Year in Review: 2016

“The world has turned into a proper dumpster fire.”-John Green.png

What else can be said about 2016? This will go down for many as one of the most disappointing and disheartening years in recent memory and history. This year was even a roller coaster for me, not all bad but not all good. So let’s go over 2016 the best way we can.

January: I found myself let go again from another advertising job. I knew the nature of the business was high turnover but I never expected to have to change jobs so frequently. But I did manage to go out to Goliad with a friend and discover some of the more “interesting” aspects of Texas history. As a black woman, I’m always at odds with Texas history. To think that these men who fought for their right to own other people are praised and defied here in the state, I dunno, it’s just a strange feeling for someone with such a high level of dual-consciousness. For some context to the Goliad situation, here’s the bigger post on the San Antonio Missions I wrote late last year here.

February: I continued my job search but was able to pick up some fantastic freelance work. And I did manage to find a random as hell site in the Hill Country. I was traveling to Fredsrickburg with Amber and this little site had caught our eye as we were planning our trip. Someone, for some reason, wanted to build a replica of Stonehenge and complete with Moai statues (which have nothing to do with the Celtic origins of Stonehenge). Well, more power to him. If I had that kind of disposable money, I can’t promise I’d always be prudent with it.

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March: I took a job in Austin that didn’t pan out but something wonderful did come out of it. My very handsome car, Kurogane. You can read about my transition from walking to driving here. I also ended up picking up a contract job that was stable for the time. 

April: My grandmother passed away after many years battling lupus and I came home to visit and be with my family. We coped. We moved on. We buried her in a way only we could. I miss her, of course, but I’m comforted by the fact that she is no longer suffering.

May: Mostly full of costume work in prep for A-Kon.

June: WOW. A-Kon was…a lot. So much. You can read all about A-Kon here. I had an amazing time with Ricky and Carlos and really, this one was a game-changer. Some of the highest highs and at least one of the lowest lows but we handled it all with grace, humor and lots of delicious food. I’ll never forget sitting in the car and crying with Carlos. We admitted that as friends, it’s difficult to be apart and when we’re together, we can pick up like no time had passed at all. I cried for the city I miss so much. For the memories I make every single convention. I cried for all of those reasons but I got back on my bus and returned to San Antonio, knowing that it would be far from the last time I venture up to North Texas to see my friends and put on a show that the fans go wild for. This one’s actually from the con. This picture here is from A-Kon. I got to challenge Alexander Hamilton to a duel.

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In addition to A-Kon, I also was reminded of my mother’s passing via a callous Facebook notification that you can read about time, the nature of grief and how awful it is to be reminded via social media that your mother died here

July: I celebrated my birthday in Corpus Christi. I had asked to visit the beach, so Amber took me to the beach. This is one of the nice pictures of the ocean.What’s not pictured is my book on the poetry of Sappho and my immense desire to find shade despite requesting that we go to the beach. It’s like I always forget that seeing the ocean usually means temperatures that I do not much care for.  Oh, and realizing that apparently Domino’s Pizza WILL deliver to a beach: which seems like a terrible idea. I think it’s a terrible idea.13754675_10154012471208884_3577320894248237073_n.jpg

Also, on this trip I got to see one of the oldest trees in state (maybe even the nation). It was a beautiful tree that I’m sure has seen a lot, survived a lot and will continue to survive things long after I’m gone. It was a surreal existential moment, recognizing that this tree has seen more of human history than I ever will. 13729136_10154012471073884_9214261078277397338_n.jpg

It’s called the Big Tree. Really, no better name for this behemoth? Oh well. 

I also saw Welcome to Night Vale live as a gift to Amber and myself (post here) and Fitz and the Tantrums in concert a gift from Amber to me for my birthday (post here). Needless to say, July was very busy.

August-November: I was let go from a company that I thought would be a great fit. I put in hundreds of applications and the months all blurred together until I found work again. You can read more about that experience here. The only other good thing to come out of these months was the amazing panel review I received. At this time, I’d like to thank my friends and family that helped me through such a difficult time. No one likes being out of work and the support system I had around me was an integral part in me getting back on my feet. This was also around the time I returned to the church which you can find out more about here. I did land another gig in November and so far as of this post, it’s a great fit. 

This also featured an election that…I just rather not talk about.

December: So far despite all of the celebrity deaths, December has had a fun and emotional Christmas that you can read about here. And since December is still technically going on, let’s hope the celebrity deaths slow down just a little bit. 

Amazing how quickly a year flies by. Amazing how people come and go in your life. Amazing that friends who have been with you through highs and lows sometimes are better than family and amazing how wonderful routine and normalcy can be. This year was…for many, including myself in places, not great. It was a tough election year. A year filled with national and state tragedy. It was a year of hate crimes, senseless death and unmatched hatred and bigotry. But beneath all of that angst, there was a light. There was friendship. There was community. There was love and kindness and coming together. So I hope that for all of you who only see the darkness of this year, I hope that you all can see the light, no matter how dim. That light’s there and there’s always a light at the end of a tunnel. Because even dumpster fires eventually stop burning.

See you all in 2017.

-Amanda

Lessons Learned From Driving Home for Christmas

-Family is this very deep, complex thing that for most people becomes everything. It informs your entire life.- Ezra Miller.png

My family is at times a strange thing to describe. We are a troupe of strong, resilient individuals each one of us with a backstory that seems straight out of a YA dystopian novel. Those of us who are left are an odd mix of strong, charming, cynical and loving. Openly sweet and suspicious within the safety of cloistered ranks. Here are some of the things I learned while driving home and being with my family for the first time in months for the holidays. Be prepared for feels, light food porn and lots of inside jokes.

  • Driving to DFW is difficult from South Texas. The drive is about 4 hours and over 200 miles. I regret everything about the drive.
  • That being said, listen to your GPS. It could literally save you 3 hours.
  • Getting pulled over is terrifying, not even considering the current state of the world.
    • Real talk though, if the pursuing officer starts asking about “how much” you have in luggage in the backseat; don’t sweat it but answer flatly. That’s an opening question to civil asset forfeiture and it’s awful. Be informed. Save a life.
    • But it did also start a wonderful hashtag. #FreeAmanda
    • I did get out okay, though. Just a warning.
  • There is nothing quite like being able to lay down after a 6 hour drive.
  • Never question why your homeopathic aunt has a cupping machine.
    • Just don’t ask.
  • Kids are in fact brattier today than they ever were but it takes a brat to recognize a brat.
  • The 12 year age difference between my little cousin and I is nearly insurmountable now, which is normal.
  • There’s nothing like being able to hold the guinea pigs you’ve seen only in pictures for the first time ever.
    Look at my babies!
  • Host attire is acceptable when the date is with a friend you’ve had for 6 years.
      • Speaking of long term friendship, I’m curious as to when people will stop assuming we’re dating. There is literally no more of a platonic relationship than between Carlos and I.
  • Daiso is still the most magical place on earth.
  • When a new Korean BBQ joint opens up, TRY IT.
    • Especially when your waiter looks like this:
      Look at this glorious, cheeky bastard. His name is Richard. If you’re ever at Gen Korean BBQ, ask for him.
  • Find and marry someone who looks at you the way I look at sizzling Korean beef.
    • I seriously gave my bulgogi bedroom eyes.
      • Don’t judge me.
  • CHURRO CAFES ARE REAL AND I CAN’T WAIT.
  • Carlos and I have a lot of traditions and occasionally, it is okay to break them.
  • Revolving sushi is also something I’m excited for.
  • There’s an interesting moment in meeting your friend’s sister and hoping that she doesn’t hate you.
    • She doesn’t hate me.
  • Mozart Bakery is still the best bakery out there.
  • Taco Bueno is and forever will be my first stop in DFW.
  • So many bad choices
  • Chicken Express is not far after that.
  • Unless you are receiving life lessons while in line at the Chicken Express and then it’s up to you whether to accept the forthcoming mission to achieve your destiny  or to just drown your misery in sweet tea and corn nuggets.
  • Kirin Court is still the best place to exchange Christmas gifts.
    • Even more so if you screech so loud that everyone assumes you were proposed to.
    • The gift was better than a ring.
  • My car may be small but I get miles per gallon like you wouldn’t imagine.
  • Do not ask a man who leaves a comic book shop with two issues of Jem and the Holograms about the aesthetic and meaning of Daredevil as a hero.
  • Sometimes, it’s okay to ignore when your name is called in the middle of the night at a grocery store. Sometimes it isn’t.
  • Kingsman is now a Christmas movie for me and I’m okay with that.
  • Be careful when you name things.
    • That being said: I did get a new sewing machine. His name is Klaus and he’s much better than my current machine, Fritz.
      • Stop snickering. I can hear you.
  • Sometimes a bottle of wine that is essentially thrown at you by a pushy salesman will be the best part of a holiday dinner.
  • Occasionally, LiveTweeting is the only way to cope with a bratty little cousin.
  • That being said though, I can’t imagine how difficult it is to be compared to someone like me.
    • I was very smart as a child (still am mostly) and was highly praised for my strength, intelligence and for my excellence in nearly anything I touched. So I can’t imagine the pressure of being compared to me. In a lot of ways, my little cousin and I are two sides of the same coin and that even further brings up my empathetic concerns that he isn’t able to develop his own personality while stuck in the shadow of me and the rest of the family.
  • Southern families and Southern people have a very hard time “toning down” a holiday meal.
    • We’ve faced a lot of death over the years, so we’re still not sure how to cook for so few people.
  • Always ask someone what their pronouns are!
  • I keep getting told that I have a “radio voice” which is hilarious as a voice actor, podcaster and Cecil Palmer cosplayer.
  • Having allergies means that your aunt’s new and very cute dogs are nothing but overactive death-traps.
  • There are moments where you will have to explain jokes to your aunts and that moment you may or may not suddenly care about who you are and if they know who you are.
  • I am surprised at the places that I can get to back home without my GPS which include:
    • My best friend’s house
    • The local video store
    • Local colleges
    • The cemetery where my mother and grandparents are buried.
      • Side note: if Blue by Mai Yamane and Yoko Kanno comes on as you drive into the cemetery, just accept the tears.
  • The drive home may be easier. Pray it’s easier.
  • Buc-cee’s is still a magical land of clean bathrooms and delicious food.
  • If given the chance, I do not like making stops if that means I can save time.
    • Having a hybrid and not having to stop for gas enables this part of me.

I learned a lot this Christmas season and during this drive that took me over 10 hours round trip and over hundreds of miles. I learned that I am at times envious of a family’s ability to forgive and forget. To let time pass and heal wounds. I am caught just as heavily as the rest of my family in the great burden of being left behind. To be one of the few still left on this Earth as those we love and cherish have gone before us. We are left with the weight of their stories; their ghosts and that weight fills rooms, burdens hearts and shifts relationships. We are strong. So strong. Too strong. Too quick to hold onto judgement. Stay steadfast to opinions. To keep memories long gone front and center. We are loving, too gracious. We open doors for all who need it, regardless of knowing all of the trappings of being hurt.

My family is complex and there are no words to adequately describe how I feel, what I feel and how I will move forward with the heavy burden of their excellence,complex legacies  and the inevitable flaws of their humanity, but I hope to do so with the same quiet fortitude my grandfather had, my grandmother’s grace under pressure, my father’s wit and humor, my mother’s intelligence and the host of traits, quirks and flaws I’ve picked up from the women who raised me to be in part the person I am today: for better or for worse.

 

More Questions, More Answers, More Understanding

So, if you by now don’t know how talented my dear friend over at Crumpled Paper Cranes is, then you’re like by behind. She’s very talented. I’d be jealous of her if jealousy didn’t insinuated that I am not genuinely happy for her success. She’s damn good. Forever ago, I challenged her to answer a few questions, I suppose because I’m a sadist. She answered them and the answers were satisfying enough. But she left some questions down below them and they are begging to be answered. So challenge accepted. I’ll accept the gauntlet that apparently no one else was brave enough to attempt.

  1. You are a woman (Or, pretend you are). You are the last woman on earth. Humankind’s continuation depends on your copulation. There are only two men left on earth. You must pick one to mate with. Passion is not required. Only procreation. Take your pick, and explain your decision.

                   Donald Trump, or Justin Bieber? Oh, and remember, you have to explain why.

Wow, so considering the current state of the world, this question seems very loaded. The answer’s easy: Bieber. At least he’s essentially an attractive young man.

  1. Based on your personality, what fruit do you feel best encompasses you?

I’d probably say I’m a pineapple: mostly brought out for show, hard to get through but you think is really good for you but probably isn’t.

  1. You fall in love with a mime. Do you enjoy the silence, playing Depeche Mode in your head? Or, do you break the ice?

Break the ice, I’d say. Though, I struggle to think of a situation where I’d fall for a mime. I guess stranger things can happen. Take our current political system for an example.

  1. To your best estimate, just how long was your longest wait in the coffee line?

Probably like 45 minutes at a Starbucks. Damn Starbucks.

  1. It’s Game Night at your apartment. Of course, you’re playing Twister. Is your boss cool enough for an invitation?

Yeah. For sure. Of course. I mean, I don’t know what game night of mine where we’re ever playing Twister. I’m chubby and asthmatic. The game of the night is Monopoly or Cards Against Humanity.

  1. Based on the last five songs you’ve listened to, if you plagiarized a verse as a pickup line, do you think you could land a date?

So my last 5 songs include:

  • Mr. Brightside by the Killers
  • Broken Drum by Cash Cash and Fitz and the Tantrums
  • Roll Up by Fitz and the Tantrums
  • Overtime by Cash Cash
  • Vanilla by Gackt

So I’ll say Mr. Brightside and I’d say “Open up my eager eyes, I’m Mr. Brightside.” as my pickup line.

  1. For those who are older than me and therefore, old enough to adequately remember, was Ally McBeal that hot? What about Sigourney Weaver? 

So I’m not that much older than you, so rude. And two, she was okay? Both are okay.

  1. When you were a child, did it ever cross your mind that crawling into the refrigerator would be like tumbling into a time machine?

No, I was too small to reach the fridge so it was just a magical land of food that I needed 2 chairs and a phone book to reach.

  1. If you had nothing to eat for about a week, what exactly would you do for a Klondike bar? I know. Lame question.

Probably more than my readers and yours would care to know about.

  1. From what you know and the things you’ve heard, who is Victoria? What is her secret? And where in the world is Carmen San Diego?

Probably that they have military information or something. And Carmen San Diego is behind the Great Wall, of course.

This was fun! I am happy to accept the challenge and I hope the answers were satisfying enough! Let’s do this again real soon!

The Not So Grand Return

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I have a conflicted relationship with my Catholic upbringing that you can read more about here, here and here. I am equal parts a puzzle: proud and knowledgeable of my faith and its teachings but deeply troubled and tormented by its bigger questions and at times lax morality. We’ve talked about religion a lot, and I promise that this is all with good intention and we’ll touch on that again at the end, so stick around.

I recently found myself returning to the Church after a small break from the tradition of Sunday mass and holiday solemnity. And it’s important to remember that Sunday mass was just part of my life for a very long time, but for varying reasons. When I was little, mass was something we as a family did. My grandfather was very pious and so mass on Sunday and mass on the TV and rosaries on special occasions; but at that time I think I enjoyed mass for the donuts and nachos afterwards in the church cafeteria and less for ecumenical reasons. In addition to mass, Sunday meant eating with my family afterwards: mass also meant pie at Tippins and pancakes: all of the pancakes.

I didn’t start associating mass with my own belief until probably junior high and didn’t start enjoying mass until high school: I even briefly taught Sunday school (even though I did use the Egyptian God Cards from YuGiOh to explain the Holy Trinity). I understood the tenets of my faith and understood what it meant. It didn’t bother me that my friends made fun of me occasionally and didn’t understand my somewhat devotion ( I had accepted from an early age that being Catholic meant people assuming that mass was a weird combination of vaguely pagan imagery and the fire, misery and velvet of the Disney version of Hunchback of Notre Dame.). What did matter was AFTER all of that.

In college, the rigors of facing a side to the Catholic church that was not one I had faced before took a toll. I had immense difficulty coping with judgmental priests who still had antiquated notions of rights, piety and what it means to be a person, a woman and a Catholic. Their view of the Church brought up a part of me that I had not yet experienced with being religious: cynicism. And that cynicism had to face the inequalities of a church that fundamentally saw me as as second-class citizen and one that languished in the moral superiority of calling everyone else a sinner frustrated me. I did not return to mass again until the time came to bury my mother. I was already a young woman far from home and far from the church that I was baptized in, held most of my sacraments in and was the church of my family. My newfound cynicism made it very easy to simply forgo looking for a new spiritual home despite going to a university that had three; yes, 3, chapels on campus.


But this isn’t about my issues with the Church: we’ve discussed that. This is the story of the return.

As mentioned before, due to a series of events, I found myself returning to mass. A dear friend of mine is in the process of converting so it felt almost hypocritical to be his spiritual docent through this process and myself having not been to mass in well…longer than a Southern lady would care to admit. The first time I went, I felt nearly overwhelmed. I was emotional and I couldn’t figure out if it was the famous power of Catholic guilt or if I just had particularly bad allergies that day. The church I found here in my new home has been particularly welcoming. They encourage parishioners to greet each other before mass. The priest takes out extra time to shake hands with his flock (though this did remind me again of the very Druid-like nature of Catholic priests). I felt mostly fine but there was one gesture that sent me over the top. A Eucharistic minister greeting me took firm hold of my hand was I walked by and said very simply, in a moment that if this was an anime would feature doves and bright rays of heavenly light:

Welcome, sister. We’re happy to have you.

Sister.


I’m an only child and while I’ve heard this term used over and over again in the remnants of vague casual racism and used in reading The Bible before but to be called “sister” was for me in this moment immensely powerful. The reason, I came to find, that I had struggled with mass was because I was far away from my family. Mass was always something we did together from the times spent with my grandfather to burying those we lost. Mass was always something to be shared with others: either with my family or friends. The words to prayers that flowed out of my like water from years of muscle memory were not echoed for once by my aunts, grandma, grandpa or mother: it was just my voice and my voice alone. The songs I sang in harmony because I came from a family that sang were only in harmony to the church’s choir.  So to go to mass alone, even as a young woman, was more than strange and painfully isolating for a good Southern Catholic girl like me. In being called sister, I was part of something greater. I was part of a family. I was a part of this family.

Now, this post won’t go into faith or anything: I do still somewhat struggle with the grander ideas of what it means to be Catholic. And those concerns you may have: let’s address those because I’m sure I can hear those close to me asking:

Oh well, now she’s all religious. Does that mean she’ll change?

To which I have this to say: no, of course not. Don’t be silly. I’m not going to stop being me; if you’ve read my other post on religion, you’ll know this about me and faith: my faith is a part of me but is not me. Being Catholic never to me meant that I have to give up cake, anime, cosplay and science. Being a Catholic doesn’t mean I’ll stop going to conventions, stop reading or stop loving Tarantino movies. It also doesn’t mean that my social and political views will change. It just means that I happen to go to mass and if any of you are aware of my love of brunch and sleeping in, mass is an option: not a mandate. 

Thank you all for reading; this is my last post of 2016! Coming up next is my Year in Review (which I don’t normally count as a usual post). This year has been interesting and there’s plenty more to come in 2017! I hope to see you all and to welcome many more new faces there.

Yours Truly, 

Amanda

 

At Least I’m a Pokemon Master Now

its-not-stress-that-kills-us-it-is-our-reaction-to-it-hans-selye-1

[UPDATE: This post was written before I started a new position. I’m happily with a company now and I couldn’t be more thrilled! That doesn’t mean I don’t want to share this post with you, my loyal readership.]

I’m not a mental health expert. I’m not a guru. I haven’t found enlightenment. But this is the story of how Pokémon Go helped me combat my anxiety. 

I recently found myself out of work, worried and anxious. Painfully anxious. In the West, we have a terrible problem: we assume that our entire worth is tied to work. And since I wasn’t working…who was I? It didn’t matter that I was Amanda the Cosplayer or Amanda the Bon Viveur; what mattered was that I was out of work. I obsessed. I put in countless applications in a day. I sat by the phone and waited for it to ring. I sat and I sunk into sadness and melancholy. I fell to the call of Acedia and Tristia and I felt awful.

In my other periods of unemployment I had denied myself of any pleasures of the flesh. I shied away from games, friends, food. My task and goal were only to get back to work and that perseverance kept me usually unemployed for very brief periods of time. But in denying myself the things that help me cope and deal with stress I rather quickly found myself frazzled and stressed out.

I am fortunate enough to have a loving support system around me and a common remedy was put forward to help get me out of the house and hopefully feeling a little better: walking.

Now, for those of you who are fortunate enough to know me in real life or to have met me at a convention or during a panel this may come as a shock to you but…I am not the bastion of physical health. I’m short, chubby and an asthmatic. I wilt in high heat and shudder in the cold. My flat feet mean that great distances wear on me heavily but I am absolutely one to find brief moments of Runner’s High. Brief. Very very brief. It may also be a surprise for you to know that until owning a car, my main modes of transportation were my own two feet and the local bus system. I walked miles in a day and didn’t think anything of it. I had good shoes and a sturdy disposition so that was all that mattered. As soon as I got a car, though, I found that I was walking very little.

So I decided to take on walking. It got me out of the house, didn’t cost much and it would help me avoid rickets but walking on my own with my sad music on my sad mp3 player wouldn’t do me any good. I needed incentive.

Pokemon Go is an AR (Augmented Reality) game that was released earlier this year. It’s an app that can be downloaded onto your phone and with it you can enter the world of Pokemon easily. I love Pokemon. I’m a dedicated Nintendo girl and the idea of catching Pokemon in real life was fantastic. However, schedules and resources made it difficult to play the game during its halcyon days. I also didn’t like a lot of the tension between teams: as a Slytherin, I am very sensitive to the idea of houses or teams being opposed to each other. That being said: Team Mystic forever.

Pokemon Go ended up being a huge deal. People mentioned constantly how it was helping them deal with depression and anxiety and to be honest, I found those stories to be a little silly at first. Depression, anxiety…those are serious illnesses. How can a game help anyone realistically cope with those issues?

One day, I decided that I’d go for a walk. Well, I was told I’d go for a walk after my friends admitted some concern about my lack of sunlight: jobless or not. I opened up the game, just to take advantage of one of the PokeStops that was just too far away from my apartment to normally enjoy its bounty. I collected the items from the stop and went on my day. I did this over a few days and steadily increased my step count and eggs. I walked about a block a day for close to a week. I was running out of Pokemon in my home territory so I decided to venture out just a little farther.

Woodlawn Lake isn’t far from my apartment. It’s a short drive and somewhat short bus trip. It’s spacious, lush and full of hungry birds and lights. In my first walk at Woodlawn Lake I chased down an Onix, tried to get an Electabuzz and walked just under a mile. I complained the entire time. I hated the heat, the ducks that chased me for my bread and was angry I didn’t get the Pokemon I wanted.

The next few times I walked for longer periods of time and caught better Pokemon. I took screenshots and shared my success with my friends and hearing them cheer me on was amazing. When I crossed over a mile and a half, I was praised by my friends and showing off the rare Pokemon I had caught gave us something to talk about other than the misery of our current situations. I was happy when my eggs hatched into beneficial or beloved Pokemon. I was happy to find something new. I was happy to keep walking, feel the sun and not feel too sore. It gave me something to look forward to. It gave me something to do. It made me feel happy, even if it was for a fleeting moment.

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Here are a few of the Pokemon I’ve captured on my adventures recently and some of the eggs I’ve hatched, too. [UPDATE: And these are the super early ones! I’m STILL playing Pokemon Go, I’m like level 23 now, so I’ll probably add more images later on!]

I’m a gamer by nature so I do feel the same endorphin release and feeling of accomplishment when playing a game (fun study on that here). It felt like a real achievement and was a solid reward after putting in between 5-15 applications daily during the week. I walked over a mile a few times and I was eager to keep walking. I planned my walks better, brought water with me and continued to share the photos with friends.

I struggled with the feeling  at first because it did feel like I was running away, well walking away, from my problems. I felt like I was languishing in excess and distraction. But it did remind me a lot of The Oatmeal’s lovely comic on why he runs. I walked away from the concerns of the world. I walked to distract myself. I walked away and turned my back to the issues and problems of the day and it is glorious.

And even though it’s intangible, even though it’s not real, even though it’s just a game…for a while, Pokemon Go kept me going. And I’ll be grateful for a long time to the game that helped me find my sanity once more.

 

A Dual-Culturalist Steps in from the Rain

“The ultimate source of comfort and peace is within ourselves.” ― Dalai Lama XIV.png

Today did not start off smoothly.

It’s cold, it’s wet. I had more errands than I like to run on a Saturday to run. Today did not start off well. By the time I had finished my errands, I was near soaked to the bone, shivering cold and miserable. I wanted to sit down. I wanted lunch. I wanted to warm up. In an act of small rebellion, I opted for comfort food and that may take just a little bit of explaining.

Culturally, I’m painfully abandoned and we’ve talked about it a lot (see examples here and here). My idea of comfort food is at times very different from the image you’d expect from a Southern black girl (though, don’t get me wrong: I love soul food). But today was different. I didn’t want mashed potatoes. I didn’t want cream gravy. I wanted chicken katsu. And there was only one place in the city that I would trust to make chicken katsu and to make it without disappointing me or breaking my bank.

Fujiya’s is a local spot. I’ve taken my anime clubbers here. I’ve had dinner with my senpais here. I’ve had lunch with friends here.This place is traditional, beautiful and delicious. I asked for a table for one and was asked if I wanted to sit at the bar and watch the sushi master at work. She was a wonderful woman, kind, and very skilled with a knife. I sat down, ordered hot tea and almost on impulse said a few words in Japanese because tucking into a bowl of the only soup I’ll eat outside of miso.  She laughed and asked me how much Japanese I knew. I told her not as much as I wanted to. We exchanged pleasantries and I waited for my meal.

When my chicken katsu arrived I was thrilled. A perfect piece of fried chicken, a sauce that’s almost too damn sweet. Sticky, fluffy white rice that almost runs black with soy. I was home. The woman serving me was essentially a surrogate: she was just Oba-san for what it was worth. She ordered around the staff in Japanese and I got to sit, watch and enjoy as the rain fell outside.

The tea was hot, the meal was filling and the atmosphere was great. And for a brief moment, it didn’t matter that my morning was stressful. Or that traffic was bad. Didn’t matter that it was cold, dark and wet. What mattered was that Oba-san was worried about me and that I was eating enough. She was worried that I wouldn’t be satisfied (I was very satisfied). We chatted about the nature of language and how easy it is to lose and to gain one. I felt the more at home in this restaurant than I had anywhere else in recent memory.

And for the moment, I could just forget. I’m grateful to the lunch I got to have. The conversation I shared and the meal I got to take home. One day, I’ll attempt to make chicken katsu at home because everyone should know how to make the food that makes their heart sing.  And while normally these moments are filled with cultural remorse and a feeling of not belonging to the culture that I do so love, it was in that moment remarkably irrelevant. What mattered was that I enjoyed myself and truthfully, I did.

This was a short post and a very timely one. What a treat, huh? Maybe I’ll do more of these.

Stay warm, readership.