I self-published my very first book of poems, short-stories, and observations and it’s now available on BarnesandNoble.com! I could not be more excited!! BUY NOW
I self-published my very first book of poems, short-stories, and observations and it’s now available on BarnesandNoble.com! I could not be more excited!! BUY NOW
Last May, I flew out to Maine to visit my boyfriend as he finished his time at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, and together, we drove back to Southern California. I’ve been progressively getting more into photography so I decided to take my camera along and make a photo journal of the trip. This trip was the final frontier in my journey to crossing off all my states in the continental US (except Alaska). I’ve taken a lot of road trips in my life, but I think this one might have been the most beautiful. If you’re looking for advice, top ten lists, or anything besides beautiful photos of the Northern United States, this post probably isn’t for you. But if you’re ready to jump into the wide array of landscapes and odd attractions America has to offer, congratulations! You’re in the right spot.
We traveled from Maine, through Massachusetts, to New York, Grand Rapids Michigan, stopped at Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park, and once we hit Seattle, Washington, we headed south through Portland, Oregon, and eventually back home to Los Angeles, California.
Next stop, Europe! (Tokyo would be pretty cool too).
This is for everyone who has ever thought it would be fun to road-trip around America alone, but especially to those who are unsure where to begin. First, let me tell you that it is one of the most rewarding, thrilling, and frightening adventures you will ever go on; and I highly recommend it. But there are a few things you should probably figure out before jumping in:
The most important element of planning a road-trip is figuring out where to go. This part can be a quite flexible since you’re going it alone, but if you want to save some money and see friends along the way, it’s best to have a rough estimate of what states you want to hit. I started in Los Angeles, then stopped in Albuquerque NM, Iowa City IA, Naperville IL, Brooklyn NY, Boston MA, Provincetown MA, Salem MA, Nags Head NC, Jacksonville FL, Lafayette LA, and Los Vegas NV. The entire way out I stayed with friends, the entire way back, I booked hotel rooms (except in Louisiana). I was able to explore the cities on my own when I wanted to, but I also had friends who could show me around and help me find all the best places to visit in the short amount of time I had. This part of the trip should really depend on your priorities: why are you taking this trip? If your main priority is self-exploration and adventure, I would try to do as much on your own as possible. It can definitely be really scary at times (especially in big cities that you may not be familiar with), but as long as you’re aware, make eye contact with anyone you may feel threatened by, and don’t panic, you’ll be just fine. Also, try to fill up your gas tank whenever it is convenient to do so; try to primarily fill up during the day and then find a hotel to crash at if you need to, rather than putting yourself in a dangerous situation in the middle of the night. However, if the main purpose of your trip is sight-seeing and being social, I would consider taking a friend with you to keep from getting despondent. I love spending time with myself, but you have to feel comfortable in that isolation. Bring your iPod or some of your favorite CD’s, but also, don’t be afraid to turn off the music for a few hundred miles and just listen to your thoughts. The entire drive to the East Coast I listened only to what was on the radio; sermons, country, oldies, and talk radio were the top choices, but sometimes all I could hear was static. It was in those moments that I learned the most about myself.
Figure out how long you want to be away for. This goes hand in hand with your financial ability to take the trip, but it should also be tied to why you’re taking the trip. Give yourself enough time to get across the county and back comfortably so if you get caught up in the adventure, you don’t have the additional stressor of pending responsibilities at home. I took a little over three weeks and was able to stay extra days in Chicago, New York, Boston, and Louisiana. I think anywhere between three and four weeks is ideal for a solid vacation without going crazy, but if time and money permits, I would consider exploring for up to eight weeks.
Make sure you have a reliable vehicle. This is so super important it really should be first, but it’s not the most romantic point, so I’ve saved it for third. Take your car in for early service if it isn’t due; tell them you’re going on a cross county road trip and spend the extra money to get it prepped and ready. Also, call your insurance company and get coverage for things like cracked windshields for the month. I would also highly recommend AAA or some other kind of roadside service company. You really only need it for the month, so it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle or financial drain. Also, splurge on an emergency road kit to keep in your trunk. Once you’re protected and prepared, clean your car really, really well. This will be where you’re spending the majority of the next month, so you want it to be nice. I would recommend stashing the following in your car too: a flat of waters, Febreeze, granola/Cliff bars, hand wipes, dust cloths, Windex and paper towels (I stopped at every gas station and cleaned my windshield – the bugs are really big in certain parts of the country), and a little cooler with ice packs and snacks. (Bonus: If you have your passport, you might as well have it with you; you never know.)
This is usually the biggest reason people don’t go on the road-trip of their dreams. But don’t let finances stop you! A little bit can really go a long way if you’re creative. My budget was $1,500 for three weeks; I came home with $6 to my name, but I did it! To have a little wiggle room, I should have probably had closer to $2,000, but I’m really good at stretching a budget. Staying with friends helped me save about $600 total, I brought tons of Cliff bars, which served as free breakfast every day, and I think I only budgeted $150 for souvenirs. For lunches I often did $5 foot-longs at Subways (which are pretty much everywhere) which could act as lunch and dinner for me when I needed it to. I only drank the water I had in my car or black coffee (no Frappuccino’s, etc.), and that was virtually free. Be careful not to do too many fast-food runs; it actually adds up pretty quickly and you often feel sluggish and gross after a Big Mac, and you won’t be doing much physically on a daily basis to help you feel better. The biggest expense you will have is gas, and unfortunately, you can’t do too much creatively to minimize that cost. I can’t speak to exactly how much it will be, since gas costs are changing on the daily and vary by state, but I can tell you how to help figure an estimate: figure out what your average gas mileage is for your car, Google maps your entire estimated trip, and figure out how many gallons you would need minimum. Now add 400 miles just to be safe. This will give you a little flexibility in case roads are closed, or you decide to take a trip to the Grand Canyon on a whim.
Something that can really help you from going stir-crazy (if you’re prone to isolation insanity) is giving yourself a project to focus some of your mental energy on. I wanted to put together a vlog (which I still haven’t done), so I recorded moments of driving on the road each time the landscape changed to edit all together to show the trip progression. I would stop and take photos to document the trip, and whenever I went into a big city, I recorded moments of myself walking around some of the most famous parts of town: Times Square, the French Quarter, Downtown Chicago, etc. I highly recommend bringing a camera since this drained my phone battery very quickly; and it is VERY IMPORTANT to always have a full phone battery. Make sure you have a car charger and invest in a portable charger to keep with you (and charge it every night in your hotel room/friend’s house).
Lastly, be honest with yourself about what you struggle with and address those issues before you leave. Do you get bored easily? How can you entertain yourself: write, pictures, Sudoku, license plate Bingo, etc. Do you have anxiety? Don’t drink too much coffee, make sure you get enough sleep every night, address your fears, and go through a few common situations in your head so you know how you would deal with them. Flat tire? You now have roadside service; stay in your car and call. Lost? You have a map at your fingertips at all times, and now that you’re fully stocked with portable batteries, it’ll never die. It’s also not a bad idea to have an old fashioned map of the country just in case you don’t have service. Some scary man is following your car and threatening you? Call the local police with your newly charged phone and calmly tell them what’s going on, his license plate number, and a brief description of what he and his car looks like. Lost on the Subway? (I highly, highly recommend going into the subway with a friend if you aren’t familiar with it…this was the scariest part of my whole trip: you do not have service in the subway, strangers will continually tell you different directions and trains to take, and you can very easily get turned around and end up who knows where at midnight; just don’t panic. I ended up getting out of the subway station and going up around Wall Street to catch a cab as a desperate last attempt to get home). Anyway, the moral of the story is that you have the complete ability to figure yourself out of any situation as long as you don’t panic. You are fully capable of getting through any of your weaknesses, and for me, my road-trip helped me build the independence and confidence to get through anything. Good luck, and safe travels!
New Years Eve is one of the most important days of the year for me: it sets my entire mindset for the upcoming year, and it pushes me to be reflective of the year I just flew threw. But in order to fully prepare myself for this spiritual enlightenment, I have of checklist of things I need to get done every year before baby New Year lights his annual celebratory cigar. To some people it seems excessive and unnecessary, but to others, my dance with insanity can be an inspiring mindset shift and a burst of refreshment to drink to in the year ahead. With the hopes that you are the second kind of person, I present you with:
My Annual New Years Challenge
Rule #1: All these tasks must be completed by 12:00 am January 1st.
Rule #2: You must complete your tasks with the positive force of wishes for your New Year, NOT with a curmudgeon attitude that will treat these tasks as unwanted or unnecessary chores.
Rule #3: Anything you do not complete must not be looked at as a failure, but you must focus on everything you did complete as a wonderful success and celebrate yourself for moving your personal mountains (even if it was just a little).
The Brief Pep-Talk
Okay, now for the challenge. I must preface this by saying that I have been doing this since I was 16 years old and have only perfected my methods over time. I have never done this challenge and had an unproductive year. Set your sights high and really go for it this year. Don’t hold yourself back because of mental blocks or emotional hurdles you’re too frightened to push yourself past: be honest with yourself and do what makes you happy and I promise, you’ll have your most successful year to date!
Step 1: Get Rid of Everything You Can Part With; Organize the Rest.
This may seem extreme, but physical things can hold you down more than you know. Take good hard look at all the stuff you’ve accumulated over the years and be ruthless: Do I need this? Do I even want this anymore? If this were in the store today, would I buy it? Is it broken? Have I touched/looked at/thought about it in the last 6-months? Bring in two big bins and promise yourself you’ll take them both to Goodwill completely filled. Bring in three trash bags, fill those too. I promise you, you can do it, and a bit of your soul you didn’t even know was gone will come back to you.
Step 2: Dust & Vacuum Better Than You Have All Year
Move furniture, get the hard to reach spots, wipe down the walls with a dry Swiffer, clean your ceiling fan, deep clean your carpets, and vacuum all the furniture. You can even spray some Febreeze air freshener if you’re feeling really ambitious! You’ll breathe easier knowing you’re not sharing your air with dust bunnies and dandruff.
Step 3: Do Your Laundry/Wash Your Bedding
Now that you have significantly less clothing, make sure to do one final load of laundry to leave your laundry basket empty when you ring in the new year. Hang up and put away everything and make your bed (even if you normally don’t).
Step 4: Take Your Car to Get Washed (Inside & Out); Fill Up on Gas
Drive through a car-wash and clean out your car; vacuum up every stray french fry and Starbucks straw paper, empty your trunk, spray a nice relaxing lavender (or whatever) mist to make it smell lovely, and top off your tank. Get ready to tackle your new year strong, not having to worry about stopping for gas on your first week back to work/school/life after the holidays.
Step 5: Get Everything to Their Owners
Holiday presents you haven’t gifted yet? That book you borrowed in July and haven’t returned? Your Aunt’s Elvis Glasses you used as part of your Halloween costume that are sitting on your floor? Give everything that isn’t yours to the correct people and wash your hands of anything looming over you about responsibility for other people’s things.
Step 6: Groom Yourself
I’m sure you do this at least a little every day all year long, but treat yourself really well this December: make sure you wash behind your ears, maybe get your nails done (men and women), get a haircut, buy a teeth whitening kit, wax your upper lip, whatever you usually neglect but needs doing, do it! You’ll feel confident, professional, and more organized for taking a little extra time for yourself.
Step 7: Clear Your Phone
Pull all of your Photos & Videos off of your phone an onto your computer, uninstall any apps you don’t use, and start fresh. It’ll be a while before you’ll run out of room again, and it’ll run faster and smoother causing you less frustration, and every little bit counts.
Step 8: Back Up Your Computer
Buy a hard drive and back up everything on your computer. You never know what this year has in store for you, and if you’re ready for an ever-too-common technology malfunction, it won’t be a catastrophe, but rather a small hiccup in your day-to-day.
Step 9: Minimize Your Storage
Before even tackling your storage space, give yourself a limit or a goal about how big of a dent you want to make. I usually tell myself I refuse to go over 15-20 bins in storage, but sometimes if I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll try to half however many bins I currently have by reorganizing, throwing away all stuff I don’t need, and giving away a few valuable things to people who will appreciate them more then my garage shelves will. Even though you may not think of your storage junk every day, I promise you, it does carry it’s own emotional weight, and you don’t need it going in to this new wonderful year.
Step 10: New Years Resolutions
The typical, but important, final step: sit down in your brand new clean room with your new haircut and empty laundry bin and write down 20 things you want to do this year. Try to avoid generalizations (since they’re less likely to come to fruition) but be specific. Instead of saying, “Exercise more” say, “Go to the gym at least once a week.” Don’t be afraid to set a few high goals, and put bullet points as sub-goals for guidance as to how you plan on achieving what you want.
Let me know about your own New Years success stories, tips, and tricks in the comments below, and feel free to add challenges if you think I missed something. Now go get ‘um!
The insecurity dripping from the title is something I typically try to avoid, but in this case it helps drive home the point I’m trying to make: even the most confident, intelligent, and driven people in my generation (the twenty-somethings) are suffering from extreme lack of satisfaction in their lives. It seems like we’re all suffocating under the weight of our own expectations of what it means to be successful in our own eyes as well as in the eyes of society; and we’ve all reached the idgaf point of, “something’s gotta work at some point so I might as well take the risk,” and when we tire of not getting anything from our risks, we settle. Simply put: we’re over it.
The social media argument is one that gets brought up often: we spend too much time comparing ourselves to the polished lives we see our friends, acquaintances, and co-workers, leading, but I’d venture to say that it’s much more deep-rooted than photo comparisons. I think this lack of feeling successful comes from within what we’ve been taught success looks like:
Unless we have a career path by the time we’re 21, we’re failures.
Unless we have a full-time job that pays any bill we may encounter, we’re failures.
Unless we have our own place, our own dog, our own car, we’re failures.
Unless we’re someone’s boss, we’re failures.
Unless we have 10,000 Instagram Followers, we’re failures.
Unless we’re finding time outside of our crazy 9-5’s to balance fitness, hobbies, and a thriving social life, we’re failures.
I could go on; but I’ll spare you. You get the point. It’s not that we’re competing with others, we’re competing with ourselves, and it’s fruitless. We need to readjust our thinking and seriously re-evaluate the word “failure” and the word “success.” We’re spending so much energy trying to reach the unreachable, we’re destroying any chance that we may have at happiness. At true achievement.
If this is something you’re struggling with, take a moment right now and start redefining what success is to you. Now I’m not saying give up your dreams of being the CEO of a Fortune 500 Company or a World Famous Movie Star. I would never ever be an advocate for thinking smaller, but I AM an advocate for being happy. Even if you aren’t a millionaire yet, don’t fall into a routine of “this is good enough” to get yourself through feeling inadequate. Be driven and keep your spirits high so you don’t fall into that couldn’t care less mindset that causes rushed decisions out of impatience or perceived desperation. You CAN get there. Start small:
Success is waking up in time to make coffee in the morning.
Success is finishing the video you needed to edit and posting it online.
Success is getting that job interview/that audition/that opportunity.
Success is paying your phone bill on time this month.
Success is doing your laundry well before you run out of clean underwear.
Success is taking a moment away from your crazy day to cuddle/breathe/read for 5 minutes on the couch.
Success is cooking yourself a meal, or buying yourself that chocolate shake you thought about all day.
The point is, success can be found in the little things, and if we don’t take the time to notice our small successes, we’ll forever be disappointed by our lack of stereotypical ones. For humans are never satisfied, and without small successes, we will never see ourselves as big ones.
I went to LACMA a few weeks ago, and one of the featured exhibits inspired me greatly. Larry Sultan’s work, “Pictures from Home,” “The Valley,” and “Home Movie Stills,” reminded me why I love living in Los Angeles; it reminded me why I never had to ask why it was named The City of Angels.
I’ve heard Los Angeles compared to cocaine a few times before, and I always agreed with this sentiment. I’m not quite sure why, but I think it has something to do with the grime that so many people find romantic; the elusive smoothie of bulimic glamour and the romance of homelessness. Los Angeles is something people love to hate, and hate to idolize. But still, it treks fourth into the abyss of “whose bourn no traveler returns” leaving people to bathe in their own shattered dreams of fame mixed with the fast moving pace of: no one is special because everyone is. It brings people to their knees; to cry and otherwise. And people eat it up.
But in order to talk about angels, we must first talk about death. I’m certain of ghosts; they’re beautiful yet frightening creatures that remind us of our unchanging fate and tendency to decay. But angels are a little different. Angels are there to comfort us when faced with death; much like the people who make up LA. Every coffee, coke, blood, or vomit stained inch of pavement that was poured into Hollywood to create a foundation for a slew of red carpets to be tread upon, is littered with ghosts. And yet, all I see now are angels. The veterans who sit behind miniature walls of cardboard and sharpie scratched pleas, the street performer bleeding out into their guitar for pennies tossed into their velvet coated casing, the small town kid, headshot in hand, hoping this fast food commercial will be their break into the industry that doesn’t allow for anything less than perfection, and the artist, eating at a diner at 4 am to people-watch from behind their waffle, decaf coffee, and pen and paper.
Larry Sultan created the perfect vision of ghosts and angels; home video stills and porn stars. It screams absurd, but he normalized it with ease. He turned cocaine into weed and vodka. He froze the images he wanted to keep in his mind, the images he wanted to advertise as his family, and blew them up as big as he could to hang on a wall in front of hundreds of thousands of judgmental pretentious eyes and shouted, “These are the parts I want you to see.” That’s what angels do too. Faced with his mortality, faced with the high probability that he would grow up displaying many of the same shitty traits his parents did, he picked what he liked and made it art, and the rest was hidden behind the façade of, “I didn’t choose those images.”
And as for, “The Valley,” the porn capital of the world, he took photos on set of naked, skinny, beautiful people eating the catering provided for them, or adjusting their stilettos between takes, and a few of sexual acts going on right outside the view of the camera; again, normalizing the absurd, and yet, forcing us to realize our own humanity; our own mortality in a polished, controlled way. Porn is successful because people enjoy being faced with their weaknesses; but only if it’s a fun weakness: a weakness shared with everyone else that, oddly enough, few people discuss. I could push it one step further to say that humanity enjoys porn because it’s proof that even though we must reproduce in order to preserve our mortality, when we aren’t shooting for that goal, and we go through the motions despite its intended purpose, we feel powerful; as if we can maintain our humanity solely through feeling and experiencing.
I believe this captures the entire appeal of Los Angeles; our mortality is what we make of it, and it’s possible to live after death, as long as we choose our experiences and our image wisely.
(Featured Image Owned/Created by Larry Sultan)
I fell in love with photography last September. Theatre has always been my #1 passion, and I’ve always written (scripts, novels, poems, etc.) with a specific image in mind, but I had never put together the idea that I could create moments that could be preserved and crafted the way that I imagined them. I decided to borrow a fancy camera, and take it to a rehearsal for a show I had written and was directing, to try to get some promotional photos. We were pretty far into the process so all the blocking was done, I had been working through all of the important individual moments, and we had costumes and props. However, we weren’t able to get into the theatre until the week of the show, so we were rehearsing in a small costume shops open space of about 10ft x 6ft. I was toying with the settings on the camera, and found an artsy black and white filter that helped neutralize the abundance of colors, shapes, and textures that filled the outskirts of the room.
Once I got home and was able to really sit down with the results of the project, I was absolutely tickled. I was able to capture my favorite relationships in the show, my favorite moments, my favorite interactions that I had envisioned, with such grace and dignity, I realized what a magical thing photography is for theatre. Theatre is such a fleeting art. It’s there and then it’s gone. But I had captured my inspiration mid-process, and was able to remind myself why I write, why I direct, and why I love acting. No photo was posed; I just snapped photos throughout a run-thru, and I was able to capture candid moments of my characters.
That was the beginning of a brand new obsession for me; and I want to share with you some of the pictures I took that day.
“What do I know of a man’s sanity? I could tell you more about radishes.” Samuel Beckett said that…or something like that; and I know very little of radishes. To lose one’s sanity is said to be the most tragic of all losses; for how can we mend that which we aren’t aware to be broken? Radishes however, are eaten mostly raw. They germinate and grow rapidly, like children, or the ideas of radicals or the average unstable artist; which are arguably the same thing as children. Some radishes are valuable for their seeds, like some men, and some leaves and roots are to be cooked and consumed; for we leave our roots to be consumed too, but not just by the mouths of other hungry humans with fat tongues and swollen lips, but by trains of thought, large cities, and our thirst to hold ourselves together despite our willingness and tendency to crumble. I guess the answer is that both will inevitably be consumed. But there was no question was there? Only an assumption that we know very little of radishes.
I’ve been struggling with, what I would consider, a seriously horrible problem in the theatre world for as long as I can remember: Poor Advertising & Lack of Collaboration. These might seem like two entirely different issues, but they are entirely related. They actually can both be fixed in just one step: bring non-theatre artists into your theatre.
Let me explain; do successful companies that advertise food have chefs design their logo? Probably not. Do big name movie directors design their own movie posters? Nope.
So why are we, as a community of theatre artists, selling ourselves short by taking low quality photos and using Microsoft paint or PowerPoint to edit our poorly designed images to promote original theatre? Newsflash: people already have to be convinced to see original theatre.
They don’t want to dedicate hours of their life to a potentially horrible script with amateur actors and cheap sets and costumes just to support theatre. We, the creators of original theatre, need to convince audiences to see our work; we do not deserve an audience until we have proven ourselves worthy of one. We need to ensure that we aren’t wasting everyone’s time by making bad art, and as a Director, Writer, Public Relations Manager, Actress, and avid supporter of the arts, I can assure you, even I will not go see an original play with low quality advertising.
And I’m not saying you have to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment or learn photoshop or take a photography class. There are people in the world who have done all those things already and are looking for freelance work and a way to promote themselves: visual artists. Hire a visual artist to design your poster and give them a stipend and publicity and both of you will be the better for it; more people will come see your show, you’ll stop perpetuating this sense of cheap community theatre, and you have just helped promote an artist who wants nothing more then to get their work out into the world.
But this concept shouldn’t stop at poster designs. Every element of theatre suffers when a handful of people who want to put on a show attempt to do everything. I was doing this for a while, and everything suffered because of it. As a theatre artist, whatever it is you do to make theatre, your goal is probably to tell a great story; and people who primarily make theatre have skewed thinking that they can do “good enough” on every element of that production.
Theatre needs to stop with the “good enough” mentality that low budgets and small audiences have conditioned us to collapse into. We need to keep striving for better, new, exciting, and creative ways to tell our stories, and I believe that is through combining the arts. All of them. We need musicians who aren’t actors to help us write new music that doesn’t just repeat the musical trend of the last century.
We need lighting and set and costume designers; they are not things that can be skimped on, even in low budget productions. We need photographers and videographers to help us promote our shows; not actors and directors with smartphones and a “good enough” mentality. And guess what? These creative people are EVERYWHERE! One of my favorite things about theatre is it’s ability to bring people together; why are we trying so hard to stay to ourselves?
The last thing that collaborating with non-theatrical artists does is bring in new bodies; not just to the production, but to the audience. People who may have never experienced an original play before are coming to your production, and you owe it to them to showcase everything theatre can be.
Personally, that’s one of the things that I think makes my Theatre Company stand out; we feature musicians and artists every month through all of our social media outlets, and for each show we do we have an artist work with us to design posters/flyers/t-shirts for the show and display their art in the lobby, and a musician to work with us to write music throughout the show, for the trailer, and play live before each performance. Even on a small scale, it has helped us grow significantly faster and increased our professionalism.
To apply to be a featured musician or artist of the month for 48 Hours, e-mail me at 48HoursTheatre@gmail.com
Let me know if you agreed or disagreed with me, or if you have anything to add!
So after returning from a two month hiatus, I decided to come back with a photo blog, followed by a ridiculous “10 Ways” list to help anyone who may be struggling with lack of inspiration. This is obviously an odd list, but the sheer fact that you’re looking at a Top 10 blog to help you out of your rut might be enough of a reason to give a few of these a shot. When I’m feeling bored or uninspired this has been my unwritten rule book (up until now obviously), so I’m interested to see if anyone else gets anything from this hodge-podge grouping of ideas.
Let me know what you thought. I have many other suggestions for kickstarting your mind in new ways and would love to share (if you’re interested). 😀