I first flew from Chicago to L.A. to meet my (insert label here), who was there mastering his band's CD. I didn't see much of L.A., save for traffic, chinese theater, traffic, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (yum), traffic, Beverly Hills, traffic, Bel Air, traffic, Venice Beach, traffic, and the In-N-Out burger. There I tried my first burger in decades (on the texted insistence of a dear friend whose taste buds were separated from mine at birth). Thin patties are key for a burger-phobe, and in that regard In-N-Out really delivers. It wasn't bad for a burger, but it wasn't necessarily worth the spat that resulted from our ill-fated attempts to find one of the THOUSAND locations in L.A. (not exactly a needle-in-a-haystack situation).
After long-winding our way out of L.A., we drove the hybrid (it's obligatory there, right?) up Highway 1 to Carmel where we stayed for the night. The ride up Highway 1 was first rate landscape. Mountains and ocean and trees, oh my. The B&B where we stayed was quaintly adorable yet affordable, and the Carmel beach was gorgeousness. I wanted to scoop it up and eat it (there I go again). Or curl up and stay there for forever (that's better). Apparently there is no nightlife in Carmel (just ritzy shopping), so we hit Monterey instead where it was very Real World-meets-Twilight Zone. The gory people watching made up for the plastic and fratty vibe of desperation. Shots and beers didn't hurt either.
The next day we kept on trucking up Highway 1 'til we made it to San Fran. 24 hours in SF revealed surprisingly steep inclines (I've seen the pics, but photos have nothing on walking up them hills), stinky sea lions, garlic goodness, coffee-done-right, crookedest streets, stairs by the thousands, a ferry building, a bay bridge, a big red bridge, and walking, walking and still more walking.
Myth debunked: People don't smoke in California. (so not true)
Offensive observation: Californians have poor taste in music.
Pulease, I don't REALLY think Californians have shitty taste in music, but the eating and drinking establishments we patroned played surprisingly crap tunes. I felt like I was back in France listening to the radio. And that, my friends, is not a compliment. One week in France will give you your fill of Phil Collins to last a lifetime.
I'll be going back, yes ma'am, to investigate all the hidden gems I missed this go-round. Although 24 hours wasn't enough to see all I wanted to see, it was enough to plant the west coast bug snug as a bug in a rug lining one of my ventricles.
First up... to escape Chicago's brutal January I was treated to a long weekend in Mexico! About 20 minutes outside Playa del Carmen (thankyouthankyouthankyou to D). Before our trip I would have been an all-inclusive naysayer (where's the make-your-own-adventure?), but now I'm a bonafide YAYsayer. Adventure starts to look a little overrated when you suddenly feel pure relaxation flowing through your veins for the first time since joining the ranks.
The r&r never stopped... waking with the sun, oceanfront massages, Russian card games, jailbreaks, exotic birds, people watching, boat rides, ocean swims, snorkeling, poolbars, patios, teqEEla, bottomless booze, and all-you-can-eat pico de gallo AND guac! All without your wallet?
Sold! (to the pasty girl in the black mumu)
Myth Debunked: You can't drink the water. Not true, IF you're at an all-inclusive (three-cheers for the all-inclusive!)
Offensive Generalization: Mexican men are short.
Earworms and Humbugs. I’m very susceptible. According to Wiki, earworms are “a portion of a song or other musical material that become ‘stuck’ in a person's ‘head’ or repeats against one's will within one's mind.” I hereby diagnose myself with earworm infestation. It’s insidious! Where are my meds?
This morning while awaiting my calorie, I mean caramel, latte at Lavazza this little ditty came on, and I’ve been hum(bugg)ing it ever since. Please pardon the dumb video, and trust that it’s the least hideous one I could find. I love the vocals of the song. It’s darn catchy. If anyone could have named the band, I would have given you a gold star to stick on your butt, because it’s none other than the Spiral Starecases (sic!). Who? Ezactly. One of them thar one hit wonders. And lord if it isn’t a wonder how it’s gotten stuck in my noodle. Wiki says that "earworms may be songs or tunes that become stuck in the phonological loop.” Loop. Spiral. Coincidence? I think not.
This song brings me way back to those early morning drives to swim practice in the Aerostar tank. Mom, blasting the oldies, shakin' her shoulders happily to the tunes, and pumping the heat. Me, nauseated from said heat pumping and dreading Coach Thompson’s killer set of the day. Good times. Even then I was a real bear in the morning, so mom’s bubbly sing-alongs (pretending to know the lyrics by yelling one word at the end of each sentence) prompted persnickety commentary from the peanut gallery. Mom communicated her displeasure by smacking me on the knee with the plastic brush that lay conveniently in the console between us. Then I’d cry child abuse, and we’d both fall silent (probably laughing on the inside). That brush: primping tool or thinly veiled threat? We’ll never know.
Bless my mum for doing things like driving us to practice at 4 in the morning whilst putting up with a whole lotta crap and ‘tude. I’ll never know how she did it. In fact, I shall dedicate this little song to my mum.
I was sad to learn that one of the cleverest wordly-wise smartasses both sides the Mississippi kicked the bucket yesterday (I merely channel him with my levity).
In this gem, he makes a case for child neglect and makes you laugh too. That's gifted.
Which brings me to la pointe de le post. One of the little things I do to instill a modicum of visual variety is switch up the background on my desktop. I know, it's a tiny not-so-novel idea, but I look at that screen for ungodly amounts of time, and hell if I'm going to stare at the same thing day in and day out. Plus, it gives me a place to appreciate those random images I come across that would otherwise go forgotten.
I find most of my inspiration at ffffound, a stockpile of seemingly infinite images. If scrolling didn't bring on a nasty case of motion sickness (cursed be my sensitive equilibrium!) I could peruse the site for hours. I wouldn't put this particular image on my desktop, but I'm a sucker for words, collage, vintage, and the French language, so I really dig it.
Beware, some of the images are NSFW, but if you're in need of iCookies, it's like an online museum of contemporary art with no direction. Whatever speaks to me on a given day or week will get saved, sometimes cropped and then "set as desktop background." Then I tile or stretch it depending on what looks best, and there it stays until I'm bored of it and want something new.
A wee cure for the desktop doldrums....
Here's a new something I'm going to try to do once a week. Too ambitious? Ok, once a month. If... I’m really good. I plan to mention a book, movie, album, band, song, etc. that's somehow stuck with me. Although I’m no high critic of any of the aforementioned, I’m quite the avid consumer, so there you have it. The title happens to be an homage to both my pseudonym (or nom de plume, if I will, a story for another day), and a favorite movie that first introduced me to the disarming talent of Meryl Streep. Come on, who else could pull off “a dingo took my baby?” Now on to the choices of the hour….
The man, the musician, the Ukrainian legend-- Eugene Hutz. Not one to be pigeonholed, he’s in both a band AND movies, and he has even inspired characters for movies that he’s not in at all (Wristcutters, a love story). He heads the “gypsy punk revolution” in the form of Gogol Bordello, and, though I haven’t had the chance to get familiar with many of their recordings, their live show is first fucking rate. There’s so much iCake to behold -- the main man burning more calories during his performance than I do in a month (sad but true); a Russian violinist who hasn’t let a head of white hair stop him; a fellow who probably went to your high school and looks like he crashed the show but actually does back-up vocals and percussion; and, if you’re a girl (and maybe even if you’re not), you can’t tell me you don’t leave the show desperately wishing you were one of the cool gypsy chicks who alternate between banging giant drums and shaking their skinny asses on stage. It was a blast, I even bought a t-shirt. And I hereby challenge you to find someone remotely interesting who doesn’t love their backdrop: “Think Locally. Fuck Globally.” How they speak to me so.... Is that wrong?
Stew in that while you watch the video for "Start Wearing Purple."
But wait, the man’s genius doesn’t stop there! No sir, he’s also the shining light in a movie called Everything is Illuminated, this post’s second honorable mention. The story is born out of historic tragedy, someone dies, and Elijah Wood’s cartoonish character occasionally plucks at my nerves. Even so, I absolutely love this movie. It’s worth seeing for Eugene Hutz’s hilarity alone, but the well-balanced injections of hope and humor are heartfelt and totally relatable. And who couldn't love an "officious seeing eye bitch" named Sammy Davis Jr. Jr? In fact, the image for my next post (currently cookin') comes from a scene in the movie. For me, the image represents the moment you finally find something you were looking for when you didn’t know exactly what it was or how to get there. And yet. There it is. And it's beautiful.
If you are fortunate enough to know what it is you're looking for, and it just.so.happens. to be the gypsy punk revolution and/or a silly yet serious and surprisingly great movie, look no further.