January 30, 2024

The Most Fun I've Had in California

I've just passed my "lucky" 13-year anniversary of moving to Los Angeles in January 2011—and when people hear where I'm from, they most commonly ask two questions:

  1. Do I miss New York?
  2. Which do I like better, New York City or LA?
Truth is, the two cities are so different, they're hard to compare. But in terms of where I'm at in my life right now, I find LA much better to live in.

But still, I had a lot of fun during my 14 years of 5 a.m. nights and boozy brunches in New York City. It was a different kind of fun than Southern California typically has to offer. 

When I have a good time nowadays, it feels more like the kind of fun I missed out on having as a little kid—before adult beverages would've come into play. 

So maybe my time in NYC was more about making up for a crazy adolescence I never had; and my time in Los Angeles is more about making up for a childhood I was never given, one that was bereft of playdates and playgrounds and playing in the mud. 

You'll see what I mean when you see my Top 13 list of the most fun I've had in California so far (in no particular order):
  1. Swimming with otters
  2. Riding a Jeepney
  3. Riding the Warner-Carrillo Ranch Stagecoach
  4. Riding the Ghost Train of Griffith Park
  5. Going to Disneyland
  6. Going to Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights
  7. Goat yoga (especially with baby goats in Halloween costumes)
  8. Climbing onto the Wienermobile
  9. Attending Bob Baker Marionette Theatre puppet shows (especially Halloween)
  10. Attending Rose Parade-related events
  11. Singing with the Magical Holiday Parade in Toluca Lake
  12. Touring Garner Holt Productions' animatronic factory
  13. Anything having to do with Krampus.
Honorable mention goes to paragliding at Torrey Pines, which I did in 2009—almost a couple of years before I moved here. 

And this doesn't, of course, include any trips I've taken out of state (like to Vegas, which is pretty fun for me).

So happy anniversary to me, no matter how long I may stay in this city, or in this state. I have no plans to leave—but life can change pretty quickly. 

After all, after 10 years in NYC I thought I'd be there the rest of my life. By the 12th year, I couldn't wait to leave. And by the 14th year, I ran screaming... all the way to LA.

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January 28, 2024

Photo Essay: Good Fortune at the Cookie Factory, San Francisco

The first time I visited San Francisco, back in 2006, the internet just wasn't what it is today. And so although we figured out some fun things to do—take a nighttime tour of Alcatraz, for instance—there just wasn't that much I was familiar with, beyond cable cars and restaurants.

That was totally different this time around, when I've had nearly 20 years to add places to my map and learn more about the city by the Bay from afar. And when I visited a couple of weeks ago, I knew I wanted to go to Chinatown.

Because who wouldn't want to go see how fortune cookies are made?!

January 25, 2024

Photo Essay: The Tonga Room, A Tiki Bar Survivor of Some Near Misses

I hadn't been to San Francisco for any proper amount of time since 2006—and back then, the only tiki bar in the area I knew about was the now-closed Trader Vic's. 

I didn't find out about the other Bay Area tiki bars until well after I'd returned home. 

And since then, the Tonga Room has been on my bucket list. 

Oh, I did make it to SF for a couple of hours in 2022. My friends and I even made it to Forbidden Island in Alameda on that trip. 

But I had much more tiki-ing to do. 

Google Street View circa Feb. 2023

So when I finally got back to the city by the bay earlier this month, I made sure to cross some more off my list—Pagan Idol, Zombie Village, Smugglers Cove, and, of course Tonga Room.

January 20, 2024

We Are All Made of Dots

Once you've seen a Yayoi Kusama exhibit somewhere, it's hard to see polka dots and not think of her.

They're her most common artistic motif—both in her paintings and in her "infinity rooms"—but that's not all. It's a repeated pattern that's part of her consciousness—and her subconscious. 

She sees dots everywhere. And she dreams about them, too. (That may or may not be related to the fact that the 96-year-old Japanese artist is institutionalized in a mental facility.)

According to Kusama, "The Earth is a dot, the moon, the sun, the stars are all made of dots. You and me, we are dots." 

Even though I saw the big Kusama exhibit at The Broad several years ago, and have visited the infinity room there a couple of times, I hadn't yet had enough of her and her dots—so while in San Francisco last weekend, I visited the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) for the "Infinite Love" show (the artist's first-ever solo show in Northern California).

January 09, 2024

Photo Essay: A Last Look At Two Volunteer-Built Floats of the 2024 Rose Parade

I was feeling a little bit of regret over not attending "FloatFest," the post-Rose Parade showcase of floats where you get up close to them and literally stop to smell the roses. 

But then I saw that a couple of the float builders were displaying their work for the public to continue to enjoy for even longer after the Rose Parade—and both were standouts. 

January 05, 2024

Photo Essay: The Rose Parade Started 2024 Off On a High Note

Why have I been going to the Rose Parade events in some form of another every year since the 2014 parade? 

Because the bands, horses, and floats change every year. And appear in a different order. And there's always something to marvel at.

January 01, 2024

Year In Review: 2023 Updates to Past Posts

At the end of each year now, it's no longer only about reflecting on the new experiences I've had over the last 12 months—but also recognizing how the world around me has changed.

And I can't help but document it.

That brings me back to some places—either physically or just mentally and emotionally—that I thought I'd be "done" with after one visit. 

Unfortunately, the scales were tipped way too far in one direction last year. We lost many more people and things than we were able to save.

And, in some cases, it didn't have to be that way. 

But life is loss—constant loss, in fact. And the sooner we come to terms with that, the sooner we can get to appreciating what we've got now. 

One of my most devastating experiences is whenever I find myself saying, "I never got to go."

But as time passes, the sentiment changes. Now, increasingly, it's the heartbreaking statement, "I never got to go back."

Here are some of the updates I made to past blog posts in 2023, reflecting changes that happened in that year or developments that had happened previously but I only got to documenting that year.