French 75 – bubbly with a kick

It’s every bartender’s nightmare to have customers who have absolutely zero idea what they want to order when their turn is up at the bar. I wouldn’t know for sure as I’m not a bartender but I read somewhere that this is the case. Knowing that, I risked it anyway one lonesome night and that was how I was introduced to my favorite cocktail to date. To be fair, the bartender was a regular customer at the restaurant where I worked at and I frequent his bar so I guess you could call us friends, sort of.

“Can you make me something with gin that you think I might like?”

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Boom, without a doubt, he poured a shot (or 2) of Hendrick’s into the shaker along with some St. Germain and fresh lime juice. A minute later, I was presented with a clear yellow mix in a champagne flute, which was then topped up with champagne. That bubble gets me every time. I thought the St.Germain was an odd choice, but after the first sip, I understood its reason for being there. St.Germain is an elderflower liqueur, which is often used in place of simple syrup to add sweetness to the drink and at the same time, give it a distinct fragrance and taste. I wouldn’t say it tastes like an elderflower, since I have never smelled/tasted elderflowers before (or have anyone really?)

Ever since that day, I would proudly tell everyone my favorite cocktail is the French 75. And being the snobbish young adult that I was at 22, I would request for it at every bar that is slightly fancy or displays an extensive variety of alcohol. To my surprise, I soon realize that the French 75 that I know is not the French 75 that is generally recognized by the majority of bartenders.

That led me to research into this drink. Unfortunately, there is no interesting story tied to this drink for me to wow you all with. It was first introduced by barman Harry MacElhone at the New York bar in Paris, originally using cognac as the main alcohol, accompanied by Champagne, lemon juice, and sugar. Of course, the original name is french, “Soixante Quinze”, translate to “75” in English. Later on, gin was often used to replace cognac, and my bartender friend just took a step further to replace the sugar with St.Germain liqueur, giving birth to my favorite drink.

I would generally still be satisfied with most versions of the French 75 at restaurants and bar as long as it’s made with gin. Well, I don’t have much choice since the version that I fell in love with was a customized one. Anyway, I like the way the comforting bubbles  prepare your tastebud for the gin’s kick, which was soon made interesting with the sweetness and citrusy feeling from the mixers. Now and then I attempted to make it for myself at home but due to the high alcohol cost in Singapore, where I reside now, I can’t help but dream about French 75 with Gin and St. Germain from time to time.

The Littles

I don’t know about you but I’m a sucker for the littles. Not what you’re thinking of, now turn that dirty little mind of yours off for a minute here. I’m referring to the little things on our daily lives.

Have you ever smiled when someone holds the door for you? Ok, good, now you know what I’m talking about. And by the way, if you answered “no” the the question above, I would assume that you were still far away from the door and you had to rush because someone is holding it for you. If that’s not the case, geez, just smile and say “thank you” !

Personally, these little things often are what make my day. Having lived a block away from a Starbucks store, I sometimes miss the feeling that I got when the barista remembers exactly how I like my coffee amid the sea of people waiting in line to get their morning fix. To be fair, I’m not one of those who order a decaf non-fat vanilla latte, extra shot, with caramel drizzle but it was a tall dry cappucino in a grande cup with a spoon for the foam, so I think the barista well deserves the credit here. Instead of spending my minute ordering, we just chatted while he punches in the order. Now that’s a real morning fix.

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Nice gestures from strangers are often overlooked and when anyone who overlooks them, they are making a big mistake. Unless you were born yesterday, you should already know nice people are hard to find. So when you meet one, you let their kindness touch you, you show them it’s been appreciated, sincerely, then you pass it on to others. I’m not going to say this will make the world a better place, you will find out on your own. 1185035_10151611068671813_592137773_n

 

Little things from friends and family are even more underrated. Most people take them for granted and let it run dry. What they don’t realize it that they are cared for, and the person caring for you also needs to be cared. So the next time someone close to you listens to your laundry, or drama, or whatever you call your bulls**t, when you need a place to vent, you keep them closer, not because they now know your secret, but because they spent their valuable time for you. And nothing is better to return to them than little things you do for them. If they smile, you know you’ve got a friend.

 

Just try it, it’s not hard.

 

THE BOY: SWITCHING SIDES

And so the day he has been trying to avoid has finally come. On a plane going from one side of the Pacific Ocean to the other, the past 6 years play back and forth in his head like a movie – a movie about a young boy building his life in an estrange city, making friends and losing them, falling in love and getting hurt, growing up and holding on to his youth.

It was a beautiful movie, the boy said to himself. Even though the main character has made stupid mistakes a lot more than just a couple times, he comes back every time stronger and wiser. There were mistakes that could not be fixed, and through which he had to learn to deal with loss. But there were also mistakes that has brought him closer to the people around him.

The past 6 years have also seen the boy finding where he stands in love and how he has grown sexually. He finds himself constantly caught between the desire to fall in love and the fear of losing it. More than often did the boy blindly jump into a chance of love just to find himself all alone at the end. And at the same time, more than often did he sabotage his relationships because of this irrational fear.

Each person that he has met and each event that has happened during the past 6 years has influenced him, one way or another, largely or not. The friends that taught him the importance of having each other in life. The employers whom he has grown to call parents. The lovers that showed him sometimes little moments are all we need to get through bad days. The job that taught him the importance of dedication and commitment. It doesn’t matter what you do, it’s how you do it and how you make it enjoyable. And he can never be thankful enough for this restaurant job for boosting his confidence as well as for all of the customers who have made him feel loved and appreciated.

Also as he is away from home, he has realized how lucky he is to have been born into a loving family who has raised him in all the right way and who has prepared him so well for the world. And let’s not forget all the friends who have always rooted for him no matter how far they are.

Finding it hard to express his feelings to other people, the boy hopes this note would help express his appreciation to all the people who has been a part of his life. And now that the boy is about to start another movie in another estrange city, he can only hope the next years of his life will be as blessed as it has been.

The wanderer

Recently getting back from my month-long road trip around the United States, I have seen more of this country than what I’ve seen for the past 6 years being here. Needless to say, this trip is the highlight of my American experience and I urge all of you to do the same, regardless of your situation. If there’s a will, there’s a way – some smart persons have said.

Throughout the trip, not only did I get to witness with my own eyes the beauty of this country, I also got to see the not-so-good sides that are hidden so well, most of the time.

I was planning to jot down my thoughts as I go along. But due to the lack of time and energy, I have failed to do so, thus, this after-the-fact series of reflective entries.

ROAD TRIP TIP #1: Learn to read maps and street signs, and by that I mean printed maps, or have one of your companions do it. Technology is not always reliable, and it’s not always best to rely on technology.

Fun fact that you may already know: GPS systems sometimes leads you to shorter routes that may actually take longer due to lower speed limit or confusing changes of roads, while the main roads could be a lot faster and safer. Last year when I visited Yosemite National Park with my friends, we rented a cabin about an hour away from the park and we went with two cars. On the way back, my friend’s GPS led him to a super narrow, unpaved, and dangerous road that has scared him for life. I was not in his car at the time, but from what my friends who were there said, it was a horrifying experience. Had we not relied so much on GPS systems and followed the main streets, the drive would have been a lot less petrifying.

In fact, chances are you will enter areas where phone service and internet connection is a luxury and you will need to figure your way out using a map and follow the signs available on the street. Or your GPS could break down and your phone location service is all messed up at the same time, like mine did.

Besides, driving without the constant distraction from the bright screen of a navigation system is actually a lot healthier and the drive seems to be a lot faster and more enjoyable. My travel companion picked up a road atlas with all the major roads listed and it have helped us greatly during the trip. On top of that, using a map, you can see all your alternatives to get from point A to point B and select the one that appeal the most to you. My friend and I during the trip often picked the scenic way over boring freeways unless it was not an option and I am thrilled that we did that because a 4-hour drive on a beautiful highway just flew by, while an hour on a boring freeway feels like a lifetime. The map also allows you to plan out your stops in a scientific way, instead of stumbling into whatever is available when you feel like it – which could mean endless fast food chains and unbearable places to stay.

Street signs are also fun to read, especially when you’re interested in random trivial facts, like Oklahoma is the center of the United States and home to Carrie Underwood. Well, I didn’t really care about those facts, but it’s fun when there’s a sign telling you about it, and now it’s in my head forever. Also following a random sign on the freeway, we made a detour to an Indian American museum in South Dakota that was well worth the time.

To sum up, what I’m trying to say is we should all be able to navigate ourselves when traveling and not letting technology dictates where we go.

Montana – American nature at its best

Before coming to the United States, I thought big metropolitan areas are what best represent this country. Needless to say, after I moved to San Francisco, my first trips had to be LA, New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, and Seattle. Now that I have the chance to explore nature in the US, I have to admit this beautiful country has a lot more to offer than big busy cities.

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I am currently on a month-long road trip around the States, only 3 days in and my eyes are already full. If you think Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast of California is stunning, wait until you drive along I-90 from Portland to Yellowstone. Once entered the Big Sky State of Montana, my eyes popped out of my sockets.

The name of the State says it all: the sky is so big and blue; on top of that, the mountains are covered in evergreens, the empty lands on both sides of the freeway are dressed with endless layers of grass or hay. On the horizon, the further mountains keep going in and out of the clouds, their peaks still covered in snow that hasn’t yet melted. Everything composes a landscape that is simply breathtaking.

I’m a little sad not to have the chance to visit Glacier National Park in the Northern part of Montana, but I am beyond excited to go explore Yellowstone and its geysers for the next 2 days.

The Boy: Love is all around

The boy has told himself a while ago that he wouldn’t write about his romantic life. His relationships never lasted long enough to become something of significance, and he can sense that his friends are tired of hearing and keeping track of his frequent short-lived romances or his numerous dates that could barely make a story. Yet he stumbled upon the keyboard and caught himself jotting down a few words.

As his fingers dance across the keyboard of his computer, he can hear all the responses he would receive from his friends if they were to read what he wrote. It goes “you shouldn’t be worrying about this, you’re barely in your mid-twenties,” “don’t you have other better things to worry about?” or “whatever happens happens, worrying about it doesn’t make it happen faster” and many other similar cliches.

The boy is aware of all that. He knows he should be worrying about figuring out what to do with his life, which he does, just not today. He knows he is not in a place to expect a commitment as his turbulent near future wouldn’t allow that. However, he also knows that inside that tiny head of his, emotions and feelings take up a lot more room than rationales and if he doesn’t let them out somehow, he soon won’t have room for neither.

The boy has spent the last six years in one place and has met more people than anyone would expect him to, considering his closed-off personality and his fear of crowds and social scenes. He does envy company but he always finds solitude most calming, even if it often comes with boredom. Because of this conflict, he can’t decide if he often feels alone because he is boxed out by others or because he pushes people of his box.

Although, when it comes to love, one thing he knows for sure is that he does believe in true love – beautiful love stories that happen under the hands of fate and not dating sites or trippy bars. Unfortunately, the past six years in San Francisco have proven nothing but disappointments. Ironically, San Francisco is constantly voted to be the best city in the United States for singles. The metrics and the analysis, however, are all rugged in his perspective. San Francisco may offer a large amount of single men and women, a diversity of activities for couples, and reasonable costs of dating, but to him, those are exactly the reason why this metropolitan is not for singles who are looking for more than just a fling. It is a great place to mingle, undeniably, but for those who are not interested in open relationships and being friends with benefits like the boy, it could get annoying sometime, more often than most.

The boy only hopes technology and the numerous distractions and worries of modern days don’t turn romance into a fast food chain – something one craves from time to time but can’t commit to every day, something one seeks out of proximity and convenience rather than taste.

Of course, he sure knows love is all around, love happens every day, and one day love will find its way around his corner, just not today.

The Boy: Nightmares

“Leave me alone!” – The boy screamed from the top of his lungs, panting, while staring tirelessly at the ceiling. The ogre is no longer behind him and he is no longer running on confusing roads that do not seem to lead him anywhere but other confusing roads. After a deep sigh of relief, he reaches for the bottle of wine which he had filled with water for he enjoys how the nicely-blown glass bottle fits perfectly in the palms of his hands. His throat is dry, but his hands are soaked, as are his neck and body.

The clock on his mobile phone says 2:55 am. He hates being woken up in the middle of the night. Even though he takes pride in being a heavy sleeper, he tends to struggle to fall back to sleep once woken up suddenly. This is not the first time he has a nightmare of this sort. In fact, most of the nightmares the boy can remember share one single general theme: him being chased by a random person, creature, or even on object. He can hear his thought repeating “I need to see a shrink…” as he falls back asleep.

And it didn’t take very long before he was caught on another run…

The psychiatrist greets him with a gentle smile. Though the boy never felt the need to ask Dr. Reed for his age, as it doesn’t matter anyway, he must be in the early forties. The man presents great class and wisdom, not because of the fine wrinkles hidden on the corner of his eyes or the few white hairs that blend surprisingly well with his nicely-combed ,predominantly dark, wavy hair, but through the words he chooses, the tone of his voice, the way he walks and interacts with others. He is as calm as a summer sea and smooth as a rose leaf. Sitting there, the boy wonders how he maintains his  if all doctors are as composed as him, or at least if all psychiatrists are, and when and if he will ever be able to attain that level of collectedness. Right now, he is scattered like foam along the wave of Dr. Reed’s summer sea.

– What is bothering you today? – Dr. Reed asks the boy after the formal doctor patient confidentiality disclosure.

The boy then speaks about his nightmares. He is aware that a psychiatrist does not necessarily interpret dreams. However, whenever he thinks of a dream interpreter, he would think of a gypsy woman in a long floppy colorful dress embroidered with oriental design pattern, who lives in a tent and holds a crystal ball while scaring her clients with her ability to see their past and her predictions of their future. The thought of it discourages him to seek a doctor specialized in dreams, so for him a psychiatrist would do the trick.

– What are you afraid of?

– Excuse me?

– At this point of your life, what is your fear? What are you running away from?

As a reflex, the boy tries to whisper something but the sound quickly fades away, letting the room filled up with silence. He has always had this problem. He always has a lot to say about many things, anything but his own personal problems. When it comes to himself, more often than not, he struggles to find words.

– It’s not anybody’s fault, that I don’t know who I am and who I’m meant to be…My parents did everything right.

The boy surely knows he didn’t answer Dr. Reed’s question, but he has to start somewhere. Self-reflection to him is the hardest thing to do, as he feels like every time the topic is triggered, there are ten other boys within him coming out and fight for dominance. And none of them has ever proven worthy enough to take the crown, thus leaving the boy with a forever wonder of who he really is.

– …The future. The more I run towards it, the more I – or my subconsciousness – try to run away.

– And what is it about the future that is scary to you?

– Myself. I can’t find a path. I can’t see where I am headed and where I should be headed to. All the lights I see are showing a future that I don’t want to be part of, but I can see that one light which I want to follow. People say I have all the time in the world to find that light, but I feel like time is running out, that I may be a loser who is forever wandering this earth searching for something that I don’t even know is there, or I may already encountered it and turned my back on it…

– How is it that you feel you don’t have enough time?

– Ever since I was born, I’ve been told that I will succeed, I will do something big and meaningful. But so far, all I’ve proven to be is a disappointment. I felt that I disappointed my father – a math genius – when I performed barely at average in math and science. I thought I found my calling when I followed my parents’ advice and pursued my study in business. But now that I’ve had my degree, all I feel about it is nothing but despise. And again, I felt like I’ve let my parents down. Everybody in my life has been trying to guide me to be this extraordinary person and here I am, refusing to take any guidance when personally, I don’t have a single clue of how else to become that person…

– Do you want to be extraordinary?

… (The boy falls into absolute silence, while his mind has gone completely chaotic)