I don't think there's any point trying to break down what our days were like in this fair city in full detail, the ways I usually do with this series of blog posts, because if we were being completely honest, when we weren't busy working over our computers (UPDATE: My Surface Pro 3 is holding up, yay![2]), all we thought about was food and all we did was eat. So pardon me if I skip all my usual mumbo jumbo and just hone in on all the food we've tried during our visit, and share our verdicts.

Shawarma Point

We took a quick drive to the food truck area we chanced on yesterday to see what's up, and this was the only one of two that were open for lunch. Jason got the falafel shawarma and I got the beef/lamb plate.  OF COURSE I had to get it in #BrownPeopleSpicy. Verdict: Despite having a hashtag that appealed to me, we were both disappointed. J says his falafel wasn't that great, and my beef/lamb combo meat was just dry and almost tasteless. Nothing has beaten Shawarma Snack Center in the Philippines for me when it comes to shawarma, I think. Damn, I miss living across SSC. We both do. The only good thing about that meal was the refreshing Crush soda. 4 /  10 for both shawarmas.

The Blue Ox [3]

This place actually looked amazing - the ambiance felt right for a night-time food truck and the atmosphere was definitely conducive to stuffing our faces with brisket and beer. We shared a half pound of brisket with a side of slaw.

The set came with white bread - which we assume was for making sandwiches - but we decided to get rid of the distraction and just focus on the meat. Verdict: The meat was pretty good - we chose the fatty part of the brisket, which made it all the more flavorful. The slaw wasn't really slaw and more like a pile of shredded cabbage - maybe we really were meant to assemble the plate into sandwiches. 7 / 10 for the brisket, 3 / 10 for the slaw. In J's opinion, San Jose's Bray Butcher Block & Bistro in San Pedro Square still had the best slaw he has ever tasted, and that says a lot. He's a coleslaw connoisseur.

Mellizoz Tacos

We originally wanted to get some of their fancier tacos on the menu, but at the time we were there, they only had three options available. J ordered the Old School (ground beef, spinach, tomato, cheddar cheese) and I got the Padre (braised carnita pork, avocado, pineapple and salsa fresca).

Verdict: While J thought his taco was just OK, I was flipping out over mine - the avocado, pineapple, salsa, and pork on a soft taco just meshed well together. It's something I would definitely try to make at home. 5 / 10 for the Old School, 9 / 10 for the Padre.

Gourdough's

I have wanted to get a big-ass donut from this food truck ever since we saw its sign our first day in town, but J thought it was too giant for me to eat alone (I obviously have the more active sweet tooth). But since Mellizoz was right next to Gordough's and I really, really wanted to try one, we decided to get something small at Mellizoz to make room for dessert. We decided on Funky Monkey (grilled bananas, cream cheese icing, brown sugar). Verdict: It was so goddamn good, I may have had a tiny orgasm. Together, I think we decimated the huge donut (bigger than J's fist) in less than 5 minutes. 10 / 10 seriously.

Brown's Bar-B-Que

We of course ordered brisket. Note: Austin is known for beef barbecue, so if you can, always order brisket. We had cabbage and mac and cheese for sides, but they were both standard so I'll skip rating them (although I enjoyed the cabbage more). Verdict: This is a smidgin better and tastier than the brisket from The Blue Ox - the meat was just more moist and had the sauce better integrated. 8 / 10 for the brisket (always get at least half a pound to share with someone, more if you're hungry).

Franklin Barbecue
Anyone I asked about food recommendations told me to make sure I try the brisket at Franklin's, but to note that it's so damn popular, that if you do decide to go, you need to go go fifteen minutes earlier than your original plan. Let me put it another way: Restaurant opens at 11 AM, but people start lining up at 9 AM that by the time you get served, they may have already run out (they remain open only until they still have meat to sell). We get there at 9:20-ish and already there was a huge wait. I sat on the floor on top of my extra fleece jacket and read Amy Poehler's Yes Please on my Kindle; J went back to the car to get some work done. By 10:48 the people started getting out of their seats (there were some available for customer use) because the restaurant was about to open. I was so excited.

Get this, though. We lined up at 9:20 AM. We got to the actual counter to place our order inside by 1 PM. Sounds over-the-top crazy, sure, but let me tell you, it was worth it. The pit master up front cut up some brisket for us to taste prior to ordering, and just from that one bite, I had an out of body experienvce. IT WAS SO GOOD. The smoking was perfect. The flavor was amazing. And it was so, so juicy. We ordered a pound of brisket to share and told them not to give us bread anymore. For sides, we got a pint of coleslaw (we love our slaw) and loaded up on raw onions and pickles available at the condiments section.

This is my third paragraph talking about Franklin, which means one thing: It was definitely the highlight of our visit to Austin, at least for me. I'm happy we were able to make this excursion happen, on our last day in town. Verdict: The slaw was just basic, but better than most. The meat? A perfect 10 / 10, 11 / 10 even. The barbecue-crazy foodie in me was incredibly thrilled to be treating her palate to something so heavenly. Along with Franklin's three sauces, it was just the perfect sendoff meal for us vagabond travelers and brisket tasters.

[1] Some of the tracks on this album are not available on Spotify. Bummer.
[2] Thanks to J, I have developed an addiction to playing Pyramid Solitaire on my computer. I. CAN'T. STOP.
[3] Monday seemed to be a barbecue holiday of sorts. Most of the places we wanted to try were closed that day.

year30, writing, travel

The Grand Move: The official route

To those of you wondering if this trip we're taking across the country is spontaneous and unplanned, the answer is, sort of. While we don't have reservations for places to stay or itineraries to follow prior to getting to our next stop, we are following a general route, which you can check out through the map below (click the image to enlarge).

I am happy to report that we are on schedule. As of this writing, we are currently in Austin, TX, our first of 4 days in the city. Our next stop is New Orleans, LA, but we'll probably take two days driving there (working in the AM, driving in the PM, sleeping at a motel).

Not accounted for on this map is our trip to Miami, FL after the holidays, where we'll be waiting out the winter for a couple of months. :)

year30, writing, travel

The Grand Move, Updates on the road, Day 8

Lubbock to San Antonio, TX

Road specifics

  • Weather: 47 F, 10 AM
  • Song most appropriate for current aroma: Smells Like Cow Spirit (Seriously, miles and miles of stinky fertilizer infiltrated our nostrils)

Route

Food and drink

  • Breakfast: Dunkin Donuts iced coffee (YES!), Jason - Boston Kreme Donut, Jam - Cronut

Verdict: Definitely not worth $2.50, J's donut was better at $1

  • Lunch/Dinner: McDonald's, because we needed something quick on both occasions, Jason - Big Mac both times, Jam - McDouble and Chicken nuggets (honey mustard sauce) consecutively
  • Snacks: Our off-brand treats, just as good as Pik-Nik and Cheetos
  • After game dinner: Went to a dive bar called Joey's and got beers and lemon pepper wings. By far the best lemon pepper wings we've had in a while. I totally recommend in whenever you're in San Antonio.

Random stuff

  • We usually get a magnet from every place we visit, but we neglected to get one from Santa Fe, which unfortunately started a trend of not bothering with it. J suggested we get them off eBay, because that's where all the souvenir shops get them, anyway.
  • J regaled me with his concise knowledge on why interstate highways exist. Short version: Back when war was rampant and only US highways were available, the government decided to erect sturdier and wider highways that went from east to west to allow the Army to transport their tanks back and forth a lot quicker. J explained that it's quite possible that the U.S. became the powerhouse country that it is now because of the interstate highways - it pretty much allowed for better and easier commerce and made everybody rich. Pretty cool.

First times

  • Both our first time seeing actual cotton plants. There were vast fields of cotton on our way out of Lubbock. "That's how they make your shirts!" - Jason
  • Both our first time seeing an NBA game live. #GoSpursGo!

Spurs vs. Timberwolves

This, in particular, was a dream come true for me. I've been a Spurs fan since 2003 and the prospect of seeing one of their games live was something I always knew I'd have to make happen. Thank goodness for this road trip - it enabled us to have enough excuse to go to San Antonio (to be honest, the only reason we would ever go to San Antonio would be to see a Spurs game) for a day. Totally worth it (never mind that the Spurs totally decimated the Timberwolves and that Ginobli and Parker weren't playing that day...I WAS THERE IN PERSON)!!!

year30, updates, travel

The Grand Move, Updates on the road, Days 6 & 7

Santa Fe to Lubbock, TX

Last moments in Santa Fe

Day 6, Thursday
Still had a pretty sucky time connecting to the Internet, but I wasn't going to give up on you just yet, Surface Pro 3. I believe in you! Since our Airbnb rental's "high speed Internet connection" wasn't living up to its promise, I decided to walk downtown to work from Starbucks - J decided to come with so we could have Subways for lunch [1]. And whaddayaknow, I've got working Wi-Fi! YES!!!

Starbucks had a crazy promo that I desperately wanted to win. I had two chances today and I won neither. Better luck next time!

IMG_0380.JPG

Had to work from the shared bench. I pulled out a power strip from my bag - an idea I got from a blog entitled, "How To Prepare For Comic-Con" that suggested to bring one with you since there aren't a lot of outlets at the convention center...quickest way to make friends, too! - that immediately amused the people I had to share my space with. One of them was a 20-something girl who probably spent no less than two hours talking to multiple people on the phone, disputing some sort of medical claim (Note: I need to work on my eavesdropping skills if I want to get in the live-tweeting-or-blogging business). It sounded super stressful - she left the coffee house without resolution.

Nothing else of note happened during my stay there - got a lot of work done, thank goodness. J picked me up for dinner and we went to a quaint little restaurant called Tune-Up Cafe.

Decided to sit at the bar and start off with some local beers. While waiting for our orders, a man approached the bartender, claiming to be a movie location scout asking permission to shoot some photos. J and I exchanged glances, and the bartender had the "it happens" expression on his face. Apparently Santa Fe is a popular destination for shooting films.

Food and drink

  • Lunch: [1] J really wanted fajitas again, but it had been cold and rainy, so the fajita man wasn't at his usual station. So we shared a foot-long honey oat, black forest ham, lettuce, onion, tomato with vinegar and oil. I'm starting to love Subway!
  • Dinner: Jason - chicken enchiladas, Jam - shrimp and halibut pasta

Watched some Property Brothers before bed. Man, I will really miss having HGTV.

Day 7, Friday
Last day in Santa Fe! Didn't get to go to the Georgia O'Keeffe museum, but we caught up with the fajita man so that was awesome! Got to try green chile stew, which was perfect for a chilly mid-day. Ate at the park.

We both worked for a few hours at Starbucks; still didn't win the damn contest. Random thought: There are so many homeless folks in Santa Fe...how are they managing the cold? J thinks they are only stopping over on their way to somewhere warmer. And besides, there are homeless people almost everywhere.

Food and drink

  • Lunch: Jason - beef fajitas, Jam - green chile stew

Green chile stew, at the park. #vsco #VSCOcam #lunch #santafe

A photo posted by Jam Kotenko (@superduperjam) on

  • Dinner: Went to a restaurant called Whole Hog Cafe (which I thought was an AWESOME name!) and got the 1/2 slab with high expectations.  

Verdict: Underwhelmed. Coleslaw was only so-so (Best is still from Bray Butcher Block & Bistro at San Pedro Square Market in San Jose) and the sauces weren't that great, except for the #3. I'm really looking forward to the barbecue in Texas and St. Louis.

En route to San Antonio, TX

We hit the road at 6 PM Mountain Time, decided to stop in Lubbock at midnight Central Time (San Antonio is 10 hours away). This was our view for 5 hours or so:

It was so boring that we had to up our podcast/playlist game just to stay awake. We listened to episode 10 of Serial and had a heated discussion about Adnan's lawyer's incompetence. It's funny how the recordings shared through this podcast made these lawyers sound so bad at their jobs, they're not at all like the polished actors who play lawyers on television. Anyway, despite the fact that this episode had cast a bad light on the defense, there was no doubt about it now, what this show is trying to say: there definitely wasn't enough evidence to put Adnan in jail. </end-of-rant>

After Serial, we listened to J's old iPod whose tracks I won't list, apart from this one Chemical Brothers track that awakened both of us in the middle of bumfuck Texas, where NOTHING was going on (I didn't even realize that we already crossed over to Texas):

Accommodations for the night

Motel 6. No comment, just here to sleep.

year30, updates, travel

The Grand Move, Updates on the road, Day 5

More on Santa Fe

Morning

Waking up toasty next to the gas heater definitely has its perks, but it only takes about 5 minutes for me to feel the overall chill of Santa Fe's morning air...it probably was a bad idea to sleep in shorts with no socks. Must get a few more pairs of cute knee-high socks at Walmart/Target [1].

As I shower using scalding hot water, I am reminded of my days in Manila, taking baths by tabo using cool water. The idea of doing that here makes my insides quiver. I turn the heat up even more. Winter, here we come!

Oh, and for some reason, my morning migraine is a lot more intense here. Like, I didn't wake up because the sun hit my face or because J's alarm woke me up. I woke up because my skull felt like it was being sat on by three sumo wrestlers. J says I need to drink more water while we're here as high altitude makes you feel dehydrated quicker.

By the way, this is what our Airbnb rental looks like in the morning.

My complicated relationship with Windows laptops

I recently got a new laptop during Black Friday. It's sleek, shiny, sexy, and it bends in all sorts of ways. Take a look:

yoga 2 pro.jpg

Coming from a netbook, this is pretty much a dream. For a few hours, I enjoyed doing my work on it until we had to leave for The Grand Move. Then everything just went to the shitter.

It turns out, this fancy piece of machine is notorious for having horrible Wi-Fi problems, as in it won't ever connect to the Internet. It will give you access for a few minutes, but just when you start becoming happy that things are going your way, it drops off again. I run every troubleshooting app. I follow every tutorial I could find. Even J's computer wizardry falls short. Frustration city!

Finally, we decide to return my merchandise to Best Buy and switch brands all together. This is what we ended up getting just this evening:

I am pretty disappointed that I won't get a second try with the Yoga 2 Pro, but J explains that its Wi-Fi hardware is crappy - even the demo they have at Best Buy has a hard time connecting to the Internet.

Anyway, this is my second attempt at acquiring a better work machine. I am hopeful that this works out. I've always been a Windows gal, so I am especially rooting for the Surface Pro 3 to suit my needs without conking out [2]. Since most of our trip will actually be us working, I will probably have more updates to share in the days to come.

Pueblos everywhere!

This architectural style is something I am very fond of, which is why I was very excited about the prospect of visiting Santa Fe. The rounded and smooth corners, the earth tones, all of it just convey relaxation to me. For lunch, J and I decide to walk downtown to find a place to eat quickly, and on the way we see some cool pueblo style buildings and take photos of our favorites (click 'em - they blow up in size).

Food and drink

  • Lunch: Fajitas on the street. I had beef, J had chicken. Both were awesome. J asks, "What's the difference between a taco and a fajita?" I don't know, but I would eat both.
  • Dinner: Santa Fe Bite Restaurant, Jason - Street tacos, Jam - Green chile [3] cheese burger

[1] I don't online shop as much as I used to, but when I do, it's usually for stupid things like socks or $5 shirts.
[2] Don't get me wrong, I won't mind owning a Mac, but I don't want or need it right now.
[3] Green chile is a must for every visit to Santa Fe, apparently.

year30, updates, travel

The Grand Move, Updates on the road, Day 4

Flagstaff to Santa Fe, NM

Duration of trip: 5-6 hours

Playlist

J claims that he doesn't read my updates because of my uber-detailed listing of the songs we listen to. "Nobody cares about each and every track you play!" Music buff and wannabe DJ in me died, you guys. So instead of listing it manually here, I'm just going to embed the playlists I saved off of Spotify for our trip. Yep, I actually signed up for Spotify Premium so we could listen to songs offline/without Internet connectivity.

For this particular leg, we turned to this comedy compilation we begun listening to a few days ago, beginning with Robin Williams (may he rest in peace). People of note on this list that we ended up liking a lot are Wyatt Cenac and Maria Bamford. Skipped the non-spoken word tracks and Tig Notaro ("Too much cancer talk!" - Jason).

Food and drink

  • Snacks: Lay's Oven Baked barbecue potato chips, fresh persimmons courtesy of Tita Virgie (so good!)
    Dinner: Taco Bell, Jason - 5 tacos (1 of them originally mine), Jam - Crunch wrap supreme

Welcome to New Mexico, The Land of Enchantment

Not my photo, filched from here. We were going way too fast for me to be able to take my own, and it was already dark out.

Not my photo, filched from here. We were going way too fast for me to be able to take my own, and it was already dark out.

Not exactly sure why this is New Mexico's slogan. For the remainder of our time on the road to get to our Airbnb in Santa Fe, we saw nothing but flat lands and desert. Where are the unicorns and fairies? Must investigate further.

(Not too shabby) accommodations

Downtown Magical, Cozy Cottage in Santa Fe

House in Santa Fe, United States. This comfortable, stand alone cottage is equipped with everything you need to make your Santa Fe vacation fabulous! The property is conveniently located within a private compound and has parking for one vehicle directly in front of the unit. Once... View all listings in Santa Fe

More tomorrow!

year30, updates, travel

The Grand Move, Updates on the road, Day 3

Flagstaff to Grand Canyon

This update will be a short one since we've decided to spend one more night in Flagstaff so we can catch up on our remote jobs for the day. Yes, our life on the road accounts for employment! What, did you think we were slummin' it for the entire month? :-P

Playlist (here or YouTube, for those you can't find)

  • Carrie Underwood - Two Black Cadillacs
  • U2 - Beautiful Day
  • Jason Mraz - Long Drive [1]
  • Christina Perri - Burning Gold
  • Dishwalla - Counting Blue Cars
  • The Cranberries - Dreams
  • Deep Purple - Smoke On The Water
  • Chumbawamba - Tubthumping
  • The Wallflowers - One Headlight
  • Incubus - Drive
  • Donna Lewis - I Love You Always Forever
  • Jackson Browne - Running On Empty
  • Counting Crows - Mr. Jones
  • Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out
  • The Postal Service - Such Great Heights [2]
  • Fun. - We Are Young
  • Florence + The Machine - Dog Days Are Over
  • The Who - Baba O'Riley

Temp outside the car en route to Grand Canyon: 14-18 F (shiiiiiit)

Miscellanoues information and thoughts
[1] Whaddayaknow, the first Mraz song I've played during this trip, three days in. THE RESTRAINT! 
[2] If you have to pick one, TPS version or Iron and Wine version?

In the spirit of keeping it short, here are some pictures! Grand Canyon, officially crossed off my bucket list. :)

Food and drink

  • Lunch: Jason - hotdog from Dog Haus, Jam - black forest ham 6-inch from Subway
  • Dinner: THIS 

Kicking off our barbecue tour the right way! #VSCOcam #vsco #bbq #barbecue #foodporn #dinner

A photo posted by Jam Kotenko (@superduperjam) on

Just in case it wasn't obvious, ribs are my kryptonite.

I am the walrus.

A photo posted by Jam Kotenko (@superduperjam) on

travel, updates, year30

The Grand Move, Updates on the road, Day 2

Carson to Flagstaff, AZ

Taken on the State Line Arizona - California On I-40

Playlist (if it's not on here, check YouTube)

  • Seal - Crazy
  • Talking Heads - Road To Nowhere
  • Rusted Root - Send Me On My Way
  • U2 - Sweetest Thing
  • Dave Matthews Band - Ants Marching [1]
  • Ace Of Base - The Sign [2]
  • Jamiroquai - Virtual Insanity [3]
  • Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way
  • Coldplay - Don't Panic
  • Third Eye Blind - Semi-Charmed Life [4]
  • Eminem - Lose Yourself [5]
  • Mazzy Star - Fade Into You
  • MGMT - Electric Feel
  • PM Dawn - Set Adrift On Memory Bliss
  • Some Temple Pilots - Interstate Love Song
  • Gnarls Barkley - Crazy [6]
  • Blind Melon - No Rain
  • Sheryl Crow - Everyday Is A Winding Road
  • Violent Femmes - Blister In The Sun
  • War - Low Rider
  • The B-52's - Roam
  • Live - Selling The Drama
  • Semisonic - Closing Time
  • The Rembrandts - I'll Be There For You
  • Smash Mouth - Walkin' On The Sun
  • Whitesnake - Here I Go Again
  • Sufjan Steven - For The Widows In Paradise, For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti
  • Cee Lo Green - Fuck You
  • Johnny Cash - Jackson
  • The Proclaimers - I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles)
  • New Radicals - You Get What You Give
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd - Sweet Home Alabama
  • Modest Mouse - Float On
  • Amii Stewart - Friends
  • Lenny Kravitz - Are You Gonna Go My Way
  • Stevie Nicks - Edge Of Seventeen
  • Tracy Chapman - Fast Car
  • Soul Asylum - Runaway Train
  • Steve Winwood - Higher Love

Food and drink

  • Lunch: Denny's, Jason - Southwest turkey sandwich, Jam - eggs in a basket with bacon and hashbrowns
  • Dinner: gyros and beer

Comedians we listened to

  • Aziz Ansari [7]
  • Dane Cook
  • John Mulaney
  • Jerry Seinfeld
  • Bill Burr [8]
  • Louis C.K.
  • Daniel Tosh [9]
  • Mitch Hedberg
  • Demetri Martin
  • Anthony Jesselnik
  • Jim Gaffigan

Miscellaneous information and thoughts
[1] Obviously my favorite DMB track, probably of all time.
[2] I consider this one of our "theme songs" (do we still call 'em that? sorry for the cringe-fest) because when I first told him I loved this song, he said he had the CD and actually played it in his car during one of his long road trips. + cool points, obvs.
[3] Belting this out while speeding down the highway that will lead us out of California has its benefits.
[4] One of my ultimate fave bands in the 90s! Made me remember a hilarious podcast J and I listened to a few weeks ago, about some guy who thought he was friends with 3EB lead singer Stephan Jenkins. Give it a listen:

[5] I need to re-memorize my Eminem raps..you only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, this opportunity comes once in a lifetime, yo!
[6] Do we still abhor Cee Lo Green for the rape thing?
[7][8][9] LOVE THEM. I really need to watch more stand-up, preferably live.

Other things

Experienced a 4.7 earthquake! It was CRAZY. We thought it was just a train coming through because it's pretty common to hear 'em coming in Flagstaff, but the whole room rumbled like hell. This is probably the first time I've ever felt an earthquake of this magnitude.

Flagstaff is pretty cool. Still has an out-of-nowhere feel to it, but it's not so bad.

updates, year30, travel

The Grand Move, Updates on the road, Day 1

Pleasanton to Carson, CA

Playlist (I encourage you to listen to any of these tracks on YouTube or our Spotify playlist)

  • Beck - Loser
  • Cake - The Distance [1]
  • AC/DC - It's A Long Way To The Top [2]
  • Gorillaz - Clint Eastwood [3]
  • David Gray - Sail Away
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers - Road Trippin'
  • Lionel Richie - Easy
  • Alice Cooper - School's Out
  • AC/DC - Back In Black
  • Of Monsters And Men - Mountain Sound
  • Wilson Pickett - Mustang Sally
  • John Mellencamp - Jack & Diane
  • Bruce Hornsby - That's Just The Way It Is
  • Dolly Parton - Jolene
  • Tom Petty - Free Falling [4]
  • Tears For Fears - Everybody Wants To Rule The World
  • Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros - Home
  • Kansas - Carry On Wayward Son
  • Billy Joel - Movin' Out (Anthony's Song)
  • Elton John - Tiny Dancer
  • Queen - Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Dave Matthews Band - Ants Marching
  • Eagles - Take It Easy
  • Simon & Garfunkel - The Boxer
  • Van Morrison - Into The Mystic
  • The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony

Food and drink

  • Lunch: McDonald's Jam - jalepeño double, Jason - Bic Mac
  • Dinner: Jam - Turkey kare-kare with shrimp paste (yaaay!), Jason - beef
  • Champagne bottle count: 4 before passing out in the afternoon, at least 6 more during dinner till 2 AM (family had more after we left) [5] [6] [7]

Miscellaneous information and thoughts:
[1] When J and I first started dating online, I asked him what song he sung in the shower (as in, what song do you know so well you know every lick and ad lib), and this was his answer.
[2] AC/DC is one of my most favorite bands ever. Sucks that their songs aren't on Spotify.
[3] J had one of this band's concerts on DVD, which I always thought was pretty neat.
[4] J has not seen Jerry Maguire, so even though I wanted to re-enact the iconic scene of Tom Cruise singing this in the car, he wouldn't have gotten it.
[5] We are DEFINITELY not as young as we thought we were.
[6] Naps are essential in a thirty-something's life.
[7] Yes, we are thirty.

To my family in Carson, thanks for seeing us off!

updates, year30, travel

The Grand Move: Consolidated updates of our last days in San Jose

The following are status updates posted on Facebook and Instagram regarding our big move to the east coast, after being in the Bay Area for three years. I figured I really should be a better website owner and actually fill mine with content.

November 20, 2014 at 6:00 PM (Thursday)

November 22, 2014 at 11:40 PM (Saturday)

  • Dinner, courtesy of random pantry contents: ground beef, white and black beans, kernel corn, coconut milk and curry, all mixed together. (Edible)
  • Boxes of clothes: Jason - 1, Jam - 5
  • Semi-argument over my excessive amount of shoes = 1
  • Number of steps: Jam - 5834 (indoor, boxing of shit), Jason - 16,400 (outdoor, carrying boxed shit to pod)

November 23, 2014 at 6:00 PM (Sunday)

Three years in a box. #vsco #VSCOcam

A photo posted by Jam Kotenko (@superduperjam) on

November 25, 2014 at 4:28 PM (Tuesday)

Attention, America! You have one more Asian driver to make fun of. ✊

A photo posted by Jam Kotenko (@superduperjam) on

November 26, 2014 at 10:07 AM (Wednesday)

The Grand Move, An Update: Today, we said goodbye to our junker, Jenny (to be said in your best Forrest Gump voice).

A photo posted by Jam Kotenko (@superduperjam) on

November 27, 2014 at 8:28 PM (Thursday)

Instant Thanksgiving for two, Safeway style. #thanksgiving #holiday

A photo posted by Jam Kotenko (@superduperjam) on

November 28, 2014 at 5:48 PM (Friday)

  • Time to completely empty the apartment, donate to Goodwill, and load the Jeep: 8.5 hours
  • Status: Sardine Can on Wheels (see pic)
  • Grumpiness level: fluctuating between 50-95%, but both on the fast decline since we're fuckin' done!
  • Hunger level: 100% for both
  • Time it took to wave goodbye to apartment: 5 seconds
lastdayinsanjose.jpg

Sayonara, San Jose! It's been real.

year30, writing, updates

Back to writing

It's been more than a year since I've written anything for any publication other than my own (which really isn't a publication per se, but whatever...more on that soon), but I'm happy to report that I'm back to what I love doing...writing about tech and the Internet!

Clicking the screenshot will lead you to my new author page, where my work will be accessible.

Clicking the screenshot will lead you to my new author page, where my work will be accessible.

I've only written one piece so far, but I am hopeful that there will be more to come, so stay tuned!

updates, year30

The Week of Infinite YESes

It started when my friends and I found out that Jason Mraz – our idol and one of our most favorite human beings on the planet – would be performing at the Today Show as part of the Toyota Concert Series, a good two months (maybe even more, I can't recall) before the actual performance date (July 18). Having that information on hand, my friends and I immediately went into full gear and proceeded to construct a weekend trip out of it: Camp out near 30 Rock to see Jason and the Janes perform a few songs on Friday, maybe see a show on the weekend. Incidentally, there was a Sara Bareilles concert at the Madison Square Garden that Saturday, so the Jens and I impulsively bought three tickets, not even sure if we'd even make it.

The weeks that followed this half-assed decision to go to NY for Mraz is a bit of a blur, a stressful time of wondering when the new tour would begin, and where; how much it would cost to go to multiple shows, and whether I'd have the money for such an endeavor (let's not forget my perennial on-the-hunt-for-my-next-writing-gig status that has been ongoing since the beginning of this year). I personally already made the conscious decision to go because I knew I had a scheduled trip back home to the Philippines in August and if there was a time to see Mraz before that, it would have to be July, arguably my favorite month of the year.

Fast forward to the second week of June. I pretty much made up my mind that I was going and booked a flight to NY. I was psyched to watch him perform at the Today Show and was perfectly okay about having that as the only time I would get to see him – the Sara Bareilles concert was a good enough reason to go ahead with the plan. Hell, visiting my friend Jen C. was a good enough reason to go with the plan!

jasonmraztodayshowfanpass.jpg

There's something about booking a flight that makes things a little bit more decided, more final, because after I did that, everything else I did related to the trip had 100 percent pure intention. I joined the Today Show lottery for fan passes that gave us early entry into the concert area – I won a pair of passes a week after submitting my entry. I joined an Omaze campaign that would allow me plus friend to hang out with Mraz backstage and fly me to NY for free – didn't win that, but I was going to do both things anyway (fly to NY, hang out with Mraz), by hook or by crook. I scoured Twitter, Facebook, and everywhere else for any contest I could join that would allow me to see Mraz and the Janes perform, while promoting their new album. Somewhere along the way, two more of my friends (Jen H. and her sister Shannon) decided they'd go to NY as well, and we all crazily banked on the unknown, hoping to win what we could, but not letting that stop us from having a good time.

Monday
We anxiously awaited for the results of the SiriusXM Presents Coffeehouse Live with Jason Mraz! contest we had joined the week before – they were picking people randomly by email to attend a private show. I already had a flight booked for NY that would arrive Wednesday night, but if any of us won, I would have to book an earlier flight because the SiriusXM private show was on Wednesday night. This had to happen.

Nope. It doesn't seem like it's gonna happen. That's OK. We'll try to line up early for chance tickets into the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon (where Jason and the Janes were scheduled to be his musical guests for the Thursday taping), see him on the Today Show on Friday, see Bareilles on Saturday, and have a great time.

Tuesday
A phone call woke me up at around 6 in the morning. It was SiriusXM. I won tickets to the SiriusXM show, which meant I had to wake the hell up and rebook my flight.

jasonmrazsiriusxmemail.jpg

All I can say is, thank goodness for Southwest's Wanna Get Away flights – I was able to book a new flight scheduled to leave that same morning, for less miles! But shit, that meant I had 45 minutes to pack! I hauled ass, explained the situation to my loving and incredibly understanding husband (bless his heart), packed for a week, called Jen C. to tell her the good news (she's my plus one, after all) and left for the airport.

While getting on the plane, I got another phone call...from Jen C. SHE WON TICKETS TOO! This was awesome news because now all four of us get to attend the gig. It's all good.

The flight was uneventful until I landed at La Guardia at 11:55 at night, where I was told that they lost my luggage, along with the luggage of a whole lot of people who boarded at my layover (Chicago Midway). While in line to get some answers, Jen C. and her cousin Emma found me and stood in line with me. A few hours later, I was told that some of the luggage have been mistakenly unloaded at my layover and has now arrived with a later flight. It was around 2 in the morning when we got to leave the airport. Whatever, I AM HERE!

Wednesday
Despite not having enough sleep, I got up pretty early, stoked for the Week of Yes to get started. Jen C.'s lovely mom said hello and invited me to have breakfast with her and her husband (Jen was at work). We went to a nearby IHOP and got to know each other for a good 25-30 minutes before my phone blew up with The Big New York/Mraz Announcement.

Jason and the Janes are doing a 6-show run in all of the five boroughs! And they will be selling a limited number of what is called a "golden ticket", which is basically a package of tickets to all shows. Due to the gravity of this announcement, we of course had to cut breakfast short and get the hell back home so that Jen's mom and I could get online and try to get tickets (Jen, your parents support of y/our obsession is AMAZING. I love them so much!). After a couple of hours, we were able to secure the necessary orders. Jen came back from work – relieved at our progress – and we left to for the city.

While on the train, we scoured the Web for any other opportunity to see Jason perform in private gigs. We found a couple of radio stations giving away free tickets to the iHeartRadio show happening on Friday night and wrote them our most heartfelt (and most desperate) pleas.

As soon as we got to Penn Station, we got the idea to walk to our hotel which looked pretty close on Google Maps but was actually farther than we both expected. We got to the hotel so late that we literally just checked in, dropped our bags in the hotel, and stepped right out for fear of missing the SiriusXM show slated for 6pm.

We got into a cab at 5:30, which was a futile attempt at trying to get there faster because WE. WERE. NOT. MOVING. Five minutes before 6, we decided to book it and ran what felt like a hundred blocks until we made it to the venue. It's a good thing our friends Jen H. and Shannon (our plus ones, since Jen C. and I were the ones who won the contest) got there on time to save us seats.

The show was awesome. It was done in a more intimate and more solemn approach compared to his usually energetic and on-your-feet shows, but I found myself loving it regardless. It allowed me to really listen and do more than just mouth the lyrics (PRO TIP: If you love Mraz as much as I do and know all of the words, learn to lip sync and sing along without sound...we came to hear him, after all. ;-P)...I even teared up over A World With You, which basically is my love story with the J-Man, Mraz-ified.

Thursday
We made a mental note to line up for Jimmy Fallon an hour earlier (6 AM) than our intended plan (7 AM, which was two hours before what the Web says is when the NBC intern will show up to give away passes), only to find out that people started lining up an hour earlier than that (5 AM, what the hell). After three hours (that felt like three years), we got tickets for a queue at 1:30 PM, when we'd need to check in again to even be eligible for standby passes.

We may look like shit, but we're ready for anything!

We may look like shit, but we're ready for anything!

Rather than go sightseeing, we decided to hang around 30 Rock to check the exits, because that's what professional groupie-stalkers do. We were in the middle of discussing the what-if scenario of running into Jason when he suddenly came into view, coming out of the elevators. <CREEP ALERT> We immediately walk towards him to say hi. He looked mildly surprised (maybe even secretly terrified) to see us and asked us what brought us to New York. We all got high fives and a sudden jolt of energy we needed to get through the day with little to no sleep.

While waiting around the NBC Experience Store for the queue to start, we got offered to see Seth Meyers practice his monologue. The late-night talk show lover in me wanted to say yes, but we knew we were there for a mission: To See Jason Mraz. So we said no.

We made the right call of pretending to be first in line and just waltzed our way up the queue, line order or not, at the off-chance that they decide to honor the new order. They didn't. Instead, we were asked to sign our names on the check list they had and was asked to come back at 3:45 PM on the dot. More hanging around 30 Rock ensued, and during this time I wondered, why are they doing this to us, why are they making us go through this torturous process? To whittle down the line to only the ones desperate to get in, silly. Oh, right. That's us.

By 3:45 PM on the dot, people started milling around the meet-up area, some of them we recognized from earlier today and have already commiserated with. We knew we were all in the same boat – are we going to be let in? Unfortunately, only the first 25 queuers were allowed to stay. We were numbers 22-25.

HOLY SHIT.

We sat in line for a good two hours, shifting between hopeful and depressed that we wasted the entire day lining up and not being able to get in. I also regretted not saying yes to seeing Seth Meyers.

Five minutes before show time, they let in a couple more people from our line and stopped six people before us. SIX. WHAT THE HELL.

We went to Applebee's for drinks and a bit of food, because we've been on zombie mode the entire day. We rationalized not getting into Fallon: We did get to see Jason earlier today and got high fives...it's not a complete heartbreak, right? What-EVER.

After re-grouping, we decided to go back to 30 Rock to say hey to the Janes. They came out after the show, yay! Mona remembered me as that gal from San Jose and couldn't believe that I was in New York for them. I got to talk to Becky about the whole awesomeness of the tour – like her, I couldn't believe this was all happening to us (I say us because I feel like I am part of all this success, as an avid fan of the band). I said hi to Chaska and told her about our whole ordeal and not getting into Fallon, and she felt bad for us. Mai was busy with loved ones so I didn't get to talk to her, but that's OK...she knew we were there for them.

With our favorite sitar player, Becky

With our favorite sitar player, Becky

Sometime during the day, Shannon received an email from iHeartRadio saying she won a pair of tickets to the iHeartRadio Mraz show the next day. Jen C. and I made plans to stand outside the theater and beg to be let in with our friends, because we're huge Mraz fans.

Jen C. and I ended our night by having dinner with Jane and Ian, two die-hard fans like us that we met through the ever-growing, ever-friendly Mraz-lovin' community.

jamjenian.jpg

Friday
The Today Show Concert Day! After all that we've been through so far this week, we made another mental note to arrive two hours before our intended plan, so instead of 5 AM, we went at 3 AM. There were 15 people in front of us.

Good morning!

Good morning!

I quickly made friends with the last guy in line, Tim, and introduced him to the rest of the group. Christine – a MrazWomen member I have yet to meet in real life – arrived..YAY!!! We bonded over Mraz, makeup, and Dunkin Donuts when some drunk hobo approached us in line and asked us who we were there to see. When I said Jason Mraz, he asked what my favorite song was from his newest album and I said Everywhere. He proceeded to wow me (really, us) by singing every word. Naturally we all sang along.

That encounter made me so happy that I didn't hesitate in inviting him (his name was Rudy, and he wasn't a hobo) and his friend (Joel?) into our already growing group since we had spare fan passes. #SPREADYES

Speaking of passes, it was around this time that our new friend Tim informed me that he won the iHeartRadio contest too, and he may even have won it twice, which would mean he had three spare tickets! Jen C. and I were covered, YAYYYYY! Can this day get any better?

Yes, it could. Tim's friend and plus one for the Today Show finally arrived, and she happened to be Courtney, another member of MrazWomen I have yet to meet in person. We were both floored by the chance encounter and immediately hugged it out. What a small and big world this whole Mraz-loving community is!

The Today Show performance was awesome. We got to hear them play so many times, both for sound check and for the actual taping for the show. We were there for so long that Courtney threatened to pee in a bottle right in the crowd (it was impossible to get out of the crowd and go back to where you were). Thankfully, we were able to make her realize the gravity of the situation (YOU WILL PEE ON NATIONAL TELEVISION AND THE WHOLE WORLD WILL SEE YOUR TWAT). With the potential crisis averted, the whole situation was just magical to me: Seeing Mraz and the Janes, being in the company of great friends, and meeting new people! The next time you are in line for something, I recommend talking to the person next to you in line (provided that the person has a welcoming presence, of course).

After the show, we tried to look out for Mraz coming out, but he had already left through another exit. We, did, however, get to say a quick hey to Mona and Becky. I made sure Becky knew about Rudy, who says she was his favorite Jane. She thought that was wild. Oh, and it was around this time that I got an email saying I won the iHeartRadio contest (!!!!).

That's officially 3 Things (get it?) I won that's Mraz-related for this week alone. Call me a lucky golden Buddha and rub my belly, everybody!

We made plans to meet up with Tim at the iHeartRadio venue at noon to give us time to recover from the super-early day we all had. We went back to the hotel, freshened up, and skedaddled to the venue because really, how can anyone take their time when they've got another private show to get to?

For once, we made the right calculation...we were first in line!!! Also, no one seemed to be crazy enough to line up seven hours before the show, under the blazing sun. Those seven hours kind of blurred together – I just know it got a thousand times better somewhere in the middle, when this happened:

(In Starbucks, charging phones, taking naps)

Christine: You girls are lucky you've met him a bunch of times already. I haven't even yet.
Jam: IT WILL HAPPEN. I will make it happen for you, I promise.

(The Jens go into the venue to do their "rounds", Christine and I go back out to the line to take our shift with Tim, who has not left the line AT ALL)

(Jam and Tim were talking about something random when Jam saw a flash of flannel)

Jam: HOLY SHIT TIM DON'T TURN AROUND RIGHT AWAY BUT I THINK JASON IS COMING THIS WAY.

(Jam yelled at Shannon who was on her way to the garbage can nearby to get rid of stuff. She already saw Jason and was walking casually back to us.)

Jam: HI JASON! Would you mind if my friends and I said hello to you real quick?
Jason: Sure! (Told his people to wait a second because THIS NEEDED TO HAPPEN)

(Shannon texted Jen H. TO GET THE HELL BACK ASAP. They probably ran.)

It was an amazing encounter. Jason was without his usual security detail and he seemed more relaxed and game to talk to us. Apparently, he just came from a nap in the park across the street (meanwhile we were like, WHAAAAAT). He told us he saw our wonderful signs during the Today Show and actually liked some of the pictures taken of them on Instagram (Note: THAT WAS MY INSTAGRAM PHOTO). We asked him if he was getting sick of seeing us everywhere, and of course he said no. Christine mentioned never meeting him before because she doesn't live in California, and Jason gestured toward us and said, "I don't think they do, either!" Tim showed him his bracelets and Jason recognized them. We made sure he knew our names, because we knew our faces were starting to look familiar, with the number of shows we've attended this year alone. He signed some things, took some photos, and went on his way.

I immediately looked at Christine with my WTFJUSTHAPPENED face and yelled, "CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? I TOLD YOU IT WOULD HAPPEN!" At this point, Golden Buddha status was definitely achieved.

But wait  – there's more. An hour before showtime, the iHeartRadio people came out with a surprise: The first fifteen people in line would get meet and greet passes!!! Rudy, whom we texted earlier to come meet us because we had spare passes, arrived just in time to be let in for another Mraz encounter.

Upon approaching him for our professional meet and greet photo, I told Jason, "Man, can you believe it? It's us again!" He gave me a grin and said, "I know! I can't believe you guys got in!" He also joked that the VIP section was unfortunately full, so there won't be any space for us. I gave him my best gasp. It was awesome, we're pretty much best friends already.

Being front row to another private Mraz and Janes gig was just the perfect way to end the grueling week. My favorite moment was when Jason realized they were ahead of schedule and actually had time for another song. Our group all shouted Everywhere because at that point, it was the group's anthem, and they acquiesced (acquiestered, according to Jen C.). It was magical (I cannot use this word enough).

After the show, we were able to see Jason exit backstage and quickly say thank you for the awesomeness that was that night. Back at front, caught up with Chaska and Mona and they chatted with us at length (Chaska found out I was the girl in purple shorts in that Everywhere fan video she liked and went bananas, Mona just said hey and wassup to her fellow San Ho) . Those girls, they rock.

Saturday
Jen C., her cousin Emma, and I went back into the city to see Sara Bareilles (who is super duper awesome to see live!!!) at Madison Square Garden. We had a feeling we'd see Jason and the Janes there since they were friends with Sara and all. We did!

#SpreadYES

But to control our creep tendencies, instead of going whole hog fan on the situation, we just waltzed down to the floor section, evaded security (this makes it sound a lot worse than what really happened...no one stopped us, really), and got a few feet close to Jason and Mona (safe stalker distance). I caught Mona's eye and Jen and I both waved at her and showed her the hashtag on my arm. She immediately punched Jason on the arm so he'd go look. He looked and gave us a namaste bow.

To recap:

Won a bunch of contests. Met and bonded with a ton of cool people. Had a lot of laughs.  Heard a lot of great music (Sara included!). DEFINITELY a week worth remembering.

IMG_0285.jpg

updates, year30

So...this is 30.

Otherwise known (at least, to me) as the beginning of my No Excuses Decade, the time in my life when absolutely everything of consequence happens. Get a job that I love, one that will hopefully keep me writing long-term. Finally re-take that written exam I failed the first time so I can get my learner's permit and start driving again. Apply for U.S. citizenship (next year). Visit Europe. Run a marathon. Buy a home. Pop out some babies. (More goals to follow, I’m sure.)

I’m getting ahead of myself though—it’s only Day 1. I really shouldn’t overload my brain with all these unnecessary stress triggers, especially on my friggin’ birthday.

So how is it going, you ask? Let me tell you.

The day before the ‘Big 3-0’

Realization #1: 30 year-old me is not as excited about celebrating my birthday as, say, 25 year-old me. 

Jam, age 30

Jam, age 30

A few days ago, I came up with a Top 5 list of things I kind of wanted to do to give my 20s a proper send-off:

•    Skydive
•    Surf
•    Hot air balloon ride
•    Watch that Michael Jackson Cirque du Soleil show
•    Ride a big-ass rollercoaster

Thing is, in order for these 5 things to even happen, I needed to plan them out weeks in advance. By the time I decided that hey, maybe I should do something special for the Big 3-0, it was already too late to set things in motion.

Confession #1: A small part of me was hoping J would do all the planning/surprising for my birthday, but of course I was forgetting that it can be hard for him sometimes, being married to a Filipina woman who occasionally turned the passive-aggressive behavior way up and had unrealistic expectations of epic mind-reading abilities.

Since my birthday fell on a Monday when normal people like J had work, we decided to celebrate the day before (which is technically the actual day of my birth anyway, if we’re taking time zone technicalities into serious consideration). Like any decent human being, J asked me what I wanted to do so we could make it happen, and I seriously had no clue.

Confession #2: That was a lie. What I really wanted to do was eat. And that, we did. After doing our P90X exercises for the day*, we got on the road and proceeded to partake in the following, which are some of my favorite food items:

  • Bon Chon fried chicken – because it’s friggin’ delicious and it’s been a while since we’ve both eaten there.
  • Mamon from Red Ribbon – I got butter, J got mocha. He insisted that I never made him eat mamon before, so naturally he assumed it was a disgusting dessert (I have never met a dessert I did not like, thank goodness). He ended up liking it (but he downplayed it, of course).
  • Taro milk tea from Quickly – I got my usual order (Large, with double servings of large tapioca and one serving of lychee jelly), but from a different branch. Note to self: Don’t get Quickly if it’s not from the downtown San Jose branch…unless you don’t mind your order being taken by an Asian woman so perennially pissed off, she might as well be sucking on a lemon.

The culminating activity was supposed to be dinner at Boiling Crab – which is my favorite restaurant in the vicinity of South San Jose – but we decided to take a quick nap after driving around and trying to fill up the day with out-of-our-routine activities (like go to the mall and be super stressed and terribly disappointed) and by the time we got to the restaurant at 8pm, there was a 2-hour-and-a-half wait list. The restaurant closed at 10pm, so obviously, having a 50-50 chance to even get offered a table and having to rush through dinner wasn't going to be worth it. 

I was terribly disappointed…I WANTED CRAB GODDAMMIT! J knew it, too. So he said we’d make it my birthday week (I married the best-est guy, I swear) and do Boiling Crab sometime this week. We ended up getting Vietnamese pho takeout instead before heading back home to watch The Princess Bride (a birthday tradition).

Not too shabby. The secret to more pho: TAKE OUT

Not too shabby. The secret to more pho: TAKE OUT

In short, the day ended on a high note!

The actual ‘Big 3-0’

It was almost exactly like every other Monday I’ve experienced in the past. I woke up all Popeye-like, with one eye open first before committing to opening the other, greeted by a strong urge to pee and an even stronger urge to go back to sleep. I checked my phone, cleared all notifications, replied to messages people left me on various platforms, and fired up my sleeping laptop in order to fully connect to the people on the interwebs. I got some iced coffee running through my veins to wake my inner self up.

The only difference is the barrage of birthday greetings on my Facebook Timeline – from the speedy and generic hbd’s-no-punctuation-marks-or-emoticons courtesy of my acquaintances to well-thought-out wishes from my besties, complete with a photo highlighting my goofy face – and the push I felt in my gut that compelled me to add a little bit of oomph to my routine today, because it IS my birthday, after all.

For a non-driving, funemployed, homebody such as myself, “a little bit of oomph” meant leaving the house by foot. After I finished my re-watch of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I got dressed, walked to the light rail, and made my way to the mall closest to me (two train stops and an additional 15-minute walk away). When I got to the mall, the big question hit me:

Now what?

I guess I could celebrate by buying myself something nice. Nope. Every store I went into that had something I liked made me internally comment, “Pshh…I could totally buy this (or something like it, but better) cheaper online!”

Confession #3: I sort of have an online shopping problem. Hi, my name is Jam and I am a bargain addict. Even though I already have everything I want and need, I have a hard time resisting a good online sale.

Now what?

Maybe watch a movie by myself? Most of the movies on the mall’s lineup were ones that I wanted to see with J, so I skipped those. The ones left were Tammy and The Fault In Our Stars: one had a low Rotten Tomatoes rating and featured Melissa McCarthy in a hot mess (not in the mood for that), one was a cancer romance (definitely not in the mood for that).

Now what?

After five more minutes of walking around, I was done giving the mall a chance – am I turning into a grumpy hermit? – I bought a bag of Twizzlers Bites and went home.

They are pretty amazing, to be honest.

They are pretty amazing, to be honest.

And now, here we are. The day isn’t over yet and I’m sure it can only get better at this point, so let me end my first entry of what hopefully becomes a regular blogging habit with a list.

The ‘Big 3-0’ list of realizations

  • See #1 above.
  • I love naps, and it’s totally OK. That doesn't make me a useless bum. That makes me human.
  • A messy bun is a perfectly acceptable hairstyle for a 30 year-old woman. It’s not a big deal.
  • These two quotes (thanks, Ate Rizzo!):
  • With the previous quotes in mind, I have the best husband/partner/best friend in the universe right beside me, so I don’t really need a birthday gift. Well, it’s not really a realization. It’s more like an actual fact.

This is 30. What’s next is just a series of awesomeness.

Now, if only the water weren't so goddamn cold...

Now, if only the water weren't so goddamn cold...

UPDATE:

J just came home, armed with these:

Real men know their girl's favorite flowers.

Real men know their girl's favorite flowers.

♥

For the record, I would just like to re-iterate....just how much I love you, J-Man. <3

*Yes, we have begun yet another attempt at finishing a fitness program. More on that in another blog post, soon.

Keep up with my online musings and subscribe to my blog by clicking here.

writing

I can never stop talking about the perks of online dating

In my short stint as a Web writer for Digital Trends, I always tried to take all the online dating-related writing assignments. Why shouldn't I? I am, after all, one half of a successful OKCupid marriage. This fact made me feel like an authority of sorts on the subject.

So when my friend Camille asked me to write about it for Pacifiqa, I was more than happy to. Note to editors working for online publications: I will always be eager to write about online dating and share my thoughts, stories about the many people I've met, the various techniques I've employed, and the countless lessons I've learned. Just ask.

Feel free to read my article on Pacifiqa and use my experience to improve your online dating game.

writing, travel

First time, first class

Back in 2009, on our way home to Manila from Los Angeles, mom and I got offered $800 each if we allowed ourselves to be bumped off from our current flight for one scheduled to leave the next day. At that point, I had been out of school for a week, and if  I delayed any further, I could potentially max out my absences for this one class (that only allowed one absence for the whole term) and fail. So half-heartedly told my mom I couldn't, and that was that.

Except that wasn't that. My mom - who believes in fate and seizing opportunities -  felt really bad for missing out on the chance. "If we took the deal, our trip to the U.S. would've been for free!" Multiply that guilt trip by about a hundred...it was that terrible for me emotionally. This was something I couldn't handle (add to the fact that the professor for the class I was so afraid to miss and fail didn't even show up, BAH!).

Anyway, when J and I got a similar deal from Delta on our way back to San Jose from Utah, I remembered my mom and her disappointed face. J left it up to me (the same way my mom did back then, although she probably didn't mean it) to decide which one of us would stay behind (Delta only needed one volunteer) to claim the $400 reward. Inasmuch as I hate being apart from J, I volunteered.

It wasn't so bad. I had my laptop, I had my Kindle, I had my meal voucher, and hey, I had my $400 redeemable air miles. Added bonus: the lady at the counter bumped me up to first class!

Okay, for those of you who frequently fly first class, you might say, meh, first class on Delta isn't that great...WHATEVER. First class is first class. And it was free. I wasn't going to complain.

I got assigned to seat 1A...the very first passenger in first class! The seats were extra cushy. The flight attendant wanted to take my jacket, but I refused. She also offered me a drink before take off, but I settled for water because I wanted to be sure I wasn't overstepping my privileges.

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After perusing the magazine and texting J in a panic to ask if I indeed, could order booze for free, I finally got the courage to order my very first alcoholic beverage on a plane flight (I usually choose cranberry-apple or ginger ale because it's free). It was great! The guy next to me made eye contact, and since it was my first time in first class, I decided to be friendly to this stranger and told him it was my first time in first class. He made me feel more at ease and said that he only flies first class sometimes and that it was always a good experience. "They might even serve us a free meal!"

The flight wasn't long enough to warrant a free dinner (plus I already had dinner paid for by Delta before boarding), but first class did get more amazing snacks. AND THEY KEPT THEM COMING. They also kept the booze coming. I had three vodka tonics that night, hell yeah!

All in all, it was a great experience. I probably won't buy a first class plane ticket on my own any time soon (can't afford it), but if I ever get offered a chance to stay behind for one, I won't hesitate. :-)

writing, travel

The vagabond traveler is back: The trip, plus some realizations

I've been gone for a while, so here's a quick recap of what I've been up to.  I'm also going to let y'all know what I am up to, now that I am back. 

Where I've Been

Orlando

What really set this 19-day vacation into motion for The Traveling Kotenkos was the marriage between Daniel and Kari.

This is Kari and Daniel.  They both went to the same college as J.

This is their adorable little baby Ana.  She is one of the cutest babies ever!

J & J.  Wow, we clean up good!

So anyway, we spent a couple of days in Orlando after the wedding and went to Universal Studios.  I probably would have had a more awesome time at Disneyland, but Disneyland didn't have The Wizarding World of Harry Potter...that made our choice way easier.  IT WAS AWESOME.  I would have asked J to go through the roller coaster again in TWWOHP, but he wasn't feeling that great (we had a lot to drink at the wedding) and I didn't want to do it by myself.  Ahhh, so THAT'S why Kari had a shitload of Tums in her wedding giveaways for us!  Should've had the common sense to bring it with us to the theme park.

Hogwarts.  It was pretty damn spectacular.

Washington DC

We flew to DC and stayed with Jason's brother for 2 nights.  J ensured that a day would be enough to see the sights in DC.  It would have been true, if it didn't suddenly rain later on in the day.  We did get to see the monuments and I did get to see a few of the museums at the national mall, but we weren't able to go into the Capitol (it was a Sunday) and there was no time to check out the White House.

J&J in front of the DC Capitol

We did get to meet up with my cousin Johnny, though, whom I have not seen in 3-4 years!  He's one of my most favorite relatives and it was really heartwarming to see him.  He almost didn't come, but I expertly guilted him into showing up by saying that it's been years and that all I wanted from him was a hug. :)  He brought his girlfriend with him.

Pennsylvania

My mother-in-law picked us up from Jason's brother's place so we can spend some time with her and my father-in-law in the house J grew up in.  It was my second time in their house and in their town.  I always enjoy visiting because it reminds me of the village I grew up in.  It was small enough for people to know people (if not personally, at least by face), it was peaceful, it wasn't congested or polluted.  In short, the ideal place to raise a family.  I know people from small towns have big dreams of moving to the city, and maybe when J was younger, he too wanted to see the world, but there's definitely a charm to the small town life that appeals to me greatly.  Maybe after J and I have exhausted our vagabond traveling ways and are looking to rest for a while, we'd reconsider our options.

We also took a trip up to Edinboro, J's college town.  On the way there I had a slight mishap with the convenience store door, rendering two of my toes on the right foot torn apart and bloody, which sort of limited our activities from then on, but it was okay because 1) We got to spend 2 nights in a quaint little cottage, and 2) I fished for the first time and caught one!  J's dad threw mine back into the lake though since it was too small, but now I sort of get the appeal of fishing: it's a quiet activity, you get to relax, and you get a sense of pride when you catch a lot of fish.  It also doesn't hurt that you have a yummy meal ahead of you.  It was good...the only thing missing was a saucer of soy sauce and calamansi. :P

J's college house.  Adorable, ain't it?

Chicago

We drove all day from Edinboro to downtown Chicago without a plan or a hotel reservation, which was a mistake, we later on learned.  We actually got in early thanks to J's steady driving, but we ended up having to look for a place to stay for 3 hours until we settled on an expensive Country Inn & Suites hotel suite (we actually had hotel points that would've enabled us to stay for free, but J decided to save those for a more worthy cause in the future).  Traveler tip: Finding a hotel in Chicago is tough shit...better visit with a reservation prior to arrival.

Anyway, like I said, we absolutely had no plans for our stay in the city, so we did the touristy thing first and visited The Bean, which was pretty cool for about a minute--there were just too many people taking photos and whatnot!

That's me and J in the middle, with someone random behind us.

We also walked around...a lot.  I would've wanted to go to the art museum because they were featuring works of Roy Lichtenstein (one of my favorites!), but being the frugal folks that we are, we decided on going to a free concert instead.  Apparently they do this a lot, hold free concerts in Millennium Park, in an area where people can bring their own food and drink and chairs and relax.  We weren't as prepared as some of the people there (a couple had wine in glasses, a table, and fancy takeout from some Italian restaurant), but it was okay....we laid on the grass and drank our beer in cans.  It was great.  The concert?  It was Haydn's The Seasons, and the entire time we had no idea what season was being performed.  We were so confused we decided to leave during intermission.

We also visited the Lincoln Park/Zoo (is this what Linkin Park is named after?), which was awesome, despite not being able to see any bears.  We also had a bunch of good food (ribs = my fave = always good)...didn't get a chance to try deep dish pizza though.  I know, tourist fail.

Our stint in Chicago ended with a night out with some of Jason's college friends.  We drank and barely had time to sleep off our hangover before we had to head to the airport for our next leg.  Traveler tip:if you plan to get shitfaced before a flight...DON'T DO IT.  It does not feel good.

Utah/Idaho

This was the last stop in our very long trip, and I was very excited to see it (Idaho especially) since J refers to it as one of his most favorite places he has lived in.  It was just bad luck that I had a hangover and that we had to go through a lot of bull to rent a car from the Salt Lake City airport (read: modus operandi where they say they don't have your reservation, but they have a more expensive rental for you...nevah mind!), but that didn't stop us from having a good time.  Not even the fact that we had to stay in a Motel 6 for a night..tired people are not choosy people, I've learned.  And it was okay after that anyway...  We saw a little bit more of Utah and checked out the Mormon towns, which are impeccable.  Never mind the fact that they have weird beliefs in magic underwear, they sure know how to keep a neat and orderly lifestyle!  I also found out that Mormons are required to keep a year's supply of food and other amenities in their household for, ya know, in case life as we now know it collapses (this idea I actually support, seems like a good idea to be prepared for an apocalypse).  And yes, I met up with my MrazWomen friend Whitney. :)

We also ended up staying at J's former workmate's parents' mansion house, where there were 4 dogs and 9 horses free to roam about.  It was scary at first, but it didn't take me long to love it and wish I had a horse of my own (or wish that I knew how to ride one on my own, without assistance).

Our last few days were spent with Jason's old boss/mentor and his wife, and we also had drinks with some of his other former workmates from back when he was an intern at the national laboratory.  One of his workmates, Randy, had a garden full of tomatoes, peppers, and other herbs, and visiting them made me want to have my own garden of eatables so badly.  It further solidified my resolve that one day, small town life will be ours, J's and mine.  If not here, then maybe the Philippines.

And have this view, if not right outside my window (wishful thinking), then maybe an hour's drive away...

What I've Realized: A Consolidation

To make this part easier, I'll do a list:

Although doing things spontaneously and "winging it" are two of my favorite past times, I shouldn't do those things when my own wedding is concerned (which will be in January 2013, in Miami...more on this real soon).  I definitely want a small wedding like Daniel and Kari's.  Instead of my old plan of planning things out 1-2 months before The Day, I'm going to try and get started as soon as possible.

I know jackshit about the US, about its history, and its geography.  As an aspiring US citizen, I really need to get crackin' and find out more.  I've asked J to find me the best and most comprehensive American History book he can find that's not so hard to read.  I'm also making it a point to look at the US map that's on our apartment wall right now so I can get a better sense of what state is in what area.

* Like I've said previously...I think I am in love with the small town life.  I am unexpectedly enjoying being a housewife as opposed to my old dream of being a full fledged career woman, and the more I think about it, the more I think it's okay.  Maybe the modern woman is regressing to the old days when women ruled the household since female empowerment has already been established and we've gotten a taste of gender equality.  Maybe I've just been unemployed (in the corporate setting) for far too long that I've grown accustomed to my laid back routine.  Whatever the reason, I think that down the line, I'd rather enjoy my life in simple ways rather than work myself to the ground and enjoy the fruits of my labor a little too late.  The small town life is so awesome...waking up with the sunlight streaming into your room because there's no smog blocking it, hearing animal sounds instead of traffic noise, eating vegetables right out of your garden, having a barn full of animals.  IT ALL SOUNDS AWESOME.  And really, as long as I have Internet, I can pretty much occupy myself with other things if I really need the distraction.  I can even get a job and work from home if it's necessary.  Which leads me to the next one...

Working only when necessary...THAT IS THE ULTIMATE GOAL.

We're too old to get too shitfaced....AND THAT'S OKAY.

So far, that's all I have.  I've uploaded photos of our trip on my Facebook account, so if you're interested, just check there.

writing

The J&J Story, The Wedding: Our wedding vows

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Marriage is a very important step in a couple’s relationship, it signifies a promise that is made in the hearts of two people who truly love and respect each other. It is a pledge to be the best of friends and the most caring of partners. 

Happiness in a marriage is not something that just happens. A good marriage must be created and nurtured. In the art of marriage the little things are the big things.

It is never being too old to hold hands.
It is remembering to say "I love you".
It is speaking words of appreciation and showing gratitude in thoughtful ways.
It is cultivating flexibility, patience and understanding.
It is having the ability to forgive and forget.

It is not marrying the right partner; it is being the right partner.

writing

The J&J Story, The Engagement: How it happened through a small bottle of Absinthe

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We went over to our friends Daniel and Kari's house to celebrate a low-key New Year's Eve with them.  They served veggies and meat and cheese on a hot plate then chocolate fondue for dessert.  We spent our night playing a card game called Phase10 and even watched a live telecast of the ball drop at Times Square when the clock stuck 12.  We were drinking and having a fun time when we saw a collection of untouched absinthe bottles, which is a type of liquor that's known to be strong.  Dan dared Jason to drink the whole mini-bottle, and of course, Jason did.  Halfway through he stopped and looked like he was going to be sick.  He didn't throw up, but I knew he was done for the night.  We all took a small swig and DIED.  Apparently, absinthe needs to be diluted with water before drinking, and Jason drank it pure.  He said it felt like his esophagus was on fire.

The dare that went wrong.

The dare that went wrong.

So Dan pointed us to a room we can crash in and helped Jason to bed while I helped Kari clean up.  When I got to the room Dan told me I didn't have to go to bed too if I still wanted to stay up and talk, but Jason gave me his puppy dog look so I told them I'd look after Jason and said good night.

Jason told me to get in bed and held out his arms, so I got in, turned the lights off and got into my usual fetal position, with Jason hugging me from behind.  I remembered that during Christmas, when his mom asked me what we planned to do when my visa expires, he said "she can extend" so confidently, and I knew for a fact that I couldn't extend because 6 months is the max for my visa, so I kept thinking he knew something I didn't, that he had a plan.  I knew it could be marriage, but it could also have been something at his job...maybe he was able to get me one, too.  So Christmas night, I asked him again (for the nth time) what his plans were, and he said his usual reply, "I've got it under control, trust me" with that exasperating grin of his.  So I said, "Will you at least tell me when New Year comes? I AM DYING HERE."  After a long pause, he said yes and that was the end of it.

So back to bed, fetal position, Jason hugging me from behind.  We were talking in whispers.

Jam: You owe me. What were you talking about last Christmas?

Jason: What do you mean?

Jam: What you told your mom about me extending?

(silence)

Jason: Do you want to get married?

(silence)

Jam: Huh?

Jason: Do you want to get married?

Jam: Do you?!

Jason: I do.

Jam: Are you sure???

Jason: I am. I've been sure for a long time. 

(silence)

(tears)

Jam: Wow.  

Jason: so...will you marry me?

Jam: Hell yeah!  Yes!  I've been sure for a long time, too!

Then Jason started explaining why he can't give me an expensive ring yet because he had to put money away for paying my adjustment of status process, but I just stopped him and hugged him tight and just told him I loved him.  He said he was happy and I said I was, too.  Then he kinda drifted off to sleep.  Meanwhile, I was eyes wide open, DYING TO GO ONLINE and tell someone, but the signal in the room was weak.  I couldn't fall asleep.  I was too happy and excited and I don't know...relieved that we wouldn't have to be apart for so long.

The next day, it was like nothing happened when we woke up.  We agreed not to tell anyone until we told our families, and Dan and Kari were actually also in the middle of planning an August wedding, so we didn't want to steal their thunder while we were guests in their house.

We left, got into the car, I turned the radio on and started singing.  It was like any normal day.  In the middle of some highway I just blurted out OMG ARE WE REALLY GETTING MARRIED?! :P The other day when I woke up, I looked at him and yelped, OMG ARE YOU MY FIANCE?!  Haha, it's funny.  It doesn't seem real to me yet that everyday feels like an OMG kind of day, and it will be that way until it actually happens, I think. :)

writing

The J&J Story, The Beginning: How jamglam met jfk32 and stayed together despite being an ocean apart

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jamglam was a Filipina in Manila looking for a worthy pen-pal to exchange email correspondences with.  An experienced participant of long-term, long-distance relationships, she didn't let proximity get in the way of true love, wherever that is.  She was also tired of dating Filipino guys, who don't seem to "get her".  She went on the dating website OKCupid to meet a man from a different place, to learn a different culture, to have a friend in another country she can visit in case her dreams of traveling the world come to fruition.  Also, she was new to online dating and was terrified of potential creepers, so she focused on people outside of the Philippines instead, just to be safe.

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jfk32 was an American in New Jersey who only came there to claim a free boat he found on Craigslist.  He really didn't know anyone in the area, and since he went there with a work-from-home job in the middle of winter, he had very limited opportunities to meet anyone new.  He's had a few girlfriends in the past and has tried casual dating for a while, but none of them have gone the distance or have been successful in keeping him interested in the long run.  He went on OKCupid with the hopes of finding gals to hang out with, armed with a firm resolve not to take anyone seriously just yet. Hey, a man's got to have high standards, ya know.

For some reason, jfk32 landed on jamglam's profile, and she happened to be online to catch that view as it happened.  Right away, she checked out his profile, liked what she read, and sent this message:

Hey there!
A discussion about life, the universe, and everything sounds awesome.
I was checking out your profile and I think you're an interesting guy. 
Lemme know if you want to get a correspondence going—easier to ramble on about life and anything like it if you have the option to compose it before sending :) Chatting is fine, too...I'm not here on OKCupid that often, but if you reply it'll get to me and I can give you my email address or skype/YM handle if you'd like.
Hope to hear from you soon!
Jam

His response:

If you want to talk, you should tell me about one dream you have for yourself. I don't even care if you make it up, or you haven't taken one step to get to it. I'm just interested in hearing what people have to say :-).
My dream is to sail around the world, stopping at as many countries as I possibly can, and staying in them as long as I can. I don't care if it takes me 10 years to get around the globe. I want to crack open coconuts with rocks and drink the sweet water inside, I want to jump off high cliffs into deep pools of crystalline water, I want to hike across deserts where nomadic herders still roam, visit cities and villages and no-man's-lands, meet people who challenge my American view of the world, and just get lost in life. It's crazy, it's over the top, but I think about it every day.
Anyway, get back to me if you want to talk!

In a span of a month, they went through all stages in the Getting To Know You phase of any online relationship.  Epic emails of a thousand words each turned into daily text chats on Skype.  Then voicemail mp3s sent by email.  Then finally, video calls.

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Fact: If you meet someone you can talk to every day and every night and still find the energy to email five times a day and not get sick of each other, then that's probably a great sign. 

I think they both realized that early on.  He first told her how he felt by sending a Youtube link to "I Think I Love You" by David Cassidy.  She eagerly answered him with "If I Fell" by The Beatles.  A month and a half later, he arrived in the Philippines (after traveling 17,000 miles) to come be with his girlfriend for two weeks.  That was enough time to make him realize that she's the one, the one to make him go back to the States, sell all his possessions, quit his job, and come back to be with her. 

After a full year of adventures visiting new places in the Philippines and Asia, she returned the favor and said yes to coming to the US with him to continue the dream.