Highland Park Bowl – Homesplorin’ Edition 2

Next on my list of “do you really live in LA if you haven’t been to these epitomes of gentrification at its finest” is… Highland Park Bowl!

Located in Northeast Los Angeles, Highland Park is a historic, yet trendy hipster enclave with smatterings of culturally authentic restaurants and eateries. The entertainment options here are top-notch, and you’re sure to find great night-life and diverse experiences near the centrally located York Blvd. and Figueroa St. One of my favorite spots is the Highland Park Ebell Club, which frequently boasts small, but excellent, productions of world-renown operas. The Pacific Opera Project (POP) has even staged a “hipster” version of Puccini’s La bohéme. If that doesn’t scream fun, then I don’t know what does.

Within walking distance of the Ebell Club is a delicious pupuseria and, you guessed it, Highland Park Bowl! Here are my reflections about LA’s oldest bowling alley:

Experience: 

Pros:

  • I went on a RARE rainy LA day, and spent a couple hours in a warm and welcoming space that was not my bed
  • The interior is beautiful and is reminiscent of similar Prohibition-era themed speakeasies in LA
  • It doesn’t feel like a grimy, stinky bowling alley…it’s bowling with class and sophistication
  • The cocktails are fun, delicious, and old-timey. The beer selection was pretty good
  • Kids 21 and under are not allowed after 8pm (I consider this a pro)

Cons:

  • It is a small bowling alley with 8 lanes. Reservations are recommended, if not practically required, to make sure that you don’t have to wait a couple hours for a lane to open up
  • The food is decent, but not great. The menu is pretty much designed around medium-sized pizzas to facilitate eating slices mid-bowl
  • Parking is tough in the area and is paid (either metered or on a flat-rate lot)
  • The experience is not cheap without a large group – see below

Price: Pricing really does vary depending on the day and time. The cheapest time to rent a lane for one hour is for $25 on Saturdays from 11am-4pm, but be prepared for larger crowds. Peak times (late afternoon and evenings) have an hourly lane rate ranging between $50-$70, and late nights (until 2am) outside of Fridays and Saturdays are $40 for an hour. Reservations come at $20 a pop. Shoe rental is $5 per pair. Since up to 8 people are allowed per lane, this may be a better outing to do with a group of friends.

Is it worth it? I’d say yes, as long as you’re aware of the cons and don’t set your expectations through the roof. The ambience is really neat and the idea of pinky-finger-up bowling is hard to resist. The old-fashioned mechanisms for the pins and ball-return are super cool to watch on their own. But, like any retro experience in a neighborhood like Highland Park, expect crowds and steep pricing.

Pictures:

LA Zoo Lights – Homesplorin’ Edition 1

I couldn’t put a proper close on the holidays without going to see a spectacular light display. The Los Angeles Zoo Lights caught my attention since it seemed to be one of the places trending on Instagram for this kind of thing. I know what you’re thinking – is the city zoo really the place to go see Christmas lights? What about the animals? Wouldn’t the lights, the noise, and the crowds disturb them? My dear boyfriend presented this kind skepticism when I proposed we go check it out. How romantic, right?

Passive aggressiveness towards my boyfriend aside (totally kidding, I love him and his concern for animals), I found the evening at the zoo to be pleasant and completely tame (pun definitely intended). Here is a breakdown of my opinion of this holiday-specific excursion:

Experience: 

Pros:

  • I went on the last day of the display and found a really great price on Groupon (see below)
  • Parking is free!
  • There were a couple of really great exhibits, such as the Water Laser Show, the Tunnel of Lights, and a nicely lit forest grove with a disco ball
  • Most of the animals were put away or in a location not accessible during the event – it seems like they weren’t really disturbed too much by the guests. The reptile room was open.
  • The zoo sells food, snacks, holiday treats, and yes, alcohol!

Cons:

  • It was crowded. This may have been because it was the last day, but I can imagine it being even more crowded on days around Christmas.
  • Pricing varies depending on the night you go, so if your budget is tight it requires some planning ahead.

 

Price: If you were to buy tickets at the gate or on the LA Zoo website, they cost $21.95 for premium nights (most weekends and holidays) and $14.95 for value nights (typically weekdays that fall outside of Christmas and New Years’ week).

Groupon also offered discounts for specific nights, so if they happened to offer a coupon for the day you were planning on going then a premium night ticket would be reduced to $14.95. I personally went on the last day (a Sunday) of the approximately month-long display. I found a Groupon posted three days before I went which offered admission for the last weekend of the event for $11.25.

Is it worth it? My verdict is that it’s a nice one-time experience. It was fun and festive to walk around and see a concentration of animal-themed bright lights. Since a lot of the zoo was closed off to the public, it did make for a smaller space which made the crowds a lot harder to navigate. There are lots of other places to see holiday lights in Los Angeles (some are free!), so I do think I’ll be going to a different place next year to mix it up.

Pictures:

Thirty Day Trial Challenge – January

Okay yes, I will admit that I got started a bit late on my 30 day trial for this month. Regardless, I am excited to start this project and explore new skills.

As you can probably tell from my work on this blog, I like to write. However,  I am very analytical, logical, and <insert boring adjective here>, so I feel that it is a lot easier for me to write about my observations and recently acquired tidbits of knowledge rather than creative fiction.

Because I love movies (and often dream about making a movie one day), I decided to try my hand at writing a screenplay. With only 30 days, I’ve committed to writing a screenplay for a short film. I am using an app called Celtx (yay, technology!) which provides screenplay templates and has a bank of screen directions to choose from for lay people such as myself.

I have found it challenging to visualize every aspect of a scene in my head while also experimenting with a new story, dynamic characters, and the proper dose of suspense. I’m a murder-mystery-plot-twist kind of girl, so that should give you an indication of the genre I am writing for.

I’ll update this post periodically with my thoughts, obstacles, and other interesting discoveries as I write – and if someone out there has experience with writing screenplays, I’d love to hear from you!

January 30 Day Challenge – Update

I’m slightly hesitant – but also a bit giddy – to share the outcome of my 30-day attempt to write a screenplay for a short film. I’ll cut to the chase and eliminate the building suspense – I didn’t do it.

Well, sort of. I tried brainstorming ideas for an exciting and shocking screenplay with the simplicity of American Beauty, the creativity of Inception, and the perplexity of Memento. Obviously that proved to be a lofty goal, and I realized that I may be aiming too high. After suffering from writer’s block for about a week, I remembered a vision that I had a couple of years ago for a similar project.

I had fallen in love with a song by Death Cab for Cutie called Bixby Canyon Bridge. The song, written from the first-person perspective of vocalist Ben Gibbard, chronicled his attempt at introspection while isolated in nature. Ben modeled his isolation after author Jack Kerouac, who wrote about his own individual journey in On the Road and Big Sur.

Upon listening to the lyrics and reading Kerouac’s novels, I felt compelled to bring the story in the song to life. Instead of writing a screenplay for a short film, my new task become to write a music video shot list. Using a template from Studio Binder, I created a script with the visuals on one side of the pages, and the lyrics on the other. It was actually really fun to write, and the ideas flowed.

Without saying too much (as I’m now going to work on getting this thing filmed), the premise of my story is based on the last lyric of the song:

“And then it started getting dark/I trudged back to where the car was parked/No closer to any kind of truth/As I must assume was the case with you”

I interpreted this closing statement to mean that Ben, in his quest to find some answer or purpose for his existence, came out of his isolation disillusioned and possibly more confused that when he started. He can’t help but take a small jab at Jack Kerouac, whom he criticizes for being shallow, hypocritical, and basically full of sh*t. Can you blame him – Kerouac’s life was cut short at the age of 47 from an abdominal hemorrhage caused by heaving drinking.

Still, I think we as humans try to find answers for the unknown elements of existence and often find ourselves going around in circles. In my personal experience, descending into the rabbit hole of “why am I here”, “what’s the meaning of life”, and other philosophical questions usually brings about negative emotions such as sadness and apathy. I’m not saying that we should never think about these things, but I’ve found that acceptance of the unknown has relieved some of the tension in my life.

The protagonist in my music video story embarks on a similar journey, only to find out that she has been prisoner to her mind all along. I can’t wait to share it with you.

Romantic Relationships

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve enjoyed receiving relationship advice from those click-bait articles on Facebook. Something about reading “10 Things He Does That Show He’s Really Into You” is comforting and indulgent. Ironically, it is usually only when I’m feeling insecure that I seek out the reassurance of these overly general and somewhat obvious lists. However, it’s been over years-long periods of dating people who weren’t right for me that I’ve learned that if someone is interested in you, you’ll know it and feel it.

Still, feelings of love and attraction only go so far. This is contrary to my perception of romanticism when I was younger. The movies show us that love is about passion and exhilaration – which is true. But what is also true is that loving someone is a choice, and that choice is made even when passion and exhilaration are absent.

In my teenage relationships, once the “spark” would fade (which is natural after about six months to a year of dating the same person) I took it to mean that the relationship was over. It wasn’t until I ended a three-year relationship in college that I began to realize that dating wasn’t something that just ‘happened’ to you – it is a lifestyle that requires maintenance and care. This notion still took me a little bit of time to get right, because I then entered into a relationship that I was determined to make work despite all of the glaring issues with the person I was dating. I convinced myself that I had to choose to be with him, even when he made me feel horribly. It’s safe to say that this arrangement did not work out, and it was yet another learning experience to add to my repertoire of failed relationships.

Even now at 25-years-old, I’ve got nothing on couples celebrating their 30-year wedding anniversaries (like my parents!). I know what I am looking for in a long-term partner, and I feel comfortable balancing my wants and needs with the reality that nobody is perfect. I can only hope that I get the opportunity to share a life with and care deeply for someone who is an easy choice to be with everyday. In the present, I consider myself lucky to be in a relationship with someone who I truly care about and treats me with love and respect.

sunset hands love woman
Photo by Stokpic on Pexels.com

 

Friends

I’ve found friends in the most unlikely (and likely) places. The first memory I have of a budding friendship was when I met J* on our kindergarten playground’s jungle gym. The encounter went a little something like this:

J: “Hi! Wanna be friends?”

Me: “Hi, sure!”

We’re still friends to this day. Throughout the years of my adolescence, I made friends mainly through school and sports. Usually, you found someone who played the same video game as you, had the same favorite movie, or listened to the same music and voilà –  you had a new friend. Even in college, new friends could easily be made in the dorms, at classes, through extra-curricular activities, or at parties. There really was no shortage of people, and friends came and went like your 21st birthday.

I made a few life-long friends from college, but I also discovered that many of the friendships I had retained from childhood and young adulthood were those of convenience and proximity. As an adult, time became a larger constraint than it ever was, and suddenly I began valuing the company of certain people more than others. However, it’s difficult to reconcile the idea of letting go of friendships with society’s expectations to “live it up” in your 20s. Since I’m not much of a social butterfly, choosing to stay in on a Friday night in lieu of a party at an acquaintance’s house felt like an easy decision. Gradually, I committed myself to maintaining strong relationships with close friends and I naturally lost contact with those who were not meant to be a part of my life journey. 

I have nothing against any of my former friends from my youth and college years – in fact, they (for the most part) are very nice, fun people. But, I found that they didn’t fill my soul with love, acceptance, and positivity. In fact, I can count the number of people who nourish my soul using less than 10 fingers knowing that I’ll never be lonely in a world of 7 billion people.

*Name redacted for privacy

 

four person standing at top of grassy mountain
Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Family

We all know the saying “blood is thicker than water”. As much as I wish this were true, the reality is that we can’t choose our families (but we can choose our friends – see my Friends page). Nevertheless, family is a really important aspect of our development as individuals. Although I am very thankful for my upbringing, I’ll be the first to admit that the family dynamic is a very complicated ecosystem.

Personally, I have discovered a fair share of role models in my family – both positive and negative. I am a first-generation American whose parents were both born in Cuba, and there is no possible way to measure the amount that they sacrificed to get here. The fact that they became educated in the American system and have paved their way towards a fruitful and successful life is something that I am very proud of. Still, other unnamed members of my extended family have demonstrated for me the results of irresponsible decision-making, which drastically contradict the values held by my own parents. I guess my point is that raising a child does take a village, just not necessarily a perfect one. But, what’s the limit to a person’s exposure to negative familial influences? When is it okay to cease contact with a toxic family member?

Whether or not you were raised by your parents or another adult figure, most of us want to make our families proud. But, as I have often found, it can be difficult to develop a personal identity that doesn’t wholly rest on the approval of the family. From bright-eyed childhood, to the rebellious teenage years and the confusing transition to adulthood, our parents and families have been instrumental in our development. So how do we conquer the world on our own without feeling like every decision jeopardizes our families’ honor?

Through trial and error I have found that maintaining positive and healthy family relationships requires a little bit of give and take. I don’t have to be – and certainly don’t want to be – mini replicas of my parents, but making them feel valued is still important to me. I think a question that plagues a lot of young adults is this: how much do we really owe our parents and families?

On this page, I hope to offer insight into answers for the questions posed above, and more. We all have a different story of origin – some triumphant and others tragic, but at the end of the day we all need to learn how to live on the same earth with the people that brought us here in the first place.

ground group growth hands
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Art

As part of my quest for hobbies and skills, I have taken up painting and sketching. I’m definitely not a trained or experienced artist, so it benefits me to believe that art is subjective and can be interpreted in many different ways by its audience. I find artistic expression to be very soothing, and my methodical approach to painting is a great outlet for stress and anxiety. Although normally I would feel insecure about sharing my creations with others, I think that challenging myself to do so would strengthen my connection to the world around me.

Feedback is always welcome, and I thank you for indulging my creative spirit! See below for a few samples of my work – I hope to look back on these in a few months as a measure of progress.

1. Drawing cartoon versions of heroes from the Defense of the Ancients (DotA) computer game.

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2. Sketch of deer at Nara Park in Nara, Japan.

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3. Painting of a bonsai tree and mountain view

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Doin’ It Yourself

There’s something empowering about being able to use my hands to create something that probably would have otherwise cost me an arm and a leg to have done professionally. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit, but it really is fun to have small projects that entertain you, as well as save you money! Some DIY tasks are pretty simple, like the wine cork coasters I made while I was in college with – you guessed it – corks I had saved from wine-filled nights of debauchery (you know the type).

Some of my other craftworks have been months, if not years, in the making like refinishing and painting my wooden dresser. There are also all of the projects I have ‘pinned’ on Pinterest, and the list grows larger everyday. I thought that now would be as good a time as any to commit myself to some DIY activities, and I’m looking forward to sharing my creations here with you! I’ll also outline step by step instructions so that you can DIY too.

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Easy DIY Wine Cork Coasters:

Materials:

  • Pot
  • Water
  • Knife
  • 16 corks (makes 4 coasters)
  • Hot glue gun
  • 4 cardboard squares (or other thick, square surface)

Step 1: Boil the corks in a pot of water for 5 minutes. This softens the corks for easier cutting.

Step 2: Once the corks are cool enough to touch, slice each cork in half length-wise. This should give you 32 cork halves.

Step 3: Arrange 8 cork halves on each square in whatever pattern you’d like to make sure it fits.

Step 4: Using the hot glue gun, glue the cork halves to the square surface, flat side down. Let dry, and you’ve got yourself some rustic new coasters!

Photography

We’re lucky to have digital means by which to produce art. Manual forms of expression like painting, drawing, and sculpturing are extremely beautiful, but thankfully alternatives like photography exist for those of us who lack the dexterity to create with our hands. One of the things I like most about a photograph is that despite being a snapshot of time, it is a timeless representation of the world and the human experience. An organic picture will transport the viewer into the exact moment it was captured.

Yes, using a professional-grade camera requires some practice and skill, but we are all capable of recognizing a breath-taking moment when we see one. Because the product of photography is easily accessible by many, it is a popular artform that is featured on worldwide platforms like Instagram.  You may see pictures of the same place, but each will be from a unique vantage point with a different caption. If you’re looking for a way to introduce your own perspective of your experiences to the world, well, photography could be it.

Check out my Instagram here and a few of my own photographs below:

1. Up in the Air – Mt. Baldy, California.

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2.  Artist’s Easel – Somewhere in Arizona, USA.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BAu1UJRCqe6tGDf11Ej-LEVqRUilYXuh0od8300/?taken-by=anomaleen

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3. In Focus – The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.

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4. Safe Haven – China Peak, Shaver Lake, California.

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5. Weeping – Kawachi Wisteria Garden, Japan

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Music

You know that silly icebreaker where people ask: “if you were stuck on a deserted island, what are the three things you would have with you?” Aside from it being an unrealistic and somewhat lame prompt, it sometimes is grounding to think about the most important aspects of your life. For me, the answer to this question could vary depending on when you ask me, but an auto-include in my survival trifecta will always be music.

Music has been there for me during break-ups and other emotional periods of my life. There is something so healing about listening to your favorite song on repeat and savoring every word, every beat. Music is the gift that keeps on giving, no strings attached.

No matter what genre you prefer, music is a valid art form. I personally enjoy classic and alternative rock, while my sister loves hip-hop and rap. Despite that fact that our tastes are on the opposite sides of the spectrum, we have both been able to similarly express our personal experiences with music. Throughout my friendships and relationships, I have been exposed to country, electronic, metal rock, and yes – even classical – tracks. No matter the genre, I have been able to appreciate all types of music for its ability to invoke emotional responses among us all. Music really is the universal language.

Here is a link to one of my favorite songs ever, The Scientist. If you’ve heard it, try to find something new to appreciate. If you haven’t, try to connect with the lyrics and get lost in the melancholic beat.