Summer Travels – East Coast Tour of 2014

It seems as if I’m averaging one post a season and that is simply not acceptable. Summer has arrived, and for the first time in the year since I’ve graduated college, I took an extended vacation to someplace other than my parents house.

This past week I flew out of LA and through 6 major cities across the United States. It was exhausting. And exhilarating. And I’m extremely happy to be back in California. But I’ve always enjoyed traveling – it’s the actual getting there that I don’t particularly care for (you know, TRAVEL).

The disappointing thing about travel these days is that you almost always run into some sort of problem – I know, I’m supposed to “enjoy the journey.” I left LA for DC on a Tuesday afternoon, with a connecting flight in Chicago. In what seemed like deja vu (this may have happened to me once or twice before), my flight out of Chicago was cancelled and I found myself wandering the airport after hours. Ours was the last flight out going anywhere within a 200 mile radius of Washington, so I just had to wait it out. I thought about doing an “All By Myself” cover – kinda like this guy, who I had the pleasure of meeting via telephone – but my parents advised me against it.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/97634383″>All by myself</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user4275242″>Richard Dunn</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I found myself in a inexpensive motel on the south side of Chicago – maybe not the ideal place to be for a female traveling solo late at night. Even though I settled in around 10:30pm (Chicago time – 8:30 LA time), I had to be up at 5 to make my morning connection – the whole situation left me nervous and anxious to get to my final destination.

I slept about an hour that night, tossing and turning and texting my friends back in California. Just before my alarm was set to go off, I got up and headed downstairs. Luckily I picked a hotel with a few perks – there was free wifi (what I live for) as well as breakfast (a cold sandwich from Dunkin Donuts and a chocolate sprinkles donut, plus coffee), and a courtesy shuttle to and from the airport.

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I got through security with time to spare, so I watched the planes take off through the clouds and the early morning sun. With more time I think I would have liked to explore Chicago – it looked like a beautiful city. Older homes with big front porches lined the streets, and the Great Lake stretches so far it looks like an ocean.

I finally got in to DC that afternoon, exhausted, but used what little adrenaline and energy I had left to visit family and walk around a bit. At 5pm I found myself caught in a torrential downpour – it went from 90 degrees and sunny to holy humidity coupled with lightening and thunder in a few minutes. A quick call to friends in LA and I discovered the weather there: 80 degrees and clear, sunny skies. Ah, the spoiled life we Californians live. Though, I do enjoy some of the unexpected east coast weather from time to time – it reminds me of being on the islands, which is my paradise. It does make for occasionally unfortunate travel conditions, though.
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I never expected to visit Ohio in my lifetime. I had no reason to. But when my best friend from Los Angeles decided it was time to turn in her press badge and return to her small town outside of Columbus, I thought it a possibility. When I heard she was getting married, I made it a priority.

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Ohio really is beautiful. She comes from a place about an hour from the city, and it looks exactly as you would expect it to – wide open corn fields, old brick buildings – it’s country. There are places I’ve lived and spent time in Northern California that are old, rustic, and full of mountain folk – but nothing prepared me for this.

She took me to meet her family – it’s one of those divorced and remarried plus in laws type of family that basically comprises of the whole town. Everyone knows everyone. Her mom is this adorable blonde with a bit of an accent (they all have one, and it’s incredibly charming). Ashley and her mother are practically twins, save for the fact that Ashley was born with a beautiful brunette head of hair. They look alike, worship Jesus, and love their family more than anything. I took an instant liking to them both.

I had met her now-husband Crosby when he was her ex-husband a few years ago, but didn’t get to spend any time with him – this visit was a little bit better. I stayed at their home for two days and we got to chat a little. He is very different from Ashley in many ways, but it’s obvious how deep their love is for one another. He has a darker sense of humor and is unlike most of the guys I hang out with in LA (meaning: Crosby is a real man’s man). He likes shootin’ and ridin’ his motorcycle, has a beard and lives on a large property with his whole family – Ashley, Crosby and his brother in one house, the parents in another, and extended family in yet another.

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The rest of the family was just as fantastic, same for the friends. They all came together in what was one of the most beautiful events I’ve ever had the pleasure of being a part of. A couple of Ashley’s friends and I helped the couple set up at this cute little park in town, right across from where they went to high school. Though not part of the original plan, the general theme became “vintage,” as Ashley has always felt she belonged in the 1940′s. The wooden tables were covered with burlap and mason jars, white ruffled umbrellas were hung from the trees, and fireflys (or “lightening bugs”) lit up the grounds as it turned to dusk. It was a beautiful sight. Ashley wore a floor length pale pink gown with ruffles, while Crosby paired fitted khakis with a button up and suspenders. Their rings are incredible as well – Ashley’s is a pink oval stone with smaller stones surrounding, on a rose gold band, while Crosby’s is a thick platinum band with a bullet molded into the top. They are truly unique, and really showcase the couple’s personality’s.

Because Ashley and Crosby had been married once before, they felt it important to make this day special – in the sense that it was about their love and devotion to each other this time around, rather than a big event to commemorate. So instead of going the traditional route, the couple eloped – a month before the wedding. They told everyone it was a surprise party for Crosby’s birthday (which is later this week) and only a select few that needed to be in on the secret were aware of the night’s true nature.

At 7:30 all of the guests gathered around the stage where the DJ was set up to watch a special video that Ashley and Crosby made themselves (See below). It was a beautiful testament to their love – and an explanation of why things would be different this time around. When the video ended the happy couple emerged from behind the building as the crowd wiped their tears away.

I left Ohio feeling really thankful I came – and a little more country than I was prior. I’m always apprehensive going into new situations, especially ones that requiring multiple days of socializing – but this portion of my trip was just perfect. We ate good (as in the fattiest food I’ve ever consumed), drove the back roads (or the main roads, they both look the same here) with the windows down and the music blasting, and I got to share a very special day with one of my very best friends.
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Saturday evening I landed at La Guardia in New York (fly in here if you get a chance – we went right over the city); my cousin picking me up and whisking me away to her home just north of the city. She lives at an amazing property situated on 3 acres, hidden behind trees in the lush countryside – you’d have no idea the concrete jungle was just 30 minutes down the highway. I’m kicking myself for not taking any photos. It’s a large, multiple story home that was converted from a barn back in the 60′s. When entering in the side door you walk through the hall of what was once horse stables. I think the room I slept in used to be a loft of sorts. Out back there’s a large deck with steps walking down to a grassy field below, complete with a pool, swing, and trampoline – My cousin is now the stepmother of her husband’s two extremely attractive young children and the house is done up to accommodate the whole family.

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On Sunday I played tourist – I’d been to New York once before when I was significantly younger and didn’t remember any of it. While I have a few friends scattered about the city, I wasn’t able to connect with any on this particular trip (it was just too quick!). After touring 30 Rock with my cousin (SNL, The Tonight Show), I visited Times Square, Central Park, 5th Avenue, the World Trade Center and 911 Memorial, the Empire State Building and Herald Square, before finally winding up back in Rockefeller Plaza for a drink. It was a long, tiring, but thoroughly enjoyable day. I had some delicious bites throughout the city and navigated my way through the New York City subway system (way more confusing than any other I’ve used).

Monday was an early morning – my cousin had a spot on the morning show so we had a car come pick us up around 6:30am to head into the city. It was very exciting for me – I live and breathe news, and grew up watching The Today Show. I was able to visit the set and see each and every anchor and correspondent up close and personal. The energy in a newsroom, on set, especially in a live studio, is unlike anything else. Electric. For a split second I wished I lived right there in Manhattan.

I made one more stop before I flew out, dropping in unannounced at my companies east coast bureau – headquarters. After a year of working there I still hadn’t met my EP’s, so I finally put faces to many of the voices I had spoken to over the phone. I also suggested I return for a week or two to work in their office.

But alas – I’m not sure that NYC life is for me. It’s breathtaking and majestic. It certainly has an energy about it that you don’t find on the west coast. But as I climbed into my Uber and made the ride through Lincoln Tunnel and into NJ over to Newark, I breathed a sigh of relief. Suburbia.

24 Hours, 3 Coachella Parties: My (late) Recap

Coachella! Weekend 1 is officially over and I came back from the desert covered in sand (my car too) and champagne. While I was hesitant to go initially, it ended up being a great time.

My first year in LA I found out how popular Coachella is with the locals – it’s a must do event. So I bought a wristband at the last minute and was pumped to experience it for my first time. Unfortunately, a personal problem came up and I sold my last minute wristband to a last minute buyer, missing out on what looked like an amazing weekend – I sat on my bedroom floor eating pizza while my friends posted their party pics to Facebook (this was before Instagram really got going). Suffice to say I’ve always regretted my decision.

As the years went by I’ve become less interested in subjecting myself to extreme weather and huge crowds, so I didn’t think I would ever find myself at the festival, but when a few freelance jobs came my way I accepted – and threw myself into the chaos – 24 hours, 3 parties, and 2 outfit changes. It was exhausting (hence the reason this post is coming Tuesday rather than Monday), and I’m really amazed at the commitment of the people who stay all weekend.

I took my roommate as my plus 1 and Saturday morning we headed into the desert. She has a friend in Palm Springs (about 30 minutes from all the action) so we made our home base there as a place for safe and quiet refuge. After changing into our #OOTD (outfits of the day) – her in a floral skirt, me in a pair of floral shorts, and our respective crop tops and sandals – we headed out to the first party.

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Top from Angl, shorts from Nordstrom, headband from Urban Outfitters, shoes are Koalaburra.

We stopped by the Ingleside Inn for their 3-day music lounge event that included a gifting suite, pool, makeovers, a candy bar, and more. I picked up a beautiful pair of Rose pink sandals that were perfect for Coachella (see pic above – I wore them all day), before we left for our next stop.

The daytime event took us to a private estate a few miles from the festival for Lacoste’s annual pool party. A hot invite for celebs and wannabe celebs alike, this one was done really well. The sprawling grounds featured a bounce house, putting green, a pool, DJ, 2 food trucks, several open bars sponsored by Patron (they even had Patron Popsicles) and Moët, a shoe decorating station, and more. I left with (2!) new (fake) tattoos, and a slight buzz. I didn’t get a chance try any of the delicious looking Mexican food I saw guests chowing down on, but sometime during the party I did enjoy a remarkable ice cream sandwich. Party attendees included Katy Perry, Kesha, and Lana Del Rey, among others. Fashion seemed to be all over the place – guys opted for the swim trunks and tank top combo, while girls were decked out in a variety of styles. Prints (especially floral, obvi) seemed to be a big hit, and most people kept their clothes on – few wore their swimsuits around the property (and most who did were in the pool). The only negative were the lines – they were absolutely atrocious. The bathroom, the food trucks; future attendees, get there early! It seemed like several of the celebrities took off about halfway through the day.

After Lacoste we took our Uber back to the house and relaxed for a couple hours to recover for the evening shift. We changed into our next look – both jean shorts, crop tops, and leather jackets – before heading out to the main event, Neon Carnival.

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Shorts are BDG, top is from a shop on Melrose, jacket and booties are Express.

Neon Carnival is where the who’s who of Coachella comes to indulge in some evening debauchery. Besides that it is an open air venue (held in an airport hangar), and it boasts several real carnival rides, NC felt like a (really fun) club. With carnival games, free food catered by STK, an open bar, and a massive dance floor, there was plenty to do and lots of people to see.

By the end of the night most people had gravitated to the dance floor and were getting down to DJ Politik. It was fairly cold at night so many guests had changed from their skimpy daytime attire to something more comfortable. I didn’t have any of the cocktails, but enjoyed a couple of pulled pork sandwiches (amazing) and spent a good amount of time people watching – the crowd was fantastic. Attendees included Steven Tyler, P Diddy (Puff Daddy?), and Jared Leto, among others. Everyone let loose and seemed to have a really good time.

By the end of the night I was ready to crash. I don’t know that I would come out to Coachella on my own, but for what it was, it was pretty amazing. Maybe one year I’ll actually go to the festival… Or maybe not :)

RIP MH370 and a Theory From a Real Pilot

This morning authorities announced that the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was coming to an end – they determined the plane went down somewhere in the Southern Indian Ocean and that everyone on board perished.

Though heartbreaking, the news does not come as a shock. Last week I wrote a post with my beliefs that unfortunately, the plane probably crashed into the ocean, sinking before the rest of the world even knew what happened.

That said, I spoke to one of my pilot friends who had something very interesting to say (this was before today’s announcement):
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“since radio comm remained after the transponder was shut off that means the electrical system remained on which means the transponder was manually switched from alt to off, while the pilot kept the alternator on, which means that it probably wasn’t a fire, i think it was done intentionally and that the pilot that had the simulator (no pilot buys his own simulator when you can go to the flight school and use it for free) clearly was practicing landing the plane somewhere really hard (like a grass field landing or somewhere really remote and hard to land in) but then again i love conspiracy theories when really it could be as simple as a pilot mistake followed by a crash landing in the ocean

the gps stayed on only because you can’t manually turn it off, but then again if the gps remained on malaysia airline would know the exact location of thep lane…. which they don’t which makes absolutely no sense…i think they are obviously keeping details from the public

if the plane crashed on land it would have already been stpotted because of its huge carbon footprint which means, they either planned it out or all these coincidences and freak accidents happened in a row while the plane crashed in the middle of the ocean completely off the course of it’s route…again another freak incident

its just weird that the transponder (which tells the plane location to air traffic contorl_) was turned off before the rest of the electrical system

cuz in my plane that would be i manually switched it off so that air traffic control wouldn’t see my location”
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People will say “we may never know what happened,” and that’s true. But I think at this point we should let those affected by this tragedy have their peace – at least I hope it brings them some closure. That said, I am now officially terrified to fly – is it just me, or have a lot of strange a airplane incidents been occurring recently?

What are your thoughts?

LOST: Malaysia Airlines Edition

Malaysia Airlines flight 370 has been missing for over a week now and everyone is still wondering, what happened? The consensus seems to think the plane was hijacked – but the pieces still aren’t coming together (or, the facts aren’t being given to the public, but I’m not a conspiracy theorist).

Anything I say at this point would obviously be pure speculation, much like everyone else putting in their two cents about where the plane may have gone. I think reports were right in the beginning – the plane most likely went down somewhere over the ocean and sunk before we had the chance to find it. I’m not an expert but I think that sounds like the most plausible explanation. In this day and age, how is it even possible to hide a plane of that size, with that number of passengers? When you simply look at the facts at hand, it makes no sense.

Perhaps one of the Middle Eastern countries who are so fond of us are lying about not knowing the planes whereabouts – but that doesn’t make sense either. If WE (Americans) were the target, why hijack a plane with a huge majority of Malaysian people on it?

This story is incredibly frustrating. Of course, it is heartbreakingly devastating, especially to the family and friends of these passengers and crew members – and obviously in 2014 we expect things like this not to occur, but it seems like we continue to hear terrifying tales of public transportation (planes crashing, cruise ships breaking down). This incident is particularly frightening though, as the entire world seems to be in the dark about what happened.

We’re all waiting on the edge of our seats for the truth to come out. Until then we’re left speculating whether it was aliens or terrorists or simply a faulty Boeing. My sincerest condolences to everyone involved – I wish I could do more.

24 Things I’ve Learned in 24 Years

I’m not big on birthdays – I think the only one I was truly excited for was my 18th because I could finally buy tobacco (and I’m not a cigarette smoker). Most years I try to keep it fairly low key.

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Wednesday was the actual day, so I had work – my best friend sent me an edible arrangement and balloons, while my colleagues pitched in an ice cream cake. That evening it was champagne and clubbing with the girls.

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The next night we basically did it all over again, as it was a good friends going away party (or round 2 of my birthday). For the first time in what felt like forever, I had a really good time going out.

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Over the weekend I had to recover (I’m old now), so I spent it inhaling take out and binge-watching Netflix.

It’s been one hell of a year – but that’s for another blog post. For today, I’m going to outline some of the most precious bits of information and wisdom (in my opinion) I’ve gathered over my 24 years on this Earth.

1. You have to love yourself – because you’ll be spending a whole lot of time with you.

2. Being in love and in a committed partnership is the greatest gift – when it’s going well.

3. Sometimes you have to give up on someone not because you don’t care, but because they don’t.

4. Family first. Always.

5. Work to make a living but don’t make work your life.

6. Unless you love it – and you should. Remember what you wanted to be when you were little? Be that.

7. But don’t sacrifice love, family, and friendship for work. At the end of the day, those people are what life is all about.

8. Have fun. Go out. Explore. Try new things. YOLO

9. But create goals and work hard to meet them. Seeing change and progress is immensely satisfying.

10. There’s no such thing as failure – but there is such a thing as giving up. When things get hard, keep going.

11. Sometimes you’ll realize the course you set out on is all wrong – it’s okay to change it (and you should).

12. Sometimes you’ll realize the person you set out WITH is all wrong.. It’s okay to let them go.

13. Sometimes they’ll let you go and it will hurt like nobodies business.

14. Time heals everything.

15. Be grateful for what you have before it’s gone.

16. But you don’t know what you’re missing until you find it.. Go find it.

17. Leave your hometown, at least for a little while.

18. Leave your relationship, at least for a little while.

19. Change gives you perspective into who you are and what you want. Don’t waste that precious time.

20. Find a balance. I’m still working on this everyday.

21. Take care of yourself and your health, you’ll never regret it when you’re older (but don’t be so rigid that you’ll turn down a fun invitation or delicious meal because it’s not “cheat day”).

22. Read. A lot. I love nonfiction but can sometimes get sucked into a soul-wrenching fiction book (the same goes for great TV/film).

23. Make your own something. Whether it’s a business or a passion project or a hobby or a nonprofit – add something to this world. It fulfills you and helps others.

24. Embrace getting older because you’re that much further away from the ridiculous teenager you used to be.

:)

What do you think? Agree/disagree? Have some words of wisdom of your own? Let’s start a dialogue..

Reporters Aren’t the Bad Guys

If you’ve been tuning in to the Winter Olympics, you might have caught the interview between NBC’s Christin Cooper and US medal-winning skier Bode Miller. Bode had just tied for bronze in the men’s super-G and “had a lot of emotion riding,” a line he said himself.

The reporter responded by asking, “Bode you’re showing so much emotion down here, what’s going through your mind?” Inevitably leading him into questions about his brothers death, which happened a year earlier. It took Bode breaking down in tears for her to finally ease up. Immediately, Christin received major backlash. Twitter users jumped on her, chastising her for “going too far” and various attacks on her character.

Interestingly enough, Bode took to Twitter himself to defend Cooper, saying “My emotions were very raw, she asked the questions that every interviewer would have, pushing is part of it, she wasn’t trying to cause pain.” Maybe with everything Bode has gone through, he knows a little something about human nature (if you’re unfamiliar with the famous skier, google him, immediately).

I myself also jumped on to Tweet – the media gets a bad reputation sometimes, I know that. For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a journalist. Even before it was my career, I was a news junkie. There’s all kinds of journalists and reporters, but, like Christin, I work in television. Let me give you a brief overview of how TV news works — a story breaks, or we’re at an event (this particular occasion being the Olympics). We start working on it, gathering all the possible elements (information from the subject of the story, or if that’s not possible, friends/family/etc, official records if applicable, visual resources like photos and video, and so forth), then we excecute. Either a producer or reporter will go out in the field and get interviews, bringing the whole story together. Here’s the crucial part – Reporters in TV land are essentially mouthpieces for the program. They are often times at the mercy of their Producer, who is essentially pulling all the strings. The Producers determine the angle of the story, the questions that will be asked, and how the final editing of the package will be done.

I only bring this up because of this incident with Bode – Christin “pushing too far” was actually just her doing her job, following instructions. Do you think if Bode refused to “push too far” in practice, he would have placed? Maybe that’s a bad comparison, but let me break it down even further for you.

As human beings, we live for those real, precious moments of emotion and vulnerability. It’s why we turn to epic novels, classic films – they depict human nature in a way that we don’t see in our everyday life. However, these forms of entertainment are also just that – entertainment. They are written and portrayed to be believable and realistic, but they are also glamorized for the audience.

News is different. News shows that real and vulnerable side often as it’s happening, making it captivating and, at times, heartbreaking. But that’s why we watch. That’s why reality TV has become so popular – we crave that openness because it’s something so few of us get in our everyday lives (not that reality TV is real). So of course, sometimes the media might push too far, but it’s in those moments that history is made and truth is revealed – would we be doing our jobs if we gave you any less?

Producers aren’t the bad guys either – they simply know what to do to make people tick. Maybe if the public stopped watching we would stop reporting, but until that happens, we want to share all aspects of life with you as they happen – raw, unfiltered, and real.

Drug Addiction

We watched just over a week ago as newscasts around the country revealed the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman had allegedly overdosed in his New York City apartment. Although most of my articles stem from something in the entertainment world (I do work for a television news show, after all), I am not actually obsessed with celebrity culture. I don’t usually feel any extensive sadness for the passing of a well-known star. However, I felt overwhelmed with grief when I heard about PSH. Besides the fact that I found him extremely talented and unconventionally attractive, drug abuse hit home with me – it is something that has affected my life for years. There is nothing more heartbreaking, nothing more selfish, and nothing more destructive in a relationship than drug abuse.

If you don’t know an addict, I’m sure it can be difficult to relate to PSH’s situation. Some have said he himself took that fatal dose that ultimately ended his life – so who can be blamed but Philip? Those who have known addicts or struggle with addiction themselves, know there is something much deeper to the problem.

I lost my best friend to drug addiction. They did not die, but everything I knew and loved about them is irrevocably gone. They broke my heart. Time and time again I tried my best to help them – but you can’t help an addict until they are ready to help themselves. There is often an underlying reason to the addiction – a mental disorder, maybe a history of family abuse – that if only treated, may be the change these addicts need to get better. In the meantime you put up with the lies and the drama and the manic episodes because you love them, but the relationship ends up feeling one sided. So you take a step back, as I did over and over. You pull away from them for a few weeks, then next time it becomes a few months, and then finally you lose them for good.

I was told that Mr. Hoffman’s partner had allegedly split with him recently, to “teach him a lesson.” Whether or not this is true is obviously personal to his girlfriend, but I can relate. You end contact with your loved one, hoping that by cutting ties you may also choke off the options they have when the chips are down. You refuse to be an “enabler.” You hope that by ending your relationship they will realize the error of their ways, run out of places to turn, and vow  to come home and get sober. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case, as shown in PSH’s life.

Although I am still coming to terms with it, addiction is a disease. True addicts simply cannot turn off their need for their substance of choice. It comes first and foremost, before their friends, before their family, and when paying the ultimate price – before themselves. They have to really hit “rock bottom” before they come crawling back. Sadly, some never recover. It is an uncomfortable choice all friends and family of addicts have to make – do we see them through this, despite the hurt they’ve brought us? Or do we shut the door to them, hoping that in time they will return, ready to get clean? All the while you’re both feeling betrayed and abandoned.

I flirted with both options when dealing with my friend. At times I shut them out, only to be pulled back in by my own weaknesses. We stayed in touch through even their darkest days, which was really the hardest part – not speaking I could handle, because I wouldn’t let my mind wander. When you really get into it with an addict at their lowest point, you see the awful things this monster has turned them into. This thing has grabbed a hold of someone so beautiful and made them unrecognizable.

Homelessness, solicitation, medical complications – these are all side effects of drug abuse, and all consequences that my best friend faced. When they finally got clean, several years of my life had gone by, and I was no longer the young, impressionable woman I once was. I stopped keeping up hope that one day things would be different. Because for someone who had sunk so low – there was no returning to where we used to be. No matter how clean and sober they remain, our relationship was shattered, and both of our lives altered for good.

In the days following Philip Seymour Hoffman’s passing, different news stations were covering heroin use in America. Many of us know someone who is a heroin user, or has tried it. It’s becoming unfortunately common, as is drug use in our country. The difference between a casual user (is there such a thing as a “casual” heroin user?) and an addict, is that the recreational user’s life is not completely taken over by a substance. People experiment – whether it’s to party, to fit in, or to “expand the mind,” but those people can often count on their hands how many times they’ve gone down the rabbit hole. Addicts can’t. Addicts lost count.

I’ve also heard about “functional addicts;” people who take drugs often and believe they can get along with out them, they just don’t want to. These people hold normal jobs, do normal things, appear to be average in every way… but over time they are destroying themselves – maybe not as rapidly as the addicts we think of, but slowly and surely they will disintegrate just the same.

After living through years of a drug induced hell I have rid myself of all related influences in my life. I don’t pretend to be perfect – I’ll still have a glass of wine every once in a while – but I know the damaging effects these substances have not only on our health but on the people who love us most. I don’t judge those who still partake in these activities, because I’ve been there too. Instead, I cry for them. I cry for their friends and family who wonder “what did I do?” 
I cry for the mind they will spend years living in once they gather up their thoughts. 
I cry for the years they will never get back, and for some, the years they will never live.

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman, and to everyone else we’ve lost to addiction.

Woody Allen’s Allegedly a Pedophile

The allegations against Woody Allen aren’t new, but they remain absolutely disgusting. Whether or not you’re following and whether or not you believe the Farrow family accusations, this opens up the discussion for a big topic: sexual abuse.

This isn’t about Woody. This is about all the survivors of sexual assaults around the world – the ones who keep quiet because they are shamed into covering up the truth, the ones who speak out only to be criticized and ostracized. This is about rape culture, and how it influences bad, negative, and shameful behavior when it comes to sexual assaults.

There’s another story floating around right now about two Vine famous young adults – a male and female, both known for their brief but entertaining short videos on the app Vine – who met at the encouragement of their “fans.” Some few months later, the female made allegations against her (now ex) boyfriend, claiming he raped her while she slept. She received immediate and strong backlash for speaking out against him, some claiming she “made it up.”

After the news broke, I overheard an unfortunate and ignorant conversation about what constitutes a rape.

“If a man has sex with a woman when she’s sleeping is that considered rape?” An older man asked, “I don’t think so.” Replied a woman. Horrified, I tuned out.

Now Woody’s adopted daughter who he allegedly molested, Dylan Farrow, is also receiving backlash. People are so uncomfortable talking about sexual assault that they will do anything to push it into a corner and get rid of it, even shame the victim.

70% of all sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows. 1 in 4 girls (some statistics say 1 in 3) are sexually assaulted before they turn 18 (the number for boys is only slightly lower, 1 in 6).

Knowing these numbers, why are we still victim shaming? Think of 4 women you know. Now think of 6 men. One of them could have been raped. On the other hand, that doesn’t mean we should crucify the accused – in this country everyone is innocent until proven guilty.

I could talk about this topic for hours, and I have – in college I was in a program called Project DATE, that focused on raising awareness and educating others on the topic of sexual assault. We focused on rape culture – how our society allows sexual abuse to happen, even subtly encourages it. There are examples everywhere we turn – the lyrics to a popular song on the radio about getting drunk and hooking up, that we as woman feel we have to check our backseat after getting in the car at night, or have to be conscious of how we dress so as not to “send the wrong message.”

There are societal expectations of men as well – they are “supposed to be” dominant, and a guy who “gets a lot of women” is “cool.”

Obviously there is a distinction between pedophilia, violent rape, date rape, and so forth, but they all need to be discussed and referred to as sexual abuse and sexual assault – and we need to start discussing them as a true crime, and a horrific one at that.

Thankfully, these survivors are doing just that. You may have also heard about the woman who confronted her former abuser over the phone – a teacher, someone this student was supposed to trust, took advantage of her for years. Thanks to speakerphone and a YouTube video, years later this educator has been brought up on several charges.

Sexual assault is never the victims fault, and these survivors are turning the tables on what has been a taboo discussion for years. Sexual assault is a physical attack that may not necessarily leave visible scars, but it does psychological damage, and at the rates it is occurring, someone you know is likely bearing this wound.

Lena Dunham is My Hero

When I first tuned in to Girls on HBO during its first season, I was slightly disgusted, nonetheless entertained. Girls depicts our generation in a way no other television show really does; it has – dare I say – unattractive women alongside beauties, the successful along with the confused, and it’s not all pretty and packaged in an easily digestible fashion.

While commenting on the real-world nature of Girls is not a new topic, my love for Lena Dunham is. I consider myself a feminist. Sure, there are plenty of things I’ve done in my life that don’t scream girl power, but that’s the point – I’m an imperfect creature trying to live my true self. When I decided to embrace Lena Dunham and her character Hannah, in all their flaws, I broke through a barrier that I didn’t even realize I had.

On Girls, Hannah is brash, inappropriate, and as I mentioned before – kinda disgusting. She’s also funny, ambitious, and a hopeless romantic. She’s real – maybe a bit exaggerated, but she’s a character we can relate to better than Serena Van Der Woodsen from Gossip Girl.

To play Hannah, Lena seems to draw from her own life. She’s unapologetically herself, which is both refreshing and uncomfortable, as it’s something none of us are used to seeing from a young Hollywood star. Lena stands up for what she believes in, and slams what she thinks is wrong. As this months Vogue cover girl, Lena’s pictures are simply fantastic, yet website Jezebel offered a reward of $10,000 for the unretouched photos. Lena’s supposed response?

“Some shit is just too ridiculous to engage. Let’s use our energy wisely, 2014.” (Twitter)

Unfortunately in our society, too many people put an emphasis on our physical aspects, and those with beauty are regarded as higher valued or “better.” Lena is not a conventional beauty – she’s not a size 2 and probably doesn’t wear makeup on her days off, but that doesn’t make her any less gorgeous. We need more women like Lena – those who are comfortable in their own skin, those who are striving to be the best person they can be, not necessarily striving to have the best body in the business. Lena is far too busy making a real impact than to worry about a bit of airbrushing on a fashion shoot (Side bar – the photos were edited for brighter colors and more vivid backgrounds, Lena herself does not appear extensively retouched). We need more role models who inspire young girls to be businesswomen, philanthropists, artists – we really don’t need another Instagram famous 20-something showing off her perfectly sculpted backside. At 80 years old we all look the same anyway, right?

I see a common theme in our generation – people complaining about the state of our world, of our people, and doing nothing about it. So today let’s start with us. Love and beauty and intelligence and success come in all different forms, and we have to do what we believe to be good, not what our neighbor believes. This is not keeping up with the Joneses – at the end of the day, half of us are probably pretending we do care about something to impress someone we don’t care about. Let’s be ourselves; unabashedly, authentically, and happily – regardless of what that means. Let’s live up to our own standards, not what some asshole on the internet thinks. Let’s start focusing our emphasis on ourselves and the beauty we bring into this world that’s lasting – not something so fleeting as physical beauty.

Let me know what you think – Tweet me @kimdahlgren

The Lady Gaga Artpop Songs You Need to Download

Grade: B

I admit I’m biased; I was there through the other albums, cheering for every song others deemed a flop. I love Gaga. But this album is just not right. Too much of her weird, avant garde electronic voice and beats – it distracts from her talent. Plus, her videos thus far have been absolutely un-watchable.

There are a few songs on the album which don’t even deserved to be mentioned, they are so bad. However, there is a little collection of fairly listenable tracks, even if you’re not a Gaga fan. So don’t waste your time on the whole album – I already did it for you.

Download These
1. Gypsy: This song is very likeable – it’s almost guaranteed to be a single. Probably the best song on the album.

2. Swine: I LOVE this song, a rock-meets-EDM high energy track.

3. Do What U Want: You probably saw this performed on SNL last week (was that the most un-sexy thing you’ve ever seen?) – Gaga ft. r Kelly. It’s very easy listening, a crowd pleaser.

if you like rap/hip-hop…
Try Jewels & Drugs, ft. TI and Too Short

honorable mentions…
Donatella. Dope. Sexxx Dreams.

Of course, if you’re not sick of it yet, Applause was her first single off the album and still takes one of the top spots. Enjoy!