Salt Lake City, UT

The last time I was in Salt Lake City, I must have been 12 or 13 years old. My father took us there on vacation, I don’t remember much about that vacation other than swimming in the Salt Lake. We went to a touristy beach area, which seemed a bit desolate, probably because the day felt sort of gloomy.

I remember the weather being warm despite the sky being overcast. The water wasn’t necessarily warm, but swim-able. We could walk distances from shore and the water never came above our waists. Brittany taught me how to make a flotation device out of my shirt by tying the bottom and sleeves in knots and holding the neckline tight, trapping a small pillow of air inside (if, in case, I was stranded overboard and needed this survival tip in the future one day).

We played at the edge of the lake as preteens do. I cupped water in my hands and brought it up to my face. My father told me the only living organism able to survive in the lake is a certain type of brine shrimp, because the water is so salty, nothing else is able to thrive as they do. When I looked closely, I saw them, little red creatures swimming – literally – in the palm of my hands! Brine shrimp are interesting lil buggars; I believe they’re the same creature dubbed as “sea-monkeys,” but if you’ve never seen one, they’ve got a flexible spine, thin as a line, with a feather-like body, the entire being no larger than a grain of rice.

And that was the extent of my memory of Salt Lake City. Until last weekend.

I happened to be in town for a music festival, which allowed us to do some exploring during the day, since the show was during night (feel free to read about my festival escapade)! The only fact I remember about Utah from American history class in high school is the state is majority Mormon, since that’s where all the Mormons migrated (for a reason I can’t remember, but historical enough to end up in high school history textbooks, I guess).

jFaull travel tip #11: Using rideshare allows you brief periods of time with locals to get the inside scoop of the land, while getting where you need to go.

One of my bestfriends, Malyks, and I met in Salt Lake, our planes landing within five minutes of each other. We didn’t rent a car, so we took Uber everywhere, which I almost prefer. JFaull travel tip #11: Using rideshare allows you brief periods of time with locals to get the inside scoop of the land, while getting where you need to go (find my first 10 silly travel tips here). Why is this ideal for traveling? You get answers to causal questions, or The Know on local secrets and hidden gems, without having to spend too much time with strangers. Using rideshare is private transportation and better-than-traditional-travel-research bundled in one.

One of our first Uber drivers suggested hiking since there are loads of trails on the surrounding mountains. I looked out the backseat window to the hills on the edge of town. I speculated the low lying mountains would require an hour or 2 to summit (at my current fitness level haha). Unfortunately, Malyks and I were prepared for the festival, not to hike; thus, didn’t pack any sort of workout attire.

Another Uber driver suggested we visit the Joseph Smith Memorial Building, which has a fine dining buffet on the 10th floor and a 360 view of the city. I absolutely love restaurants on top floors and who doesn’t appreciate a good view?! However, the restaurant opened at 5:00 pm, the same time as the festival grounds. We decided The Roof would be top of our list the next time we were in town.

Speaking of restaurants, I believe it was the same Uber driver who also told us about Lion House Pantry. The story goes something like this: Brigham Young was a famous guy (Mormon, no doubt), who also happened to be the governor of Utah. He had a lot of wives and a lot of children and they all cooked and ate in the same place. This place was known as The Cafeteria. So, this is sort of a historical landmark, which had been preserved, and is now – ironically – a restaurant for the public! I found this to be so incredibly fascinating that I was actually really bummed we didn’t have a chance to eat there. If you wanna check it out, you can visit their website here.

Now, I know you’re wondering, if I didn’t do any of the things I just mentioned, what the fuck did i do? LOL. Let me tell you. We did visit Temple Square, gorgeous place really. There’s a temple in the middle of town that’s beautifully detailed, surrounded by an open garden. We weren’t the only ones. There were countless families there, dressed in their best, taking photos in groups and in couples, because each family was celebrating a wedding.

After walking around Temple Square with our jaws dragging along the ground from witnessing the beauty, we went to the Saturday Market downtown, which was quite impressive. Vendors were selling almost everything imaginable: jewelry, knives, art, honey, trinkets, you know, the usual commodities you see at street fairs. We bought essential oils, homemade lip balms and lotions. There was a stand with peach samples, we couldn’t resist. The sliver of peach we tasted was so sweet and juicy, we picked out 2 for breakfast the following day.

We spent the rest of the afternoon on an outdoor patio of a cute bar called Lake Effect. We sipped sophisticated cocktails and caught up on life. See, Malyks recently moved out of state and there’s so much to converse about, as we’ve been getting used to this time apart, growing older, and adjusting to the transitions in our lives. It’s an interesting feeling, the one where your close friends are no longer is close vicinities and accepting that, as we age, we separate physically, as our lives lead us in different directions, down roads alone or with the company of significant others.

Sunday morning we took our time packing up, preparing for our separation and departure. Malyks was flying back to Colorado and I was flying back to Cali, it felt like our last supper. We headed to Gracie’s to get a drink (or 3) and some food. Gracie’s is a dope joint, with a second floor balcony, to soak up some vitamin D and booze. I suppose we ended up dining roof top, didn’t we?

I know there are other cool spots in Salt Lake City we didn’t have a chance to hit, but with the brief period of time we had, I’m stoked we saw what we did! I’ll have to make another trip out there to experience the rest the city has to offer.

What awesome or unique things have you done in Salt Lake City, UT?

Das Energi 2018

The lighting cracks in front of us, bright, like an instant picture, vivid white. In a flash, the bolt disappears and the sky is grey. The clouds are gradually getting darker as we chug along a four lane freeway due west to The Saltair. White sand and sparse tall grass line the exit toward the lake as the shuttle crawls amongst the other vehicles. The driver hears muffling on his radio and sticks the receiver up to his ear.

“They’re evacuating the grounds due to the storm,” he repeats back to us.

This is how Das Engeri, Day 1 begins…

Das Energi, Salt Lake City, UT.

We’re enroute to the festival grounds for 2 days of killer line up. We’re ready for DJs and dance floors, but the only thing I hadn’t planned for is Utah weather…We’re on the shoulder waiting for the rain to pass, and, as luck would have it, we get news they’re letting eager ravers back in!

Let me back up, I don’t necessarily consider myself a “raver,” but I do enjoy the scene (my favorite 2-day I’ve attended is Countdown 2016). I go to more music festivals than raves, but have never written about them, so this will be a new experience. PSA: this isn’t a critique per se, but more of a causal account of the weekend. Wanna know more about Das Energi 2018?! Read on

After the venue is re-opened, the first frustration is getting in. The VIP line doesn’t have as many staff as General Admission and is taking a little longer. Luckily, they’re letting in as many people as fast as they can and security isn’t too strict. The main entrance leads you into Synergy Station, one out of the three stages on the festival grounds and the only one indoors.

Synergy Station is a rectangular venue with the stage at one end, the dance floor in the middle, and a balcony going all the way around, acting as the VIP Lounge and bar. Upon entering, I immediately recognize that the VIP perks promoted on the website don’t match up to what I had envisioned. Although we receive VIP merch (Das Energi branded fan and fanny pack), there isn’t lush seating upstairs, nor VIP bathroom indoors (the VIP Lounge outdoors had an isolated group of porta-potties).

The only food on the entire festival grounds is on the bottom floor of Synergy Station. Side note: a majority of the festivals I attend are in California and I’m accustomed to multiple vendors of varying cuisines. I am stunned to discover the food is simply stadium food: burgers, hot dogs, fries, etc. (second side note: bring tampons because they charge a dollar if you need one. Yes, they sell tampons and Advil at the concession stand).

In all fairness, this is Salt Lake City, not San Francisco – this festival ticket (even at VIP) is less expensive than tickets back home.

To be completely honest, I shouldn’t have been surprised because Utah is just different than Cali (like how I tried buying a bottle of duty-free gin at the airport and wasn’t allowed because I had just landed – they only sell alcohol duty-free if you’re leaving – “Utah State Law” the clerk said).

Next to the concessions is a merchandise display and I ask the woman if I can buy the jersey, who tells me I can’t because it’s a display and points me to outside. I don’t make it to the merchandise tent on Day 1, when I return on Day 2, they’re already sold out of the jersey! I end up back at the display booth and ask for the jersey, the same woman remembers me from the day before, and let’s me try it on. It just so happens to be my birthday and, I swear, it’s that birthday luck that the jersey fits perfectly. The not-for-sale, display jersey is the last of it’s kind and now on my back. Oi oi Happy Birthday to me.

The opposite entrance of Synergy Station opens to Energi Field, the main stage outdoor stage, where headliners play on the left and an upbeat crowd dances on the grass to the right. Beyond the stage is the Flats, which are closed on Day 1 due to the storm. On Day 2, entrance to the venue is much more seamless (although security does a more thorough check of your bags), but the Flats are open!

There, you can find the outdoor VIP lounge, bar, art, and vendors. The 3D light sculptures are absolutely amazing! They shine bright in the darkness, beautiful in an array of colors, shapes and sizes. More photo opportunities exist with the inflatable rainbow light arch and light up Das Energi letters. The Flats also feature local vendors selling trinkets, clothing and accessories. Beyond the art and vendors, you can dance your way over to the third stage.

By far, the Galactic Flats is my favorite stage! It’s a walk from the other stages, through Salt Lake sand, well worth it. Lesser known DJs jam to a smaller crowd, we’re all just vibing to the funk, but when the beat drops, the pillars surrounding the stage in a full circle billow with enormous flames, hitting the rhythm and keeping the half-naked ravers warm.

All stages are lit. Day 1: Whatsonot and Joyryde kill their sets and the venue stays open till 3 am because of the closure earlier, so Dillion Francis and Kaskade can close the night! Chris Lake is an amazing start for Day 2, but I fall in love with Rezz’s set. Deadmau5 is chill, but I enjoy the Snails and Nghtmre back-to back set much more, as they keep the crowd jumping with their trap.

Overall, The Great Saltair is a really unique venue to host a festival. The proximity of the stages is ideal and this year’s line up is top notch. Raves aren’t for everyone, but if you can get down to this music, definitely check the line up for next year. If you’re a Utah local, I highly recommend hitting up Das Energi!

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?

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.