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Anchorage, AL

Seaplane

Brittany and I procrastinate. A lot. But, trust me, no matter if you procrastinate as much as we do, you can still plan a killer vacation by following a simple process!

The first step is to lock down dates & book airfare. Not gunna lie, it seems like planning family vacations is the hardest with everyone’s schedules. My advice is to never underestimate the time it’ll take to agree on travel dates LOL. When booking airfare, (my sister’s favorite tool is the Hopper app; mine is Skyscanner) we aim for the cheapest non-stop flights. (Side note: there aren’t any non-stop flights going from SFBA to Alaska, so I determined flights by departure and arrival times that were best suitable. Which also sucked, my options were limited, I had a three hour layover in Sea-Tac and landed at 2 am in Alaska).

Second, accommodations can be secured. Most of what we wanted to do and see was in downtown Anchorage so we looked closest to city’s center (side note: I originally wanted to stay in a B&B for a home-y, family experience, but most were booked up since it was the week of 4th of July. So, I expanded my search to hotels, and eventually reserved a vacation rental through TripAdvisor, although Airbnb seems to be most popular these days. I also use Homeaway, which is most similar to Airbnb, sometimes the cost is cheaper).

After these steps are complete, the actual planning can begin! We start by mapping out an itinerary. This important when you’re traveling with people who have different interests. Any tool can be used to jot thoughts down, but my sister and I use Google Sheets for easy access and sharing between the two of us, before sending it to the ‘rents. We included a number of activities and suggested days when each would work best. Some activities on the spreadsheet are bound to get kicked off and replaced by cooler things (we didn’t make it to a baseball game, dry dog sled, or various other tours).

Note: Traveling with family can be interesting (to say the least). I personally believe that an itinerary with gaps between long activities is best. This allows down-time to rest (and get some personal-fucken-space) for a brief period before you tackle the next endeavor! Admit it, travel is exhausting – even when it’s supposed to be vacation. Sit back, relax, and take a damn chill pill.

The actives we decided on did not disappoint!

Anchorage has a number of street markets on the weekends. Sunday morning we went to the market downtown and shopped around. There were loads of vendors selling what street faires do: dip seasoning packets, souvenir socks, parkas, backpacks, knife sets, kids toys, jewels and gems, canvas paintings, engarlened prints. I bought locally sourced Chaga mushroom, which is a “superfood,” high in antioxidants and a host of other vitamins and minerals. Fireweed is a popular type of flower in Alaska, I sipped fireweed lemonade and shared a salmon quesadilla with the fam. That afternoon we went to the Anchorage Museum. Brittany was most excited for the Smithsonian floor, which had loads of amazing artifacts from different Inuit tribes across the state. By the time dinner rolled around, we were on a tram, being pulled up the face of a mountaintop, to the Alyeska Seven Glaciers Restaurant. Almost as breathtaking as the view, is the delicious baked alyeska dessert, which they set on fire at your table.

Monday we woke early to get on a train to Whittier. They ask that you arrive an hour early at the train station, which was a fraction of the size of the one back home, with a small cafe and a good-sized souvenir shop. The train ride was 2.5 hours north, toward Prince William Sound, where we boarded a ship, for lunch and sightseeing. Yes, salmon chowder, with a side glimpse of orcas swimming on our left. We saw sea otters floating around the sound and floated beside glaciers to watch them capsize up close. Yet, I gotta say, my favorite part was watching the chef pull glacier ice out of the water with a giant fishing net. They took the chunk of glacier to the bar, broke it up, and served cocktails; I ordered a marg with ancient ice. When the train dropped us off back in Anchorage, we went to a downtown bar, Bernie’s Bungalow, for beer, pizza, tuna poke, and nachos.

Tuesday I made breakfast for the family in honor of my father’s birthday. We took a seaplane over glaciers and across tundra and plains. This, by far, was my most favorite activity, because I’ve never felt so small flying over mountains. I never felt so isolated, so in-the-middle-of-nowhere, so insignificant on a planet that is so extraordinary. Experiences like that, where you’re in a small jet plane that seats four, plus the pilot, landing on a freezing cold lake of melted glacial water, murky with glacial silt, to have a picnic miles from anything remotely close to civilization, that change your perspective of the world, really blow your mind. (Side note: if you’re prone to motion sickness, do not eat before / during the seaplane ride. I yakked as soon as we landed back in Anchorage). That afternoon, Brittany and I hiked O’Malley Peak, which I wrote a post on. The ‘rents went shopping while we were on the side of a mountain, and we all reconvened for supper at a nice Italian restaurant.

Wednesday was 4th of July and Anchorage hosts a parade in celebration every year. Two blocks into the parade, I found an information booth to ask where the alcohol booths were, to find out this truly was a family event and alcohol was not being sold on in the perimeter. Which was fine. I settled for a chocolate berry milkshake. After the parade ended, we took a bus tour around the town, stopping at significant places, and did the same on a guided walking tour. Later that night Brittany and I went back to Bernie’s Bungalow, which you can read more about here.

Thursday we packed up, said goodbye to our vacation rental, drove downtown to hit up a few souvenir shops on our way out, and headed for the airport…

jFaull’s Simple Steps to Planning Family Vacations:

1) Begin planning as soon as you can (even if that means procrastinating anyways)
2) Lock down travel dates everyone agrees upon
3) Book airfare based on your preferences (i.e. price, departure/arrival times, etc.)
4) Secure accommodations (i.e. hotel, hostel, B&B, vacation rentals etc.)
5) Discuss activity options
6) Discuss cuisine options
7) Finalize an iteriteray
8) Pack chill pills
9) Leave bar crawling for the last night
10) Have fun!

50 / 50

I got my haircut this morning. I’m at work and my sister texts me saying me she just cut bangs! I was thinking how funny, we’re twins. As a precursor, we’re actually not twins. In fact, we’re 22 months apart. Brittany is nearly 2 years older than me (but nearly 2 inches shorter than me).

Us being [nearly] twins reminded me of our last night in Alaska. Brittany and I didn’t want to wait for the midnight firework show in celebration of 4th of July. You know, summer in Alaska, the sun rises at 3 am and sets at 11:30 pm, which means it’s too light out to see fireworks until much later. What did we do instead? Do what we do best & mosey on over to a local watering hole to P-A-R-T-WHY? ‘Cause we gotta.

There we were at Bernie’s Bungalow, sippin’ whiskey sodas at the end of a large patio table. As the bar filled up, a few friendly locals found a seat next to us. Mike is a short, tan Asian man that works for the army. He was based in Alaska for some time and, when he was finished with his tour, came back to live in Anchorage. As for the young ladies he was with, they were all nurses: one graduated from a college in Michigan, the other from Wisconsin, and the last was visiting both of them. We talked about their time in Anchorage, how they decided to settle down here, and that’s how we discovered their relation to each other.

Mike turns to me and asks “so, how do you two know each other?” He was obviously referring to my sister, who couldn’t answer, as she had just left to take a piss. I get this question more often than you’d think.

“Believe it or not, we’re sisters,” I replied. Like clockwork, he fires off the next question –

“Who’s older?” In which I reply with my favorite come back –

“Take a guess.” It’s a tricky question. Whenever I ask people to guess, they always think I’m older (because I’m taller). WRONG.

Mike guessed wrong. Then he went on to say that he didn’t think we looked related, but now that I’ve pointed it out, he can see the resemblance. I assured him he wasn’t alone. The only response Brittany and I repeatedly get about our relation is that 1) we look nothing alike or 2) we could be twins. It’s either-or, there’s never a stance in the middle. For anyone. Brittany returns to the table and I explain to her that Mike and I were just chatting about how he didn’t believe we were sisters.

“Oh, 50/50,” Brittany says, “people either think we’re twins or not related at all”

I rested my case.

The sun dipped below the horizon and dusk was getting a shade darker. Fireworks exploded in the distance and we could see the sparks from where we sat on the patio outdoors. The locals finished their drinks and invited us to hop to another bar; so, we oblige, of course. The rest of the night turns into somewhat of a blur, but I remember Mike walking Brittany and I back to our vacation rental. He wanted some alone time with my sister but I could tell she didn’t want to be left with some local and I sure as hell wasn’t going to leave her. I couldn’t find any nice words to let him off easy; frankly, I didn’t really care.

I picked Brittany up by the waist and started running across the street, screaming “see you later!” (With the most obvious fact that he would never see us again slapping him across the face behind me). As soon as I crossed the empty street, I accidentally dropped Brittany in the gravel shoulder before I fell on top of her. When we got up to brush ourselves off, Mike had already disappeared. We silently crept into our temporary home and forgot to hydrate before we passed out.

I woke up with a dry mouth and tongue, parched af. I looked down at the pile of clothes next to my bedside and picked up my shirt, reaching into the front pocket for my ID, debit card and Brittany’s credit card. The pocket was empty. I frantically fell out of bed, propped the door open on my way out of the house and into the street. As suspected, all three plastic cards were in the dirt next to the road where we both ate shit the night before.

We’re [nearly] twins, but being sisters is just as swell. Whether we look alike or not, Brittany and I appreciate the same vacation spots and have the same taste in beer. We socialize in similar ways, we have identical mannerisms. We both get into shit with locals and find unconventional ways out. We even unknowingly cut our hair around the same time.

2018 Alameda Art & Wine Festival

Four distinct bridges provide the only entrance to Alameda. For those who aren’t familiar, Alameda is a small island in the bay, a stone’s throw from Oakland. Aside from the main drag, which spans a few modest blocks, the town is mainly suburbia and apparently has the most elementary schools per capita in the entire U.S. (don’t quote me on that, it was an observation). For the most part, Alameda is a sleepy town, to raise your kids, to retire, to slow down from the stress of city life.

This past weekend was the 2018 Alameda Art & Wine Festival! I’ve been to a handful of Art & Wine fests in The Bay, and let me tell you, Alameda is one of my favorites. Why? Art & Wine festivals in South Bay don’t come close to the quantity of vendors in Alameda. Don’t get me wrong, South Bay hosts a number of festivals I enjoy to no end, but the Art & Wine ones aren’t lit like Alameda.

Alameda closes a good 5 or so blocks downtown to host the event. Every other block has a mini stage with cover bands or other live music. Not only do they have a plethora of vendors, but I praise the quality and diversity of the arts. The streets are lined with pop up tents, each small business owner with a different vibe, a creative set-up, a unique niche. We sip wine and wander through booths with painted wood portraits and matted prints, sift through racks of tye dye shirts and spandex pants that flare out at the bottoms,laugh at ourselves in the mirror as we try on masks. There are booths selling honey, hand crafted jewelry, crystals, wind chimes, toe rings, knives, corn nuts, dip mixes, bonsais, gourmet vinegar and olive oil.

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of kombucha. I’m not even sure I can tell you what it is. I think it has probiotics (I’m not really sure what those are either) but people say they’re good for you. I drink Kombucha occasionally and I know on the bottle it warns of 1-2% alcohol content; yet, at the art & wine festival, we taste-test alcoholic kombucha ranging from 5-7% with the purpose of getting drunk (!) in flavors like pomegranate chai, ginger lime, and lemongrass. Another booth we pass checks our IDs and hands us shots of alcoholic coconut water (Skyjuice is a new company selling canned cocktails of flavored coconut water and vodka). I’m not sure where this get-drunk-on-“health-foods” thing came from, but I’m all for it. This must be my generation finding harmonious balance. Other generations love to hate millennials but you have to admit this is kind of genius…

There is a vendor selling “Hawaiian Ecosystems,” which are small bowls or vases filled with water and a flower. If you look closely, you can see the tiny shrimp that apparently live in these habitats without having to be fed. My friends and I spend a little longer at a booth selling taxidermy butterflies, some in quite elaborate patterns for display on a wall; sale price: $2500. We take our time picking out this butterfly for my sister.

One of my favorite aspects of art & wine festivals is the food! Among steaming grills coated with chicken skewers and bacon wrapped sausages, there are kettle corn stands, chocolate dipped ice cream booths, and a deep dish or thin crust pizza tent. Vendors sell gyros, roasted corn, mango sticks and curly fries. I buy lumpia (philipino egg rolls) to snack on as we stand in line for the main seafood vendor. Ironically, my friends and I order the same thing as last year; two lobster sliders each and an order of BBQ oysters, that come with three shells to split between us evenly. Delicious, as usual. All I can say about that is we are truly creature of habit.

Are there any art & wine festivals coming up near you?

182 Days

182 days through the year; 182 days remaining. July 1st is the half way mark through the 365 days we spin on this planet. (it’s true, I’m posting this with 158 days remaining because I was flying to Alaska on July 1! However, I was able to jot thoughts down on the 5 hour flight, see below).

It’s 12:34 am and I’m currently 30,000 feet somewhere above the Pacific Ocean, on a Boeing 747 a half hour from touching down on one of the many runways in Anchorage, Alaska. It’s 34 minutes past the start of July 1, precisely midway through the year. I usually don’t spend time reflecting on if I’m still dedicated to the New Years resolutions I’ve dictated for myself…because I hardly set resolutions to begin with…nonetheless record them in any formal manner…or remotely follow them thereafter…

With the turn of 2018, I’d been compelled to make lasting changes in my life, and although I haven’t kept religiously to my resolutions this year, at least I began by writing them down. The notebook I brought on this trip happens to contain the list of resolutions I created (I’d almost forgotten about tbh). When is a better time to reflect on your daily routine or occasional habits than in the middle of the night, no where in particular, gliding above the atmosphere, without direction or sufficient leg room? Exactly.

I had recently learned there is a difference between goals and objectives. Most people use them interchangeably. Goals are what you want to become. Objectives are a way to measure those goals. At the start of 2018, I created a list of goals and objectives:

    • Goal: yoga everyday
    • Objective: 20-30 minutes of 3-5 poses
    • Goal: daily exercise
    • Objective: gym 5 days a week for 30-90 minutes, rest 2 days a week
    • Goal: read everyday
    • Objective: read 1 book a month
    • Goal: ride on Saturdays
    • Objective: bike or skate for 30-90 minutes
    • Goal: Success Journal everyday
    • Objective: write 1-2 successes in your Success Journal
    • Goal: kick it on Sundays
    • Objective: spend time with friends on Sundays and relax 2-4 hours

182 days of my goals and objectives: I made it to 2 60-minute yoga classes, hit the gym almost consistently 5 days a week, I injured myself pretty badly from a 10-mile-an-hour crash off my longboard last Saturday, haven’t written in my Success Journal at all.

This year, I’ve come to understand that I don’t always stick to goals, but that doesn’t mean I’ve wasted my time. In fact, 2018 took me by surprise. I accomplished things I’d never imagined. So, now, I reflect on the 182nd day of the year to see how far I’ve come.

      • Roadtripped to Santa Barbara to catch up with an old friend I haven’t seen in a couple years
      • Surprised my sister for Tundra’s birthday party (her cat turned 2 years old in March)
      • Ran a Night Nation Run (5K fun-run to end cancer)
      • Celebrated a close friend’s gender reveal and baby shower

The short-end of 182 days is life offering us opportunities and we take them, whether it be roadtripping to a music festival or running for charity. Spontaneous activities appear same-day, like the classical music performance I attended on a Saturday afternoon, or vacations require months of planning, like the Alaska trip I’m currently on. There are so many aspects of life,  goals and objectives, we never think to write down, but still accomplish everyday. What we don’t write down may even be the most significant things of all…

The long-end of reflecting on 182 days is not only an analysis on my goals and objectives, but also a look into the creation of new ones. I didn’t pick up a book until May of this year – it took me damn-near half the year to begin. Books come in various lengths; if I want to read everyday, I should have created an objective such as “read 60-90 minutes a day,” rather than “read 1 book a month,” because I’ve finished 5 books in 2 months. With the onset of reading, I might have been inspired to investigate more hobbies. In turn, sometime in June, I decided to launch a blog, with the objective to post every week, which was completely unplanned (and pretty much an utterly rash decision all around, if you ask me).

Overall, it’s important to reflect on how far you’ve come. Most times, you forget you had goals and objectives to begin with. Sometimes goals and objectives simply aren’t met, other times they’re replaced by alternate activities. At times, goals and objectives change and even lead to new ones. You are half way through 2k18. What can you accomplish in the next 182 days?

Weak This Week

Monday morning I drove my friend home because she stayed the night. I arrived late to work. When I was off, I drank a beer at the Whole Foods outdoor bar, while I facetimed my close friend, who recently moved to SoCal. By the time we were done catching up (aka when my phone died) I went home to dive into all the sleep I lacked Sunday.

I woke up naturally because I forgot to set an alarm the night before. I was late to work again Tuesday, but I left the office around 1 pm to help my manager prep for a retirement celebration. I was late because we spent the morning texting about what “resort casual” means and “no, I couldn’t wear jeans to dinner.” I spent 30 minutes deciding which slacks “I would wear at a resort in Hawaii” and even packed two extra shirts (if the original one I planned on wearing didn’t gain approval from my manager). Set up for the celebration took an hour in the baking Los Gatos sun, the evening was pleasant and clean up took another hour. I didn’t get home until 10:30 pm, in which I knocked the fuck out.

I wasn’t late to work Wednesday but I slept in an hour longer than I would have. After work, I ate too much with my mother at dinner so we spent the remainder of the evening on a stroll. Once again, I was home around 11 pm and immediately fell asleep.

Let me back up.

I have a strict schedule because I’m a grandma, where I’m in bed by 10 pm, so I can exercise at 6:30 am, before my full time job at 8:30 am. This routine has kept me alive for a while so I figure I’ll hang on to it…or do my best. It’s weeks like these that I find myself far off track, coming home at (or after) my bedtime, sleeping in instead of hitting the gym, and paying the price.

It’s weird how the human body works, actually. I work out 5 days a week, take 2 days of rest, but go absolutely mad if I skip proper exercise for longer than 3 days. I literally feel like my life is in shambles and the lack of endorphins is detrimental to my physical and mental health. I’ve felt so weak this week. In addition to not exercising, I’ve been eating out, food I wouldn’t normally eat. This combo has just created a feeling of grotesqueness and instability…which is why I’ve backtracked these last few days, looking for any sign of normalcy, in search of when I first strayed so far from my routine and why I haven’t got back to it.

I slept in last Friday. I had every intention of skateboarding when I was off work, but once I got home and laid in bed, there was no getting up. Saturday is usually my rest day. I spent the day at the beach on Sunday. That brings us to the beginning of this blog post. Therefore, it’s been exactly 7 days since my last sweat sesh. It’s Thursday. I just got home from spending 2 much-needed hours at the gym.

It’s really weird how the human body works, actually. Only 1 exercise session and my brain already feels as if it’s re-entering my body from a week-long vacation. I feel as if I’ve come back to life, or have been reawakened from an out-of-body experience. Did you know your brain releases chemicals when you exercise? Endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) all keep your brain and body working properly. A natural dose is all I needed to feel better and get back on track.

Life is hectic. There are times when everything occurs simultaneously, when we’re too busy to enjoy usual activities, then we’re too tired to hit the gym. Life passes us by like this, where it’s one thing after the other, and hours pass like days do, then we realize a whole week flew by and we’ve been slammed by so many festivities that other priorities fall by the wayside. I get it. That’s how this week felt. And last week. And the week before.

Juggling everything at once is what life is all about. But sometimes our brains don’t get the dosage of chemicals needed to keep us happy, alert, focused, refreshed, motivated, alive. Sometimes, we lose our minds along the way. It may seem a little contradictory, but it’s times like these when we’re living at twice the speed of life, that what we really need to keep us going, is to get up and moving. Even a little exercise is better than none at all. Being active rids depression, provides motivation, keeps us healthy, but, most importantly, keeps us sane.

My mind goes fishing (well, my mind goes somewhere) on continuous days without working out. Then, I feel as if my whole life is out of whack. I’ve realized the quick and easy solution to get my life back is exercise. Hook, line, and sinker.

Colors of Healing

IMG_8078This is the view from Little O’Malley. 3258 feet above sea level. Anchorage, Alaska.

Somewhere near the top, the trail ends and you’re forced to wriggle up vegetation, jumping dirt patches littered with sharp rocks, all the while hitting at least a 50° – 60° incline (I’m inclined to say 90 because it felt so steep! But that’s more than an exaggeration – it’s flat out lie). It took 2 bug bites, 1.5 hours, and 1 can of unused bear repellant to climb to the top, which peaks, by far, the most strenuous and dangerous hike (considering the bear attack possibility) I’ve ever summited. For this reason, I feel as if the view was that more beautiful – reveling in the glory of exhaustion to get to the top. Side note: my sister, Brittany, and I were at Fred Meyer an hour prior to this hike, asking the clerk if bear repellant was really necessary for this area.

“Oh yeah, you’ll want bear spray…or a firearm,” was his response.

Brittany and I had planned for a “long hike” which usually means 3-4 hours, but our itinerary on this trip to Alaska (more to come) was rather tight. We were able to fit in a short hike before dinner, which allotted 2 hours to climb a mountain. I summit at 5-something and the reservation was at 7 pm. We agreed to be back at the trailhead by 6, giving us 30 minutes to drive to the vacation rental, 10 minutes each to shower & whatever remaining time to dress and look presentable for a decent restaurant.

“I want to go to the end of the ridge but we have to get back to the trailhead” Brittany said.

“We should just go to the end of the ridge”

“We don’t have time”

“We’re never coming back here to do this hike again,” I said with enthusiastic urgency, “it’s now or never!”

Little O'Malley Ridge

We jogged down the ridge and took these amazing shots of the view. Brittany really wanted a picture laying in the snow, with the peak of O’Malley in the background. It was 5:24 pm. We were supposed to be on the trail heading back but I formed a small snowball and threw it at Brittany, which missed her by 2 feet. I blame my uncoordinated subordinate left hand, even though my intention wasn’t to hit her in the first place. I threw the snowball so I could write the folks back home to let them know Alaska is where to go for snowball fights in the heat of summer.

As we began our descent, two very athletic young men jogged passed me. I tucked my elbows in and took short, quick steps down the mountain.

“What are you doing?” Brittany called out.

“Jogging like those guys were”

“You look funny!”

Down the hill I went in zig-zag formation. Here’s the thing about jogging down a hill: eventually you pick up some momentum which makes it difficult to slow down (mega duh, physics genius). My left foot couldn’t grip a pile of rocks, sliding into the dirt, jagged rock edges sliced into my shin. I remember screaming but standing as quickly as possible, distracting myself by continuing with the hike, tricking my brain into eliminating whatever pain I felt (or fucken tryin’ to). Brittany couldn’t see me at that that point, but thought I broke my leg because she heard me shrill in horror hahah. Luckily, I didn’t (rolled out of that like a Ninja).

Fall on Little O'Malley

Not long after my fall, and a very rigorous jog down a fucken hill, we hit the valley floor. There was about a half mile between us a the trailhead, a small river in between. I filled my empty bottle with the rushing melted glacier water and cleansed my filthy leg of the bug spray, dirt, sweat, and blood. We arrived at the trailhead by 6:03 p.m. practically on fucken time.

Colors of Healing

I took this picture a couple days after I got back to California. The swelling in my thigh subsided and the bruises began to show. Another side note: I’m a weird person and man enough to admit it. One of the things I think makes me weird is my likeness to getting bruises. No, I don’t like getting hurt. I don’t purposefully throw myself against walls (or in this case, down steep mountains) on purpose to form bruises.

I like bruises because they come with phases. You see them pass through each stage until they finally disappear, the pain is gone, and the only thing that remains is the memory and the smile on your face from reminiscing the stupid idea that formed the bruise. In a couple days, a week would have passed since that hike and the bruises are already less visible than when I took this picture.

There’s a unique joy that awaits me at the sight of healing bruises. I find a small pleasure in knowing that my body is working properly, that all functions to heal bruises are at full capacity, that I’m (for the most) part “healthy” in that sense. What I enjoy more is  the progression, with each passing day, as the bruise changes from hues of dark blue and purple to faded greens and yellows, eventually matching my natural skin tone. The colors of healing are, of course, interesting to witness, I mean, the human body is pretty flippin’ incredible…but I appreciate knowing that pain is temporary.

Watching bruises heal is physical evidence that what we go through is what makes us who we are. We absorb experiences, trauma, hardships. Even if bruises fade, we’re still continuing to heal inside, in unseen ways. Physically. Mentally.  Emotionally. All of  the above. We don’t choose our scars, sometimes they’re not inflicted by our own selves, but perhaps by others. Some scars may not even be visible the naked eye. Maybe they’re metaphorical for the emotional and/or mental pain we’ve endured. Either way, we must adjust. Our bodies must function at whatever capacity we can, to soak in pain, to digest and molt, to transform and restructure. To heal.

I don’t mind the scar on my shin, in fact, my sister’s boyfriend calls it “punk rock” lmfao.  It’s times like these I look at bruises on my legs and know this is another experience that shapes my foundation, shifts my perspective on the world, and reminds me to slow the fuck down on treacherous mountainsides.

PRIDE

Iconic rainbow flags, rainbow socks, rainbow unitards, rainbow tutus.. blouses.. headbands.. pants.. dressesrainbow-everything flicker my eyes in different directions. Rainbows fall from clear-blue skies; rainbows sprout up from underneath Market Street; endless colors adorn me me gaily. If you haven’t guessed already, it’s Pride Weekend in San Francisco.

I step off Caltrain with Giants fans heading to AT&T Park in jerseys, baseball caps, and black-n-orange with a mix of colorful and eccentrically dressed parade-goers walking the opposite direction. As I get closer to downtown, people in face paint, boas, and flags used as capes become more plentiful. I’m wearing the same tie-dye sports bra I made for last year’s parade with black high-waisted velvet pants. Pink, gold, and purple glitter shines above my left eyebrow down to my cheek bone, accented by transparent sequins. Face jewels are enough to draw interest from strangers and a couple people ask to take pictures with me. Of course, I oblige – “Happy Pride!” [our salutations].

Searching for my friends in the crowd is only challenging because I’m distracted by beautiful people and the fun everyone is having marching and/or onlooking. One of my best friends is dancing  in the middle of the block with a crowd of her colleagues, all wearing uniform Tesla pride t-shirts. A talented Tesla employee DJs on a podium at the back of a hand built trailer, pulled by the Model X. As we approach the start of the parade, we jump aboard the make-shift stage, our bodies in unison with the rhythm of the music.

The trailer emerges on Market Street and we jump higher from the energy of the crowd. We didn’t even make it one block. The front wheel of the trailer breaks from everyone dancing too hard, so we jump ship. Not being on the trailer allows us to run, skip, dance our way down the street, hollering and shouting, waving to the people pressed against the barricades on the sidewalk and handing them mini rainbow flags.  Paper confetti shoots out the back of the car and I truly feel like a celebrity.

Pride month means a lot to me. I used to love attending the parade as an ally to the gay community. I’ve trekked a long and [at times] unforgiving road through self-discovery; eventually, surrendering my resistance to whom I was forcing myself to be, to who I actually am. It’s hard to explain to straight people that “I didn’t know I was gay until I knew.” In fact, the topic has so many layers of complexity I could write an entirely separate blog post about the epiphany of my sexuality (and probably will sometime in the future). At first, I didn’t want to be known as “The Lesbian” to my friends or strangers. I was under the impression that the term would be the only descriptive feature one learns about me during first impressions, as if it has an undesirable connotation. Yet, in time, I realized that being gay is such an integral part of who I am as a person that being “The Lesbian” isn’t something I should shy away from, but be proud of.

As much as I’ve overcome obstacles, being gay is still difficult (maybe only gay people understand how I feel), which is why Pride is such an important event in my life. June is the month that this community shines in a spotlight, as if we are allowed to creep out of the shadows discrimination. Sometimes I feel estranged or lonely because I’m different, almost like alienation (most of my close friends and others I know are straight). I love this particular weekend of the Pride Parade in San Francisco when I can take public transportation without a shirt, glitter all over my face, and not receive confused or distained looks. Above dressing up (or down) and the superficiality of what everyone is wearing, Pride Parade brings together people just like me. I am surrounded by openly proud and extremely gay strangers, but they make me feel connected; these are my brothers and sisters. I feel less alone.

This is my third year attending the parade as a self-accepted lezzer but the first I was able to march the entirety of. This parade is not just a march, it’s a massive city-wide celebration. This is a fucken party to rejoice in acceptance of ourselves and revel in the support from our allies. We celebrate how proud we are to be who we are, or what makes us different than the remainder of the population. To me, this is more than a two-day bender just drinking and dancing in the streets. Being here is the reason I’m alive; it’s times like these that keep me alive; this is a lifeforce.

Dancing in this year’s parade isn’t happiness, no, better…this is NIRVANA.