Montauk: Part I

^^ Navy Beach. ^^

This weekend I packed up as many books as I could carry in my duffle bag and put Brooklyn in the rearview mirror as I set my sights on Montauk. I’ll be honest, I knew nothing about Montauk until about a month ago. If someone had asked me how I thought one gets to Montauk, I would probably replied, “Is that in upstate New York? Train? Flying on the back of a large bird?” So after a bit of research (thank you Bonnie!) and an actual sit down with a map, I’m now perched on the tip of Long Island traipsing around with my raspberry backpack and letting my Nikes take me from one bakery to the next.

With the summer crowds yet to descend on the island, Montauk is quiet. So quiet in fact that I’ve been here four days and already run into a handful of the same people numerous times. It helps walking everywhere, though after covering 10.2 miles yesterday I parked myself in front of “When Harry Met Sally” and didn’t move again for two hours. The Main Street is small, with restaurant gems such as John’s Pancake House, Naturally Good Foods, Montauk Bakery, and Left Hand Coffee. But with the beach just a few streets away, I’ve loved just being able to walk for miles on the sand enjoying the positive ions rolling in. Sure, I’ve had some life revelations but mostly, I’ve just spent the days giving my brain a rest and thinking about nothing in particular at all.

My bucket list still includes a bike ride to the lighthouse, eating at Joni’s, a candlelight yoga class at Yoga Lila on Wednesday, a hike within on of Montauk’s many state parks, and a final visit to Montauk Bakery for more jelly-filled crescents.

^^ One of my favorite places in Montauk. ^^

^^ The neighborhood walk between my hotel and town, Ditch Planes beach, and a look on top of Millionare’s Row overlooking Navy Beach. ^^

It’s been easy to fall into a routine here. Walking on the beach or within the sprawling neighborhoods around my hotel, hiking to delicious restaurants (Navy Beach, you were a stupidly long trek until I discovered a shortcut coming back), and reading within the one coffee shop I’ve found open. At night, the allure of curling up with a glass of wine and books (which yes, I bought more of at the local bookstore) is like a Siren call I can’t deny.

Before traveling up here, I couldn’t shake the nagging fear that I would get lonely. Or if I didn’t get lonely, that made me a “funny girl” as they say in “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s no secret that I enjoy A LOT of alone time. It’s how I recharge — especially in a city like The Big Apple. But what I’m learning overtime is that loneliness is a natural emotion, it happens to everyone. It’s okay to let the wave hit you and then to let it go by calling a friend, reading, or doing something active. No, I’ve yet to be lonely in Montauk. I’ve spent my days making my own adventures, on my own time schedule; shedding the dead skin of winter and not setting a time limit on things. I’ve made an effort to stop rushing myself as well and man, I am enjoying it. I spent an hour reading book covers in Two Sisters Bookstore before selecting exactly what I wanted. This little action then lead me to sit down and fully finish articles I’d bookmarked for months and enjoy Hasan Minhaj’s White House Correspondent Dinner Speech. It’s funny but by giving myself permission to fully enjoy my time, suddenly I seem to have so much of it.

Well, I’m off to find Joni’s Wraps and maybe a beer at the Montauk Brewing Company. Then a day of writing and edits — cheers!

Hey Man, Nice Shoes

^^ This photo has nothing to do with my below story but still somehow felt like the right accompaniment. ^^

Do you ever have those days where you’re standing on a street corner and look over and the guy next to you is wearing the same outfit? At this point I like to imagine you’re nodding enthusiastically at the screen and saying things like “More times than I can count on my fingers and toes!” and “Everyday. Every. Damn. Day.” But for those of you who have yet to have this pleasure, here are a couple of the thoughts that will initially race through your head when it dawns on you that no, you’re not looking in a street mirror.

Where did I get this outfit?! Starring at this man’s identical black boots, I tried to retrace my journey to owning this particular shoes. Looking down at my own size 8s starring back at me, I couldn’t help but notice these black ankle boots looked much better on him. In general, as someone with a limited bust, I have the privilege of flip flopping between the men and women’s section of stores. This leads to many compliments being responded to with, “Thanks! Target men’s section, who would have thought?” It’s great but when I have a fashion run-in, it can cause a minute of confusion.

Who wore it best? Alas, in this 9th Avenue fashion face off it was not me. I mean in my defense, winter jackets look good on no one. At this stage of early spring when the weather is yo yo-ing between sunshine and chilly wind, I tend to be a sweaty mess walking to and from the subway. But even my plaid Madewell shirt couldn’t win me extra points today as I soon realized it was hidden well under my teal snow jacket that currently smells a bit like dryer sheets and human.

And finally, how do I walk away from this situation in the most casual, yet quickest way possible? I pretty much prayed that I wouldn’t trip off the curb, break my ankle, and have to be carried (or more likely dragged/heaved) to the ER by a guy wearing my same outfit. But as the light turned green and I gracefully sprinted to the office, I breathed a sigh of relief as my outfit doppleganger grew into a distant memory. That was until I started walking home and once again, found myself standing next to a dude in my exact teal snow jacket and jeans. Le sigh.

Okay Wednesdays, you win this round, but next week, I’m looking for a rematch.

 

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P.S. Apologies but this is a plug but every Wednesday I write a column for the Daily Dot profiling the brightest and boldest female influencers on YouTube. I’ve interviewed scientists, vloggers, beauty gurus, body builders, and bookworms, all of whom are using digital media to empower women around the world. If this is something that tickles your fancy, take a look here or check in on Twitter every Wednesday to see what is coming down the pipeline.

A Muggle Goes to Hogwarts

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Before I dive into the world’s longest rant about Harry Potter, I first want to say thank you for all your support, advice, and love about Voices relaunching in January. I am truly lucky to know each and every one of you.

Now to the main event: THE BOY WHO LIVED. It’s not an over-exaggeration to say I cried upon entering Harry Potterland for the first time. I snagged tickets months ago for my mum’s birthday and during my last trip home, my family and I beat the crowds to explore the magical world of Hogwarts. You see, my mum and I are HUGE Harry Potter fans. Every couple years, we would hold our breath waiting for our Barnes and Noble pre-order to arrive and then devour them one at a time, laughing at the details of J.K. Rowling’s imagination and crying at the loss of our beloved characters. Ironically, the only member of our family to have gone to Harry Potterland before this trip is my dad, who — if we’re being honest — knows nothing about Harry Potter.

He doesn’t read fiction. It’s a whole thing.

So this October, an hour before the rest of Universal turned on its lights and loaded its popcorn machines, my parents and I were scurrying from parchment palaces to the Butter Beer stands like three muggles playing hooky.

We were each sorted into our houses the night before — Mum: Hufflepuff (no surprise, she is literally the nicest human I know), Dad: Gryffindor, Me: Gryffindor — so we felt right at home climbing the steps of Hogwarts. Now, the Hogwarts ride is the keystone of the entire land. The line itself is beautiful with talking portraits, surprise cameos, and welcomes from Harry and his friends. But then there is the ride. There is no other description for it than it’s bloody magical. You’re flying through the castle, battling dragons, playing Quidditch and ultimately, dueling Dementors. I mean, COME ON! It was too much for my Harry Potter fangirl heart to take so my mum and I immediately went on it again as my dad combatted the ride’s warned motion sickness on a bench outside.

This trip was amazing for a handful of reasons, but chief among them being it was one of the first times I’ve able to financially treat my family to something really special. And that left me feeling very proud.

It was also one of the few days of my trip home that we were all in the same place, unplugged from work and writing, and able to just enjoy a world we’d loved since 4th grade. Throughout the day we dined at the Three Broomsticks, watched wands pick their owners, and kids cast spells in shop windows. But mostly we chatted about life in New York, and laughed at things only we would find funny like my dad reenacting his motion sickness battle on the Minion ride.

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In total it was the perfect day because for those 12 hours, I channeled 4th grade Carly, suspended all reality, and let myself believe in magic. Then like the lady I am, I asked for an entire bag of Miceli’s bread rolls to take home because I am an adult who now owns a Gryffindor sweatshirt.

 

And if for some reason my tales of Harry Potterland didn’t spark your cold, unmagical heart, I don’t doubt the Unipiper’s latest venture will do the trick.

To Cleveland With Love

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This past weekend, I flew to Cleveland for a ripe 30 hours to witness the wonders of the city and my friend Jillian’s wedding.

The story of how I met Jillian is actually quite sweet.

After moving to New York, I started following her writing in Glamour and one night at 2am, reached out for any advice she might have. Honestly I wrote, “ANY WRITING ADVICE SEND THIS WAY!” In her reply she mentioned she was also moving to NYC and we should get a drink. I remember being so nervous, “Get coffee with me?! I sleep within two feet of a liter box and still get lost in the Google building!” But get wine we did in the bar underneath Chelsea Market and from there, our friendship became more than just writing. It grew into musicals and cheese plates, gossip sessions in West Village wine bars and “Game of Thrones” nights with her fiancé. She’s someone who has so positively influenced my New York experience so to be among the 45 people invited to her wedding felt like the good kind of heartburn.

There was a lot I took away from this trip. In the days before arrival, I did what any adult would do and avoided planning anything. I arrived with one desire: Eat Jack Flaps pancakes. And they let me tell you, they were everything I wanted and more. Everyone must try them. I bought a shirt, that’s how much I loved them.

The rest of my 24 hour adventure was a series of recommendations. I meandered through Lakeview Cemetery (obviously what anyone does before a wedding), absorbed the good vibes of Lake Eerie, journaled in a delicious pastry shop in Little Italy, visited the Cleveland Museum of Art, walked through Downtown Cleveland to enjoy sushi and cookies in the Warehouse District and finished my Steven King memoir. Without a solid game plan, I felt free to let my curiosity run wild and take be off the beaten path for moments of quiet wonder and reflection. This trip inspired me to balance trips alone with trips with friends. But mostly, it reminded me to embrace New York Sundays like I’m on vacation, roaming the city for new spaces and places to love.

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^^ Thank you Elissa for your photo and the dance party. ^^

And then there was the wedding. It was perfect and Jillian was radiating love all over the place. I was really nervous going in because the only people I knew at this event were Jillian and Andrew and you know, they were a bit preoccupied. So I put on my new favorite heels, threw on my lipsticks, called my mum for a pep talk and sweated the entire car ride there. This is this piece of advice that got me through:

The first 15 minutes will be awkward.

You’ll have to make the small talk, there will be awkward silences, you will want to hike up your dress and run out of the room. But if you stay past those 900 seconds, it gets better. Among a sea of strangers, I chatted, introduced myself around the table and by the end of the night, enjoyed a good dance circle with a really nice group of ladies I’d met. I know I was lucky to receive this kind of welcome, and for me, this wedding felt like a personal triumph comparable to climbing a mountain I didn’t think I’d ever see the top of.

On the drive back to the hotel, I felt so overwhelmed with the huge changes I was witnessing in my friends’ lives. For Jillian and Andrew, I was reminded that love is both big gestures and daily acts of kindness. They so genuinely want to be around each other, support each other, and take joy in the little mannerisms or jokes of the other person. It gave my romantic side a swift nudge after dating in New York City made it crawl into a cave away from the world. But it isn’t only the Glazers whose lives are changing.

This week a dear friend also had his first baby and she’s perfect, Maria is finishing her final semester at Columbia, Imali is taking the GRE, Amy is in med school, Joe has made a thriving life in South Korea, Howard is flying planes, JJ is building an app, and Churro is inspiring me with his daily happiness. I’m surrounded by great people doing great things both big and small.

Cleveland, thank you for being such a wonderful plus one. I’ve told everyone I know how wonderful you were and next time, we will be trying the place with 200 different kinds of hot dogs.

 

 

Falling for Fall in NYC

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It’s taken me a hot minute to blow the dust off this curious blog and dive back in to putting my long-winded tangents into print. In the past month, my tiny blog and I took some time apart, saw other people, and explored who we were outside of each other. It was for the best, but in the long run, our separation didn’t stick. Coming back together, my blog has shared that it didn’t ever judge me for starting those 11 different posts and leaving them all to grow old in the draft folder without even a shred of closure. So now, you and me little blog, we’re back on like another season of “Gilmore Girls” on Netflix.

(Still processing that life-changing announcement above. Will update once I stop running up and down my hallway yelling, “I BELIEVE IN LOVE AGAIN! FINALLY RORY AND JESS CAN GET TOGETHER!”)

Fall is officially in full swing here in NYC and as a simple California kid from a small desert town, I believe this season has surprised me the most. Call me naive, but the fact that fall has freezing weather that requires only slightly less layers than winter was an unexpected realization. But how will people see and appreciate my animal sweaters under this trench coat and sweater and beanie and gloves? Why is that woman on the subway wearing her snow jacket already and bumming us all out?

But as much as I like to grumble all the way from my doorstep to the 14th street subway exit, I can’t help but be taken by all the cliche wonderfulness that is Fall — capital “F.” The leaves changing, the sweater weather, the pumpkin scones, the necessity to burrow under a million blankets, the bonfire smell that seems to permeate throughout Brooklyn. Fall has the ability to make me walk a little slower and aptly take in the world around me without rushing to my final destination. I know, I know, “Put it in a Hallmark card Lanning!” But I can’t help it! Videos of corgi puppies attacking pumpkins and this Fall business has me in an emotional choke hold.

It’s been just over 10 months since I moved to this city, and though I highly doubt I’ll ever fully get the hang of it, this place fits better than ever. Life is currently a blur of deadlines between Google, the Daily Dot, and NBC Asian America. I’m facilitating a workshop in the city surrounding gender, sexuality, and relationships, while also taking the most addicting/stressful/brain-fatigue-inducing essay class with a professor I deeply want to impress. It’s a lot of reading and formulating pitches and contemplating yoga teacher training, all in the hopes that 2016 will be the break out year.

After months of putting it off, I’ve finally started decorating my room without the mindset of a college freshmen stepping into their foreign dorm room. My parents helped me sell all my furniture back in LA and with the exception of a lot of books waiting for me back in Awesometown, my life seems to be rooting itself more and more on the east coast for the time being. In a weird way, fall seems to have both sped up and slowed down my life, making me contemplate the peaks and dips of 2015 as well as what another year in Brooklyn will look like for the cats and I.

If nothing else, I need to stay in NYC until: 1) I’ve found the best brunch in the city 2) Published even the tiniest piece in the New York Times (Dream big or don’t dream at all the internet cats of the world say) and 3) Visit Sleepy Hollow in the fall.

Over and out my fellow dreamers!

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More bucket list items you say?! Well, aren’t you in luck, that’s my next post.