Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Aaaaaaaah Topangaaa!!

Tonight A. and I are off to watch The Lion King on Broadway! I got us 2-for-1 tickets during the Broadway Week promotion and am excited to finally see this show. Everyone I know who's seen it can't speak highly enough on the artistry, puppetry, and costumes so I cannot wait to experience it for myself. You know I'll be bopping around in my seat singing along. Hakuuuuna Matata!

Watch the cast below as they serenade some unsuspecting commuters on the A train in New York City. When this video came out this summer, my sister and I commented on how we ride this train All The Time and all we're treated to are panhandlers, preachers, breakdancing teens, and guitar players. Meanwhile, New York City still owes me a flashmob experience...

P.S. The actual lyrics to the "Circle of Life." Also, the Australian cast singing on a flight from Brisbane to Sydney earlier this year. Again, I'd take this over crying babies and barking dogs any day.

Monday, September 8, 2014


Part of the post Burning Man ritual is to decompress once you've re-entered the Default World, also known as real life. As hard as I tried to avoid taking my phone off airplane mode on the 10 hour drive back to Los Angeles from Nevada, I eventually relented and was soon scrolling through some 75 messages. It's scary how quickly I plunged right back into the frantic clicking, swiping, and liking when just a day ago I couldn't have cared less about anything going on beyond Black Rock City's trash fence.

Settling back into the day-to-day was much quicker this time. Last year, I walked around NYC feeling sad that pedestrians weren't covered in lights or furry costumes and that everyone was just so quick to get somewhere. And the MOOP! Oh God, litter and dirt everywhere. I wanted to be back at Burning Man so badly. Then the year goes on and eventually you almost forget about what it was like to be out there, but that happens just in time to make that journey once again. A. and I went with the notion that we probably wouldn't be returning in 2015 because we want to experience other corners of the world and when one of us only gets two weeks of vacation a year, that time off should be well-considered. Well now I think we do want to return.

It's fun to tell friends and family about your Burning Man experience, show off videos and photos, and try to get them to grasp what an incredible place this is (it'll always be one of those "You had to be there" spots). Still, there's nothing like getting together with other burners and exchanging stories and discoveries because there's just so much that one person could miss. This past Saturday, A. and I visited a friend I've known through the Etsy NY team who lives just a couple blocks away. We've been living so close for about nine months and couldn't manage to meet up...until we randomly bumped into each other on the playa.* A burner for about eight years, he's seen some things and so five of us gathered to chat about this year's burn, favorite moments from previous years, and finally watch that  Malcolm in the Middle Burning Man episode. A. and I left his house happy and wondering if we shouldn't return next year and really do it up. Then again, that's exactly how we felt last time and before we knew it, we were packing up to head out without accomplishing any of those grand plans. I'm sure that itch will strike again in full force when we meet up with 100 or so burners this Sunday at a Post Playa Picnic in Central Park.

*It's funny how frequently you'll run into people you know even though you're in a sea of 65,000 people in a 5+ square mile area. There were a handful of folks we knew would be out there and did we see any by actually visiting their camps? Nope! We saw them through chance meetings while biking around and attending random events. It's always a happy surprise.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Where To Eat In Chicago

{Let me interrupt my Burning Man talk to tell you a bit about our Chicago trip from long ago. A friend of mine just flew out there and it reminded me that I'd yet to hit publish on this post! So while it's all hot outside, let me chat a bit about our wintry trip to the Windy City - especially since one of the food spots we enjoyed will soon shut its doors forever.}

It's been MONTHS since A. and I went to Chicago and I still think on how much fun we had. It was still a chilly winter when we flew out in March and yet we didn't let that stop us from exploring and roaming the city. I can only imagine how awesome it'd be in the warmer months and can't wait to go back someday. Not only did we give ourselves a self-guided tour to check out cool architecture (and squeezed in so much walking in one day), but we had our fill of some really good food. Below are a few of our favorite spots.

Garrett Popcorn: My friend Norell, who studied in Chicago, first introduced me to Garrett Popcorn when she and I worked at Latina magazine years ago. They had recently opened a NYC location just a couple blocks away from our office and she insisted I try their Garrett Mix, a bag of caramel popcorn mixed  in with a batch of their cheddar cheese popcorn. So when I was in Chicago, I had to get a bag for A. to try. (We both prefer the caramel popcorn, which left us with a bag of cheesy popcorn to get through.)

Giordano's Pizza: Chicago really needs to stop calling their deep dish pizza "pizza" at all. The thing is huge! One slice is like a piece of lasagna or, as our friend Danny calls it, a casserole. This spot, a popular chain in the city, was incredibly good and filling. The special contained sausage, mushrooms, green peppers, onions, and so much cheese!

Hot Doug's: A.'s friends introduced us to Hot Doug's, which is apparently the best place to grab a Chicago style dog and other yummy concoctions like beer-soaked bratwurst and special sausages made of wild boar, escargot, or duck with creative toppings. A couple months ago the beloved spot announced it was closing its doors forever on October 4 so if you have a chance to taste them out before the final day, I'd highly recommend it.

Park Grill: After a full day of walking, we ended our self-guided tour at Millennium Park to see Cloud Gate, also known as the Bean. It was still winter so ice skaters were gliding around the rink in front of the restaurant while we snuggled inside sipping on some amazing apple cider and good eats like shrimp and arugula flatbread with oven roasted tomatoes and peppers.

Yolk: We still dream about this brunch spot! I'm not even kidding. Just a few days ago A. and I admitted that we'd fly back out to Chicago just to eat at Yolk at again - it was that good. The mocha, the egg sandwiches, sweet and savory crêpes, and their tasty Tour de France, a French Toast flight that consisted of banana nut bread with bananas, sweet orange bread with strawberries, and lemon poppyseed bread with blueberries. We were just sad that we only had but so many days to eat there.

By the way, if you're looking for a place with amazing views of the city, but don't want to pay $19 to cram into the Willis Tower's Skydeck, then go to the Signature Lounge on the 95th floor of the John Hancock Center. Comfy booths and no reservations needed. Order some cocktails and enjoy the incredible view.

Have you ever been to Chicago? What places did you love? Below are a few photos from our trip!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


So I'm back from Burning Man, already deep into my regular schedule (blah!) of work work work, and am still trying to sift through all the thoughts I've collected on this trip. A part of me feels overwhelmed by trying to make sense of the sensory overload I've just experienced as well as guilt over not doing "enough" while out in the desert. I'm also trying not to drown in thoughts of all the work that needs to get done this month. My head has been spinning, spinning, and one word holds fast in the center of that mental tornado: impermanence.

It's been a couple weeks now since I set off on this adventure for a second time and I have to admit, there will never be anything to compare to that first time. I went into my second burn knowing full well that every year will be different, that no comparisons should be made, but oh how I slightly envied those who were stepping onto the playa for the very first time. Their eyes were so wide as they struggled to find words to express how incredible this all was. Don't get me wrong, Burning Man is still an amazing city of play, light, and sound, but I did miss the mind-blowing surprise that was my first year. Of course, that had to come to an end, but it'll continuously be replaced with other discoveries both within and outside of ourselves.

I have a hard time accepting how temporary things are and Burning Man is the epitome of impermanence. Not only do 70,000 people congregate on Black Rock Desert to party for a week before the whole city vanishes without a trace on Labor Day, but while you're there you're fed a constant stream of blips on the radar. Art installations are created for Black Rock City residents to enjoy and days later they're burned to the ground. Gone. Forever. Perhaps you make a mental note to check out a cool piece, but constantly find yourself distracted by the hundreds of other cool things going on around you until you're on the car ride home yelling, "Dammit! We never saw SoundPuddle!" I wish I'd made it a point to enter one of the most arresting sights on the playa, Embrace, with its beating hearts and the chance to crawl into the statues' heads to peer out onto the city through their eyes. But before we could get any closer, we were being whisked away to the edge of the dusty city on an art car outfitted with xylophones, banging on a rooftop gong every time a cyclist waved as we drove on by…

We didn't approach Embrace again until it was burned early Friday morning. The opportunity to engage with that piece of art had passed.

This year was better than the last in that I didn't cling to each moment as if that was the happiest I could ever be. I often found myself not wanting to leave an installation because what if the moment that followed wasn't as fun? A. kept reassuring me that while the present was quite good, there will be more joy to follow no matter where we ended up. So I was more willing to let go of moments at this year's burn. I made it a point to hop off my bike if an experience called out to me (spontaneity! participation!), thoroughly enjoyed that moment, and then left it behind in search of more knowing that whatever came next would be just as novel, exciting, and beautiful. I was more social, wanting to collect stories and connections rather than experience it all from the bubble that surrounds me. The issue? A. and I would tuck in early, choosing sweet slumber over partying until dawn and I'd often lay there in our tent wondering if we weren't just wasting time with this sleep business. What were we missing? Are we squeezing every drop out of this amazing place? No, but we continued to burn on our terms.

Sometimes I felt this urgency to rush out and do everything despite my body's limitations, but I also understood that there's no way I could catch every moment going on in the city before it dismantled in a few days' time. Even now as I type, I'm frantically trying to search and grab every thought I have on this because soon they'll be replaced with other concerns. It's much like waking up from a crazy dream and racing to jot down the scenes before your brain realizes it's awake. Nothing lasts. How do I learn to be okay with that?

Earlier this summer, A. suggested I read Nightline anchor Dan Harris' book 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works. It's about Harris' journey into meditation and his skepticism that self-help techniques would actually work on someone who works in such a stressful, deadline-driven field. It was in reading this that the concept of "impermanence" piqued my interest and while my gut has yet to come to terms with it, my mind has been turning it over and over like a smooth pebble in its hand.

"As best I could understand it, the Buddha's main thesis was that in a world where everything is constantly changing, we suffer because we cling to things that won't last," Harris wrote.

"The Buddha embraced an often overlooked truism: nothing lasts  including us. We and everyone we love will die. Fame fizzles, beauty fades, continents shift. Pharaohs are swallowed by emperors, who fall to sultans, kings, kaisers, and presidents  and it all plays out against the backdrop of an infinite universe in which our bodies are made up of atoms from the very first exploding stars. We may know this intellectually, but on an emotional level we seem to be hardwired for denial. We comport ourselves as if we had control."

But we don't and so we have to learn to be at peace with uncertainty and every single moment fading into oblivion.

Do you also have a hard time letting go of moments, people, or possessions?