The Story of Alicia, My Friend

A month ago, I flew to San Francisco and met someone in person for the first time. We had In-N-Out Burger and visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art briefly before she had to run off.

On the very next day, I attended her wedding. And believe me, I had a lot of fun telling the other guests about the briefness of  our acquaintance.

Of course, there’s more to the story to that, and this post is going to be all about my friendship with the newly-wed Alicia. Before anyone objects about yet another normalfag post:

  1. This is my own blog and I can ruin it however I want!
  2. This also has everything to do with how I got into figure photography and blogging in the first place. I’ve shared the story of how I got started with figure photography before, but that’s not really the entire story.

I did not actually take any photos of the wedding itself because I didn’t want to get in the way of the professionals on the scene. I did end up taking a lot of photos at another wedding, but that’s another story entirely. So in lieu of weddings photos, here are some of my photo highlights from San Francisco to keep you from dozing off!

The room I stayed at in the San Remo hotel was minuscule and didn’t have a private bathroom, but the place really oozed character.

So, how did this cross-continental adventure come about? Well, it all started on MyAnimeList, of all places. Around five years ago, Alicia noticed me from one of the reviews I had written. She then took note of our very high compatibility rating when it comes to our tastes.

Sunset at Fisherman’s Wharf.

It turned out she had recently ended a long-time friendship and was wandering around, possibly looking for another friend. Languishing in an university environment that I found highly alienating, I was certainly in the frame of mind to build some new ties that school life did not yield. After a few messages we exchanged IM info, and being people from completely different background, we both had plenty of stories to tell to each other, weeaboo-related or otherwise.

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Alcatraz was a blast. It could have been just a rock off the shore for tourists to wander around on, but the audio tour narrated by actual keepers and inmates of the prison made it immersive, educational and fun.

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In addition to the audio tour, the volunteers on the island were also very enthusiastic and knowledgeable  One of them took a small group of us to an off-limit area of the island. Apparently this is where all the laundry was done for the American Navy during WWII. The more you know~

Pretty soon she became the best friend whom I’ve never met. One of my favourite things we did together was to sync-watch anime — we would do is count down and hit the play button the same time and exchange banter over instant messaging. You would not believe how much fun Code Geass is when you don’t have to suffer the nonsense plot alone. Together we also went through the likes of Card Captor Sakura, Planetes, Monster, and many more.

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Dolores Park on the edge of the Mission. The California vibe was very thick here.

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The famous Chinese food in the Mission District. I didn’t actually like the taste all that much, but boy does that look good on camera.

What makes her especially relevant to this blog is her direct and indirect role in the blog’s very creation. Over the course of our many conversations, I mentioned my figure-collecting hobby to her, and being a fellow weeaboo, she was interested in seeing them. This prompted me to borrow my dad’s D40 to snap a few shots of the fledgling collection, some of which being bootlegs at the time. Taking the photos is one thing, but sharing photos is another entirely. Of the many options out there, I went with Flicker, which was Alicia’s photo sharing website of choice.

Can’t be a proper weeaboo without visiting the Japanese tea garden in Golden Gate Park! Admission was $7, but sooooo worth it.

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I brought both Danbo and figma Kagamine Rin, but I ended up only taking Danbo out. It’s just so much easier to set up, and Danbo just goes well with anything and everything.

Even though Flickr might have fallen behind the curve in recent years, it still had a community of figure photographers. Pretty soon I noticed that I was getting views, favourites and the occasional comment. Emboldened by what appeared to be an audience, I decided to add increasingly lengthy captions underneath the photos, some of which ended up being almost reviews.

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These sea lions provide the soundtrack to the Fisherman’s Wharf — ARR ARR ARR ARR ARRR ARRR

It’s at this time that I’ve started to notice the blogs of some Flickr members. I remember seeing Aka‘s site (still named OMGwebsite at the time) and thinking “hey, I can do that!” With a camera in hand and an English degree in the pipeline, I figured that I’d be a pretty good fit for this. Sure, my photos weren’t going to win any prizes, but I thought I’d compensate for that with the quality maelstroms of information that my reviews will be. Hawwwww.

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San Francisco’s Chinatown has grown into such a giant tourist trap that it’s hard to actually see a community underneath it all, especially when entire streets are covered by souvenir shops and little else.

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This dude was making the most pitiful wailing noise all day, and I gave him five bucks because I was in full tourist mode. But when I stooped down to take a photo, the guy asked me for more money. Wow.

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I’d be pretty grumpy if I was stuck selling tourist junk in Chinatown, too.

That was how I decided to start blogging, starting first on Blogger. A few days after my first review went up, Alicia discovered my newborn creation with much excitement. She asked for my login information for the blog, and a few days later, I woke up to the sight of a brand new theme. Although the site has since then gone through two different visual iterations, the typography of the header remains what it was that morning, though I’m sure I’ve violating a dozen of visual design rules without even knowing it.

Trekking along the ocean at Sutra Baths.

Alicia did far more than just watch cartoons with me and do some unpaid design work — she opened up the door to many things. Having a presentable theme was definitely a huge motivator in keeping the blog going, and through it I’ve come to know many friends either through the blog directly, or from social media related to the blog.

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Obligatory photo of the Golden Gate Bridge. I was forewarned of the city’s perpetual fog, but the weekend of my visit was clear as clear can be!

Furthermore, because I’ve had such a positive experience with Alicia, I became very open to the idea of closer relationships with people on the internet — in fact, she was the one who convinced me to try online dating. Conventional wisdom may suggest that the internet is full of pedophiles and grown men masquerading as little girls, and though in my experience that statement is true in a very loose sense, there internet is home to true friends if one looks for them.

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If I had to use one word to describe San Francisco as a city, it would be “tenacious”. Some areas of the city were so hilly that cars had to be parked sideways to prevent them from rolling down the hill, yet houses were still densely packed onto these slopes. Clearly, San Franciscans do no take “no” for an answer, even if it’s from mother earth.

What’s the moral of the story? Well, much like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get from a chance encounter on the internet. Inauspicious as it might be, that comment on MyAnimeList ended up indirectly defining my lifestyle and hobbies in the years to come. Whether starting down a path of buying plastic butts and writing and taking photos of said butts was a positive or negative thing is up to your interpretation, but as I looked on at the mysterious stranger on the internet wearing a wedding dress thousands of miles from home, I could not help but to be overcome by how far that inauspicious encounter has come in these past 5 years.

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I went to Japantown hoping to score some conveyor belt sushi. Instead, I found sushi on BOATS. It easily ranks amongst one of the best meals I’ve had in my life.

These days, Alicia and I don’t talk as often as we used to. We’re no longer students with all the free time in the world, and ever since she moved to San Francisco, the 3-hour time difference between the west and east coast has been yet another obstacle. But none of that mattered as I tapped away at a Facebook post back at my hotel, eyes still leaking with the emotions of the occasion:

“Congratulations to Alicia on your most happy occasion. The memories of this day will stay with me forever.

You were there in my most difficult times. You showed me that there are true friends to be found in unlikely places. I owe you much of the current happiness I now enjoy, and I can never thank you enough.

No matter how far life may separate us, I will always be your sincerest friend. I wish you all the happiness in this world.”

So to all you beautiful people on the internet, give your faraway friends an e-hug — you never know when they’ll return the favour in person, no matter how far they might be.

From the top of Twin Peaks. Protip: you might want to skip this place if you don’t have access to a car, because buses don’t go up there. Or you can be stupid climb straight up on the slope like I did and risk tumbling a very long way down.

If you want to see more of my San Fran photos, go to my Google+ post. The city was an absolute joy to photograph, but I can only squeeze so many into one post!

6 replies on “The Story of Alicia, My Friend”

Good read! Glad you had a good time and were able to reconnect with an old friend.

And yeah, it’s kind of ridiculous what people on the streets of San Francisco will ask money for.

The worst thing about that hobo is the fact that the photo I took wasn’t even properly focused — the area autofocus picked up on the vending machine behind him instead. I was fuming for a good while after that.

Now a chapter on the history of Chag is revealed to the world. I love it! Your reasons and starting a blog and picking photography sound so nice. Beats my Danny Choo and his fanboys can do it, so can I and might as well use that one camera I bought for something.

So true about the internet, outside my college friends I haven’t really made any connections that I would call meaningful. Sure I befriended co-workers and the like but it was like something was missing there. Perhaps it was their normalfag status or something.

On the internet though? I love you guys. Enough that I seriously considered things like going back to visit you in Toronto. Wondering how much German I need to drop by in Fab’s cozy village and despairing about the costs of going to Aussie land. Heck at this rate I feel I might meet my significant other on the internet if I give myself the right push.

Anyways your normalfag pictures sure keep looking nice.

Yep, I continue to reign supreme your most “interesting” friend. But hah, my reason might sound better on paper like this, but really it’s just me wanting to show off my e-peen. “SUP BABY, WANNA SEE MY PLASTIC BUTTS?”

Dawww Crumby, you are too sweet. A weeaboo world tour extravaganza would be so nice. I would love to experience your LEGENDARY tortillas of El Paso, but alas, I am not made of free plane tickets. Maybe I should start playing the lottery.

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