Seoul -> DC -> NYC -> London -> Seoul … In Seven Days

Attempting to come out of a jet lag blur to say that I spent an incredible week in the Western hemisphere, which included a lot of time on planes and briefly, a train to New York. (After getting used to the bullet trains of Asia, the Amtrak feels like a damned stagecoach, not gonna lie.)

The notable thing about this trip was the lack of group activities; it was a lot of one-on-one dinners and breakfasts and coffee meetings with friends for whom I care deeply. And it all included a lot of freaking out about what is next for us in America and the world.

Things that common-law work spouse Matt Thompson said to me over burgers will stay with me, about how we need to lean more heavily into our archives and history, in general, to better understand what’s going at the dawn of Trump. And the work advice from people like Kate (who used to work with me) and Chuck (who is about to not work at NPR anymore) will make me feel better about the state of things in my career. Ultimately, the time in DC was so compressed that I had to fit in time with my BFF Sudeep by straight-up scheduling a walk together to the Triple A office, get a coffee to-go, walk to Treasury to get something back from an official, and then walk partially back to his office. That was the sum total of our reunion. For my other BFF, Sara, we scheduled a Chik-Fil-A dinner followed by a trip to Target. No joke. There was just no time.

On the flip side, the days lingered and melted into each when there were fewer people to see — in London, for a weekend with Friend Matt (seems everyone is named Matt, it’s all very confusing, but at least I can’t trip things up this way). He wanted to get to a top-ranked restaurant he hadn’t been to yet, and to go to an all-night barn party/jazz jam session out in the country, and since I was going to spend my final time in America just gorging on the fast food I’ve missed (Whataburger, where have you been all my life), it wasn’t too much of a burden to join Matt on his more classy trip to London, instead.

Serendipity and luck were in our favor all along: We almost missed our flight but didn’t, no belongings were left or lost, and little things happened to time out just as needed. We stayed at a flat* in Covent Garden near the theater district, and while walking home from a late night dinner we saw signs for a show featuring Sir Ian McKellen(!) and Patrick Stewart. When Matt checked about getting tickets the next day, he learned it was closing night, snagged two tickets and we got in to saw the dense and (obviously) well-acted show. I joked that it was about the frailty of existence for rich white men, and then we read a review, in which the reviewer explained that essentially the play was about the existential ennui of rich white men.

There was also delicious food, libation I so longed for and trips out into the English countryside, one night for the most random, bohemian jazz jam session-cum-birthday party filming. I can’t quite describe it except to say there were some ballerinas and lots of soldier costumes, plus a gong bath. My first gong bath!

* I try to code switch to British terms like flat and queue and crisps where appropriate.

DIY Deck The Balls Party

the winner in the "best sweet balls" category, oreo cookie spheres by friends matt and bryan.
The winner in the “Best Sweet Balls” category, Oreo Cookie Spheres by friends Matt and Bryan.


The spouse and I have only been married for a couple of years, so we don’t really have any long running holiday traditions. The only recurring thing we do each Christmas (besides lament the tediousness of taking down decorations) is make dirty gingerbread cookies with phallus-shaped cookie cutters I got for a bachelorette party many moons ago. Then we crack each other up by decorating them in various imaginative ways.

the winners of our balls competition with their prizes.
The winners of our balls competition with their prizes.

This year, we invited friends to join us in our little tradition by pairing phallic cookie decorating with a ball-themed potluck. Everyone was asked to bring a ball-shaped food to share, and we’d vote on our favorite balls. I didn’t really think through how the competition would work but I did buy “As Seen on TV”-themed prizes, like a Shake Weight and ShamWow.

We wound up with fantastic entries, including many sweet spherical concoctions, those addictive processed cheese puff balls and even root vegetables shaped with a melon baller. Ultimately, partygoers picked winners in three categories: Best Savory Balls, Best Sweet Balls and Most Creative Balls. (Most Creative went to a rice krispie treat ball with mint M&Ms mixed in that our friend Terp called “Terry Schiavo’s Brain Ball.”) Though I should mention it’s likely that a late entry by Friend Doris may have taken the Most Creative title had she entered in time: She brought giant ice balls to drink with bourbon. Delicious.