England, Scotland, Soul

victoria street edinburgh

Writing about my recent travels is a Sisyphean task. Every time I set words to paper, the rock comes tumbling back down and Zeus is off somewhere on Mt. Olympus having a right old chuckle on my misfortune. Traveling is so multifaceted that to tether it to a singular idea is counterproductive. But here I am, gearing up once again to roll the rock up the mountain concerning my recent exploits into the United Kingdom.

Quit laughing, Zeus.

I now have had more than a few days to marinate in the memories. Now, it feels like the right time to try and pick through this truly spellbinding experience. The difficult thing about a trip is trying to explain how much it has changed you. It’s as almost as if these changes only exist at the molecular level, and I am half tempted to stick a microscope in the hands of those I speak with and beg to be discovered. I don’t know how travel does it, but you aren’t the same person you were before. I suppose I will have to travel for the rest of my life to try and understand why. But maybe the reason never really needs to be known, and just felt in my soul.

I notoriously don’t like the word vacation.It conjures lying belly up on a beach with a comped sugary alcoholic concoction that will have you passed out before nightfall. That’s all fine to do on the occasion, especially under a burnout period, but it is one of my biggest fears when traveling. What is travel if not to explore, indulge, imbibe and learn while somewhere new? It is biggest injustice you can do when you embark on an adventure to not meet a land and its inhabitants as it comes to you. It is a castration of the soul. You traveled likely hundreds of miles and all to just… sleep? Travel is nourishment. Travel done right strangles your rough edges, and leaves your soul raw and exposed to the world.

While my plans to visit Scotland earlier this year were kiboshed by unexpected vet bills (kitty is okay!), I am glad it worked out in favor of the trip I took to both London and Edinburgh and some surrounding locations. It was kismet when Randa, one of my best friends, and I, were both unknowingly searching travel deals on Black Friday. A few days later, I was holed up in her room, our laptops sprawled out on the bed and our wallets opened. With a high five and many exalted squeals, we had booked our trip to London and Edinburgh with a travel group focused on young adults. Less than a month later, we were boarding a Delta plane at John F. Kennedy for our overnight flight to London. It was the day after Christmas and in the air hung that sweet cheerful holiday hangover. I barely slept on the flight as my mind ran amuk, brimming with excitement and filled with the prospective adventure with one of my oldest best friends. In some leftover Christmas miracle, I managed to arrive to Heathrow in good spirits.

After what seemed like forever waiting to go through the line at customs, we found our chauffeur and a few of other other group members on the tour. In the 15-20 minute ride to our hotel, located in the charming Chiswick, we easily bonded with these ladies. Our collective energy was hunger, the kind where even if you’re burned out you are kept alive and awake by the looming excitement of the future. Upon looking out the window of our ride I noted how the settled fog throughout the trees of some open land felt like I was back at my college in the Hudson Valley in New York. There would be a lot of little moments like this while I was in London.

The visions I had about London prior to arriving ended up incongruous with the London I stepped into. In my imagination, London was of fairytale proportions. It was a clash of Harry Potter whimsicality with Mary Poppins primness and gritty underground anti-Thatcher punk.

Sure, London was mapped out with order, and while there were smatterings of my fancied London, it wasn’t as if the whole city had been brushed with magic that I had spent years reading about, watching or consuming through the lens of social media. There was as much charm as I find in the squares and parks in New York. Little havens and enclaves that let you steal away from the bustling city centers. A good photograph will often incite the romanticized feeling the actual place falls short of.

All this talk may sound as if I have a negative view of London, but that is contrarian to how I feel. I wasn’t left with the Paris Syndrome, which happens to plaque a dozen or so Japanese tourists when they visit Paris and are shocked that it doesn’t meet their expectations. I rather enjoyed London because the sense of familiarity it provided. When not in our tour group, Randa took the reigns on navigating transportation when we had off time since she had been to London before and from watching her figure out our stops it was apparent the tube is simpler to traverse than our hometown subway system (when it feels like running).

We strolled into Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus after our welcome mixer at the Marquis Cornwallis on the first night. At the Cornwallis, we got to know our fellow tour mates and have some light bites and drinks. There is a resounding coziness you’ll find at good pub anywhere in the world and the Cornwallis that night certainly had it.

Piccadilly Circus
Piccadilly Circus – not an actual circus

Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus were a nice way to end the rather long night. A few of us got some hot chocolate and desserts and strolled along until just before midnight when the tube stops running. We didn’t feel like taking a bus. The lights from Christmas were still strewn across the streets and the locals seemed to be a bit groggy, as if the holiday still cast a haze of enchantment on their beings.

Royal Albert Monument
A little silliness never hurt at the Albert Memorial

The next day we were up bright and early for our morning tour around London. We had a really pleasant local guide who kept the jokes coming as well as the interesting information about the city. Our first stop was the Albert Memorial located in Kensington Gardens. In all the pictures I have seen of London, this was never included of them, so the imposing 176 feet tall statue came as a surprise. It’s located across the Royal Albert Hall, which our tour guide touted as one of the most beautiful theaters with some of the worst acoustics. Prince Albert died in 1861 of typhoid and Queen Victoria, for which the era is named, constructed the monument as a way to pay homage to her late husband. Interestingly, the monument contains several allegorical sculptures depicting Victorian arts and sciences as well as several regional groups that England had prominent or colonizing relations with.

st. paul's cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral

From there we drove on down to see more of London, passing by Trafalgar Square and some other spots. We got off the bus to walk around St. Paul’s Cathedral and then hit London Bridge before setting off for Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards. One thing to be noted, which many people get wrong, is that London Bridge isn’t that large iconic stone one you see in all the photographs, that’s Tower Bridge. London Bridge is a fairly simple bridge but has some great views of Tower Bridge.

guard buckingham
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

Following the intriguing changing of the guards, our morning tour group disbanded and Randa and I were free for the rest of the day. We split from our group to enjoy Hyde Park and then ventured back to Trafalgar Square. The square is a nice area but Parliament ended up being not much to look at, especially with Big Ben completely under scaffolding. It will apparently be under heavy renovations for a few more years so even if I make a return trip I may get the same disgraceful view. I never realized that Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey were all in the same area so it made viewing these London icons fairly simple.

Randa and I crossed the Millennium Footbridge, or as Brits call it, the Wobbly one, to grab a traditional fish and chips with mushy peas lunch at the Anchor Pub. We also got up and close with the Globe Theatre which was a fantastically nerdy moment for me. After lunch, we walked through some winding London streets, perused the produce and various wares at Burroughs Market and hung around the Tower Bridge area before crossing it and heading back to Hyde Park.

As the sun set on our first day giving rise to the night, we found ourselves in a pedestrian cattle herd heading into Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland. A marvel of lights, food, rides and lots of drinking, the Wonderland was a dazzling way to end our first full day of the trip. After getting mulled wine on a spinning carousel bar and picking enjoying a high flying amusement park ride, we spent most of our time in the Bavarian Village area under a heated tent with hundreds of other drunk revelers. We called an Uber back to our hotel in Chiswick and as Randa happily dozed in the back, I watched London go by only illuminated by lights. We passed the Egyptian obelisk and the dragon statues that mark London old and new, and the information I learned earlier in the day about these monuments bounced off in my head.

stonehenge

The next day was our completely free day in London to do as we pleased. Instead, we opted with a few other of our tour mates to go to Stonehenge, about a two-hour ride from London located in Salisbury. Our bus driver claimed to not be a tour guide but regaled us with tales as we passed through London. He remained quiet for much of the trip and piped back up when we got closer to the ancient world wonder. Once we got there, we had two hours before our bus would depart back, so we made the most of our time and opted to do the 30-minute hike to the stones. Good thing I wore heeled boots, right? Actually, wasn’t too bad, I consider myself a trooper and fortunately the grass wasn’t soggy. What I loved about Stonehenge is that it is still so much of a mystery to us. There is a sereness surrounding the rocks, as if they are gently whispering to you to listen.

The Salisbury area itself is quite lovely with its majestic green fields. There were sheep grazing in a field right behind the stones and it kind of felt like we could have been standing at them 2,000 years ago and would have a similar view, except for the highway. Our time passed quickly at the rocks and we realized we needed to get back to not miss our bus departure. The shuttle line was too long and we didn’t want to risk it, so we hiked back and made it in the nick of time.

Randa and I had originally planned to do a proper English high tea at 4pm, but our reservations came and gone. Undeterred, we headed to the Covent Garden area and had dinner and tea at the Parisian place Laduree. They have locations all over, such as here in New York, but there is something quite special about having a cup of tea in England. I had a cheesy chicken dish and we split a dessert of macarons and cake and ordered our own teas. It was delightful, and a wonderful way to kick off our last evening in London.

witches cauldron london

We had more plans! We ventured uptown to the Cauldron Pub and were a bit early so we popped into a sort of popup barcade right around the corner. I enjoyed a local beer and we played BS with the cards that I had packed in my backpack to soak up the time. I had made a mistake and thought we were in the wrong location, but I had been looking at their older address. In order to calm my anxiety, we left the barcade and went to see if the Cauldron Pub was where it was supposed to be. Randa was right – we were in the right spot, but the bouncer couldn’t let us in early so instead we waited in the cold and struck up a conversation with the man. John ended up being one of the highlights of our trip. The man’s story was riveting, talking about living in Italy and Colombia, serving in the army, taking care of his mother and his plans to return to Italy and start a farm just for him and his friends and for people down on their luck. We weren’t sure if we would see him on our way out but we both gave him a big hug and thanked him for being so honest and real. He had a pure soul.

There’s also a location in New York, but we couldn’t miss the opportunity to do something truly magical in a place that is so synonymous with our shared love – Harry Potter. The Cauldron Pub, which is no way affiliated with JK Rowling’s magical empire, does let you conjure up your own cocktails with some magical (scientific) methods. The bar give you cloaks, wands and instructions and we proceeded to have a blast playing pretend and getting tipsy in the process. Randa and I both looked at each other with disbelief knowing it was one of those moments in our friendship that we couldn’t have chosen a better person to experience this with. Our magical server David, or Davros as we called him, was spot on and attentive and even took a shot with us at the end of the night. Cheers, London, you were a kind beast.

platform 9 2/3
Yup, it’s true, I’m actually a Slytherin

It was another bright and early morning for our departure from London to Edinburgh via King’s Cross on December 30th. Yes, the King’s Cross, a dream of a dream of a dream for me. Entering the station, with the light cascading in from its large factory-like windows, I felt for a moment that I wasn’t apart of this reality. For Harry Potter fans, King’s Cross represents the bridge between worlds of magic and non-magic, and it felt very much like I had crossed through the barrier.

Speaking of barriers, the King’s Cross Station features a Harry Potter photo opportunity for travelers seeking to recreate the crossing from the Muggle to magic sides of King’s Cross. While we had arrived at the station with seemingly ample time, we found that the photo opportunity didn’t open until 9 am, not 8 am as we assumed, and I was under instruction that we had to meet back up at 9:15 am to begin boarding our train up to Edinburgh. Showing my stubborn side, I remained on the line for the photo opportunity. With a little Felix Felicis, I grabbed a quick photo at exactly 9:15 am and then dashed off to meet with my group to board our train. I wasn’t able to purchase the picture in the shop, but I did ask a bystander to grab it on my phone.

A porter lead us to our track and the swooning familial score flushed my ears. It really felt like I was getting on the Hogwarts Express. Edinburgh, in a way, is the true home to the much beloved magical world, and over the next few days I would get to see these hallmarks firsthand. But first, the lovely four hour train ride through sweeping English countryside, with some glimpses to the dark North Sea before pulling in to Waverly Station.

While I described London’s personality of almost being devoid of too strongly, Edinburgh is a beautiful contrast of stark, almost gritty architecture supported by some of the friendliest and charming people you will ever meet. The city has a particular mood. There’s a coarseness to it, a broodiness that reverberates in every nook and cranny.

Upon leaving the train station and the quick trip to our hotel which was right around the corner from Tron Kirk (church), my eyes remained fixated on the buildings and streets. The city was busy, filled mostly with others in town for the Hogmanay celebrations. It was a flurry of frenetic palpitations.

After getting situated in the hotel and Marie, our director, giving us a rundown of the map, we hustled to find dinner as everything was so busy. We got some fish and chips (and I tried a deep fried Mars bar, a must!) and when our tour mates texted that the line to pick up Hogmanay tickets was nonexistent, we snatched those up before our vault and graveyard tour. We even managed to catch the kick off of the Torchlight Procession. The opening ceremony was beautiful, tying in mythology and tradition, I was quite moved by it and to see everyone illuminated by torchlight in these aged city streets was dreamlike.

The Auld Reekie Greyfriar’s Kirkyard and Vault tour was also something else. Our guide John first brought us to the Kirkyard, stopping at the infamous Greyfriar’s Bobby statue before taking us through the darkened cemetery to visit a few graves of importance. He also talked about the Flodden Wall and its bloody history. John was a man who dearly loves his city, as most natives I met seemed to be. They talked about their city with a certain sparkle in their eye. His sense of humor was also appreciated, especially before the vault part of the tour when conversation turned exceptionally dark. I’ll leave the remainder of that night to mystery, but what we learned in those vaults was profound, startling and yes, horrifying. When we came out of it, Marie treated the group to deep fried Mars bars and we all needed a bit of time to reflect and let the color return to our faces.

After, Randa and I joined our friends Ashley and Kelsey to bar hop and do a little dancing. We started at the Banshee Labyrinth- the most haunted bar in Edinburgh. After exploring there for a bit, we took in some live music at Club Voltage before getting our dance on at Sneaky Pete’s. All and all, a solid first day in Edinburgh.

It was another early morning for our walking tour of Edinburgh. We covered some of the spots that we hit during the graveyard tour but it was nice to revisit these spots during the daylight. And what a stunning daylight it was. The city felt most alive in the soft light, like the buildings were specifically crafted to enchant during this time. I think Alexander McCall Smith said it best with, “This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.” Our local guide regaled us in stories of Deacon Brodie’s, Burke and Hare, and JK Rowling’s Hand Prints among some other fun spots.

We took in the charming and colorful Victoria Street as we made our way to Edinburgh Castle. Even with the bone chilling wind, the castle was a foreboding presence sitting high atop the extinct volcano. Our guide provided such a rich history of the structure, calling attention to how many gates blocked potential invaders from pulling off a successful siege. Fun fact: Edinburgh Castle was never captured by an enemy by charging the front gates. The only times the fortress was taken over were by legal documents, or, by a surprise siege by scaling the walls. It’s also home to the oldest building in Scotland, Queen Margaret’s Chapel, which has remained intact since its construction in 1130.

After our tour concluded, we were given free reign for the rest of the day until our New Year’s Eve group dinner at the Frankenstein & Bier Keller. Randa, Ashley and I checked out a few of the buildings at Edinburgh Castle (those crown jewels!) and I left our group to visit Victoria Street to scoop up a copy of the first Harry Potter book. Yes, I already own the book, a few copies, actually, but it’s one of my favorite souvenirs to pick up in a place that holds importance to me. When I was in Italy in 2014, I bought a copy of the first book in a tiny bookshop in the town my dad was born in.

With that book, I headed to The Elephant House and waited a half hour to be seated. I got to sit right by the windows that overlook Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. I ordered the Fleur’s Fantasy, a hot chocolate with Bailey’s essentially, and a purple yam cake. I dredged out my beautiful leather bound travel journal and got writing. The moment was a spiritual one for me and I felt very connected to JK Rowling, even if just for a few moments. Hygge appears to be most applicable here. I remembered to visit the  bathroom here and sign the wall, thanking JK for the magic, as always.

After the Elephant House, I stopped off at the hotel before joining Marie and a few of my tour mates for a hike up to Calton Hill, one of the places you can have incredible, sweeping views of the city. We watched our last sunset of 2018 up here and I couldn’t think of anything more perfect. On my way back to the hotel, I bought myself a super touristy kilt, and then freshened up for our New Year’s Eve dinner at the Frankenstein. After dinner, we all headed to the Hogmanay Street Party. We drank, we danced, we hugged, and at midnight, we were dazzled by a ten-minute fireworks display launched from Edinburgh Castle. To echo what I just said before, I couldn’t think of a more perfect way to close out one year and begin the new one.

We spent the rest of the night bar hopping until the wee hours of the morning, starting at the Banshee and ending up at a place called the Espionage. Despite getting just after 8 am, I still managed to make it for our Highlands day trip.

The Highlands excursion was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, putting a surreal and rightful linchpin on already one of the most amazing journeys of my life. We explored the grounds of Doune Castle, which has been popularized by being the filming location for the first episode of Winterfell in Game of Thrones, and in Outlander and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We fed some cuter than words coos in Callander, and hiked up Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park for our first, and truly unbelievable sunset of 2019. I’ll let the pictures pick up where my words give out here.

When we got back into Edinburgh, we reconvened with the entirety of our tour group for our farewell dinner at the Caley Room. We got Christmas crackers and wore the silly hats and we laughed and traded experiences while chowing down on haggis bon-bons, burgers and cake. We celebrated Ashley’s birthday and began to say our goodbyes to these new friends and to the marvelous couple of days we had together. Even now, I am getting tearful just thinking about the last hours there. Several of us stayed up quite late at the hotel’s bar talking about the future.

During these balmy and barely palpable hours, all I could think about was David Tennant’s Doctor during his regeneration… I don’t want to go.

Adventure Awaits!

In just a few days I will be closing out the year alongside one of my best friends as we dash off to London and Edinburgh. It’s my first big trip in a really long time and it couldn’t come any sooner. I still have to somehow survive Christmas…

On the 26th, I’ll be flying to London and packing a ton of things to do in just a few days. We’ll then be heading to Edinburgh for more adventures and kicking off the New Year’s at the Hogmanay Street Party. I have only ever been in New York for New Year’s so the prospect of being somewhere new means possibilities are endless. This past year was really something for me, and it looks like 2019 will be kicking off the same way.

There’s still so much preparation to do before the trip – I haven’t packed my suitcase yet and I still need to finish up some presents. My mind has kept busy at work thinking about the trip.

So here’s 2018, farewell. To 2019, I am so ready for you and then adventure that awaits.

November, November

Handling insanity, professionally

I’m trying out WordPress’ new editor, Gutenberg. It’s similar to the Elementor plugin I have been using. I can’t for the life of me figure how to change that header image. It’s very confusing. Anywho, it’s November, and if you know me, you know that means it’s the greatest time of the year! 

No, no, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving next week or Christmas in just a few weeks after that, but we’re smack dab in the middle of the National Novel Writing Month. I cannot believe I have been participating in NaNoWriMo for six years. This is my second year as an ML. I am taking it easy this year and actually using it as a time to journal. Very therapeutic and I actually did come up with a novel idea.


My Great Perhaps

Sometimes I feel that I am ambling my way through life, not sure of which direction I really want to go in, and despite not always sure of where I’m off to next, my feet continue to carry me forward. Though, forward sometimes follows a zigzag pattern. In my mind, there is no backwards, and I think, after several years of consistently working hard, that I need to take a step back. This doesn’t mean slacking off in the work that I already do, but allowing myself more time to enjoy and experiencelife outside of work.

There have been clues that I’ve needed to do this for awhile. These little flags consisting of burnouts and breakdowns were becoming all too normal. It became clear that I had been checking off ‘not attending’ or ‘unable to make it’ to a lot of events held by friends and family. And what was my reason?

Work.

Work. Work. Work.

And I wouldn’t have seen it that way until it was pointed out to me. You never come to these things, you’re always working. In my head, I was doing the noble thing. I was pursuing my career, my next big adventure, and wondering, why can’t they just be supportive? I’ll be at their next birthday when this project is done. But the projects are never done, and I continue to dip my hands in more and more because I like the intoxication of being busy, of letting work consume me. And now it’s consumed me so much, I look back on the past few years and pose the question; was I working to live or living to work?

Birthdays, like New Years, are points of reflection. And as my next birhday looms on the horizon, I realized, I need to stop missing out on these things. These events are important to me. They connect me with my family, my friends. I think we all have times where we have to reconsider our priorities and obligations.

The decisions I’m mulling over for my next steps do scare me. They are some of the biggest leaps I will ever be taking. But I’m comforted in the fact that I’ve been ‘fearless’ before. I’ve skydived. I’ve booked a spontaenous two-month trip to Italy with an agenda that was scrapped once I got there. But the skydiving was when I was 20 years old. The trip to Italy was in 2014. Now I’m  just a few years away from 30, and I wonder why I have tossed my bucket list aside. Rabelais’ last words were “I go to seek a great perhaps.” And I fully acknowledge that I don’t know what lies in store for me, but I hope the ride will be worth it.

I say I love travel but haven’t done much outside of weekend getaways or destination parties. Or even the occasional work trip. But in my inbox sits a bevy of travel emails, beckoning me to traverse the trails and wander the primordial lands of some far off place. And I sigh looking at these while on my breaks, checking my calender and seeing I’m already booked up or can’t take the time off because it will coincidence with something else. My busy schedule has allowed me to realize that my little day and weekend trips are travel. I live in one of the most interesting regions in the world. Take for instance, my last post, in which I legitametly stopped to smell the flowers  – the lavender flowers. I had no idea that there was a lavender field just a short drive away. But it’s opened my eyes to the possibility that there is so much more just within reach.

This summer I’ve taken a magnifying glass to my behavior and have been reassesing what I want and scarily enough, it may not be the same thing I wanted just a few short years ago. That thought alone absolutely terrifies me. I’ve worked so hard and now I may want something else. My mind spins gut-wrenching thoughts about starting from scratch again. Whatever my next move is, I’ll be glad to have just moved.

 

A Flirtation Through Lavender

 

Over the past year I have been grappling with the idea of identity.

Not in the same way the great philosophers of yore have pondered their own existence. Examining my identity is more on a personal level than where I stand in the universe. I’ve been thinking a lot about how to be my most authentic self within the realm of societal land circumstantial limitations. Admittedly, a big part of this is due to the fact that everyone in my life seems to be caught up in their own doings and it had me thinking how much of my own self I view through the lens of others. Who are you when no one else is around?

Yesterday, I took the nearly two-hour drive out East to Lavender by the Bay, a sprawling 17-acre farm that grows both French and English lavender. Accordingly to recent social media posts y the farm, it was the last weekend for the French lavender to be in bloom and I knew it was something I wanted to behold. But when I asked around, everyone already had plans or had something come up last minute. I was dejected because these kinds of sweet experiences in life that celebrate bounty and growth should be shared. And I had no one to share it with.

But I still went.

It was hard taking the drive out there, with my windows rolled down and my playlist bumping out a mishmash of indie and pop music. I was alone but trying to starve the loneliness. Once I got to the farm the persistent feeling of loneliness didn’t quit. Instead, it deepened. To be in such a beautiful place and feel so empty was disheartening. I felt I couldn’t truly be in the moment. But, nevertheless, I headed forwarded, loosing my self in thought and contemplation. I snapped a few pictures here and there and wondered if posting these on social media and receiving comments or likes would suffice. Photos are a wonderful way to share experiences, moments, even if through the lens they were fleeting. I think utilizing social media in this way can be a positive experience. I didn’t spend the whole time I was there scrolling endlessly on my Instagram or liking statuses. I didn’t even spend the entire time taking pictures or videos on my own equipment. There were moments when I enjoyed the solitude, wherein I was tapped in to the moment and every path I’ve taken in life felt like a direct route to getting here.

I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to cross paths with many beautiful vistas. The lavender fields on Long Island have been added to that roster. They were enchanting, and every time I encounter the charming fragrance I’ll have another happy memory to think about.

My identity was challenged yesterday because I feared if I was alone that I wouldn’t matter. This wasn’t the case as it has never been. I’m still an adult trying to navigate through life and it’s okay to be alone but not lonely.

Anthony Bourdain and Gonzo

anthony bourdain

There are times in our lives where everything going on feels like one big synthesis of cohesive thought.

During college I experienced this while exploring the writings of Hunter S. Thompson, and in a similar comparison, his contemporary in Anthony Bourdain. Thompson brought us gonzo, a brazen style of interpreting the world. His words on the page were gritty and brutal, peeling back the wallpaper of an often over privileged world he dipped his toes into. Bourdain was much of the same. And I fell on to both of their works at the same time. It pains me to write about Bourdain in a past tense. Bourdain should be present. His work, from his books, to his shows to his op-eds… they will outlive him with the same realness that Thompson’s stories do. We’ll always see our society puffing out its chest to show off the good it has done, but cut open the belly and the gizzards and rot will splatter out onto the table. They are there the entire time, they just need to be exposed. And Bourdain performed that in his essays, his books, his television and his food, with the exactness of a surgeon and the wit of a mathematician.

Bourdain talked about food and its bleed into cultures and society with a twin tone to Thompson’s exploration on sports. They both took digs at the opulence and garish leanings of the privileged world. To me, Bourdain stuck his neck out more for the marginalized. He sang praises about the miracle of the beaten and downtrodden marched on. In any underbelly and seemingly gutter of society, Bourdain could see the unbreakable human spirit. He went further than going inside the workings of a kitchen, and sometimes this kitchen wasn’t to a confined place. It was in the open aired backcountry, or in a small mud and stick hut. But the stories he gleaned from the experiences held a spiritual connectivity, to hardship, to strife, to overcoming and continuing on. To the world of those working with champagne problems, Bourdain’s work fleshed out a misunderstood and ill-reported perspective. He demonstrated there was no sense in fearing the unknown, but to go ahead and take a bite, sit down and talk about the problems. Food, whether he noshed on it at a three-star Michelin or in a shack with a dirt floor, always tasted delicious if it was prepared by people who bore their soul in creating the dish. Some created it out of the need for survival, and others created it to temper their creative thirst.

Bourdain isn’t the ‘bad-boy’ we perceived him as. Sure, he was equipped with a tough exterior and penchant for rough liquor and chain smoking. But his death, his suicide, pointed out the vulnerabilities and infallibility we all suffer through as humans. His death is the kind where you stop and think, if it could be him, it could be me. It could be my best friend. It could be my aunt, my neighbor, my bully.

There’s unfortunately a myriad of harmful information about mental health still been slung about in today’s conversations, even if there is a conversation. At the core of it, with suicide rates on the rise in nearly every state in the country, I think what we need to take away is how we are treating others. When acting out as a child, my dad would always tell me, it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. Over the past few days, many friends and acquaintances have posted across their social media to reach out to them if you need help or to talk. I know this isn’t the case. You also need to actively do the reaching out. Check on all of your friends, your family. What the hurt may want is to have a real substantive conversation, but their mind and heart may be so plagued that they can’t muster the strength to reach out. Depression isn’t what the stock photo websites try to sell to you, it’s not always the sad looking woman with a weathered face, clutching a wall and looking downward. Sometimes it looks like Chester Bennington, who just hours before had been seemingly thriving playing board games with his family, or Kate Spade, who had been apparently talking about her excitement over an upcoming trip. 

Bourdain is missed. Just like the lives of all those who have taken their lives. In the wake of his death I’ve seen some pretty incredible stories of people, especially those in marginalized communities, thank him for shedding a light on their struggles, their food and their importance to our society. Be like Bourdain and be the one to reach out and uplift.

suicide prevention lifeline

The redesign is coming

Quick website update, I’ve been working hard behind the scenes redesigning my site so it may look a bit odd at the moment. There’s a lot of components behind it! Thanks for stopping by and please reach out to me if you have any questions. I look forward to the relaunch in a few weeks!

 

Best

Laura–

After the trauma

On Saturday night I was on a train home that derailed. Preliminary investigations by the NTSB suggest a service train violated our trains space as they were both traveling eastbound on both of the tracks. There had been service work on the Long Island Railroad trains all weekend.

It is so strange to go through this experience. In one instance, I am so connected to and on another I am brimming with curiosity. My day had been so wonderful up until that point and I’m finding it difficult to put the feeling out of my mind. A quote I read about another tragedy this weekend, the Palms Springs shooting of two police officers during a domestic violence call, replays in my mind. I feel awake in a nightmare.

The worst part on a personal level about today, about the day after, is I can’t stop feeling like I am shaking. My body is tense and if I close my eyes for too long or don’t have my mind occupied on something else, I get the sensation of being thrashed around. When our train and the other vehicle hit each other prompting the train to derail, that is the moment I keep reliving in my head. It’s not just picturing it over again, it’s the sensation of how my body was contorted. There was no sense of balance or control, it was chaos. In my head, the loud bang resounds and I cringe.

On another level, I have been viewing this day with profound humility. There were about 600 passengers on the train, 33 were injured and 4 seriously. I am so thankful to walk away from this event unscathed.

As a try to categorize my thoughts and reflect, I’m reminded about my fortune. It’s been a crazy 24 hours. At the moment, my life exists in a fishbowl and I’m not sure if I’m look in or looking out.

For more information on the LIRR derailment, read up on the following news links:

Time: http://time.com/4524216/long-island-train-derailment-what-to-know 

ABC News: http://abcnews.go.com/US/commuter-train-derails-east-nyc-injuring-11/story?id=42675137

train

October and the Wonders of Fall

This year has been marked by several outstanding events. From weddings to engagements, to conventions, Broadway shows and milestones. On a personal level, it is a year to remember. Entering October, with three months still in the balance, it’s a good time to go through a little reflection. Not to mention, I’m also gearing up for NaNoWriMo, which I’ve done the past three years (and won).

Fall is my favorite season. It really boils down to the coziness of the entire time. Also, the best things happen in fall. New York Comic Con, Halloween, Thanksgiving… basically nerdy stuff and food. I will be at NYCC this year as an attendee, which is nice considering last year I worked at the event. Looking toward next year, I hope to return as a guest. It will be another great year at the event as I am already booked to meet the great Stan Lee.

On Sept. 21, I had the opportunity to see Hamilton on Broadway. The musical created by the genius Lin-Manuel Miranda went above expectations for me. It was humorous and honest, self-depreciating and intelligent. I have been listening to the soundtrack on a daily basis since November of last year and it has truly been gift to me throughout the entire year. I mention it because I want to get to my point.

My life is filled with so much art. And fall is always that season where art is incessantly there. I curl up with books more, watch more movies and television shows. Even video games fit into this section. I am my best self when I am surrounded by it, and people who feel as strongly and passionate about art.

With a chill in the air and leaves returning to warming hues of autumn, I am most excited for all the art that I will get to experience.

‘Sup?

It’s been a busy past couple of months. Between work and my brother’s wedding I haven’t had much time to sit and relax. But here, I’ve forced myself.

First up, the picture that accompanies this post, that’s me at my brothers wedding. Well, in the bathroom taking a selfie. I really loved my look and glad I pulled it off. Their wedding was absolutely stunning, and being that I was in Arizona for a few days I got to spend plenty of time with them soaking up the 85 degree weather (it was 30s to 40s in NY at that time).

The best part is no matter what I love writing. I can write anything and just have an enjoyable time. I’ve written non-stop since I was a kid. It’s a powerful feeling.

Some other things I’ve gotten around to in my online absence are buying Hamilton tickets, seeing Captain America: Civil War, twice. In addition, I’ve attended a ton of family parties and have written up a handful of articles. Oh, and I’ve bought a ton of new comics, especially a lot of trades. Still tackling that pile. I bagged and boarded nearly 100 comics yesterday, but still have to organize them in my long box.

Today I learned one of my favorite television shows was canceled. I really enjoyed Marvel’s Agent Carter. The Peggy Carter character was one of the most refreshing and wonderful characters on TV. Was the show flawed? Yes. But they were forgivable flaws. Perhaps the Marvel fanbase can do what it does best and revive the show, like they did with Agent Coulson.

Since coming back from my brother’s wedding I’ve had a difficult time getting back to the gym. With the weather in New York finally shaping up, I haven’t wanted to spend the time indoors (I am so guilty of just taking my laptop outside to work).

Oh yeah… I updated my Linkedin. I still have loads of tinkering to do with it, and undo the damage I did in my youth, but I must remember one thing at a time.

Happy Spring, everybody!