A Year In Review – 2014

Friends and family,

I would like to end the 2014 year with a final note as this has been my annual tradition; a review of the ups and downs, and laughs and cries of 2014. This year in particular has blown by with a blink of an eye.

The first quarter of 2014 was certainly interesting. I started my B.Tech at BCIT, sold the M3, only to find a 996 several months after*. During the second quarter of the year, I enjoyed some time in LA with my family, cycled here and there and in Q3, attended many weddings, went to LA again, only to come back to a rocky start of Q3 with the re-org. Q4 was a challenge where it tested my perseverance and dedication working on one of the most significant projects I have been tasked in my entire career to date.

2014 can simply be summarized by the fact that I went through a lot of ups and downs and learned a lot of life lessons. Life lessons more so because the re-org at work taught me a lot where hard work, dedication, honesty, and perseverance go a long way. More so, I discovered first hand that you reap what you sow. The seed you plant today may not result in a tree the next day, but somewhere down the road, that tree will be full of ripe fruit. I miraculously managed to taste the fruit of my hard work and dedication – something I have longed for in both my personal and professional life.

This year alone, I reflect on my life as an adult to realize I have come a long way and that I have achieved a lot more than I had expected. While I did not start a multi-million dollar business nor discover the cure for cancer, I have often tread on the road less taken and the journeys have yield some interesting and worthy outcomes of which I am proud of. The decisions I have made and their outcomes, I feel are justified and correct, no matter how others may feel about them.

More importantly, my friends, family, and I all grew together throughout the year. We saw our flaws, realized our mistakes, and have since corrected them or have come to peace with them. While most may believe that there is no such thing as perfect, my interpretation of perfect are those who realize their strengths and weaknesses, only to work towards becoming better versions of themselves. I am so blessed and grateful to have all of you in my life as you have all in some way or form, enriched and contributed to my life in a positive manner. Without any of you, I would not be where I am today.

Despite the egalitarian review of 2014, I feel as if there are many unanswered questions, more so about life in itself. As always, I encourage both my friends and family to keep an open mind, to reach out, take your chances, and become vulnerable. Make the mistakes – they help you become a better you. Make well-informed decisions when it matters most, but live life in the present – embrace it head on. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions. We all have something we both want and have to offer. All you need to do is be prepared to give and take.

To my anonymous readers – Thank you kindly for continuing to read my blog. I hope that a slice of my personal life has influenced you in some way or form. I believe that knowledge, experience, and advice should be shared. We are sometimes lost in our own way, and sometimes, finding and sharing the answer is part of the journey towards to end result.

Rest assured, my 2015 year will be full of interesting journeys of my own and I will most certainly be sharing them with you. I am looking forward to new experiences in the new year and hope to achieve some major goals along the way. I wish you all the best and a happy new year and hope you’re ready for the ride.

Regards,

bcrdukes

*Strange how a few months back in 2013, I joked about my cousin Alice’s 1-year old to buy me a 996. Who’d knew I would end up buying one myself. Life is funny like that sometimes.

VIP Parking

Alas, the final stretch before my pilgrimage to Los Angeles. I don’t think it’s necessary to riddle you with the struggles of my professional life so I’ll leave it that that – it’s status quo for the most part, however, the image below was a surprise.

I finally got a new chair that is comfortable. The old one was back breaking (litearlly and figuratively.) Good grief.
IMG_20141210_161848

As much as I am unwilling to admit, I have been following a Japanese anime by the English title of, “Your Lie In April.” The story line revolves around a prodigy child pianist who, throughout his struggles as a child musician, suddenly shatters his love of music and his lust for life after the loss of his mother. It is not until one day, he meets a girl who is so free-spirited and embraces life by the horns, re-ignites his love and passion for music again, while painting a beautiful and colourful world before him.

The story and struggles in itself are relatable, as at one point in time, life for me was just dull and everything was just grey. It wasn’t until I started playing the trumpet again, life had a purpose again and there was something to look forward to. Music itself provided that balance in life I needed. There are times where I regret not pursuing music more passionately as I once had. The struggles I faced as a musician were always worthwhile and never once did I have any regrets making the mistakes I made. Music in itself was my means of expressing myself and my emotions, allowing me to live vicariously through others in a different dimension.

So after taking a semester off from the community band, I made the decision to get back into plying in 2015, and I reluctantly admit that, “Your Lie In April” was partially responsible for it. Who am I playing for? Why do I play? How will my music reach out to others? It may seem silly to those of you who don’t play any instruments or have an interest in music, but for those of you who do, understand where I am coming from. So that was that – I brought my trumpet in for an annual cleaning and to have the third slide expanded. Luckily, Heidi Choo was transferred to Long & McQuade after their hostile takeover of Northwest Music (a store I miss dearly.) She took care of my trumpet once again, and did an amazing job cleaning it and even threw in some extra goodies, such a new felts and rubber gaskets which are normally extra and aren’t cheap at all.

And what a coincidence! Younger and older sister side by side. Of course, most people prefer the looks of the younger one.
IMG_20141206_155242
IMG_20141206_155314

I managed to sneak in a hair cut on Thursday with Joe and afterward met up with GREddie for a drink in the lower level of the Blacktail Florist. Here, we both tried a new drink the bartend made, a Smokey Winter. I forget what was in it, but it was a pretty nice drink. And this is what I love about working in Gastown. Everything is just there, steps away from you. All sorts of holes in the wall and hidden gems to be discovered. I should have kept this a secret before it goes out of style like Ray Bans and hipsters.
IMG_20141211_200952_edit1

So before I depart for Los Angeles, I went through a list of friends in hopes to catch up before Christmas as I may not likely get to see them. I was hoping to meet with my friend Jane, but as expected, she was busy with birthdays, baby showers, and trips to the US. I always seem to miss out on catching up with such a busy bee. She’s a special one for sure. But she gives me a reason to continue asking her out. Maybe she’ll read this. Maybe not. It doesn’t matter. She’s still my friend.

Coincidentally, in my list of people I still send postcards to on my travels, all that remained was Jane and my dear friend Cissy. I had the honour of catching up with her this evening over pizza at Don’t Argue! and then a coffee at 49th Parallel (try the pesto ricotta – pretty awesome.) She herself is amazing as always, and ever evolving. Having gone through some ups and downs as I did this year, it felt good to be able to listen to a friend express her feelings. At least I know she’s human and a reassurance that life is not always smooth sailing as much as people fabricate their lives to be through Facebook, Twitter, and Hipstergram. I wished that I spent more time with Cissy. She’s an amazing friend.

Which leads me to another friend, Neil. It’s weird how life works out sometimes. We may have known each other for a long time, but we have never really hung out much. What brings us close together as friends is I suppose a mutual understanding and dislike of a local forum and a faux-pas self proclaimed “automotive journalist” (read overly privileged gloating prick) and our love for cars. You see, Neil is a very low key kind of guy, but behind that laid back attitude and demeanour, he is a very wise and interesting guy. He offered some advice to me earlier in the week and gave me a perspective on life and why he does things, and how. To keep a long story short, he encouraged me to do things that I want to do and for myself and that I should always do what I want, as long as there is a purpose. What that purpose is should not matter to anyone else but me.

I asked him what compels him to travel alone, as at one point in life, I did, but being in a relationship and travelling for work really took the fun out of that. He gave me his reasons, so now it’s up to me to come to my own conclusion and interpretation of his words of wisdom. Come 2015, I will certainly be travelling again and to wherever my heart tells me to. Cissy had also asked why I haven’t been travelling. I had to give her a bunch of half-assed excuses but she too encouraged me to go back to my old ways and to travel. And if it means anything, travelling is still, by far, one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life. I have absolutely no regrets.

So to my two amazing friends, thank you for your words of wisdom and encouragement. I am so grateful to have awesome friends like you to enrich my life. Much like the image below, you both have earned a special place in my heart. Think of it as your very own VIP parking space.
vip_parking
(Photo courtesy of that dirty hipster Eddie.)

P.S. – I rode my bike today and it felt fucking awesome no matter how painful it was. My cardio – RIP. And also a special “thank you” to Maciej and Kie @ Tigers Drink House for helping me get the Your Lie In April soundtrack through a friend in Japan. You both are too awesome.

Bambudda

I had the pleasure of dining at Bambudda in Gastown, a fine establishment owned by Ray Loy, who himself is Strathcona and Britannia alumni. I remember Ray back when I grew up in the Maclean projects and he was working at Strathcona. There, he was one of many people who kept kids from the projects and the surrounding community off the streets and offered a safe and encouraging environment for kids like me. I am very thankful at the very least for people like Ray who made a difference in my life and have moved on in their own lives, being proof that hard work and determination will get you places. It was a very humbling experience to see him again in person – 20 years later. And as he said himself, “Wow, you’re all grown up.”

What I particularly admire about the Ray is the fact that he kept true to his roots. Growing up in Strathcona was not the nicest place in East Van during the 70s and 80s. And my understanding through press releases of his restaurant is that he still lives in the area. That’s really cool if you ask me. A true Chinatown OG. To take things further, he brings back Chinese flair into Gastown, reforming the scope of the Downtown East Side and Chinatown. Lots of respect there. Nevermind the interior of his restaurant – from the bar, to the wall art, to the porcelain vases along the wall – It’s all there and so very beautifully, yet subtly executed. His restaurant is an excellent example of yin and yang, where east meets west, in harmony.

Now on to the food. Celebrity Chef Curtis Luk was brought on board a month or two ago and I was excited to see what he was going to pull off. To my surprise, him and his team managed to re-create some old time childhood favourites of mine, but all with a modern twist. The quality of food, ingredients, execution, and flavours were all married together wonderfully. All too often, you think, “Ugh, Chinese food.” Or, “Fusion? No way!” (I was originally apprehensive myself.) Because flavours in Chinese food can be so bold and in your face sometimes with the addition of using a poor choice of ingredients, they don’t work together. But not here at Bambudda. Let me show you what I’m talking about.

Chicken skin with salt & pepper lemon. This isn’t on the menu but was offered to me and my friend. Here, they’ve trimmed the fat, deep fried the chicken skin and the rest is self explanatory. A few drizzles of lemon and that first bite? Wow. Just the right amount of crispiness and that fluffy, deep fried puffy taste balanced by the tart lemon juice and salt and pepper. Oh man. I could eat this all day!
IMG_20141203_193454_edit

Next up are the red prawn dumplings, or as some of you may know it simply as “ha gao.” I honestly didn’t know what to expect of it, seeing that I grew up eating these prawn dumplings that were steamed and simply MSG laden. Well, Chef Curtis Luk’s interpretation of this Cantonese staple did not disappoint. The prawns were fresh and nicely seasoned, you could actually taste the sweetness of the prawn. The accompanying flavours were subtle enough for you to really just taste a bit of everything. The bold use of cilantro and the watercress (or was it pea tendrils) added a nice touch and balanced everything out. And the wrapper was awesome. Firm, yet not overly tough and not too soft – just right.
IMG_20141203_193446_edit

Both me and my friend were both curious to see what this BBQ pork tart was all about. Sure enough, it was what we had imagined. Imagine this (especially you Chinese kids.) Half BBQ pork bun, half BBQ pork puff pastry. How the hell does that happen?! You would never find such a thing at Maxim Bakery or at Newtown Bakery. No way. And the layer of squash at the bottom of the bun? Oh man. Delicious. I didn’t even know it was there until I deconstructed this dish. Oh, and the accompanying salad was refreshing, especially with the Asian pear!
IMG_20141203_195033_edit

By now, we were starting to get full. The main dishes arrived and here we have Chinese vegetables that were very tasty. Since we both got the prix fixe menue, it comes with a bowl of curry leaf infused rice to share, which I felt was plentiful.
IMG_20141203_202245_edit

The mains arrived. The first one being what I understand is a Hakka Chinese dish of pork belly and taro. Chef Curtis Luk changes this a bit where the outter edge of the pork belly is coated with the taro and deep fried. The flavour and texture of that outer layer reminded me of a dim sum dish, but I don’t know what the name of it is in English. Regardless of the name, it was just awesome, okay?
IMG_20141203_201518_edit

Shortly after, the remaining dish arrived consisting of a salt and pepper humboldt squid with Sichuan pepper and what I think is a three-colour pepper salsa that really complimented the squid. Again, a modern take on a classic dish where every flavour in itself stands out and brings back those childhood memories of our family going out for dim sum on the weekends.
IMG_20141203_202237_edit
I sort of cheated and asked Ray to try some of Chef Curtis Luk’s handmade ramen noodles, dressed in sesame oil and sesame seeds. I really liked the texture of the noodles as there was this nice bounce to it. I felt that the noodles were great alone as-is and does not need any introduction of the other dishes to go with it, unlike rice, which compliments them all very well.
IMG_20141203_202252_edit

Drinks – I started off, and finished off the evening with a gin and tonic. I can’t remember for the life of me, which gin they use, but on their menu, there are two. It’s the $8 gin (a London Dry) and is by far, one of the best gin and tonics I’ve had in the city. I would dare say comparable to what I had at Burdock & Co. Three ice cubes, gin, tonic, and stirred. The result? A clean, crisp, and refreshing gin and tonic. So simple, yet so easy to screw up. Wow. But before I forget, my friend had the Post Opium consisting of rum, passion fruit puree, kaffir lime bitters, and a zephyr white chocolate apricot brandy float. I understand this cocktail recipe changes and was different from what she had last year, but she really enjoyed it.

I should warn you that I am a very particular diner. Do not confuse this with being difficult, but I have a subset of qualities to look for when it comes to good food, service, and hospitality. Chef Curtis Luk and Ray’s team know how to do it right at Bambudda. There was nothing I could find to nit pick and the whole time, I had this smug smile on my face. Every dish brought back a lot of memories. It was almost as if I was taken back in time. No joke.

I highly suggest you give this gem a try, even if you don’t like Chinese food. The bar is awesome.

Bambudda
99 Powell Street
Vancouver, BC

(Sadly, there was no room for dessert. We were just way too full. I wanted to try the coconut rice pudding!)