IAN.Y.S.M. Entry 003 – The Global Filipina’s Guide to New Paltz, New York: Activities, Attractions, and Fun (Part 1)

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Several months from now my Fiancée will arrive in the States to start a life together with me.  I cannot stress how much I admire her bravery for undertaking such a huge leap! She’s never been here before, and will doubtless have much to learn and discover about this place as she makes her adjustment.  With this in mind, I see it as my duty to do all I can to make her feel welcome and comfortable.

Although nothing can substitute for genuine, first-hand experience, this is simply not an option just yet. Regardless, I still want to get started, and that’s how the idea for this entry was born.  Thanks to the wonders of modern technology and the internet, I can provide Cecille with a virtual “window” to the USA via this blog. What better place to start then my hometown of New Paltz, New York?

First, a little bit of history and geography, so that you, dear reader, may orient yourself:

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New Paltz is located about 80 miles (130 km) north of New York City.  It was settled in 1678 by French Huguenot settlers, and their 6 remaining stone houses located on Huguenot Street is considered a National Historic Landmark:

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The population of New Paltz is about 15,000 people, which includes a sizeable number of undergraduate and graduate college students who attend The State University Of New York at New Paltz.  In fact, Cecille’s future home is directly across the street from the college’s main academic buildings.

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New Paltz is not some sleepy country town – actually, it’s quite active and full of life. This is due in part to the youth of the population (college students) as well as the town’s reputation of being a haven for artists, musicians, writers, and other such liberal folk.  We also attract our share of tourists here, most often being New York City dwellers who escape north to spend their money in antique stores, or sightseeing in the mountains nearby (more on that shortly), or apple picking, or touring the local vineyards for wine tasting.

OK, now that we have the setting, I’ll turn my focus to Cecille: my goal is to pair her likes & interests with local activities or places right here in her future hometown. So, what does she like to do?

Cecille is a health-conscious woman who will want to stay fit; her favorite way to do so is running.

About a 5 minute walk from my front door is the athletic area of the college campus, which includes an indoor gym, many playing fields, and a full-sized running track:

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Did you notice the amazing mountain view?  As long as I’ve lived here, I’ve found the views of the Shawangunk Ridge to be awe-inspiring…and I hope it inspires Cecille as she eventually runs on this track. By the way, Cecille, your new shoes are here waiting for you!

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Alternately, if we feel like walking, biking, or running on a nature trail, the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail passes straight through the Village of New Paltz.   A part of the long-defunct local railway system was converted into a nature trail…it’s 24 miles (38 km) long and passes through 3 towns as well as farmlands, thick forests, across bridges and by a river.  As you may imagine, there’s some amazingly picturesque views along the way:

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Cecille is artistic, and will dedicate time to pursuing such endeavors.

Luckily, she will need to go no further than Manny’s Art Supplies, conveniently located right in the Village on Main Street, also walking distance from my house:

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Here, Cecille will likely get to mingle with other local artists and craftspeople as she restocks. They’ll have all she’ll need to get her creative juices flowing!

Art and exercise is all well and good, but what about when we want to indulge in the finer foods and sweets this town has to offer?  Like me, Cecille loves chocolate.  The solution? Krause’s Chocolates:

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Home made and incredibly delicious, Krause’s supplies the best chocolate in the area. Can you look at this and NOT drool? I know I can’t:

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But we can’t eat chocolate all of the time, can we?  As much as I’d love to, we have to worry about such things as nutrition and health, too. Fresh fruits and vegetables are Cecille’s favorite, and we’ve been talking about how we’ll fuse together Thai-Filipino and French cooking. We’ll need to study recipes and get creative!  Luckily, we’re covered because New Paltz has its own Farmer’s Market:

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I invite those of you with Facebook to check out the photos of the fresh, delicious vegetables, fruit, and other foods offered up by local farmers:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/New-Paltz-Farmers-Market/133713611042

I’m sure we’ll prepare many healthy meals together with the locally grown food available at the Farmer’s Market!

And so concludes the first part in a 3 part series.  For Part 2, I will focus on restaurants and nightlife, and Part 3 will focus on places and activities in the environs surrounding New Paltz – such as apple picking, mountain hiking/climbing, and vineyard touring. Stay tuned!

IAN.Y.S.M. Entry 002 – Love Songs, Part 1: 恋の予感 – Koi No Yokan

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Music has always been a huge part of my life.  It has inspired me, entertained me, and sustained me. Some of my earliest memories involve music (mainly, The Beatles), and this is a direct influence of my parents: they both came of age in the hippy era…my mother comes from a very musical European family, while my dad got to attend concerts in New York City during his youth, seeing some of the biggest names in 60’s rock perform live.

So, while growing up music was always around me, and it didn’t take much time for me to set out to discover my own tastes as a child. After a steady dose of 80’s radio hits, and a brief foray into rap, I discovered heavy metal around 1985.  Since then, it’s always been a part of me…I also learned to play guitar and played in metal bands myself.

To those who don’t know metal, or can’t stomach the roar of distorted guitar, it likely sounds like a cacophony of noise.  In fact, metal has come to be one of the most diverse genres in all of music.  Metal has come to incorporate several different influences from other styles, often with good results.

This will be the first of (hopefully) several posts about music; I’ll often focus on metal because it’s my favorite, but I’m quite eclectic when it comes to what I like to listen to, so there will be some surprises as well. These first few entries will focus on “Love Songs”, specifically songs that I attach some significance to in terms of Cecille.  So, prepare for a mix of warm fuzzies and thunderous grooves!

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Here, I will focus on a specific album by one band, Deftones.  This particular album holds a special significance to me in terms of my romance with the lovely curator of this blog; first: the timing – it was released 12 days before I flew to Bangkok and met Cecille. But more importantly, the theme of the album and the mood of the music.

The title of Deftones’ most recent album is Koi No Yokan, which is a Japanese phrase which means “Premonition Of Love” 恋の予感, which fits the lyrical and musical theme perfectly.  Of course, it didn’t escape my notice that this American band chose a Japanese name for their latest release, because my love is in fact ¼ Japanese herself! More synchronicity thrown at us from the Universe? It certainly feels like it to me!

Deftones has a musical career that spans almost 20 years, and through their releases they’ve become quite adept at creating an ethereal atmosphere which is created by the layered, lush production, space-pop and trip-hop influences, but mostly by vocalist Chino Moreno’s unique and instantly recognizable crooning. They ensnare the listener by taking them on a journey between adrenaline-fueled catharsis and soft and subdued soundscapes. Chino’s voice can tranquilize like a lullaby or screech like a banshee, but his phrasing is sublime and his placement is perfect.  This most recent album showcases some of Deftones’ best songwriting to date, and quickly became the perfect soundtrack to falling in love.

 So without further ado, the first Deftones song I’m presenting is called “Romantic Dreams”

Even the very first line brings Cecille to mind:

“I process your constant changing phases”

Yes, nothing simple here – my love is a complicated woman. She keeps me on my toes…it takes some “processing” for sure 🙂 But this is a Love Song, so things are about to get a lot more romantic:

“So why wait to discover your dreams?
Now here’s your chance
I promise to watch and raise your babies”

Ah yes, a chance to discover love, the kind of love where the male protagonist entices with dreams, and promises of procreation born from said love, and steps up to the role of fatherhood. I imagine that for many women, this is about as romantic as it gets…Amirite?

“I’m hypnotized by your name
I wish this night would never end”

These words were echoing through my mind during the last hours I spent with Cecille before having to leave Bangkok and return to the US; I really wanted those moments to stretch into forever. They were full of smiles, tears, whispered promises and passionate kisses. Some of the most profound memories of my life so far.

Another song that’s grown close to my heart as Cecille has is called “Entombed”

This is a very mellow, atmospheric and moody song. Chino’s voice sounds like honey as he makes the following declarations to his love:

“From the day you arrived
I’ve remained by your side
In chains, entombed

Placed inside
Safe and sound”

“On the day you arrived
I became your device
To name and soothe”

The theme here is fairly obvious, and to me, it echoes the promises I’m making; it’s an expression of caring and devotion, even shackled to those notions, promising safety, definition, and “soothing”.

When I listen to this song I think of the future, of my Cecille arriving here…and beyond the promise of being her future husband, I acknowledge the challenges she’ll face in a new land and a new culture. My love, I will remain by your side, soothe you, and keep you safe from the moment you arrive. I promise.

And last for today, but certainly not least, is probably the most atmospheric and emotional track on the album, “Rosemary”

This was the PERFECT song for me to listen to as I was hurdling 30,000 feet in the air towards Bangkok.  Musically, it begins with a slow, building, spacey intro which ultimately becomes a thick, droning, groove based guitar riff, and the song alternates in this manner throughout, analogous with flying, lovemaking, intimacy, travel, and discovering “other planes” through all of the above. I remember leaning back in my airplane seat with my earbuds in, listening to this song with my eyes closed, feeling the throb and hum of the engines as I thrust through the sky:

“There’s no sound
But the engine’s drone
Our minds set free
To roam

Time shifting
We discover the entry
To other planes”

You know those moments when the “soundtrack” to what’s happening in your life is just sublimely perfect? This was definitely one of them.

And then in the very end of the song, which I interpret as the destination (“Just stay with me”):

“Stay with me
As we cross the empty skies
Come sail with me
We play in dreams
As we cross the space and time
Just stay with me”

Yes, in that moment I was still “playing” with a dream, while crossing space and time (it’s true, I crossed the International Date Line) towards that very dream, making it real and extending an invitation to The One I was about to rapidly fall in love with…come sail with me…let’s play in our dreams…just stay with me.