Saturday, October 24, 2015

San Francisco: The Highlights

I guess I'm still terrible at keeping up with a blog.

I've been living in San Francisco for three months now and it has been quite an adventure. I've wandered the city, visited a few museums, took in some shows (movies, stand up, concerts, musicals) and I've really enjoyed living here. It feels like home but it still feels temporary. It's really beautiful here and I've had a lot of "firsts" so far. I love that I can walk around and make new discoveries around every corner. And when I'm not walking, I'm riding my bike or taking public transportation (usually BART but I took CalTrain for the first time recently!) or using Lyft. 

In the interest of time (and the fact that I don't know who even reads this) I'll wrap up some of the highlights of my time in San Francisco so far.

Live shows:
  • The Get Up Kids @ The Independent [top right] - This brought me back to high school. I stood in the very front, up against the stage and lost my voice from singing along. I was pretty proud of myself as this was the very FIRST concert I attended alone!
  • Family of the Year @ Amoeba [top middle] - This was fun to stumble on. They only played five songs but it was such a cute set.
  • Glass Animals @ Fox Theater [top left] - This show was amazing. I made a last minute decision to go to this sold out show and it was a bit of an adventure to try to take BART to Oakland and then I got lucky with tickets. I'm glad I didn't plan this out, it was more fun winging this one.
  • Oddball Comedy Fest @ Shoreline Amphitheater [bottom corners] - This was my first CalTrain adventure. We were held up on our way to Mountain View because a pedestrian was hit but a train that afternoon, I couldn't find any information on the person who was rushed to the hospital or whether it was fatal or not, but I hope this person is okay. We got to the show in time to see four comics: Bridget Everett (outrageous), John Mulaney (brilliant), Amy Schumer (amazing), and Aziz Ansari (fun). I went to my very first concert at the Shoreline Amphitheater. My dad took me to to see No Doubt (Tragic Kingdom tour) with Weezer as the opener for my birthday in 1997. It was the first time I've been back and it's also my first big comedy show!
  • Kaskade @ Pier 70 [bottom middle] - This was insane. In a good way. In an amazing way, actually. There were 10,000 people at this outdoor stage with crazy lights and lasers. It was quite the spectacle. We were with my cousin's friends and they are a great group of people who I feel lucky to have met.
  • Romeo and Juliet @ The Presido [not pictured] - This was my first Shakespeare in the Park experience and everyone did such a great job. It was a beautiful sunny day to sit on the grass and watch with the Golden Gate bridge and the clouds rolling behind the stage.
  • Dogfight the Musical @ San Francisco Playhouse [not pictured] - I saw this movie a while back during my River Phoenix obsession phase (I still love him, R.I.P.) so the idea of this being a musical was amusing. It was a cute theater with friendly people and the story works as a musical!
Museums and the sights:
  • Twin Peaks view on a foggy day:
  • Cupids Span with the Bay Bridge in the background
  • Rodin room @ Legion of Honor Museum
  • Palace of Fine Arts
  • Land's End
  • Martin Luther King, Jr Memorial Fountain @ Yerba Buena Buena Gardens

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Life is Beautiful - Day One

This isn't my normal style of "blogging" but more of my actual style of (mostly) private writing: detailed, long and really long. Here is my account of our first day of the Life is Beautiful music festival in Las Vegas. I may never write about days two or three because I expect to treasure these memories forever but you never know. 

Friday, September 25th

I got five hours of sleep. If I knew the events that were going to ensue I wouldn’t believe five hours was enough, but somehow it always is when I have no other choice. I put on my cheetah print shorts and a lime green crop top. My backpack is filled with the essentials: water bottles, glow sticks, and a portable charger. I had Red Bull for breakfast. The citrus kind that doesn’t have the same flavor and after this can, I can conclude that it doesn’t have the same effect. Marcela and I take a car to Downtown Vegas. It’s only 1pm and the temperature was already melting my face. We had lunch at a cafe as we awaited the festival grounds to open. The cashier was extra nice to us for no reason. We decide it’s because we make a good team and people must like us. 
Upon receiving the wristbands in the mail two weeks prior, Marcela slips on her wristband and tightens it. This all happened so quickly over FaceTime I didn’t even have a chance to stop her. She has been wearing her non-adjustable wristband for the last two weeks and kept accidentally tightening it. When it was finally festival time, we had to go to the box office to exchange her wristband for one that wasn’t slowly cutting off circulation to her right hand. The box office worker was nice enough to replace it with a smile and this happens all the time. We get in line under direct, dry, desert sunlight to enter my very first music festival.
My first show was Parade of Lights, Marcela wanted to see SZA on another stage. We both enjoyed our respective shows but decided this festival is better experienced together. We met back up, grabbed a snow cone and cold water bottles. This was the first band sacrifice, of many, that I had to make that weekend. Ultimately my decisions came down to who I wanted to see on that stage later in the day. I had to skip AWOLNATION and headed over to the Atmosphere stage to wait for BØRNS to play. Garrett Borns walks out in a floral blazer with no shirt underneath looking like bonafide rock star. I’ve been listening to “Electric Love” since the beginning of the year and he did not disappoint. Next up on the same stage was Lindsey Stirling. The way she moves whilst playing the violin is spectacular. She wears red and black plaid and has an amazing skeleton-like violin adorned with rhinestones as she floats through the air like the ballerina she is. By now everyone has forgotten that Sharon Osbourne once told Lindsey she wasn’t good enough to be a solo act on America’s Got Talent. 
She’s amazing to watch, but I can’t stand there anymore. We’re standing at the front, up against the barricade and a little off to the left. It’s prime real estate but I start to feel anxiety from the people who are standing too close to me, from the sweat dripping down my back, from the dehydration. I know it’s a bad idea, but I have to get out of this crowd. Marcela stays and I make my way through the sea of people who are happy to shift over ever so slightly to fill my spot. I feel a warm breeze from just the walk. This is the very reason I’ve never been to a music festival before: I don’t like the crowds. I have a seat on the ground and continue to listen. I take a ten minute breather before I return. I stand on the edge and wait for Lindsey’s set to finish so I can attempt to make my way back to Marcela. Every person who leaves, who I assume is heading towards the main stage to see Hozier, is replaced by someone scooting in closer thus confirming leaving my spot was a terrible idea. I inch as close as I can get telling people I am just trying to get back to my friend. The people behind her wouldn’t let me past them. So I stand through Atmosphere, who I don’t know, until people shift once again and finally make my way back to her. People are ruthlessly pushing and shoving their way closer to the front and center. I’m glad I had my little moment of anxiety during a calmer point of the show because it was about to get nuts. The security guys are instructing us to keep our arms planted on the barricade giving us enough room between the gate so as not to get our ribs crushed when people start pushing. Um, what? Josh and Tyler come on stage wearing ski masks and skeleton hoodies like they’re going to rob a hipster bank. The crowd went wild. Twenty One Pilots has a ton of energy, they crowd surf, they crowd surf while playing the drums. They may not have robbed a bank, but they stole the show. I would have been satisfied if that was the end of the night, but it wasn’t even close. 
Marcela introduced me to Major Lazer earlier this year, particularly the song “Lean On” and it has basically been the anthem to our friendship and our group of friends since. “All we need is somebody to lean on.” And then it started playing on the radio and became the biggest song of the summer. Diplo and Walshy Fire were a lot of fun. They had four amazing booty shakin’ dancers who make me wish I could dance. They teased a snippet of “Lean On” after another song but waited until the end to really play it, of course. And when they did, the crowd went wild. 
It was a long day; our feet hurt and we were exhausted from the sun and the lack of sleep. We laid on the grass as we listened to Stevie Wonder from afar. Looking back, we absolutely should have gone over to catch the last half of his set. He’s a fucking legend after all. But we were too out of it to move. Marcela wanted to go to the strip but I was perfectly fine returning to the hotel, I preferred it actually. She said she was going to just go by herself to gamble because she knew I wasn’t up for it. But I forced myself to go for it because I hadn’t seen her in two months and I wouldn’t see her again for another month, we owed it to each other to have an adventure.
We took a taxi to the MGM and walked around. We got some alcohol, got some food, got some drunk. I don’t know the last time I heard this Febreeze song, but it popped in my head and I kept singing it all night, well, I kept singing it wrong, that is. It was probably because I just saw Diplo of Major Lazer who is also of Jack Ü and I just kept repeating “Yeah, yeah, I’m the shit, I’ma put Febreeze on it.” Close enough but those were the only words I knew. Anyway, amidst my attempt at rapping, a guy approached us asking for a lighter. We didn’t have one. Then he pulls out the lighter he had in his pocket the whole time. We didn't plan on the events that were about to ensue, but those are the best stories, aren’t they? 

To be continued...maybe. Probably not.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


I've spent the majority of my life with long hair. There are a handful of times that I have cut my above/around my shoulders and because of this, I know short hair doesn't suit me. I look better with long hair, I know this, so why mess with a good thing? Because it's time to get out of my comfort zone. So, yesterday I chopped it off.

A lot of this San Francisco journey is about getting out of my comfort zone. Like, physically, getting out. I left LA and the friends I was comfortable being myself with and now, I left my hair...on the floor of Steel + Lacquer. My cousin Lena and her business partner Jarrod opened their very own salon earlier this year in SoMa. It's a beautiful, modern space with really talented stylists. 

I knew cutting my hair would be a great way to have a fresh start in a new city. It felt more like something I needed to do rather than wanted. I craved a newness. This seemed like a symbolic way to leave any doubts, insecurities and split ends (obvi). Lena cut my hair, but she let me make the first cut. The first, awkward, long chop. And like a good cousin would, she took video. I'm not able to post it here but here are screen shots of the beginning and end:

I left the rest up to the professional. 

Coco Chanel said it best, “a woman who cuts her hair is about to change her life.” 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Impromptu Road Trip

On Thursday I decided to go on an impromptu road trip to visit my grandma about an hour and 45 minutes away from San Francisco. There was a ton of traffic driving out of the city at about 5:30pm so it took a bit longer than it should have, but that's what happens when I make last minute plans. My drive was accompanied by a beautiful sunset and I alternated between listening to Wil Wheaton reading Armada and music. 

It was great to spend time with my 할모니 (Korean grandma); I haven't seen her in about a year. Something really great about Modesto is the super fresh, locally grown produce. We went to a fruit stand Saturday morning and got some delicious white nectarines, peaches, plums, almonds and corn. 

With the fruits and veggies in tow, I headed out on part two of the last minute road trip to my parents' house in Southern California. It has been a bit of a burden having my car in SF. I felt like I couldn't really explore and enjoy the benefits of the second most walkable city when I had to keep moving my car and worry about parking. I wanted to walk, ride my bike and take the BART! So I wanted to leave my car with my parents for now. I haven't even been in San Francisco for two whole weeks yet and I'm already fleeing. But I wanted to get the car situation taken care of. In retrospect, I feel like it was what I needed to do to let go of LA (for now). When my parents still lived in Modesto, I would do this drive pretty often and it became therapeutic for me. Just me, the road, good music and my thoughts. I haven't really had that feeling in the last few drives back and forth but I definitely felt that way on this drive. I felt a much needed sense of clarity and closure on LA for the time being. I feel like I am finally ready to embrace SF. Also, I'm about halfway through Armada and it's getting really exciting!

I arrived at my parents house and my mom had Korean food ready as I walked in, of course. I caught up with my folks and showed them pictures of my new life and hung out with my dog. I was exhausted from all the driving so I slept like a rock that night. 

The last minute flight back to San Francisco wasn't as cheap as it usually is and it was even more expensive from the airport closest to my parents. So I booked a flight out of LAX instead (for half the price!) and had Marcela come pick me up on Saturday afternoon. My mom has a need to feed people so she already prepared the meat to cook for lunch the second I told her Marcela is going to come get me. She made galbi (Korean ribs), veggie tempura and some other side dishes so Marcela had no choice but to stay for lunch! I made the plans for Marcela to come get me on Saturday without really knowing what she already had planned that day so we headed back to LA so she (we) could babysit her adorable niece. I didn't have much time in LA so I thought it best not to tell people I was in town. How am I supposed to enjoy SF when I keep holding on to LA? I am forever grateful to Marcela for picking me up from my parents', hanging out with me so last minute, taking me to the airport and just being there for me in general. xoxo

Now I'm headed back to SF, for real. I won't be back for a month, at least. Really.

(I actually already have my next flight booked).

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Golden Gate Park

Yesterday was my first day at Golden Gate Park. I've visited San Francisco plenty of times but never made it to this glorious park. I was surprised to learn it is 20% bigger than Central Park! My friend, Will, came down from the East Bay and we explored the eastern half of the park. We started with the hot dog stand by the amphitheater, because priorities. We ate on the benches in front of the theater as some high school looking kids rehearsed their rendition of Twelfth Night. It was kind of adorable and brought back good memories of performing in plays years ago. 

After food was taken care of, we started off at the Botanical Garden. I was most amused by the squirrels and geese but the flowers were really beautiful. There were different sections for flowers and plants from all over the world. 

Next we got coffee from the de Young museum cafe and saw some of the sculptures just outside. For my first trip to the park, I just wanted to do some of the smaller things and come back to spend a full day at the museums. Then we went over to the Conservatory of Flowers. Since its opening in 1879, the beautiful greenhouse has suffered damage from several fires and a winter storm. Surprisingly it was unaffected by the 1906 earthquake. I don't have a green thumb in the slightest but I can appreciate the beauty of plants and flowers and this is a great place to see them at their finest. There are different rooms within the greenhouse with separate climates to accommodate the variety of tropical, aquatic and potted plants. The lawn in front of the conservatory is beautifully landscaped with colorful flowers abound. 

We walked around the park and stopped by the carousel and heard some live music under a bridge. The park was lovely and I can't wait to come back and explore other areas of it.

Later that day, I had dinner plans with my cousin, Lena, but she had some surprises up her sleeve. We met her two girlfriends for dinner and she was super vague but we were also supposed to go to a birthday party of a friend of a friend's afterwards. It turned out that we met a group of her good friends at a karaoke joint as a surprise welcome for me to San Francisco. I continue to be amazed by the love and kindness from those closest to me and their help with this move. I don't know what exactly I plan on doing in this city, but the support I've had along the way makes it feel like the right decision. 

“Be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” 

- William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Superpod 4

Day 1

Today I drove my car to the airport, took a plane to Seattle, took a Lyft to tour the city (thanks Robert!), met up with my dad back at the airport (flying in from somewhere else), we took a bus to another bus and then a ferry to San Juan Island. 

Just to summarize: 🚗✈️🚕🚌🚌🚢

Texts with my dad: 

Upon our arrival to the island we had dinner at a cute restaurant and then headed to the hotel. Everything shut down pretty early so all the shops I would have gone to were closed. Friday Harbor reminded me of Catalina a bit. We turned in early because all that traveling was exhausting. 

Day 2

Early to bed, soooo early to rise! I woke up unnecessarily early. My dad and I had coffee and breakfast as we waited for those darn shops to open. I especially wanted to check out this bookstore we passed by the night before. When I did the math for the travel time going back to the airport, whilst looking at all the ferry/shuttle schedules, I knew I was going to miss my flight. Even though I had my audio book with me, I wanted another for the extra time I'd have to spend at the airport waiting for the next flight. So, I picked up Go Set A Watchman. Because literary phenomenon, am I right? We went to a couple other shops and talked to a few orca enthusiasts before going out on our whale tour. 

My dad wrote a song about Lolita earlier this year. She has been in captivity for 45 years after brutally being taken from her mother. Her pod and mother are still out there, perhaps awaiting her return. Seven orcas were captured with Lolita from Puget Sound (a bit South of where I am today) and she is the only one still alive today. If you can call being in a pool "living," that is. She is being held captive at Miami Seaquarium. Lolita has been listed under the Endangered Species Act earlier this year and hopefully this will help get her returned to the ocean where she belongs. 

We boarded the water taxi with four other folks and Captain Hobbs. He told us from the beginning that the orca pods have been spotted farther out that we can go in our three hour tour, but he seemed hopeful. It wasn't looking good, we were an hour out and still nothing but birds. 

The view was beautiful and it was a great day to be out on a boat. But let's face it, I didn't ride in a car, plane, two buses and a ferry to look at birds. And then the K Pod showed up! I saw three breaches but didn't manage to get a good picture of any of them. There were about five orcas and they were just amazing. Seeing them was completely worth missing my flight for (and the next flight). The pictures came out a little blurry as it was hard to take them quick enough when they popped to the surface. 

Orcas are beautiful and intelligent animals that do not belong at Sea World, Seaquarium and the like. They live much longer in the wild with their families. I hope Lolita and all other captive killer whales can return to the sea and reunite with their pods. And sea parks can suck it. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

The New Adventures of Old Vina

I've had an amazing last two weeks. Just before this spectacular time, I quit my job. Even months before this stupendous 14 days, I decided to move to San Francisco. I love L.A. I love the weather, the sunsets, the beach, the abundance of Korean food that L.A. has to offer and I love my friends. This was a terribly difficult decision to make. The thought of merely being open to the idea of moving gave me a migraine. 

Let's scooch back a bit. I grew up in the Central Valley, my parents would take me to San Francisco often. We'd do the touristy things: Fisherman's Wharf, Lombard Street, Chinatown, whatever. It was great to visit. I would go every once in a while with friends and it was always fun, but I have never wanted to live there. Not. Ever. Around the time that I peaced out of NorCal, my closest cousin, Lena, moved to San Francisco. We'd visit each other and I got to enjoy S.F. more with her than ever. In the last year or so, she'd jokingly tell me to move there. I was very adamantly against it. Every time. She always made sure I'd have a good time there and tell me how great it would be for me to live there. I adore my cousin, she's an amazing person and I am so proud of the woman she's become. We grew up together and used to wear matching outfits. She is the sister I never had. Earlier this year, she had given up on convincing me to move there, so obviously, that's the visit that it hit me. That's the one that made me think, "hmm, I could move here..." Lena and her fiancé recently moved into an amazing new place and offered me a place to live, a part time job and the emotional support to make this move. How could I refuse? So, I didn't. 

I planed out the months to follow to take advantage of what I love about L.A. I did road trips to Arizona, Joshua Tree, Big Bear, Vegas (twice) and San Diego. I ate a lot of Korean food. I went to Disneyland and Universal Studios with some amazing people. I went out, danced and socialized more than ever. And I had the best birthday party of my life. I went HAM and wondered why I didn't YOLO this hard ever before. Sure, it was exhausting and I don't remember the last night I went to bed before midnight or had 8 hours of sleep. But it was all so worth it. I never wanted to make a big deal out of my move because who knows what could happen? I could have very well changed my mind, packed all my shit for nothing and turned that car around. I could also be here for three months and realize this isn't for me and can't find a job and realize I made a huge mistake. Despite the huge potential of failure, I knew I had to go. At least for a little bit. 

My last day of work was July 2nd, timed perfectly to enjoy the holiday weekend and I gave myself two weeks to pack/toss everything I own and see the people I cared about most in SoCal. It was a lot of work but I made sure to have a lot of fun amidst the packing and trips to storage and Goodwill. I had most of my lunches and dinners planned with friends during this time (I had to pack up my kitchen after all, there's no way I could cook). I had an amazing Fourth watching the whole city turn up. I went to the beach, went paddle boarding and hiking. I didn't make excuses and I said yes to almost everything. This is the most fun I've had as an adult. I thought all of this would make it more difficult to move, and it did. But it also made it easier because I felt closer to ready. I did almost everything I wanted and saw everyone I wanted and now I'm ready. 

My friends Mafe and Marcela helped me load up my car on Saturday morning after an unexpected thunderstorm in Culver City. I like to think the skies were upset about me leaving. But I left with the beautiful petrichor in the air and I can't think of a better way to go. After stuffing my car like a sausage, Marcela and I did the scenic drive North. The 405 to the 101 to the 1. It was a few hours longer than it would have been going straight, but I've never done the coast drive and it was the perfect opportunity to do it. I made a Spotify playlist for the drive and my sweet friend, Diego, burned a few CDs for us to listen to. I also had a new audio book (Armada) for the few times Marcela dozed off. We stopped by San Luis Obisbo, San Simeon and Big Sur. The roads were beautiful and we held our breath and made wishes on almost every bridge we passed. 

We arrived at my cousin's house late Saturday night and Marcela and I did a little sightseeing on Sunday before she flew back home. I unpacked a few things but this still feels like I'm only visiting. Especially because I will be in Washington Monday and Tuesday. BRB!

As much as I've done the last two weeks, really the last few months leading up to this, it would have meant nothing if I didn't do it with these amazing friends. That is what I will truly miss. (And the Korean food, obvs).

Here's to new adventures in San Francisco and figuring out my life. Stay tuned!