Tag Archives: family

Weekend Warrior: Go West

Go West! To Western Pennsylvania, that is. Chester and I started our journey to Lake City, PA after rush hour on Friday morning. It was part one of a 4-day affair.

Friday, May 5

It’s raining, it’s pouring but a girl still needs her coffee. We stop at Davy’s Hot Dogs in Mount Arlington, a kitschy-styled Swiss chalet, just off I-80.

Chester’s playlists bring us back memories of our teen and college years and we swap stories in the car.

We stop in Danville, PA for lunch at the Old Forge Brewing Company on Mill Street. New Yorkers will understand my shock at the cost of metered parking — 1 hour and 40 minutes for 25 cents!

I fall in love with the beer steins. Sadly, they are only available to members of the Pub Club. I may have to come back in November for the open enrollment period.

The highway is filled with semis and trucks, and us, of course. At one point we drive alongside a military convoy led by a camouflaged humvee. At a rest stop, we spot a specialized mitt for pumping diesel; it reminds me there are niche products and industries I know nothing about.

One thing you should know is that Chester, having made this trip a couple of dozen times over his life, is all about minimizing drive time. If you know anything about me, I’m all about the journey and what you can discover along the way. Luckily, our bladders are on the same clock.

We stop at The Glass Blowing Center in Hillard, PA, where we meet the proprietors Tom and Elaine Doner. Tom shares how he fell in love with the art of glass blowing after visiting an art fair. Self-taught he walks us through the steps to create a seamless work of art, a glass dolphin garden stick. If you are traveling with the kids this summer, consider adding them to your driving itinerary.

Next stop: Cleveland. (Yes, you read that right.)

Chester’s Uncle Bill was traveling from San Francisco to attend Sunday’s family event, and we are his transport to PA. Unfortunately, we find out that his United flight has been delayed. We amuse ourselves with a cool exhibit about Superman at Cleveland-Hopkins airport, followed by dinner at the Sheraton.


We finally made it to Lake City (a suburb of Erie), PA at 11:30 PM

Saturday, May 6

It’s a blustery day filled with wind and rain when we set off to explore Lake City and surrounding areas with Chester’s family.

First stop: Peggy Gray’s Candies.

The Holliday family has been making high-quality European-style chocolates for Western Pennsylvania since 1922. In addition to chocolate, they sell old-time candies and salt water taffy, brands like Black Cow and Charleston Chews, among others remind me of my childhood.

We stop at the tributary where Crooked Creek empties into Lake Erie. I marvel at the tumultuous, rolling waves. It looks so much like the ocean.

Chester, his aunts, and uncles used to spend summers by the lake and they share stories of the summer cottage. It’s now been sold but we drive by for a visit.

The rest of the day is spent exploring Erie’s consignment shops and the Salvation Army. Back at the house, we have lunch, then dinner engaging in lively conversation with his extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Sunday, May 7

We wake to a sunny and beautiful day with all the flowers alive and in bloom. Chester takes me on a tour of the “back forty” behind the house and barn, everything smells of spring. The grass seems to go on forever. First I hear, and then I see the creek at the edge of the property. An abundance of nature.

And then there’s the barn, a true sampling of Americana, right here in Lake City, PA.

Late afternoon we make our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral in Erie, where Chester’s stepmom Dorthy will be ordained as a deacon.

The day ends with a celebratory dinner with friends and family at the Colony Pub & Grille, followed by “the best chocolate cake in Arizona” prepared by Aunt Carol and some ice cream back at the house.

Monday, May 8

Monday comes too soon, and before we know it we’re all saying our goodbyes, and back on the road home toward home.



Chester’s family photo on the back forty, Lake City, PA


right here, next to me

There are some days, even now nearly four years since my Dad died when I find myself thinking he is still alive. It is a fleeting moment, lasting thirty seconds or less. It lingers in the air like smoke from a snuffed out candle.

Sunday morning, not quite 2AM, an evening in with the muses talking about life and friendship, death and spirituality, family and friends. Monica and Suzie fall in and out of sleep, their voices a rolling canon of sighs punctuated by snores from our favorite pug, Jello. It’s a midnight symphony at ebb+flow headquarters.

A few minutes later, the third uberPOOL passenger in a white Elantra, I find myself zigzagging from one side of Brooklyn to the other, the sickening sweet air freshener pungent in the front seat. This road travelled is like a driving race course with every pothole and speedbump a replacment for the orange cones.

Opening the door, I am greeted with a famished hello from Finn.

In the bathroom, I change out of my street clothes into PJs, running the water to brush my teeth. The door is slightly ajar. In the white noise and ambient sounds, I almost hear my Dad shuffling down the hallway.

When we shared the same space we had this instituionalized ritual where he would ‘find me’ on his way to the washroom just as I was returning from a night out on the town. Nonchalantly, he would ask how my night was, and in this moment, I hear him asking about these friends of mine whom he has never met, and how they are doing.

I can hear the shadow of his breath, the early morning scratchiness in his voice, as if he were standing right here, next to me.

my two year absence

A lot can happen in two years. A lot did happen in two years. There were a handful of hypnotic eye-opening experiences in India, as well as a a slightly disturbing observation in the duty free shop in Qatar. The stories start here. I came home with a new mindset and a plan to make some serious changes in my life. I adopted Rocky to fill the hole left in my heart from losing Tigger the year before. His arrival could not have been more serendipitous, one week later after an unbearably hot July my universe was shaken to its core when my father passed from this life to the next. Those stories are here.

Next came a year’s worth of weekends searching for a new home, and then this past March moving to a new neighborhood. Now almost 5 months in, my Saturdays are spent looking for furniture and sprucing up the deck. You can find out all about that here.

I’ve taken a very long hiatus from my writing and luckily that well is being replenished even as I type this “welcome back to me” post. In addition to ramblings about life and the occasional blast of poetry when the mood strikes that you’ll find here, I’ll soon be launching a new site, http://www.leavetolive.org — the content explores a new philosophidea (I just made that up combining philosophy + idea) of giving ourselves permission (aka leave) to live our lives.

more to come,

– a

the secret of life…

Best friends, you can never have too many of them in your lifetime. And rest assured that you will have many. It’s like that poem that has circled mailboxes and inboxes for decades, detailing the cycles of friendship and life, about how and why people shuffle in and out of it. As the words go: for a reason, a season or a lifetime.

Think reasons and seasons:
Childhood, high school, the good times of college, first love, first fight, work angst, vacation fun.
The span of a lifetime:
Lean on me when the world comes crashing down, rejoice with me when the sun is shining, console me from embarrassment, save me from myself.
Be here, sweet friend, be here.

In present society I find that it’s just too easy to be friends. Friends, I use that term loosely. The progressive nature of technology offers countless ways to stay in touch through feeds, wall postings and status updates, allowing us to broaden our circle of acquaintances and blur the lines that separate them from our friends.

Acquaintances share a commonality, an interest but oftentimes the relationship is fleeting, temporary.  Friends on the other hand are like family, members of which you have cultivated a relationship. You learn to grow with each other, in spite of one another’s idiosyncrasies. You become each other’s confidante, backboard, truth serum. You love one another unconditionally and without judgment. It is a natural evolution from stranger to friend, and occasionally acquaintances themselves evolve into one.

Maybe I am naive to be wistful, wishful, but I long for the days when friends were friends forever. Some may call that a myth, a childhood fancy. I believe it exists: this magic of friendship.  Despite the madness and confusion of the world, I believe there are still humans out there who embrace the complexity of it; who thrive from the give and take, the nurturing; who harness, protect and defend each other from the threat of an asunder; who still practice the art of thoughtful communication.  The warmth of a voice over the phone, hugs exchanged in greetings of hello/goodbye, the stories that made you laugh until you cried, memories shared through postcards, photographs (thank goodness for these), letters, phone calls, quality time, the absolute cerebral reality of being there in the moment. These timeless treasures, I feel as if they are happening less and less, were it not for my photographs I might start to believe they didn’t happen at all.

The world is spinning so fast, everything has become blurry, disoriented. Even the events one relies on to connect fall flat. I recently celebrated a birthday, away from my city of origin, disconnected from a LAN/landline.  I was looking forward to this day of celebration because of the phone calls and cards–concrete tokens from loved ones, family and friends. Imagine my utter disappointment when the phone (and postman) only rang twice. Every other birthday wish came noiselessly over the Internet, in email and posted to Facebook. The silence was deafening, filling my heart with a longing for another era. Era, the language of my grandparents. I’m still too young to be thinking in such terms and yet there seems no other word for it.

(quiet reflection)

These late night musings should be shared over malbec and merlot accompanied by philosophical conversations, memories, the occasional regret absolved with bittersweet chocolate and laughter.

They should not be part of a soliloquy.


“I found out what the secret to life is: friends. Best friends.” – Ninny Threadgoode (Fried Green Tomatoes)


numb, stoic, empty
that’s how i feel. lost, confused
trying to make sense

of overwhelming
every day chaos times two.
foolish, i believed

caring for my mom
would prepare me for right now.
impossibly not.

back then dad and i
had to learn to be close, friends.
i didn’t count on that

dynamic changing
so drastically where it hurts
my heart so deeply.

Hero mom remembered (Luisa Chan 1/30/10)

paper tragedies:
five lives lost. so close to home.
they say it’s arson,

gang-related vendetta.
sheep mentality:

harm many for one.
how is this different from
terrorism? See.

Luisa’s final words,
a universal language:
take care of the kids.

In the News

Brooklyn Blaze Takes 5

Gothamist Report

Follow-up to past news reports suggest that the cause of the fire was not gang-related and instead was started by someone in the building. Full news article here.


Pride, for a dear friend
Chasing a dream for a child.
With no man in sight.

Solo parenting?
No doubt it’s a life challenge
But it can be done.

Is she strong enough?
That’s the real question, isn’t it?
Here’s where love steps in.