champagne, fireworks, and storms

Happy New Year!

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So here I am again, in this beautiful city by the bay, where I had just spent one of the most unforgettable weekends of my life.

It started Saturday morning when my cousin Bill and I went out to meet his friend Fred, who just came back from Antarctica. After a hearty brunch and stories of Fred’s adventures with the seals and the penguins, the boys decided to take me to the rugged cliffs of Sutro Heights, somewhere at the northern corner of San Francisco. Despite a rainy day forecast, the sun came out shining so brightly when we arrived at the cliffs and the ocean view was stunning. I don’t know if it was the gorgeous weather or the bubbly champagne that we ordered at the Cliff House to celebrate the incoming New Year, but I felt very lightheaded and carefree, like I could easily spend the rest of the day gazing at the wine’s effervescence and discussing why it always starts at one point and end at another....

Later during the afternoon, we had tea with another one of my cousin’s friends, this time in an artsy café called Samovar at the corner of 18th and Sanchez Sts. And lo and behold, when we looked at their menu, they had a dish called Odessa Platter! Isn’t that random? Of course, we had to order it, and much to our delight ‘my’ platter turned out to be very yummy – a mixture of trout and salmon, among other things (which is very me, knowing how much I love to eat fish). I was so thrilled that I even took a picture of it:
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Me!
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We spent our New Year’s Eve at a small party in Mark’s house (yet another one of my cousin’s friends) at the Noe Valley. With its floor-to-ceiling view of the entire city, his place is so beautiful that I couldn’t stop myself from gushing about it during the entire evening. We ate, drank, played a board game called Urban Myth (something that I wasn’t really following closely because I started to feel very sleepy), drank more, and welcomed the year 2006 staring at the city’s spectacular fireworks display from Mark’s balcony. Afterwards, I thanked the heavens for giving me such a wonderful day and for having met people who made me feel very comfortable right away. And oh, did I forget to mention that I was the only girl in the group? So much fun! :P

Back in my cousin’s apartment at about 2 a.m., perhaps because of the excitement of the day or because my cousin stirred a touchy subject, I started to cry. And then I really cried, and eventhough I tried so hard to stop because I was so embarrassed, the tears just kept on falling (my poor cousin, he must not have known what to do with me at that point because I was just bawling like there’s no tomorrow!). I can’t even remember exactly why I cried but all of a sudden I felt very bad because I forgot to call my family and greet them a ‘happy new year’ and then I thought of how I’ve been such a cowardly idiot this past year, making (or unmaking) decisions that I now regret... mostly depressing thoughts that went on and on, those slit-your-wrist-and-lay-in-the-bathtub kind, as my friend Samia used to call them. I eventually fell asleep with the silly realization that my eyes are going to be all puffy and red in the morning.

Thinking about that crying spell now, I therefore conclude that too much champagne is a serious threat to my sanity…not that I’m not crazy already, but it sure makes me a tad crazier!
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With Kuya Bill on New Year's Eve
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Sunday turned out to be not as dramatic as Saturday, but still it had its own surprises. My cousin wanted to do some ‘exploring’ so we drove around the Bay Area’s coastal towns along Highway 1 (better known as Pacific Coast Highway). If you haven’t done this drive before, I think that it is one experience that you shouldn’t miss in California. The view from this curving highway, some 700 ft. above the Pacific, is absolutely breathtaking. In fact, we had to stop every now and then just to take it all in. I was so entranced by the beauty before me that I didn’t even realize that it was raining hard already. Pretty soon the rain turned into a full-blown storm but still we decided to drive on and brave the weather.

Somewhere in San Mateo, we found this cozy café/bookstore by the coast, which surprisingly was open in spite of the storm. I begged my cousin to stop and sit there for awhile, and again just to take it all in. It was New Year’s Day, we were in the middle of a storm, and I couldn’t have felt more alive. My senses were so attuned to everything around me – the gray-gray sky, those angry waves, the flickering Christmas lights, my wet Puma shoes, the slightly bitter taste of my cappuccino… even those creaking sounds that chairs make when people would get up and pick out another book from the shelves. And as trite as it sounds, I felt really happy to be – living, breathing, in awe of nature’s fury and wisdom….
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The roaring Pacific
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When I was little, my mother used to say that whatever you do on New Year’s Day is what you will do for the rest of the year. My sister and I would then put on our best clothes and try to be “good girls” for the day (meaning help my parents at the store, eat our vegetables, and pray the rosary). Over the years, I had stopped believing in this story but it comes back to me every now and then. Like for instance, during the year 2000 I was really sick for the entire Christmas break (because I stayed outside too long waiting for the “love of my life” to come and he never did… yes, I was very pathetic), and for the rest of the year I either got very sick or was involved in major accidents (e.g. fractured foot in Bacolod).

Well, if this weekend is any indication for the rest of my year, then I can only hope for a lot of wonderful surprises, endless exploration, and moments of solitude and reflection. Maybe even just a couple of manic-depressive episodes (LOL).

And please, please God, let me go home this year.

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