Christmas is about Eating Good. (The Mom Week)
Actually, Christmas is all about Family. I returned to San Francisco and met my girlfriend, Michelle, at the airport on a cold and rapidly darkening afternoon. The weather did nothing to dampen our enthusiasm, and we joyfully embraced before loading up my gearbags in a taxivan and heading into the city.
I wasn't tired at all, despite the long journey that had seen me travel to Frankfurt from Barcelona and nearly miss my connection for the long haul to San Francisco.
I had to sprint to make it to my United flight, and when I finally got to the intl. gate (I'd forgotten how big Frankfurt's airport can be!), United had given away all their seats to the standby folks. Fortunately, some creative juggling meant there would be space for me onboard, and I promptly jumped on. I was the last guy on the plane, which managed to elicit some dirty looks from some of the passengers, but as luck would have it, we were delayed once again after the doors had been shut. I was thankful for that delay, too, because I believe it gave my luggage the time it needed to get packed away and make the flight to the US.
Once we'd gotten squared away at the house, I decided that a nice walk would be just what I needed after being cooped up on flights for so many hours. A quick stroll through Hayes Valley, with all it's little boutiques and knick-knack stores, took care of the stretching, and then it was off to a scrumptious dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in SF, the Q cafe, in the Outer Richmond district. To be honest, I don't really remember the meal so much as the time I spent reuniting with my girl and getting a hackneyed plan together for how we would be spending the following three weeks. The plan was, "No Stress, No Worries, oh, and my Mom is coming to visit for a week. Starting tomorrow." Bwahahahaa!
We slept in the next day, mostly because of the time difference, and then were off to meet my Mom at her hotel when she arrived late that night. The late night (well, 11-ish, really) meant that most of the standard restaurants in the city were just closing up, unlike in Spain where we'd be just in time to start going out, haha. Checking our alternatives, we quickly found a Thai Noodle House that was open, and we proceeded to get our grub on. A couple Thai iced coffees? Sure! Some fried bananas and ice cream? Heck Yes! It was only the start of what would be a feast of a vacation for me, and I put on an honest 11 pounds while I was back home. Confession: I did eat fast food on one occasion while I was back, some spicy Popeye's fried chicken! And it was great!
Since my Mom comes equipped with a Super Chinese Heritage, we popped over to Chinatown in search of a doctor and herbalogist to take a look at me. One of the main goals I had for this Winter Break was to get "rennovated", because I was in need of a bunch of work. I wanted to see a doctor, get a vision exam, possibly see a dentist, the works! Being on the road as much as I am, there just isn't time to take care of everything as I'd like, and compounding this, I live in Spain and am not fluent yet. I wanted to come back to the US and get as much "Liam Maintenance" in as I could. After eating at quite possibly the cheapest dim sum joint in SF, we managed to find the perfect place, which came complete with Dr. Zhang. Mom communicated in Chinese and we learned that Dr. Zhang was born and raised in Shanghai, so we traded stories and also learned he was a licensed doctor in the US, as a gynecologist and OBGYN!
Dr. Zhang surmised that my problems could be food (allergy) and/or stress related, and he prescribed a tea made up of 15 different barks and roots. I must say, I loved how all the ingredients are organized, every little thing tucked away in it's own drawer, in it's own little baggy. If only my flight containers were as neat and tidy (but I'm working on that!)!
I just knew it was going to taste horrible, but as I'm partial to alternative methods, I had a feeling it would work. And it did.
The procedure went something like, boil this dried out swamp for an hour, using five ricebowls worth of water. Then strain out the gunk and drink your tea. Repeat twice daily, and don't drink it all on an empty stomach.
He wasn't kidding on the empty stomach part. This stuff was STRONG! I did try to take some without having a full meal beforehand on one instance, and it made me seriously nauseous.
Not only did it get really thick and nasty by the bottom of the bowl, but there were bits and pieces of twigs and whatnot swirling around. Oh, and it tasted like MUD, worse than dirt!
To top it all off, one night we forgot that we left the pot of bark boiling, and I woke up to find a kitchen filled with smoke and the giant pot ruined. This signalled that it was time to get a new system in place, and we were pleasantly surprised to find we could boil down the mixture using a rice cooker. Much safer, but it didn't help with the taste one bit.
Somewhere along the middle of the week, I was out drinking with my Mom and some friends (scotch, baby!), and we got a phone call from my younger brother, who happened to be flying from Utah to Hawaii. He was stuck at the Oakland airport because he missed his connection. While he tried to find an airline representative who could get him on the right flight back home to Hawaii, we finished up at the Pig and Whistle, on Geary in SF. That's me, along with my best buds, B-rad and J-Boogie, also known as Big Jizzle.
Alright, alright, my Mom happens to be one of my best buds, too!
My brother was having difficulty getting a flight resolution, so our group headed off towards a fantastic little Korean restaurant called RoHan which serves a variety of fusion Korean cuisine, their own kim-chee, and assorted drinks made from Soju, the Korean rice wine which is similar to Sake (no other hard alcohol served here). The food was dynamite, the company was outstanding, and with the exception of my brother's travel woes, the night was going well. RoHan comes recommended, so check it out if you're in the mood for something a little different.
Luck was definitely with my family that night, because my brother ended up being stranded overnight, and the airline put him up in a hotel next to SFO, the San Francisco airport. Not only that, but because my brother had missed his connection, he was re-scheduled with a different flight that would take him directly to Honolulu, instead of flying to Maui and waiting a couple hours before he would complete his journey by going Maui to Honolulu. Score! Just after we had finished dinner, I got the call I'd been hoping for, and immediately jetted down the 101 to pick my brother up and bring him back to the house. I couldn't remember the last time I was with both my mother and brother at the same time, so this reunion was something special. It was pouring cats and dogs, but traffic was light and I grabbed my brother without a hitch. We just about flew back to the house, the rain easing up and letting us get some good speed going.
Man, my brother had grown another inch, filled out some, and was really becoming a man. He's currently got a scholarship to play tennis at BYU, and he just completed his first college semester. I know I'm pretty busy, but with his training regimen, his studies, and trying to keep everything in balance while they're pumping him full of new information and techniques, I know my brother has definitely got a full plate. I know he's doing his best, though, which is exactly what I hope he continues to do when the chips seem like they're down. Right on, Bro!
Luckily for him (again!), Michelle was able to whip up some dinner, which around 3AM must have tasted heavenly for a starving college kid who missed his evening meals!
It was phenomenal to hang out with my Mom and brother, and we relished the time that we were gifted. The only bummer was that my brother had to be at the airport just after dawn, which meant an early morning trip through city traffic to get him there. I tried to stay awake with him through the night, but both my mother and I fell asleep while he watched movies. Nonetheless, it was really something for my mom to be there with her two sons, as all of us are living far away from one another.
Once my brother had taken off to spend his Christmas at home in Hawaii, I was able to spend some quiet days with my mom, and we walked the city, shopped for presents, and had hours of conversation. One afternoon we made it to Eddie Rickenbocker's, a cool pub/restaurant filled with ancient and somewhat restored motorcycles from all makers and eras.
It's literally got Indians, Hendersons, and Harley's, and many, many more marques, hanging from the ceiling, and the burgers are good, too!
One night we caught some impromptu Hula Dancing at a Hawaiian restaurant in Japantown. I couldn't believe it when the waitresses stopped working and started dancing, but it was fabulous and I managed to catch a little of it here. For the life of me, though, I can't remember the name of the place. You'll know it by the Honu (the sea-turtle) on the restaurant's sign outside.
Eventually, my Mom had to get ready to head back home to Hawaii, where she would be spending Christmas with my brother. She decided to make us a farewell dinner, and we opted for a vegetarian meal. We ripped through Chinatown once again, picking up all manner of goodies, and within an hour of getting back to the house, my mom was in the kitchen with Michelle cooking up a storm. It was incredible to see what she could do with some simple, natural ingredients and only a frying pan and a rice cooker. Fortunately, the rice cooker doubled as a pot, once we put it on the stove.
Tofu, Fishcakes, and Veggies everywhere! Simply unbelievable.
And unbelievably delicious!
This first week back in California was huge. I caught up with my friends, my Mom, my brother, and had some fantastic adventures I haven't even gotten into yet. I'm not really sure how to space my postings out, because as you can tell, there are photos galore and a ton of cool happenings to get through. While I was back home, I had to consciously turn my computer off and just start living again. I didn't log onto Skype for three weeks (a personal record, haha), and except for work email, I barely responded to anything unless I felt it was critical. I'm sorry if I didn't reply to anyone's emails, but I've got some time now to sort through everything and I'll get to it sometime this week. What was most important to me was getting healthy and strong again, and that meant almost a complete disconnect from my life here in Europe. It meant time spent solely with my girlfriend, time doing simple things like running errands, and time spent catching up with my core crew back home. Without these people in my life, I wouldn't be able to get by during the race season, I wouldn't be able to stay focussed on the jobs at hand and I wouldn't have the confidence to know that I can continue pushing because I have a solid group of people back home who love and support me. I know I've written about this concept before, that unlike the Europeans I don't get to go home to my friends and loved ones between races and get a soul-recharge. Well, this Christmas I got a massive soul recharge, and I'm so grateful. Not to mention, I got to go riding again! I was lucky enough to be able to eat so much good food, I really didn't take enough photos to do all the meals justice. I watched a couple movies (do not waste your time watching I Am Legend, just go straight to 28 Days Later, and then 28 Weeks Later), I drank a couple gallons of Boba milk tea pearl drinks, and I got to see almost every important person in my life. I slept! My goodness did I sleep. I almost think I slept enough to make up for the closing races in '07, which I was worried we might not make it through. Anyway, this was a bit of a sloppy revisiting of my first week back in the USA, but we'll get into more specific functions and adventures shortly. There are so many things I want to remember always - thanks to you readers for staying with me and seeing it through with me. I never want to forget where I've come from, what I've been through, and I never want to lose sight of where I want to be and how I'm going to get there. Everything I do is thanks to the people around me.
Mom, from the bottom of my heart, thank you and I love you. You are the best!