31 August 2009

Poo, no PSU

 I was more than ready to leave Penn State last spring. I was making the trip back to New York more often than the walk to the State College bars. With the stress of my impending graduation, pushing myself to get the highest grades possible in order to give my GPA an extra nudge upward at the end didn't help me want to spend any time in that happiest of valley's. For me, it was the valley of memorizing dates, interviewing subjects, writing articles, and reading long into the night in those last few months.
I lost sight of the things I loved about being there. I miss sitting in the tress on Old Main's lawn, drinking Natty Lights while making the epic trek to the stadium, drinking coffee in the library, and walking walking walking everywhere all the time. I noticed so much more around me when I walked, and I took it for granted.
More than anything, I miss hanging out with my friends...

28 August 2009

Why are you in America?

The Pursuit of Happiness
First came my maternal grandpa's mother's family from England before the British colonists evaded paying their taxes.
Awhile later, grandpa's paternal grandmother was given the money to pay the families taxes in Ireland, but decided to use the money to come to America instead.
My maternal grandmother's family came from Eastern Europe on both sides only a few generations before my Grandma was born.
My dad came to America as a little baby with my grandparents after World War II. Being Jewish, they lost most of their families and lived in Italy together until they came here.

I'm in America because I was born here. Sometimes being American makes me feel weird. When I was in France and England I was embarrassed by my accent and the large group of hung-over teenagers I was traveling with from my high school. My friends and I avoided alcohol, trading it for meals in cafes where we were mistaken for Canadians. In Asia I felt like I was a spectacle, the light-eyed Western woman. When people ask my nationality here I get uncomfortable because I am American, but I know that they expect me to say Irish or Hungarian. Why do people do that? I've never been to Ireland or Hungary, but I've lived here for all of my 22 years. Anyway, maybe someday I'll move to another country but this will always be where I am from. I want to sew a quilt of a globe, and embroider the names of my forefathers (and mothers) that lived there and left to come to America. I wish they could write me letters and tell me why they came here so I could know why I'm here.

22 August 2009

Bike lust

If I were lucky enough to have a bike as beautiful as these it would get stolen faster than you can say lock-clippers. My mom brought home the Electra Bikes catalogue a few weeks ago, and these two are my absolute favorite.

21 August 2009

For the hot weather

Music Playlist at MixPod.com

Ride A White Swan By T. Rex
The Charging Sky By Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins
This Train By Madeline
Black River Killer By Blitzen Trapper
Contender By The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart
Sunlight By Harlem Shakes
Truth Or Dare By N.E.R.D.

Streets of Bangkok

So I know I went to Asia 2 months ago, but there are just so many pictures I was overwhelmed! Here are some things I saw while walking around. I was overwhelmed by the smells in particular in each shopping district. The flower markets were sweet and the food courts by the river were spicy. I wish I could have bottled the smells (the good ones anyway) and brought them home.

Bike Balance

20 August 2009

Turning Japanese

Turning Japanese is a very sweet book by Cathy Yardley from the perspective of a Japanese-Italian American who loves manga and travels to Tokyo to turn that love into a career after winning a contest. It could have delved deeper into her feelings about feeling lost between two cultures, as well as the relationship with the main character, Lisa, and her boyfriend, but it does an excellent job of showing the development of Lisa's attention to details. Before Lisa leaves for Japan she doesn't describe the things around her, and when she's there she develops the ability to do so. It is also a good lesson in never being too old to try. Although Lisa is nearing 30, she turns her world upside down in order to change her life; hopefully for the better.
Squid in pasta alfredo, clubbing in Tokyo, spending a night in the red-light district, and of course the inner workings of the hierarchy of Japanese manga which may prove to be the end of Lisa's career; this makes for a great summer read. Just add (iced) green tea!

19 August 2009


North of Bangkok along the Mae Nam Chao Phrya River is the old capital, Ayutthaya(the English spelling of the post title), of the Siamese Ayutthaya Kingdom. Founded in 1350 C.E. it had an estimated population of 1 million people by 1700 C.E. at its height making it one of the largest cities in the world at the time. Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, filled with the ruins of the old city and of the temples that were built there. Unlike Stonehenge and other ancient sites, you can go right up to them, climb around, meditate. They are wide open to the public. It was one of the best days I spent in Thailand learning the history of the Siamese kingdom before it moved down river to Bangkok.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram with my uncle
Wat Mahathat and the sandstone Buddha head in the roots of a Banyan tree
The chedi's of Wat Phra Si Sanphet (the old stone) and Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopitah (the red and gold temple)
After walking around all day it was nice to catch a ride, on an elephant and have some sparkling-dragon water. One of the other pachyderms even wanted to give my uncle a kiss!
At the Royal Summer Palace I was exhausted and hot and didn't get many pictures but I did climb to the top of the observatory and made a new friend out of a giant wild lizard.

For our trip back to Bangkok we took a cruise down the Chao Phrya River

*Note: The whole trip to Thailand my aunt, uncle and I noticed how strangely tourist-free everything was. No more so than this day trip did we see the lack of travelers. We had most of the ruins completely to ourselves with no one in sight besides our tiny group. It was eerily empty at the Summer Palace, and the river cruise was set up for easily 100 people, but there were only 10 people taking the trip. It was very strange.

18 August 2009

little skirts

I wanted new skirts for summer made of soft cotton with delicate patterns, so I decided to make them myself! They fit perfectly, and the price was right (about 5 dollars each). Using this tutorial it only took me about an hour to make each one.
The geometric one reminds me of the Pendleton for Opening Ceremony collection. I didn't take pictures of the process because I was so focused on getting them done, but here are the finished skirts (if you click the picture it will get bigger!).

14 August 2009

Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven

The People's Republic of China in the fall of 1986 was author Susan Jane Gilman's (Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress) first destination on her round-the-world trip after graduating college. She struggles with feeling utterly alone (even with groups), out of place (being Western), and like a child before it learns to read (staring at words on a page and seeing nothing but squiggles). 

Sexy Australian backpackers, Chinese military, nervous breakdowns, and feelings of doubt and insecurity compounded by being in a foreign country. Gilman shows herself as she thought the Chinese saw her, and makes realizations she hadn't had when she was 22, but in later years came to see.
A memoir of travel, friendship and rude awakenings, Gilman writes honestly and humorously about her adventure.

13 August 2009

APW 09 (day 3)

(August 2, 2009)
The morning did not start well. The blackout shades all hotel rooms have were drawn and hid the dismal raining grey sky from view, so when the front desk called to tell us we had to check out in a half hour, it was the mad scramble to get it together. Luckily, Josh had the presence of mind to ask them for an extra half an hour.
Neither of us wanted to spend the day in the rain again, already too tired to shower or even walk around. We decided to get lunch at the mall and see a movie until the weather cleared. That wasn't going to happen anytime soon. I passed out in the car for a few hours while Josh played games on my computer. Finally we saw Funny People which I guess was funny in a poop-joke kind of way, but certain aspects made me really uncomfortable (infidelity, sleeping around, etc). Normally I'm not phased, but the combination of exhaustion, grime and hunger didn't help.
When we left the mall the sun was peeking through the clouds and the rain seemed gone for good. We headed over to the festival for the last time with the specific goal of seeing Coldplay.
When we arrived the mud puddles were now ankle deep and I heard a familiar song. We arrived around 8pm and I heard the soft soprano of Lykke Li drifting after us while we searched for burgers and ice cream. The next few hours were a complete blur of battling through mud and thousands of people just as cranky and exhausted as us.
The Coldplay crowd was unfriendly and unyeilding. I said excuse me to a very tall, imposing man and he looked me in the eye and said, "No. Should have gone around." Civility was waning. It could have been the weather, the length of the festival, and a whole slew of other problems presented to the masses. I personally think that because Coldplay has such a wide fan base you end up with people who never go to concerts and have no idea how to handle it.
Anyway, I was blown away. It was one of the best bands I have ever seen live. The cover Chris Martin played of the Beastie Boys' Fight for Your Right played on piano led to a giant audience sing-along. At one point they marched to a small stage in the middle of the crowd and contracting "trench foot" according to Martin to play an acoustic version of Green Eyes and Michael Jackson's Bille Jean.

pretty guitar on a big screen


"you've got to fight for your right to party... ohh I messed that up..."

Green Eyes

APW 09 (day 2)

(August 1, 2009)
Josh and I stayed a few miles away from Liberty State Park and worked out our game plan for the weekend on Day 1 using the "getting lost a few times" method. Jersey City is a web of roads and the famous N.J. U-Turns. There are streets with no signs, and entrances to bridges and tunnels leading to NYC, so the directions seem simple but are not. Throw in the hills at 85 degree angles and I was utterly useless. Needless to say Josh drove us to the parking lot of the Newport Mall each day. Then we took a free light-rail ride over to the park and hiked over to the entrance.
The sun was shining, the grass was dry, and the festival took on the faint aroma of poop and low-tide.
Trail of Dead was already playing when we sloshed up to the stage and didn't recognize any of the songs. The last time I saw them live was back in 03 or 04, then came the Epic Computer Crash of 2005 and I lost all my music and just never bothered getting back into it. I did remember however that one of the band members pulled me on-stage at Irving Plaza way back when, and seeing them again brought back fond memories of sneaking into 18 and over shows. They seem to still want the audience to be a part of them, or in this case they want to be a part of the audience. One of the singers (they rotate instruments constantly) came out to say hello in the middle of a song.
Jason Reece (Trail of Dead)

After they finished we lounged in the sunshine looking at downtown New York and Ellis Island and listening to the comedians Tim & Eric in the background.

We hung out for awhile eating and wandering around the art installations.

At 5 we made our way over to the pool of mud in front of the main stage and saw Arctic Monkeys. They stood very still and weren't very interesting to watch. At least they had great accents.
Gogol Bordello needs no explanation. Drumming, jumping, shimmying, singing, and a muddy-happy group standing in front of the stage bathing in Eugene's wine-soaked voice, his actual bottle of wine, and gypsy punk.
Gogol Bordello

For dinner we sat with some high school students who had driven up from Philly for the day to see Tool. They had the worshipping fervor only teenage girls feel about seeing their favorite band of the moment, and one of them told me her hands were shaking with excitement.
It was peaceful around sunset and My Bloody Valentine was taking the stage. I expected to be soothed and calmed by their ambient music but was instead deafened by terrible mixing and a band that doesn't translate well into a live performance. It was awful. Josh convinced me that the only way we would get a good spot to see Tool was if we sucked it up and worked our way to the front during their set. I personally wanted to stand as far away as I could from the noise. By the end, I almost felt bad for the band with the sea of festival goers wearing the free earplugs and covering their ears with their hands. Those not covering their ears were flipping them off.
My Bloody Valentine on the big screen

And then there was Tool. I don't think I have ever seen Josh so excited. We made some friends in the crowd, chatting about how bad the previous band had been. The boys were trying to test each other to see who was a "real" Tool fan. I randomly came across a girl who had gone to my high school and talked to her for a few minutes while Josh talked about Alex Grey with our crowd-neighbor. As a disclaimer, I like Tool, but not as much as Josh. He is a true fan. He was drumming along on my head and shoulders, trying to get across to me exactly how difficult their songs were to play, and pointing out that in the last song they we just slightly off. I was concentrating on not getting smushed and being able to see simultaneously.
photo credit for Tool- Josh

Random fact: I didn't know that my friend Doug was at APW until afterwards. Josh unknowingly snapped his picture during Tool

12 August 2009

All Points West 09 (day 1)

(This occurred on July 31, 2009 and I am a terrible blogger for taking so long on this one)
On the first day of All Points West 2009, it poured buckets on us. As we handed our tickets over to be scanned and got the pat down from security a monsoon began as if on cue. Cameras+water=bad, so pictures taking was limited. In some ways, I can be thankful that I ignored my desire to snap-snap-snap foregoing it to dance around in the mud and sing along as loud as I could.
I only caught the tail end of Fleet Foxes which I was disappointed about, but Jersey City is a difficult place to navigate and it took us longer than expected to arrive at the park (including crossing a bridge and ending up in God-only-knows-where) then taking the scenic route through town a few miles out of our way because none of the signs correlate to the directions we were given and the roads have more than one name.
After Vampire Weekend braved the worst of the storm, the clouds opened into a watery blue-grey sky, and the sun made Manhattan glow red just in time for the Yeah Yeah Yeah's. Giant blue-eyed eyeballs floated above our heads, bouncing like something from a kids' Halloween movie.
After they finished we decided to leave, supposedly Jay-Z was unforgettable when after his set that included Beastie Boys tributes he chatted it up with the crowd. After a day of trudging through the mud all I wanted was french fries and a bed.
The Yeah Yeah Yeah's and their floating eyeball
happy, honey & lark. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.