Los Angeles Is For Lovers

I’m in California right now, so here are my thoughts on LA


Okay, huge disclaimer: I have spent about 1 week total in LA in my life. Between this trip and the trip previously, both of which together reflect the entirely of my time here, I understand that I’m not the most qualified reviewer. That being said, it’s just, like, my opinion, man.

TL;DR — I could live in LA, pretty sure. Maybe everyone says that but I doubt it, because even though my mom seemed to think so when I told her this, I have a hard time believing that everyone (and their mom) is cut out for any kind of “city,” LA or not. (Maybe she thought I meant “California?” No idea.)

That all aside: I dig LA okay. There are pros and cons, of course — things I like and things I don’t — but for the most part, I certainly like it more than lame-ass Chicago (which I hated from the very first weekend I ever spent there, after which I boarded my plane home thinking, “I could never, ever live here” — even though I later went on to do just that for five years.)

Here’s my breakdown:

The LA I like:

“LA Weather”

I mean, duh. Unless you’re one of those sad souls who prefers wet overcast weather or year-round winters, you obviously like southern California weather. And no, it’s no humidity (which I love), but clearly it’s nice enough, and I’m pretty sure this is 99% of what my mom meant when she said “everyone wants to live there.”

“Fresh AF LA”

I’ve never lived in NYC, but I’ve been to both cities. And while I could live in either one (especially since it seems every writer somehow lives in NY), NY always has this sad, obsolete feel to it, like everyone’s still pretending it’s the 70s or 90s (fashion or banking, respectively), and nobody’s ready to move on.

LA has not only moved on, but they’re compulsively “rightthefucknow.”

“Day Trip LA”

Not that I’ve taken any, but I can Google Maps.

“Motorcycle LA”

I mean, of course. As a “commuter rider” myself, who rides daily back and forth to work and whose only vehicle is my bike, these people are my people.

“Hipster health food LA”

Awww yiss… mothafukkin health food! As I’ve said, I could easily eat a salad twice a day for the rest of my life and be so happy, and if you can keep me ever-impressed with new salad shit, I definitely wouldn’t tell you no.

“Gritty-ass LA”

I stayed in the Arts District last night and went full “privileged romanticization” on that shit — all the industrial lofts and street art (duh.) I want to eat the Arts District, and my airbnb was the stuff of grittiness dreams.

And again, maybe everyone says that, but I doubt it, because if half the reviews left on the airbnb are any indication, it’s clear not everyone is “down home” with “rough around the edges.”

“Creativity LA”

Hells yeah, lemme see what you can do.

I’d never want to be a visual artist / designer myself, and I like to keep my time with them to strict, pre-defined 10-minute blcoks, but I’d be lying if I said they don’t manage to put out the coolest shit. (Of course.)

“Latin LA”

Oh, the laid-back masculinity of the Latin influence! Not just Mexican food (which I’m sure is fantastic, if I ate it) but an overall cultural and architectural influence that’s thoroughly delightful.

“Little Ethiopia LA”

Dudes, I love me some Ethiopian food — the way it tastes; the way it’s eaten; its simplicity and consistency around the world. 100% my jam, and definitely my favorite of “the world’s” cuisines options.

The LA I’m neutral on:

“LA Traffic”

Call me crazy, but idgaf about traffic — in fact, I find it kinda zen. (And I know, I know — true lunatic over here. Clearly I wasn’t hugged enough as a child or something. I don’t know.)

“Sprawl LA”

Where does LA even end, bro? No idea. Not even sure LA knows. It’s all LA.

“The Beach (?)”

Imma be real honest — I don’t really care. You’ll never see this chick fighting you for space on the sand or chugging salt water or whatever it is you people do out there.

The LA I could do without:

“Tourism LA”

One of my favorite parts about living where I do in the south is the utterly laughable lack of tourist options. (Seriously, they have “the airport” listed in the top five hot spots for visitors, and when my mom came to visit I had to drive her several hours to find something halfway interesting for her besides the mall.) And I love this. I love the “boringness” of the area. Keep away, everyone — nothing to see here!

And the opposite was true when I lived in Chicago — some days, it was just so clean and sparkly and checklisty and lame.

I bet if I lived here, I’d never once make it to see Hollywood, and I sure as hell wouldn’t be caught dead on some “celebrity sighting” tourbus like a twat.

“Superficiality LA”

I mean, not just Beverly Hills or whatnot, but the overall prissiness of it sometimes.

Yesterday I saw a porcelain-skinned chick (I mean, #skingoals, obvs, but that aside) with primped fingernails that were so long she could scarcely eat, and I thought “you’re probably wonderful, but I’m sorry, we could never be friends.”

Related: “Sensor LA”

On the Myers Briggs scales, LA is, overall, so loudly and unapologetically “sensor” (ATTRACTIVE!! FILM!! SPORTS!! SPORTS CARS!!!! MONEYS!!) that it goes full circle and is sort of adorable

“Old-Bro LA”

Dude, the amount of west coast skater bros (with long unwashed hair, big ole bro sunglasses and saggy pants) who are pushing 40 (or more??) is too damn high.

To be fair, this dude ain’t my type regardless of age. But it’s eerie and makes me feel sad a little.

“Elitist hipster LA”

I wish I could just eat all their food without enduring their stupid menu item names and overall way of life’ing.

“Asian Food LA”

Does this make me a dick? I don’t know why it should. I don’t think the Asian food industry is so hard-up for validation that they can’t afford an alternative opinion.

I’m just not that into Asian food. I don’t eat fish and all pasta / noodles bores me to tears. So…

“Donut LA”

Apparently they’re a thing here? Sadly, I think I’ve thrown down on like 3 donuts my entire life, and definitely never any of these overly-sugared monstrosities that all the cool kids are noshing on these days.

I’m not moving to LA

Mostly because I live in the South, have a good thing going, and have no real reason to leave.

But hypothetically. I like it more than most other US cities.


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The 10 Types of People You Meet on Planes

#5: the talker, your new best friend


1.) The person who needs you to know that they fly a lot.

I mean, they fly all the time. They’re on “x flights a week/month/year!” and they only mention this like 3 or 7 times, totally casually.

They’ve got status and you’re gonna hear about it. It’s the lowest tier you can get — that lame tier the airlines made up just to make this person feel special — but they don’t care. They live for points.

The best part is that if you also fly a lot, it’s probably more than this person, who probably actually flies less than you do. This only makes it better.

Unless you are also this person. In which case, you’ll of course need to mention it.


2.) The person who *actually* flies a lot

They do not want to talk about flying.

They don’t need to talk about points, because they clear platinum / 1K status midway through the year. And they don’t need to talk about status, because they’re already pretty well assured they’re near the top of any flight.

They are here purely to get from A to B and they’ve got this whole “flying” thing down to an art, so frankly they aren’t here to tell you about it or get you up to speed. (In fact, they’re probably here to work. Cue the laptop.)

3.) The person who’s literally never flown before

They checked in for this flight exactly 23 hours and 57 minutes ago and they’ve been at the airport ever since. They’re the first ones to board but don’t know how seat numbers work, they hit all of the buttons and yet can’t find the light, and they either stand up during takeoff or stay seated the entire flight for fear of getting up at the wrong time.

“When will we land? What gate will it be? Will I miss my connecting flight?”

It’s amazing that this person has made it this far in their life.

4.) The person who’s low-key convinced we’re all gonna die

But knows better than to say anything about it, lest they come off as a crazy person. (That, and they’ve probably popped enough Xanax to domesticate a dinosaur.) So they just silently plot their own demise and mentally map out their b-line route to the nearest door, occasionally muttering or praying out loud while clutching the arm rest.

Every time the plane actually lands, they’re convinced they’ve cheated death.

5.) The talker

You came here to make friends, did you not? Of course you did — why would anyone go out in public if not with the explicit intent of making new friends?

Plus, more importantly, they’re bored as shit on this flight and absolutely hellbent on using you to hear themselves talk and keep themselves entertained, because these codependent muppets have apparently never heard of “books” or “movies,” and also missed that developmental period in which the rest of us learned self-awareness and social cues.

Which is why they’re also fully convinced that we’re the one being rude.

One-word answer? Doesn’t faze them. Back to your book again? Oh, what are you reading? Not a big talker, huh? They’ll see about that. They need your life story; they need to share theirs.

Why would anyone do anything if not to talk?!

6.) The person irrationally pissed about the crying baby

Like, of everything going on with that baby, this person’s own incidental displeasure at the baby’s displeasure is The Most Important Thing.

Person: you are an illogical twat.

News flash: it’s a baby. Anyone who gets mad at a screaming baby is probably the same sort of person who has a melt-down when it rains. Like, sorry life didn’t rearrange itself for you. Sorry it’s an infant. Sorry it’s competing for your total lack of emotional self-management.

You know who has it bad? That baby. That baby doesn’t even know what’s going on. Maybe its ears hurt or maybe it’s something else, but babies don’t have the mental wherewithal to understand.

And you know who has it even worse? That parent. Because not only does he or she they have to deal with the screaming baby, but they have to deal with your irrational wrath as well.

The parent of a screaming baby on planes will have my heart forever and ever. You know why? Because I have had the great misfortunate of caring for tiny humans from time to time, and I know full well that those little tyrants will do anything in their power to test your limits and make you hate their (or even better, your) existence. Sometimes they’re hungry, or wet, or tired, or sick, but sometimes those little punks just scream to scream. Sometimes they just wanna be little assholes.

So, Person Who Can’t Think Beyond Irritation: may you die a slow death of screaming babies and may you endure a hell of not only being surrounded by them, but also being surrounded by a bunch of “you’s” hating you for not “making it stop.”

“But why can’t they just stay home?” You might ask?

Good question — I guess I’d ask the same of you, Person Who Can’t Handle Life Happening Around Them.

Maybe everyone who can’t manage their emotional responses to their immediate environment should stay off planes.

7.) The drinker

They’re low-key alcoholic for real and, frankly, this flight time is interrupting normal drinking hours.

Will readily explain the drink with: “what the heck, it’s __” followed by literally anything — “vacation!”, “after 3 pm!”, “after 9 am,” “Saturday!”, “$12 for a can of Miller Light!”

Loves spending $12 for cans of Miller Light.

Always wants to get two — not just one — microscopic bottles of booze. Fails to realize that when they can’t seem to get the flight attendant’s attention again, they’re being cut off.

8.) The movie watcher

Had time to download 8 full-length action films for this 2-hour flight, and yet somehow didn’t have time to grab headphones.

Or: has the volume so high it doesn’t matter.

9.) The serious sleeper

There is nothing quite so ludicrously hilarious to me as people who travel with full-size pillows. I laugh harder at these people than anyone else in the airport.

Like, are you people being serious? Did you also bring a can opener or a folding chair from home, just in case? Maybe a nice reading lamp?

What is wrong with you?

“It’s more comfortable that way.” Well, duh. You know what else is comfortable? Slippers and jammies. And I’d jokingly ask if you brought those too, but you probably did — or wish you had.

And not to mention how gross the airport is. I hope you’re washing that shit afterwards. And I don’t just mean the case.

10.) The person who lives on this plane

The sleeper may have brought a pillow, but this person brought their whole house. They have enough food to feed a small army and took their shoes off before the plane even pushed back from the gate. They’ve got a change of clothes, a personal library, and a small dog tucked under the seat in front of them. This person, it seems, has no intention of ever leaving this plane. That, or they seriously overestimated the amount of time in “2 hours.”

And then there are normal people like you and me

Because you and I are totally not on this list. We are totally normal and not weird or annoying or obnoxious or off-putting in any way. Regular class-A citizens; people above it all.

Especially if we are people who “fly a lot.”

Short Reviews Of 20 U.S. Places

That I’ve traveled to for business


I recently wrote about the ways I see the places I’ve lived (Colorado, Chicago, San Francisco, London and The South.) I have thoughts on the places I travel to for business, too. They’re shorter, but I figured what the hell.

Also, just to be totally fair: sometimes I spend no more than a few hours in each city — quick day trips in and out —and a “long” trip can be as short as two days. So I know that I could be 100% wrong on these observations. Take them with a grain of salt.

It’s a personal post, guys, not a formalized study. Which is also why some of these are called out by state and some are by city. This is how I think of them.


California

San Francisco — I’ve already talked about SF.

“She’s a one-size-too-small, ragged, old, smelly, lumpy sweater from a thrift shop, but the weave is fascinating and the wool was once high-grade, so it’s charming even in its grossness. She’s an introverted woman, both young and old all at once, who’s a little cool to the touch, with unkept hair and roughed up knees and an absent-minded gaze but a biting tongue, and she’s all wrapped up in that gross sweater, weirdly nonchalant about all the mostly socially-inept guys (we’re so far from the midwest…) making the room a little unbearable all around her.”

Los Angeles — I was surprised with how much I liked LA. Here I was expecting it to be over-the-top, in my face superficiality, but what I found was a laid-back, securely-masculine vibe. There are so many versions of LA, and here are the angles I love: health food LA, weather LA, mothafuckin motorcycles LA, latin LA, Little Ethiopia LA… it’s enough that I can happily overlook health nut LA, Hollywood LA, Rodeo Drive LA and that total letdown of a destination The Original Farmers Market… LA. I didn’t even mind the traffic (but then again, I typically don’t.)

San Diego — holy cow does San Diego smell pretty. I drove from LA to SD and nearly hyperventilated over the air coming in through all the open windows.

As a side note: I always wondered where “northern California” officially became “Southern California.” Then I had a drink at Bull and Bear Taphouse in Monterey and was barely two sips in when I realized: “oh. It’s right here. In this bar.”

Chicago

I’ve already written about Chicago, too.

“Chicago is nothing if not a good “work hard, play hard” mentality. Because Chicago is a golden retriever.”

Colorado

Denver — you leave Denver alone now, ya hear?

Broomfield — if you think Broomfield is gonna match your mental model of Colorado as a mountainous paradise where the snow’s pristine and the weed flows free, you’re gonna have a bad time. I’ve had several clients in Broomfield over the years, and for one very obvious reason: it’s effectively one massive corporate park, stretching between Boulder and Denver, with some housing developments and Class A strip malls for the people who work there but either don’t want to commute or enjoy living in (comparatively) cheap housing — or both.

Connecticut

You know that cliche metaphor “you don’t put a bumper stick on a Porsche/Bentley/Ferrari?” In Connecticut, they really do.

DC

DC, you so cute! You’re the Boston that has to keep it together and wear pants and make phone calls and stuff.

Florida

The entirety of Florida as a state: 
pros:
humidity and the way it smells (like broad, fat-leafed plants and nectary flowers and even that mildly decomposing smell of sodden soil.) ❤
con: it is a food desert, which might seem surprising at first, with all that Cuban influence, until you consider that Cuba is kind of a food desert too. (You might not think that either — I’m not even sure they think so — and I certainly didn’t, but then I went there and ate many a signature Cuban “salad:” iceberg lettuce, tomato and canned green beans. Chalk it up to communism.)

Florida has a “uniform,” and it’s a “short-sleeved ‘dressy shirt’ —in either cotton with ‘tasteful’ leaf/floral pattern or some kind of smooth synthetic blend like we’re ready for a rousing round of golf —worn untucked and loosely draped over a distended middle-aged belly.” Half the time I rent a car in Florida, they try to give me a Corvette or a bright yellow Challenger convertible, and I’m like “stop now please.” Florida not only wears those visors with the fake hair, but I’d bet the companies that sell them are based there.

Orlando — my least favorite airport by far. How they mess up “lines” that badly is beyond me, especially since they’ve got Disney World down the street. Like, hire a Mickey Mouse retiree or something. Damn.

Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Boca Raton, and the other surrounding areas — effectively all the same place as far as I’m concerned. You can try to tell me otherwise, but I’ve seen that split-lane road with the palm tree’d strip mall more than once. And yeah, that includes Miami, because a.) I’ve only ever seen the outskirts — and b.) plan to keep it that way. Nothing I have ever heard about Miami makes me think I’d like it (in fact, the more animated or passionate the description, the more I’m like “please no.”) And all of these places need more curbs in their neighborhoods — the broad-leaf Bermuda grass just sort of rolls up to the street in many places.

Georgia

Atlanta — Atlanta had my attention within about 10 minutes. Two words: radio stations. Between the 90s hip hop and current country, Atlanta wins at radio. Also, the highways smell like “humid pine,” so much softer and sweeter different than the “wheezing, bristly pine” of Colorado. It also has just enough “hipster” to keep me happy, because even though I’m not a foodie and don’t even like “good” coffee, sometimes I just fucking love spending $12 on a good grilled cheese. (Not joking.)

Savannah — terrible restaurants, tired early-2000’s retail, and yet somehow… tourism? Is the Spanish moss truly holding this place up? On the upside, I paid $26 for Byrd’s cookies, knowing full well I was being tourist-seduced, and I powered through all four bags the entire way home, happy and physically ill.

Las Vegas

Las Vegas can die in a fire. It is my least favorite city in the US by far.

People have one of two reactions to hearing this. Either a.) “Yeah, I know! I just gotta get out of there after like three days!” or b.) “oh… you don’t like gambling?”

To each point: 
a.) I’m not talking days. I’m talking minutes. The airport makes my skin crawl. 
b.) I don’t have any issue with gambling, grandma.

The issue is something more like “tacky AF empty, cheap distractions that register as the opposite of fun.” People always try to argue by shouting “it’s the Disneyland for adults!” And I always stare back at them in disgust, because, like: weird. that’s precisely my point, too.

Take Chucky Cheese’s screaming kids, whacking each other over the head with their inflatable bats, except “super size” them into adults, load them up with infomercial testosterone and then give them a three-day escape from the lives they hate, plus just enough “cheap circus” so that they know they’re spending some money but not enough to blowing their ATM-dictated budget. Remove everything real. Add everything fake. Prop it all up with glitter and cardboard facades. Then blow it out until it’s gross and distorted.

You ever stick a Peep in the microwave? That’s Vegas.

No thank you.

Massachusetts

Western Mass — I told my client there I’d rather visit Western Mass than Las Vegas and he thought I was messing with him, but I wholeheartedly meant it. It makes sense, because they’re pretty much opposite places. There’s no tourism in Western Mass. There are barely restaurants in Western Mass. The whole place is just darling and simple and genuine.

Boston — such a sweet-cranky little old lady… or maybe a middle aged man (big Sox fan) who doesn’t realize that he comes across as a cranky little old lady. Because that’s pretty much exactly how intimidating — and funny — I find Boston.

Minneapolis

Oh yeah? “Hot dish?” Okay, Minnesota, you sweet thing you.

Nashville

No, Nashville. Just no.

I’ve heard people call Nashville “The New Vegas,” and that should pretty much explain everything that needs to be said here.

It’s the cheaper, tackier, smaller and more strictly-themed version of Vegas. It’s a fanny pack and bedazzled purple cowboy boots and early-2000’s woo girls on wheels.

North Carolina

Sweet, sweet Carolina… Your people are mostly cherub’d faced but I’m not sure you’d care even if you knew. And the Smoky Mountains smell like my definition of heaven.

New York City

I mean… it’s New York City. Come on.

Even the view of New York is beautiful. The bridges (all of them) are beautiful. The waterways and inexplicable stretches of open land just over them are beautiful. I like Brooklyn, I like Manhattan, I’ll even fly LaGuardia — I’ve never had a single problem with that airport.

NYC is the super-senior kicked back at the frat house, who knows he’s top dog and no longer has to prove anything. In fact, my only dig at New York City is that nobody told NYC it’s no longer [whatever year NYC was in its prime], and there are a number of people still running around like it’s ten or thirty years ago. (The fashion district is still mad it’s no longer the 70’s heyday, yet others are still rocking unbuttoned dress shirt + gold chain combos.)

Texas

Austin — the cutest airport by far. And obviously cute around.

Houston — lol. Take all of the cliches about Texas and make them into a caricature and then project that caricature onto a big ole white sheet billowing in the breeze, but then also time travel to the late 90s, and you’ve got Houston. It’s expansive, two-dimensional masculinity like sidewalk marketing, made of cardboard and retrofits and hot air. When I landed at the airport and made my way to car rental building, I was the only woman business traveler. Seriously, Houston, what year is it?

My most favorites (and a few least)

For food: best: San Francisco (worst: Florida, then Savannah)

For weather: best: Florida (second best: Texas) (reminder: I like humidity)

For traffic/drivers: the south’s drivers are worse than LA’s traffic

(Seriously.)

For accommodations: I found several totally adorable airbnb’s in Austin that were on par, in terms of pricing, with a Days Inn

For airport: best, Austin (worst: Orlando)

For people: the Midwest probably still has my heart here, but I like all my clients

Overall: honestly, all of them have their own special charm 🙂 I do love me some business travel.

The Ways I See The Places I’ve Lived

Colorado, Chicago, London, San Francisco, and The South


Colorado

Sometimes I hesitate to tell people I’m from Colorado. I’ll say “Chicago,” or the suburb of Denver where I grew up, or I’ll change the subject to ask: “so, what’d you have for breakfast last weekend??” Just to avoid hearing That Response.

“Omg I love Colorado…!”

*Sigh.* No. You don’t.

You only see her as your personal playground. You like the bits and pieces and connotations (“weed” and “skiing” and “snow” and “The Great Outdoors!”) that bring you pleasure. And that’s not love.

Colorado is dear to me in the way everyone’s hometown is. I love her not as a point of pride (I don’t even smoke weed or really ski), but rather because she was a backdrop to the first 24 years of my life. We know each other like family. I love her in her vast ugliness; in her complexity and imperfect, barren bits, like the ugly stretch of I-70 just north of Denver and the Purina dog food factory. I see her history — like her open farmlands where many Republicans still live, over everyone’s shoulder, opposite from where they’ve focused their sight on her peaks and loins — and embrace her growth, even if that means traffic.

I see Colorado for everything she really is — the washed-out grays of pavement and winter fields, the dusty gray-green of pine trees, grays so bright it burns your brains out. And driving. A lot of driving.

And I love her enough to pick up the pieces and curl up with her at the end of it all, when everyone else is done.

I won’t go back any time soon — partly because she is everyone else’s playground, and partly because I’m off playing on my own — but I may eventually.

My favorite thing about Colorado: everyone I love most is still there

Chicago

A great, lumbering cow of a city that can’t get over its own past.

Chicago is heavy and old. Not the “cute, sweet-cranky little old lady” old like Boston, but old in a “just weirdly outdated” way. It’s that stale diner with brown pleather seats and formica counters and chipped, yellowing linoleum on the way to the bathroom — the place you keep going because they’ve got “the best burgers” and the waitress is always beaming like it’s the best day of her life and they’ve always got the game on. But mostly because you’ve always gone, so why stop now? Traditions are important. Who cares everyone’s still making the same jokes? (Goats, cheese borgers, Cubbies— daa Bears!)

I lived there for five years, though, and am very grateful for all the opportunities she gave me — if you want to build a career, it’s a fine place to do it. That, and the people are stupid friendly. Like if you somehow manage to get lonely (or offended) in Chi-Town, you are definitely doing it wrong. You can’t not make friends. They won’t let you.

Chicago is drinking. And eating. And socializing — mostly small talk, but you can talk about the important things like boating and sports and work as well. Then more drinking, and eating. And working. Chicago is nothing if not a good “work hard, play hard” mentality. Because Chicago is also a golden retriever.

My favorite thing about Chicago: the people — and by that I mean the men. Midwest men are, as a whole, crème de la crème, salt of the earth sort. (I’ll include Colorado men in that.) Not all of them — there are still bad eggs — and not that there aren’t great men elsewhere, because there are, so don’t @ me over this — I know it’s not scientific. But, overall, men west of the Appalachians and east of the Rockies are pretty great.

London

No thank you please, London.

London is the old, weird uncle in the room whom everyone is pretending is still relevant (except that one adoring niece, who is legit impressed with his glassware collection and pronunciation of “aluminum.”) It’s that oddball, older woman still wearing fur and drinking G&Ts but also has some serious upper lip hair and fake pearls and lipstick on her teeth. (London is also pissy I would even say that — “total bollocks!” — so you can see how they are a people who could also forget “time” and “change” pertained to them.)

London is a caricature of itself and they either don’t know or don’t care.

Between the price point, the exchange rate, the bad food, the lack of culture (for a watered down, stolen version of every other country’s culture, simply visit any British museum), the tourism, and the men (and their idea of “flirtation,” which is: to insult), I can’t say I’m eager to ever go back.

My favorite thing about London: how easy it was to get out of London. You can fly to Any Other Place In Europe for like £17— huzzah.

Oh, and their yogurt! They use like 1/100th the sugar America does and it was so good I couldn’t eat ours after I got back. (Also, muesli ftw.)

San Francisco

She’s a one-size-too-small, ragged, old, smelly, lumpy sweater from a thrift shop, but the weave is fascinating and the wool was once high-grade, so it’s charming even in its grossness.

She’s an introverted woman, both young and old all at once, who’s a little cool to the touch, with unkept hair and roughed up knees and an absent-minded gaze but a biting tongue, and she’s all wrapped up in that gross sweater, weirdly nonchalant about all the mostly socially-inept guys (we’re so far from the midwest…) making the room a little unbearable all around her.

My favorite things about the city, in no particular order:

  1. The hard boiled eggs in baskets on the counters of most coffee shops and convenience stores
  2. The texture and feel of it (see above)
  3. The mind-bogglingly-massive industrial structures in the water off of the east bay, with their big cranes and shipping containers from Asia, stacked higher than small cities… I could stare at them forever and just get lost trying to measure all that
  4. The healthy food options… I barely have to try and I trip onto these incredibly good fresh mixed salad places with local prod and seasonal shit and it makes me so happy.
  5. The hills. I lived in Nob Hill and worked in SoMa and walked to and from work each day. I hadn’t been there even a couple weeks when I noticed my butt and legs had taken on definition I’d never seen. (As an aside: in San Francisco, it really can be “uphill both ways.”)
  6. The motorcycles.

My least favorite things about the city aren’t nearly as interesting, because they’re the same as everyone’s least favorite things about the city. It’s gross. It’s full of phlegm and human feces and syringes and trash. That, and it’s expensive. But mostly it’s gross.

The South

If you found my review of the other cities negative — or you were hoping for a real good curve ball — you’re in luck, because: I weirdly adore the south.

The south is a sweet little dog — either dirty from being outside or only outside when it’s nice out — but either way, ever-ready to roll onto her back and show you her belly for a rub. She’s a honey-suckling lamb.

I don’t know what it is, man…

First of all, the weather and trees. Man, do I love me some humidity (seriously. Don’t make it weird) and I love me some trees and the south has both in spades.

After that? The south makes me laugh. Everything in the south is so damn funny. Mostly I’m laughing at them, but they don’t even care, and it all endears me to them more.

What’s funny, specifically? Dude — everything.

Their idea of “snow” — and their reaction to it. Their idea of a “city” and “traffic.” The way they stare at me, unable to compute, when I say I rode a motorcycle from Chicago. The way they rush to assure me “oh, sweetie —don’t worry! It’ll happen soon!” when they find out I’m not married, leaving me laughing “lol, oh god — bless your heart” because I’m in no hurry to get hitched. Their accents. Their terrified (and terrifying) driving. Their food. (Dudes, the south adds sugar to everything. They have “balsamic vinaigrette” so thick with sugar it barely pours. How is that not hilarious??)

My least favorite thing about the south is the lack of gritty, authentic, diverse culture. But you can’t say so, because they’re so eager to point out, “honey — there’s a Popeyes and a Cracker Barrel just down the street!” Which, of course, has to make you laugh.

My favorite things about the south: is, first, what many other transplants hate — there’s “nothing here;” nothing to subscribe to; no even real “tourism” to speak of. Unlike many other areas (especially cities), which give off a feel of, “Welcome! Here’s your sports jersey and your new favorite drink,” the south doesn’t really give a damn. If you want to hang out, you can. If you want to do something cool, have at it. Ain’t nobody gonna fight you off with a bat over it.

My real favorite thing about the south, though, is that my partner’s here — I moved here for him, and wouldn’t be here at all if he wasn’t.

The first time I visited Chicago (at the urging of my then-boyfriend who wanted to move back there), I realized: “I don’t want to live here.” I obviously did anyway— and I never stopped feeling that way about the city. For five years.

By contrast: the first time I visited the south, I asked myself, “could I live here?” and was flooded with the thought of my now-partner and realized,

“I’m already here.”

It’s not like I’ll be here forever, but the south makes me pretty happy for right now. Well, that and my partner (who does even more, and will for longer.)

One 17-Hour Winter Motorcycle Ride

The time I rode across the country in a day


On March 1, 2017, I rode over 750 miles from Chicago, IL to Charlotte, NC, cutting across America’s heartland in 17 hours straight.


I left at 5 am that morning. Chicago’s West Loop was still dark and lifeless — even the meat markets and packing plants two blocks down were silent.

It was upper 20’s and there were flurries drifting in the light from all the street lamps, but the roads were dry. I was thankful for that.

I had winter riding gloves — not the heated kind, but I figured once I got far enough south, they’d be fine — and thermal base layers packed underneath my jeans and my black leather riding jacket — remnants from when I used to ski, back in Colorado.

That was another life altogether.

And over everything, I also had my gray, oversized hoodie, because I was wearing it when I shipped the last box of my stuff out and forgot to take it off and add it.

I zipped my only remaining possessions — my license, credit card, and phone — into my jacket pocket, and went out into the darkness, helmet in hand, to fire him up.


The highway heading south out of Chicago is empty that time of morning, and except for the occasional semi, I was alone.

It was cold. I mean, of course it was cold. It was cold all 17 hours I rode, but the first and last few hours were the coldest.

On a bike, cold settles into you, invasive and all-encompassing. All you can do is just accept it and ride on, wearing the cold as another layer, and the most you can hope for is a quick acclimation.

The sun came up a couple hours into the ride, around the same time I made my first of seven stops for gas. I walked inside and poured myself a styrofoam cup of coffee, and the gas station employee gave it to me at no charge, giving me “that look” that reads equal parts “intrigue” and “pity.”

All riders know that look. But women riders especially.

I thanked her and then lingered just inside the door to drink my coffee and check directions. I still had over 600 miles to go.


The route from Chicago to Charlotte is 12 hours by car, but as any motorcyclist will tell you: everything is longer by bike. You get better fuel mileage, sure, but you end up stopping more — partly because the tanks are tiny, but partly because a lot more has to happen each time you stop.

When you get off the bike, you can barely move. Everything aches — your joints, from being in the same position for hours; your lower back and shoulders, from being crouched forward against — and beaten back by — what is effectively 70+ mph wind. Even your thumbs hurt, from being cocked down and around the handles.

So you stretch. And then you pee — you pee every time, because you also chug a full bottle of water every time, otherwise you get dehydrated (a real risk on a bike.) And you eat, in order to keep your energy levels up (ditto.) And after that, you spend a few minutes memorizing the next 100 miles’ worth of directions and trying your best to get warm again before heading back out.


There are so many moments while riding when you are acutely aware of how vulnerable you are. Not only because there’s more that could go wrong, but because if it did, you’d pretty much be SOL, naked and exposed on the side of the highway until help came.

I’d just bought the bike in November, so we weren’t that well-acquainted. But I’d also just taken it in for the 15,000 mile tune-up and had brand new tires put on, so — all things considered — I figured he was in the best shape he was ever gonna be for this. (And, spoiler alert: he rode perfectly.)

I also had a little credit left to my name — enough to get me a tow truck and a hotel room, if it came to that, but not much more.

I rode knowing these things and being quietly but ever-aware of my aloneness. I can’t really describe the feeling. I’m not sure any rider can. But I’m pretty sure all riders agree.

That vast, vulnerable aloneness is probably how pioneers felt.

And the odd thing about it is: there are no emotions.

I was neither scared nor excited, because there’s no real space for that in a rider’s head — you can’t afford emotional or mental distractions, good or bad.

So I just was. And I was just… going.


I didn’t have a place in Chicago anymore at that point. I lived there for five years, but two weeks prior I’d moved all my stuff back to Denver, where I’m from (but also no longer lived.)

I also didn’t live in Charlotte. And I laughed a little to realize that I was, technically-speaking, homeless.

I was also technically unemployed and technically single.

I would’ve understood if people in my life had been worried. Although my parents never said anything, I would’ve empathized if they’d been concerned. Most parents would be.

But then again: I’ve always been like this.


I had wanted a bike since high school, but not for the normal reasons. I got there by way of compromise: what I really wanted at the time was a horse, but my parents deemed the horse too impractical — after all, how would I get to school?? — and it was perhaps that exact exchange that planted in my head:

Fine. I’ll get a steel one.

It took me ten years to actually do it. Not because I was procrastinating but because I sort of forgot about it until my mid-twenties, when I broke up with a boyfriend and, for the first time, earned more than I owed on student loans (a big deal, for those who have them.) And then I remembered the bike and thought to myself, with sudden urgency:

Whose permission am I waiting on??

So I bought one.

My first bike was a 1982 Yamaha Maxim with 750cc’s, and I paid $1,350 cash for it. It was older than I was and had a leaky head gasket, but I didn’t care — he was mine. I put 6,000 miles on it that summer, riding north into Canada, west to the Mississippi, and every day to work, rain or shine. I was done for.

Two years years later I bought my second bike: the Ducati Monster. Which is the bike I rode across the US.


Sometimes people assume I got into bikes because of a guy — a boyfriend, or maybe my dad.

It’s such a presumptuous suggestion that I have to laugh because: quite the contrary, I pick boyfriends based on whether they’re into bikes. (And it was me who gave my dad one, not the other way around.)

But the other thing about boys and bikes and why I buy them:

2 for 2, it turns out I get a new bike each time I leave a boy.

And, 2 for 2, each bike leads me to a new one.


Ispent hours of the ride watching for the scenery to transition from gray-washed farmland to walls of green. It finally happened in Knoxville, the surroundings rising up with promise of warmth and summer, and I was so excited I nearly forgot I was only 2/3 of the way — with the hardest few hours of the ride still remaining.

I hit a storm in the Smoky Mountains.

I knew I would, because I’d been checking radar as well as directions like a good little rider does and, given the band of bright green stretched diagonally across the state, there was no way around it.

It was all but a torrential downpour, people’s wipers on full-blast and the semi behind me was at least two trailer-lengths back — presumably for fear of killing me.

I would’ve pulled off but there was no place to do so — there aren’t any exits for a good stretch of that highway, no substantial shoulders, and the only lights were headlights.

By the time I got out of the storm, after riding 14 hours, I was so physically and mentally fatigued I was getting sloppy. I had to stop every 30 minutes or so — to snap out of it and warm up — and the last 130 miles took me three hours.

When I finally rolled into Charlotte a little after 11 pm, I was saturated to the bone and so cold my lips were actually blue.


If you were to ask me how I did it: I have no idea.

I still wonder this myself sometimes, looking back. I’ve been riding for years and being in the cold for more than 10 minutes always feels miserable at any speed, let alone hours on the highway. So I have no idea how I did it.

I just did.

I started my bike that morning, got on, and rode. I rode until I needed to stop, and then I got back on and rode again. There was no other magic beyond that. I just did.

The best answer I have to “how” I rode that long, esp. in those temperatures is:

He was at the other end.

And if you were to ask me “why” I did it…

— well, lol, that’s a much easier question.

The answer, simply, is “love.”

I moved across the country to be with someone I cared about. I have never been this sort of person — more fighter than lover, I was always the one moving away from partners or letting them move without me. With him, though, it’s different. It’s decisive without even having to decide. It’s deliberate without deliberation. The minute it became clear we might have a shot at this, I packed up, shipped out, and did what I needed to do to make it happen.


Idon’t know everything there is to know about love, but I do now know for sure that love is marked by:

  • Conviction. Certainty so strong, aggressive and self-assured that it’s calm.
  • Choosing. Work, action, and taking blows for what you want.

Love isn’t in the feathery, fuzzy parts — it’s in the biting cold and aching joints and anything and everything you endure to have it.

“You don’t just get to leap from bright moment to bright moment. How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are.” — Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic

When you want something badly enough, you take the bad with the good. Which means you endure 17 hours of midwest winter winds by motorcycle — easy — if that’s what it takes.

Love is deciding,

“What sort of suckage you’re willing to deal with.” — Gilbert, Big Magic

And then it’s committing to it, thick and thin, hot, cold, shivering, aching.

As david miranda wrote, it’s commitment that’s submission to the unknown:

“The unknown of what’s ahead, leaving one life to embark on another… the vulnerability of submitting to the heart and being content with either outcome.”

Love is not about about what makes you feel good — it’s about what you’re passionate enough about that you can endure the worst aspects.

If you love and want something enough, you’ll not only eat the “shit sandwich” — you’ll do it happily. If you don’t want the shit sandwich, you don’t want it badly enough.

It’s not about pain. It’s about enduring. It’s about working and making it work.

Love is caring enough to endure. It’s chasing shit down, hardship and all.

April 2017, North Carolina


How Everyday Experiences Build Our Lives

On seeing one good southern snowstorm


The boy and I saw the snowstorm that hit the south this weekend.

It came in from the south on Thursday night and then worked its way across the southeastern states until early Saturday morning, moving from Mississippi through Alabama, Georgia, across the corner of South Carolina and into North Carolina.



You may note that I use the word “saw,” because that’s all it was — more spectacle than experience, and certainly not something we were “in,” let alone “dealt with” or “hit by.” We seent it. And because we’re both from snowy climates (the same snowy climate actually, because we’ve known each other for years and years), seeing — and driving in — snow is no big deal. All things considered, we were rather looking forward to seeing some again.

We were renting a house in the Smoky Mountains for a long weekend getaway — partly to celebrate my birthday; partly Christmas; partly just because — and even though the area typically only sees a light dusting once or twice a year, I’d been hoping we might see snow — to remind us of home, and for the sake of cozying up. And when it really happened, it created an absolutely magical place that we were permitted to romanticize:



There was only one restaurant open the night we got into town (granted, there were only a dozen or so there, total), and it was the perfect spot to watch the snow outside. Meaning: it had burgers. And beer.

And we spent the next three days after that driving around the Smoky Mountains, surveying downed power lines, dodging broken tree limbs, and taking The Boy’s little car through six inches of snow, while also eating our faces off and drinking beer, much of it local breweries’ winter and Christmas stuff, which I love. But mostly, we spent the weekend on vacation, and happy, and quite content in the little bubble of romanticizing snow — and each other.

And while we were more or less enjoying it, celebrating in seeing some good snowfall that reminded us both of home, not everyone was sharing the same experience.

Snow brings out a lot in people.

Fear

Look, I don’t have to tell you because by now everybody knows, but it’s worth emphasizing: people in the south freak out when it “snows.” I use quotation marks because they’ll call any technicality (and amount) of frozen precipitation “snow,” responding to a light dusting in a way northerners reserve only for serious storms. The accumulation policy for “snow day” school closings, for example, is — literally — 0.1 inches. And grown ass adults go home early from work — or stay home — before the first flake even hits the ground.

Most people freak out while driving, some abandoning their cars parked on the sides (or sometimes in the middle) of the road. That, or causing pileups such as this:

Raleigh, North Carolina — 2014

And if they’re not freaking out while actually driving, they’re utterly and irrevocably freaking out about other people driving, saying things like,

“I don’t give a flying fuck where you were born! I don’t care that you drove through blizzards. I don’t care that there isn’t snow coated interstates. They don’t plow any fucking roads but those stupid interstates! These people, they don’t know how to drive in this slop. There isn’t endless salt piles at every intersection, and they call snow plow ‘scrapers.’ Scrapers? Srsly, bro. Some counties have like three snow plows. Three, seriously bro!”

And while people in the south do occasionally react so poorly that it becomes a life risk, the southerners tend to react like it’s not about them:

“All you Northerners laughing and carrying on about our closed schools. Ya, know what? Them kids are at home, alive, happy. Not stuck in a dumb school bus, on some random slushy mountain curve, praying for their life. That is why they stay home.”

Alive? I’m not even sure what they think happens up north. Do they think school buses full of kids die every time it snows? Do they think they have giant school bus bobsleds? I’m not sure.

For them, it’s only scary and bad:

“Last night there wasn’t going to be snow! When my eye popped open to inches being predicted for today, and the whole script had been flipped, I knew it was not going to be a happy ending… Bad ending all around.”

And, I mean, that’s just so thoroughly emotion-laden that I’m pretty sure we’re not even talking about snow any more.

The people down here are so horror-consumed they can’t function — even those who are “from” or have “lived” “in the north.” You can tell who’s actually experienced snow before and who has no idea what’s going on the minute the latter scorn at the former and scowl,

“Don’t be a fucking hero.”

And the rest of us are like “what? That’s literally not what this was about.” We’re not trying to “be a hero” and we’re not even sure what that means in this scenario. Just trying to get around here, bud.

And for a lighter note, let’s cut back to those kids…

Excitement

Kids, mostly, tbh.

We passed a spectacular sledding hill, the likes of which we rarely see around the bigger southern city where we actually live, and he slowed the car while we both gawked, “what a great sledding hill!” We didn’t have winter gear with us, otherwise I’m sure we would’ve been down for a run or two.

And between sledding hills and snow days — and later on, perhaps the buzz of testing your four-wheel-drive vehicle in the snowbanks, or the thrill of cutting through fresh powder (or groomed trails; no one’s judging) by ski or snowboard.

Nostalgia

For everyone who once was a kid and saw a proper snow storm, seeing snow again triggers a sweet, deep reaction.

It’s the reason we like white Christmases, the reason we make snowmen and probably the reason we take our kids sledding even when we ourselves just stand, hands and feet freezing, at the top of the hill. Every time it snows reminds us of every other time it snowed, and I guess the best we can hope for is to have more good memories than bad.

Love

It snowed in Mexico for the first time in twenty years, and I heard that one man there made a snowman on his mother’s grave, fulfilling a promise that one day, when it snowed, they’d make one together.

I think a lot of love can be proven — or disproven —in the snow.

Like whether or not a loved one will spend the night to avoid the storm, or whether he or she will cut across town early to make it to you before it hits. Whether or not a loved one tells you to stay home, safely out of the storm, because they care more about your safety than spending time with you.

A loved one scraping your car off, or warming your boots, or shoveling the driveway because you hate it.

Or maybe a loved one getting up in the middle of the night to pile the single spare blanket — and all of the towels they could find — on top of your sleeping body, without you waking, because a downed tree took the power and heat out, and they woke up to find the poorly insulated house quickly dropping in degrees. And then slipping quietly back in bed with you to keep you warm — without waking. All of this being precisely what The Boy did when the power (and heat, and water, because it was a pump) went out the first night we were at the cabin we rented.

Or little things like getting an incredible shot the day after the big southern snow:


It’s going on our first Christmas card, which will be sent, in the very least, to each of our mothers.

Day trips are for lovers

Darling, let’s go driving


There’s nothing quite like the road trip to build memories, but there’s something to be said for his little brother, the day trip, who offers a lot of the same appeal with a fraction of the time and energy investment.

It’s partly a nostalgia thing

I think, with the road trip.

Something we fill in enough to believe we remember even if we weren’t a part of the “road trip” heyday post second World War. We weren’t there for that, when growing families of 4, 5, 6 people piled into the family wagon and made treks to the newly-established national parks.

Most of us weren’t there for drive ins. Or cruise strips. We didn’t really play a part in big car culture.

But it’s become so ingrained in us that we pick it up as we do most traditions, embracing it and making it our own.

It’s partly an intimacy thing

It’s a closeness thing. A minimalist thing. It’s radio or playlists or streaming stations you must agree on. It’s sharing snacks. It’s negotiating on temperature and route and speed.

It’s close. It’s so very close. It’s reaching across to one another, a hand on a thigh, so as to say without saying: “we’re together.”

It’s partly an escape thing

It’s partly amusement, entertainment, distraction, adventure.

It’s novelty. It’s freshness. It’s seeing and doing and going. It’s fun. It’s freedom. It’s potential.

It’s partly a security thing

Being in the car is safe. Going somewhere with a plan, versus sitting at home without one, feels safe. Having a roadmap and a destination creates a feeling of control, and we like that.

It’s a memory-making thing

When so much of our day to day lives bleed together into one big homogenous blanket that can suffocate out any color, the day trip is a thing that stands out, a feeling we lean back on.

Decades later, my grandma still talks about the ones she and my grandpa made with their young family. Fifteen years after, I still think about those I made with my high school sweetheart.

Day trips are a thing you can touch and hold. Just like a lover.