Route 66 & The American Dream

As many of you know, I have just arrived in Birmingham, Alabama for a new job. I have spent the last few days road tripping cross country from Los Angeles with my mom. We had the pleasure of visiting 8 states over the course of 5 days. I had done parts of this road trip before as I have moved quite a couple times, but this is my first time doing the road trip while having a blog (so now you get to hear all about it, but I promise I’ll keep it fun).

The first day we left bright and early from Los Angeles and went all the way to Flagstaff, Arizona. It amazed me how long it took just to get out of Los Angeles (you know traffic and such), but once you are out of the city, the landscape is gorgeous. You are surrounded by mountains and deserts. One thing that really stood out to me as the days continued was how much the landscape changed day to day. It felt like it would happen all of the sudden, but maybe it was because I was too invested in my Spotify playlists to really pay attention. I sometimes forget just how big and vast our country is.

Some people here may know that Route 66 is decommissioned and you can no longer drive it all the way from Santa Monica to Chicago. It is now replaced mostly on the southern route by I-40. Even the last time I did this trip, I did not know much about Route 66, other than the famous song about getting your kicks, and that there were diners along the way. This time, I really wanted to look up the history behind the infamous road and truly understand the oddities we were seeing along the journey.

Before Route 66, there were no roads interlinking major cities, only some country roads between small towns. While legislation for public highways first appeared in 1916, Congress enacted a plan for national highway construction in 1925. The numerical designation 66 was assigned to the Chicago-to-Los Angeles route in the summer of 1926 and it soon became the nation’s principal east-west link. The road connected the main streets of rural and urban communities and for the first time most of these small towns had access to a major national thoroughfare. Now small farmers could transport their goods to major cities across the US. By 1930, the trucking industry had come to rival the railroads for preeminence in the American shipping industry.

John Steinbeck’s classic novel, “The Grapes of Wrath,” calls Route 66 the “Mother Road.” The book, as well as the film, immortalized Route 66 in the minds of all Americans, as an estimated 210,000 people migrated to California to escape the dust bowl. From then on, the road came to symbolize a road to opportunity. I may dare say a road to the American Dream.

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Route 66 Wigwam motel

By 1938, Route 66 was reported as a continuously paved roadway, ready for all weather. Now that this all-weather road was ready, Army captain, Dwight D. Eisenhower, who found his command bogged down near Ft. Riley, Kansas, while on a coast-to-coast maneuver, was about to get the inspiration for a new system of transportation. The War Department need improved highways for rapid mobilization during wartime and to promote national defense during peacetime. When America became involved in World War II, the War Department wanted to use the west for military training bases because of the geographic isolation as well as the dry weather. Route 66 helped to facilitate the single greatest wartime manpower mobilization in the history of the nation.

After the war, Americans were now more mobile than ever. They could leave behind the harsh winters up north, and head down Route 66 to relocate. This is the same time the popular phrase, “get your kicks on Route 66,” appeared in the famous song by Bobby Troup and Tommy Dorsey. Later, it was released in 1946 by Nat King Cole. Store owners, motel managers, and gas station attendances recognized early on that even the poorest travelers needed food, water, gas, car maintenance and a place to rest. It was no longer the military bringing in all the money, but now the tourists.

Sadly Route 66 does not have a happy ending (I did tell you it was decommissioned at the beginning to be fair). Soon, the overused road became too narrow and deteriorated to drive on safely. The same public lobby that gained popularity for Route 66, now was creating its demise. Poetic if you ask me. Dwight D. Eisenhower was in his second term in the White House and was very impressed with the German’s use of the Autobahn, or national highways crossings their country, that allowed individuals to drive with speed and safety at the same time. Congress passed the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, which provided the finances for a national interstate and defense highway system. By 1970, almost all segments of the original Route 66 were bypassed by a modern four land highway. For most of our drive this was I-40.

Now that I have given you a history lesson, I want to focus more on the symbolisms of this road. It was the first-time people from one part of the country could even get goods and services to another part of the country hundreds of miles away. More importantly, it was the first time, everyday people, could take a road trip, and make the decision to move for an improved life. As you drive down I-40, you pass many relics of what used to be along the route, including broken down gas stations, foreclosed buildings, old cafes, and entire ghost towns. While intriguing, I also found it quite sad to see a booming industry fall and crumble, causing all the little towns that spiked from Route 66, to suddenly fall out of existence. Like everything in life, something new and improved always comes along and the others around it will fall. The new ways are constantly pushing out the old ways in an endless cycle.

For me, it was realizing that I had the privileged of road tripping across country to take a job in another state. Unlike times of the past, I was able to drive safely and speedily across 8 states in 5 days. It is crazy to think that before interstates and even before Route 66, none of this would have been possible. Although the dreams of those small towns are now standing as ghost towns, the idea of the road to opportunity still keeps its inspiration. I have driven this route 3 times and each one has brought opportunity just in the sheer fact that I am able to travel with my car. It has also connected people on a different level. Not only do you just know the people in your small town, but now you can travel to any US city and meet people across the nation. The most interesting part of the whole adventure was meeting people across the way and seeing how much we all have in common even if we live hundreds of miles apart. Before I continue going on about roads forever, here are the actual attractions we stopped at.

Our first major stop was Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch. It is a pit stops that features tree shapes with bottles and antiques. A fun place to walk around and take pictures. No bathrooms though. Afterwards we stopped in Kingman, Arizona, home to a famous Route 66 diner, Mr. D’z. The town is filled with Route 66 murals and even a Route 66 museum. We also stopped at Area 66 in Arizona, that claims to have been the sight of an alien crash landing. There is a museum (yes, we did have to pay to see it) and I am bound to secrecy. I do believe in aliens if anyone was wondering. Finally, that night we got to Flagstaff, Arizona for some rest.

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You can still get your exercise in during road trip stops
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Go for the road trip, stay for the milkshakes
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Aliens are real y’all!
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Well I was standing on a corner….

The next day we headed to see the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Unfortunately, we had rain for majority of the day and night, but we did not let that stop us from seeing the sights. As we chugged along, we stopped in Winslow, Arizona to stand on a corner (if you don’t know that song reference, then we need to have a long talk). After we made a pit stop at the Little Painted Desert Park. It wasn’t really a park if you ask me. It was a dirt road filled with pot holes, that led to a cliffs edge with beautiful views of the colored desert. There was no guard rails or parking and if you weren’t paying attention, your car could literally just drive right off the cliff. Since we weren’t trying to pull a Thelma & Louise, we continued on to the Petrified Forest. As I said earlier, it was raining all day, so we had to drive most of the park and only get out for short periods to get photos and views. That night we made it to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was also our first time change and really freaked us out as the GPS changed before we came to the realization ourselves.

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This that sketchy park I was talking about. The below picture is us enjoying the views.

That next morning, we headed to the old historic part of Albuquerque. It is filled with cute shops, restaurants and buildings. We walked around (may have bought more candles, do not judge) for a bit and then had a mini pit stop in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Of course, we got some Mexican food and did some more shopping. Then, we were on the road to Amarillo, Texas. Once we crossed into Texas, it was the first time the landscape changed drastically. It was also luckily our last time change of the trip. Before dark, we snapped a photo of Cadillac Ranch. Another classic Route 66 roadside attraction, featuring Cadillacs stuck in the ground covered in the spray paint of many tourists over the years.

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New Mexico streets
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Cadillac Ranch for the third time

The next day was our longest drive. We first stopped in Shamrock, Texas. It was yet another small town that still had some parts of the original Route 66 that ran through the main drag. I guess we can say we did drive on Route 66. The town has a piece of the famous Blarney Stone from Ireland (except I did not want to kiss this one without a Lysol wipe). The town is also the official Saint Patrick’s celebration city of Texas. Along with this, the town has U Drop Inn, an art deco gas station/diner from the 1930s that used to be a stop along 66. Even Elvis once sat at a booth at the café. You may also recognize the iconic style of the stop from the Pixar movie, Cars, which took inspiration from Shamrock, TX for the design of Radiator Springs. We had to quickly make it through Oklahoma (no time to stop really) in order to get to our hotel in Fort Smith, Arkansas before dark.

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Anyone recognize Radiator Springs?

That next morning, we had some amazing maple pecan lattes from a local joint called the Fort Smith Coffee Company. Then, we headed out to Little Rock, Arkansas. First, we went to the President Clinton library and museum. Although interesting, it was more intriguing to see Central High School. If you are unaware of The Little Rock Nine and the famous desegregation of the school, I highly suggest you educate yourself. It was horrible to think this did not happen so long ago, and really made me see how much further we still have to come as a nation. After Little Rock, we drove into Memphis, Tennessee for the night and were able to go out on Beale Street. It reminded me a lot of Bourbon Street, filled with neon lights, open alcohol carry, and lots of tourists. A shout out to the amazing police officer who helped my mother and I get away from three creepy middle-aged men trying to hit on us. He was a true gentleman and every man should try to help women who they see in uncomfortable situations.

For our last day of the road trip, we stopped in Tupelo, Mississippi. Our first stop was to Queen’s Reward, a local meadery. For those who don’t know, mead is in fact alcohol, that is created from fermented honey. All it requires is honey, yeast, and water, and it’s delicious. Queen’s Reward uses only local Mississippi honey and provides tastings and even mead slushies. It was amazing getting the run down from the owner herself. Afterwards we went to see the birthplace of Elvis Presley. The attraction has the actual 2 room house (one bedroom, and a kitchen) that Elvis was born in. You can also go inside the church Elvis attended as a boy as well as a museum full of relics and paraphernalia. I am not a huge Elvis fan, but it was awesome to see the humble beginnings of where it all started.

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Mead is as sweet as honey, well because it is honey
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Had to take the photo!
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Elvis childhood church

From Tupelo, it was only a short drive into Birmingham. We arrived Friday evening and were excited to finally stay put in the same location for a couple days. Luckily, we were able to find an awesome apartment in the Homewood area of Birmingham today and we will start the move in process in the next couple days. It’s time to continue down the mother road of opportunities! A huge thank you to my mom for coming on this road trip with me and always supporting my dreams. Also, a shout out to my dad who is helping move the furniture and set up internet out here in Alabama. Roll Tide!

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of a questionable neon sign on Beale Street….

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Please also enjoy this photo of Cali girl achieving her greatest accomplishment to date, fitting both her favorite balls in her mouth at the same time…

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Vancouver

Hello world! Life is getting a bit crazy, so I’m trying to squeeze in a post about Vancouver before uprooting my life and driving cross country for the fourth time. I’m not panicking, you are!

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The view from our Air Bnb downtown was quite nice!

About a week ago, Chad and I went on a mini 5-day vacation to Vancouver, Canada. Why Vancouver? Well if you want to get Global Entry and do an interview without having to schedule one (which you cannot schedule at LAX or Burbank by the way), you can do the interview while coming back on an international flight. We figured kill two birds with one stone. Travel to a new country and complete our global entry applications. Also, Vancouver is a city I have been wanting to visit since I’ve moved to California.

Vancouver is a beautiful city! It was so clean and easy to get around. Maybe one day I could even see myself living there (one move at a time for now). Our first day was spent walking around the city. Of course, our first stop was a convenience store to buy umbrellas. Our idiot selves did not think that the pacific northwest would be rainy enough to warrant umbrellas during our visit. To be fair we packed very last minute. We stopped by English Bay Beach, which was gorgeous. Also, what stood out to me was the plethora of purple shells lining the shore.

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Enjoying the terrible beach weather
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Purple shells everywhere

Next to the beach were these creepy (maybe not creepy to others) statues of a little boy. I naturally sorority squatted next to one of them.

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Cue the door songs!

Next, we walked around Stanley Park. It is a large park that borders downtown Vancouver and is surrounded by the waters of Burrard Inlet and English Bay. Fun fact: Stanley Park is about one-fifth larger than New York’s Central Park. There are a lot of attractions, hiking spots, and restaurants around. the park. Prior to its uses as a public park, it was the traditional territory of Coast Salish First Nations and its history of habitation dates back more than 3,200 years.

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The park features an 8.8km seawall that surrounds the peninsula.  here is also Lions Gate Bridge which is visible from the seawall. Last thing I’ll mention in the park is the totem poles. These feature work by Kwakwaka’waka people of northern Vancouver Island as well as local Nations.

Later that evening we had dinner at The Dark Table. The below italicized text is from their website and I think it sums up what they are about perfectly:

“The blind dining concept originated in Switzerland in the home of a blind man—Jorge Spielmann—who blindfolded his guests in an attempt to show them what eating is like for a blind person.

Spielmann’s guests enjoyed the experience immensely, and claimed that when their sense of sight was removed, taste, smell, hearing and touch were amplified to the extent that the social act of eating took on a whole new meaning. These initial dinners evolved into a restaurant concept that included a dark dining room and blind servers, a tradition that Dark Table will continue.

With an unemployment rate of 70%, the blind face obvious challenges in a society that is preoccupied with visual communication, but in a dark dining environment, the tables are turned—the non-sighted servers guide the sighted.

While Alameddine is proud to offer employment to blind and visually impaired people, he admits that it is truly the blind offering this unique, eye-opening experience to the sighted.”

So, in case you were questioning it, yes, we ate in complete darkness. It was so dark that when you closed your eyes it was no different than keeping them open. Our waitress, Yuko, who was amazing by the way, lead us to our table and served us all evening. At first, I was little anxious. I am actually pretty terrified of the dark, so this experience was a bit fear inducing at the start, but by the end, I learned that I am fine and I should just trust my instincts. I must admit that Chad and I both ate lemons by accident. That was an unexpected twist (lemon puns). I also may have gotten food all over my face trying to get bites into my mouth. Overall the experience was incredible and opened my eyes (okay terrible way to word this, but here we go) to the way someone who is blind would experience something as simple as dining out with friends. They have locations in Montreal and Toronto as well. If you have a chance to go, it is worth the trip!

The next morning, we went to Granville Island. It is a peninsula that was once an industrial manufacturing area, but now is a thriving spot for visitors. There is a daily market open as well as many restaurants and shops right on the water.

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Later that day we adventured to the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Park. The bridge is a simple suspension bridge that crosses the Capilano River. It is 140 meters long and 70 meters above the river (look at me using the metric system now that I traveled). The park also features tree top adventures with hiking paths running through the tree tops with mini suspension bridges connecting them. For the thrill seekers, there is the cliff walk, which is a narrow walk right at the edge of the 70-meter drop to the river. Of course, we had to walk across!

The next day we did as every basic girl does, we waiting an hour in line to try a hip brunch spot called Jam Café. I don’t know if I can ever say food is worth an hour wait in the rain, but my food was amazing! We then walked to the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden. It is a classical Chinese garden, which is the first Chinese garden built outside of China.

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We also walked around the Gastown district of town. Gastown was Vancouver’s first downtown core named after “Gassy” Jack Deighton, a Yorkshire seaman, steamboat captain, and barkeep who arrived in 1867 to open the area’s first saloon. The town soon prospered and quickly became the center of trade and commerce. Obviously, there is a lot of history that happened from then to the Gastown now, which features a hip part of town with old buildings, new restaurants, eclectic shops, and many tourists. I will spare you all the details here. Fun fact: Gastown was designation a National Historic Site of Canada in 2009.

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Gassy Jack statue

Gastown’s most famous landmark is the Steam Clock. It was built in 1977 to cover a steam grate. Although originally the clock required power from electricity, with the financial support of local businesses, the steam mechanisms were restored and it now stands as a major tourist attraction.

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Steam Clock

For our last day, we headed first to the VanDusen Botanical Gardens. Now a beautiful botanical garden, was once an old golf course, that the British Columbia provincial government and the city of Vancouver signed an agreement to provide the funding to develop a public garden (Leslie Knobe would be proud I think). The place also featured a hedge maze and waterfall.

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Botanical Gardens
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She thinks my tractor’s sexy

After the gardens we went to Salt’s Tasting Room, a wine tasting place on Blood Alley (yes, I did type Blood Alley – supposedly it was not a nicer area of town just a short time ago). The place had a ton of wines, cheeses, and meats. What is not to love? Since we had to be in the taxi to the airport by 4pm, we had to call it an early night.

We got back from our vacation and Chad had to immediately leave for a gig in New York City. Now, I am finishing up my last week of work in Los Angeles and scheduling the moving company to pick up all my things (okay just my bed and dresser, I don’t have that much real things). Then, this Sunday my mom and I start our road trip cross country to Alabama. Roll Tide! Lots more updates to come!

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of the food options on the tree top adventures that I obviously purchased with my hot chocolate…

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BEAVER BALLS!

FADE TO BLACK: Goodbye Hollywood

I know that some people may already know, but big life news is ahead! As of September 22nd, I will once again be packing up my car and driving cross country to Alabama. I accepted a job at Red Clay Media in Birmingham, AL as a comedy writer/producer for It’s a Southern Thing. I am beyond excited to get started, but of course a little nervous uprooting my life yet again.

Check out It’s a Southern Thing here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDyCK-HRoSqUsowdKzOVHZA

For the past 7 years, I have never lived in the same apartment for over a year. May sound crazy, but I was bouncing between college, study abroad, new housing, back to Philly, and eventually LA. The only difference is that this time I have actual furniture (I guess because I am now an adult and moved past my blow-up air mattress and Walmart plastic dresser days). I used to be able to fit all my belongings in the trunk of my car, but now I must embark on a journey of calling a moving truck and for the first time ever living in an apartment by myself. As much as change can be scary, I am very excited for it.

As of August, I had officially been living in LA for 2 years. It has also been 5 years since I first came out here for my first internship. Although it feels like forever ago that Katie and I arrived with no place to live as we desperately moved into the only apartment that accepted us. We would job search for hours as we sat in our furniture-less apartment, dreaming of the days when we would finally both have it together enough to buy a matching plate set. For anyone planning on moving to a city with no job or place to live, it is an obvious risk, but well worth it. I can safely say, we both have beds, real dressers, couches, and 3 chairs (non-matching, but at least there are more than 2).  More importantly we both have jobs, friends, connections and lives out here. Now, it only makes leaving harder. The more roots I have stuck in the ground, the harder they become to unwind. Although I have so many good things ahead in Birmingham, each time I leave a new city, it only becomes harder.

Over the past two years, I have not only grown my career and writing, but I have also grown so much as a person. I learned how to fend for myself more than I ever had to college. So much has happened, but there is still so much I feel that I need to do. I’ve been out here for two year and never even hiked to the Hollywood sign. It’s strange how you always tell yourself you are going to do all these things in your new city, and you don’t realize until you are packing up your things, that the list you made is only half checked off. It is cool to look back and think of all the things I did that weren’t even on the check list to begin with. Those are always my favorite memories.

Some like to call this part of life “starting over.” I hate to use the phrase because it implies I am ending everything I just had. Like with each move in life, all the past moves have stayed with me and made me into the person I am today. We are never truly starting over, as everything in our past continues to push us forward.

Now I am typing up my thoughts as I sit in my favorite coffee shop in North Hollywood. The same coffee shop where I wrote “Lady Parts,” and spent countless hours writing new stories and sketches. Too bad my half-filled punch card won’t be as valuable down south, unless someone wants to come eat a crap ton of pie with me before I leave LA. I’m not crying, you’re crying!

Thank you to everyone I met out here in Los Angeles. From work, classes, and flag football, it has been quite a ride. I have made some amazing connections and learned more than I could have possibly imagined.

I am spending my last weekend in LA packing up, tying up loose ends, and trying to fit in as many goodbyes as possible. On Wednesday I leave for a small vacation to Vancouver with Chad. When I return, I work my last week at Encore, have the movers pick up my things, and leave that Sunday to start my road trip to Alabama (Roll Tide). Of course, more updates to come as I journey to Vancouver and drive cross country with my mom.

Until then, please enjoy this photo of us enjoying the Good Burger Pop Up (I’m a dude, you’re a dude, we’re all dudes)…

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Welcome to Good Burger, home of the Good Burger

The Circle of Lady Parts

It has been a whirlwind of a month. Ups and downs. Lows and highs. It’s almost as if I’m doing this thing called life.

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Watching the run through of the table read and taking notes

June marked my two-year anniversary of moving to Los Angeles. For those of you who do not know, I purchased a one-way ticket to LA with no job or place to live once I was cleared from my doctor.

I always get questions about life in LA and the glamorous world of Hollywood. Well, not to burst your bubble, but it isn’t just celebrity sightings and brunch every day. Los Angeles is just like any other city. There are good parts. There are bad parts. It is not any more glamorous than anywhere else I have lived. Maybe people have visions of me driving down palm tree lined streets in my fancy car (I did get an electric car though so maybe that makes me more LA).  Everyone wants to believe that in LA everything is amazing, but it’s like any other place. I live in a decent apartment, go to work, come home, and repeat. Stuck in the same never-ending cycle you are, opening the same door repeatedly even though you know where it leads.

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Here is a picture of Cali girl to lighten the mood since the first paragraphs are a bit much. Also she is adorable!

I believe we live life in circles. Highs turning into lows turning back into highs. On Saturday I literally and figuratively came full circle on a journey that started from as young as I can remember. Not to say that the circle or journey is complete, but it made a significant upturn.

For those who may not know me or have not read any prior blog posts, I had been struggling with female health issues for a long time. I had no idea I was even struggling with them until I was old enough to understand what was wrong. Flash forward to the year after college graduation (May 2016). I moved home and immediately got surgery with a 6 weeks minimum bed rest period. I learned so much through the experience, but the biggest thing was confidence to speak out on female health care in hopes that I can make someone else’s experience better than mine. I wrote the blog post, “Bonnie’s Bed Post,” exactly three years ago about the surgery and received a lot of great feedback. What made me the happiest was people reaching out to me after reading the post. People either were curious enough to want to learn and education themselves on the topic or people were also struggling and happy to see someone talking about it. All we want as human beings is to not feel alone. When you are going through a health issue that is marked as taboo, or has little research, it can feel as if you are isolated from everyone else. All I would have wanted was to know someone else who made it through. Someone to talk to. Someone to relate to.

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They made a poster for the table read and let me keep it!

I figured what better way to relate to not just women dealing with these issues, but to everyone around the world, than a TV comedy. The point is not just to talk about women’s issues, but to do it in a way, that starts a conversation, and leaves room for a couple laughs. I set out on a journey to LA for the UCLA Professional Program for TV Comedy Writing (found out I got in a week after buying the one-way flight, so that worked out), and learned not only about screenwriting, but how to turn my personal stories into something that everyone could relate to.

Fast-forward to the summer of 2018. I graduated the UCLA program with a script titled, “Lady Parts.” I continued working on it after the program and started submitting to contests in hopes it would gain some attention. I kept taking the feedback from all the rejections and continued re-working the script. Fast forward again to July 2019. I’m at home watching the Bachelorette while eating a Trader Joe’s microwave chicken pot pie (actually really tasty), when my phone dings. I got an email. I won? I WON? My script was the 2019 grand prize winner for the ISA’s Table Read My Screenplay Hollywood.

Now here is where the story gets hard for people. Lots of people assumed that suddenly I would quit my job and that agents, managers, and producers would be calling me all day. I hate to tell you, but my phone was quiet. Just because you win a competition, does not mean Netflix is calling you asking to make your TV show for millions of dollars. It is just not how it works. Again, I was sitting home watching the Bachelorette and not even as it aired because I’m too poor for cable. I’m sure you hear those Hollywood stories of actors getting their big break when they only have $1 left to their name. Those stories are true for a reason. Things don’t just happen out here, you must make them happen for yourself (a little luck never hurts either).

By winning the contest, my script had a live table read by professional actors and actresses which was directed by a professional director. I also got free entry to the Hollywood Pitch Festival. This all took place the Lowe’s Hotel in Hollywood. I want to thank ISA, the actors and actresses, and the director for taking the time to bring my story to life. It was pleasure getting to work with such talent!

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Shout out to my new friend Luke, who I met at the pitch festival. He pitched my script even when I wasn’t there!

The pitch festival was a weekend long event, but since we were doing a run-through of the table read, I only attended part of it. The festival had a big room lined with tables. Each table hosted an agent, manager, or producer/production company, waiting to hear your pitch. The tables all switched out every 2 hours for 3 days straight. You only had 5 minutes at each table. Also, you had to make reservations ahead of time for certain individuals, otherwise you were in the standby line and paired with whoever was open at the time. This could be good or bad depending on what you are pitching. For example, my TV female comedy may not be what the horror sci-fi feature agents are looking for. No matter whose table you were at, you never know what will intrigue them and it is always great practice.

The pitch festival felt like boarding a train at a crowded station. Every 5 minutes someone would yell the time and groups of pitchers would rush through the door trying anything to get their script in the right hands. It was a constant frenzy of yelling, running, and like most things waiting in line.

The most exciting part of the whole competition was winning the table read. I spent the afternoon working with the director and actors doing read throughs. It was my first time working with a director on something I had written. For people who don’t write, imagine your personal journal being written aloud by actors. For me, it is completely terrifying. What if people don’t like what you have to say? What if people don’t laugh? I think the greatest thing that happened was watching the actors and directors play certain roles or say certain lines differently then how I imagined. Just because I imagined a certain scene a specific way, it will come across differently to everyone reading it. The experience was invaluable.

It came time for the actual table. It was my first time having the script read aloud to a group other than my UCLA workshop class back in 2018. I was so nervous, I could barely breathe. Not to mention my dad was right behind me and the first scene, well it was a sex scene. I sat in the front row, unable to see the audience’s reactions. As the reading continued, I was ecstatic to hear laughter. For me it just sounded like there was a laugh track playing, but that means I accomplished my comedy goals. There is a video of the live table read and once I have it I can send to anyone who is interested.

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Luckily my dad happened to be in the LA area for business and was able to attend the table read. Thank you for always supporting me!

After the reading we all celebrated at Cabo Wabo next door to the hotel. Of course, people were saying congrats and complimenting the writing, but what got me most excited was having people, especially men, come up and ask questions about female health care and sexuality. I got a lot of comments like “I had no idea women went through all that,” or “I had no idea this was even an issue.” For these people, I got the conversation started. Even if a few people walk away with a new outlook on female health care and sexuality, then I have done my job.

This brings me back to the idea of having the script sold, or having agents calling me all day. Everyone keeps asking what are you going to do next? What are the next steps? Let me tell you very simply, I do not know. As I mentioned in my earlier blog posts this year, I was going to make this year about my own happiness. I was going to make decisions that made me happy. You know what made me happy? Getting a conversation started. Watching people laugh at a script I’ve been planning and working on for 2 years. Writing a script that men and women can relate to. So, what if the script isn’t being made into a Netflix series this year? It doesn’t mean it will never happen. It just means there is a time and place for everything. For me, this was all a personal win. I struggled so hard after all my health issues to finally come to terms with them. To finally feel like I was in a place to share my story and write about it. To now have it out in the open and have it read aloud to strangers is more of a win than I could have ever asked for. I owe a big thank you to everyone at ISA who helped to put the table read together as well as my support system at home for encouraging me to continue writing every day.

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I was also able to visit Chad and family in Orlando. I got to see my one true love Pluto (sorry Chad).

As I said earlier it is a series of never-ending circles. Circles of ups and downs, and I have no idea what is going to happen next. All I know is that everything will work out how it is supposed to happen.

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of me riding a mechanical bull, except it is a taco…

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Save a horse, ride a taco

For Those Who Called Me Crazy…Well, I’m Still Crazy

Hello friends and family! I am sorry it has taken me so long to crank out another blog post, but as per usual life has been hectic the past couple months. The last I had written on here, I was on a family vacation to Jamaica, but now I find myself trying to keep up with work, classes, travel, and social life (well I am trying to have a social life).

I started taking sketch comedy classes at Upright Citizens Brigade. You may remember I took a class there when I first moved to LA. After I finished up UCLA, I decided that I wanted to continue taking sketch classes and signed up for level 2. Give me a couple weeks and I’ll be writing for SNL of course. The cool part about the theater is that they let you put on your own shows, granted you bring your own actors and props. I was talking with some of my classmates and hopefully we can all get together and plan a show to perform using our sketches from class. Once we have a date, I’ll send an invite on Facebook if anyone is interested in coming to watch.

As most of you know I have been working a night shift (4pm-midnight) for the past year at my current job. I am happy to announce that I will no longer be on the total night shift starting this week, and that I will slowly shift back to day time. Although I will miss sleeping in, I am so happy to have my nights free.

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Last week I flew home and surprised my dad for his birthday. Also got to surprise some cousins int he process.

Working nights for a year taught me a great deal about being alone. As an extrovert, spending my morning hours with no one to talk to and no one to physically see, could leave me feeling depressed. I ended up deleting Snapchat, and almost deleting Instagram, because seeing my friends having fun, while I was at work, was not in any way good for my mental health. It made me realize how much we try to show we are having fun and how perfect we are to our friends and family, but it is all just a façade. I could send pictures of my mornings and with the right caption, it could suddenly feel as if everything is perfect. As a fellow millennial I am guilty of it myself, but I am trying not to believe that everyone around me is living perfect lives. I wanted to get out of my rut and feeling sorry for myself. I got off my phone and delved back into writing. One of the only places I don’t put on a mask and try to pour myself into every character I write.

The craziest part of this whole LA adventure is that I am finally lapping myself. During my first year here, everything was so new. For example, Spring came around, and it was my first Passover and Easter in LA. When Saint Patrick’s Day came last year, it was my first ever in LA. I watched as the months passed and could not believe how much was changing with each one of them. I talked about this in my past blog, but I am fascinated with the way we as humans measure time and monumental occasions.

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There was a super-bloom across California. If you want to live in a Bob Ross painting, then this is the place for you! Although, I still feel like it looks like Cheeto dust.

Instead of going on a rant about time again, I wanted to focus on self-worth. As the months of 2019 crept along, I found that I was continuing my same patterns, focusing on where I thought I should be and not where I wanted to be. At 25 years old, there are so many benchmarks you feel like you have to hit. We are constantly being told to show that we are perfect, when in fact we are all exactly where we need to be. What it all boiled down to was that I did not have the confidence I thought I had in myself. It did not matter what benchmark I had hit, or if it had made everyone like my recent post, this year I really started to hone in on whether it felt like a benchmark to me? Was this something I really wanted?

I took to heart a lot of comments I had on my earlier post about turning 25. I realized that change doesn’t happen overnight. Sometimes it takes months, or probably the whole year to figure it out. My dad had given me the advice to continue doing what I love.

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We beat the boys in the Escape Room! 

Along with the sketch comedy writing courses, I stuck with the flag football on Saturdays. I love meeting new people and having an excuse to run around on the beach (and also an excuse to grab a Bloody Mary afterwards).

As of yesterday, I started working out again and may even go to a yoga class once a week. I don’t have any equipment or money to join a gym, so I follow along to videos on my laptop, while using wine bottles as the weights. For heavy weights I use handles or sometimes cartons of milk.

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A quick visit to the Oldest Brewery in America. 

Also, I chopped off my hair and I’m in love with it again. For the first time, I didn’t sit there and think about what other people would say if I cut all my hair and styled it a certain way. It was a c’est la vie moment! All that’s left in my eat, prey, love adventure is to book a trip to Europe (but my bank account says otherwise).

When I first said I was buying a one-way flight to LA with no place to live and no job, everyone called me crazy. Although, it was the happiest I had been in a long time. It felt like I was finally making a move in the right direction. To this day, I am sure people still think buying a one-way flight is a crazy decision, but I am starting to realize we should relish the crazy. The crazy is what makes you happy. The crazy is what drives you to reach your dreams. The crazy is what stops you from becoming mundane. So after almost two years out in LA, yes, I am in fact still crazy and it seems to be working out just fine. I hope to stay crazy, because I am finding that in my craziest moments, is when I truly accomplish what I want.

Lastly, Chad adopted a puppy named Cali. She is already the love of my life. Until next time, please enjoy these adorable puppy photos…

Jamaica (All Roads Lead to a Gift Shop)

It has been a bit since my last post, but I wanted to share some stories from my latest journey to Jamaica with my family. We spent 7 days in the Runaway Bay area. To get the all-inclusive deal (flights included in the price) we had to pick one city to depart from and of course everyone, but me lives in Philly. Lucky me had to fly an extra 5 hours both ways just to use the all-inclusive deal.

The flight attendant on my first flight, LAX to PHL, was the greatest. Not to mention I got a new plane with the screens and chargers. As drink service came around I ordered a simple coffee. She asked if I wanted something more fun. I asked her what would be more fun. She slipped me a mini Bailey’s coffee and some cookies. Then on the second time around, without even asking, she had a coffee with a Bailey’s already mixed in, waiting at my seat, as I went to the bathroom. It was truly amazing until my tipsy self went to terminal A East instead of A West and could not find my parent’s car.

The next morning, we flew to Jamaica and this time the flight did not even include a free beverage or water. We arrived at the resort and waited to be checked in. It was almost like a mini orientation. You must learn the map, eating times, rules, etc. The resort has a dining hall, open for every meal, but for three dinners, you can go to the special restaurants. Since we were jet lag we wanted to call it early and head to bed.

We got in the elevator and midway to the next floor up it stops. We checked to see if maybe we were there. My dad pried open the doors only to see concrete. Then the elevator dropped. The lights went out. We all screamed. The elevator stopped dropping. I tried to push the call button. We heard a women’s voice, but apparently, she could not hear us. The elevator jolted back to life after a minute and let us off on our floor. We ran out. I called the front desk from my room to warn them of the problem. The girl said she kept seeing the help button but could not hear us. She also told us we had to hold down the button to talk. I checked over and over again, but there was nothing to indicate that you had to hold the button down. Glad to know if there was an actual emergency we would have been stuck in there with no help. I do not want to harp on the elevator, but it was terrifying. We did not ride the elevator at all during the rest of our stay at the resort (for good reason). It is probably best for our health to take the stairs.

Another problem was the limited chairs at the pool areas. Our first morning, we slept in a bit, only to find that there was not one open chair by 8am. Apparently guests were waking up around 5am to start claiming chairs around the pool. If this does not make you lose faith in humanity, we had to take turns watching chairs to make sure they were not stolen. Soon we became part of the problem, also waking up early to claim 4 chairs. Again, I do not want to harp on the bad, since it was all minor compared to all the amazing moments of our trip.

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Before the sunburn

On Tuesday, we took a half day trip to Dunn’s River Falls, a famous waterfall near Ocho Rios. The falls are about 180 feet high and 600 feet long. They run upwards like a giant natural stairway. You can climb up the falls by yourself, but like most tourists, we had a tour guide take us and a group up. I had my GoPro strapped to my chest. I would not suggest bringing anything on the falls that you do not plan to lose. Although it was strapped on, when I slid down a rock, the pressure of the water made the camera pop out of my strap. I really thought it was gone forever, till one of the tour guides found the camera with his foot a minute later. It was a miracle. Plus, now I have a very long experimental video of my GoPro sadly tumbling on rocks. With the right music overlaying it, it could be quite deep.

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When I travel, I find that all roads lead to a gift shop. No matter, the tour, the country, or the hotel, all roads lead to a gift shop, full of chockskis, that I’ll end of throwing out years later after being stuffed in my junk drawer. When we were trying to get back to our bus from the Dunn’s River Falls tour, we had to go through blocks of gift stores and sellers constantly trying to pull us in. It was the like the scene in SpongeBob, where they have to make it through the perfume department. If you do not know the reference, please watch the first three season of SpongeBob on Amazon Prime and educate yourself.

“The only way out, is through the perfume department.”

On Wednesday, my mom and I woke up early for a sunrise yoga class. It was held in the marriage pavilion, which was nice and quiet. The class was a small group, led by instructor Owen. Owen was incredible and also led our morning stretch class on Friday. When we missed the morning stretch class on Saturday, he found my mom and I at the pool and offered a private lesson. He was a great teacher and I will miss his classes a lot. He also believes that one day I may be able to touch my toes.

Since my family is as white as can be, we ran out of sunscreen by day 3. We went to the hotel store to buy another tube, only to find that the sunscreens ranged in price from $20-$40. Smart business moves on their part, because we had to buy at least two more tubes to survive the week without sun rash.

We also met some amazing people around the pool and beach areas. Typically, people tend to be a lot nicer on vacation, which is always a plus.

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Living our best life

The next day we went on a Segway tour of the surrounding area of the resort. The guide put on knee pads, elbow pads, and giant helmets. From the picture you see below, you can tell my family looked the coolest and in no way like the biggest dorks on the planet. The tour was a lot of fun (only scary to ride over speed bumps). Part of the tour included a stop at a beach bar for a drink and history lesson.

First, we talked about the flag and its meaning The flag was adopted on August 6th, 1962, the original Jamaican Independence Day, after the country gained independence from the British protected Federation of the West Indies. Gold represents the wealth of the country and the sunshine, and green represents the vegetation on the island. A lot of people, including myself at first, think the black stands for the people, but there is a deeper meaning. Black reflects the strength and creativity of the people which has allowed them to overcome the odds.

The resort was located in Runaway Bay, on the northern coast. It is slightly east of Discovery Bay, where Christopher Columbus landed (DID NOT DISCOVER SHIT – JUST STOLE IT cough, cough) in 1494. The original, native settlers of the land were the Arawaks. The Spanish explorers eventually overpowered the land and took the Arawaks as their slaves. The name Runaway Bay derives from its having been an escape route for the runaway slaves.

As we see the cycle of history repeating itself, Jamaica is captured by the English from Spain and made into an English colony in 1655. It was not until 1962 that Jamaica became independent. Our tour guide tells us that the Jamaican economy took a giant hit that they have yet to recover from. For example, a house that is worth millions of Jamaican dollars, is about $300,000 American dollars. It is a huge jump. He also mentions corruption in the governments. Of course, please do your own research and come to your own conclusions. Just wanted to share some the history I learned along the way. It’s always important to know about the country you are visiting and try to learn something every day.

As many of you know, I still look like I am 14 years old (even though I am a 25). Let’s add on the fact that I was constantly with my parents during this trip. Everyone at the resort assumed my age and either would talk down to me or not serve me alcohol without my parent’s permission. PSA – please people do not assume age and talk to everyone like an adult. Trust me I wish I was 14 and enjoying my vacation, but instead I am stressed about taking out extra money to get the dental PPO plan. Trust me, adulting sucks.

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Pretending to give a Bachelor monologue about how the girls are not here for the right reasons

On Friday night we went to the luminous lagoon. The lagoon stretches along the marshlands of Trelawny, in the town of Falmouth. During the day it seems like a typical lagoon, but at night it is the sight of a natural phenomenon. The water is home to millions of micro-organisms, including the dinoflagellates. When these organisms are disturbed in the water, either by a human, fish, boat, or any moving object, they glow light blue for a second, almost like a firefly. The luminous lagoon is one of four places in the world where you can witness the phenomenon, but the only place you can experience it year-round. In order to see the glow, you have to take a boat out on the lagoon at night. You could see the outline of fish and a glow constantly surrounding the boat.

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Sparkle, Sparkle

We docked and had the option to swim in the lagoon. At first, I was thinking there is no way in hell I am jumping into murky waters in the pitch darkness. Let’s be real, some creature is going to drag me to the depths of hell. I know this is hyperbole, but I have seen the movies. I know what happens when you can’t see what’s in the water. I decided to be brave and go for it. Luckily the water was only 4 feet deep, so it was not as scary as I thought. It was truly an amazing experience that I cannot even describe. As you moved your hands to swim, the blue glow would follow, as if you had super powers. As you lifted your hands from the water, they would sparkle blue for a second. Sadly because of the lighting, it was impossible to take photos of it with my phone or GoPro, so we had to buy the photos from the tour guide, which do not give it justice. Of course, as it is time to swim back to the boat, I felt something rub up against my arm and leg. Then it started to sting. I was stung by a moon jellyfish. My immediate thought was oh no, someone is going to have to pee on me. I got onto the boat, and the workers told me it was harmless and the sting would go away on its own. They sprayed me with vinegar (no one peed on me thankfully because I have been there before in Israel). After a couple hours the sting went away (I was partially right about diving into murky waters at night though).

Sadly, we only had one more day left at the resort before flying back. We decided to just relax for the last day and enjoy. We flew back to Philadelphia on Sunday early morning. I got crab fries from Chickie’s and Pete’s in South Philly before returning to the airport for my flight back to LAX.

Now it is back to work and next week I will start a sketch comedy writing class in my non-existent free time. Until next time, please enjoy this photo of some interesting “wooden” souvenirs…

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Can you find the wooden object?

The Quarter Life Crisis

As with any birthday over 21 years old, there is less to look forward to and more responsibility and pressures added on about what that age signifies in our life. I usually get the same question from friends and family: When you were younger, what did you think you would be doing at your age now? I turned 25 yesterday, so the question really is when I was younger, what did I think I’d be doing at 25. For myself, and I am sure for many others, the answer is far off from reality depending on how young I was when I made these assumptions.

At first, I thought about my career. I always wanted to move to Los Angeles. Originally, I wanted to be a broadcast journalist, and at 18 I thought I’d be a reporter on NBC or some big network. Then of course college happened and life happened after. For some reason I thought that people who are 25 are making plenty of money and definitely have their stuff together. I had no idea that I’d be sleeping on an air mattress for 3 years and purchase my first bed frame and dresser at the age of 25. If you had told me that at 18 I think I would have been really scared.

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Birthday brunch with the family

Second, I pondered on my love life. When I was younger I thought 25 was so old because that’s the age when people get married and have kids. I was completely off my rocker about this one. Not to say that I thought I’d be having kids, but maybe I imagined I’d be married with a house. I don’t know what kind of imaginary world I was in where journalism was paying the big bucks, but I was in it. Looking at it now, I can’t even imagine being in that place now. I mean I feel like I can’t buy my first bed and get married within the same year. That is crazy talk! Baby steps!

Lastly, I thought about all the other stuff that I was supposed to have by age 25. I did start my 401K this year and started to get health/dental insurance. I qualified for my first credit card and increased my credit score. On a side note, this is the first year I think I understand how credit scores work. Somehow, I had it in my head that I’d have a fancy apartment or house decorated to look like Anthropology stores with a dishwasher and in unit laundry with two dogs I could totally afford. In my head it was predetermined that all these things needed to be accounted for at age 25.

The only thing I seemed to let go by the wayside was my measurement of happiness. I had gone off about all of these things I imagined my life to be like by 25 based off what society and my peers claimed should be my goals. I never took a step back to think if these goals aligned with the goals that would be in my best interest and happiness. When I was younger had I hoped that I would be happy and fulfilled? It is not that I do not feel happy or fulfilled in this moment, but for me it was not the measurement of success and I believe it holds true for many others. Although, I still think a dishwasher and Dyson V10 cordless vacuum could change my outlook on life.

For some reason as human beings, when the Earth completes another rotation around the sun, we decide to wear glittery dresses, drink excessive champagne (okay there is never a reason not to drink excessive champagne and wear glittery dresses), and countdown to the New Year. We also like to take this time to reflect on the past year. We gather all of our accomplishments or disappointments and try to make goals that will make the next year better. It did not matter that this revolution happened, in our minds, it was the perfect amount of time to use to measure the meaning of life. Lucky for me, my birthday lands a couple days before the new year, meaning as the Earth completes a revolution around the sun, I, myself have also completed another revolution. Thus, I am left getting lost in my reflections about the past, especially as I hit a quarter century. Now I sit in an airport terminal, awaiting to board my delayed Frontier flight to Orlando, thinking how I got here and what it all means.

What is important? Is dental insurance important? After having cavities in all four of my wisdom teeth then getting them all removed after going to the dentist for the first time in 3 years – yes, yes, it is. But, is where I am at, at 25 and this new year, compared to what others deem as the standard, the important measurement of a revolution around the sun? Maybe it’s time to start thinking about the year in terms of health and happiness. Did I do things that made me happy? Did I do things with my best interest at heart? Did I do things only to appease everyone around me, while forgetting about my own needs? Is this where I want to be at 25 and not some life I imagined I needed to have at 25? Would a Dyson V10 make me happy? (yes, it would – someone please help me buy one)

I am now a quarter of a century old and I feel fine. Everything is fine. This year I may cut my hair and go on a random trip to Europe because I can’t not have a quarter life crisis, but I truly am fine. Here’s to another revolution around the sun and a happy and healthy new year!

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of me getting overjoyed to be in the presence of Pluto at Disneyland…

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I swear I am 25 years old and not 5 years old. Only at heart.

Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka…oh deer!

After Mount Fuji we were off to Kyoto. Remember we had just woke up at 2am, climbed to the summit of Mount Fuji for sunrise and climbed all the way back down before making the trek to Kyoto.

We had originally found a bus we were going to take to save time. In order to take trains, you have to go back to Tokyo and then go to Kyoto. If you look at a map, this does not make much sense. We got on the wrong bus and somehow ended up at Thomas the Train land theme park. The theme park is real. They have an entire theme park, full of Thomas the Train themed roller coasters. The metro line there is even filled with Thomas the train decorations. In order to get back to the station we came from (go back the other way) we had to cross the theme park. The workers were nice enough to let us cross the park without purchasing a theme park ticket. We marched with our full backpacks across Thomas land, back to the original metro station, only to end up going back to Tokyo in order to route to Kyoto. Turns out it is the faster way in the end.

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Finally being short has its advantages…I did not have to duck at all in Japan

We stayed in our first Ryokan in Kyoto. Ryokan’s are traditional Japanese guest inns that have existed since the 8th century. The rooms typically have tatami-matted rooms, communal baths and areas where you may wear your yukata around. Yukatas are like kimonos, typically made of cotton, almost like a robe. The room came with instructions on how to set up our bed and how to put on our yukatas. There was also a table and pillows to drink matcha green tea. If only I could wear that yukata everywhere. It was so comfortable and I just want to wear it to work.

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Chilling in some yakatas
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The instructions were quite simple

The other place we stayed in Kyoto was a hot spring hotel. Japan is known for their natural hot springs, which they pump up to the ground into bath houses. Typically bath houses are split between genders, but we splurged to have a private one in the room, just so we could experience it together. There is a sink next to the bath because you  must wash yourself off before getting into the hot spring. You are considered dirty and why would you want to sit in a tub of your dirt? It really does make sense.

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The best night of my life

Kyoto had some of my favorite sights. We went to the Golden Temple (Kinkaku-ji), which is a Zen Buddhist temple and a National Special Historic Site. After we went to the Red Gate (Fushimi Inari Taisha). Inari is actually the god of rice, but traditionally Inari is also worshiped as the patron of business. Fun fact: Each of the torii at Fushimi Inari Taisha has been donated by a Japanese business. You may recognize the site from it’s many popular red gates. Additionally we went to the Bamboo Forest (Arashiyama Bamboo Grove), which is a natural forest full of bamboo (as the name suggests).

After two days in Kyoto we were headed to a small stopover in Nara before headed to Osaka. Our main reason for going to Nara was the Nara Deer Park. The park is home to over 1,200 freely roaming wild deer over 1,240 acres. The deer here are friendly. You can actually pet and feed them (To be honest they don’t really approach you unless you have food). The deer are everywhere in town, simply roaming the streets among the people.

On a side note, Nara was the first town who had soap and hand driers in their bathrooms. Shout out to Nara!

On a different side note, there are no trash cans anywhere in Japan. There are signs everywhere asking you to take your trash home with you. For sure the cities looked cleaner, but also it was a bit annoying when you were given street food and then could not do anything with what you were given. Anyways just a strange thing I noticed.

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Oh deer, this is bus is taking forever

Next we were off to Osaka. We stayed in our first Air BnB type place there. The original plan was to explore Osaka for the day and then head back to Tokyo to finish seeing some sites we could not fit in before flying out. Unfortunately we received news of the typhoon Jebi that morning and had to switch our flight last minute. We headed back for Tokyo for one last night out and then we were going to fly back to LAX the next day.

The rest of our adventure in Tokyo is in the first Japan blog (since I divided up by city) if you want to know more. It was very upsetting to have our dream trip cut short, especially since we had planned to do so many more things in Osaka and Tokyo. We were extremely lucky to get out in time because the storm was devastating and the worst typhoon in 25 years. I hope anyone in the area’s affected is okay and that anyone else traveling was able to make it home safely.

We enjoyed our time in Japan so much that we have already talked about another trip soon. It was an amazing experience and I am happy to have had the opportunity to visit!

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of us enjoying crab on a stick and tea flavored ice cream…

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Hiking Mount Fuji in Running Shoes

After Tokyo we headed to Mount Fuji. We had booked a hostel in a town nearby to the base of the mountain, but had nothing planned for the next two days accommodation wise.

We also learned that there is no easy way to get from Tokyo to Mount Fuji. I thought there might be a direct train or at least a specified way, but instead we spent hours trying to figure out train lines. We would get on a train headed the right direction and then suddenly it would start heading the wrong way. We would get off the train and get on going the other way, but alas would always get back to our starting point. It was one of the most frustrating situations, especially because I speak no Japanese and could not ask for help. The good news is that we made it to the hostel.

This hostel was one of my favorites, mainly because they had free endless hard boiled eggs and bread. I am not sure what type of bread this was, but it is thick cut and everywhere is Japan. It was great bread.

Before I go on an entire post about great bread, I’ll get into the actual hike. Originally the plan was to hike up and down the mountain in a day and then head to Kyoto. There is a bus in town that takes you directly to the 5th station (I’ll explain the stations in a bit) in about an hour. By the time we reached the 5th station it was noon. The stations were distance markers that had bathrooms, snacks and seats. The 5th station is the last station reachable by bus. The rest required you to hike up. All the stations also had inns you could stay at for the night. Reservations for the inns are required, but they also take walk-ins. Obviously the higher you go up, the harder it is to get a spot in the mountain huts.

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Mountain Huts as you go up the stations

From the 5th station to the summit is roughly 6 km. When we saw that we thought it would be no problem. Hike up and down. Piece of cake. Turns out it took us 4-5 hours just to reach the 7th station. There are 9 stations total before reaching the top. A worker at the 7th station who was serving us ramen (yes you can order ramen on top of Fuji) let us know that the last bus left at 21:00 sharp. This meant we had only two options:

  1. Immediately climb down from where we were and hope to make it to the 5th station before sundown and before the last bus departs and head onto Kyoto. This would mean not reaching the summit.
  2. Continue to climb, hope that there is space for 2 in one of the mountain inns around the 8th station, stay overnight and climb to the summit in the morning with nothing but the items on our back.

Keep in mind that we had thought this would be a one day hike. All we had were our day-pack backpacks, while majority of our things were being held at the hostel. The contents of mine consisted of a rain coat, headband, water bottle, wallet, and a baseball cap. I had no change of clothes or toiletries. Plus I got my period while hiking up the mountain and had no pads or tampons (or change of underwear).  Also it was extremely hot and humid during the day, but once you reach the higher altitudes, it gets close to freezing. We had no layers or jackets.

BUT…WE ARE NOT QUITTERS! We had come all the way to Mount Fuji and by God we were not going to leave without making it to the top.

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If I kept singing this, I could focus less on my sciatica pain

With our no traction Nike running shoes, we managed to make it to the 8th station. We were lucky enough to meet another American couple who gave me pads and Advil. Also they were staying at a mountain hut on the 8th station that had enough room to let us stay last minute. LIFE SAVERS!

Although the distance between the stations got shorter, they started to take more time as the hike became steeper and altitude increased. Also to be honest I don’t think my sciatica pain and idiopathic scoliosis helped. On top of all this, there were so many tour groups hiking through, that there would be traffic on the narrow paths. It was sometimes worse that the 101 or the 405 during the morning commute.

We made it to our mountain hut at the 8th station right before sundown. It was actually insane because even at this point in the climb you were among the clouds. When you looked off into the distance it looked like you were staring out of a plane window.

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Taken right outside our mountain hut at sundown

The mountain hut was not really an inn, but rather racks of wooden planks, stuffed with sleeping bags. It honestly looked like the barracks inside, but a step up. We were given two spots that were so tiny you had to sleep on your side to fit. The pillows provided were not pillows, but sacks of plastic beads wrapped in plastic. Needless to say we did not get any sleep.

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Please take note of the plastic pillow

You had a choice between the 2am wake up call room, or the 8am wake up call room. We chose the 2am room since we were not sleeping and we wanted to see the sunrise at the summit, meaning we would need to start hiking up by 3am latest.

On a side note, none of the bathrooms on the mountain had soap or towels. It was literally hole in the ground toilets and sometimes sinks. They also wanted you to pay 200 yen each time you used the toilet. There actually was not soap or towels in most public bathrooms in Japan, especially at the major tourist sites. Do people here not use soap? Was I supposed to bring my own? My OCD-self carried around hand sanitizer everywhere anyways, but still!

At 2am we received our wake up call, otherwise known as abruptly turning on the lights. I was wide awake anyways. Let’s be real, in a room of 100 people, there are bound to be a couple snorers and sleeping bag stealers.

We luckily were able to borrow flashlights for the trek up. It was amazing to look down and see the city lights. Also when looking up you could see a path of light snaking their way up to the summit as hundreds of other idiots also hiked to the summit at 2am.

After 4 hours of hiking we finally reached the summit. The sunrise was in 10 minutes and we scurried to find a place to watch. The last 4 hours were the worst, not only because of the altitude, but the cold. All I had on was a thin pair of leggings, a shirt with a rain jacket over and my baseball cap. The mountain inn had provided surgical masks for anyone sick, but instead we wore them for heat. Plus my running shoes were not doing my ankles or knees any favors as we scaled up the last parts. My hands were shaking so much I could barely take a photo of the sun rising. It was quite beautiful though. At the highest point there is a small wooden shrine that you can walk to.

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Can you tell we are freezing? Also take note of our solid footwear choices.

Next we hit up the gift shop on top of the mountain, which was actually quite disappointing. After all our struggles, I was ready to spend money on some sick souvenirs, but instead only ended up with a key chain. I guess I should have figured the top of the mountain would not be the easiest place to bring souvenirs.

Then we started the trek down. I actually thought the way down was harder than the way up. The decline was steep and snaked around the mountain. The path itself was covered in rocks making the ground slippery. I fell on my butt pretty much every turn. Also we were not in hiking boots, so my foot would slide with every step. My knees and toes felt like I was 90 years old. Most importantly, we finished the hike and made it down around lunch time.

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We made it to the top of the world!
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I now hate rocks

I am not sure I would suggest the hike to anyone unless you come prepared. You should be wearing hiking boots, pack for extremes in both hot and cold, as well as plan your accommodations beforehand. Also, bring snacks. They are expensive and cash only only the mountain. Not going to lie the expensive snickers bars we purchased at the 6th station saved my soul.

Until next time, please enjoy this photo of the most advanced train toilet with a button that automatically lowers the seat. This could save couples across the globe.

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Lost in Translation and Toilets

I just returned from a trip to Japan (actually an early return due to the typhoon, but I will get into that later). I will be splitting the blog posts into 3 parts based on locations. This one will be about Tokyo, where we stayed for our first and last nights in Japan. Next will be about Mount Fuji and the last one will be about Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka.

For this trip, we backpacked the entire time. We only had 3 night’s accommodations booked ahead of time, but everything else was on the fly. We both just carried giant backpacks around and went with the flow. Although it was fun, I would not suggest backpacking to anyone traveling to Japan. It is not the same as backpacking Europe and you are much better off planning most things ahead of time. I do suggest packing light though.

We quickly learned how difficult the language barrier would be in Japan. When we first landed we had no internet, no cash and no prior planning of how to get to our hostel. (I know we should have planned better, but life happened the weeks before). We easily found a shuttle between Tokyo-Narita Airport to Tokyo center, but once there I was literally lost in translation (also one of my favorite films).

Tokyo reminded me a lot of Los Angeles or even New York. It is very spread out and each pocket has it’s own vibe. One part feels like Wall Street, full of skyscrapers and business people in suits. The other is like Times Square on steroids filled with crane games and vending machines. This made traveling within the city a bit difficult since there were so many subway lines and major areas of town that were spread apart.

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Streets outside our hostel

After asking several people, we were able to find a person with google maps to look up directions. We found the subway line, but of course you need a subway ticket. The ticket machines themselves had an English option, but the translation was hard to understand grammatically. Then we realized the machine only took cash, and we had not converted our money yet. I had been told by lots of people to use 7/11 ATMs in Japan. I understand that sentence sounds strange, but there are actually 7/11s on every corner of Japan. They have really good Japanese food options and international ATMs (Again Tokyo and Los Angeles are very similar). We ran out of the subway to the streets but of course there is no 7/11 or even an ATM in sight. (I swear the whole rest of the trip, we never went a block without seeing one). After an hour of running around town, we finally found an ATM to get cash using our American cards. Also we finally found our hostel for the night.

For the rest of the trip we purchased a Japanese SIM card for my phone so we could look up directions and translations. This was beyond helpful once we tried to navigate public transit to all the sights and getting from city to city. Our hostel was a co-ed shared dorm. Even in the hostel, everyone had to remove their shoes before entering the bedroom area and the shared bathrooms. The hostel (and pretty much everywhere else we stayed) provided slippers to wear once in the room. This kept everything clean and honestly I’d like to incorporate this way of life once I’m home. (Plus who doesn’t like wearing slippers around everywhere). There were also special slippers used only in the bathroom.

That night was also my first encounter with the Japanese toilets. I could really do a whole blog post about how amazing and confusing these toilets were, but I will spare you that and just go on for a paragraph. Each toilet has a side console with buttons controlling the bidet and it’s pressure. More fancy toilets had different bidet options such as height adjustment and intermittent patterns. Some toilets even had heated seats. The funniest feature was a sound button, that made the sound of running water. For the Japanese, this is a way to cover up the sound of your deification, but it honestly just made me have to pee more. I was scared to try the toilet at first, but by the second day I conquered my fear.

We spent the first two days mainly sightseeing in Tokyo. It was stupid hot and humid in Tokyo (this is coming from someone who lived in Alabama for 4 years). The girls fashion in Japan tends to be very conservative. Most girls wear skirts that cover the knees and tops that cover cleavage and shoulders. Also they all wore heels, or at least shoes that were a step up form sneakers. I do not know how they survive the heat in some of the outfits. I was drying wearing jean shorts and a spaghetti strap tank.

We went to Menji shrine, Shinjuku Gyo-en, the Tokyo tower, Hamarikyu Gardens and some more that I can’t even remember the names. Seeing shrines in Japan was like seeing churches in Europe, there are way too many to see in one trip and they are literally everywhere. We only had a limited time in Japan and of course there was way more we wanted to see, but also we wanted to spend some time enjoying the city, shopping, eating and drinking.

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Menji shrine
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Shinjuku Gyo-en

Our second night we stayed at the Hyatt because I love Lost in Translation and why not treat ourselves to a fancy night (we may have said the same thing in Kyoto for one night, but what the hell). We went to the restaurant in the hotel. I am not really sure what we ordered, but Chad’s dish came with a raw egg in a bowl on the side. We had no idea what to do with it. Do we scramble and cook it in the ramen like soup while it’s still hot? Do we our it over something? Slurp it straight? Turns out you scramble it and dip the meat into the raw egg like a sauce. It now has me thinking about salmonella and about how I could be eating raw cookie dough.

Our original plan was to come back to Tokyo for the last days of our trip since our flight out was from Narita. As you may know from the news, the strongest typhoon in 25 years hit Japan yesterday. We were given a heads up about the storm and decided it would be better to fly out the day before the storm instead of risking getting stuck and possibly ending up somewhere unsafe. This meant we lost our extra time in Tokyo, so we were unable to see some main sights. Again, I will come back to the other parts of our trip in the next posts, but for now I will skip ahead to our last part in Tokyo.

The last part we stayed in Shinjuku, which was definitely the part of town for nightlife. We first went to Shibuya Crossing, which is rumored to be the busiest intersection in the world. The backdrop is like Times Square, filled with bright lights, colors and people. The crosswalks in Japan are more efficient in my opinion. Instead of each street having their own time to cross dependent on lights, all of the lights go red and time is given for pedestrians to cross any which way they want (adjacent, across, diagonal). When it was crossing time at this intersection, you could not see the street. It’s like when you are a kid and the screen turns into white and black fuzz. Then the black overtakes the screen. (I think we used to call this the ants fighting as kids, but you get the point of how crowded it can get).

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Shibuya Crossing (Guess we are kinda artsy)

This intersection had a bit more meaning that just being an awesome place to visit and walk around. About a year ago, I was working a reception desk on the Sony Lot. There was giant (bigger than me) canvas of Shibuya crossing at night. It was overexposed so the neon lights were bright and swirly. The facilities workers said that the poster was not going to be used, and they were going to have to get rid of it. I asked if I could take it home and they said it is all mine if I can figure out how to get it home from the office. I knew that Chad had always wanted to go to Japan and that he studied the language and culture in college, so I figured it would be an awesome gift. We managed to get the canvas to his room and hang it up next to the bed. Every night we would stare at it and talk about how we would go to Japan and see it in person. Not even a year later, we made it to the same intersection. Unfortunately we did not have the right equipment to take the same photo as the canvas.

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Here is the canvas we would stare at every night

We also went out in an area called the Golden Gai. It looks as if you are walking the streets of Blade Runner, filled with tiny hole in the wall bars. There was also a sushi conveyor belt restaurant around the corner. The whole part of town was just weird and awesome.

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I opened a bar at Golden Gai

After our first days in Tokyo, our next stop was Mount Fuji, which will be in the next post.

Until then, please enjoy this photo on how to use the Western-style toilet…

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