Because sometimes reading poetry out loud all by yourself is so luxurious it makes you feel rich. Here are my favorite lines from T.S. Eliot’s haunting poem about unrequited love and life unlived.

LET us go then, you and I,
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table;
Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets,
The muttering retreats
Of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question….
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

….

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

….

For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;
I know the voices dying with a dying fall
Beneath the music from a farther room.
So how should I presume?

And I have known the eyes already, known them all—
The eyes that fix you in a formulated phrase,
And when I am formulated, sprawling on a pin,
When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,
Then how should I begin
To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?
And how should I presume?

And I have known the arms already, known them all—
Arms that are braceleted and white and bare
(But in the lamplight, downed with light brown hair!)
Is it perfume from a dress
That makes me so digress?
Arms that lie along a table, or wrap about a shawl.
And should I then presume?
And how should I begin?

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Oh tears. It’s a rainy Saturday morning and in the middle of morning pages and a cup of tea, I stumble across this.  So heavy with meaning and relevance, I am frozen at the table suddenly aware of all the things that matter and more importantly, the millions of things that don’t matter at all.  Oh thank you Saturday morning perspective.  Sometimes jolts like these are what I need.

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London under beautiful light

February 4, 2014

“Sir, if you wish to have a just notion of the magnitude of this city, you must not be satisfied with seeing its great streets and squares, but must survey the innumerable little lanes and courts. It is not in the showy evolutions of buildings, but in the multiplicity of human habitations which are crowded together, that the wonderful immensity of London consists.” – Samuel Johnson

So blessed to have visited the city during a mild week in early January.  The light in the mornings and late afternoons was so beautiful I found myself panicking trying to capture every detail. With iPhone, with Leica, with the mind’s eye – here are my memories of London.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

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A walk in Mayfair

January 27, 2014

“There’s nothing like wandering around a city you’ve already left to define an internal change. It feels different. You feel different: defiant, bold, victorious.” – Londoners

There’s always another hidden mews to discover, another unassuming pocket of beauty that you’ve passed hundreds of times before but never really saw.  This is London: a favorite book whose stories unfold anew at the turn of each page. It is a playground for the senses.

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London, why do I love thee?

January 23, 2014

Because no matter how impractical, I am always compelled to take the longest possible route from point A to B.  In a city so hectic it seems the only natural reaction is to live slowly, to take it all in, to wander and absorb. There is art, history, a heritage of something lost and permanent around every corner. The road less traveled (and more scenic) is definitely one the better.

Because of the countless magical secret bars hidden around dark corners that would take ten lifetimes to discover.

Because here I can be anything and anyone.  Excuse me, are you an art student? he asked as I snapped photos at Baker Street Station. Be still my tortured artist’s heart. Why yes, yes I am, replied the me from a parallel universe.  Here I am naked and myself and it’s ok to let it show.

Because I could be rushing to  get to an after-office business meeting and then wham! out of the blue appears Saint Paul’s Cathedral in all its illuminated gigantic glory. It is so tall and magnificent that you have to crane your neck all the way back like a penguin to see its gorgeous cupola. And even though I’m running extremely late I still stop to take a photo (or 10) because things that take your breath away are definitely worth being late for.

Because books are still beloved here.  Billboard adverts on walls, in newspapers and trains premiere book releases like they are movies. And all around the city Londoners still read – in the tube, at bus stops, in airplanes, parks and cafes.

Because running through the biting rain without an umbrella at 11pm on a cold winter night is the most beautiful memory of the day.

Because Monday midnight tequilas with a girl friend (in magical secret bars hidden around dark corners that would take ten lifetimes to discover) could totally be a weekly ritual if you wanted.

Because one day you can meet a humble street artist out of the blue who has the power to change the way you see the world and in turn change your life.

Because window shopping can be more delightful and magical than any theme park or carnival or drunken night out combined. The classical music, the moody lighting, the shiny accoutrements that could adorn a kitchen table, a desk, a finger. I’ve never longed for material things so much but not for possession’s sake but to be reminded on an ordinary day of the power of beauty. Frivolous displays, ornate and impractical. It is the impractical life that makes this place so wonderful. Who wants practical when you can have magic?

Because here the people you meet, the friendships you foster, the conversations you partake can make spaces in your heart and mind that you never thought possible. Over brunch, lunch, drinks and coffee you converse in exclamation marks over the stuff of dreams: Baroque art, Spanish vs. English colonizers, travel to Antananarivo vs. Wen Hai, moving countries and continents for love, Milanese cafes and baked nutella balls, hezbollah in Lebanon, the wisdom of dogs, yin and yang, open loops, ancient Japanese erotica, travel, music, dreams, loves and losses.  With this kind of stimulus, it is no wonder that the soul has no other choice but to explode into a million shining stars.

And because if London were a person, we’d have fallen madly, deeply, ridiculously in love, broken up in a hot mess and eventually (miraculously) become lifetime BFFs. This is, in fact, true of my relationship with Londontown. It was my refuge from heartache, my witness to sins big and small, my mirror of self loathing and then self acceptance, my window to life altering encounters, the portal to my truest self.  It has seen the best and worst of who I am and what I’m capable of.  When I had to leave it years ago, I coped with hatred. But today there is no pain or unrequited longing.  London will always be home. It is love. Love for what was and for what it inspires today.  It is the greatest city in the world.

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Three weeks later and I’m still so high from our amazing holiday. I’m buzzing with nostalgia. What to do with all this energy? Wish I could bottle it up and save for days when life feels more routine than it ever ought to.

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I’ve struggled over the past few weeks to find the words to describe just how great our wedding in Boracay really was. The words aren’t coming as easily as I would like. We are fortunate and so happy that we invested in professional videographers to capture the day. Here’s a teaser.

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Magical Mornings in Bangkok

December 9, 2013

This Thanksgiving, we spent half a week in Bangkok enroute to wedding festivities in the Philippines. German and I were there last in 2009, on backpacker’s budgets. Back then, we stayed in hole-in-the-wall hotels, walked the local markets and splurged on one night of fine dining to get the full spectrum of Thai and tourist life.  The city has changed tremendously since and has become one of the top travel destinations in the world.

It was a surprise to see mega malls, air conditioned sky trains, international food centers and a very in-your-face tourist vibe that wasn’t there just a few years ago.  It’s an interesting experience to be able to go back to a place and claim some sense of familiarity with it, even as a tourist.  As much as I loved the modern amenities and beautiful shopping centers,  it was when we returned to the true essence of the city that I fell in love with it again – street life, in all its grime and chaos.

Due to jetlag, we were up at the crack of dawn each morning, light streaming into our 21st floor AirBnB rental. There is something magical about waking up to sunrise on your face, an experience I take for granted while home in California. Donning flip flops and shorts, we were out of bed within minutes and on Sukhumvit Road on the prowl for breakfast.

6.5 million residents were also waking at this time, their mopeds, buses, bikes, taxis and carts all competing for space on the pedestrian packed roads.  It was a shock to the system to collide with with the colors, noises and smells first thing in the morning.  Beyond the screech of tires and honking horns, the smell in the humid air hits you like a ton of bricks.  It is the smell of Asia – a mix of diesel fuel, sewage and fried food, and it felt like home.

On offer was an endless array of sweet and savory foods, clothing, flowers and house wares. We went straight for the food stalls, with their boiling pots of curry, chili vegetables, pickled gingers and rice.  The food carts are ingenious – customized to steam, deep fry, bake and broil meats, breads and fish on whatever sidewalk they happen to be perched on for the day.  We purchased fried eggs, pad thai, steamed vegetables and noodles, all served in clear plastic bags for easy transport.  Sliced mangoes, papayas, guavas and pineapples were plentiful and also sold in small plastic bags, equipped with giant toothpicks for munching on the go.

We found a lady selling pancakes rolled over mini sausages. While German investigated price, I choked on the light. Mind blowing, beautiful, morning light.

We also found a vendor selling the equivalent of Filipino “puto”, a sweet rice cake topped with grated coconut and wrapped in banana leaf. I was amazed that she could make something on the street that I couldn’t even attempt in my own kitchen oven.

I think German would agree that we had more fun shopping for the food than eating it.  What a luxury it was to be able to sit down at breakfast with a pile of exotic fruits and home-cooked food, the long uncharted day still ahead of us.  Mornings – they’re my new favorite. :)

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