The LA River + Anna, a landscape project from my video class.
One of the many characteristics that I love about my friend Anna (others range from her musical talents, her generosity and love for life) is that she's open to adventure. Especially at a moment's notice.
Last Thursday afternoon, we scouted a spot at the Glendale Narrows portion of the Los Angeles River, and inched our way down the slope with our gear. She listened to my bizarre direction: tie twine on bow arm, mix river water and ink together, dip twine in ink/sludge mixture, place twine on canvas that's already on the ground, play Bach minuet for a few minutes, exit scene. Repeat seven times.
The price you pay for my friendship. Thank you so much for being you, amazing Anna!
Production stills from the Landscape short for my Video for Photographers class. Film is in the process of editing... posting it by next week. Love this so much.
My dear friend Irene and I have been talking about a jaunt to Venice for months, and we were pretty ecstatic when the excursion unfolded. I love to start a beach day with a belly full of Bay Cities pastrami sandwich (honey mustard, peperoncinis), so that's exactly what we did before heading off to the General Store for perusal, Deus Ex Machina for coffee, and Abbot Kinney for a stroll.
After parking near the Venice Boardwalk, we ducked into Menotti's. Every week, they have a coffee tasting of their bean offerings, ranging from mild to rocket fuel.
While researching some places for snacks, I saw a little stand that we *had* to patronize - The Wee Chippy. The reason - inside joke. My sister has these sweet chubby cheeks, and I nicknamed her "Chipmunk" long ago, shortened to "Chippy." The alley establishment vends french fries, toppings and dipping sauces: our final choice was curry, jalapeños and garlic (fresh and minced on top), with chipotle ketchup. Salted with flyaway crumbs of sand.
My highlight was Venice Skatepark, since at the top of my "Things I Want To Accomplish" list is skateboarding. I was way too prissy as a child to venture past my white and pink roller-skates and basket-ed cruiser, but seven years post-childbirth, I laugh and crook a finger at scraped palms and broken bones and brutal scars.
What I Have So Far On Said List //
1/ Kick ass in skateboarding.
2/ Skip stones like a boss.
3/ Lick a glacier. After licking glacier, knife out cubes and drop into my tumbler of whiskey.
4/ Record the music of sand dunes. Compose ambient track.
5/ Gaze at the Northern Lights. Make out.
6/ Master pentatonic major and minor chords on the piano.
7/ Start violin lessons. Even if it's via YouTube.
8/ Hug sea otters, sea lions, giraffes and a plethora of other creatures.
9/ Forgive easily + love unconditionally.
10/ Live without regrets + with more spontaneity.
Love these images of Irene, who looks incredibly happy seeping up the fringes of the Pacific Ocean. I'm pretty spoiled to have lived near a shore (mostly the West Coast, some easterly) my entire life, so I tend to take it for granted - though I do appreciate it greatly. During high school, I'd ditch school with a few friends and sit on the cold sand, super early in the morning, staring out into the gray sunrise. When I worked full time as a paralegal and driving myself crazy in an ill-suited job, I'd spend my entire lunch break cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway, sunroof down, inhaling and inhaling as much far-blown freedom as my cells could possibly contain.
The beach, for me, is a vast scroll of refuge, where I recharge in solitude. Or with one dear friend at a time, plucking the choicest of shells from the shimmer, and gazing outward together at the two-blue-rectangled horizon.
We toasted the evening with two strawberry basil jalapeño cocktails at the nearby Hotel Erwin, and devoured a delectable Moroccan-spiced porcetta dinner at Superba Food + Bread. We politely declined their $9-$20 dessert array and booked it to the nearest McDonald's for chocolate dipped cones and cookies, with the fragrance of our leftover Wee Chippy chips wafting throughout the car.
Best cone ever. Best cookies ever. Best way to end an amazing day with Irene ever.
I returned to Kauai feeling a bit more knowledgable about the entity that is Hawaii - when I was planning the trip, all the islands melded together and sounded too similar to differentiate. I was glad to spend some time decompressing and rehashing at Danielle's Grandmother's home, at the foot of these gorgeous, imposing mountains. Looking at the range in such close proximity is kind of like meeting transvestites - a bit speechless at their enviable height and differences in breadth, while admiring their stance, in more ways than their posture.
As you can hypothesize by the above images, Danielle and her grandmother gather flowers growing on their property, and string the best together for custom order leis. The blooms are velvety and sturdy, prim and immaculate, and have a near-glowing quality. What you can't surmise > also on the acreage - two horses, stretching grass where the seven dogs roam freely, bird coops, a barn. From the living room window - wide views of the sparkling ocean.
Since it was Prince Kuhio's birthday (a holiday), the main artery roads were congested, and it took longer than normal to reach Wailua River. But the destination was, per usual, worth the obstacles. Wailua Falls is the prettiest falls I've yet to see, as the shape is almost trapezoidal, and multi-streamed. And the river valley looked so lush - no visible shores, as the greenery looked like it needed to lap up water directly from the riverbanks.
I love how Danielle's grandmother prepares the flowers - she must have such powerful muscle memory from her decades of routine, and yet she treats each flower with such delicacy and care. We stopped by Danielle's cousins' house to hang before heading off to the airport.
Gorgeous, warm-hued tapestry hung on the wall of Lihue Airport, bidding me "Aloha." Inbetwixt the craziness of island-jumping, I re-read "A Game of Thrones," "A Clash of Kings," and was halfway through the third in seven: "A Storm of Swords." I spent time, twice, with a dear friend and her family, ate shrimp tacos, musubi and lunch plates with rainbows beaming nearby, nestled in sands that were once magma from the core of our earth. I captured over a thousand images and spent much-needed TLC alone time, vitamin-ing my head and heart.
Goals all accomplished for the Hawaiian portion of 36 Hours, and was headed home with a carry-on full of memories. And a verdant wooden musical frog that would fit into the palm of a son that I missed way too much.
I had read the non-fiction book "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes" in elementary school, and remember folding origami paper cranes for my classmates. Sadako had been two years old and one mile away from ground zero when the atom bomb at Hiroshima was dropped. At 11, she was diagnosed with leukemia, and with hope, started folding paper cranes, mostly out of her chemotherapy medicine wrappers. Accordingly to Japanese legend, those who fold a thousand paper cranes will receive their wish. For Sadako, it was to live. She folded about 1300 before she passed away at twelve years of age. Her family donated a crane to the Pearl Harbor Museum, as well as the 9-11 Memorial, and Sadako continues to be an icon representing peace.
I was missing well-crafted coffee, so I was pretty happy to find Morning Glass Coffee on Oahu. They serve Sight Glass and Stumptown, and a glass of iced coffee of the day is... $2.75. Score.
The food gods lead me ardently to wondrous Shirokiya, a department store of sorts - bakery and used book store on the first level, a Japanese food court situated on the second level. After snapping away at the food makers and offerings, plus perusing the vendors on the entire floor twice, I settled at a table with a bowl of comfort food > kimchee fried rice with bulgogi.
The drive to Makapu'u Beach took longer than necessary due to all my pit stops...
And after arriving at Makapu'u Beach (No. 11), lying on the sand and reading was out of the question, in the best way possible. Visual sensory overload. Boogie boarders, sacred sections (duly note - I gave that area a wide, wide circumference), transient campers, a paddling dog-shaped behemoth boulder, electric lime plants that grow in the crevices of water-battered lava rocks, parachuters harnessing wind, so many different shades of blue and green and brownblack and just... life. Thriving life everywhere.
I met Bronson, who, after graduating from USC with a degree in business, decided to help fulfill his uncle's dream of owning a shave ice shop. The business started with crowd funding, and was named Uncle Clay's House of Pure Aloha. The utensils and serveware are all recycled, syrups are made from scratch, and Uncle Clay greets everyone personally with a congeniality that rivals Miss Universe. I chose to top my ice with Tahitian vanilla, pineapple and coconut syrups, adzuki beans and mochi, which was the best mochi I've ever masticated. The friendliness of the owners is contagious, and I ended up chatting with fellow table mates. Such a sweet ohana experience to leave Honolulu with.
I had my face pressed to the glass for most of the journey to Hilo - can you tell? If it wasn't the wings of the charter plane, it was the pilots a handful of steps away from me, or the tops of clouds, or the shadows of clouds, or clouds anything, or the Honolulu skyline sandwich. Flying through the air in a small metal oval is simply fascinating.
First stop - Rainbow Falls (No. 3) at Wailuku River State Park. The lookout yielded huge trees with vines and large roots that gave General Sherman at Yellowstone a run for its money. The 80 foot falls split up into one main one, with three little ones, like a chorus of backup singers. And the peculiar water color... is it called Rainbow Falls because all the colors mixed together make brown? Seriously, no rainbows were sighted due to the silvery opaque skies, but I'm sure tons appear during other times.
A few neighborhood shots on the drive to Lyman Museum, where students are $5 and regular admission is $10. The official story is, no photography is allowed in the building, which houses a spectacular collection of gems and geological rock formations. So, I may or may not have taken this image of Aquamarine Quartz, toffee disks of Gypsum, and hedgehogs of Mesolite.
To get to the majestic 442 foot Akaka Falls ($5 parking, half-mile hike) (No. 9; end of Akaka Falls Road), one must drive past an adorable little town called Homomu. Wish I had time to stop and savor it a bit more.
My favorite part of the Hilo excursion was, hands-down, Volcanoes National Park (No. 5 + 6; Highway 11). I walked through the Thurston Lava Tube, which is a tunnel made from waves of lava which cooled at opportune moments. I couldn't help but snap these two friends in their glee.
A majority of these lava formations are from the July 1974 lava flow, and are now showing signs of ecological change and the support of life. I love the lightness and sharpness and iridescence of the pebbles, and pocketed about twenty. Later, after the airline losing my luggage and right hard contact breaking into a hundred shards during standard cleaning, I realized that I shouldn't have tested Pele's wrath. The lava rocks were paid in full.
The varying underground temperatures causes patches of "vog," or volcanic fog, and makes the landscape look prehistoric, with puffs of translucent copper and midnight blues.
Up at Jagger Museum is the prime location for viewing the Halema'uma'u Crater. From 1823-1923, this crater held... a lake of lava. What?! Now, it benignly steams, with the reflection of glowing lava visible from the summit vent in the evening and early morning. It's the main star of the national park, as you can tell by my fellow on-lookers.
Though in my opinion, the voggy brilliance of the sunset was equally spectacular. And I thought Californian summer sunsets were unparalleled. During symphonic moments like these, I wish I had more than three color receptors, and instead have sixteen, per the mantis shrimp. Thoroughly savored my mind-blasting trichromatic experience.
After drifting off to sleep to a thousand tropical frogs croaking outside my window, I awoke to this brilliant sunrise coaxing me to my next destination: Honolulu.
The nine-passenger plane ride to Molokai was 1/ a surprise, and 2/ delightful. The two pilots were also our flight attendants and photographers - antithetical to what I'm used to with LAX and other major hubs of transportation. The morning emerald aerial views were also a treat, and had me anxiously looking forward to landing.
One significant thing that I noticed about Molokai is the general amiable attitude of all the locals. Pedestrians, fellow drivers, people in line - they all wave at you, because chances are, you are somebody they know, or a friend of somebody. Molokai is tiny and spread out and close-knit. It is island country living with seductive red mud and vibrant joyful greens and whirling insect swarms. Also, gasoline is $5.55 a gallon.
I picked up a a custard-filled donut at Kamemitsu Bakery (No. 8; 79 Ala Malama Avenue), and headed straight to the beach.
The way that Dixie Maru beach (No. 2) leads you to her shores is with a red carpet of fertile, slick terra-cotta-hued earth. Its juxtaposition to the shore and sky intensified all colors - the depths of blue and aquamarine. Or is it that the incredibly saturated ombre island sky made the earth a supersonic ochre? Chicken or egg - what a welcome.
Finally, finally, finally. I picked up Game of Thrones, first read years ago when a talented friend in acting class named Brett recommended it to me before talks of television adaptation. It was only paused to collect baby-pinky-fingernail sized niihau shells and smoothed lava rock pebbles. No rain. Just the sun hugging me, while family clans hunted for and protected lands.
The woods, with slippery moss afoot and plenty of crackling branches, leading to the Kualapapa lookout was the creepiest. It was overcast and eerily devoid of cheerful "forest-y" sounds, but it was in the middle of the day. And yet I was incredibly spooked, with hackles raised and looking back constantly over my shoulder. Almost to Phallic Rock (!), I nearly walked into an official sign that gravely stated that the area was sacred Hawaiian grounds.
I turned and literally ran back to my car. No shame. Whew.
Later, I found out that since 1866, nearly 8000 banished Hawaiians with leprosy have died at Kualapapa. Such a sad story.
I stopped several times while driving around Molokai to capture various animals and landscapes. The mule is one of many who schlep visitors to the Kualapapa leper colony, as it is the only method of reaching the remote area. Taking a breather from spying on individual chicken shelters, a caramel-and-cinder colored kid grinned back at me. And I can never tire of taking pictures of ever-morphing cloud puffs and sapphire glittering waters.
As Yelp is pretty obsolete in remote locations, a local who worked at a grocery store kindly recommended Drive Inn. Perfect. I had been itching to order the Hawaiian special - the lunch plate. Usually, these ubiquitous meals arrive with a macaroni salad accoutrement, but I opted for greens instead. I was expecting my Beef Teriyaki to be coated with the sticky glaze that is commonly associated with the word "teriyaki," but I was pleasantly surprised. It was an actual marinade with no gooey blanket, and reminded me of Korean barbecue (yay!). Devoured.
I loved my red rental that I picked up at the Maui airport. The brightness made me smile every time I walked towards it, juxtaposed with the constant rain (my very favorite weather). I took a coffee and pineapple passion fruit muffin to go from the Maui Grown coffee company, and started my busy exploration.
I took a stroll at the Maui Swap Meet, which takes place on Saturdays from 7am-1pm at UH Maui College. I was drawn to the wooden frog vendor - they croak when you rake the stick across the stegasaurous-like spine. I purchased a tiny green one for H. I was missing him way too much and now I could tell the little frog all about his impending owner.
The Hough couple (above) was very amiable and incredibly sweet: native-born Lei, with magenta lipstick, out-sparkled the jewelry they sold. And I don't know what impressed me more - Marty's a-la-John-Waters pencil mustache or his wondrous sweater. Wish I could have them over for dinner.
The drive up to Ali'i Kula Lavender Farm (No. 5; 1100 Waipoli Road) is picturesque - banyan tree groves umbrella in the horizon, and as you drive higher into the mountains, livestock graze in the fallen clouds. The lavender farm was originally an area for protea flower (the huge, colorful flowers amidst all the succulents) cultivation, and bouquets are still sold at the gift shop. Lavender plants perimeter the property, and in the center, a walk-through garden with a variety of plants. Ever since visiting the Pelindaba Lavender Farm in the San Juan Islands, I've become quite partial to the scent. In my future garden, I will have a gaggle of these huggable shrubs. And masses of English thyme.
Thank you for visiting "On the Wild Side," the first installation in the Hui's new environmental art garden: Ho'aloli, translated as "to transform, alter, or take new form."
Guided by legendary "Stickwork" sculptor Patrick Dougherty, who has completed more than 200 such installations worldwide, hundreds of volunteers worked closely together for 17 days to gather sticks and construct this site-specific work of public art.
During this time, Dougherty and crew entered protected forest areas to remove thousands of saplings of invasive strawberry guava, tropical ash, and eucalyptus - materials that were selected not only for their pliability and color, but also for their ability to visually demonstrate and raise awareness of the threat of invasive species to Hawai'i's native ecosystems. Materials were then transported to the Hui where the construction process began by digging deep holes to secure 50 base saplings that were bent together to form a skeleton structure. From here, the team twisted, clipped and weaved together this work of art that slowly evolved into "On the Wild Side."
The Four Seasons Resort in Maui (No. 4; 3900 Wailea Alanui Drive) houses a self-guided art gallery, along with a fantastic pool in the courtyard that overlooks the ocean. Chilled in the open seating and enjoyed the free wi-fi and random fresh flower leis that guests left behind.
Quiet Keawakapu Beach (No. 1) has clusters of moss and lichen-garbed lava rocks. They, like benevolent sentry, break the loud sting of waves and gently push bite-sized bowlfuls onto one's wiggling toes. I had been craving a good block of reading time on warm sand, but it was not meant to be. Hello, gorgeous steady rain.
Trying my luck from one beach to the next - destination North Shore. Super popular Black Rock (No. 7; Kaanapali) was overcrowded, so I headed over to Alii Kaheliki Beach, a few minutes more up the street. The sand is redder here than Keawakapu, and more busy than the previous. Settled in and read a few pages before the same thing happened - the rain clouds caught up with me. At least I got to gaze at the generous peace offering. And I was hungry anyway.
Don't judge Ono Taco's humble outdoor under-a-carport and next-to-stairs situation, as I initially did. After all the shore visits, I was craving fish and shrimp tacos. Stick with the latter, as they're the best shrimp tacos I've ever wolfed down. I don't say that unflattering description lightly - the relentless insects will kamikaze into your food, even if you try to scarf as fast as you can. Good thing I was solo.
And on the search for cut fresh pineapple, I spied this Wes Anderson Aztec hybrid hotel shadowed in the pinkpeachgold and grayblue sunset.
I am fortunate enough to have a lovely friend in Kauai, and I bookended my Hawaiian-island hopping trip with Danielle and her grandmother. After picking up some fresh cut pineapples at Sueoka's grocery store, we pointed at shimmery rainbows, awe-struck tourist groups and double waterfalls at the Waimea Lookout.
So, one thing that I quickly realized about Kauai is that chickens and roosters are everywhere. They pepper the lawn at the Lihue airport, bathe in rain-drenched parking lots (this particular one is at the Kalalau Lookout in Kokee), and congregate along any side of any road. It's pretty hilarious, until I realized that they are long-standing residents as well. Then they became regal and courageous to me. Not sure if that's the consensus amongst the human residents, though.
Hanalei Bay - a quiet and peaceful beach surrounded by residences, where we people-watched for a spell. Danielle's grandmother has so many stories about her family and friends and listening to her unravel them, anecdote by anecdote, was everything I thought it could be. I didn't grow up with grandparents, so experiencing her patience, warmth and roll-with-the-punches personality was endearing. I tried to buy her a Mai Tai at Olympic Cafe in Old Kapaa Town later that night, and she just giggled.
The next day, we checked out Bubba's Burgers, where the tag lines are "We Relish Your Buns," "We Cheat Drunk Tourists and Attorneys," and "If You Can't Stop By For a Bite, At Least Honk As You Drive By." We bit teriyaki pineapple + taro burgers along with numerous fries underneath a sky-yielding straw umbrella.
Speaking of taro, we drove along Hanalei roads that hugged taro fields and to an elevated spot where we could marvel at the tidy and varied patchwork fields. If my itinerary allowed, I would've loved to have attended a Thursday Poi Day at the Waipa Foundation, where Danielle and her grandmother are regulars. The volunteers arrive at 5am to mash cooked taro into poi, a traditional Hawaiian starch staple, for consumption and distribution to ohana (family) and elderly friends around the region. Poi resembles a lavender pudding or custard, and ranges from sweet to slightly sour over the natural fermentation course. I love that the Kauai community convenes weekly to hands-on learn about the relationship between food, land and culture, and to meet with old and new friends.