Category Archives: Looking back

Holiday chill

One of my favorite memories from Coachella 2013 was closing Saturday night in the Gobi Tent with Berlin house duo, Booka Shade. We danced and grooved as the desert came alive amidst glowing palm trees and neon lights.

Booka Shade at Coachella

Booka Shade at Coachella

Last month, Booka Shade released Eve, a new album named after the Manchester studio where it was conceived and produced. Rolling Stone describes the tracks on Eve as atmospheric, jazzy, imaginatively structured and brilliantly built. I would describe this album as the perfect soundtrack for a chill holiday, full of funky synth goodness.

My favorite tracks are Many Rivers, Love Inc. and Crossing Borders. Check out Eve on Spotify:

On this Veterans Day…

I am grateful for three grandparents, an uncle, and a cousin that have served in the armed forces for our country.

It’s my grandfather Robert that stands out for his service the most, in my eyes. He served in the Korean War in the 1950s and it was then, while based in Japan, that he met my grandmother, Sueko (who I previously remembered here).

Derek and Grandpa

Derek and Grandpa, circa 1990

He was tall and gentle. He was the father of my mother and we knew each other only 9 years. His death was the first close family loss I ever experienced and while I’ve lived the majority of my life now with him only in memories, I feel his influence around me often.

I have greater respect for our armed forced because of him. I know it’s because of his openness and interest in a woman from an exotic culture that my life is so full of diversity. And of course everyday when I put on my 34 inch long pants, I am reminded that he is surely and genetically responsible for my height.

While he was in the U.S. Navy, he was awarded a number of medals honoring his service, most notably the Purple Heart, for shrapnel wounds to the leg he received during conflict. In addition, he received the Korean Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal, the Navy Service Occupation Medal and the Good Conduct Medal. Several years before his death (at the young age of 62), he sat me down and gifted me with his medals. I remember the day vividly. I sat quietly, as I usually did in his presence, as he meticulously laid out and explained each to me, and handed them over one by one, a transfer in ownership.

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For many years after his death, the medals were stored in various places… as I graduated high school, college and eventually moved to California. Earlier this year I realized the medals needed a proper home and deserved a more worthy display. I did a little Pinterest and Etsy research and determined that there was no display available for purchase that met my precise requirements. So I sketched out a plan for a frame display that I would create myself with a variety of supplies.

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The project came together not long ago, with a beautiful photo of my grandfather in uniform that my mom sent to me, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. The display now lives proudly on the wall above my bed, amidst some other personal art.

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Thank you to all that have served to make the world a more peaceful place…

Misadventures with Derek

Six words you don’t want to hear five weeks before an international trip:
You need to renew your passport.

This is the sentence I awoke to on Monday morning in an email from my travel agent. A perfect way to kick off the week.

I’ve planned the hell out of this upcoming 15 day trip to Peru and I did confirm two months ago that my passport is in my known possession and does not expire until March 2014.

Little did I know that to travel to many countries, like Peru, you must have six months valid on your passport, as of your planned return day. My trip concludes in early October so basically I will be expired by about six days. In a world where details (sometimes) rule, this is enough to require me to renew and expedite.

It’s always something isn’t it?

Well as I renew my passport I have to send in my current (and first) one and will likely not get it back. So it seemed appropriate to capture my international travels over the last 10 years and do a little reminiscing…

I got my first passport in college in 2004 as I prepared myself for my first international trip, a summer study abroad throughout Asia. .

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My summer in Asia took me in (Tokyo) and out (Osaka) of Japan (with Kyoto in between), before camping out in Hong Kong for two months, with side trips to Macau and Singapore.

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Following my study abroad, I didn’t leave the country again until a trip to Australia in 2006 and then again in 2008 when I participated in a one week exchange program with Racepoint Group to London, with a side trip to Paris (although with no photos or passport stamp from France, I can’t actually prove I ever made it there).

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It was around 2009 that the rules for carrying a passport in and out of Mexico changed so I got a few stamps for trips south of the border. Then it was 2011 that I most recently left the country on a trip to Barcelona for work and play, although my immigration checks were in Zurich.

While I’ve only left the country a half dozen times in the last 10 years, I always feel blessed with the opportunities I have to travel. Here’s to filling even more pages in passport #2 (which hopefully will arrive without delay) starting with an adventure to a new continent.

(Shout out to my dear friend, seasoned blogger and world traveler Andi, who I clearly and blatantly used as inspiration for the title of this post. I hope she doesn’t mind. 🙂 Visit her blog, Misadventures with Andi, for travel stories and tips, food porn and other great content that inspires me to blog more.)

Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

Last night as I was poking around HBO looking for something to watch, I stumbled upon a 22-minute short documentary titled, East of Main Street – Small Talk, which features interviews with Asian American kids talking about their culture, heritage and feelings on living in America as child of Asian decent. The piece originally aired in May 2012 to coincide with Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month and it appears as if they made it available to celebrate again this year.

The interviews with the kids are candid, adorable and entertaining. I loved hearing them talk about their families and friends, and gaining insight into their awareness and understanding of diversity, race and culture in America.

Here’s the trailer to get a flavor of the special:


Of course watching it made me think of my own heritage and my (maternal) grandma, Sueko, who moved from Japan to the U.S. in the early 1950s, after she met my grandpa in the Korean War. She was one of the funniest women I ever met and was one of my best friends growing up as a young boy.

Derek and Grandma, circa 1990?

Derek and Grandma, circa 1990?

She introduced me to weird foods like octopus and ginger, forced me into loving the Detroit Tigers, and most importantly, exposed me to a world outside our homogeneous Midwestern town of 7,000. She made me realize how big of a world this really is and introduced me to diversity. Her influence led me to look beyond Michigan for my future and ultimately what led me to having dreams of moving to San Francisco.

While we lost her far too early (when I was in college), there aren’t many days that go by that I don’t think of her. She was one of my favorite people ever and I am grateful for having been part of her life, and for her being part of mine.

Why I ride

Why did I ride in the AIDS Lifeycle last year? To be part of the gay community in SF in an entirely new way, to challenge myself physically and to help spread awareness for HIV and AIDS as an epidemic, still today.

Last year I was part of a short video series by Mojo Interactive to help spread awareness online. My video is about my experience of riding through small towns down the coast of California and feeling like our presence would get families talking about HIV and AIDS, when they otherwise might never have.


That was last year, what about this year? Why am I riding again? Well one reason is that it is one of the most fun weeks you’ll ever experience. It’s a week full of sunshine, good looking men, exercise, so much laughter and connections with people from all walks of life. It’s an amazing community of wonderful, generous people and it’s unlike any other experience to be part of it for seven days.

More importantly this year I’m riding because I want to see an end to HIV and AIDS in my lifetime. I want for us to eliminate this virus and disease from not only the gay community but from the whole world. While it can be much easier to live with HIV/AIDS now, there are still so many stigmas and stresses associated with carrying it. And in less developed parts of the world the disease is still killing over a million people a year.

Thank you to everyone that has donated to support my 545 mile bike ride to LA the last two years. Together we have raised more than $13,000 to end help end HIV/AIDS.

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Me outside Cow Palace on Day 0 (orientation), ready for my second ALC!

Me and Katie at Day 0, standing in front of a giant banner with some familiar faces from ALC10.

5 random photos from my iPhone #3

metal letters of all shapes and sizes

Metal letters in all shapes, sizes, colors and typefaces at the Alameda Point Antique Fair, one of the most fun and unique places to explore (the first Sunday of every month).

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I made Katie a special present last year for Christmas. I took the three photos myself, all street signs in San Francisco. Kate St. is in SOMA near REI, Elizabeth St. is in Noe Valley, and Carroll Ave. is in Bayview, not far from Hunters Point. I should probably also include a photo of the flat tire I got in Bayview (known as not exactly the safest neighborhood in San Francisco), while renting a Zipcar (which had three other very dangerously deflated tires).

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Where is this bridge on the AIDS Lifecycle bike ride from SF to LA? I can't remember exactly. But I do remember that down the banks of the river is where riders strip down and skinny dip . I didn't participate last year (it wasn't that hot), but maybe this year? I also remember that this was a LONG day and the one where Katie earned the nickname Mary Miss-a-Rest-Stop.

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After enjoying tUnE-YarDs perform at a great outdoor venue at the French Legation Museum during South by Southwest in Austin last year, we enjoyed watching these kids go crazy about Angry Birds on the iPad (which hadn't yet celebrate its 1st birthday).

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I've been feeling the itch to run another marathon (I entered the lottery for NYC again) and to try to knock some time off my only marathon finish time (4:04). Here I am last year prior to that just-over-4-hour race in Sacramento. I was well trained, looked good (imho) and rocked the race to an extended playlist of favorite electronica tracks of the moment.

One of my favorite sayings from 2011

Cry it out or sweat it out.