Adventures in Güssing

Hello all!

As many of you know (or might have guessed from my last post), I visited my family in Austria just a few weeks ago. My last trip was in spring of 2013, and was a bit of a whirlwind involving a van full of friends and a trek across the country. Comparatively, this most recent trip was quite a bit more laid-back, with the largest thing on the agenda being my grandmother’s 80th birthday at one of the many the local Buschenshanks, or wine taverns. The party lasted until 1am, complete with a ton of food, dancing, and live music courtesy of my great uncle Franz and his friend Rudy.

 My family’s hometown is what one might refer to as rural. It’s not out of the ordinary for people to have livestock on their property, and unpaved roads are somewhat commonplace. Cellphone service can be quite spotty, as it’s so close to the Hungarian border that you could easily stumble across it without realizing. Güssing, a relatively small town of approximately 250 households, is honestly quite hard to find on a map. But, like most of Europe, it boasts a rich history, as is evident by the ruins of the 13th century castle that overlook the town. For me, it’s always been a place to unplug and indulge in some nostalgia. I ate my favorite foods and read half a dozen books in my grandmother’s kitchen. I know that change is guaranteed each visit, as my trips have gotten so few and far between as I’ve gotten older.



Yes, they wore lederhosen. It’s almost a requirement when playing that much polka music.

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I try to appreciate Güssing for what it is. It’s especially quiet and charming during the winter months, when you can find Christmas markets in just about every town in the neighboring region. While we may have high-speed internet here in the Bay Area, they have warm mugs of Glühwein and roasted chestnuts on every corner, which is a fair trade-off, in my humble opinion. It’s very much a place to reset, indulge a bit, and contemplate life(or in my case, attempt to revive some very rusty German…more on this later). It may not be the most glamorous or exotic of vacations, but it’s special nonetheless.



Hello everyone.

As some of you might already know, I recently celebrated the last birthday of my 20s. If anyone asks, I recently turned 25. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it. A while back, I wrote about turning 27— how 27 was my “scary” age, and how I was closer to being “almost 30.” Well…as people like to remind me, the big 3-0 is now looming, and while I feel somewhat my age, I recall yelling at my friends over the music in the club:

“This is not where I imagined myself at 29!!”

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In actuality, it was even better than what I had imagined.

I had the best time. I danced until the sun came up, had countless drinks, enjoyed the warm weather poolside, stayed in a beautiful hotel, and even won $2.19!  It’s a strange phenomenon, Las Vegas. Each time I go, I can’t imagine how I could have a better time than before. Each time, I’m surprised. The people were personable and fun; everyone did the mandatory “surprised face” when I told them how old I was turning. One bouncer even exclaimed “Aw, you’re 20, aren’t you? This isn’t a real ID. We’re letting you in? You’re not even legal!” Well played, sir.

Although I can’t imagine staying much longer than three days at a time, coming home from Las Vegas is the hardest part. It’s truly the adult equivalent of Disneyland. There are few cities that have the energy of Vegas—it’s a “choose your own adventure” kind of place. There’s a seedy grittiness to it, as well as ridiculous excess and glamour.  At one point, I watched cocktail waitresses spray over a dozen bottles of champagne into a pool full of people. You can’t make this stuff up. I won’t deny that I perhaps imagined that my life would turn out a bit differently when I was younger (homeowner, ex-pat, novelist?), but I must say that I’m very happy it’s turned out the way it has.

Happy almost-30 to me!


Redneck Jokes & a Fancy Hat

Hello everybody!

A while back I tweeted that my blog should be renamed “Watch Me WatchTooMuchRealityTV/DrinkTooMuchCoffee/Shop.” Not too much has changed. Despite my constantly running off to new adventures, from a thematic perspective, I’m a creature of habit. Ironic? Perhaps a little.

Which is why when my father’s most recent birthday rolled around, I had to take my family along for a return trip to Bar Agricole in San Francisco’s Soma neighborhood. I must say, it’s quite odd to wander around your old Saturday night stomping grounds in the daylight, on a Sunday. While it was quite a bit more of a low-key experience than my first visit, the food was still amazing.


We started with this pan-friend bread and puréed beet concoction that was delicious, and an odd mix of Middle Eastern and Easter European flavors. We also had the lamb special to share, which was obviously fantastic, since I didn’t even bother to stop to photograph it.


We ordered a few desserts to share, and they kindly brought us a plate of celebratory cookies as well! As you can tell, my father likes to close his eyes in every picture I take of him.


The dessert at the far left was a rosemary panna cotta with meyer lemon topping, and the ice cream to the right was a house made orange sherbet alongside avocado-tequila ice cream. Sounds strange, yes? But I firmly believe it’s impossible to make avocado not delicious.

My father’s a funny guy, and very much two sides of a coin, in terms of personality. Growing-up, he was full of the typical dad jokes and watched cartoons every Saturday morning. There was also the occasional telenovela, whenever he thinks no one is looking (he doesn’t speak any Spanish, mind you). On the other hand, he’s a wealth of information who collects non-fiction books, mostly on historical or current events, constantly watches or listens to the news. He enjoys wearing his pakol hat everywhere (the kind of Afghan hat that was described as “a tea cozy” in the movie Amélie) and is mildly obsessed with the squirrels that constantly uproot all the flowers he and my mother plant.  Despite having come to the U.S. for political asylum in the late 70s, he has a deep-rooted fondness for redneck jokes that I will never understand. Knowing all these things, my mother gave him both a squirrel-themed and redneck-themed card that made him laugh so much he started coughing at the dinner table. He’s a funny guy, my dad. We’re fundamentally very different people, which doesn’t make things easy, but at the end of the day we have a lot to learn from each other. I can teach my father about his iPhone, and he can tell me all about any historical event known to man. I kid you not. Trouble is, I don’t even know that much about the iPhone.

Luckily, we both can tell pretty good stories.