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calling this a vignette means I do not have to give it a proper ending or moral right?

Maybe it is because the release of the movie trailer for The Great Gatsby (2013) starring the Titanic “I am the king of the World” guy, the roaring twenties is certainly a popular theme for holiday parties this year. Based on the limited sample size of three, I confess: Two of the company parties (in different offices) I was fortunately enough to be invited to were of “The Roaring Twenties” and “Speakeasy” themes. And the hotel we will happen to be staying in on New Year’s Eve also will be a roaring twenties party.

So here is a tutorial on how to rock the 20s…

#1. Be white.

Ok, I am being facetious.

#1. Don’t tell your co-workers at a retro theme party that as a matter of fact if we were in THE era, you would not have been allowed to be in the same room as they, unless you were working as a waitress.

Hey, just want to get it out of the way.


#2. If you are a gentleman, wear your 3-piece suit and a gangster hat (i.e. expensive-looking fedora). You are done! See the gentleman in the picture who’s pointing his gun at me. Pretty sure he did not even have to dress up for his gangster acting gig.

#3. If you have short hair, wear a pretty elastic beaded headband the “wrong” way. Find any earrings that are dramatic and preferably in the Art Deco style (or, in fact, any geometrical shape will do. i.e. no hoop earrings…) at your local Marshalls and T.J.Maxx. If you have medium to long hair, you could be all professional actress-y and do the Finger Waves or Pin Curls. Or you could be lazy practical and tie your hair in a pony tail, tuck the tail inside the hair above the elastic band, stick 100 pins to keep the tucked hair in place and call it a day. See the crazy wombat on the right in the picture.

#4. You don’t need a dress strictly in the 20s style. Something with a simple silhouette will do. The key, I found out accidentally after the effect, is to have a nice, classy shawl.

#5. Take advantage of the fact that women did not know about “F* Me Heels” back then and spare your feet on the dance floor. Wear low heels with t-straps or some Mary Janes also look right for the occasion. I ended up with these.

#6. Scour your local second-hand stores for a beaded purse. I got mine for $12.

#7. Costume long black gloves, $8. Costume cigarette holder, $2. Going all out in lalaland, priceless.


#8. Take advantage of this opportunity to try out the “smokey eyes” makeup techniques from YouTube. Don’t fall asleep while watching this lady taking frigging 20 minutes to do her eyes and then think that you could just wing it. Don’t even attempt to draw in your eyebrows. Unless you have had practice before, let’s just stay away from the eyebrows. I don’t care if women in the 20s had strong eyebrows. If only we all looked like Louise Brooks and her amazing eyebrows!

#9. Make peace with your eyebrows.

#10. Perhaps you should consider getting enough sleep so the black circles under your eyes will not become augmented the night of the party and conveniently blend in nicely with the smokey eye look and turn it into a rabid raccoon look. Or, if you are Chinese like I am, it would be a nice panda look.

  Ta da!





#11. When you walk into the second party and immediately realize that you and your date are the only two people who actually dress up for the theme, don’t panic.

#12. Charm the actors hired to be a gangster and a British Constable (yes, do ignore the fact that there is a British Bobby at a Speakeay party) so greatly that they grabbed you as soon as you walked in the door to have pictures taken with you, not with your camera. While you are at it,  become simpatico with the actresses/flappers because of your awesome Louise Brooks choker.

#13. Yes, it’s ok to let the gangster kiss you on the cheek as he points his gun at you. (What you gonna do about it anyway?)

#14. When someone you know upon recognizing you actually bursts out laughing, and instead of approaching to say hi and telling you how awesome you are for having the guts, turns in another direction, stay cool.

#15. Make belief that you and your date are at some random bar surrounded by strangers (which may as well be the case, the part about “being surrounded by strangers”). The only difference is — Everything is FREE! Have more fun than everybody else around you.

That’s the best revenge of all: happiness. Nothing drives people crazier than seeing someone having a good fucking laugh. — Chuck Palahniuk



And finally, as always, channel Louise Brooks wherever you are.


For two extraordinary years I have been working on it – learning to write – but mostly learning how to tell the truth. At first it is quite impossible. You make yourself better than anybody, then worse than anybody, and when you finally come to see you are “like” everybody – that is the bitterest blow of all to the ego. But in the end it is only the truth, no matter how ugly or shameful, that is right, that fits together, that makes real people, and strangely enough – beauty…

Louise Brooks on writing a memoir


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A flower for me

April 20, 2011

in random


As I walked out the train depot, I saw his familiar face from afar. He has taken over the position from Mr. Jim, the white-haired veteran whose presence has been a staple at this corner of the corridor connecting people to the bustling city life.

I used to give something every time I walked by Mr. Jim, before he retired, until he said to me one day, “You don’t have to do this every time you walk by me you know?”

I looked at him puzzled.

“I mean, you don’t need to pay to get out of jail every time you pass by me.”

I laughed at his witty reference to the game Monopoly and his prime guarding position. “So I can just pass go?”

“Yes sweetie. I know your heart is in the right place.”

Now it is the new guy’s job to be holding that telltale locked red tin box outside the train station during morning rush hours. New Guy. That’s what I call him inside my head. I have not asked him his name yet.

It was easier for me to ask Mr. Jim for his name because he’s in his 80s, I think, and there was no risk of my curiosity and may I say good manners being mistaken for some sort of brash romantic advance. But the new guy is younger, well, younger than 80, and I did not want to give any wrong impressions. Mr. Jim loved to hold my hand while we talked and I let him flirt with me because I enjoyed seeing the sparkles in his eyes when he laughed.

I have noticed that less people stop to chat with New Guy as they had done with Mr. Jim. I am not sure whether it is because of the missing front teeth that strike people as unsettling. Or perhaps at merely middle age, he has not earned the right to hang that sign above his head that says “I am very old so yes it is ok to talk sweet nothing to me.” I also noticed that very quickly New Guy added a suit jacket and a fedora in addition to his original ensemble consisted of a pressed white dress shirt and tie.

Not wanting him to feel unwelcome in the midst of the ecosystem of harried suburban commuters, I make a point to say hi to him whenever I see him even though I no longer stop to chat.

This morning I stopped to put a folded dollar bill through the slit on the top of the red tin box.

“How are you doing?”

He smiled and I could see the gap in his mouth where the front teeth should have been. It no longer looked unsettling. It felt familiar now. I saw that his smile was genuine through his eyes which warmed my heart.

“Oh. Wait. Take this.” He held up a flower to my face. “Put it in the button hole here,” he pointed to the lapel on my trench coat, “Someone gave it to me but it won’t fit in mine.”

“How come it doesn’t fit in yours?” I took the flower from his outstretched hand and leaned closer to look at his brown tweed jacket.

“Because it’s sewed!” He laughed. I laughed too because somehow it was amusing.

“Well, cut it open or something and I will bring a flower for you next time!”

He looked surprised and then quickly became a bit bashful. “Nah. You don’t have to bring me a flower.”

“We’ll see about that. Thanks for the flower!”

I could almost break out into a song when I was walking towards my office building, with a flower in my hand. All this time I thought I was doing him a favor, turns out it’s the other way around.

I cannot wait for spring to come.

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I will do pretty much anything Morgan Freeman tells me to


You see a lot of interesting people every morning near the train station. There is Mr. Jim, the Salvation Army guy, who is the staple presence inside the building even in January, when people think they are done with their charity giving. I love coming into work and seeing Mr. Jim sitting on his stool next to his red bucket. He always has a jovial smile and a firm handshake for you.  Then there is the guy who hawks “designer” purses and hats, sometimes scarves and gloves. The guy who occasionally sells boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts, right on the side of the street. In the middle of the sidewalk across the street from the station, on most days when it is not pouring or freezing, you will see a bespectacled old lady sitting in her beach chair. Sometimes when people walk by they will greet her like an old friend. On some days, this old lady will be accompanied by an old gentleman. The two of them sit side by side in the midst of the current of people rushing towards the surrounding buildings.

When I came into work this morning, as usual, I stopped by Dunkin Donuts to get my customary “Large with cream and sugar” and as a treat, a bagel twist in Jalapeño cheddar flavor.  The old lady was not there today so the old gentleman was there by himself. As I rushed towards my office building, he extended his hand, the subtle movement of his hand pantomimed the question in jest, “Is that coffee for me?”

I recognized the glint in his eyes and the faint smile at the corner of his mouth. For the first time I noticed how much he looks like Morgan Freeman.

aka god.

“Of course!” I smiled and handed him my coffee. I looked at the paper bag in my other hand, “How about a bagel?”

“Thank you so much! You made my day!” He broke into a dazzling smile, “Take this!” and handed me today’s Chicago Redeye.

I took one look at the front page and I knew.


God is trying to send me a message


Seriously.  If this is not a message from god, I don’t know what is…

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