On current piano teachers

[POI: waking up to a “sorry, Cindy, I accidentally took the keys to the car in the garage” text, leaving me no choice but to cancel my morning with my piano teacher.]

Today, I’m missing my piano teacher–let’s call her “E.”–more than usual. It was supposed to be very straightforward: greet the doorman. Tap E.’s doorbell (just once). Place a customary can of jasmine tea leaves in her palm. Attempt to play piano for her. Afterwards, crunch on salad (her) and inhale some pastries (me) at Kafe Leopold. Instead, a key mishap left me at home, one hand clutching Prokofiev scores, the other angrily schmearing avocado on toast.

I met E. by accident. After a previous piano teacher (not this one, rest assured) decided it was worth my mother’s money to yell instructions from her kitchen, fifteen feet behind me, I quit. In a snotty voicemail, the woman blurted out a name in a teary garble, saying, “I think she would be great for her.” My mother shepherded me from house to house, suspicious woman to suspicious woman, trying to figure out who was supposedly so spectacular for me. Some appointments ended in disaster (potential teacher: “Okay, dear, now you can ask any question you’d like.” Me: “How old are you?” Mother [stammering]: “We’re leaving, thank you, goodbye”). Others, like anything J. Crew, simply didn’t fit.

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field notes SF – ramen, etc.

this much-requested food diary is the final post in the Bay Area “field notes” series. yum.

devoured: appropriately-named “Best Day of My Life” (BDOML) açai bowl c/o Bare Bowls. Friend’s response to snap story: “Is that weed?” (No, but it could have been.)
reunited withvictoria, cradling a massive “welcome” bouquet in her arms. Ecstatic tears ensued.
surrounded by: so much athleisure I might as well have been swimming in lycra.

tried: hint® @ Facebook HQ micro-kitchen #146; raspberry sorbet @ Sweet Stop; demolishing evil robots/frying bacon @ Oculus; surprisingly savory cajun tofu burgers @ Full Circle.
metwill (more tears) + ashu (“surprised to see us?”) + poz, head of intern videography.
basked: atop MPK 20, in Facebook’s High Line-esque rooftop garden.

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field notes SF – flower power

this post is part of the Bay Area “field notes” series.

Have you ever walked into a place and immediately realized what was missing from your life? San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum is that place for me. It brings D.C.’s Freer & Sackler galleries to their knees, its collection is second-to-none, its commitment to education is infectious, its Far Leaves tea canisters are scintillatingly aromatic.

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On latte art

A woman who thinks she’s seen it all is once more surprised by the sheer audacity of men, this time at a coffee shop.

July 30, 1:45 P.M.

SILVER SPRING, M.D. — “Nowhere is safe!” coffee-lover and Maryland resident, Cindy Liu, exclaimed, as she furiously stumbled out of Peet’s Coffee & Tea off East-West Highway. Her dim-sum escapade with her best friend and self-proclaimed therapist, Brian Le, had turned into traumatic disaster following a whole new kind of “dick pic”–this time, via latte art.

“I couldn’t believe what was happening,” Le scoffed, sipping cold brew. “Cindy just wanted to be #basic and drink an iced chai, not be harassed with foamed milk.”

According to Liu, the two had spotted a “cute” bear design on a ready-poured latte at the café. After they complimented the Peet’s barista’s handiwork, the barista (who shall remain anonymous until his employment is terminated) proceeded to pull out his iPhone. He thumbed to a photo of, unmistakably, latte art in the shape of a penis, complete with testicles. “I usually do better art, like this one,” the barista smirked. Liu recoiled in alarm, eyes flashing “what the fuck?” at Le. Le, fully aware that the barista intended to make a move on Liu, quickly followed her out of the café.

“She was hysterical,” Le recalls. “She was like, ‘oh, my GOD, I literally thought it was a swan before I realized he was hitting on me, not with a dick pic, but pretending he’s all better and artsy with his latte art dick!'”

Fellow scorned women from all over the globe, friends, and relatives began sending their condolences. “Wait what in the literal fuck / Whyyyyy / Ew how did you respond / That’s so gross,” typed Sukriti Ghosh. “Omg wtf / that’s some creepy shit / find a shell / and live in it / only leaving to hunt for bigger shells,” advised Kevin Chau. “SHIELD YOUR EYES EVERYONE BECAUSE UNSOLICITED DICK PICS COMIN’ AT YOU FROM MORE THAN JUST YOUR DM’S,” screamed Emelia Suljic. “This is very aggressive,” remarked Remy van Dobben de Bruyn. “I can’t believe it / it’s a new low / And I thought there were no more lows left to go,” rhymed Serina Chang, before sagaciously adding, “Nothing ever prompts an unsolicited dick.” “Wait that’s SO CREEPY, he just pulled out his phone and showed you a pic of a dick?!??! W T F! Eeeeeeekkk!!” squealed Victoria Wang. “I wonder what he was thinking — like is there any universe in which someone responds positively to that?” said a friend, who asked to remain anonymous. “Nobody has the right to treat my daughter like that,” Liu’s father grumbled. “She cannot even go to the coffee shop now!” her mother exclaimed. “🤮🤮🤮🤢🤢🤢😡😡😡🙄🙄🙄,” her brother, Calvin, texted. “这简直是太过分了!” her grandmother shrieked.

The latest insult follows on the heels of an entire history of womankind questioning, protesting, indicting, and burning the incompetence of men. For Liu, that history is all-too-recent, given another harassment encounter two weeks ago, when a Whole Foods employee unsolicitedly asked her, “How are you, sweetheart? Need help finding anything?” and responded to her silence with, “How’s it going? Shopping today?” As if persistent wage gaps, ceilings of all kinds, normalized objectification, occupational segregation, tokenism, gender bias, and rape were not enough, avoiding coffee shops and the inability to choose cheese in peace now also encompass the female experience in a patriarchal world.

Liu has notified Peet’s Customer Service, and expects to speak with a district leader for a “high priority” case in the next few days. “I’m grateful that Amber, the customer service representative, was attentive, understanding, and patient, and took my complaint seriously,” Liu said. “At least there’s one Peet’s employee who knows how to do her job.”

The barista declined to comment, but his friend, Fragile Masculinity, said, “Dude, it’s just those fuckin’ feminists again. I don’t see what’s so bad about what he did. It’s not his fault he’s so insecure about the size of his own dick that he had to overcompensate by making a latte dick with extra foam, then using it to hit on random women.”

Women everywhere contributed additional reporting to this article. We would like to thank Anonymous Barista for reminding us that the only thing he should be pouring from now on is male tears.

On German lakes

we interrupt your regularly scheduled Prokofiev program notes with something that must be said.

[POI: a conversation where two people ask each other if there’s “any other unfinished business,” and the answer is, “of course,” but nobody dares utter it.]

dear _____,

One of my favorite memories with you is sitting on the edge of Lake Constance (Bodensee in German), close enough to the pewter-colored water to poke the swans squawking on the surface. You likely don’t remember it. A Cavalier King Charles spaniel bounced by. “It’s so regal,” you exclaimed, your voice hushed. “So English,” I agreed.

Things were untainted then, on that bench by the lake. I hadn’t yet loved you. You probably loved me, but you didn’t know it yet. You simply kept asking that I quiz you from your German notebook. Laid out maps for me in the morning before you left for class on the kitchen table, in case I got lost (I didn’t, thanks to your ever-meticulous instructions). Met me by the train station. Still slept on a board the third night because you insisted I have your mattress. When I think of the way you were kind to me those four days, in my ears I hear your voice: calm, assured, and steady, like marble.

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On travel inconveniences

[POI: My little brother arriving a full day later than planned to the Aspen Music Festival due to the questionable efficiency of Delta Airlines]

“You seem like you’re hyperventilating rn 😂😂😂” – my brother

He wasn’t wrong. I was hyperventilating, pacing around the piano, already dripping with sweat from practicing (it’s averaging 90/day here in D.C.). He was under that most aggravating of travel mishaps, when there’s absolutely nothing one can do except wait and wallow. Delayed flights, lightning, and miscalculated fuel aside, my little brother was more than physically trapped en route for a day–he was psychologically stranded.

A year ago, I was also trapped on a FlixBus from Paris to Prague. It was the second one of my 24-hour odyssey-gone-wrong, a bus that arrived five hours late to scoop me up from a Brussels transfer station. Watching the sun rapidly dip “goodbye” under the spiky pines of German forest, my tongue was like sandpaper, my stomach gaping. I was supposed to arrive in Prague eight hours ago, around the time I also ran out of food and water. I barely remembered blowing my mentor a kiss after her Paris recital, from which I dashed straight to the midnight bus, too excited for the champagne to reach me. Strange, isn’t it? How time warps, the way it constricts and dilates. What if I never make it to Prague?

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On mimi

[POI: bitching about most everything at BeOne in Baltimore, scarfing down scrumptious Korean favorites]

Our server rattles off menu recommendations in Japanese to Mimi, who sits across from me, her pixie cut streaked with blonde strands the color of hay. Six years ago, when we first met, her hair grazed her shoulders and she worked nothing short of black magic at the piano. That, and her sarcastic cackle, remain ever the same.

“What did she say?” I ask.
“That we’re cute, but good luck finishing what we just ordered,” Mimi translates.

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