music, lately

I have about 10 playlists started to share with you guys. All with different themes. I would like to start a “mixed tape” series, but I’m getting antsy and don’t want to release said playlists until I can find just the perfect songs to round them out. So until then, here’s a playlist of what I’ve been listening to lately/what’s been on the radio/what I can’t get out of head. Completely random. Some old, some new. Just to kick off the series.

Sweet Sour – Band of Skulls (from new album coming out soon! beyond excited!)

Sink to the Bottom with You – Fountains of Wayne

Struggle – Ringside (not a fan of the music vid, just close your eyes)

Monarchy of Roses – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Actor Out of Work – St. Vincent

Help I’m Alive – Metric

Electric Feel – MGMT

Love You Like a Love Song – Selena Gomez (I know, I know *hangs head*)

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Small Town Fever

Whew. It’s been a surprisingly eventful week. What I thought would be a boring, sucky work trip has turned out to be something of a little treasure. I’ve been out working on the Wisconsin/Michigan border in a really small town. I was bracing myself and expecting the worst…praying for free wifi at the hotel. Instead, I was hit with an overpowering sense of small-town kindness, an appreciation of the little things, and a little personal family history.

On Traveling and Being Alone

I had the wonderful opportunity to get a whole day to myself on this trip. Between flying and driving, I had a ton of thinking time and I really enjoyed it. During my drive up to Michigan, I started wondering how bad this trip was going to be. All trees and signs of life were dead from winter’s wrath. It was cold. There was no AVIS preferred. My rental car had the same air freshener my uncle used to use when I was growing up, so there was a constant pull of memories. There were about 5 music stations, and 10 talk-radio stations, most of them preaching about god. I thought…Oh lord, this is going to be a long trip.

Then something strange happened. My mind started to clear. I started laughing at the country music and turning it up. And I started to enjoy myself.

no officer, I was not taking pictures while driving

Cheese and Wine. Moccasins. How could I stay grumpy with signs like that?

I read a book a long time ago that said everyone should go out and eat at a restaurant alone, at least once in their lives. It’s hard, no? To feel completely comfortable eating alone in the presence of others, without a bar to pull up to, and without a book or phone in your hand. But this was my time. I pulled up to a local deli and tried to enjoy the experience. It was a little scary. But it was also worth it. As I was eating my sandwich (sans avocado – something I’ve been taking for granted in Cali), there was a barrage of moms coming in after their weekly Weight Watchers meeting. They all had the same spiky, highlighted hair. On the TV the local news was on. “Breaking news…horrible accident…”. Everything is a horrible accident in a small town. I spied a date with two teenagers and smiled to myself at the cuteness/awkwardness. I walked away feeling good and looking forward to more driving time.

I wanted to make a point that being alone and getting all introspective is not a negative thing, as some people may think. For an introvert like myself, down time is 100% necessary and even therapeutic. I was excited and happy.

Getting Back to my Roots

I am originally from the Midwest and spent some time as a kid traveling through Wisconsin and Michigan to visit family. But what I didn’t realize until I was at my destination was that I was about a mile away from where my dad grew up. We talked on the phone. “Dad! Google maps says I’m only a mile away from your old house!” “Daughter, it’s a small town, everything is only a mile away.” razz So inbetween work days, I set out on a mini tour to visit my dad’s old stomping grounds. Below is a pic of the house he grew up in:

time keeps marching

Very strange, but cool, to drive around and think about my dad hanging out here. He said for entertainment they used to go to the local garbage dump and watch the bears come out and scavenge for food. Wow, what a good time. rolleyes

One tradition that has remained throughout the years are pasties. If you’ve never heard, a pasty is basically a bunch of meat and potatoes…sometimes onions and other spices, all combined in a thick crust. It looks sort of like a half-shell turnover on the outside, and tucked inside are the goods. Back in the days of coal mining, miner’s wives used to make these for them in the morning, wrap them in newspaper, and the guys would stick them under their shirts right next to their belly. It would keep them warm until lunch and in turn they would also have a hot meal. Pretty neat, eh? I ate them with my dad every trip we used to take back to visit the fam, and we still eat them to this day.

A huge tradition in this town appears to be Wing Night. Oooooh yah you better believe it. Wings and beer, beer and wings. I went out with a bunch of coworkers to one of the local bars for wings here a few nights ago. On the wall they had a bunch of the old high school football teams. I went in search of my dad, who played in the mid 1960s (holla!). For some reason the bar only had pics through the 1950s…but I am including his pic anyway for good measure:

what a stud!

I really did enjoy myself, walking down the same streets he did and going to the same restaurants. His advice to me: “Don’t get lost in all the culture there.” K, Dad.

Working on a Ship

Although I couldn’t take pictures of the ship itself, here was my view from the deck:

don't think we'll be getting underway anytime soon, eh?

The shipyard environment was a very rough-and-tumble experience. It was mostly guys, wearing Carhartts (which I may or may not have a soft spot for…eep! Be still my beating heart!). It was a hardhat environment. Mama got her own:

And a lot of flapper hats:

(source)

Mostly in plaid.

Quotables

Finally, I leave you with some of my favorite one-liners from the trip so you can get a flavor of the environment. Overheard by the locals and/or my coworkers (sometimes multiple times):

“Yah, there’s quite a wind out there”

“Let’s go tie one on”

“Well, we made it back to the hotel. That’s a good sign.” (<– my favorite)

“We’ll have to take you to Wing Night at the Best Western, so you can meet the whole town!”

“…Wing Night at the Firehouse…”

“…Wing Night at Dexter’s…”

“CASH ONLY”

“Oh, it’s about a mile away”

I think that’s enough small-town talk for one post. The love will continue as I will be taking several more trips in the coming months.

Living the Dream (or the businesswoman that never was)

When I was in college and deciding to become a computer engineer, I had big dreams. Like, corner office dreams.

I pictured working in a high-rise office building in New York or Chicago. I imagined waking up early, stopping off for a latte at the corner Starbucks and finally making a grand entrance into work as my heels clicked on the marble floor past the security guard and up to my office. In the fantasy I was always wearing something polished and feminine, like a tailored BCBG dress.

To be her, that power woman… I vowed to sit up tall and make quick decisions and jetset around the world. Shaking hands, making deals. Give me the miles, the perks, and the whole lifestyle. Schmoozing and boozing. Think Jenna Elfman’s character in Keeping the Faith.

all brains and class

(source)

So I sit here today,  writing you from a cheap hotel room in middle-of-nowhere Wisconsin, and wonder what the heck happened?!?!?!

Instead of the strong, put-together chicness of Jenna I am instead channeling Ed Helms from Cedar Rapids.

If you think I’m kidding…check out my digs:

who needs a closet when you can just hang your clothes straight on the wall???

with these kind of amenities, you may never want to leave.

here's my corner office. eh? eh?

brown was sort of in...during the 70s

yours truly. happy as a clam about being on business travel.

Instead of dressing sexy-chic, I’m in a puffy ski jacket, with mom jeans and steel-toed shoes. Who am I??

WHAT WENT WRONG?!?!

Were there warning signs my life was headed in a different direction than my original goals? yes. Did I choose to ignore them? yes. If I eventually worked my little tail off, could I realize the corporate power woman dream? yes…but not at this job. I need to make my own rules and create my own life.

By the way, my goals of who I want to be have changed drastically since college. I will have to expand on this in a future post. But for now, I need to get some sleep. Duty calls tomorrow!

PS Even though I’m complaining, I’m secretly enjoying myself on this trip. Tell you more later. Will try and update throughout the week.

Vin de Syrah: Down the Rabbit Hole

Yesterday I was feeling social and ventured out to an amazing little wine bar downtown. I am over-the-moon giddy with this place and felt immediately compelled to write a review.

To sum up the experience in three words: Alice in Wonderland.

::spoiler alert:: this place definitely has a few surprises, and if you’d rather experience them for yourselves the first time, discontinue reading review!

When you walk up to the place there is a modest sign that says VIN DE SYRAH with an arrow pointing downward.

(via Yelp)

This is when you literally walk down the rabbit hole. As you descend you are submerged in grafitti (like a cleaner version of the NY subway), and then there is an abrupt stop at the bottom of the stairs. You see a collage of posters, a door, and a grassy wall.

Most people immediately try that door. Only to find that it is locked. Ooooh this is where the fun begins! People get confused, frustrated, and in general are thinking what the…?

What is not immediately clear is that there is a SECRET door behind the grassy wall. All that shows is a little gold handle (which is mimicked by their entry page on their website):

See here?? Sneaky, sneaky!

Now here’s where the fun starts. When you walk through the secret door, you learn that you’ve been on a hidden camera the WHOLE TIME you were struggling to find the entrance, and it’s being played on a big screen for the entire bar to watch and laugh at! Embarassing! And highly entertaining!

(via Yelp)

What a fricken riot!

When you walk in the vibe is set. Heads Will Roll by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was playing. I look straight ahead and there are wine glasses, with candles in them, floating in the air. All around are green, grassy walls. The chairs and decor are outlandish – extremely high back booths, tables that are too small and make you feel large like Alice. There are mini umbrellas floating from the ceiling. There is no way my iphone could capture this, so I’m stealing a few images from their website to give you an idea:

In their own words:

inspired by the eclectic lounges of New York’s “meatpacking district” and the warm brasseries of turn of the century Paris, Vin De Syrah is complemented by amazing cheeses, desserts, and a friendly wine list. this subterranean yet organic space pays respect to the old but embraces the new world with a contemporary style all its own.

a much needed “breath of fresh air” for the Gaslamp Quarter, Vin De Syrah offers spirits, unique beer and of course, an array of beautiful wines by the glass. if it’s a dirty martini, a frosty Chimay, or a smooth glass of Bordeaux, this is the chill out parlor for you.

celebrated local designer Michael Soriano completely reinvents the downtown urban lounge with his botanical chandeliers, thick 50 year old wine vines, 12 foot natural wood candle lit tasting table, and semiprivate plush sitting rooms.

so whether you like the unique beats of san diego’s most eclectic djs or the soothing rhythms of live jazz, you’ll find yourself lost in the moment, enjoying the ambiance, music, food and drink that is simply, Vin De Syrah

I couldn’t agree more. My jaw was on the floor the whole night and I just wanted to soak it all in and really cherish the moment.

My friend and I ordered the Blend Board, which had a good sampling of meats and cheeses, marinated veggies, and a sweet honey jam. For wine, I ordered (appropriately) the petite syrah and my friend the cabernet. Both were good, but the cab had a little too much dark cherry sweetness for me.

One of the salamis had been soaked in wine. I made a salami + cheese + honey spread bite that was divine!

Here are the umbrellas:

Bjork was playing overhead. I was feeling my wine buzz. Enjoying some conversation. When all the sudden…we were hit with another surprise: BURLESQUE.

Below photo probably NSFW, fyi…

The lovely girls from Rouge decided to come perform. It was the icing on the cake and I couldn’t help but enjoy myself. The vintagey feel of old 50s songs and (fairly) innocent dancing was a great time.

Cheers, baby!

So, quick recap. Here’s my restaurant rating meter, completely just made up on the fly:

Drink Selection: (5/5) – Plenty of specialty cocktails, wines, and beer. No shortage of new things to try.

Food: (3/5) – Not because it wasn’t delicious, but there were only ‘small bites’ available. Do not come starving.

Date Night Approp?: (4/5) – Yes, especially if your date is cool. It may be a little on the funky side for a first date, but this is a great place to chill and have intimate conversation. There is much to talk about given the decor, music, and overall ambiance.

Would I go here again?: (5/5) Abso-fricken-lutely. What are you doing tonight?

Ambiance: (5/5) Take a hit of acid at the door. (I kid, it’s not that bad). Very well designed.