Sunday, July 27, 2014

LA's Murals & Street Art

Lita Albuquerque Monument, artist: Kent Twitchell
One of the things that I have loved about coming back to LA is finally being able to see all of the murals that pepper the city's freeways. Many of the murals were put up for the 1984 Olympics including this one which was painted in 1983 as part of Kent Twitchell's 7th Street Altar Piece. The mural is of environmental artist Lita Alburqurque who is pretty bad ass in her own right. Public art is something LA has always done well and much like any city that has a booming pop culture, there is almost always resistance from the counter-culture.
Lita Alburqurque Monument with graffiti via
Artists: Haunted Euth & TFail (pic via
Underground art is also something LA has done well, unfortunately the two art scenes often clash when it comes to public space. Many of the Olympic murals were tagged and graffiti bombed in the 80s and 90s, almost completely destroying some of the Olympic murals like the Lita Alburqurque one above. Fortunately, the Mural Conservancy of LA has created a Board of Directors and an Advisory Board including strong figures from both worlds like graffiti artist, Street Phantom, and the artist of this mural here, Kent Twitchell. The non-profit has been restoring murals in the city of LA since 2012. This combined with LA's adopted no-tolerance graffiti laws (much like the one in New York City) have helped restore and maintain the beauty of these works which get plenty of viewing time (much more than they would in a museum) due to the very nature of LA traffic culture.

However, as I learned while researching this blog post and going further down the rabbit hole, the struggle between the two worlds still continues. (Although, I don't characterize "tagging" as art.)

A couple days after restoration of the Jim Morpheus Monument in 2011...

Jim Morpheus Monument, newly restored, newly graffiti bombed in 2011

Jim Morpheus Monument mural that looks opposite to Lita Alburqurque Monument on the 101 freeway
artist: Kent Twitchell

Monday, July 21, 2014

Global Eats Around the Valley & Beyond

Me, eating up the good life at Alimento in Silver Lake
I didn't intend for such a delightful weekend of global cuisine, but I'll take it!  One of the gifts that living in New York gave me and travel expanded upon was my appreciation for my very diverse palate. Going out to east is pretty much my favorite thing in the world, so why not share the love here and give you a few gems from LA.

Mo & Scott at Gyu-Kaku in the Valley
On Friday, I went to dinner in the valley at Gyu-Kaku with some of my oldest friends and their little four year old firecracker of a daughter where we enjoyed some Japanese BBQ. The trick to this little valley hot spot is someone has to be the designated cook (the table is the grill) and that someone has to pay attention to the clock. Thankfully, the gentleman of our crew assumed that role, and we all enjoyed some perfectly cooked Harami Miso and Spicy Pork topped off with some S'mores deliciousness.

Saturday was an awesome day of Silver Lake exploration. Tara and I met up for what we thought would be a beach day, but with the overcast clouds, we opted for the other side of Los Angeles and cruised along Silver Lake. We started with almond milk lattes at LA Mill where I proceeded to get all emotional in talking about this transition out here. Emotions which carried on to happy hour at El Condor where the waitress there was super awesome and suggested we try one of the best tequila reposados I have ever had.  Unfortunately, I can't remember the name. But, no matter. This is definitely a happy hour spot I will be returning, too. After some real talk and tough love, I shook the blues and we took our time getting to our dinner reservation at new Italian joint, Alimento. We were kind of full from the appetizer and drinks at El Condor, so we split three small dishes and opted for the chicken liver crostini, the lamb belly with chickpea pancake and the chopped salad. The chicken liver blew my mind. I will be back there, just for that. (I mean, not ONLY that, but truly, that liver was amazing.)

EL Condor Happy Hour
Sunday, I was headed to the zoo in the morning and I definitely needed my daily caffeine fix so I skipped the long lines at the very deservedly popular Aroma Coffee & Tea on Tujunga and went with the Gelato Bar & Espresso Caffe a couple doors down where they brew a delicious roast and make a mean cappuccino. After checking out some lions, flamingos and chimpanzees I ate a light lunch of fruit to save my appetite for drinks and dinner with friends passing through town on their cross-country trip. We tried some home-brewed lagers at BJ's Brewhouse and then headed to the Himalayan Cafe for Tibet-Nepalese food which brought back so many wonderful memories. Yak Momos, Thukpa, Lamb Vindaloo, paratha, Thalis! It's amazing how quickly traveling feels like it slips through your fingers, but having all of this Tibetan and Nepalese and Indian food brought a smile to my face and a deep sense of appreciation. If I can relive the trip through my tastebuds I am one very lucky girl.  

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How To Take A Hint

When the blog post you were on the fence about ends up accidentally permanently deleting itself just before publishing it, that's the universe telling you, "Not this one." I'll give you the gist of it which was that I found myself surprised by an answer to one of those stupid quizzes that we all take - you know the ones that tell you what 1940's movie actress you are or what your 90's theme song is. A couple weeks after getting home from our 'round the world trip, having finished in New Zealand, one of those quizzes told me New Zealand is the country I should be living. The lesson here is take them all with a grain of salt. But, when I filled in the answers to the quiz, "What city should you be living in?" I felt like I was circling answers that reminded me of New York, like, "yes, I thrive in chaos."

To my surprise, the answer came back "Los Angeles." Then I went on to talk about how actually, yes, the chaos has always been in Los Angeles and how New York City was a reinvention and since coming home, everything is confrontation - old friends, old memories, old ghosts. I think I have probably written about it too much at this point. My husband did give me a "red card" for missing New York and I know it is not becoming to mope about on the internet about the place I miss when life here is pretty easy and pretty wonderful. The weather is better, the living spaces are bigger and in one day I can choose to snowboard in the morning and have happy hour on the beach (and yes, I have done this before!)My family is here and I am playing catch up and hanging out with my godsons and getting to know two of my oldest friends' amazing little girl. I am getting to know my mother and getting to help my brother bounce ideas as he plans for his wedding. I know that I am a very lucky girl. I have no reason to be unhappy, especially after doing what we have done. But in the words of Obama, change is messy, and right now, I'm just in the thick of it. So, I hope you will forgive me for talking about this transitional stuff so much! The post I wrote that got deleted also talked about a conversation I heard about the direct correlation between having no boundaries and having no fun. And I had a lot to say about it, but right now, I'm just tired. My eyes are practically closing, so I think I will take the hint and go to bed. Maybe tomorrow I'll write a more flowery post called "Finding Home" and talk about all that stuff, but for now, I am very grateful to be headed to a cozy bed. Goodnight. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Saddest Thing On The Internet

Photo cred: Mario Calvo
I'm not sure when it started, when Facebook became my feed for strange news stories, most of which boil down to lists of curated local events or news stories completely unfit to print. Facebook used to be a place where I kept in touch with my family and with my friends who have scattered all over the world. But somewhere in between my reckless use of the "Like" button and my laziness, my Facebook feed became the stuff Tabloid magazine racks are made of. At any point in the day, I can see a small puppy doing something cute, read about a horrific fatal car crash, learn about the latest suicide in the subway system of New York,  or find the best burgers, tacos, or happy hours in LA and all at the same time if I so desire. What this constant stream of lunacy and convenience has done has aided in the re-wiring of my brain and contributed to a type of ADD for me that for sure has not yet been diagnosed and for sure is caused by the internet and our obsessive, addictive-fueled culture. In other words: I have a hard time focusing sifting through all this shit. But beyond focusing, I also now have a hard time caring. I don't care about cute puppies or clever cats.  I do, weirdly, have a "bad accident"kind of fascination, however. When I see the tragic stories, I usually have to look. But I read the first paragraph or two and then I close the page. Rarely do I read an entire article on these weird traumatic events which leaves me saying this a lot, "Oh, yeah, I saw that, no, I didn't actually read the story." 

It's a plague, I know. A plague I have given myself. I am actually making myself stupider (and yes, I think I can use that made up word there, because this is the internet and anything goes!) I am contributing to the deterioration of my own mental health and most definitely my IQ. I am hardening myself with all the horror I consume in just a ten-minute casual sitting at my laptop while I eat a bowl of cereal. There used to be a time when it wasn't normal to check your emails and news blogs (because lets be honest, they are not online newspapers) before you brushed your teeth. There used to be a time when I scoffed at people on Facebook because I was sure it was just a fad and felt myself "above it" for some reason. I mean, I joined in 2008. Little did I know that six years later it would become my source for information for everything from political discourse in this country, to natural disasters in other countries, to where to buy tickets to Tacolandia to the thing Facebook is really meant for - a revolving slideshow of seeing all of my friends have adorable babies at what feels like the exact same time, or say, posting pictures from your around the world honeymoon (wink wink.)  And while we are on that note, I recently confided in a friend that I was ready to punch my Facebook feed right in its computer face when every single fucking time I scrolled down, there was some advertisement or "news article" about infertility or the risks of having children once you hit 35, which - NEWSFLASH, INTERNET - we all know! Every woman over 30 knows it, many fear it, and only a few I know are okay with it. For the love of God, cool it! But my brilliant friend responded, "Of course you're getting all that shit! Facebook reads 'Woman. Married. Over 30.' and then they think Let's get her!" 
A couple days later, that story hit about Facebook messing with people's feeds as a psychological experiment. The entire internet is a psychological experiment, as far as I am concerned. But Facebook, had did you manage to become such a focal point in my life? So influencing in my life that at 10pm on a Monday, while scrolling through my feed, which is for pure entertainment at this point, I find myself suddenly struck by what I have come to experience as the saddest thing on the internet I think I have ever seen. (And let me clarify, it is definitely not.) But, I felt almost moved to tears when I read Huffington Post's article on Raju the Elephant, who had been abused and enslaved with spiky chains that dug into his ankles for 50 years and how a group of wildlife rescuers freed him, and the elephant actually cried. That's right, a 50 year old elephant crying in India is what stuck. It so deeply moved me that I actually put my hands to my face. Something about this story, the idea of an animal crying after being freed made me feel something that the internet destroyed long ago. This idea of consciousness in a living thing that for 50 years nobody has noticed. Raju made me feel compassion not just for him and his fate, but for all of us. And maybe I am reading into it all too much. But it suddenly struck me that every story on the internet (minus the best cheeseburgers lists) is Raju's story. Every story is about someone trying to communicate something, sometimes for 50 years, that nobody understands. Every story is about getting free from that shackle. Every story is about trusting and distrusting, getting away from our pasts, and trying to find just that little sliver of hope. That's why we write blogs, and we read memoirs, and we create YouTube channels. We all just want to be heard and we are all so terrified of being forgotten. Could it be that the saddest thing on the internet is actually everything?

When I was in India, I saw an elephant tied up in the middle of a jungle. It was tied up, waiting for any tourists who may want a ride. I felt sad when I saw that elephant. Sad and amazed. Its size, alone, was breathtaking. But all I did was take its picture. 

I am rethinking this whole social media, Facebook, news blog, strange other world called the Internet. I don't know if it is the epitome of what makes us uniquely human - connection, nostalgia, hope -or the pinnacle of humanity at its worst - detached, voyeuristic, broken. Whatever it is, I think it best I resolve my own intention of what I want it to be for me and also what I want to contribute to it. I wonder if anyone reading this has any intentions of their own they could offer, maybe one I could borrow in the meantime.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

How To Get Patriotic

One of the most surprising experiences of traveling was finding a deep appreciation and love for my own country. I have always been grateful to be an American, but never as grateful as I was spending 8 months traveling further and further away from it. Do we have our problems? Yes. We are a gun-toting, GMO-crop sharing, fame-whore, nation fueled by capitalism, addictions, and religious zealotry that constantly threatens to destroy the very spirit of America that says we are ALL CREATED EQUAL.

When Mike and I came home, exhausted and culture shocked from our trip, there was a lot to be sad about. A lot to complain about. A lot of different perspectives to acknowledge. However, when Mike's family asked him what his favorite country was, his answer came without a second thought, "America." We laughed, but there was a lot of truth to it. Could we be happy living in Italy, Southern Spain, New Zealand...OF COURSE. But for as liberal and well traveled and "cultured" as we think we are, deep down our blood runs red, white, and blue, baby.

Am I pissed off at this country most of the time? YES. I have a bone to pick with the Supreme Court, and the Tea Party, gun lobbyists, and people who shit all over women's and civil rights. But, man, there is also a lot to appreciate, to honor, and to be grateful for. It is easy to get wrapped up in the constant stream of criticism and debate, political fodder, and downright lunacy. But I reckon it is even harder for a liberal to say how much they love this country, because let's be honest - "patriotism" has been co-opted by the right and to be pro-America somehow evokes GOP. But, I'm here to take back my own version of patriotism, because the truth is, I have been a practicing patriot for a long time and that includes dissent, exploration, and disappointment. But I love this country because, well, everything. This blog. My right to prosecute when someone has hurt me. My right that I am innocent until proven guilty. My privilege to drive a car, to eat at nice restaurants, to turn on the tap and have clean water. My access to doctors and especially now with the Affordable Care Act. My luxury to have a choice, all the time, every time. My right to bitch about this country and do what I can to help it continue to progress. The fact that as a young girl I was allowed and encouraged to play soccer, a sport that quickly became a passion of mine and on that note, I do believe I will see the US Men's Team win the World Cup in my lifetime! And on a completely separate note, I have mad respect for the US soccer team because they don't get into all that "flopping" stuff. For the most part, they have little drama on the field and for that I am so grateful.

But on this fourth of July, I think Mike and I will appreciate it more than perhaps we ever have before.  Happy Fourth, y'all!