Memorial Day Weekend Trip: Grand Stairs Escalante

Spent the long weekend in Utah, where we car camped and got rained on furiously. Had some epic adventures, as usual, though. We climbed up boulders, squeezed our way through 15 inch canyons, and treaded on ice cold freezing water.

Where We Stayed:
We camped out at Escalante Outfitters. The drive out here from Los Angeles was about nine hours. We arrived at 4 a.m. and madly set up our tents as the rain poured all over town. Lovely place to car camp, equipped with hot showers and bathrooms. Not the most private or quiet of campsites (Children. Everywhere.), but the convenient amenities were most welcomed during the crazy weather.

Where We Hiked:

1. Lower Calf Creek Falls
Miles: 5.84 roundtrip
Moderate hike up to roaring waterfalls. Nothing too difficult. Gorgeous view on the way. You hike along the river.

2. Peek-A-Boo and Spooky Canyon
Miles: 2 mile round-trip & 3.2 mile round-trip
Most definitely the best hike of the trip. Not really of a stamina thing, more of a squeeze-yourself-into-a-15-inch-canyon and hope-you-dont-have-a-panic-attack. It started off with a huge drop-off that you have to climb. We saw some people bringing ropes to hoist each other up. We managed through good-ol’-teamwork. The rest of the hike is squeezing through rocks, climbing up boulders, climbing down drops, and somehow managing to not get hurt. I acquired a couple of bumps and bruises on the way, but so worth the trouble.

3. Devil’s Garden
A nice place to hang out at. It’s not much of hike. It’s more of a place to take photos and use as a giant playground to jump and climb at.

4. Kanarra Creek Canyon
Miles: 3.5 roundtrip
You need water shoes for this! You hike along and on the river to waterfalls. It makes for lovely photo ops because the river goes through slot canyons. At the first waterfall, a makeshift ladder has been created so you can climb it. Slightly horrifying, but so much fun.

I’m Advanced Open Water Certified!

I’ve been on an adventure high this year, swapping out hours on the computer for hours underwater or on the mountain. It’s safe to say I’m addicted.

I got Open Water scuba certified in March and in May, I ended up just getting my Advanced Open Water certification. And I bought myself a GoPro! Much more adventures to come in this field… but first, here’s a video I made on my first GoPro weekend dive at Catalina Island:

On Death And Love

I’ve been reading a lot of high-profile eulogies this week. Here, here, and here. And it’s gotten me to think…

Why is it that is it only after people’s death that we compose elaborate, flattering eulogies?
Why is it that only after they are permanently gone, will enemies come out and say “We had our differences, but he was a great man” ?
Why do we reserve our unconditional praise for the dead?
Why are we so stingy with our love to the living?

I want to get to a point where, at the end of a friend’s life, I can say my speech and end with “There was nothing in here that she didn’t hear already. She knows all of this because we showered her with love constantly. She isn’t just loved. She was loved.”

To The Past

I wrote this a long while ago, but have hesitated to post it because things like this make me cringe a little bit inside when I throw it out for public consumption. But then I’m reminded of all the emails throughout the years by you guys, especially those who went through similar experiences. So here goes:

Years ago as I curled up next to my then-beau, we started on that inevitable conversation of past loves. At that point I only had one — one that left me on Halloween evening, sobbing and throwing up on the corner of Times Square, devastated and broken.

“I hate him,” I said, tears forming as I clung closer to that new beau, naively convinced that his warmth and sympathy would heal the damage done by the last.

“The opposite of love isn’t hate, sweetheart,” he said, quoting cliche. “It’s indifference.”

As if by survival instinct, we tend to categorize past lovers and flames as mistakes, passionate flaws, and delusions. And when an ex-lover comes into conversation, supportive friends are wired to respond with: “Screw that awful guy. He was horrible.” As if negativity erases the pain. I’m not alone in this.

Now memories are not stagnant. They ebb and morph depending on what you choose to focus on. And if your ex-lovers’ flaws are your focus, then that will become your memory. After all, it’s the stories that we tell ourselves that shape our past.

But the truth is, at one point in time I was in love. You know, the type of euphoric bliss that was weekends on the couch, giggling to Demetri Martin recordings while piecing together gorgeous Thomas Kinkade puzzles. The type where you can spend all day doing absolutely nothing but feel so incredibly present and alive. When something as simple as picking peaches in your backyard becomes the most vivid memory of your life. You remember everything — from the exact hue of the sky that day down to the taste and texture of that ripe peach, its juices shattering, sweet and a little bit of sour, in your mouth.

You see, I loved these people for their soul, their kindness, their quirks, their heart. And they, at one point, loved me for the same.

When things fell apart, my journal became emblazoned with violent, angry scribbles. Because nothing hurts your pride more than a broken relationship that you worked hard on, and a broken heart is an agony that throws you into an unusual, almost spiritual, hysteria.

Extreme conclusions were formed in a desperate attempt to regain control of my life. I wrote: “He’s cold-hearted.” “He has serious issues.” “He’ll never be in a successful relationship.” Or at my worst, I’d blame myself. “I should’ve broken up with him sooner.” “I hate myself for settling for him.” “I think he resented me. What did I do wrong?”

I started hating them, wishing them the worst, hoping that they would realize their lesson in some cruel karmatic way. I shielded myself in a bitter angry sheet of resentment. To focus on the negatives was a coping mechanism because it’s easier to deal with than the truth. And the truth is this: things just didn’t work out. It is what it is.

But these days, long after the dust has settled, I find myself still enjoying Demetri Martin. I’ve noticed I’ve picked up some of the habits and interests and tendencies of my past loves: I can’t sit on my bed without changing into clean clothes. I sometimes think in an Australian accent (an inside joke). I really like Artic surf clams, and I adore taro pastries. These are all remnants of these men — habits that have been etched into my own identity. These people are a part of who I am, even though I no longer have a desire to reconnect with them, even though I no longer share with them any part of my life.

And I love them. That emotional attachment though, which is necessary for any healthy relationship, is no longer there. I no longer would want to spend all evening making dinner for them, or care to hear about their day-to-day life. I would never drive hours to see them and when I think about it, I don’t have anything to say to them anymore.

Time did that trick. And for those who are still in the throes of a painful breakup, rest assure that time’s medicinal effects will eventually kick in. It always does. Humans, after all, are hardwired to overcome heartbreak.

I love them for who they were, in the time that they were in my life. I love them in the sense that I’m extremely thankful for all the beauty that I experienced between us. And all the things I loved about them? Their heart, their soul? That all still holds true. These are brilliant men with vibrant souls. But of course, as life teaches us, sometimes love is just not enough. Situations, timing, place, and priorities are all important factors.

Sometimes love isn’t strong enough, sometimes it’s unequal. Sometimes it creates resentments that are permanent and sometimes trust and passion is eroded so slowly by simple neglect that you don’t notice until it’s too late, until you both come to the acute conclusion that you cannot coexist in the same world without devastating each other and so you part permanently and painfully.

And all the negatives? The hurtful things that were said and done by both parties? Well, I forgive them, and more importantly, I forgive myself.

They say love is an action and my action is this: respecting the past.

I’m making a conscious effort not to bash these guys in front of my friends, and I’m altering our stories to one that isn’t steeped in resentment. He wasn’t horrible, he wasn’t insane. He wasn’t severely selfish, he wasn’t always cold. He was human, as am I, and we realized that we just don’t work well together.

Sure the opposite of love is indifference, but love, if it was true, doesn’t go away. And the best thing to do, I find, is to honor love and put it in a nice, quiet corner as a reminder of what transpired.

Don’t cover love with a blanket. It’s who you are, stitched into your identity.

So to my past, I wish you the best. Cheers to happiness and joy and for both of us, to one day finding a great, fiery love that works.

New Favorite Quote

Always in all my books I’m trying to reveal or help to reveal the hidden greatness of the small, of the little, of the unknown – and the pettiness of the big.

Eduardo Galeano

Solitude

I’ve grown recently to really enjoy solitude — the space where I can withdraw free of voices and people, requests and notifications. It’s where I’m safe to be myself, completely cocooned from any judgments and expectations.

It’s like having both feet planted firmly on the dark earth, toes digging down, core completely centered. It’s where anxiety is dissolved and where I fully realize that none of my fears are real unless I make them a reality. It’s a wonderful space of self, where I’m allowed to expand — an airy contrast to the rest of the day where I’m tightly compressed by things to do, people to please, responsibilities to fulfill.

Solitude is where I regain my sense of purpose because without it, I get pulled in hundreds of directions, swayed by strangers, pushed by friends, dragged across worlds by the people I love. And at the end of it…I hardly remember who I am and how I got there.

And while it’s important to let yourself be carried away every now and then, and let people and experiences burn down unnecessary walls and sharpen and saturate your outlook on life, it’s equally as paramount to simply be alone.

It’s holding a hot coffee mug, looking out the fogged window. It’s feet on sand on the beach. It’s walking through a bookstore and getting lost in crisp, untouched pages. It’s composing a personal essay, it’s hiking the sunset trail, it’s waking up at 6 a.m. in the morning, when your brain and the city is so quiet, you wonder why things insist on getting loud.

Autonomy is a beautiful feature of being human and being alone in the right context, completely disconnected from all the people who hold you up, is a form of heightened awareness. Mostly because you realize that all the voices and pressures and judgments and notifications don’t come from other people. And in actuality, they’re just as loud on that sunset trail or feet on sand on the beach.

The only difference? You have absolutely no one else to blame. And you can make it still and quiet and calm by realizing that the only person that you ever have to answer to, is you.

Starving Baby Sea Lion

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I’m heartbroken. I found this baby sea lion pup, still alive but clearly starving at Point Dume in Malibu today. According to signs, the best thing to do is to leave them alone and call a wildlife center. I did it and left a message.

I’m not sure if this little guy made it. The centers have been swamped recently because there’s been a record number of pups stranded … probably because of rising sea temperatures. I say we all help out a little bit and donate to these wildlife organizations who are strapped for resources and volunteers.

I found a link: https://30583.thankyou4caring.org/donate

You can read more about the sea lion crisis here:
Pacific Sea Lion Pups Perishing by the Thousands
Malibu Sea Lion Crisis Continues
Dozens Of Dead Sea Lions Litter Malibu Beaches
Walter the sea lion pup is saved, but California rescuers are overwhelmed

How I Became A Food Writer

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I get the inevitable career question a lot. Why did you become a food writer? How do you become a food writer? For those who have asked me this in IRL, I probably told you something along the lines of…I interned a lot, started writing about food as a freelancer, and it took off from there.

It’s true. There were multiple factors and a lot of luck involved, but it boils down to this: I found a niche I was extremely passionate about. I remember sitting in my dorm room in senior year of college and every time I got a pitch approved, my heart rate would go up dramatically, in a good way. I got a natural high off of writing and seeing my byline on blogs was the most exciting thing.

This handmade Chinese noodle piece? I dragged my boyfriend of the time and his brother around and ate at every single stop in one day.

I don’t do stuff like that anymore.

So how do you have a career where you eat food and get paid to write about it?

1. You have to love the shit out of it.
Yes everyone loves to eat. But the love for food has to extend beyond eating it. For me, I like the cultural and historical facts behind food and how it can be used as a storytelling device. I love deciphering regional cuisines and tracing how certain ingredients came to be popular (i.e. rice in the South of China and wheat in the North). I get excited about the personalities behind hidden gems because I always love a good underdog story.

2. Develop a really strong niche.
There are hundreds of writers out there, millions of “foodies,” and folks who can do better than you. There are better writers, there are people who are way more knowledgable than you in all aspects of food. And so, hone in on something and focus on it. It can be weird. It can even be boba.

3. Sell your work
My income is dependent on the kind folks who buy my stuff. It’s a simple arrangement, but the hardest part is to get people to want to pay for your articles. Prove your worth. Develop a sizable following, have killer clips to show for it, and most importantly — BE NICE.

4. Network
Know that at all times, there are people smarter and more knowledgeable than you…even within your niche. Trying to mow these people down is counterintuitive. Food is all about community and gathering. I like to apply those same principles to my career. I help these folks, I’m friends with them, we work together, we get story ideas from each other.

5. Learn to take a decent photograph
Because everything is going digital these days and food is a very visual subject.

Is there anything else I’m missing? What else do you guys want to know?