adventure, Android Jones, art, art festival, Backpacker, Backpacking, blackrock, blackrock city, BM2015, BRC2015, Burner, burning man, burning man 2015, carnival of mirrors, conclave, death guild, Deathguild, deathguild thunderdome, dust storm, El pulpo Mecanico, Festival, Fire, Fire Arts, flaming lotus girls, mayor monday, photography, Ranger, reddit, reddit meet up, Road trip, serpent mother, Thunderdome, Travel, traveling, white out
My last few days in Boulder were spent gathering supplies for the biggest venture of the trip; the Blackrock desert and the city that buds within!
Burning Man 2015 was on the horizon. The desert happening has brought so much change, so many people, so many events and learning into my life just through its influence, yet I never experienced it myself, I’ve never journey out there. Until now.
The drive from Boulder was significant, (considering we had just driven from New Jersey to Denver it wasn’t THAT long) but still something to contend with. 18 hours of more cornfields and emptiness, although come Utah, the landscape finally started to change.
Finally we arrived, and by arrived I mean we made the last turn out of civilization. No more stores/gas/stops outside of a tiny little town a ways away. We got maybe five minutes down the road before we hit the back of the line. I’ve heard stories about the gates taking upwards of six hours, so I pretty much knew we would be greeted with brake lights.
The combination of a car accident, gate pulsing, and 70,000 people trying to get into the same place at once left us on the road for most the day. We made the best of it, all part of the overall experience, right? The crowded cars soon expelled their humans and the roadside pre-parties started popping up. Every time the caravan started moving the crowd would scurry away toward their cars, only to reemerge a few minutes up the road.
TWELVE hours later….
Exhausted, disgruntled, and hungry, we dropped out things in the sand and dust, and set up camp in the darkness. As much as we wanted to explore, the bed was much more inviting. After my years of local burns I’ve learned that pacing is absolutely key. Don’t burn yourself out on day 1, because you’ve got way more to do! And so, we face planted into our mattresses and passed out.
Now, before I get into this, let me preface by saying this:
One of the greatest challenges I faced after returning from Peru was trying to find the words to fully encompass everything I had experienced, especially to my eager friends/family who wanted to hear every detail. My ayahuasca ceremonies just felt lacking when I tried to attached words to them, so empty for such a powerful and life changing experience. I tried to put things down on this blog, I really tried, but I still did them no justice. Here I find myself again trying to find the words to describe Burning Man.
So instead of forcing my numerous experiences into hollow casings, I’ve decided to just let my pictures tell the tale. I’ll review some highlights, but I’ll leave this entry mostly to the pictures.
Unfortunately, my camera took a serious dive and the focus/lens never recovered (and my phone ended up breaking on the drive in! Lesson in being present much?!? ) Please excuse my blurry photos, but I hope you enjoy them all the same.
The Temple of Promise
The temple is always one of my favorite places at the local burns, but finally seeing the grand scale of The Temple of Promise was like a tragic dream come true. The Temple warps in shape every year, and means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but the respect for the structure seems to be universal. Nestled away from the high energy radiating through the rest of the desert, the Temple is where one goes to let go, to mourn, to grieve, to pray, to reflect, to forgive, to express whatever it is they need to express (before it all goes up in flames on the final night).
The walls may be made out of wood, but the structure itself is infused with so much raw emotion that it’s a challenge to step inside and remain untouched. I made it a few steps passed the threshold before my eyes started to well up with tears. The stillness is the first thing I noticed. In a work of art filled to the brim with people, only silence and the occasional whimper, cry, or whisper filled the air. Along the walls, writing utensils hung freely for those who had something to add to the walls. Messages were written, pictures of loved ones hung, whatever it was you wanted to express, the Temple is the place to do it.
With tears streaming down her face, I watched from afar as an older woman wrote a message to her mother who had passed away recently, finally saying the things she never got to say in life. Behind me was a scathing message written by a woman to the man who had brutally raped her in the past. On the bench next to me, a man sat in quiet meditation, holding a picture of a young child. Stories of love, hate, encouragement, loss, sadness…I could go on. Everywhere. Every story, every makeshift shrine was different, but each one was laced with powerful emotion.
I wrote my own message, a personal something to myself, and I silently cried my damn eyes out…
-Write in the Temple of Promise
Wednesday some dear friends arrived at camp. For any long time readers, you may recognize them from one of my very first entries. We unloaded their car, helped em setup and made our way back to the playa.
The DeathGuild’s Thunderdome was my kinda place. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the house music, the burners and all the oneness with the universe and what not, but the Thunderdome stole my heart. Hard rock/industrial, people fighting, girls in revealing black leather and the guys suited up in some badass wasteland armor! When I arrived they were blasting some of my favorite songs by Manson, Rammstein, and Mindless Self Indulgence. MSI on the Playa!?!? I loveeeee my MSI!!!
The goth kid in me came out in full force! I found myself at the top of the Dome, shouting for the combatants to tear each other apart many, many times throughout my week.
Warning – The video has strong language and sexy people in black leather NSFW
I love you Thunderdome!!
Finally see the Thunderdome in person
The Serpent Mother
Created by the Flaming Lotus Girls, this monstrosity of fire and metal has earned its place high on my list of all time favorites. I’ve seen a lot of fire performances and fire art, but this was…this was something else. The serpent writhed back and forth in the sand, lifting her head and opening a mouth lined with flaming daggers. The metal body of the serpent gleamed in the night, illuminated by the the plumes of fire hissing from each one of her segments. Within her coil, the Mother protectively wrapped her flaming tail around a massive copper egg.
I stood within the Serpent’s grasp, surrounded on all sides by the roar and heat of the fire until the crowd was ushered a safe distance away. A safe distance from what? I wasn’t sure, but I was about to find out.
With all the flammable humans at a safe distance away, the egg she so carefully guarded over, bloomed like a lotus. The hatching egg remained quiet, until a hiss louder than anything its Mother had produced up until then, came screaming out of the top of the egg. What burst forth was a plume of fire unlike I’ve ever seen before. One, then two, then three at once. These spires, these spears, these swords of fire tore through the sky, spouting flames of nearly 50 feet. The bright red flames bled into a blinding orange, then to a burning emerald green.
This was something to behold, truly. Words do little justice…
Radical self reliance is high on the list of Burning Man principles. You must bring everything you need to survive, and you must be capable of surviving in the first place. This is definitely not just some music festival (much to the disappointment of some girls I found sobbing in a dust storm, complaining about how terrible everything was and it was nothing like they thought). As fun as it all is, if you’re not prepared, you’re in for a world of trouble. Of course people won’t let you die, but you should do you best to not be a burden for anyone else. Whether it’s food, water, or weather, be prepared. And we had quite a bit of weather…
The white outs are a common occurrence out on the playa. Huge dust storms that blow in and drop visibility to zero in a matter of seconds. I prayed I’d get to experience one, and I think I prayed a little too hard! As my friends said, the intensity and frequency of the white outs was the worst it had been in a handful of years. Structures fell, tents were destroyed, I watched people smash their bikes into one another when their sight had disappeared.
For the first day or two I really tried to keep the dust out of my tent, but by the third day I realized how futile the battle was. Falling asleep and waking up in INCHES of playa dust took some getting used to but, hey, I enjoyed it. How comfortable does one need to be anyway?!
The art, the structures, the builds were all so beautiful to experience. But like all things, nothing is permanent. Everything must burn…
In Conclusion, Burning Man was as incredible as I thought it would be. I got to spend it with some of my favorite people, got to see some of the art I’ve only seen in pictures, and now I’ve got a ton of stories to tell! Like I said, words do little justice, and as much as I did the entire week, I still missed so much more! This is but a glimpse!
But it wasn’t all fun and positivity, unfortunately I’m coming away with a few regrets. Regrets due to a symptom of a larger internal issue. Under the microscope of a the big burn, it’s easy to see such things. Now, to fix it. Things to work on.
Always evolving right?
Regrets aside, this was truly one of the favorite experiences of my life.
Dance on an Art Car -View the best fireworks display I’ve ever seen in my life when the man burned Live in the desert for a week -Finally see El Pulpo Mecanico -Spend time with my Philly friends at BM2015 -Sit in for many BM workshops -See Android Jones’ work in person -Finally make it to Burning man!!!! Burning Man 2015: Carnival Of Mirrors!!
Cheers to the possibility of Burning Man 2016!!
Last night was the peak of the 2015 Perseids meteor shower, and as an amateur astronomer this is one of my favorite happenings of the summer. Thankfully I was greeted by clear skies and no moon, the previous years my stargazing attempts were foiled by cloud and rain. The last time I saw the Perseids, I was half a world away, attempting to fight worms and slay demons.
I can’t believe three years have passed already The skies were absolutely gorgeous out there, but the events of the final ceremony left me exhausted with little desire to move, let alone stargaze.
But that was 2012. 2015 was here and I found myself debating where I should bring in the storm. I had previous considered a beach trip, but some friends had found a spot that boasted much lower light pollution and regularly hosted star gazing events.
Batsto Village, a tiny relic from the 1700s, nestled away in the protected pine barrens less than an hour away. Whispers of the internet claim it’s haunted…
Ghosts be damned, I had meteors to watch and into the darkness I went! The route wasn’t too complicated but I did blow passed the unmarked dirt road, twice. The pine barrens are riddled with these dirt paths that lead to nowhere, so my hesitation to turn into the wrong one (which has happened before) was apparent. My GPS said this was the right one, but my GPS is also a liar…
I took my foot off the gas and allowed my car to accelerate on its own; going too fast wasn’t wise on these windy dirt roads and going too slow would surely leave me spinning my wheels in the fresh mud.
I cruised onward through the darkness, waiting for the shambling undead citizens of the village to greet me around every blind turn…
Thankfully the only people I found were my friends. I was greeted with hugs and champagne!
The three of us got comfortable and settled in as blue streaks littered the sky all around us. We even caught a few earth grazer!
The highlight of the night was definitely a massive meteor so bright the landscape was illuminated with a golden flash. We were facing the opposite direction yet still had time to turn around and catch the glowing streak as it continued to cut the sky.
A beautiful night of crooked necks and good company!
-Watch the Perseids at Batsto Village
Brooklyn, Chantal claret, concert, DDR, Frankenstein Girls Will Seem Strangely Sexy, If, Jimmy Urine, Julien-k, Kitty, LynZ, Mindless Self Indulgence, MSI, Never wanted to dance, New York, NY, Orgy, photography, Steve Righ?, Terminal 5, The Birthday Massacre, The End Records, Tight, Travel, You'll rebel to anything
“Congratulations! You’re getting this e-mail because you’ve been selected out of hundreds of submissions participate in our MSI music video shoot.
Please confirm (respond to this e-mail) with a simple “YES” or “NO” in the subject line so that we can know to expect you. If you can’t make it, we’re not gonna be pissed, we just need to know how many additional people to bring in for the video. Cool? Cool.”
This was the email I found awaiting me after a long night of partying. I wasn’t completely sober so I wasn’t sure if I was reading that correctly, but if this was saying what I thought it was saying, I needed to send back a YES immediately.
MSI has been one of the only bands I consistently keep up with since their first album in 1999. They were, and honestly still are, one of the very few bands I even cared about. There was no way I was going to miss out on this!
By the time I made it into Brooklyn studio the building teeming with people, inside and out. Trucks, equipment, cameras, bodies were scurrying around, gravitating around an alleyway lit up by purple spotlights. This was clearly where the video was planned to take place.
Before that though I was ushered inside the studio and led to a room with the other extras. We were supposed to wait inside and mingle (which I did) but I also took some time to slip out to snap some pictures.
I met some pretty awesome people while we waited for instruction. In the meantime the show runners gave us some MSI merch to keep us busy.
Make some friends I still talk to even to this day!
Once the preparations were complete and the sun went down, we were once again escorted, this time to the alley, now glowing and pulsing with life within the darkness. We filmed all night, bringing to life an idea that Jimmy got while on tour. (He would later tell the story about these “underground DDR” illegal rave like tournaments and thought it would make for a good video).
Our only job was to dance and look excited, both of which I could do without any real instruction.
Much to the dismay of everyone, the sun started to rise, putting the night scene of the video in jeopardy. Thankfully we were almost done.
Fun fact: The director approached me and one of the girls in private and asked us if we were up for a scene of our own. Hell. Yes. We were tasked with the opener of the video itself, sneaking through the darkness to hang up the “If” poster on the entrance to the alley. Unfortunately the scene didn’t make the final cut, there is a quick cut of my hand, but damn it was still so awesome to be a part of it! I’m STILL hyped when I think about it!
I got a pretty sweet headshot at 53s in!
With the video complete, we all disappeared into the morning sun with plans to meet back up the following weekend for the concert.
The entire night was just phenomenal: Julien-K and The Birthday Massacre opened with killer sets, followed, of course, by Mindless Self Indulgence with all the things you expect from one of their concerts. For me and for the others, we were hyped up on more than just the music. We felt like we were a part of the experience now.
First concert I learned I could smuggle sharpies in my afro
We danced and sang the night away until the lights flicked on and the venue started to clear out. It was around then that I saw a few familiar faces from the video shoot and went over to have a bit of a chat. The director, a few of the photographers, some of the crew, and of course, Jimmy, Kitty, Steve Righ? and Lyn-Z.
See MSI in New York
Be an extra in a music video
Meet Mindless Self Indulgence for the very first time
Andy C, breaks, Creamfields, dance, DnB, Drum and Bass, EDC, EDM, Electro, Electronic music, Global Gathering, Jungle, Mighty Mike Saga, Party, Philadelphia, Philly, RAM, RAM records, rave, Subfocus, Ultra, Ultra Music Festival
Many years ago, when I was still a budding teenager poking around on Napster and getting teased for listening to “techno”, I stumbled onto a genre of music I had never heard before. This wasn’t the steady beats of House, or Trance, like the rest of my music library, this was something completely different. This was hard hitting, the tempo was incredibly high, it made me want to dance, and dance for hours at that. It was called Drum and Bass. And the DJ’s name, Andy C, flashed on the track list. Yet another incredible DJ from across the pond.
Fast forward to today, my music taste has changed and evolved in every different direction, but Andy C is still one of my top DJs when it comes to DnB. There are also very few artists/bands/DJs that I have a desire to see live, Andy C was one of them. One day I’d see him. One day!
As the electronic music scene started to grow exponentially in the US , the dream of seeing Andy C, in a local setting, that wasn’t thousands of people deep, was becoming less and less of a reality. Ultra Music Festival, where he regularly attends in Miami, jumped in attendance from the lowest at 30,000 to 330,000 over the years…
…so when I saw Andy C performing at a venue literally 30 minutes from me, with a ticket price of $15, I was absolutely taken back.
Andy C? Like, THE Andy C? Can’t be. Tickets were dirt cheap and the venue held a couple hundred at the maximum. Was it a DJ set? Some guy up there playing his tracks? Cause it couldn’t be the REAL guy. This was the same DJ hosting crowds in the tens of thousands. DJing all around the world at stages like Creamfields, Ultra, EDC, Global Gathering, etc.
Could it really be him?! Just how trustworthy was this sign out front of the venue…?
The opening DJs did their thing, my man Mighty Mike Saga was once again opening for an evening of legend (MSI, Sisen, etc). So far so good, but despite the full venue, I was still curious about the headliner. Friends assured me that it was definitely happening, the man was in the building, but I remained hesitant…
…that was until he took to the stage.
That feeling when a dream fuses into reality? Hello again.
True enough, the man stood behind the decks, literally an arms length away.
It’s been a very long time since I threw down that hard at a party, but this was absolutely the time for it. The energy was insane in there. People went absolutely berserk, and I dare say I was one of them.
He dropped so many fantastic tracks from over the years, each one better than the last. Each one was a notch in the history of his music for me. The lights flicked on even though everyone was still dancing hard, so Andy C dropped one more proper track before ending the night.
There are very few times when I’m the guy security hates, but this was absolutely one of them. “Time to go!” they shouted as they started funneling people out the door. “I said it’s time to LEAVE!” he barked as he set his eyes on me. “Yeahhh, about that….” I thought to myself. Comply or deny? This was was my one chance…
…I hastily made up some lie, saying I was with the photographer and that I was leaving as soon as I gathered my things. It worked.
I slipped through the crowd, made my way around the stage JUST as Andy C was coming off, I couldn’t have timed it any better. There we were, the man and I face to face. I tried to keep it professional and not go into full rabid fan mode (which has only happened once, sorry Emilie Simon!), but I could feel myself smiling like an idiot.
I managed to grab a friend of mine, who was actually photographing the evening and she snapped this picture. I’m derping so hard, but I love this photo. I have a small collection of pictures that make me smile ear to ear, this one was definitely added to that list.
ANDY C!!!! Yes!!!!
-FINALLY see Andy C live! -Meet Andy C after his set
The gate was open, and the next 15 of us stepped up to the bottom of the ramp where fifteen red and black Spartan icons ominously lined floor. There we stood, each on our mark. I stared at the man with the microphone, this herald of the day, as we patiently awaited his shout.
Now is the time to see how capable and resilient this body can be. I’ve always taken great pride in my fitness, and this race would provide a very real and formidable challenge to that mindset. Could I do it? Could I do it well? I had 9 weeks of training since we registered back in summer, but I wasn’t diehard about it by any means. Knowing very little about the competition kept me cautious, but now that I found myself within the stadium, I felt fine. But still. I felt good. I felt capable. I felt confident.
The announcer moved the microphone to his lips. Off I stared into the awaiting ramp, unsure of what was lying in wait around the corner. This stadium was meant for baseball, but today it was transformed and constructed into a monstrosity I was aiming to defeat.
And we were off.
Around the corner we were met with a series of ropes. Some low and crossed so they needed to be jumped over, while others were about chest height, so you had to either crawl or crouch. They were handled with ease, though I felt the sting in my legs I was hoping I wouldn’t experience quite yet.
The first obstacle loomed in the distance: 30 pound medicine ball. Pick it up from a squat position and slam it down. 30 times. Completed with ease, but I did have to remind myself that this race had the potential to go up to 2 hours. Don’t burn yourself out early.
We ran the length of the stadium countless times on a path that took us up the bleachers, and down the stairwells, inside above the waiting area, then outside on the upper levels under the blazing sun. The route through this twisted fun house was long, and we were just getting started.
Then my second, and most pausing obstacle presented itself. Doubt. The goal was to lift a cement block to the top of some very high scaffolding using the rope that hung dangling before me. I sprinted to the first open lane, grabbed the end of the rope and gave it a huge pull…nothing happened. I pulled again, this time I wrapped the rope around my arm and changed the my leverage. Still, the block remained firmly planted. All around me blocks were going up, yet mine still rested comfortably in front of me.
In a last effort, I grabbed the rope with both hands and jumped up on it, using my entire body weight. Nothing. The stone remained untouched while I hung in the air. It was obvious the stone weighed more than I did and there was nothing I could do about it. I let the rope go and tried for the women’s (lighter by 50 pounds) stones. I got it about half way up before the guy running the station came over and said “I couldn’t do that”. “The stone weighs more than I do, I can’t lift that” I said. He gave me a dismissive shrug and said “Well, go do 30 burpees then“. I let loose on the rope and the stone slammed into the ground. I walked off the line to go do the penalty, all the while feeling a little cheated.
There’s absolutely nothing I could do, no amount of training, lifting, or pulling, that would allow me to make up for my stature. I think the race would be better suited and segregated by body weight, rather than an unwavering male vs female.
“Is this the rest of the race for me? Just doing burpees because I’m not tall/heavy enough for the next obstacles?” Why even bother? It’s like going to an amusement park where everyone is on the rides, but you have to sit in a chair and spin while being told “You’re having fun too”
By the end of my 30 I told my brain to “Get over it and push forward” but my confidence was still shaken. On I ran. Doubt was replaced with determination. I was mad at what just happened, but remained focused with a desire to finish strong.
The next obstacles stood no chance while I was partnered with my anger. The Rowing Machine, the Rubber Band Hop (giant rubber band wrapped around your ankles, you have to hop a length of the stadium) and the Long Bars were satisfyingly dealt with. Even the Wall Climb, which at its tallest was around 9 feet didn’t slow me down. I hit that thing with such speed and momentum that my wall-jump sent me soaring up and over with a slight pull.
The Spear Throw was close, but I was left doing 30 more burpees. The Rope Climb looked a bit daunting after that many burpees, but I’ve always been good with upper body strength/pullups. I took a breath, threw my gloves off and climbed up with such speed my brother waiting below was shocked. Even the girl working the area said that was the fastest she had seen all morning. Yes!! Reinvigorated!
Unfortunately in my haste and glove removal, the friction from the rope literally burned a hole in the first layer of skin on my hand. Not good, since the next obstacle was a large ball of cement, the Object Carry.
The rage that carried me was finally slipping, and eventually ran out by the time I made it to the second Object Carry, two water jugs, weighing about 50 pounds each. These damn things were the bane of my momentum. Up and down stairs, through the narrow seat rows for the length of half the stadium, I just couldn’t do this one without taking multiple breaks.
I was holding up traffic. Wewps!
After that Carry my energy was gone. I had to keep going, but I was hobbling at best. Thankfully the next few obstacles were meant for my lower half. I continued on, navigating the route through the stadium before I came to a long, dark corridor with daylight at the end. One more deep breath, one more sprint, then I found myself out on the field of the stadium itself. 5 obstacles remained
The wall jumps were no problem , but the Half Wall squat/jump was absolute torture on my calves/legs. The Rock/Traverse Wall grips were soaked with sweat (from someone else), but I maintained. Two to go. The Tower and the Gladiator Pit.
My brother’s voice shouted from behind me. “Two to go. Let’s burn it!” he said as he sprinted by me. With a nod, and my motivation re-lit, we sped toward the finish line together.
The Gladiator’s Pit is the final challenge, usually where a group of previous contestants line up and do their best to stop you from crossing the line with pugil sticks (Has since been removed because people were getting creamed)
My brother and I decided to hit em at a sprint, at the same time. Maybe they’d get one of us, but the other would be able to get through (honorable enough sacrifice!). One final sprint. I ran toward my Gladiator, she was of similar stature so we were at an even advantage.
Perfectly timed, she swung a second too late, by the time her momentum allowed her a backward swing, I was already behind her. Enlisting the help of one more wall jump, I hit the barrier and propelled myself forward and over the finish line.
Sweet, sweet victory. Total Race time was 1hr 39minutes. 90+ burpees.
I really, really enjoyed that. Despite being wiped during the race, immediately after, and for the next few days I was still hyped up! I finally put my body to the test and delivered a decisive “Yes” to the question of whether or not I could match some of the goals I set for myself.
I would highly recommend doing one of these, at least once. I’m getting hyped up just thinking about it hah! Can’t wait for the next one.
Run the Spartan Race
adventure, Alaska, Amazing Race, Backpacker, Backpacking, Cali, California, Cliff diving, Fanastic Race, Getty Museum, graduation, Hollywood, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Race, Party, photography, photos, Retreat, Road trip, SoCal, The Getty, The Getty Center, Travel, traveling, trip, Venice, Venice beach
(Ok, I’m back. Time to finish this story and catch up with the Firsts!)
Before I made it to California, I had another unfortunate run in with the Denver airport. Thankfully however, it wasn’t for another 9 hour layover.
At least I knew the airport by heart and revisited my comfortable corner. During the height of my boredom the first time around, I wrote this note to myself since I knew I would be coming back. I wanted to see if it would still be where I hid it, tucked away behind a phone kiosk, and alas, it was. HA!!!
California, how I missed thee. I hadn’t been to Cali in a few years, but once again, I found myself walking through the familiar lengths of LAX. I had a few weeks to kill, had some plans, had plenty of free time, so I wasn’t sure what I was going to get
into, but I trusted myself to cause some laughter inducing mischief.
First on the list and the heart of the trip: my cousin’s graduation.
Attend my cousin’s graduation
Also got to meet my new baby cousin. New boy in the family! Finally!
Highlight #3: The Getty Museum
I’m not one for museums, never have been, I’ve never really found the level of engagement I need to enjoy a museum. With that said, the Getty did house some exhibits that I found interesting and I absolutely loved the garden grounds. The building itself was my favorite part to be honest, it was like a beautiful fortress resting high above the clouds and the world below.
Highlight #4: Clubbing in Hollywood
My sister’s wanted two things for her birthday. Fishbowls and to go out in Hollywood. We accidentally made them pretty strong, but they were still delicious!
Later that night we made our way into Hollywood. Some of my sister’s friends showed up and recommended a spot we decided to check out so we made our way over there. 600 dollars for table service? SIX. HUNDRED. I nearly told the group I’d wait in the car! Mathematically though, considering we had a small group with us, it kind of evened out to a regular cover charge. “This is pretty much what you’re going to run into out here, even if we go to another place” said someone in the group.
Before we walked in, we all huddled together for a quick pep talk. My sister’s friend jumped into the center of the circle like some rabidly enthusiastic football coach “Ok. We just spent a lot of fucking money. So we’re gonna go in there and do this proper! Readyyyy break!”
The venue was actually pretty cool. We were greeted by a fireplace lined outdoor courtyard filled with a large rectangular fountain running through the center of it. This fountain was overflowing with bubbles, while a beautiful young lady was seated on a swing mounted above. She smiled as we walked passed and gave a light kick to the foam, littering the air with glistening bubbles.
We got our table, neat little spot actually. Food, drinks, mixers, fruit. It was honestly a nice spread, and my sister seemed happy so it all worked out. The group wandered the venue and we eventually ended the night on the dance floor.
In rare form, I ended up drinking too much and got myself a pretty potent case of the spins. I guess that’s what I get for accepting shots from the costumed woman sitting on the shoulders of a man on stilts (even if most of it got in my eyes)
Go clubbing in Hollywood Dry Heave until the sun came up
Highlight #5: Venice
I’ve been to Venice beach many times, but every time I’m there the beach is a playground for photos.
Highlight #6: Cliff Diving
Go cliff diving in California
Highlight #7: The Amazing Race
I would highly recommend this one to anyone with a competitive group of friends/family. This was easily one of the best things we ended up doing while in Cali.
The race was a mixture of a scavenger hunt, puzzles, riddles, etc that sent us speeding through the streets of Hollywood. We solved puzzles while weaving through crowds at the Chinese Theater, ran through subway stations to catch trains with moments to spare, wracked our brains at the Disney Orchestra building and burned through the streets of Hollywood while police were yelling at us to slow down.
There was a moment there, when a series of cars exploded in the background, that left me feeling like John McClain in Die Hard 3. (The explosions weren’t part of the Race, they just happened to be filming a commercial in the area, but it was still really friggin awesome).
The creators were rather brilliant in their design. Not only were you playing a game, but the race led you to city hotspots with an intention, rather than just milling around in the tourist crowd. You can also make it as intense or relaxed as you want. We just happen to be rabid competitors so we sprinted most of the way.
Like I said, I would highly recommend. This was simply incredible AND they have races opening in more areas. Check it out!
#1 Cupcake ATM We were dumbfounded. “What? That doesn’t exist” we said. We were wrong.
And they came in neat little boxes too. LA can be a strange place.
Eat a cupcake from the cupcake ATM that really does exist
#2 Dinner and Piano with friends
Have drinks at a piano bar in Hollywood
There’s plenty I’m leaving out, but this entry is already long enough! California was a fantastic as always, and it served as a perfect end to my extensive trip.
Alaska to Canada, Canada to Minnesota. Minnesota to California, California back to Philadelphia. (Start at the beginning here: Things I’ve Never Done:31 Returning to Depart)
Good times, good memories, and some great Firsts!
My companion was at the front desk, signing his lease and other official while I slipped into the stairwell and made my way to the third floor. She was here somewhere, behind one of these doors scattered throughout the long twisting hallways with the 70s carpet.
I was on a stealth mission and as such, I dodged and hid in the doorways when residents made their way in my direction. There must not have been any cameras in the building, or security wasn’t watching, but my venture through the labyrinth that was the apartment complex probably looked shady as all hell.
But alas, I carried on! My job was to find her door, set these two stuffed animals my companion had brought back from Alaska, knock, and run back to the awaiting apartment downstairs before she could see me.
“Mission complete!” I shouted as I bolted into the door of my companion’s new apartment downstairs. I laughed and retold the tale but was hastily interrupted when the door swung open. Enter new character: Caelys.
In she walked, the voice and the words I’ve spoken to for ages in physical form. We came across one another through mutual friends and started up a friendship that has lasted over the years. We’ve talked, we’ve skyped, but this was, however, the first time I was actually seeing her in person. Proper greetings were in order, and so, we hugged. It was lovely.
I crossed mountains, swam rivers, fought ice trolls in the frigid north, and finally turned up on her doorstep victorious! With the three of us united at last, celebration was in order! Drinks all around!
Have a drink with friends in Minnesota
On the way home, we stopped at a few places since the fridge was empty. We got some much needed essentials for the rest of the week and the upcoming house warming party.
There wasn’t much planned now that the drive was over. The goal of this entire trip was to assist my companion during his move to MN; I pulled the final bag from the backseat, and my job was now complete.
I had a week in MN before flying out to my next destination, let’s find something to do.
The Mall of America was one such outing. I remember back in 5th grade, hearing about it for the first time and being absolutely captivated by the thought of it. Here I was, walking through the lengths of the massive building, mentally high fiving the shadow of my younger self.
We also stopped for sushi. Delicious, delicious sushi.
I would recommend. Ask for Rebeka.
Eat Sushi with friends in Minnesota
We ventured on; saw the rides, the mirror maze and other attractions before it dawned on me that this was, essentially, just a mall. A mall that had all of the same stores that any would have, just larger and more of them. Does one really need a floor sized Abercrombie?
Lost in a world of mirrors.
-Visit the Mall of America
The housewarming party was next on the list. Caelys brought her friends and we had ourselves a night of games and hastily created concoctions. I discovered a strange mysticism people have with magnetic stacking balls, and finally took my hand at Cards Against Humanity.
Play Cards Against Humanity
Make new friends in MN
After the festivities, the pace for the remainder of the trip settled into that of a relaxed state. The days were spent doing random activities, or visiting more of the Caelys’ friends…
-Meet MJ. Maria. David. Devon!
…while the nights, I found myself in her apartment watching movies and spending some time together. The driving companion and I had been conjoined at the car for the majority of the trip, so it was nice to get away for a bit.
The days slipped away until my leaving date had arrived. I packed up my bag, gave Caelys a hug goodbye, and walked out to the car. My companion and I were off for our final ride together.
This is where I took a bow, and exited the scene. Through the automatic doors I stepped, and into the crowd of the bustling lobby. That feeling, that excitement tinged with just enough fear to keep you heightened, but not enough to actually stop you from continuing, ah, yes, that feeling of being inside an unfamiliar airport, how I’ve missed thee!
At the start of this entire thing, people thought I was out of my mind for even considering such a trip, and to be honest, I’ve never actually considered going to Alaska or Minnesota. All of these entries, this whole story, all the photos, all the people I met and things I saw, are a product of stepping out of my comfort zone and saying “yes” at the very beginning. I could have said no, quite easily too, and erased the possibility of it all from my personal history. How frightening of a thought, how many other “No”s in my timeline could have ended up being brought into beautiful reality?
I suppose that’s a question for another day, because I say “Yes“, yes to it all, and that makes me smile.
-Meet Caelys – Hug Caelys
Conclude the Alaska to Minnesota trip in its entirety
My plane left within the hour. Onward to California!
We let out a sigh of relief as the border disappeared from sight (with no FBI agents driving black SUVs in hot pursuit).
Enter the United States. Hello again.
North Dakota. How would I describe North Dakota? It was…nice? Flat. Green. Empty. Lots of farms and tiny planes flying everywhere, dusting their fields.
Not much for people, more cows and livestock than anything else. A couple houses here and there, complete with rocking chairs and grain silos.
And lots of bugs
We made good time, though our speed fluctuated as we got used to driving in MPH again.
The trip had been pretty flawless, minus the car breaking down a couple times and the border agents, but with our finish line almost in sight, we were……..SHIT! Almost right on cue with our conversation about DWB, a cop sped passed us coming from the other direction.
We pressed our faces into the rear view mirrors, watching the cop as we held our breath. We were clearly speeding so our only chance was for the cop to just turn a blind eye to it.
“Don’t U-turn! Don’t U-turn!” we chanted, hoping he would disappear under the horizon.
Unfortunately for us, the cop slows down and makes the dreaded turn, lights ablaze. We’re not even in the states for an hour and we get pulled over!
At least the cop was nice about it. And a $35 dollar speeding ticket? That was a welcome surprise. I get parking tickets for more than that!
-Get pulled over in North Dakota -Drive through North Dakota
Back on the road (paying close attention to the speed limit this time). No longer days, HOURS until our final destination.
6 hours remained. Then 4, then 2, then 1.
Drive into Minnesota
The expressway turned to residential roads and our finish line was the apartment complex in the distance. With a final right turn, we pulled into the lot and parked, marking the end to our journey.
The car let out what sounded like a long, deep sigh of relief as we stepped out and took in the surroundings. Victory!!! We did it!
-Drive from Fairbanks, Alaska to St. Paul, Minnesota. Venture through the Yukon, through nature reserves, through numerous Canadian towns and through the plains of North Dakota, with our eventual destination lying in Minnesota.
^Be sure to click this one, look how much earth that is! I’m quite impressed.
The drive was over, but not the trip entirely. No, no, no. Inside that apartment complex was a dear friend of mine, who I’ve known for years but never had the pleasure of actually meeting face to face. Inside she waited, unaware that we had arrived.
The drive was finished, but the week in Minnesota was just beginning.
Let’s go find her…