A Slice of Hell

north-beach-by-nightI love Saturday nights in North Beach. Everyone’s out and about, ready to bar hop and have a great time, but there’s always that one couple that ruins it for everybody. You know- that couple that decides to have a full-blown reality TV fight right on the corner of Columbus Ave and Vallejo Street.

Let me tell you the story of Valerie, Andie and Chris. We had the pleasure/misfortune of their company this past weekend when I went out with David and his friends of friends. It was Valerie’s birthday and her best friend Andie had taken her out for day-drinking and now they were continuing the festivities with us, and Andie’s boyfriend, Chris, who drove up from Fremont so that the ladies wouldn’t have to take Bart home.

We had a craving for Tony’s Pizza (if you haven’t had it, you should totally go – it’s like an orgasm for your mouth) so we stopped to get slices. Chris was eyeing the pizza and Valerie offered to buy him a slice, as a thank you for driving all the way out there. He was very shy about it, but she bought him the slices anyway. The slices came in a box and they lay untouched on the table. Valerie insisted he take one, but just as he was about it, his girlfriend, Andie retorted, ‘You better not- you to have to watch your cholesterol.’ This comment wounded Chris and he sat back, empty-handed.

We walked to Grant & Green Saloon, awkwardness in tow, and Valerie decided to chuck the pizza box, since no one was going to eat it and because she didn’t want to walk into the bar with it. At this one gesture, Chris lost his mind. I guess homeboy was really hungry and wanted to secretly take a slice while his girlfriend wasn’t looking, but this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. He was furious at Valerie for chucking the box and stormed off, without any of us realizing it.

I thought Chris was in the bathroom, but I realized something was off when neither Andie or Valerie refused to have any drinks and both were sniffling in the corner. Turns out, Andie was upset at Valerie for offering the damn pizza because this is what essentially started the whole thing. Valerie didn’t feel like she did anything wrong and was crying that her best friend was turning on her because of a pizza, of all things. Meanwhile, Chris was nowhere to be found, would not pick up his phone and Bart was about to close and somehow these girls had to get home.

We left the bar and walked them to their car, hoping that Chris would be there. Sure enough, there he was sitting in the driver’s seat. The moment Andie saw him, she pounced on the car, opened the door, and started hitting him. I mean, this shit was straight out of Bad Girls club. He refused to move and just sat there, taking her slaps and punches. Meanwhile, Valerie was across the street with us, crying, and in disbelief that such a small and kind gesture turned into this shit show. All she wanted to do was get home to Fremont without being trapped in a car with this crazy fighting couple. She tried making her way to Bart but we stopped her, telling her that it was unsafe for her to go to Bart on her own at that hour, especially with the dress she had on and the rack she was unabashedly displaying (fake set by the way, don’t ask me how I know). We told her that Andie and Chris would calm down and that we just needed to give them time. We looked across the street and things didn’t seem to be getting better. There’d be moments of quiet, where Chris would try to talk to Andie. But then Andie would explode and start hitting him again.

Can you guess how long this ridiculousness went on? Long enough for all of us to lose our buzz and David and I wondered why the hell we were out with these crazy people. Both of us felt bad and well – these weren’t really our friends. They were friends of his friends, so we really had nothing to do with them. But now we all felt personally entangled in their shit and guilty if we walked off. At any rate, the couple finally calmed down, and Valerie felt safe enough to get in the car with them. I can’t tell you how the story ends, so we will have to imagine a happy ending, where Chris gets a pizza and no one gets hurt.

The night was not a total bust – we continued the night and ended up making the most of it. But the dramatic unfolding really got me thinking, why the hell does this kind of shit happen? (Obviously, the consumption of alcohol heightens emotions, but let’s go deeper than that.)

Now, some of you may think I’m turning on my own kind, but just level with me. When girls go HAM on their boyfriends like this in public, with no regard for anyone or anything around them, can you really blame it when guys or society for that matter, think that women are crazy bitches? I mean, if you were walking by a scene like that, tiny Asian girl banging on a big Asian guy with a pizza box laid to waste on the street- wouldn’t you think the same thing?

I got the back story on Andie and Chris and found out that they had been together for 11 years, and just two weeks ago she caught him cheating with her best friend. No, no- not Valerie, some other trifling, backstabbing bitch.

So, although this display of mania was quite extreme, could you blame the girl? To the onlooker it was just about a dumb pizza, but we all know that there’s always more to it than just that. They clearly had a bunch of other shit to work out.

I wish I had some knowledge to impart after this but I really don’t. It was more of a train wreck that I wanted to share. But all joking aside, we have all been that girl. We’ve done something crazy in public because our boyfriends have pushed us to the limit. (I know I’ve thrown water at an ex-boyfriend while at the club.) I guess what I’m saying is, no girl is crazy, just misunderstood. And probably most hurtful of all is that she’s misunderstood by the boy (yes, boy) she’s chosen to love.

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The Other Girl

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Two of my girlfriends are currently involved in a love triangle. They are enamored with men who are/were in long-term relationships and are in the process of extricating their lives from their (ex) girlfriends. The more I heard about the story of each, I saw myself in both stories and on both sides of it. I saw the 18-year-old girl who hung on to the hope of that special guy breaking up with his awful girlfriend to be with me. I also saw the 24-year-old girl crying and driving recklessly away when she found out that her boyfriend of 3 years was cheating on her.

I’ve played the part of the other girl. It never ends well.

Jason and I met at a time when he was unhappy with his girlfriend. He saw things differently with me and felt emboldened enough to break up with her. In the time that followed were a handful of half-hearted attempts at trying to start a relationship with me. I refused to be anyone’s rebound so I rejected these advances because I knew I deserved more than that. Years later when he’d moved on to other relationships, he still sought me out. To him, I was his friend. I was the only one he could really confide in and the only person who intimately understood him. While these friendly exchanges were nice and a nostalgic reminder of simpler times, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being used. Each time we had an exchange, he would feel better about life, and I was left weary with wanting. It was unfair. I somehow felt he used my friendship to fill the hole that was missing in his current relationship. What did I get out of it?

I don’t know when it happened exactly but one day I decided to stop. I didn’t want to be the other girl anymore. I wanted to be the girl. The only girl. And I knew that was never going to happen with him because he was a coward. I knew I wanted and deserved a man who’d be courageous enough to love me in the light. So I let it go.

Now in hearing my girlfriends’ stories, I also could see myself on the other side- I have also been the ‘awful’ girlfriend. Many years ago, when my relationship with John was coming to its toxic end, he found comfort in another girl. He was spending almost every weekend in Orange County because of all these real estate deals he was getting. In particular, he was spending a lot of time with a girl. One day I was at his work computer and he left his Yahoo Messenger up and I saw a very long and more than flirtatious IM exchange between him and this girl. She was talking about what kind of lingerie she was going to wear the next time she saw him. Needless to say I stormed out of his office and jumped into my truck to leave.

John breathlessly ran after me, trying to figure out what happened and I yelled at him and I told him I knew what he’d been doing. He kept the door open to keep me from going, but I revved off, nearly taking his arm with me.

A few weeks later was his birthday. I did everything I could to make it as romantic as possible to forget the awfulness of everything that had happened. I made lunch from scratch, got wine and a picnic basket and we drove out to Carmel to enjoy the day. While we lay there on the grass he got a call. He picked up and it was her. She was on vacation in the Philippines but she just wanted to call him and wish him a happy birthday. I was livid. The day was done and ruined, as was our relationship. We broke a few months later when he left for the Philippines for good.

Do I regret having broken up with John? Of course not! That was the unhealthiest relationship ever and it gave me the courage to move on and expect more from myself. Was him cheating the reason for our breakup? Not entirely, but his actions certainly didn’t help. My point is, I have been the girlfriend and the other girl in both instances. It never feels good to be either.

I’m not throwing shade at what my friends are doing. I’m no saint and I’ve done things I’m not proud of. Ultimately, I want them to be happy and I hope that I’m wrong and that these turn out to be lasting relationships for them. If I were them, I’d probably be doing the same thing. But I can’t help but have empathy for the girl, while also casting a wary eye on the other girl.

Top 10 Reasons I’m Happy to be Thirty-One

at-peaceToday is my 31st birthday. If it were any other point in my life, I’d probably lament this fact. But no, I am rejoicing in my ‘seasoned’ age. My journey this past year was difficult, but God has been kind. To that end, I’ve made the following list of the Top 10 Reasons I’m Happy to be Thirty-One.

1) I’m not 21 anymore. I don’t make stupid mistakes with alcohol, my money or with men.

2) I have the means to enjoy life. I can pay for a vacation getaway or I can treat myself to a nice dinner without asking for help.

3) I have a kickass job. It took a long time to get here.. from odd job to odd job, to working for free, working in shitty retail and working in corporate enslavement. I’ve paid my dues and am reaping the benefit of my craft.

4) I know who my friends are. Not the ones on Facebook- the ones who pick you up while you lie in your own vomit and answer your phone call when you’re weeping incoherently.

5) I won’t take crap from anyone. I recognize the disingenuous, the selfish and the unkind and I will not tolerate any of that in my life.

6) I know when to ask for help. I’m not Super Woman. I can be fragile and vulnerable. I recognize those moments and know how to get through it. This is where strength and courage are born.

7) I know God is real. I don’t wonder about the direction of my life or what my purpose is. I do the things that make me happy because I know that’s what God wants for me.

8) I know love. I’ve been through the grind enough times to see a good and genuine man when I see one.

9) I value my health. I know I’m not going to live forever. I take care of myself to ensure that I can be here for as long as God lets me.

10) I know what I want. No more quarter life crises and existential quandaries to wade through. I want to be happy. I want a life fulfilled by art and creativity. I want a man who will love me and climb over my walls of self-doubt to relentlessly remind me of how strong and amazing I am and how far I’ve come. I want to serve God by my craft and contribute to this world by being the best human being I can possibly be.

I’m happy about my birthday. It will be the launching point to bigger and better.

A Life Celebrated: Michelline Salgado-Prieto

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My name is Virginette Acacio and I’m here on behalf of a group of very old friends to the Salgado family called the Dirty Dozen. The Dirty Dozen originally started as a group of parents who loved to dance and play mahjong, while us their kids would run around, play and try to keep from getting in trouble. Apart from hanging out nearly every single weekend, we also did everything together: from camping trips, road trips to Canada and Mexico and grand vacations to the Caribbean. And though none of us are blood-related, I think we can all say with resounding pride that yes – we ARE family. And Ate Chin was the heart of that family.

Ate Chin was older than us kids of the group, so we didn’t consider her as one of us. She was our collective older sister. And like a good older sister, she watched over us and took care of us. When none of us could drive, she would pack us all in her car and take us on outings to San Francisco or to the mall and movies. And whenever we were in public with her, we’d do our best to embarrass her by acting immature by screaming and calling her “Mommy,” at the top of our lungs.

And as older sisters are, she was the classic snitch. She was the one who would report to the parents if one of the girls was dating someone new, or if one of the boys was hurting one of the other boys. When we were in high school, we got in trouble for drinking at a house party and not surprisingly, it got back to her. She ran to our parents in tears, crying and we all got in a lot of trouble for it. I remember being angry at her for doing that and thought, why would she cry about getting us in trouble? Thinking on it now, I realize she was heartbroken, she didn’t want to see her little brothers and sisters doing things like that at such a young age.

I used to think she was just always out to get us- but what she was really trying to do was to keep us in check. She wanted to do right by us. Like a mother hen, she wanted to always protect us and make sure we grew up right. I look around to the DD kids who are in this room now and they are still my very best friends – and some of the most kindhearted, compassionate and good people I know. I know that we were shaped by her and we are so much better for it. Chin, you did good. And all of us are eternally grateful.

About a week before she died, I finished reading a book called, “The Fault in Our Stars.” It’s a story about two young kids with cancer who fall in love. One of the things it talks about it is that when we think of someone who’s died, there’s a sense of finality – an end. And because that person is no longer here, we talk about him or her in the past tense. She WAS a good person or he WAS a good father. When I think of those phrases, I can’t think of a worse way to remember someone. For me, Chin doesn’t live in the past. She lives here now, in the present, in our collective memory and in our hearts, affecting every single moment, how we live and how we love.

She wasn’t Auntie Grace and Uncle Ed’s daughter. She IS Auntie Grace and Uncle Ed’s daughter. She IS Jay-R’s big sis. She IS Wesley’s love. And most importantly, she IS and always will be Yna and KaeKae’s beautiful and ageless mother.

She IS our friend, our cousin, our niece, our aunt, and for me my big sister. Ate Chin, goodbye for now. Thank you for watching over us as we grew up. I know that you will continue to watch over us from where you are. We love you – present tense.

The One That Got Away

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There’s nothing like the memory of a first love. And nothing makes it more memorable and heartbreaking when you have to watch that person walk away.

The other day I went to Starbucks to write and saw two prom couples taking photos. The girls were all decked out in long glittery formal wear. One wore pink and all the ruffles enveloped her – like a tiny bee lost in labyrinth of blossoms. The other wore blue, a mermaid out of water, shining radiantly with sparkles in her hair, like seawater glistening on her crown.

They looked so young and excited for the night ahead.  I couldn’t help but smile and think about that simple and innocent time in my life. When I think of high school, I think of Jay.

All love stories are the same. We were friends.

Jay and I met at a leadership camp the summer before our senior year. The camp was only a weeklong but we both made a lasting impression on one another. A month later after camp ended he had broken his arm in a horrific car accident and was unable to make the camp beach reunion. A week later, I drove out to the East Bay to visit him and bring him In-n-Out and show him pictures of the event and tell him everything he missed. We became fast friends.

In those early days, I would call him in tears at the thought of leaving home to go to college. He would confide in me about the development of his father’s illness. He’d accompany me to dances when I didn’t have a date. He’d ask me to come over to help him to look after his baby sister. We had to be friends because that’s all we could be. He was with someone else. When we were together, we laughed and experienced so much joy. But we both struggled with the definition of our relationship. We both felt it. After we’d see one another, he would go home and put on a face for his girl, while I got down on my knees and put my face in my hands. It was hard to be in love with your best friend.

Homecoming came around and I had no date for the dance and in his usual way, Jay came to the rescue. When he got me back to my house after the dance, he had the arduous task of helping me take down the countless pins in my hair. We sat on the floor of my room, stifling our giggles in the wee hours of the morning while he plucked my hair and counted each one. When he finished, I shook my head, closed my eyes and ran my fingers slowly through my hair. I opened my eyes and he leaned in deep and kissed me.

He broke my heart not too soon after that, professing undying love to his girlfriend and denying any involvement with me. What followed in the decade after was a stop-and-start fledgling relationship. At some point in all those years, I let go of my past disappointment and anger for what happened, and concentrated on one thing – being his friend; and that friendship has been the most fulfilling and bittersweet of all.

In my anxiety about moving forward in what could be my new relationship, I had to look back to my past, and look for advice from Jay, the one person who probably knew me the best. He confided in me about the complicated particulars of his relationship and how he would be going next level and asking his girlfriend to marry him.

I was happy for him but couldn’t help but think- had we missed our chance?

For a long time, I felt there was nothing to mourn. Though Jay and I never had the opportunity to be in a tried and true relationship, I treasured the fragile friendship that we did have. With my dad and grandma in the hospital and his father passing away, we have been each other’s sanity checks and shoulder to cry on.

After all we’d been through, would it soon be time to say goodbye?

I sit back and look at it as logically as I can. We would be horrific as a couple, so much so that it makes me chuckle just thinking about it. I think our relationship would be awful and amazing, vindictive and forgiving, volatile and serene, thoughtless and deeply loving, all at the same time. And at the end of it, we will have amnesia of every negative thing and only remember one thing- our friendship.

Perhaps we were lovers in a past life and that’s why our friendship has survived 13 years in this life. And just as he’s growing up and finding love and happiness, so am I. I think we’ve been here for one another to help each other on this never-ending journey. Soon, we’ll both have to walk away.  My heart will break a little and maybe his will too. I will look back on that time with fondness and I hope he will do the same.

Vegas Strip & Yoyo Tricks

The-StripEveryone needs a good Vegas story. I just didn’t think I’d have one for a work trip.

I was at my first company tradeshow with only one objective in mind: make this show kickass. For the first couple of days, I was running around like a chicken with my head cut off, trying to make sure the booth had everything it needed. Finally, I was able to take a breather and look around the tradeshow floor. I walked around and was approached by this guy with a yoyo. I had to admit that I noticed him before, but figured he was just talent that they hired out there in Vegas. He says to me,

“Do you want to see my heart?”

“Excuse me?”

“Do you want to see my heart?”

and then he proceeds to flip his yoyo and the strings into a heart. I melt instantly. Like a peacock, he brandishes the yoyo and gives me everything he’s got: he whips out a star, the word ‘Yo’ and a host of other tricks. I thank him for the performance and he wishes me a good show. I walk away, not quite sure what happened but floored at the seemingly cheesy but effective pickup line.

The next day and last day of the show I gathered my nerve and decided to ask him out. This was Vegas, right? Who cares if he lives far? Everyone needs a good story every time they leave Vegas. I walk towards his booth but at the last minute, lose my nerve. I get cold feet and am on the verge of aborting the plan when he walks up to me and says, “I remember you from yesterday!” I’m relieved. We introduce ourselves and I ask where he’s from. “Oh I’m not from here. I’m from San Francisco.” My heart stops. It just.got.interesting. I ask what he and his group are up to after the tradeshow. He says that his friend is coming in from Arizona and they’re going to go out tonight. I give him my card and let him know that my crew and I were also going out and we should hook up. (FALSE. Of course that was a lie.)

A few hours later he texts me and we coordinate plans for the evening. There’s chemistry over the phone, good banter and witty remarks. I’m excited and get ready to meet him at MGM. We end up at one of the bar lounges. He orders us drinks and we fall into easy conversation. First of which, I have to ask him about yoyo-ing because it’s not everyday you meet a professional yoyoer. He’s pretty much been in the game since he was young. He’s gotten so good that he competes and is lucky enough to do gigs like this as a living. He does anything from simple things like birthday parties or ‘stage 3’ as he calls them, which was this last Vegas show, where he gets flown out and given the grand treatment.

He asks me about my job and I basically talk about how I work 24×8 and how I’m completely invested in my career and professional endeavors. He takes a peek at my ID and realizes that he’s waay younger than me, like 5 years. SMH. I don’t know how I get to attracting these younguns. I just couldn’t help but think this guy is younger than the last guy I was kinda sorta seeing. I asked where he was from and he talked about growing up in Hawaii and eventually moving over to SF.

At some point during this, he took a shot and it’s starting to show. He’s much more talkative, loose and laughing, He’s telling me all kinds of stories and showing me pix from his ipod. He’s trying to sell me his friend from Arizona, James, and how good looking he was, just a little odd, but this makes sense later. We get to talking about Vegas and the different sites and seeing how well the other knew the city. We talked about the different ways we’d done Vegas, whether it be for work, single, attached, with family, etc, and how each experience is good but just different. I asked him how he was doing Vegas this time around and he said, ‘Work and attached.’ I paused for a second and checked myself – did he really just say he’s NOT available?

He wanted to get out of there and get to exploring the strip, so we basically tear out of there. He’s also rushing to find a bathroom, which kills me b/c I’m usually the one doing that. When he finally does that, I stop him for a sec and say.

‘Real talk. Did I just hear you say that you weren’t single?’

‘Ya…’ He sees the look on my face. ‘I didn’t lie.. is that a problem?’

‘Well…  I can’t talk to you anymore.’

‘Oh c’mon!’

I shake my head furiously.

‘Why not?’

‘Well, why did we even go out if you’re not available?’

‘A pretty girl hands you her number in VEGAS and you say ‘no??’

I wanted to kill him.

He presses on, “At the very least, I thought I could make a friend.”

Homie, people don’t come to Vegas to make friends. I insisted that there was no point in doing this. His friend was nearly to Vegas so i agreed to walk back with him to the hotel and just call it a night for me. He was trying to save the evening though.

Then he basically proceeds to pad my ego. ‘A gorgeous girl like you? I can’t even understand how you’re single.’ He even tries to pawn me off to his friend, James, which made me feel even more pathetic. It’s important to note that the minute he told he wasn’t single, the whole mood of the night changed. I wasn’t flirtatious, I kept my distance and hands to myself and was very stand-offish. He noticed so he of course tried to compensate by padding my ego. His mom called him and he was talking to her in Vietnamese. I got a flashback of Phil and wondered what the hell is up w/ my attraction w/ the Viets. He said ‘I love you’ before he hung up and showed me his phone, as if to prove he was really talking to his mom. I say thank you in Viet and he makes fun of my accent. I ask what his mix was and he said he was part Chinese, Viet and white. The minute he said Viet I shook my head.

‘What’s wrong w/ Viet?’

‘Nothing- it’s just that I’ve dated you already.’

The more I looked at him, the more I saw John’s smile, Cristern’s energy, Phil’s heritage, Jason’s situation, and Armen’s age. This guy was the embodiment of everything that had gone wrong in my dating life, from looks, personality, and the fact that he was already in a relationship. Only this time he also happened to be a professional yoyo-er. I couldn’t do this. I refused to do this. I have been the homewrecker and the wrecked. I’ve already done this dance and it never ends well.

Finally we get on the subject on friendship. I argue that men and women simply cannot be friends. He stops in his tracks and says, ‘Really??’ He goes on to say that one of his closest friends is a girl that he met fairly recently. He strongly believed it was possible. I said, ‘Look, maybe I’m just jaded, or have been exposed to my brother and my guy friends, and too many douchebags. It’s just not possible in my experience.’ I think we were sensing the night was nearing its end and we were deciding how to move forward. Basically, if we could be friends. I wanted to give him shit for the reason why he was making ‘friends’ like this. I wanted to accuse him of being emotionally unfaithful and basically being unhappy in his own relationship, but finding other outlets to feel validated. But I held back. I didn’t know him or his situation. I didn’t want to be cruel and unkind so I kept my mouth shut, knowing that parts of my assessment had to be true or else he wouldn’t be out walking the Vegas strip with me.

We awkwardly run into his friend, James, on the street and had to make an abrupt goodbye on the street. He gives me a hug and says, ‘Look, I’d love to hear from you, but if I don’t, I’ll understand.’ I smile, walk away, seething with every bone in my body. I’d never felt so infuriated in my life. Who DOES shit like this!?!? I tore about his business card on the way back to the hotel and cursed the fact that I even gave him my number. But really though- if he were a good boyfriend, he would’ve thrown my number away and not even give me a second thought. I would’ve been bummed and reasoned out that he really wasn’t interested or b) HAD A GIRLFRIEND. That would’ve been fine and I would’ve had a funny story about a professional yoyo-er, tugging on my heart strings. But that’s not what he did. He did the guy thing and capitalized. Pretty girl’s phone number + Vegas = you call her and you make a night of it. Asshole.

I shouldn’t be so upset. After all, he was a performer, giving me a performance. This is his specialty. Nothing was real to begin with. Just a lot of flash and no substance. I feel sorry for him and his poor girlfriend who has to be subjected to the push and pull, the tug and shove of his emotional tricks. Performers are only as good as their audience. And I’ve stopped watching.