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Monday, October 12, 2015

Farewell Manhattan

Dear Manhattan,

I'm sitting here at the 8th Ave L stop waiting for it to leave for Brooklyn and it dawned on me...This is my last moment with you.  From that day we first flirted in Central Park five years ago to this last walk from Chelsea Market, I've fallen in love with you.  

You've taught me so much in these four years.  How to laugh, cry, love, work and dance a little harder.
  • We bingo'd in Meat Packing on Sundays and worked our asses off in Chelsea on Mondays. 
  • We blacked out with the bartenders of the LES and flirted with the mixologists of the East Village. 
  • We screamed at sports in West Village and stared in shop windows in Soho at things we'd never afford.
  • We spent rainy days with art in the UES and lovely brunches in UWS or met in the middle for a Sheeps Meadow respite. 
  • We floated on boat bars in FiDi and sipped soup dumplings in Chinatown. 
  • We even grabbed our passports and snuck off to warehouse parties in Williamsburg, St Pattys Day in Hoboken and ramen burger dinners in DUMBO.

You accepted me and all my weirdness and made me a New Yorker.

Your hallowed avenues and streets have kicked my ass a couple times but we've always made up and our relationship is the stronger for it.  You've introduced me to new friends who I will hold dear for the rest of my life and helped me realize many unreasonable pacts of reconnection with old ones.  I think all us transients would agree... You're pretty fucking awesome.

We'll be spending some time apart in the near future but I know it won't be forever.  You'll never fully wean me off of you...because you're the only place I've ever called "home."

Please look after my friends. Be their glue while I'm gone.  Make sure they take good care of each other and cherish every minute they have with each other and with you.

I see today that we are crying together. I can feel your teardrops on my umbrella.  But don't worry we will be together again someday. Promise.

Until then.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Burning Man Packing List - What You REALLY Need

So I've seen about 4241525456436 packing lists for Burning Man and most of them I feel like are really excessive.   I've edited my list from last year based on my experience and what I plan to take this year along with comments.  I also provided photos where possible.

  • Costumes - I planned all sorts of outfits and then basically wore none of them and just tooled around in shorts, bikini tops, and flowy clothes by day and my animal fleece onesie at night.  The key is flowy and loose.  Jeans, even shorts, are really uncomfortable and remember no logos!  Plus you don't want to do feathers, glitter, etc, because it's MOOP.  Here are example outfits:
  • Fleece onesie - CRUCIAL - I cannot explain to you HOW COLD it gets at night.  I don't care if you have the warmest beer jacket ever you will freeze.  I was wearing a thick, full body, animal onesie (pictured below) and if I was standing away from people I was cold. 
  • Full WINTER outfit if you don't go onesie.  It can get to FREEZING temps out there so think post ski day - fleece pants, warm jacket, tall wool socks.  Layers are the best so you can add and subtract.

  • Boots - CRUCIAL - You would think in the desert you'd be all about the flip flops but honestly I wore flipflops Day One and then my ankle black boots the rest of the time.  Keeps your feet in better condition because they don't dry out and means you avoid stepping on anything unpleasant and protects your feet at night.  Here are the ones I'm wearing this year:

  • Socks - CRUCIAL
  • Underwear
  • Swimsuits - CRUCIAL - just way easier than underwear in a lot of cases.  I just wore swimsuits all day everyday
  • Face Mask/Scarf/Handkerchief - I used this face mask last year and it was kind of annoying so I rarely used it.  When I'd breathe in the fabric would go into my mouth which was uncomfortable.  I'd either do a hard mask (like the ones people wearing on planes) or just a small handkerchief that you can just wear around your neck and use when needed.  Even having a face mask I rarely used it.
Vogmask Microfiber High-Filtration Dust Mask
Photo Credit:

  • Pasties - if you are going this far just be naked 
  • Hat  - I brought one last year and it was annoying and I stopped wearing it after the first day.  If you do bring a hat make sure it is tight on your head or has a tie so it doesn't blow off when you are biking.  Mine kept flying off my head and made me crazy!
  • Contacts - DAILIES are key.  You do not want to be putting the same contacts back in your eyes.  It is GROSS out there and you are forever unclean.  I also highly recommend carrying a pair on your person at all times.  I missed an awesome burn last year because my contact came out and I was miles from camp and had to go all the way back to get a new pair.
  • Kleenex - you get so much dust and crap on your face, hands, up your nose, in your ears, that tissues were key (just don't litter!)
  • Hairbrush/Comb - For girls I recommend a comb because it's a little easier to get through the tangles.  If you are camping and there for a week there ain't no showers so your hair is going to be your worst enemy especially if it's long.  I was there 4 days last year and went from clean hair down to dirty hair down to two french braids.
  • Chapstick - CRUCIAL - you will dry out like a leaf - I used mine a ton.  Again always have this on you since you never know when you'll be back at camp
  • Hair ties
  • Sunscreen - CRUCIAL
  • Makeup - Honestly you can if you want.  I used a little in full disclosure but you don't need to bring out the big guns
  • Toe nail clippers - Sounds random but I did use them
  • Deodorant - CRUCIAL
  • Bobby pins
  • Dry shampoo
  • Bandaids
  • Tampons - just in case
  • Razor - CRUCIAL - look I can camp with the best of them and certainly didn't shave my legs in the four days I was there but there came a time when I HAD to shave my armpits.  TMI sorry but even just that literally act made me feel 10 x cleaner.
  • Shampoo and conditioner in 1 - If you have access to an RV it makes sense to bring.  The hippie side of me says NO SHOWERS AT BURNING MAN.  My skin and hair says... I'd do it if I could.
  • Shaving cream
  • Floss - another thing that will make you feel SO much cleaner just from that one little act
  • Toothpaste/Toothbrush
  • Lotion - CRUCIAL - the playa dust eats away at the moisture in your skin - my daily routine was baby wipes to get all the dust off me and then lotion.
  • Baby Wipes - CRUCIAL - this is the best bath you are getting
  • Mouth guard
  • Eye drops - CRUCIAL - there's that dust again! 
  • Tweezers
  • Head Lamp - CRUCIAL - I used this SO much and way easier than a flashlight.  Here's the one I'm bringing: 
  • Headphones - There is plenty of music surrounding you.  Be present.
  • Phone - There isn't any service but obviously had with me.  I bought one of those water/dirt resistant phone cases but never ended up using my phone especially because that's an expensive thing to lose or break which is highly likely in the craziness of Burning Man.  Instead I suggest bringing a water/dirt resistant CAMERA which I used A TON.
  • Aux cable - brought it for the car ride - key
  • Camera - Again I recommend a water/dirt resistant camera that isn't too expensive in case you do lose it.  I used mine a ton.  Here's a photo of mine (so meta):
  • Batteries - good to have for headlamp, etc.  Only need to bring one extra round.  I'm likely bringing an external power pack this year since I'll be there longer but last year I didn't need a second charge on anything.  
  • Phone charger - didn't use it until I got to the hotel after Burning Man but good to have packed
  • Kindle for car ride - You'll likely be sleeping or so excited that you can't sleep or driving so you don't really need
  • Watch - A throw-away cheap watch is a great thing to have to keep track of when different events occur.  Time can get away from you easily on the playa!

  • Earplugs - CRUCIAL - if you plan to sleep 
  • Wallet - Duh
  • Paintbrush and paint - My gift last year was body painting.  I'm going to bring paint again this year but am changing up the brand/product.  
  • Here's the stuff I used last year which wasn't great (too light and came off easy) 
 Sargent Art 66-5525 Washable Fluorescent Paint
Photo Credit:
  • Here's the stuff I'm using this year (much more brilliant and harder to get off):
 UV Glow Blacklight Face and Body Paint
Get it on Amazon here
  • Playa Cup - CRUCIAL - One of the most important purchases you will make!  Very important to get one that has a lid and a handle.  The lid prevents dirt from getting into your wet cup when you are biking around (mine last year was undrinkable after day two) and a handle so that you can attach it to your bike, belt, basket, etc, while biking.
Get it at REI here
  • Flask - a nice to have separate from your Playa Cup to add extra liquor to drinks at the different camps or for a pull
  • Glasses - I used mine a lot when I was tooling around the campsite.  Also if you get an eye infection you are going to need them!
  • Sunglasses - CRUCIAL
  • EmergencE
  • Koozie
  • Medicine
  • Eye mask - again if you are sensitive to light nice to have for sleeping
  • Fanny pack - I use a small one by day to house my chapstick, sunscreen and playa cup
Get it at American Apparel here
  • Camelbak or small backpack - CRUCIAL - Once it started getting dark I would switch from fanny pack to Camelbak and pack it like it was an overnight bag - chapstick, sunscreen, glasses, extra contacts, full bladder of water, tissue, toothbrush/paste, etc.  You never know what time you are coming home if you even do.  It makes you feel much safer too because you feel confident that you could get lost in the desert and still survive for a day or two.  And then I'd strap my onesie to the outside (too big to fit inside) and I was ready to go!  Don't get one that is TOO big because you want to be able to dance in it but not so small that you can't fit anything.
Get it at REI here
  • Waterproof iPhone case - nice just to keep your iphone in since dust seeps into everything but you never use your phone so possibly pointless
  • Goggles - CRUCIAL - you never know when a dust storm is going to hit and it can get a little dusty when a lot of people are biking around you so definitely need goggles.  HOWEVER, I disagree that you need two pairs.  Here's a photo of mine - pink tinted which was plenty easy to see day and night.  You are never going to want to bother with switching them.
Get it on Amazon here
  • Pens - Randomly I actually used my pen a lot to write down people's names I met, etc.  Kind of nice to have on you
  • Gum - CRUCIAL
  • Info Papers - I know Burning Man makes a guide that you can use to find parties, lectures, etc.  I carried it around the first day and then left it at camp.  The best part of Burning Man is discovery... don't plan out your days.
  • Cigarette papers
  • Freezer ziplock bags - CRUCIAL - the best decision I made was separating out my clothes for each day into ziplock bags and squishing all the air out of them.  It not only made it so I could fit more in my bag but it greatly reduced contamination of my dirty and clean clothes.  I can't stress HOW dirty you get and how good clean clothes feel. 
  • Lights/decoration for your bike - be prepared to deck out your bike in some way that makes it yours for day AND night.  There are hundreds of bikes and this will make it easier for you to find yours AND for people to find you/follow you in the dark.
  • Lights for your person - same thing as your bike... people are zooming around in the pitch black on their bikes and the last thing you want is for them not to see you.  Plus being all lit up at night is fun!  Just make sure your lights aren't MOOP (glow bracelets that fall off)
  • Bug repellent - I didn't need this last year but never hurts to have ESPECIALLY if insects are particularly favorable to your taste!
  • Bike lock - I recommend a bike lock that has a key not a combo because I find combos in the dark to be a little rough. However, a key can be lost.  Decide which you prefer but definitely lock your bike when you aren't with it.  Burning Man is a very safe, open place but that doesn't mean people won't snag a free ride!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Thanksgiving in London (wah?)

So I decided to go rogue for Thanksgiving and spend my long holiday weekend in London, a turkey-loving country.  I'll be honest I've had stopovers in London and never been remotely impressed.  But this trip? I was not disappointed. 

Wednesday Nov 26, 2014
I was shocked at how easy it was to travel through JFK.  My flight was an hour delayed but my handy Delta app alerted me so that I wouldn't get to the airport too early and as usual I didn't check a bag.  The overnight flight felt super short (probably had something to do with the awesome book I was reading) and I arrived to a super short customs line.  Winning!

Thursday Nov 27, 2014
For those of you who are new to London, it is a BITCH to get around.  I've never seen a city so sprawling and I've lived in LA!  You have a couple options coming from Heathrow into the city (I was headed to the Angel stop).  You can take the 15 minute Heathrow Express to Central London for £21 one way or £30ish roundtrip. Trains leave every 15 minutes and the journey takes about 20 minutes. 

That seemed stupidly expensive to me especially because I wasn't in any kind of hurry so I opted for the scenic option, "The Tube" via the Piccadilly line.  It takes about an hour to the main tube station to switch trains but it's only £5.50 one way.  If you are going to be in London for an extended period of time I recommend getting an Oyster Card but I wasn't going to be using the tube outside of airport travel so it wasn't worth it.

Lucky for me a close friend decided to throw a Friendsgiving for his new European friends (he'd just moved there a few months prior) so I arrived at the Angel stop, carted my suitcase down to his apartment and we got down to business of making turkey, spiced rum cider, baked mac n' cheese and more.  For expats, Whole Foods will deliver you a Thanksgiving meal if you feel lazy.

Turns out making Thanksgiving dinner gives you an appetite so we stopped for brunch at the famous, Breakfast Club.  My friend said there's normally a line around the block but since it was a working Thursday for most Londoners we got in without a wait.  Go us!  I headed straight for the Avo Toast (ah Aussie memories) and a cup of extremely delicious cappuccino.  The hipster vibe of the joint is laidback and welcoming and the staff is very attentive.  The only problem with the place I was so stuffed I had no idea how I was going to eat Thanksgiving dinner in a couple hours!
After a delicious Thanksgiving dinner we hopped on the bus to "Shoreditch" to grab cocktails and do a little dancing at Queen of Hoxton.

Photo Credit: Queen of Hoxton

The bar was okay.  I tried to order a cocktail from the handwritten menu on the blackboard only to be told they didn't have the staff to create the cocktails.... uh, isn't that the point of having a menu?  So you can order from it?  The night soon devolved to dancing until 2am when they closed.  This would be my most annoying learning... I wanted to keep going out but London fun dies at 2am.  Yup, carriage back to a pumpkin people.  #ILUVNYC!

Friday November 28, 2014
I'll admit it.  I slept in.  Until 2pm.  So un-touristy of me but I didn't care.  I did feel like I needed to redeem myself before meeting up with my London friends once they were off work so I took myself to the Tate.  I was staying in Herbal Hill so it was a lovely 20-30 minute walk down to the Thames River and over the bridge to the museum.


The Tate Modern houses international modern and contemporary art.  The building itself used to be a famous power station that was designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott.  £12 million later it's now a museum and one of the top three tourist attractions in London.

Headphones in, I spent three hours wandering the floors of the Tate.  Most of the museum is free with a few temporary exhibits that require you to buy a ticket.  There was plenty of amazing art on the free floors so I wouldn't bother with the temporary exhibits unless you are going specifically to see one of them.  There's also an amazing view of the river from the cafe inside or you can up to the top floor restaurant and grab drinks for a higher view although this one is behind glass which is less appealing to me then the patio outside the cafe. 


Three hours was plenty of art for me so I wandered the pop-up Christmas market outside Tate on the south bank until my friends arrived post-work.  Poor Londoners... no day off for them!  We grabbed a few giant beers from the market and then walked Millennium Bridge, passed St. Paul's Cathedral to Madison's Bar to meet up with the rest of our crew.  Madison's reminds me of the fancy hotel bars of Meatpacking in NYC.  Not my usual scene but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Photo Credit: Madison's Bar

This many beers in I forced the guys to find us dinner and we ended up at Wahaca Mexican restaurant (we were at the St Paul's location).  We ordered all sorts of small plates of which 99% were outstanding.  My friends will never believe that London of all places has good Mexican food! 

Photo Credit: Wahaca

We lost the couples after dinner and the rest of us continued with the Mexican tradition and headed to El Camion, a two story members only bar in Soho.  That is one thing that annoys me about London... it's a pain in the ass to get in to places.  You have to know someone or be a member or be on a list or wait in a massive line.  No. Thank. You.  I miss the random democracy of NYC bars... or maybe it's just the sheer number of them.  Anyways, we ended up in the bowels of El Camion and have a few margaritas.  I have to say I wasn't that impressed.  It was dark, fairly empty (especially considering the line of people they were forcing to wait outside) and the people kept fairly to themselves.  BORED.  I will say that it has a lot of potential though... the decorations in the place are amazing and very festive and fun.

After our few drinks we dropped the sport coat bars and headed for something a little more... grimy?  Mahiki Tiki Bar as apparently once a very trendy club but it's heydays have come and gone.  I was with three guys and for whatever reason we walked right pass the major line and straight in the door (for a small fee of course).  The bartender was from the East Village which earned us a round of free $$$ drinks and then the guys ran straight in a 40+ year old hens party and we spent the rest of the night drinking their cocktails and getting into dance-offs.  RANDOM.  I loved the place.  The waiters were all wearing straw fedoras and one of the guys managed to land me one which I took to immediately.  Unfortunately, when I tried to make a run for the exit with the hat at the end of the night a VERY large bouncer politely removed it from my head.  Ugh, I was so close!  Regardless, I highly recommend this place for a shit-show dance party but be ready to drop some serious change on those drinks.

Photo Credit: Mahiki Facebook

Saturday, November 29, 2014
I won't lie... I was definitely hurting this morning which did not make the train to Twickenham Stadium for the rugby very pleasant.  After crushing waters on the ride over, I did what any desperate hungover person does before a sporting event... I order the biggest beer at the rowdiest bar I could find.  For those arriving early to sporting events at Twickenham, once you disembark from the train go left over the river and walk down London Road for your choice of bars crowded with fans.  The weather was amazing - blue skies and sun so each of the bars had an outdoor area filled with people. And what do you know.  The beer at The Cabbage Patch worked!  Hungover gone just in time for the game.  The match was a QBE Internationals game between England and Australia.  How fitting.  An American girl watching an England/Aussie match with two Australians in England.  Bases covered.

To get to the stadium from "Bar Row" just cross back over the bridge and walk down Whitton Road which runs right into it.  Whitton is an adorable little street lined with homes and food stands.  You could feel the energy of the crowd as we walked up and found our seats.


Unfortunately, Australia was clobbered but the game was still a ton of fun.  The locals around us gave the guys a health dose of sass but all in good fun which was nice and I was able to cross "English rugby match" off my travel list and enjoy the company of my Aussie guys.

After the match, we returned to The Cabbage Patch to drink "our sorrows" away.  One of my friends had a dinner party back downtown to attend and I realized that one of my girlfriends, whose British, was having her birthday that night... IN TWICKENHAM.  I checked my phone and discovered that the address was 5 minutes walking from the bar.  So my other friend and I wandered over to the bday.  Turns out we were the only non-relatives and her family was FUCKING COOL.  We ended up partying all night with them before busing back into the city.

All-in-all a nice way to end my Thanksgiving weekend.  I was happy that I saw all of the people I wanted to see, some of whom I haven't seen in years, manage to still have Friendsgiving complete with turkey and spiced rum cider AND take in some new sights in London.  The warm, sunny weather definitely blindsided me and allowed for me to admit that... okay London is pretty cool.  My only qualms with the place now are the early bar hours and how damn spread out it is!!  But, this trip definitely opened me up to returning to visit again... but not until summer :-)