Postmark Here

Postcards from Travel Near and Far by Jia-Rui


Leave a comment

94102, San Francisco

Drag show at Aunt Charlie's Lounge

Dear ——–,

In keeping with our new Thanksgiving tradition, we spent the holiday with Geoff and Steven in San Francisco. As soon as we got in the door, we started chopping herbs for a truffle mac & cheese. It was ready in time to accompany the 18-pound heritage turkey with Pilgrim-era DNA. (I liked the gamey-ness of the heritage turkey, though the dark meat was maybe too gamey.) To make sure we didn’t get too complacent this weekend, Geoff took us to Aunt Charlie’s Lounge, a dive bar on the fringes of the Tenderloin, to see the oldest living drag queen in America. And 76-year-old Vicki Marlane was pretty good — with a kind of shabby Sunset Boulevard charisma. The emcee informed us that she got her start as a sideshow act known as the Alligator Lady by pouring glue on her skin and letting it crack. But here, she was the Girl with the Liquid Spine, gesturing with her fingers just so during plaintive Celine Dione numbers. I felt an appreciation for how long she had been doing this, though there was also a sense that the world had moved on without her.

Advertisements


Leave a comment

20546, Washington

Astronaut suit at NASA Headquarters

Dear ——–,

I made a quickie trip to NASA Headquarters this week to be a kind of showrunner for a press briefing on the science results from a comet flyby. On the Supershuttle to my hotel, I was listening to the radio ads, which were promoting things like Lockheed Martin’s tech support, which was deemed to be innovative and “secure.” There was no way any company like that would ever waste money on a radio ad in L.A.! My hotel was right across the street from NASA Headquarters, in the middle of a neighborhood full of bad Le Corbusier knockoffs. Seriously, it was bureaucracy central. Sewell and I struggled to find a place to get a late dinner, settling for a bar/bistro three blocks away at the Holiday Inn. I put on my wool coat and we walked out into a crisp autumn night that made me miss the East Coast a little bit. The next day’s briefing managed to go off without any blow-ups (whew!) and I headed back to the airport Thursday evening. Through the window of my cab to the airport, I saw gold and orange leaves fluttering in the breeze.


1 Comment

92625, Corona Del Mar

View over Newport Bay

Dear ——–,

We’re spending a splendid weekend on the Orange County coast with Bryan’s parents. They rented a casa right on Newport Bay, where we can see sailboats and yachts cruise by. On Saturday, Bryan and I went for a walk around Corona del Mar State Beach. Some of the driveways we passed had better views than a lot of houses. We wandered past beach volleyball courts where we gauged the seriousness of the competition by seeing how little clothing the players were wearing. We climbed up some rocks and found ourselves a perch to watch stand-up paddleboarders float by. The only thing that interrupted our reverie was this guy talking really loudly on his cell phone. “L.A. is really a third world country,” this guy ranted. “No one speaks English there. No one is educated. The city is just trash except for the west side and a small part of downtown.” Oooh, that was making my blood boil. How ignorant was this guy? Then I realized that it was better if a guy with an attitude like this stayed in Orange County and never came to L.A. It would make my city a lot more pleasant.


Leave a comment

90266, Manhattan Beach

Volleyball in front of the Strand

Dear ——–,

This is why people move to Southern California: clear skies and temperatures in the high 70s in November. Jennifer and I drove out to Manhattan Beach this morning to play beach volleyball. It was so warm, I peeled off my hoodie even before I got to the sand courts where the rest of our group had set up. (The group included a lot of Caltech guys, many of whom where French. I heard a lot of “merde” and “putain” on the court today.) You never run as fast as you think you should be able to on sand; you also sink if you try to push off when you jump. The wind plays havoc with the ball. On the beach, you just have to accept that the ball is not going to go where you think it will, but it will be a good workout. It was almost like summer out there again, with that feeling of wanting to play outside until you’re utterly exhausted. The only reminder was when I got home, when the darkness crept up on me faster than I expected.