On Central Texas and Breakfast Tacos

Central Texas, the region that encompasses Austin, San Antonio, and surrounding towns, did not invent the breakfast taco (well, at least Austin didn’t, more on that later). Breakfast tacos have been popular in the region since the 70s (source), but with the massive influx of hipsters and their penchant for brunch, niche trends, and “authenticity”, to the region in the last two decades, breakfast tacos have become part of our identity as central Texans.

I can’t overstate it enough. They are simply everywhere. And everyone has their opinions, their preferred breakfast taco purveyors, their taco of choice. I bought a Tacodeli Jess Special from the little coffee shop in the lobby of the astronomy building at UT Austin almost daily while a student there. The Royal Blue grocery downtown next to where my church met fed me pre-made tacos quite often on a Sunday morning. Rudy’s BBQ makes a mean brisket breakfast taco. Torchy’s tacos are just about everywhere in Austin, and spreading like wildfire across the nation. My favorite taco joint, Taco Joint, is a stone’s throw from the UT astro building and makes huge breakfast tacos, as does East Austin’s Juan in a Million. Just to name a few.

(Incidentally, I just learned there are 3 Rudy’s locations in Phoenix, so if anyone wants a road trip for legit good Texas bbq and breakfast tacos, hit me up!)

Anyone who has not lived in central Texas is like “What? Do you mean breakfast burritos?” No, dear reader. I do not mean breakfast burritos. In fact you’d be hard pressed to find a breakfast burrito on the menu in Austin. Meanwhile anyone who has lived in central Texas for any amount of time immediately knows what I’m talking about and resonates with this post deep within their souls. (I maintain it is not enough to simply have visited. If you’ve visited Austin and enjoyed a breakfast taco, you can probably appreciate them as a novelty, and I’m glad you got to experience them, but probably not enough to really “get it”). It is simply a part of who we are. And while if you didn’t go to high school in Texas, you can never truly be accepted as a true Texan (this is a fundamental truth in our culture), you can don the breakfast taco mantle to embrace central Texas into your identity. (Now, this does not ingratiate you to the rest of Texas, but that’s a story for another time).

What is a breakfast taco?

Well, what do you want it to be? While generally eggs and a tortilla are involved, there aren’t many rules. In fact, the eggs are even optional. Beans, steak, cheese, bacon, avocado, chicken, potatoes, salsa are all common ingredients, and various permutations of those are what you’ll find most frequently. As eggs aren’t always my favorite thing, I would frequently get chicken peppers onions and cheese from Tacodeli (the frontera taco). You don’t even have to eat them for breakfast, many places you can get an eggy delight for lunch as well. Look, there’s no rules. Just eat them and be happy.

A brief history of breakfast tacos

Tex-Mex cuisine is not the same as Mexican food (which of course isn’t really a thing because Mexico is full of diverse regional cooking styles that are unique and wonderful to explore). Tex-Mex actually originates from the Tejano people, Texas settlers of Mexican decent. It’s a uniquely Texas cuisine that is heavily influenced by Mexican roots, and American elements brought in by railroads after the Civil War. (source)

While Tex-Mex has a long rich history, breakfast tacos are a modern invention. The earliest reference is in 1975 in the Arizona Republic describing the reporter’s trip to San Antonio. In 1976 the El Paso Herald-Post held an advertisement for breakfast tacos. In 1983 Texas Monthly blurbed about breakfast tacos in Austin’s Julio’s Cafe. (source) So the exact moment and location of invention of the breakfast taco is unclear, but it’s only been around for 5 decades or so (notably invention was not in Austin, see below).

Austin taco scene tends a little hipster (you’ll find more fusion or out-there taco ideas in addition to more traditional taco fare), while San Antonio tends more authentic Mexican or Tex-Mex in their tacos. (Do they even eat tacos in Houston or Dallas? Who cares.)

2016: The Breakfast Taco Summit

In February 2016 an article appeared in Eater Austin that would change the course of history. Matthew Sedacca claimed Austin as the birthplace of the phrase “breakfast taco”. While he technically claimed Austin was the birthplace of the *phrase* breakfast taco (which is also not accurate), the widespread interpretation was that Austin was claiming to have invented the breakfast taco. The response was swift and ferocious. San Antonio took it as a personal offense, a slight against their good name. A change.org petition was filed on behalf of the people of San Antonio to expel Matthew Sedacca from Texas for his crime. An excellent quote from the petition: “Without fail, sophomoric claims of taco-superiority have been issued from Austin-based brunch-chair-experts on a nearly annual basis, threatening the harmony between the city of Austin and the cities with populations of Native Texans greater than 10%.” (Note the subtle dig on Austin of being made up of less than 10% “Native Texans”, which I, as a “Native Austinite” agree is probably accurate). In response to the petition, Austin mayor Steve Adler declared war on San Antonio. The region was in turmoil, battles were waged in print and social media. http://whoinventedbreakfasttacos.com/ was registered. Brother turned against brother, our great union threatened to come apart.

On March 10th, 2016, battle lines were crossed. San Antonio mayor Ivy Taylor journeyed to Austin to meet with Steve Adler and work out a taco truce, and proclaimed peace with the signing of the “I-35 accords”. They officially declared both city’s tacos as “delicious”, and proclaimed March 10th officially “breakfast taco day”. Adler declared: “As St. Paul admonishes us, let us not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with breakfast tacos. We will have guac in our times….  Let us break our fast with the tortilla of hope and the egg of peace.” Taylor brought tacos from her favorite SA taco spot Mittman Fine Foods, while Adler proffered tacos from ATX’s famous Juan in a Million. They were moved to make peace quickly before then-President Obama’s visit later that week, so he wouldn’t be visiting a war zone. Adler again: “Some of you may look upon these breakfast tacos and feel only hunger. I pity those people, for when I look at these breakfast tacos, I feel hope and a renewed friendship between our cities.” (source)

I told you this was serious business.

(PS – for more great Steve Adler quotes, check out his comments on sending the recipe for Kerbey Lane’s queso (another thing Austin people are passionate about) to the moon.)


Breakfast Tacos in Arizona: The Jess Special comes to my kitchen

I do proudly claim Austin as my homeland, and while I really like living in Tucson, I do sorely miss the ubiquity of breakfast tacos since moving here. Seis Kitchen in Tucson is the only place I’ve found so far that has them on the menu (happy to take recommendations if you know another place), and they are delicious. But it’s the abundance, variety, and cultural touchstone that I miss.

So today I decided to make my own facsimile of one of my favorite breakfast tacos, the Jess Special from Tacodeli. I added to it and changed a bit, because, in the words of Aunt Tabitha, that’s my business.

I started with some steak strips, seasoned with chile powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and oil. I also fried up some onions and poblano strips. Neither of these are part of the original Jess Special, but that’s my business.

The heart of the Jess Special is the migas. Apparently a lot of different things go by the name “migas“, but in Tex-Mex migas consist of eggs, peppers, tomatoes, onions, cheese, and the essential ingredient, crunched up tortilla chips. Pro tip: add the chips at the very end of cooking the eggs to avoid excessive sogginess. I added them a bit too soon today and they came out too soggy for my tastes.

And now for plating. Don’t forget to heat the corn tortillas over a dry skillet for a few seconds on both sides, or you will have structural integrity issues. Additional life hack, two tortillas per taco, for additional structural integrity, and also because Sprouts only had the very small size of corn tortillas in stock yesterday. That’s how to pros do.

First I laid down the steak peppers and onions, then migas. Topped with more cheese, avocado, and some Doña sauce I made. Doña sauce is a Tacodeli invention and closely kept secret, but I found a recipe online of someone trying to emulate it. It’s basically garlic, oil, salt, and a ton of jalapeños. Mine came out nicely spicy, but too much garlic, use less next time. (recipe for migas and Doña sauce)

The end result!

Quite tasty. Not exactly the same, of course. But 10/10 would eat again.


The song of the day comes from one of my very favorite Austin artists Shinyribs (a.k.a. Kevin Russel). He made a song called “Donut Taco Palace” about a chain of hole-in-the-wall donut and taco places in Austin called “Donut Taco Palace”. If you want to sing along, the chorus goes “Donut Taco Palace, Donut Taco Palace, Donut Taco Palace, Donut Taco Palace….” You get the idea.

Quarantine Crafting

Or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the Rona

A little over a year ago now I was moving back from France to Tucson. I decided to move into a two bedroom apartment, with the expectation of turning one room into a home office/craft space. Throughout undergrad and graduate school I kept some crafting hobbies like sewing, but it was almost ten years since gave up painting and quit pursuing my Art degree when I moved to France. I’m sure many have had the same experience of being inspired to paint when touring around France. It’s not hard, besides the famous ones in Paris almost every town in France has some sort of Art Museum. I had timed it right too, because if you are a student and 25 years old or under in France you get into most museums for free. So you better believe I went to a LOT of art museums during my work-cation (some much better than others…) Hence the decision to invest in an art space and try my hand at painting again.

Turns out that decision has had a large payoff with the quarantine!

Craft One: Macrame

Before I show off the paintings, I thought I would highlight a new crafting skill I am developing: Macrame. Macrame is essentially the art of fancy knot tying. It’s really accessible as a new hobby because all you need is a wooden dowel, and some macrame cord. I’ve been learning through Youtube channels, and my favorite tutorials are from a South Korean crafter. I’ve discovered that pretty much all of macrame only uses two types of knots: the square knot, and the Diagonal Clove Hitch knot. You different patterns depending on the spacing between the knots, and how many times you repeat it etc.

Most of the time I do macrame on Logan’s couch, because it turns out cats love macrame even more than I do.

My first project was pretty successful, though it is a small one. Made with only square knots.

My second macrame project was not successful. Getting the tension of the cords and the spacings correctly is surprisingly hard!

I am currently working on my third macrame piece. I decided to wing it a bit, because the tutorial I was following was going to produce another small wall hanging and I wanted something larger. Time will tell if this was a mistake. I am currently working on this one at Logan’s place, but we are almost out of British Bakeoff episodes so I need to hustle!

Craft Two: Sewing

I have to admit I haven’t done a lot of sewing during quarantine. (Probably because sad eating ice cream for a month was a bad weight management decision but who is to say?)

Right at the beginning of quaratine I finished making this skirt. I had many great plans of running around in it during SPIE Japan… but alas.

Perhaps my greatest sewing triumph is this avacado shaped hidey-hole for Star. When she is inside she looks like the avacado pit!

But it is hard to tell if she likes it or not… look at that grumpy hedgie face!

I have also been making a Star War’s Rey costume but that has been on hold for a while now. I have the shirt mostly done.

Craft Three: Painting

I started painting last year way before coronavirus was even a thing. My goal back then was to produce an artwork for the Lunar and Planetary Lab’s art show. Which I did! Since then I have been doing some color studies of mountians. I finished the last in that series after quarantine began, though I started it beforehand.

Mountain Color Study: Orange. Acrylic on Canvas

This is the last work I’ve done trying to be ‘realistic’. I’ve been inspired by an impressionist Acrylic painter I found on instagram and since then I have been working towards a more impressionist style. Impressionism favors movement and color over realism.

Attempt one in new style:

Trail in the Rocky Mountains. Acrylic on canvas

This one was based on a photo I took when hiking in the Rockies with my best friend a year ago. I am still unsure if I like this painting or hate it. For now it lives on the floor in the corner of my office.

Attempt Two:

Sunset River, Acrylic on Canvas

For this one I decided to learn from the master. It is inspired a work from @atrusovaartist and I watched all of her timelapse painting videos over and over again to try to glimpse at some of her techniques. I am really happy how this turned out, but I acknowlege that it isn’t very original because it is inspired by another work.

Attempt Three:

Sonoran Desert Scene. Acrylic on Canvas

I am starting to get my stride here! This one was inspired by several photographs I found of our beloved sonoran desert.

Attempt Four :

I finished this one only a couple of days ago, and it is the last piece I have created so far.

A Peaceful Day on Lake Minaqua. Acrylic on canvas

This one is baded off of a photo I took during my family reunion in Wisconsin last year. We rented a boat and we all hung out on the lake all day.

If you haven’t guessed it by now, I think the common inspiration to my artwork is ‘places I want to be right now’. I love the mountians, but lately I have been craving the water. My apartment complex has restricted access to the pool because of ‘rona. I have a feeling water will feature more heavily in what I paint from here on out, but who knows!

In case you were wondering, yes I am running out of wallspace to hang things up. Perhaps by the end of quarantine my house will look like my own personal art gallery.

Song of the Day: Some Dad music as Joseph would call it

I’m not any good at whole bean coffee.

The year is 2001, I am a fresh faced young junior at Purdue University. I did the traditional college path, straight out of high school. I distinctly remember having the thought that I didn’t want to acquire the taste for either beer or coffee, because both seemed problematic. Then I joined the Navy.

So I now absolutely blame the Navy for my love of both coffee and beer. 100% their fault. The first beer I tried and liked was literally the same week I moved to Jacksonville Florida to start my first tour on a ship. They are to blame for all my bad habits don’t at me.

Coffee onboard ship is the elixir of life. We had a coffee maker on the bridge of my first ship, and the giant tub of coffee grounds next to it was labeled “The Precious” (it was 2003, Lord of the Rings was still fresh and new). When you’re on the 0200-0700 watch, absolutely nothing is happening, your watch team is full of boring people, or they won’t shut up about World of Warcraft (true story), coffee tastes like salvation. (Incidentally, I feel the same way about Red Bull. Is it gross? Yes. Does it taste like salvation? Also yes. The aircraft carrier I was on had a Red Bull vending machine).

Thing is, coffee on ships is universally pretty bad. USS First Ship had this machine in the wardroom that didn’t even take beans, it took this brown sludge of like pre-made coffee stuff? I don’t know. But it was there and it delivered caffeine, so I drank it. (One day the supply officer was on leave, so we mutinied and threw the machine away. When he came back and noticed it was gone, he just ordered another one. A failed mutiny.). USS Second Ship tried to make things better by getting Starbucks beans for the wardroom machine (this time it did take actual ground coffee beans). But the coffee was still being made by Petty Officer Timmy who knew nothing about making coffee and didn’t care to learn. In summary, I didn’t like coffee at all until I was forced to learn, and I learned on terrible coffee.

It’s been 12 years since I left the Navy (whoa, really? dang). I still have a daily coffee habit that is very insistent (my 16 oz travel mug is my security blankee). Without my morning 16oz I can’t function, and my brain gets foggy (caffeine is a hell of a drug). But sorry to report my palette wrt coffee hasn’t improved much. I can’t quite choke down the sludge from ships anymore (although desperate times and all that…), but honestly I don’t really notice the different flavors or quality. I’m happily surprised when coffee I make tastes especially good, but also like as long as it tastes fine it gets the job done. When I stand in the coffee aisle at Safeway I shrug and grab something. But I always have to grab already ground beans, because I don’t have a coffee grinder. Because that’s one extra step in the morning and I really don’t care all that much.

The Precious

Well, dear readers, imagine my dismay when I opened a bag I bought the other day to see whole beans staring back at me. I did not pay sufficient attention at the store it seems. What am I to do? I can’t return an open bag of beans, nor can I throw it away, that’s ~$12 and perfectly good coffee. So to Amazon I go, and my new coffee grinder arrived two days later.

Unboxing.

But therein lies a problem. I know my daily number of scoops of my designated coffee spoon (a regular spoon sitting next to my Mr Coffee) for grounds to compliment the amount of water I need, thanks to 12 years of doing this every day. But how many scoops of whole beans? What is the whole beans to ground beans conversion factor? Unknown. And since I don’t care nearly enough to do any sort of research, I just shrugged and went for the faithful try-it-and-see method.

Readers, 5 scoops of whole beans is not enough. The first go round yielded undrinkable light brown water. Also did you know there are different ways to grind beans?? “Medium” was insufficient. Next try was 7 scoops ground on “Fine”. This yielded slightly darker brown water. After that I gave up for the day and drank a yerba matte I had in the fridge to get my brain to work.

Today I decided to go overboard, I tried to fail on the other end and make it too strong. I did 10 scoops of beans on “Fine”. This completely filled up the basket in my little 5 cup Mr Coffee. The result was… pretty good. I drank all of it, it didn’t taste too strong. 10 scoops seems like a lot though.

The scene of the crime. Please notice: the designated coffee spoon in it’s natural habitat; the new coffee grinder next to the well worn veteran Mr Coffee; the offending bag of Safeway brand Kona coffee whole beans; the tub of truvia sweetener because I don’t care about that either; the terribly cute hedgehog mug; the mess of coffee grounds strewn about that I can’t be bothered to clean right now.

I understand a lot of people have really strong opinions about coffee (dare I say… snobbery?). I bet a lot of you reading this are sputtering and have many things you’d like to say in reply. I understand that freshly ground coffee is supposed to taste so much better than grounds because oxidation or oils or something something something. Listen, I get it. I hear you. I believe you believe that. I believe it’s very important to you. But honestly, it just doesn’t matter to me. My coffee today was good, but was it so much better than just buying grounds and skipping the extra step in the morning? No, friends, it was not.

Maybe my coffee taste buds are broken, seared off in their youth by a thousand terrible ship-coffees. I will continue to experiment with the bag of whole beans, and maybe I’ll update you as my experiment continues. Will I buy another bag of whole beans? Maybe? Probably? I mean I have this grinder now, might as well use it. Will I also buy already-ground beans. Yes, yes I will. Nothing you can say will change that simple fact of habit and broken coffee taste buds.


The song of the day is Volcano Man from the Eurovision Netflix movie that just premiered. You’re welcome, Lauren.

Southwestern Cooking: Mesquite

Since we’re back to the blogging business with Arizona’s second (albeit smaller) shutdown, I decided to revisit my first blog entry from the first shutdown. I attributed my dalgona coffee’s successes to having the appropriate kichen hardware available. For my first blog post in the second shutdown, I decided to go the opposite direction: how successful can I be following a recipe which calls for specific kitchen hardware but instead I work it manually? This has brought me to today’s blog post: mesquite chocolate chip cookies.

What’s mesquite? Let’s talk about it:

According to Wikipedia, mesquite is a type of small leguminous tree that is native to the southwestern US and Mexico. The mesquite tree is a common southwestern desert ornamental plant, due to its durability to survive drought. (It is also surprisingly an invasive species in its own native land.) The tree’s wood, fruit pods, and sap have a long legacy of uses with the southwestern indigenous people’s cultures, widely ranging from shelter, furniture, medicinal uses, and culinary staples. Outside the tribal nations, mesquite maintains an ubiquitous presence in southwestern cuisine.

The scent of smoked mesquite wood is known to be tangy and sweet, which has led to its popularity with smoked BBQ. Mesquite is a staple southwestern BBQ flavor that Tucson Foodie posted an article in February 2020 listing BBQ restaurants in Tucson, with many places featuring mesquite wood. Additionally, local distillery Whiskey Del Bac has a line of whiskeys where the malted barley is smoked using mesquite wood.

Mesquite flour is created from milled dried pods. It’s known to have high protein, low glycemic content, and gluten-free. Mesquite flour has a slightly sweet and nutty scent, which shows up in baked goods. It is easily accessible in Tucson, whether you mill your own dried pods with a local harvester or buy a bag of the flour from a local retailer. When I bought a 1 lb bag of San Xavier Co-op Farm mesquite flour at the Food Conspiracy Co-Op, the bag included the Tohono O’odham language’s name for it – “wihog cu:i” (wee-hawg chew-ee). After doing some research, I found the individual word translations into English:

  • wihog” is “bean pod” (Reference: O’odham Stuff)
  • While I couldn’t find “cu:i“, I did find “kui” (koo-wee) for “mesquite tree”. (Reference: O’odham Stuff)
Mesquite flour has a grittier texture than standard all purpose flour along with a dull yellowish hue (but not as yellow as cornmeal).

Let’s bake some cookies!

I was introduced to mesquite flour this past year through a local business named Arizona Baking Company, who released a mesquite chocolate chip cookie mix. I tried it out, pleasantly liked it (Lauren and I once ate half a dozen in one sitting at our office, during the pre-covid era), and decided that I was going to learn how to make them myself. I’ve made cookies before, surely I can do this too, right?

Mesquite chocolate chip cookie recipes were an easy enough find, so I made the first one I saw on Google (source: David Lebovitz)… which strongly recommends using a stand mixer. My problem: my stand mixer is currently located in Los Angeles (one of many woes in my LDR). However, the recipe says I can still do it manually. So, ready to blow some steam after a long day and very determined to eat mesquite chocolate chip cookies, I set forward to trying this recipe manually. For the blog’s viewing pleasure, I have also included in pictures from my attempt.

One of the things I learned about baking better is to weigh your ingredients instead using measuring cups. I originally bought this huge brick of Amish Country butter from the grocery store to make my own ghee, but discovered when I got home that it’s actually salted butter. I didn’t want it to go to waste, so I used it for baking. Unsalted butter is better for baking, but salted butter is fine so long as you don’t add in the additional salt listed in the recipe.
The ingredients overview shot. The rag on the bottom of the mixing bowl is for keeping the bowl in place (a tip I picked up from Serious Eats). Using a wooden spoon because we’re going manual style.
Creaming the butter required me applying many stabbing motions with the wooden spoon. This was the first step where using a stand mixer would make things easier. The rag worked well holding the bowl at the bottom.
Churned in the sugars and eggs with the creamed butter, then adding some vanilla extract.
Added in the mesquite and all purpose flour mix. The dough starts getting a bit tough to mix with the spoon.
By the time I add in the oats and chocolate chips, the dough is too difficult to mix with the spoon. This is where the stand mixer would work very well. The recipe recommends putting your hands in to mix it, so I went with it. It’s very sticky.
Final results: tastes great! My hand, wrist, and forearm are kinda sore, but these chocolate chips are totally hitting the spot. Tastes like a nutty chocolate chip cookie without any nuts incorporated.

Comments about mesquite flour: Since it’s a gluten free flour alternative, it does suffer from the gluten free baking problems where it spreads out and is flat. There is also a bit of a gooey texture to the cookies. Experimenting with the baking times, we found that increasing the time in my oven for a couple more minutes helps brown it a bit more and gives it a less gooey texture. Letting it sit out to slowly finish out cooking and cooling does help with a firmer texture. But, as always, your miles may vary based on your home oven. (I’ve learned that the reason ovens cost so much is their ability to maintain a steady, consistent temperature)

Would I do this again manually? yes, assuming my cravings are strong enough such that the physical labor doesn’t bother me. The reward is definitely worth the effort. But if I had a stand mixer, all bets are off – I’m using the stand mixer.

SONG OF THE DAY

Speaking of stand mixers, the most commonly known stand mixer is from KitchenAid. I bought a Professional 500 5QT model off Tucson craigslist back in 2015 for $100. It was barely used, making it an even better deal. According to Kitchenaid’s website, the first stand mixer was invented in 1919.

While I occasionally imagine myself being at the level of a French pastry chef, there’s nothing Parisian about mesquite. However, mesquite does grow in Texas and there exists a city of Paris, Texas.

So, with that a date and location applied to this entry’s theme, the song of the day is “Paris 1919” by John Cale:

John Cale – Paris 1919

The thrill of travel from the safety of home

While our last blog missive coincided with the “reopening” of Arizona, the global pandemic continues unabated. So, I thought it would be a good time to get into these “video games” I’ve heard so much about over the years. I quickly found out that one needs a “game controller” for the full experience, and that such game controllers are hard to find nationwide.

Even Amazon was experiencing shortages. They had none in stock themselves, but would let me pay an 80% premium for a sketchy 3rd-party seller to provide… something. I figured that if I was going to give money to a sketchy 3rd party seller, I might as well go whole-hog. I went to AliExpress.

If you’re not familiar, AliExpress is where the people who sell the junky crapgadgets on Amazon buy them (before marking them up 120% and selling them to you). It’s cheaper to buy directly from China, but parcels travel by regular mail so you must be patient. During a global pandemic, make that very patient.

The PS4-esque controller I chose was perhaps not an attempt to counterfeit Sony’s product, but certainly an homage.

Can you spot the differences? That’s right, the first one has nothing that could be mistaken for a Sony trademark. (It was also $21.40, shipped, compared to $71.72 at Sony.)

I bought it in April.

Unfortunately, it’s still not here.

I have reconstructed its journey from its likely origin within China to New York City based on tracking information.

April 23-25: China (possibly Shenzhen)

Many of the world’s gadgets are assembled in Shenzhen, a city of 23 million strategically located near foreign investment in Hong Kong (whose residents have been suffering recently, while the rest of the world is distracted with its own problems). More granular tracking locations are unavailable for the parcel’s journey within China, so I’m just guessing here.

According to the travel guide, April in Shenzhen is a bit rainy with highs around 79ºF. TripAdvisor recommends DanGui Xuan XinDou Dian for dim sum. Since most of Shenzhen’s 23 million residents arrived with the growth of the special economic zone, there are few authentic historical attractions, but you can visit a history theme park at Splendid China Park on your way to the “transit country or district” named on the tracking event log: Singapore.

April 26-June 15: Singapore

It is as Jack Sparrow says: I have never been to Singapore. My game controller has, though—for almost two months.

One of my friends from my college theater days is Singaporean, and he has returned to host a pop culture podcast for Singapore’s Straits Times media empire after graduation.

https://omny.fm/shows/popvultures-1/stefanie-sun-and-the-2000-mandopop-scene-pop-vultu/image.jpg?t=1592556743&size=Small
That’s Sam Jo on the right! We were inmates in an insane asylum together. (Unless it was a different play I’m thinking of.)

I’m told if you’re ever in Singapore you must absolutely visit a hawker center. Singapore has the only world’s only Michelin Starred street food vendors: are Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle and Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle.

Based on my friend’s social media presence (and the 100% accurate Singapore documentary Crazy Rich Asians), it seems like a grand old time. No wonder my parcel spent a month and change hanging out.

June 15-July 2: The mysterious void

The tracking log is unambiguous:

2020-06-15 02:30:00 [GMT+8] - Depart from transit country or district 
2020-06-15 02:30:42 [GMT+8] - Despatched to OverSeas Postal Admin (From SG/SIN to US/JFK)
2020-07-02 05:08:00 [GMT+8] - Arrive at sorting center in destination country

Provided that the cargo airline did not perform aerial refueling maneuvers, I can only assume it stopped for a side trip. You know, if the 2020 SPIE had not succumbed to COVID-19, I would have been bopping around Japan at that exact time.

Perhaps it went to ride the Hakone cablecar and get a black hot spring egg? Each one you eat adds seven years to your life (or two weeks to your package ETA).

The Hakone gift shop sells souvenirs with a cat character named “Kurotamanyanko”, an untranslatable portmanteau that means something like “black eggmeow”. (Because if it’s a souvenir in Japan, it must be available in “cat”… and they sell hot spring eggs…)

I’m just speculating, of course. But that’s where I would have gone if I had two weeks to spare in the Eastern hemisphere.

July 2-present: New York, New York

New York is presently less COVID-y than our bit of the country, so I can see why my parcel chose to make landfall there. It got stuck for a while, but it’s probably dawdling in customs, or else misplaced by USPS, who the AliExpress tracking page calls the “Last Mile Carrier”. (More like last 2,500 mile carrier!)

Back when we could go to places, a place that I enjoyed going to was the Uniqlo in New York City. (Really, any of them, though Uniqlo SoHo really feels like it’s in a bustling metropolis.)

In lieu of a side trip to Uniqlo while visiting friends in NYC, this is the best I could do for this summer. I just couldn’t resist the free shipping. (Jhen knows what I mean.)

The downside is that this means yet more agonizing waiting, refreshing package tracking pages. Maybe it’ll get here first?

Should this game controller arrive, I will be sure to update you, dear reader, on its (anticipated) supreme crappiness.

The song of the day is “Finally Moving” by Pretty Lights off Taking Up Your Precious Time.