i only slept for a few hours last night. first, there was the noise. i can sleep through anything, but if it's a droning sound, that's like chinese water torture and eventually i go crazy. last night was the loud humming of the basement humidifier and the constant tick tock of an analog clock. then there was the itching. it was probably psychosomatic, but i kept on scratching, afraid that any little itch might be a tick or a flea. also the bed i slept on was covered in dog hairs, so it didn't make me feel very clean. finally, there was the anxiety about losing my house keys. when the sun came up (sometime around 5:30), that was hailey's signal to go to the bathroom in the backyard. afterwards she wouldn't stop bothering me until she got her breakfast. i didn't bother going to bed after that. it was 6:30. now with daylight, i went out back and checked the lawn twice looking for my key. no luck.

i waited until 7:30 before calling my parents, still camping by the seashore out in plymouth with my aunt and uncle and some family friends. i asked them if they knew the location of my spare house key, and whether or not they might've taken it. my father told me it was probably still at the cafe. with nothing but time on my hand so early in the morning, i left belmont and went to the cafe. it was early enough on a holiday weekend that the streets were virtually free of cars. the eerie starkness made everything seem that much more surreal.

looking through the keys, i found one that looked a lot like my key. i spent back to my house, confident this was the one. it wasn't the key. the key i had, though resembling my house key, wouldn't even fit inside the keyhole. i stared at my house for a few long seconds. the only thing that separated me from home was a locked door. i thought about climbing through a window but i made sure before i left yesterday to lock all of them. this was the one time when keeping the house secure worked against my advantage.

i went back to the cafe, this time taking ALL the keys. i came back with a bag of keys and tried every single one. none of them worked. i had very little options at that point. i could either wait until my parents come back from their camping trip on monday and possibly find the spare key (i wasn't very confident, since i already looked everywhere). my other choice was to find a locksmith would could pick the lock for me. a locksmith on the 4th of july. good luck. even if i did get one, i wouldn't be surprised if they charged a special independence day rate.

so i called my parents, told them i was still locked out of my house, and then returned to belmont, the only place i could stay. i checked everywhere again, inside the car, through the backyard, on top of the carpet. still keyless, i went online looking for a local locksmith. i was surprised to find that many had 24/7 services. but the most important question is this: how much will it cost me? from the various reviews and forum postings, it ranged anywhere from $60 to $200. pay $200 to get somebody to let me into my own house. it just doesn't sound right. just as many who were praising their locksmith, there was an equally vociferous amount of people who were railing against the con men and extortionists in the lock and key field. i could just kick myself for not hiding a spare key in the backyard. it was something i always meant to do but never got around to it, until it was too late. it's not like i don't have spare keys: i have about half a dozen magnetically attached to my fridge. my fridge that's inside the house that i can't get into. my backup was the spare key at my parents, but unfortunately not much of a backup when the spare key is missing as well. i figured i wait until tomorrow and try calling a few locksmiths. at least sunday was better than a national holiday.

by then my sister was up (10:00), getting ready to take hailey out for another run. hailey seemed to realize where she was going and was whining in anticipation. after they left, i was alone in my parents' house, feeling sorry for myself. that's when i had an epiphany: with all the people staying at my place a few weeks ago, they were using a set of house keys. and if memory serves me right, this set of house keys just happens to be on a shelf on the small entrance foyer area. significance? the shelf is but just a few feet away from the door, and if i take a stretched out wire hanger, i might be able to snag the key through the mail slot! recharged by the possibility of finally getting back inside my house, i raced to cambridge.

my neighbor jen caught me peeking into my mail slot. "what're you doing, trying to break into your own place?" she asked, jokingly, not yet realizing she hit the nail right on the head. "actually, yes," and i then told her a very abbreviated version of how i got locked out. after she heard my plan, she asked if i needed a wire hanger. "already got one," i replied, pulling it out of my backpack, ready for action. unfortunately it wasn't long enough to clear some letters blocking my view of these salvation keys. i went down to the basement (my basement can only be accessed from the outside, in case you were wondering) and got a long aluminum tube. if you were to pass by my house, it'd look like i was trying to pole vault into my mail slot. i started to knock things off of the shelf by i didn't see the keys. the whole morning had been like that, optimistic joy turning into dejected sadness.

i moved my bags onto the backyard deck and was thinking about leaving them there because i didn't want to haul all my gear back to belmont again. there are 11 windows in my house. maybe one of them wouldn't be locked? i went back down into the basement and brought out the ladder. i tried the bathroom window first, because i vaguely remembered opening it at one point. maybe i got careless and forgot to latch it. first i had to move the screen window, which involved pressing down two tabs on both ends while simultaneously pushing up the window. it took a while but i finally unlocked the screen, all the while balancing on the top step of the ladder. when i tried to push up the actual window though, it gave a little bit as if to tease me before verifying that it was in fact tightly locked. i thought about trying a few other windows but i knew it was pointless. one of the things i was very good at when i left the house was locking all the windows.

back on the deck, a new idea was formulating when bruce called. having read my blog and maybe possibly seeing me moving about my house, he and jack came to visit, to offer at the very least some moral support (or possibly just some courtside seats to the unfolding drama). while they were there, a new solution crystalized. although all my windows were technically locked, one front window and one back window were in fact open about 2". i did that to ventilate the house. the windows are prevented from opening any further by two embedded security tabs that spring out. what if i could put my hand through the crack, and using a long piece of wood, gently strike at the tabs to make them pop back inside? i was thinking out loud and also going ahead with the plan. before i could even decide whether it'd even work or not, i'd already popped in the tabs and had the window to my bedroom completely opened. bruce and jack could only watch in awestruck at my amazing feat of housebreaking.

after bruce and jack left, i entered my house through the bedroom window. it's only natural to not appreciate something until it's taken away from you, however temporarily. that was how i felt, like i was seeing the house for the very first time. never again would i take you for granted kitchen! nor you living room! if it was physically possible to hug a house, i'd be doing. as strange as it is to come home but not be able to get in, it's even stranger breaking into your own house after losing the house key. on the one hand i was relieved to the point of dizziness, but on the other hand if it was so easy for me to break in, how hard can it be for a real burglar? what i thought to be solid security wasn't so solid after all. i felt violated, but by my own hands. better to find out now though, than through the actions of an actual burglary. i let out a big sigh of relief. i was home again.

i called my father and my sister to let them know i was back inside. my father almost didn't believe me after the few frantic yet measured conversations i had with him earlier in the morning regarding keys. in a double dose of irony, my sister called me back 30 minutes later, said one of the belmont neighbors found a key on the road outside my parents' place and gave it to my sister. it was in fact the missing house key i've been searching since last night. it must've fallen out of my pocket when i got off the motorcycle. the thing is i checked the area this morning and didn't see anything. at least that mystery's solved. a few hours later, in the second round of irony, my sister said she found another house key at my parents' place, just a random key on a living room side table. that may have been another house key i lost a while back. one more mystery solved.

despite the fact that i now have backups, i still wanted to hide a key in the backyard just to be safe. i never want a repeat performance of this 12 hours of personal crisis. i super-glued a tablet of neodymium magnet to a spare house key. now i can hide this key anywhere, not even necessarily around my house. maybe a sign post on the street. or underneath a mailbox. how about the chassis of a neighbor's car? the possibility are endless! just don't get it anywhere near sensitive electronic devices or credit cards.

with all this missing key drama, it was easy to overlook what a great day it was shaping to be in terms of the weather. balmy with temperature in the 70's with clear blue skies dotted with the occasional white clouds.

the rest of my day was low key in comparison to my crazy morning. out of food ideas, i had some instant vietnamese pho ramen for lunch, tossed in an egg for good measure. the socket wrench i bought is a perfect fit so i guess i'm keeping it. i finally put the fermenting kimchee in the fridge; this batch isn't very good, too much shrimp paste (the kimchee has a fishy taste). having slept for only a few hours last night, i started to doze off on the couch. prepared to sleep for a few hours, instead i slept for just 20 minutes and woke up refreshed (it doesn't take long to recharge my batteries). i was essentially waiting for the evening (7:00) so i could ride out to the mass ave bridge near MIT and catch this year's 4th of july fireworks display.

i stashed the motorcycle in a residential parking spot midway between central square and the MIT (mass ave) bridge (intersection of allen and columbia). even if i wanted to, traffic in the MIT vicinity was diverted as spectators started to arrive. parking so close to MIT is a nightmare anyway because after the fireworks, the streets are clogged with people and traffic grounds to a standstill as vehicles are swallowed whole in a sea of people. i had my small backpack because i was carrying my tripod.

i sat by my usual spot along the mass ave bridge. at 7:30 there were still a lot of empty railing seats but they were quickly filling up. i was right by a light post, which would later serve me as a stationary tripod (i ended up not using my folding tripod). i sat next to an elderly chinese couple and their twentysomething son who had staked out a fence spot with his nikon D50 mounted on a tripod. i was in a friendly mood and ended up chatting with them. the wongs were from beijing, visiting their bioengineer son in boston for a month for the very first time. he himself have been in boston for the past 3 years, but spent 6 years in birmingham, alabama for his graduate work. he was also crazy asian camera guy, switching out lenses, fiddling with his equipment. his father was also busy taking photos with a point-and-shoot, not sure what he was photographing, my guess is cataloging the various types of americans. at one point a smelly russian boy squeezed in between us. he asked me what time the fireworks start, but seemed annoyed when i told him, like he thought i was lying. he left soon afterwards, replaced by some weston teenagers.

although warm throughout the day, there was a strong breeze. once the sun disappeared, it got a little bit chilly, but not uncomfortably so. nevertheless, i put on my windbreaker. i even packed my umbrella, in case of rain (a lesson learned throughout the month of june), but there was hardly a cloud in the sky (just some harmless ones over the horizon that disappeared by evening).

3 hours of waiting before the fireworks started at 10:30. later i'd discover most of my fireworks photos were blurry (i set the focus ring to manual infinity, was that wrong?), but i'd stopped taking photos halfway through the 30 minute show, realizing fireworks are a spectacle best enjoyed live and not through a picture. besides, a photo could never capture the motion and the 3D aspect of the starbursts (videos are better, but who wants to watch a video of fireworks?). next time though, i'll use my tripod and i'll also bring a lawn chair. do what the pros do! there was a little kid behind me who'd never seen fireworks, talking and giggling the whole time, causing people to laugh as well. also funny was some joker yelling, "woo! america! awesome!" every time a new starburst appeared in the sky.

afterwards i marched with the sea of people towards central square. a few anonymous pranksters were shooting off small fireworks from the crowd (as urban americans, we don't like it when we hear random popping sounds). i was fortunate to have my motorcycle, because even if i did reach central square, the subway station would be too crowded anyway, so i would've ended up just walking back home instead. i stopped by the KFC at the intersection of prospect and hampshire (saturdays open until midnight!) and got an overpriced order of chicken strips (more like chicken jerky) and a biscuit. not having had dinner yet, i was hungry enough i didn't really care what i ate.