Wat Mongkolratanaram

It’s Sunday brunch at the Thai Buddhist Temple, where the air smells of sugary sauces and lemongrass.

As you walk in, a sign tells you suggested donations for food items, which aren’t suggestions at all as you learn if you order too many items with too few tokens and are scolded by the pre-school teacher clergy member.

I haven’t been to Buddhist centers in the US, and, after coming here, using Buddhist countries as a comparison point seemed akin to comparing tacos in the US to that in Latin America.  What I mean is, here, there were no red robed monks, no chanting, no chilly air, no incense, no scabrous dogs, no sister chasing after scabrous dogs…It’s not to say the place was not Buddhist, just a different type that I was used to.

The atmosphere actually dredged up memories of St. Joseph, my elementary school where donation bins and temple members peppered the premise, not always together, but always casual and always looking their holiest. And much like church after Sunday mass, the backyard contained long plastic tables propped up for maximal space efficiency, minimal effort, and, perhaps, the want for group conversations.  However, conversation isn’t quite as easy since at church you are united under your faith in god where is here you are united under a love of thai food.

People move and mix but no one talks much to one another, like the spices mingling in your mouth but remaining distinctly separate flavors.

The high turnover at tables and numerous lines produce temporal conversations ideal for practicing talking to strangers without the stress of knowing if you screw up, you’re stuck with these people for the duration of your meal.

I’m sure I’ll go back. The feeling you get standing in line with your tokens for food is the same childhood thrill as waiting at the arcade, after pooling all your money together with your friends, to acquire that sushi shaped eraser.

Thai up your next Sunday at Wat Mongkolratanaram. I think you’ll have fun.


Alvin Ailey’s Caught

A spot light funnels a musty yellow light onto the center of the stage where a man, with ivory pants, stares at his hands. He never looks at the audience as he slings an arm, shoots a leg, raises a toe. It’s hypnosis with every step, surrendering your thoughts to the artist’s whim.  Caught between two of his movements, you bounce back and forth from the real world to dream land in cerebral play.

Intense flashing sears the auditorium and you are left with a glimpse every couple seconds, eternity in a world where a touch connects you to everything. In the absence of light, he takes the chance to jump up so that in the light he is flying. Oozing with strength, he leaps a hundred times in the course of five minutes. The illusion has the ladies in back swooning over his walking “like Jesus” in the air. The darkness dulcifies the light. You sweat from the sweet anxiety of not knowing whether he’ll be able to keep the act up and the pride of knowing humans are capable of such a delicious feat over the constraining human body.

This isn’t even the first piece or last piece or main piece. This is just a piece betwixt the other Ailey gems, the avocado to a veggie sandwich.

An ode to Cream

CREAM, home of sugar-coma ice cream sandwiches at $2.15 a pop. It’s the perfect snack to accompany you on the way to the library. An icey surprise after a sweaty I-am-10-minutes-late sprint to class. Enough sugar to replace the coffee of little sleep and lots of Professor Hilfiger. A blanket to swaddle the body and soften the mind.

My freshmen dorm, being freshmen, and thus wise, immediately grasped the greatness of the institution. We first used to journey to CREAM celebrating a birthday or a finished round of paper writing and midterms. Soon, our trips became the consequence of every other plan falling through on a weekend night (a bi-weekly affair). We then started going when it was a floor member’s family member’s birthday.

From dorm bed to CREAM door is about 2 minutes. The queue of 50 only adds to the experience, providing yet another opportunity to play “hippy, homeless, or professor”.

Freshmen year I was 2 blocks from CREAM. And this year, I’m 1 block from CREAM. The only question left is where am I going to move next year?

Golden Elephants with Neon Eyes

Golden elephants with neon eyes and mustache handled doors and spidery glass-less windows is the Fox theater in Oakland.  Bizarre and charming, the place set the scene right with an earthy aura and smooth jazz.  While perhaps arriving too early (who knew the posted time meant the band played an hour and a half later?), I wasn’t disappointed when one of my favorite bands hit the stage.  The band, complete in pastels and Ray-bans, walked in instrument one hand and beer other to a crowd of paralleling people, namely hooting bohemian thirty-something-ers with their loved one in one hand and beer other.  Some would say I was slightly out of place but I will assure you I most definitely was not.  Serene as I was (no pun intended!) and blissfully happy, I’m not sure quite how to describe my reaction to Beirut.  It took me to Poe’s “summer dreams under the tamarind tree” and back to Nepal with the stach-man and from there to the present which is indeed a present.  I’ll send my Postcards to Italy and take that Sunday Smile.

Could they have been better? Yes. Did they blow my mind? Yes. Was it a night I will always remember? Who knows, but it definitely made me ever so infinitesimally happier.