Cats, Starbucks, and Not-Quite-Sweatshirts

Today, it is my greatest honour and supremest pleasure to have the privilege of relating to you one of the greatest epics of the modern age: Cats, Starbucks, and Not-Quite-Sweatshirts. (Otherwise known as the sequel to The Quest for the Unlined Notebook, in which I, your humble protagonist,  risked life, limb, and possibly my mother's sanity in order to journey into the farthest reaches of my father's study and obtain the mysterious and coveted unlined notebook.) As you all know, I am currently in Palo Alto with the creature known as "father". Having done multitudes of study on this notorious being in the fourteen years I've been living with him, I have only just come to the startling conclusion that really, we are more alike than I had anticipated. It seems that, unlike the companion creature known as "mother", both my father and I have a similar way of accomplishing our missions: wandering around, going with the flow, and poking our heads into whatever really interests us. (This is in contrast to my mother's HERE'S A LIST OF THINGS WE NEED TO GET DONE, PREFERABLY IN AT LEAST 28.54 SECONDS LESS THAN LAST TIME style. You see the difference, no?)

So there I was just yesterday, peacefully burrowed in my bed and minding my own business, when my father shook me into conciousness at the horrendously early hour of 8 in the morning. I muttered something that sounded vaguely like "whatdyawantimtryingtosleepgoaway", which my father, of course, took to mean: "Hi Dad! Of course I don't mind that you woke me up, because in no way, shape, or form am I a cranky teenager who needs eight hours of sleep a night! Get in the car, skip breakfast, and instead take an hour-long drive down to San Francisco?! I love that idea!" (My father's version of reality includes me talking in exclamation points much of the time, as you can tell.)

So we bundled into the car, with me grumbling a multitude of indecipherable threats under my breath... and five minutes into the drive my father announced that we needed to stop and find a clothing store. His explanation? Apparently he was so used to the tropical rainforest that is Singapore that he had conveniently forgotten to bring a sweatshirt, and was therefore deathly afraid of the winds down in San Francisco. (Dad, if you're reading this: AMATEUR.) So, with absolutely no consent on my part - I believe I was sobbing KILL ME NOW and beating at the car windows, actually... but hey, the radio was pretty loud, so maybe he didn't hear me? - we rolled into the parking lot of a completely deserted mall. My father instructed me to sit in the car and listen to the radio (which at this point was blasting so loudly I believe the windows in the car may or may not have shattered, along with my eardrums), and he would run into the mall, buy a sweatshirt, and be back at the car in, AND I QUOTE: "just five minutes! I promise!"

Before I could wedge in my desperate protests, my father had slid out of the car and was striding towards the mall, leaving me stuck inside. Five minutes later, I tried to call him. Nothing.

Ten minutes later, the sun came up.

Twenty minutes later, people started streaming into the mall.

Half an hour later, I considered teaching myself how to drive right then and there and hightailing it back to Singapore.

Forty-five minutes later, I rejected the idea on the basis of no gas money.

Finally, an hour later, my father waltzed out of the mall, no shopping bags in his hands. (As you might imagine, I was bitterly disappointed, considering I had expected that in the time he'd been gone, he would have at least bought an elephant, and possibly the whole circus. My father is the kind of man who would do that.) He insisted that he had only been gone for five minutes - "ten, tops! Honey, I think your watch is broken!" - and told me that he had found the perfect trousers, suit, and shoes, begging me to come see them and help him choose which ones to buy.

At this point I had resigned myself to staying there for the rest of the week at least, so I let myself be dragged into the mall. My father practically sprinted into the nearest department store and led me to where he had laid out an entire semi-formal outfit, right down to the belt, socks, and underwear - no sign of a sweatshirt in sight. He then proceeded to probe me for a list of my favourite clothes, in order of colour, style, cut, price, and probability that our dog would shed on them. By the end of it I was cursing poor Hachii, bemoaning the existence of this mall, and wishing I hadn't woken up in the morning.

But at last, two hours later, my father had made his choices and we walked out of the department store with bags full-to-bursting with clothes... none of them being a sweatshirt, mind you.

And that was when I saw the cat shelter next door.

Fast forward until four in the afternoon, and my father and I had accomplished a surprisingly large amount, all without ever having actually left for San Francisco: we'd bought my father enough clothes to last three and a half years, found a lovely Greek restaurant and eaten lunch, gotten lost within Macy's and consequently made friends with all the sales attendents on the third floor of said Macy's (plus, one of them followed my blog! Hi, Greg!), bought me a sweater (though, still none for my father), and ordered coffees from a handily-placed Starbucks.

Oh, and also we were seriously considering adopting a cat - but that, dear readers, is a tale for another day.





(Addendum: Hachii, if you're reading this, I was joking about that last thing. Probably.)

A Father's Mission (or, The Quest for the Unlined Notebook)

Well, it's official - I'm running out of notebooks. I was writing some lyrics in my songbook today and realized that I only had a couple pages left. So I searched my room for a suitable notebook that might serve as my second songbook once this one was finished. Zip, zero, nada. I knocked on my sister's door, asking if she had anything that would be remotely useful.


Finally, I hit upon an idea - my father! He is the slightly crazy but very lovable genius of the family; constantly losing everything his hands have the misfortune of touching, he has taken to purchasing large quantities of anything and everything he might need. Surely he would have a notebook for me?

I wandered into my father's study and found him hunched over his computer, his eyes glued to the screen as if the fate of the universe depended on the email he was meticulously typing out, stopping at every sentence, and going back and erasing to re-write each word at least 27 times.

After calling his name, waving my hand in front of his face, snapping my fingers in front of his eyes, dumping a bucket of water over his head, and playing my sister's favorite metal rock CD on full volume - loud enough that the neighbors started banging on the wall - my father looked up. "Hm? Honey, did you say something?" he murmured absentmindedly.

Before his eyes could meander back to the computer screen, I interjected, asking whether he had any spare unlined notebooks on hand. His eyes lighting up, he twisted his six-foot tall frame and began to rummage through the depths of his all-purpose cabinet. After a few moments, he emerged and - voila! - produced a stack of fresh, new, unopened, bursting-with-promise notebooks... which happened to be lined. He beamed at me proudly, holding them out to me and waiting for me to gush my gratitude.

Now, dear readers, you must understand how important unlined notebooks are to me. I don't think well inside lines. Notebooks are my outlet, and I need white blankness to be artistic. Notebooks without lines are rare creative gems. Lined ones are just not up to the job.

So I clarified my request: "Dad, weren't you listening? I asked for an unlined notebook."

My father's brow furrowed and he turned back to his cabinet. He carelessly flung the rejected notebooks into my arms, stuck his head into the cabinet, and began pulling out all manner of odds and ends, including but not limited to - a red ballpoint pen, a Javanese paperweight, a myriad of hastily scribbled and water-stained post-it notes, a coffee cup still half-full of a stale brew, a book he had been planning to give my mother for her birthday (which was four months ago), my dog's favorite chew toy, and a moldy tuna sandwich.

By this time, my father had virtually disappeared into the depths of his cavernous cabinet, although how he had managed to fit his gargantuan figure into it I could not comprehend. Finally he re-emerged, his glasses askew and his once spotless white shirt speckled with dust.

He scratched his neck and looked at me awkwardly. "Could be difficult."

At this point I would have been happy to escape to my room with all body parts still intact, my notebook quest forgotten. So I nodded, feigning disappointment, and scrambled towards the door...

... crashing right into the storm cloud that is my mother. She and my father were apparently meant to be going out for dinner, and what was taking him so long to get ready?! Couldn't his emails wait? And what had he done to his nice shirt? That shirt had just been dry-cleaned, and it wasn't as if she had all the time in the world to take it down to the dry-cleaners again, now did she? All she wanted was a nice dinner with him, and now their table was going to be given to someone else, and...

As my father shrunk into himself, meekly apologizing and kissing my mother in a vain attempt to pacify her, I slunk out of the study, relieved that I had managed to escape her wrath.

As I reached my room and flopped onto the bed, exhausted by my long ordeal, the notebook at the bottom of the stack my father had originally given to me fell open. My eyes wandered towards it. Then they caught on it, and my mouth fell open.

The notebook was unlined.

And the rest, as they say, is history.