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The Bittersweetness of Looking Young

10 Jul 224787_770951929180_2485893_n

I am very fortunate to still look like I am in my early twenties. This has been something I have enjoyed immensely as I am almost certain any woman would. Normally, this is pretty fantastic especially when lately the number ’31’ gets stuck in my throat when people ask how old I am. However, recently, it has become an incredible pain in my ass.

I never minded getting carded when buying alcohol or even at rated R movies (which still happens by the way). It was something I had gotten used to: going to the store and showing my I.D. and having the cashier smiled and make a comment such as “Wow, I would have never guessed that.” I always thank them. It’s meant to be kind and as I mentioned, it never really bothered me. It’s never been an issue of someone not believing me; my I.D. has never been fake. It’s almost a reflex at this point to have that reaction so I go into auto pilot of a polite response and go on my way. It’s never affected me past taking a few extra seconds to get the bottle of wine or get into the bar.

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                         Avril gets it.

It wasn’t until I turned 30 that I started to want to be treated as such. I want to be treated as an adult when I’m at my job, whatever it may be at the time. I want to be treated like I have knowledge, am educated and experienced. It sounds odd to say because EVERYONE should be treated like that but when others think you are younger, they treat you like you’re stupid. As if you’re going to burn the building down if they leave you alone for five minutes. I am sure I am guilty of it. Aging people by saying things like “Oh, you don’t get it, you’re too young.” Occasionally, that may be true and said properly, it isn’t insulting because hey, a younger individual may not know because they haven’t experienced something age appropriate like renting a car. However, most of the time, it comes out as a real shit thing to say. It’s belittling and makes one feel inadequate. As a kid, it wasn’t so bad because you’re a kid and you had to accept the fact you were younger. When you are 31 and everyone treats you like you’re 21, it’s harder to accept and brush off because you’ve been 21. You’ve been through the pain and torture of your twenties. I want my experience and the life I’ve lived to matter. It sounds dramatic when put that way but it’s what I’ve been feeling in the past few years.

When my husband and I were at Disney World a few years ago, we had “Happy Anniversary” pins on. We weren’t married yet but we were celebrating our dating anniversary. A kind cast member congratulated us but then took a second glance and asked us how long we had been married. We fibbed and just said how long we had been dating which was about four years. He commented that we must have gotten married when I was 12. We laughed it off but it stung a little. I knew I was going to married this man and I worried “Is this going to be our life? Where everyone thinks Lincoln has robbed the cradle?” What about when we have kids? Are people going to think I am the babysitter?

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                        2011. I was 27.

We just moved to Vermont and applying for jobs, several places looked at me like my resume was a lie. They never said anything, but it was clear they were surprised by all my experience considering I appeared to be 22, MAYBE 23 years old. If I don’t wear makeup, it’s even worse. I am spoken to like I don’t understand simple tasks. My new job has a lot of moving parts but I picked them up fairly quickly and a lot of my fellow employees have been shocked like I shouldn’t be so on point yet or understand how Microsoft Office works because I’m far ‘too young’ to grasp the concept of working in a customer service setting. I have a coworker talks to me as though I am a kid. She didn’t understand how I could be married and asked once if I remembered what CDs were. Yes, lady, I remember when THE INTERNET BECAME AVAILABLE IN HOMES not to mention my Walkman so yeah, I remember CDs, you know, when they became a thing for the first time. If I hear her say, “Well, you kids these days…” one more time, I will slap her. Ok, maybe not but it’s getting a little ridiculous when she asks me if I know how to check a voicemail. And she can’t be more than 10-15 years old than me at the most.

At our grocery store with my parents a few weeks after we moved in, we got some wine. At Hannafords, they need a supervisor to come and check I.D.s which is totally understandable. This manager was taking a long time to arrive at our register and the cashier…was really weird. Just a weird dude, long story. My dad finally said “You know, we are her parents. She’s of age. Can we just buy it?” The supervisor finally arrived and made the same confused face when checking my I.D. everyone does. But also I was with three other people who clearly are over 21 so I’m not sure why the extreme precaution. It happens every time my husband and I go buy beer together. They still ask for my I.D. even if he’s the one buying it like he’s buying for me for my high school rager I plan on having when my parents are out of town. When I’m out with my family, they always ask for my I.D. and occasionally the server will ask for everyone else’s I think just so I don’t know they were specifically targeting me, assuming I was the youngest. Obviously I know they are asking for only me. I think I hang out with too many people who have beards. Beards equal age. My brother never gets carded and he’s three years younger. I should grow a beard.

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                  Pulling. It. Off.

It may seem like a foolish thing to complain about but much like my past blog about being tiny, everyone has complaints that may seem controversial. There are women who look older than they are and I am certain they have a similar reaction when people age them. I accepted being carded every since I turned 21 but being treated like I don’t know what I am doing because I look like a kid has started to upset me. And the faces I get when I say how old I am sometimes aren’t pleasant surprise. It’s shock. Shock that isn’t masked in any way much like when I told people how much I weighed when they kept asking. It’s an odd feeling now that I’m older. For the first time, I want to be an adult.

The first week I was 30 I wasn’t carded. I was shocked and kept joking that now that I was 30, my streak was over and I finally looked my age. It was a welcomed change. Then it started creeping back. I started going new places, shopping new stores. It still just blows my mind that people think I am 21, ten years younger than I actually. Again, it is AWESOME in many ways. It’s great to feel good about my face. I joke I moisturize and that’s what gives me my youthful looks. It’s just good genetics truthfully. But when it interferes with my integrity, it hurts, it stings, it sucks.

I never want to grow up but sometimes, it’s nice to be treated like I am one when I am doing adult type things. I’m grateful I look young enough to still play a lot of my dream roles. I know a lot of actors play young way into their 30’s (hello, the entire cast of Dawson’s Creek).

Rachel McAdams was 26 when she made 'Mean Girls'

Rachel McAdams was 26 when she made ‘Mean Girls’

It’s a good feature to have. But when I’m applying for jobs outside my chosen field, when I’m working in an office or a restaurant, being treated like I don’t know what I am doing when clearly I do makes working difficult. It shuts down my confidence. It has made me realize that I need to pay attention how I speak to people that are younger. I’m probably not smarter than them. I may have more life experience in some ways but I’m not any better than they are. I shouldn’t be condescending. I shouldn’t mock them when they haven’t ever watched “Saved by the Bell” or think Leo DiCaprio is old and gross with his dad bod (they didn’t know the good days!) I should be polite and explain the wonders of what I know and listen to the wonders that they know because I still have to Google what half those abbreviations in text messages mean though I am fully on board with the Zac Efron train (he’s the new Leo!).

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You’re killing me, bro.

Someday I will look my age. It’s inevitable. Or maybe not if I start using toner. I’m thankful, I’m #blessed, but I’m also fed up. This doesn’t mean I want wrinkles however so don’t go getting any ideas, Universe.

Just for funsies though…

Flashlight Tag: The Greatest Game of All Time

27 Mar

I remember the squeals of excitement and joy (followed by intense focus and discipline) when we would walk into our scheduled gym class and see mats strategically placed about the gymnasium. Some of them standing up, creating nooks and crannies, some of the folded on the ground creating tunnels. Some of the lights would already be turned off. This could only mean one thing. Today was a day we were going to play Flashlight Tag.

Flashlight Tag was my favorite game growing up. It was Hide and Seek plus the super scary factor of running around in pitch black darkness and trying not to run into each other as you ran for your life to the next hiding spot. And I mean ran for your life. Flashlight Tag is extremely serious and you need your wits about you at all time.

The rules of Flashlight Tag are simple. You can play on teams or have a person who is “It”. The “It” person gets a flashlight and everyone else hides. After counting down from a determined number (usually 60), It goes to seek out the hiders with a flashlight. If It catches you in the light, It has to call out your name. If It gets your name right, you become It. You could also play it where you were out if tagged by the light and identified so the game had a definite ending once all hiders were found. There are many different versions of this game as there are in any childhood game but this is how we normally played.

I had a lot of strategies when it came to Flashlight Tag. It was extremely competitive between my classmates or neighborhood friends. When we played it in gym, I would find a mat standing up and folded. I would find my way into one of the folds and squat down so if It came by and shined the light in the mat, they wouldn’t automatically dip it down onto the floor. Another plan was I would wait to see It check out a mat and then run to that mat because clearly It wasn’t coming back for a few minutes because they had to check the entire perimeter. I also would run faster than I ever did when we had to run a mile and even if the light hit me, I would be such a blur I couldn’t be identified properly. Occasionally I would hide in the corners of the gym not covered by a mat because who thinks to look there and it’s usually the darkest part of the room. I made the mistake often of running with a group or a friend. Never do this. You are a selfish soldier and you must survive on your own. You can’t risk having Tommy not being able to fit in the mat beside you and Betty and having the entire mat collapse and expose you all.

Injuries were abound when playing in gym. I can’t tell you how many times I ran into one of my classmates but we never stopped, not for a second. You bumped shoulders or hips and you recovered and YOU KEPT GOING. You had to get to that darkened corner and that scuffle made too much noise on the hard floor and you had no time to waste. That light was coming for you.

In neighborhoods, there were other rules. A play area had to be determined and committed to. You couldn’t go outside the boundaries otherwise you would be automatically out. Obviously everyone did this any way. We had trees, sheds, swing sets, and bushes to crouch behind. I would climb up into trees or lay as flat as possible behind bushes. Being tiny has its benefits when it comes to hiding games. My coworker, as I said I was writing this, said they called it Spotlight Tag and she used to hide in the shadows of trees so that no matter where the light fell, she was in darkness. Absolutely brilliant.

I think back on Flashlight Tag and how dedicated I was to the game. My brain would be on fire and my senses incredibly alert. I would be focused and determined. My body would be alive with adrenaline and I would be thinking three steps ahead at all times. Why don’t I apply this passion to my everyday life? Why was I more concentrated on a simple childhood game than I am today in anything I do? I can barely get myself together to do a full workout because I’ve gone down a black hole of puppy surprise videos after work. Even my career of acting I love can be a struggle to get my shit together and sit down and memorize lines or a new monologue. However, if you said “Let’s Play Flashlight Tag” I would leap up off the couch and already have 18 spots of where to hide and how to maneuver between them. I basically become Monica Gellar.

Being grown up isn’t half as fun as growing up. And maybe that’s the whole point. We play these games to learn how to play the game of Adulting. I wish there was as much pride in achieving a small Adult goal as there was in being the last man standing in Flashlight Tag, but the stakes are comparable not as high. Ok, they actually are but the glory isn’t the same. Here’s a visual. This is how I felt when I would be the last one found in Flashlight Tag:

And here is how I feel when I file my taxes:

Yeah. Not the same.

I will continue to work to achieve the same childlike resolution to my everyday Adult activities as I did to Flashlight Tag. Until then, who can come out after dinner to play?

 

Mean Girls: How I Was Bullied

30 Dec

I’ve been meaning to write this entry for a long time. Truly ever since I discovered The Kind Campaign. If you don’t know about The Kind Campaign, please visit their site http://www.kindcampaign.com and follow them on the social media and learn about how these incredible women are helping to teach the young girls of this world that bullying each other is wrong and unnecessary. I wish this organization had been around when I was growing up.

*Please note that all names have been changed. Fifth grade was a single year of bullying and I am friends with all those wonderful people now. College…is another story.

I was tiny, into music that wasn’t popular yet, loved shirts too big for me, acting, and I was alone in my class. My middle school always shuffled us around into different classes every year and in fifth grade, I was separated from the majority of the friends I had made in third and fourth grade. They were all in another class, a cooler class, that Bethany was also in. I was alone and among kids who had been friends prior to fifth grade. I was an outcast of sorts. I was smart but not too smart and cool but not cool enough. I was an easy target because I was trusting and tried hard to make friends. These kids could smell my desperation. And that’s when they started what I still consider one of the worst school years of my life.

I still had my friends down the hall who I would see at lunch or recess or after school. I had friends in my theater group. I wasn’t entirely alone like some kids being bullied are. But still, it was the confusion and the hurt that broke me down when these few kids didn’t like me. It’s so hard when you’re that age to understand why this is happening to you and you can’t stop it. I had thoughts of suicide for the first time at that age. That’s horrible to think about but when you’re young and you’ve become aware of what suicide is without realizing the finalness of it, you view it as a way out. I used to visualize how I would do it and how those kids would feel so badly for picking on me and cry at my funeral. I never thought about my family and real friends and what ending my life would be like. My brain was so focused on escaping the everyday onslaught of cruelty I faced with every alarm clock, I didn’t think anything through.

I didn’t have any boobs when I was in fifth grade. I mean, I still don’t really. Several boys announced loudly in the cafeteria that I was a carpenter’s dream one day. When I asked what that meant, they shouted “Flat as a board!”

After this, I insisted that I get a training bra. I probably didn’t need one just yet but everyone else had them and I felt left out. I was invited to a birthday sleepover. I was usually invited to places and activities because they wanted to pick on me in a group setting. I wore my bra. I took off my bra. It was taken from my bag, soaked in water, and put in the freezer. The next morning when I couldn’t find it, some of the girls brought it out, frozen solid, in front of everyone, including some boys that had been invited over. I shoved it in my bag and tried to laugh with them as they mocked how small it was and asked why I even needed it. This was after they also tried to make me pee by putting my hand in warm water when i was awake. I fake slept through it so I wouldn’t have to face them.

I Googled ‘frozen bra’ and this is what I got. I couldn’t be more pleased.

I invited one of the girls of the group to go to the mall with me. My mom said to kill them with kindness and this girl, we will call her Lisa, was always kind to me in spite of her friends. We went and had a great time. She was ruthlessly picked on for the week following for hanging out with me because I was such a loser.

At one of these parties I was invited to, there were boys. Spin the Bottle was the best game in the world to many of us at that age and the boy I had a crush on was at this party. I had stupidly told the girls I liked him because still at this point, I thought we were kind of friends. They told him, in front of everyone, and purposely tried to get the bottle to land on him whenever it was my turn. It was humiliating.

But not as bad as when we had a teaching assistant and I mentioned I liked him. Not as a crush. I just liked him and he liked me in that teacher understands a student. They told him I had a crush on him. They gave me his name as a nickname. I turned red every time I was called on by him in class because they would whisper and taunt me. *To this day, a few of them still call me that name and it has become a form of affection, fortunately but this is origin of it.

I was teased, humiliated, mocked, embarrassed, and used. It was abusive. But at the time, it was ‘kids being kids’. We were young and they were dominate in that class. The next year, sixth grade, I was back with my close friends and I wasn’t bullied. I slowly became friends with the group that had hated me that one year. We are friends to this day. In eighth grade, I did the unthinkable. I bullied a girl with a group of my friends. We had a horrid nickname for her and did the same thing that was done to me. She would invite us over her house and we went because we liked making fun of her and her house and her clothes. I regret it all because she moved soon after this all happened and I was never able to become her friend and apologize.

However, it isn’t always kids. Unless you count college freshman as kids which I suppose you can. But I feel they should know better by that age.

Freshman year at college was going smashingly. I made a ton of friends, I had a cute boy who liked me, I was doing great in my classes and my roommates and I got along. It was fun to meet people from all over and to also find out several of my new friends had friends in college that my old friends went to. Alia was friends with Trish at school in Maine, who was one of my friend’s Jenny’s best friends. Trish and I finally met at Alia’s wedding. There was one connection in particular that led to my second dose of bullying. A connection that meant nothing to me but backfired as badly as something can.

A girl in my class, let’s call her Ann, was still with her high school boyfriend. That boyfriend went to school with one of my high school friends. One day, I was on the lovely AIM messenger we all miss dearly (not), and my friend messaged me.

He said he had a few questions for me regarding Ann and this guy she was hanging out with a lot. Now Ann and this guy, let’s call him Sam, had been hanging out a lot and it seemed they liked each other more than friends but that wasn’t something I knew for sure or cared to know because Sam had just dumped me a few weeks prior. I said that they hung out a lot and seemed to be good friends. Well, the boyfriend took this as Ann was cheating on him and they fought and ended their relationship. He told her I told him she was cheating. I did no such thing. At the time, I don’t think you could review your AIM messages, maybe you could. But that rumor spread like wildfire.

First, Sam took it upon himself to reveal a lot of personal information he had learned about me in the brief two weeks we ‘dated’. Most of it was not kind. Then Ann told everyone that I had ended her relationship. My suitemate, let’s name her Carol, chose the side of Ann and started to make my life a living hell. She would lock me out of the dorm. She would take my stuff. She and my roommate put salt in my bed which was the dumbest thing of all time because the prank is you put the salt on white sheets and the person can’t figure out why their bed is so grainy. My sheets were navy blue. I had also told them this prank. Way to go.

The friends I had made stopped speaking to me. They ignored me in class and made fun of me on AIM and shared their jokes as away messages. They spread rumors. Cruel rumors of me being a slut or ugly or anything I was insecure about that I had entrusted to them, the campus would hear about it. They would whisper about me at parties. They, again, would tell boys I had crushes on them, especially this older boy I really liked for a while. WHY IS THIS A THING? THIS IS SO MEAN! I felt alone, outcasted from the people I had to work with in class everyday. I was one of them and then, like a light switch, I wasn’t. They abandoned me fast and furious all because Ann and Sam were the dominant two of this group we had formed. And yes, they started dating pretty soon after the incident and dated for over four years so really, I didn’t make any different whatsoever and had no reason to be punished for the inevitable.

I cried every night in my dorm or in the library or other corners of campus. Usually the bathroom downstairs in the student center. I talked on AIM constantly to Bethany and Alia and any of my friends back home who were around. I was broken into pieces and my work was suffering. I wanted to leave school. i looked into transferring to another college nearby. I had a professor ask me what was wrong one day after class and I lied to her face and said I was just tired. I could have told her. I know she saw what was happening in class when no one would speak to me or include in group activities or sit by me.

But…I made new friends. A lot of new friends. Great friends. And I had kept a few of the group who had abandoned me. Matt for one. Matt never left me, has never left me. He’s my Peter Pan who clapped to bring me back to life. Him and Ricky and Drummey. Those three boys were my salvation and never once faltered in their friendship to me because they didn’t care who was dating who and who said what. They were able to be friends with me and the group and that helped saved me and made me stay.

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Eventually, I was able to exist near the group. The older members warmed back up to me after a short while because again, they realized it didn’t matter and wasn’t their business. Sam and I became good friends towards the end of college and remain so today. He even apologized for everything he said which was brave and admirable. It wasn’t necessary but he did it any way. He’s a good man. Ann and Carol never did came back to liking me and still haven’t. Well, Ann sort of has. When I’ve seen her, we have been friendly and I wish her the best in all things because I know it was a time and place and once you bully someone enough, it’s hard to go back and apologize and be friends. We probably won’t ever be friends, Ann and I, because that time has probably passed and that’s ok, but we successfully played them in a scene once and we both were pretty proud of that. Carol…will never like me again I think. We were close once. I went to her house several times and we got along immediately when we had met. But to this day, she speaks ill of me and that’s just how it goes. She went the Regina George path and never looked back. Those girls were not shy about their cruelness and were relentless even when I became friends with basically everyone in the drama department, including their good friends, they never came around.

As much as it seems silly, it still bothers me. I still want to reach out and be their friend because I am still that fifth grade girl trying to get everyone to like her and not understanding why they don’t, why they are so cruel. I’m tempted every day to send Ann a Facebook request or reach out to Carol because I did like them both. They are funny and sarcastic and loyal as fuck to the people in their lives. But I know it’s ok that I haven’t and I don’t need to. There are people in the world you have to accept don’t like you or you just don’t get along with. And that has to be ok. The bullying is what is not acceptable and needs to stop being the norm and replaced with communicating and getting to the root of the issue. Ann never really confronted me except for one day in the student center right after her and her boyfriend broke up. She sat down and asked what I had said and if it all was true. I told her the truth. She seemed to believe me and then the shit hit the fan. Had she just had patience and talked more to me, trusted me, maybe we would be friends today. If my differences were accepted instead of judged, maybe fifth grade would have been a great year. It’s easier to go the Mean Girls route It’s easier to gain power with gossip and push others down to feel better about yourself. People take the easy way and I so wish that wasn’t our first inclination.

Most recently, I was touched by bullying as an adult. I had a huge misunderstanding and tense relationship explode with my husband’s ex who I had tried to be friendly with. Her friends took it upon themselves to blast me on Twitter and say nasty things behind my back. Some of these girls I had never met. Some of them I had been friends with before I had met and started dating my husband. They turned they back on me and got involved with something that wasn’t even their business. It brought all the memories flooding back and sent me spiraling into a dark place for a few weeks. I felt trapped and nervous. Everywhere I looked I saw or heard something else they had said. I was a slut. I was crazy. I was a heartless bitch. And worse, when I tried to speak to them politely and maturely, I was treated even worse or just plain ignored and then Tweeted about. I couldn’t believe that women acted this way in their late twenties. I blamed myself because this seemed to keep happening to me. Was it my fault? Was I an easy target? Was I actually crazy? Am I a bitch?

When I discovered The Kind Campaign, it was by accident and a touch of that mean girlness I try to avoid. I had seen Aaron Paul’s wedding pictures on People magazine and his beautiful bride, Lauren. Being a Breaking Bad fan and having the typical rabid crush on Jesse, I was curious who this girl was. Upon looking at her, I judged her. I thought she would be dumb and a super model because damn, that girl is gorgeous. When I found basic information on her, I couldn’t believe I had judged her by her appearance. I was so very off about Lauren Paul, who is smart, witty, determined talented, and kind. I fell in love with the concept of The Kind Campaign and now follow both her and Molly Thompson, who founded the organization alongside her, on the Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They are both inspiring women who love this world fiercely and have been through bullying themselves and have risen above it. They created this project for girls like themselves and me and girls who have had it much worse. I would love to help them out in an assembly that they do in New York or any where just to see first hand these girls apologizing to each other and learning about how to support one another (Lauren, can you hear me?). How do we not do this as kids? How do we not see we are all learning and growing and figuring out who we are? We should be stand together, not tear each other apart.

I got through my bullying and yes, still to this day, sometimes I judge people on the surface or by how they dress or what they like. When I catch myself doing this, I always apologize to the universe and take it back because no one deserves that. Please check out The Kind Campaign and give kind. Be a little nicer to your classmate, roommate, or neighbor. You never know when they could turn out to be just as lost and scared as you.

“Oh, there you are, Peter”

15 Aug

I’ve been wanting to write something about Robin Williams but I haven’t been able to figure out what or how. I haven’t been ready to put into words how I felt when Lincoln texted me and told me he was dead. I stopped dead on the street, on sixth avenue, unable to comprehend the information. I texted back, “What? How? Are you sure?” I started walking again and kept checking my phone. I didn’t go to social media. I didn’t want confirmation. I glanced up at the ticker up by Radio City Music Hall, hoping to see or rather not see the truth. Lincoln responded, confirming. I checked Facebook, CNN, etc. It was true. And my heart broke. 

I’ve been reading stories about Robin for the past few days since it happened. Stories from other celebrities who have worked with him. Stories from my friends who were lucky enough to meet him. All the stories have similar descriptions: He was a kind, sweet, incredibly smart man who never stopped being ‘on’. I learned he called Spielberg every day during Schindler’s List to tell him jokes to keep his spirits up. In his rider, he insisted on homeless people being hired to work on his films. I already knew he had improvised basically the entire role of the Genie which is a marvel to watch even after seeing it over 100 times. He bought Conan O’Brien a ridiculous bike covered in shamrocks when he lost The Tonight Show. But most importantly, he affected every single person who watched him. Every. Single. One.

There are a few movies I remember seeing for the first time. Hook is one of them. I loved Peter Pan (who doesn’t?) but it was Hook that made me head over heels obsessed with the story. The film is crafted so cleverly and simply. What if Peter Pan grew up and even worse, became a lawyer who had no time for his wife and children? It’s genius. I can talk about Hook for years and say a billion million reasons why I love it. The food fight scene is one of my favorites in all of film. But it’s Willams’ Pan that gets me every time.

It’s difficult to watch Williams’ as a distracted dad because he has such warmth to him. It’s harsh and cold and uncomfortable. You genuinely squirm in your seat when he scolds Jack on the plane. “He’s afraid of being sucked out.” Your chest aches when he tells his wife that his phone calls are far more important than spending time with Wendy and his kids. I think it’s this performance that makes his Pan the best. He’s lost all joy, all childlike wonder. He’s lost Peter entirely and as the audience we sit and wonder, “How was this man ever the epitome of youth?”

Our reward is plentiful. We struggle with Peter Banning as he finds his way through Neverland, to his kids, to Captain Hook. We root for him once he sets for in that magical land because finally we see the light: he does love his kids. He wants to save them. But he hasn’t realized he lost something he needs back in order to do so. The Lost Boys try. The scene with the small boy playing with Peter’s face until it resembles his former leader: “Oh, there you are, Peter.” Cue the beginning of the tears. Follow that up with Peter remembering his happy thought and the scene with the crowing and the flying and the boys all running to his side and Rufio bowing to him. It’s perfect. All the tears are flowing now.

Once he is Peter again, he becomes everything we want Pan to be. Free, fun, clever, and also distracted and arrogant. He is not quite admirable and that’s the beauty of Pan. He’s wonderful but not reliable, not stable. It is his children that bring him back to solid ground. And then Williams’ does the impossible. He blends Peter Pan and Peter Banning and becomes the man he always should have been. Peter Pan as a father. He got the family he always wanted. He fills the former lawyer with so much light and love he is bursting with it. And that is why he is my favorite Peter Pan. When he flies, I fly. We all fly. 

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When I was in the deepest of my Dark Time, I watched Hook. It saved me. It reminded me to believe. He was there for me when I couldn’t get off the floor and could barely breathe. He was there for so many of us in the same way. He was our constant, our North Star. Mrs Doubtfire helped kids my age who had parents in a divorce feel normal and represented. Good Will Hunting was just pitch perfect acting and helped us all believe our choices matter and we just have to know ourselves and be true to ourselves and go see about a girl and we will be ok. Dead Poet’s Society...well, that movie made me confident I wanted to be an actor. It made me feel that I was normal for loving literature and poetry and living in a magical world where I could make my life extraordinary. And I have because I can watch that film and say “Yes, that is how I feel! That is how I am!” The Birdcage, Jumanji, Good Morning, Vietnam, Death to Smoochy, Jack. I have a memory about every one of his movies and how they have changed me for good. 

Robin Williams is a loss that can’t be measured. We all have our Robin stories and that is the goodness we can take from his untimely death. We can mourn him knowing he meant something to all of us. To the kids who grew up with him in the 90’s, he was like a father, an uncle, a friend. To our parents, he was Mork and they watched him turn into a full blown movie star. This hurts and it’s allowed to hurt. We are allowed to mourn him even if most of us never knew him. He gave us laughter. I can’t say why he killed himself; no one probably ever can. But I wish the smiles he saw every day had been enough for him. I wish knowing how he affected all of us could have destroyed the depression. It shows how evil depression is. It is a killer. And it killed him. 

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We will always miss him. However, as many others have said, we have over 40 years of work to remember him with. And when I get sad, I will watch Hook, always because he’s brilliant in it, in everything, and I don’t think any of us will soon forget that. 

The last monologue from Jack seems more than fitting to end this post. See you in Neverland, Robin. 

You know, as we come to the end of this phase of our life, we find ourselves trying to remember the good times and trying to forget the bad times, and we find ourselves thinking about the future. We start to worry , thinking, “What am I gonna do? Where am I gonna be in ten years?” But I say to you, “Hey, look at me!” Please, don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this Earth. Life is fleeting. And if you’re ever distressed, cast your eyes to the summer sky when the stars are strung across the velvety night. And when a shooting star streaks through the blackness, turning night into day… make a wish and think of me. Make your life spectacular. I know I did. 

 

Death of a Dive Bar: The Ding Dong Lounge

9 Aug

We are sad to announce that the Ding Dong Lounge will be forced to pour its last drinks at its current location on Thursday July 31.
Like so many other unique New York City businesses, the Ding has lost its lease, despite having the highest sales in its 13 year history and being named the  Best Cheap Manhattan Dive by both the Village Voice and Gothamist

This is not the end of the Ding, as we will be relocating & reopening in the near future (watch this space for details). However, for right now, please come out to show some love and say goodbye to our beloved Ding Dong Lounge during our last days at the Columbus Ave & 106 St. location. 

We love you all!

This was the paragraph posted on The Ding Dong Lounge’s website. The bar shuttered on July 31st after being open since 2001. It was the first bar in New York that I called my own. It is also just another piece of how the real New York: the gritty, graphic, artsy, dive bar NYC is disappearing before our eyes.

I used to live on 107th and Amsterdam Avenue. That was right up the street and an avenue over from The Ding Dong. My friend Matt and I used to frequent the bar often when we wanted a late night chat or to play a round of pool. It was always loud, always just a little dirty, but a place where we felt comfortable, relaxed, at home. It was the kind of bar where you wrote on the walls and had hula hoops hanging from the center beam (the one bartender there was amazing at it) Every time we went to the Ding Dong, a story was born. Here are a few highlight in tribute to a bar I won’t soon forget.

The Pool Sharks

Matt and I were at Ding Dong one night just to play pool. We didn’t really understand the whole put quarters on the table and wait your turn thing or winner plays next round so we found ourselves playing these dudes who had been playing, and winning, all night. Now, Matt and I are not good at pool. We liked to play and chat and never took the game seriously. These dudes did take it seriously. But we figured we had nothing to lose so we played them. And we KICKED THEIR ASS. To this day, neither of us believed this actually happened. We had even informed them we were terrible at pool so they thought we had pool sharked them and faked our lack of skill even though I’m pretty sure it was them that were faking it. We were the kings of the Ding Dong for about 60 seconds until someone came up and said “We’re next.” Our streak ended there.

The Dead Bartender

We do an annual bar crawl of our own creation for St. Patrick’s Day. We start up in Harlem and work our way down to McSorley’s on the lower east side. In one of the first years, if not the first, we stopped at the Ding Dong. Now dive bars during the day are the weirdest experience I have found. They don’t look the same at all. You can see the grime and feel the sweat dripping off the walls, even in March. Certain wall decor and graffiti appears different in daylight than it does in dim late hours. It’s pretty fascinating.

The bar was empty save for a man with his head on his arms at the end of the bar. We announced ourselves to no reaction. The man did not respond to yelling, poking, or clattering glasses and bar stools. We naturally thought he was dead. We made a companion check to make sure he was still breathing.  He was. There were notes surrounding him, jokes people had written. Clearly he had been there a while. Because of our loyalty and respect and mostly the awkward nature of the situation, we stole nothing and we left without a beverage.

Rock Star Boyfriend

I have written briefly of the Rock Star boyfriend I had from my tour that I met in Vegas. Well, he came to New York to visit me and Matt and I took him to the Ding Dong Lounge. I wanted Matt to meet him, of course, and at first I thought they hit it off very well. We played pool and Rock Star seemed very into Matt. Again, I was happy this boy I liked really liked my best friend. Then I started seeing him slapping Matt’s ass which is not exactly what one does in pool (we would know, we are pool sharks). When Rock Star started doing the same to me, I blamed drinking too much and just attempting to be funny. We came back to my apartment and he ate my room mate’s food which I got yelled at for the next day. He also cried and told me he loved me and it was so awkward and uncomfortable and I said it back because WHAT DO YOU SAY?? He also didn’t wear underwear. Ever. I digress. A few weeks later, after Rock Star and I no longer spoke, Matt told me Rock Star had been grabbing his ass all night and he didn’t know how to tell me because he was pretty sure this odd boy I picked up in Vegas was not into my lady parts. Sadly, I think the boy still lives in the closet in Park City, Utah…

The Cat

One night we were standing outside the bar, chatting with some other patrons. I spotted a kitty and was told it belonged to someone at the Ding Dong. Out of no where, as the cat was in the street, a car came barreling down the road and hit the cat. I won’t describe what I saw because I am still scarred by it. We didn’t see where the cat ended up but the owner did. The car drove away, not even stopping to see what it hit. Matt and I stood there, jaws on the ground, scarred for life. This is one of the reasons my cat or any cat I own will be an outdoor cat.

Late Night Bonding

The Ding Dong was the prime spot Matt and I would come to talk late into the night. The bar was always open til 4am and even if it was at 11pm, I would still put on real pants and go meet Matt. We had some of the best talks in that loud location. We talked about boyfriends and careers and usually got nostalgic for college. The bar was special to a lot of people. I went without Matt, he went without me. We would go with different size groups for St. Patrick’s Day or just a night cap after dinner somewhere. One of my favorite conversations was with Matt, myself, and our friend Scott from college. We told stories and sat and drank beer for hours at this little round table in the middle. It was one of those moments where you realize you are no longer in college, you are an adult, you are free, and these are the people that keep you going. These are the nights you get high from breathing. These are the moments you remember and talk about when you say you lived in New York City in your twenties.

The Last Time

Matt, his boyfriend Alex, myself, and Lincoln had dinner and went to say farewell to the Ding Dong Lounge a few days before it closed. We walked in and it was more packed than I had ever seen on a Sunday night. The bar had become a little more Columbia student populated in recent years which irked me to no end. I wanted the tattooed, punk rock, greasy haired, borderline creepy crowd Matt and I used to blend in with. I had started seeing a lot more ironic t-shirts and colored pants than the usual Sex Pistils attire mixed with black and gray. Regardless, it was still our bar and we had to say goodbye. In it’s usual fashion, the Ding Dong left us with a story to tell.  A mismatched guy got up and attempted to rap in a microphone that didn’t really work. There was body painting happening dead center next to the DJ booth. Topless girls getting hearts painted on their breasts. Next to the painting was a man doing tattoos. In a bar. He was mostly doing “UWS” for Upper West Side but we watched as he did several other tats on various bar guests. Matt and I looked at each other and just said “Yup. This is right.” It was hot as hell in the bar, so we stood under the fan and this boy we named LA because he kept saying he was visiting from LA started chatting with us. Well, with me, being as I was female and that seemed to be his main focus, to talk to all the females there were in the bar. I speak of LA because towards the end of the night, we saw him in line for a tattoo. I couldn’t resist asking what he was getting. “L.A. on my leg,” he responded. No one was surprised.

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The bathrooms used to be co-ed but now they were labeled. I went into the one marked “Dames”. There was no toilet seat. Again, no one was surprised. Matt and I later went into the male bathroom to search for words we had written throughout the years. Among the flyers for punk shows and CD release parties, we couldn’t find the poems and lyrics and quotes we had attributed to the mess plastered to the walls. In a way, that was fitting. They all blended together with the other messages and  various “So and So was here NYC 2012” surrounding us. We took a moment, took some pictures, said our personal goodbyes and walked out of the bathroom together though it was clearly labeled “No More Than One Person In Bathroom” because this was the kind of place where you had to put a sign like that up.

New York is disappearing before our eyes. The city that is for the artists and the riff raff. Like much of Harlem, I am sure the Ding Dong will become a cupcake shop (though I hear everyone is over cupcakes) or some gluten free bakery or dog fashion shop. New York has always had a part of it that beat to the rhythm of wealth and power. The city today is breathing on money. It can’t survive without it when it used to thrive. There are condos being built to block one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world. The lower east side is almost unrecognizable now with all the Chipotles and Starbucks taking over the restaurants that had regulars they called friends and family. This plastic and clean New York is not the New York I grew up wanting to live in and fell in love with when I finally got here. I want to be a regular at a restaurant that exists no where else. I want a bar that is my spot where I write on the walls because that’s just what you do, not because they are made of chalkboard and the bar provides the chalk. I don’t want gimmicks or DJs that play top 40 songs. I want to be a pool shark in a place not run by suits and law students. I miss old New York. I miss the Ding Dong Lounge.

Call it a dive bar if you want to, a neighborhood joint, a place for great music, grungy, hip, cool, sloppy or the most comfortable place you’ve ever hung out. With Manhattan becoming less and less interesting every day and all the rough edges being smoothed over, the Ding lives as an example of why everyone still wants to be in New York City.

Farewell to my 20s: a Thank You and a Fuck You

7 May

In a month, I will be leaving my twenties and turning 30. While this transition is difficult for many, I find it challenging because fortunately I look like I’m in my early twenties and get carded even when I am out with my parents. This, however blessed it is, comes with a curse of never quite believing I’m the age I am because I am treated so much younger. I feel like when I have children, people will think I’m the babysitter. Which is GREAT don’t get me wrong but it’s hard to accept entering a new decade when the majority of humans who encounter me think I am just entering one that was 10 years ago. God, that hurts to say out loud.

I am bittersweet about leaving behind my twenties. It was a time of growth and discovering myself as it is for most people. I feel like I came into my own in my twenties but without some deep, hard struggles that I still don’t know how I managed to get in and also managed to get out of. So I thought I would write a love note but in two parts: A Fuck You and a Thank You.

Fuck you to the impulsiveness of my twenties. The kind of fake confidence and I know everything demeanor that led me to moving to New York City with no money, no job, and living with a very odd stranger in a tiny ass apartment where I could barely fit a twin size bed. The arrogance I gathered in my career where things were coming to me easily and I felt I didn’t have to work hard. Fuck you to that 22 year old girl who didn’t work hard and learn all she could about the business when she first started. I hate her because now I am still learning things I should have known 9 years ago!

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Fuck you to the need for going out and partying. I can blame New York City for this but in line with the poor decision to slack off in my career, I felt going out and getting attention of boys was more important than sleep and saving money. After work at Tarzan, that’s what we did. We went to bars and spent money we didn’t have. I made 8 bucks an hour and went out every night and took cabs and had rent to pay and food to buy. Did I care? No. Because I was young and ‘enjoying’ myself and god forbid I was a single girl without a boy on the roster somewhere. Being social was more important that getting up for auditions though I have to say being 22 and drinking a lot magically led to zero hangovers so I actually did audition in spite of it most of the time…we can add that to the thank you portion.

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Fuck you to all the boys I knew didn’t like me how I liked them but I hung with sloth-like claws dug in deep. Fuck you to the boy who dumped me in the rain on a corner on the lower east side, to the boy who dated me and another waitress at the restaurant we worked in AT THE SAME TIME and me ACTING LIKE IT WAS FINE, to the one night stand I saw many times after that night who pretended he had NEVER MET ME, to the boy who wanted me to be like a porn star and was disappointed I didn’t measure up to that status, to the Joel McHale type hottie who just stopped answering his phone instead of properly ending it (I did throw up on him however…), to any boy I met a bar who I spent all my attention on instead of enjoying my actual friends and who probably ended up hurting me inevitably or going home with another chick at the bar who didn’t try as hard.

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And I say fuck you to myself for not growing with each of these boys and instead stayed stagnant and a total nut job. But to this I add a big, huge FUCK YOU to myself and the boy who I hung onto and led me to my Dark Time. I hate that I did that to myself, to my family, to my friends, to everyone. I needed it to grow but fuck you for hanging on, twenties Rachel, and not listening when the boy said go away and continuing to make the same mistakes with different boys throughout the next decade.

Fuck you to not saving money, not finding a good stable job, not focusing more energy on my career, not eating right, not exercising, not using anti aging cream. For drinking too much and smoking and living with strangers who stole my trash cans and toothbrushes and ate my food and broke my dishes. Fuck you, twenties, for letting me do all this shit to myself.

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Thank you, twenties, for letting me do all this shit for myself. Thank you for the boys who broke my heart and destroyed me because it led me to my future husband who I knew was right for me for many reasons but because he looked at the pieces of me and listened to my horror stories and smiled and kissed me and didn’t judge me or call me crazy or hate me for my experiences. And I didn’t have to be crazy with him…ever. So thank you, twenties, for showing me that the right man led to keeping the crazy in the box.

Thank you, twenties, for no hangovers, no wrinkles, no sore muscles, white teeth, shiny hair, the ability to go through an entire day without coffee on four hours sleep. I will miss all those things dearly. Thank you for helping me find me and realize I need to focus and work hard, save money, and create stability in my life to achieve my goals and live my dreams.

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Thank you, twenties, for all the fun I had. Though I said fuck you, I also say thanks because some of those nights I have never felt more alive. Thank you for screaming on rooftops, Broadway opening nights, walks home barefoot from the subway, peeing in bushes, giggling uncontrollably, having first kisses on fire escapes, theme parties, beer pong victories, sunrises and sunsets, fireworks, sun bathing in the grass, wandering aimlessly in the city streets, backstage concerts, snowfalls and heat waves, heartbreaks and heartwarmers.

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Thank you, twenties, most of all,  for showing me the value of friendship and family. When you move away from home, after college or before, you finally realize how beautiful home was and how much you need and miss your family and friends. I fell deeper in love with Vermont in my twenties and with my friends and family. When people grow up and move away, you realize how important it is to stay in touch any way you can if you want to keep them in your life. I learned who was only a phone call away at 3am.

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I will miss you, twenties, but I won’t forget you. You have been my favorite decade so far. Let’s see how thirties holds up against you. Maybe I will finally understand why my parents loved that show ‘thirtysomething’ so much…

 

Sidenote: Speaking of television shows, it’s weird to start being the age as the characters I watch now. Back when I loved Friends and Will & Grace, I don’t think I understood some of the jokes as well as I do now watching reruns. SO weird. I miss relating to Corey and Topanga when they weren’t doing a new show as PARENTS!! Mind blown.

I Want to Live in a Beach Town

11 Feb

One summer in high school, Alia and I decided it would be a great idea to try and make Essex, Vermont as much of a beach town as we could. Let me explain what we mean by ‘beach town.’ The factors of such a town are simple: you are always wearing a bathsuit, some form of sandals or flip flops, hair wet or tangled from being in some body of water, and you are tanned beyond reason. I know what you’re thinking: “When I think of a beach, Vermont doesn’t exactly come to mind.” And that is very true which is why it was a challenge for us to create our own personal beach town.

In the summers in Essex we often frequented Indian Brook Reservoir, or the Res as us locals called it. It was your typical man made reservoir with areas to swim, hike, canoe, and picnic. It was the best place to go in our hometown to tan and hang out without driving all the way to Lake Champlain and it’s luscious “beaches” (notice the quotation marks). Alia and I made this our beach. We vowed to wear nothing but bikinis and shorts paired with some flimsy pair of shoes and wander the town dressed this way. Well, as you can imagine, this was not successful in being that Vermont is not a beach town in any form and people don’t really let you into stores without a shirt. We counted the time we stopped by 1820 Coffee House (RIP) and entered wearing our swim suits but with towels wrapped around us. Needless to say, we got some odd looks but we stood proud and handled ourselves as any half naked high school girls can in a public situation. That sentence is amazing, by the way, and could be taken in so many gross directions.

While it may not have been a great success, we loved that summer of not wearing real clothes and leaving the reservoir checking our new freckles and tan lines in the side view mirrors. It was a sense of being free. No sneakers or bras restricting anything. Summer is always a release but living life this way, like you are always on a beach, was a pure escape.

I went to Hawaii last week. Let me tell you, those residents have life down. I stayed on the North Shore, in Haleiwa, and it is the very definition of a beach town. It was like being a dream. It was everything Alia and I wanted to accomplish but it wasn’t acceptable in our environment. Everything was acceptable and in fact encouraged here! No one wore pants! No one wore ‘real’ clothes! NO ONE WORE SHOES!

I have to start with the most amazing fact about this Hawaiian town. No one wore shoes. At all. Any where. I mean, ANY WHERE! I walked down the bike path from my hotel to the grocery store and every passerby was barefoot. BAREFOOT! On rocks, sharp sticks, bugs, spiny plants, etc. Just strolling along as if their feet were hobbit feet. I mean, at this point, I think they have to be hobbit feet the things these people were walking on with confidence and determination as I gingerly treading with my thin flip flops. And then, I got to the grocery store.

You know that sign in every store “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service” ? Yeah, that doesn’t apply in Hawaii. People were barefoot in the grocery store. Shirtless, in bikinis, swim trunks, wet suits, etc. My friend Ryan and I decided we had to try it. It was everything I wanted it to be and more. The floor was cool and smooth. The feeling was exquisite. It became very clear to me in those few moments walking up the aisles with the feeling of liberty in between my toes that humans are not supposed to have shoes. We are supposed to have hobbit feet. We are supposed to experience surfaces with our feet just like our hands. I giggled like a small child as an employee came by with a large broom and smiled at us, saying “Yeah, everyone does this and takes pictures. It’s funny.” Well, it’s only funny to you because you have MASTERED LIFE, you Hawaiian local! It’s a dream come true to us!

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I felt odd most places wearing clothing. Everyone was in some form of post-beach state whether it was a bathing suit or surfing gear. Bars and restaurants were filled with children wrapped up in towels and tanned babes in bikini tops with skin that was not real. Seriously. They all had these beautiful even tans and stunningly smooth skin, I wanted to touch everybody. Actually, they probably would have let me they were so damn nice. In a tank top and shorts, I was over dressed, clearly.

It was obvious the typical routine of any one without a 9-5 was to get up and go to the beach. In the mornings, I would see people walking dogs, surfing, taking photographs, doing yoga, or just sitting with a cup of coffee or a book. It was the way they greeted the day. No phones, no computers, no television. The ocean waves and the course sand was their wake up call.

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Hitchhiking was something that was not looked down on or out of the ordinary. There’s only one road on the North Shore so if you were going in the same direction, it was likely someone would pick you up and drop you off where you were going. It was fascinating. Not only that, but everyone knows each other. It’s a very small area of the entire state so it makes sense, but seriously EVERYONE knows each other. It’s better than any small town I’ve ever been to. So many smiles and ‘how are yous?’ that were completely sincere. People let you pet their dogs!! I pet so many dogs on the beach and no owner panicked or yelled at me or scolded the dog for running up to me. People just hand you their babies. Ryan and I went to see the competition at Pipe (it’s a surfing term, I’m an expert now) and there was this adorable chubby little baby that kept smiling at us. I kept smiling cooing back and the mom just walked over to me and practically handed me her child and just started talking to me. It was awesome.

I’ve never seen happier people in one place except for in Disney World but that doesn’t count because cast members are paid to be happy and well, you’re in the happiest place on Earth technically though now that I have been to Hawaii, it is no surprise Disney built a hotel there because I think, scientifically speaking, it IS the happiest place on Earth. From the workers in the grocery store to the tour guide at Kualoa Ranch, everyone is on Cloud 9 all the time. Ryan and I went to a bar one night in Haleiwa and we walked in and just starting joking with the hostess about happy hour. Ryan made a few cute remarks about keeping happiness prisoner by only have happy hour at the bar and less than 10 minutes later, the bartender gave us free shots. Why? I guess because we were personable and funny like everyone else in Haleiwa and seemed to be enjoying life as they were. We also paid a dollar at a roadside shrimp shack to have this adorable local sing us a tune to pursue his dream of being on X Factor or a show of the like. Not only did we befriend Nathan, the singer who was fucking incredibly talented, but also his coworker, Rebecca who told us where she was from (California) and her and I lamented about our parents moving out of our home towns and how odd it is to lose your childhood stomping grounds.

Speaking of Kualoa Ranch, aka JURASSIC PARK, our tour guide was not only informative but also hysterical. He made a joke that I think suits a lot of Hawaiian nature. He made a quip about how the bulls on the ranch never call in sick to work because their job is basically having sex all day with the cows and they live in Jurassic Park and just lay outside and eat grass and have sex. I feel like Hawaii locals are kind of the same. They lay outside, hike around a bit or surf some waves, eat incredible food, and probably have a lot of sex. They are some of the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen. Natives, people from the mainland, even the tourists, every single human had the most amazing legs and ass I have ever seen. I’m sure it’s the surfing, hiking, and walking on that difficult sand but seriously. It just isn’t fair. 

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I have far too many memories from my brief stay in Hawaii but the thing I took away from the short experience was not to take life too seriously. And that beach towns are fucking awesome. Seriously. I have never felt so stress free and still. Life should be lived in a bathing suit, smelling of the sun and earth, with a body featuring amazing calves and a sculpted butt, hobbit feet that can walk on any surface and enter grocery stores without a second look, people who offer their babies and puppies for love from adoring strangers, mountains that surely can’t be real they are so larger than life, service that is with a real smile and genuine interest in your day and life path, old friends on every corner and new ones just waiting around the bend or at the local bar, and a view that always looks like a postcard.

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It won’t be surprising if I move there tomorrow.

Also, small bonus, the Turtle Bay Resort, where Forgetting Sarah Marshall was filmed, has blue stop signs because it is more soothing to people. GUYS! Seriously. Hawaii gets it.

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Photo credit on several of these shots to Ryan Grassmeyer as well as epic adventure buddy credit