Just Hold On, We’re Going Home Or, I Love West Palm

A couple of weeks ago, Lenny Kravitz took me to church.

I wish I could say that he showed up – all butter soft black leather and gold eyeliner – grabbed my hand and took me to the front pew of a rickety, ramshackle building where we sang Joyful Joyful and clapped until our hands hurt…

But no – he took me to church in the metaphorical sense. I saw him perform live and while I was shimmying barefoot on the grass as he belted out American Woman, I realized two things:

1. Lenny Kravitz might be Benjamin Button.
2. I am completely and unequivocally in love with West Palm Beach.

When I was eighteen, I was itching to leave my hometown. Like a character in a Springsteen song, I wanted to escape. When you live in the suburbs and spend your nights kicking around shopping plaza parking lots, it’s easy to believe that your town is full of losers and that you need to pull out to win.

God, I was bored. Not just bored but beset with a dull-edged combination of Richard Linklater’s Slacker ennui and Lindsay Lohan channeling Liz Taylor.

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So, I left. Away to college and after that, 1000 miles up the Eastern seaboard in relatively close proximity to where Springsteen songs became a reality.

A little over a decade later, circumstance landed me back in West Palm.

Circumstance being a euphemism for shitty break-up.

I got into town on a Sunday afternoon – disconnected and weary. Everything was the same; everything was different.

I was days shy of thirty. I was back in the hometown I itched to escape and I had no fucking clue what I was going to do with my life. The promise and prospect of living in Los Angeles, having children and a happily ever after? It was all just dust in the rear view now.

And yet, I felt a sense of peace. No, my life wasn’t the J. Crew holiday catalog that I had envisioned it would be, but for the first time in a long while – I felt safe.

West Palm felt like home.

And home, as it turns out, is a pretty damn great place to be.

My parents made me promise to take a couple of months off to readjust and take a moment to breathe, so my plan was to spend an inordinate time on the couch, shower at irregular intervals and marathon watch the entirety of Netflix.

Luckily, the universe is smarter than I am.

Three days later, I was on a date. A really good one involving a very cute guy, prickly pear margaritas and live music. This night eventually lead to three things:

1. The realization that fruity margaritas are bullshit and I should stick to the classics.
2. A really cute boyfriend with an even cuter dog.
3. The aforementioned unabashed and abiding love for West Palm which in turn, lead to me exploring and rediscovering the town I grew up in.

I was bored because I was hanging out in suburban parking lots.

Once you get the hell out of the Steak ‘N Shake parking lot, there is an entire world out there.

A world with tattoo parlors and diners who hold art shows. A world featuring teeny little holes in the walls serving the best tacos, arepas and falafel sandwiches I’ve ever eaten (I don’t know who makes the creamy garlic sauce at the Middle Eastern joint on 5th but I love you).

A world where you can practice yoga on the beach. A world with a five day waterfront art and music festival where you see Trombone Shorty and Gary Clark Jr. rewrite the book on what it means to be a musician.

A world with a brewery where you can buy a beer that tastes like breakfast, farmer’s markets with teeny little piggies that you can pet while munching on the best apple cider donuts and where you can play bocce while sipping on champagne.

A world awash in live music – be it huge national acts or just a man and his acoustic guitar.

This world is interesting and colorful and diverse and it’s mine. Waiting for me – bright, juicy and ripe with promise just outside my front door.

I don’t just reside here; I live in West Palm.

And I have never felt more alive.

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Don’t Panic Or, Teddy Roosevelt Was Right

​M​y 31st birthday is less than a week away and when I realized this, I freaked out.

Actually, no. To say I freaked out is stretching the truth to the point of breaking it.

I went full Muppet.

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You never go full Muppet.

And in between the panicked screaming, my inner monologue kicked in:

Dude. You have no idea what you’re doing, you know that right? Oh and everyone else knows it too

You know what everyone else’s lives look like? Anthropologie spreads. They’ve formed their lives on the bedrock of financial stability, they’ve got super cute and precocious kids and they are so stupid in love that they make McAdams and Gosling from The Notebook look like DiCaprio and Winslet from Revolutionary Road.

They never eat popcorn for dinner and they stay skinny no matter what they eat but they also order steamed vegetables as a side instead of saying things like, “Yeah. I want to shovel as many cheese fries in my face as you’re legally allowed to serve me.”

They can do crow pose without crashing on their faces, their nails are always manicured and they all know how to do that stupid sock bun thing. And tie it up with a bow.

Regina George ain’t got shit on my inner monologue.

​Then I stopped, I took a deep breath and I ran Regina George over with a damn bus. ​

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Dudes. My life is awesome.

I live in paradise where the average yearly temperature is 75 ​degrees. ​​ I am rocking the hell out of pigeon pose in yoga, I love where I work, I talk to my best friends every single day, there’s a solid chance I might be going to Austin City Limits this year, I’m definitely seeing Lionel Richie, Cee-Lo and The Bangles live, I’m never more than 24 hours and a phone call away from fancy gin cocktails or amazing tacos and I get to hang out with cute boys and their cuter dogs.

​Oh and when I eat popcorn for dinner? It’s fancy as fuck because I top it with chili powder, cumin, salt and fresh lime zest. ​

​I could focus on all the things I don’t have or all the things I should have but Roosevelt was right – comparison is the thief of joy and when I’ve got so much great stuff in my life, how could I possibly not be ecstatically joyful for every damn minute of it?

So, here’s to 31. Here’s to appreciating the good, living a life beyond compare and being happy, wild and free like all good things.

And gin. Because God, what are we – savages?

Sometimes You Just Have To Put On Lip Gloss and Pretend To Be Psyched Or, Mindy Kaling is My Spirit Animal

I was never a Carrie.

Nor was I ever a Miranda, a Samantha, a Rachel, a Monica, a Summer, a Cordy, a Sookie, a Veronica or even a Liz Lemon (although I can relate to night cheese).

The women on television were merely that – women on television.

Growing up, I didn’t have on-screen role models.

If I wanted to see a dusky, doe-eyed dame, I had to resort to Bollywood…and I’m the girl least likely to twirl around on a mountaintop with some swarthy young suitor, coyly waiting for a kiss to be blown in my general direction.

Despite the fact that I grew up in a town where everyone looked like me, the people on the telly were mostly white, sometimes black and all my little dollies had blonde hair because they didn’t make Cabbage Patch Kids with tawny skin and dark brown eyes.

And this was the norm.

Twenty years later, The Office introduced Kelly Kapoor.

Initially a throwaway role intended to highlight Michael Scott’s racism, Kelly Kapoor grew into a much larger character and is responsible for some of the show’s funniest moments (watch any interaction between Kelly and Ryan).

And for the first time, there was a character on network television like me.

I’m not even talking about the implications of someone who looks like me (although, that is huge because fucking finally, right?) but at long last here was an Indian character who didn’t have a thick accent nor an advanced degree in engineering. An Indian character who wasn’t a spelling bee winner or a mathlete (no disrespect to math enthusiast/bad-ass MC Kevin Gnapoor). An Indian character who didn’t drive a cab or work at a 7/11.

There was an Indian character like me – someone who likes pink (the color), Pink (the singer) and basically anything that’s awesome. A smart girl who wasn’t a nebbish social misfit. Someone whose middle name was her father’s name and she hates it! She hates it!

The Office ended and Mindy Kaling went on to create, write and star in The Mindy Project – a sitcom where she plays a doctor, briefly dates Timothy Olyphant and names her bad-ass alter-ego, Beyonce Pad Thai.

Sista did it for herself.

And now, not only is there someone like me on television, but there’s someone in the public eye who is like me.

A curvy Indian woman who likes to play dress-up. .

An Indian female writer (who named her character ‘Mindy Lahiri’ after one of my favorite writers, Jhumpa Lahiri) who can opine about both Modern American literature and how the series would have been different had Neville Longbottom been The Chosen One.

Someone who consumes pop culture like popcorn and has probably had popcorn and wine for dinner more times than she can count.

Someone who fangirls the fuck out over a pair of glittery Jimmy Choos and the ridiculous jewelry at Forever 21 that turns your fingers green.

Mindy Kaling is totally the girl I’d most like to get dosas and gin cocktails with. Because Indian food is fucking delicious and I’m sure that both of our mothers probably made way better sambar.

Mindy Kaling is my long-awaited role model. Mindy Kaling is my homegirl. Mindy Kaling is my spirit animal.

And this isn’t just because she likes the same shit I do or because I can relate to being a curvy brown girl.

Mindy Kaling is my role model because she did it.

She grew up in the same era as me and instead of resigning herself to the fact that people like her aren’t represented in the media, she basically said, “Fuck that noise” and wrote her own damn fairytale.

And because of her – I’m not a Carrie or a Charlotte or some sniveling whiny little cry Buffy.

I’m a Mindy.

mkal

And that is fucking awesome.

Adventures in Group Texting: The Bougie Girl Edition

As is the case with most things in life – Mindy Kaling is right.

She’s right about frozen Indian food being terrible and she’s right about how if you’re gonna be a mess, you should be a hot mess and she’s so right about casting Timothy Olyphant as a love interest on her show but mostly, she’s right about the notion of best friends.

I have best friends. Plural. To those pedants out there who stubbornly like to point out that, “Best means best and you can only have one,” – let me allow my girl Mindiana Jones to roll a boulder of truth your way:

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My tier involves my sister (who pulls quadruple duty as both my hero and my favorite person to watch terrible television with), Biffle (a man I’ve known for half my life and one who I can hold conversations with even if he’s not in the same zip code) and my fellow bougie girls, D and Ashley – two lionhearted dames I would not hesitate to share the cheese plate with…and I don’t share the cheese plate with anyone.

I live in South Florida, D lives in Central Florida and Ashley lives in North Florida. Considering the state is almost 450 miles long, that puts a serious kibosh on quality time together.

However, technology. Emails, Google Hangout and my personal favorite – the group text.

Today, I had the following conversation via group text:

D: These group texts make my life complete.
A: They make me sad.
D: Awwww, no! See? I’m happy

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D: Damn, I’m a catch.

J: Why do they make you sad, love?
A: Imagine our lives everyday together 🙂 Or at least in the same city.
D: It would be awesome so let’s make it happen one day!

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J: This is the face of a happy bitch eating some clementines!*

D: I HAVE ONE TOO!

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J: Clementine twins like a motherfucker!**

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D: Twinsies!

A: Y’all are so cute!

D: Selfie! Selfie! Selfie!
J: Let’s see that gorgeous face, Ash!

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J: DAMN GIRL!
D: Shit, you sexy.
A: Bahaha. Jaime, I’m not convinced you’re wearing clothes.
D: Hahahaha.
J: There is a STRONG likelihood that I’m not***

Distance is lousy but the advent of technology? That is a beautiful thing. Because now, the people I love are only as far away as my phone and there’s a lot of comfort to be derived from that. It’s modern day magic. Instead of clicking your heels three times, you click some keys and before you know it – you’re home. And there’s no place like it.

* Or the face of some sort of manic woodland creature.
** Of course I’m the first one to drop the F Bomb. Because, of fucking course, right?
*** Kidding. Of course, I was wearing clothes. I mean, it was only 72 degrees outside. Dear God, I don’t want to freeze to death.

Hell, I Still Love You, New York Or, People Change But Songs Remain

Bahrain, Belize, Bermuda, Berlin, Bali – no matter where you go, music remains.

The opening chords of Big Star’s Thirteen always sound sweet. Marvin always makes me wanna holler and Bruce? Well, hell – he’s my backup heartbeat that reminds me it ain’t no sin to be glad I’m alive.

Music is the love that never lets you down.

I listen to music constantly – in my office, in the car and in my head. I write about music, I buy books other people have written about music, I lose my voice and find myself at concerts and once, I fractured my ankle trying to meet the band.

A couple of months ago, I had the following conversation:

Me: Dude. Kings of Leon are playing with Stevie Wonder, John Mayer and Alicia Keys in Central Park.
J: You want to go?
Me: Seriously?
J: Seriously.

And so last Saturday, I spent the day on the Great Lawn in the late fall sunshine listening to some of my favorite musicians.

– Kings of Leon – I missed them because I was waiting AN HOUR AND A HALF to spend $4 on a bottle of water (sidebar: Dude! How can you talk about providing potable water to people across the ocean when you can barely provide it to people at the concert?) but it sounded good. I really want to see them again…for the first time and can’t wait until they go on tour.

– Alicia Keys – She was fine but I was really hoping Jay Z would step out on-stage because shit, he made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can. Also, totally heartbroken by the fact that she didn’t perform How Come U Don’t Call Me? Life Rule #6 – if you have a Prince song in your repertoire, you perform that shit.

– John Mayer – Mind-blowingly, face-meltingly amazing. No whammy bar, no bullshit. Just straight up guitar work that launched him straight to the Do Not Miss list alongside the likes of Bruce Springsteen.

– Stevie Wonder – Bono comes out to introduce him, right? And Bono does my favorite thing in the world – he evangelizes about music.

I am not a religious girl in any capacity but I believe in music. The power and the glory and the majesty and the ministr…Aw, shit. Lemme just turn things over to Bruce. He does it better than me anyway.

I may not believe in the Lord but I can certainly get down with making a joyous noise and that’s what Stevie Wonder sounded like – unmitigated joy.

He played every song you’ve ever fallen in love with. He played a variety of covers from The Beatles’ Daytripper to John Lennon’s Imagine to Marvin Gaye’s How Sweet It Is and he played flawless, brassy versions of Superstitious and Higher Ground.

And my little red heart filled up like a balloon and I almost floated away amidst starlight and skyscrapers because when bass meets brass? Magic happens.

Sweet Comic Valentine Or, Happy Valentine’s Day 2012

A couple of years ago, Augs made me this awesome Valentine’s Day slideshow.

It featured Ron Livingston…and a series of disparaging captions touting Augs’ superiority over the most attractive man in Hollywood/the known universe.

This was the final image.

Those blue lines are tears. See, he’s sad because Augs is better than him. Yeah…

So, to the man who lets me eat off his plate, dances with me, kisses my shoulder and works to make me laugh even though he knows I’m an easy mark – Happy Valentine’s Day. I love you the most.

Yes. Even more than Ron Livingston.

Real World/Road Rules Challenge: Battle of the Exes Recapstasy Or, Episode One: Love is a Battlefield

Welcome to the Ex Games!

The Real World (and now defunct Road Rules) is about one thing. No, not exploring new places and cultures while learning about the multifaceted pastiche that is America. It’s about swapping as much bodily fluid as possible, So the 22nd season kicks off with 24 human petri dishes looking to win big.

At the center of this shitstorm of cray is host and champion BMXer, TJ Lavin. For those new to the Recapstasy – we love Teej, Our boy is sane, rational, fair and the best person on the show. If I may be so bold as to bite from Fitzgerald, Teej believes in you as you would like to believe in yourself. And nowhere is this more evident than when he says, “You killed it!”

Contestants are covered in this post, fake fantasy (Team Dirty Half Dozen) is covered here and as for the game itself? The song remains the same:

All contestants participate in a Challenge.
Winners of the Challenge gain immunity and celebrate by vodka-punching their liver.
Losers of the Challenge (and a team picked by the winners) are thrown into The Dome — a winner-takes-all battle royale whose name is meant to evoke imagery of Thunderdome…or Mark Long’s receding hair line.
Dome winners get to stay and play another day; losers pack their bags and head home. Maybe there’s some hate sex thrown in there too. I don’t know.

Everyone up to speed? Alright, let’s get down to business.

The cast lands in the land of easy divorce – the Dominican Republic – and gather in The Dome to partner up.

Immediately, Jasmine and Tyrie start sniping at each other, Leroy admits to being scared of Naomi, which makes sense because she’s pretty explicit about her desire to murder Leroy and any girl with whom he hooks up and Mandi says she doesn’t plan on kissing anything but the final paycheck. That’s cute, Blondie but we all know that’s not true because dude, you dated Wes! Standards — you do not has them, Mandi.

Teej explains the stakes:

First place goes home with $150K
Second place earn a cool $100K
Third place earn $40K.

The house is lush and decorated with framed photographs of each couple. Some are sweet and some, like the one of Wes and Mandi actually engaging in intercourse are just gross. Oh, not because of the act. More because the idea of Wes copulating with anyone/thing is enough to inspire a Tim Gunn-ian vow of celibacy, if not a mad desire to plunge your genitals into lye.

Too much? Too much.

Onto the Challenge!

Challenge: Give Me Some Honey

Two platforms suspended above the water and connected by a beam.

The contestants have 10 minutes to transfer honey from a bathtub to a container using only their bodies. So basically, the cast mates are to slather themselves in the honey, slip-and-slide across the beam to the other platform where their teammate is waiting to scrub all the honey off into a pot. Then, they switch it up.

Unlike previous challenges, falling into the water does not result in an immediate disqualification.

Yeah. It’s just as disgusting as it sounds and is ruining honey for me. Wait, is that Kenny? No? OK, back to being disgusted again.

Before the challenge starts, CT tells Diem that he’s going to molest her when they get up there in order to procure a win. You know what? Here, take my purse. Just please don’t hurt me, CT.

The game gets under way and the contestants are doing way better than I expected. Zito and Heather scare the vets by performing really well and Dustin busts out with, “This is way thicker than I thought it would be.” I get the feeling he’s said that sentence before. Mark and Robin fill the entire bucket before the time limit expires and CT almost falls off the beam but is saved by his “cat-like reflexes.” The same cannot be said for Nate whose chunky butt falls off the beam four times and you know what that means.

Teams Bananas+Camilla and Mark+Paula go head to head to determine who will be the power couple.

Bananas and Camilla win the challenge easily and even better, Camilla gets some serious love from Teej who proclaims her to be tough.

Challenge Winners:  Bananas and Camilla

Challenge Losers: Nate and Priscilla

And now, my favorite part of the game – the politicking.

Wes wants to get under Camilla’s skin and read her like a book. Nice mixed metaphor there, Gingerbread. Unfortunately, Wes is a moron and doesn’t play “the game” nearly as well as Bananas and gets shut the fuck down, leading him to be mad at his mouth.

Yes, he actually said that.

Dome Contestants: Nate and Priscilla versus Wes and Mandi. Holy shit, Bananas. Way to destroy your enemy alliance right off the bat.

Dome Challenge: X Knocks The Spot.

The goal is to jump and duck to avoid being knocked off a platform by a slowly rotating fan blade.

Priscilla gets knocked off early, leaving Nate to shoulder this burden all on his lonesome. He’s going to go until he dies, though….until he gets bumped off 15 minutes later.

Adios San Diegans. You stay classy.

Dome Winners: Wes and Mandi

Back at the house, CT and Diem are having a serious discussion about their relationship. Lots of messy feelings there and I’m sure they’ll come to a head soon enough.

Recapstasy:

The Dirty Half Dozen are off to a lame start. All points this week were accrued by the Ginger Ninja himself:

Winning the elimination challenge: +10 (Wes)
References to “The Game”: +5 (Wes)

A grand total of 15. Man, I miss Adam R. Why they hell aren’t he and Nany on this show? I would be swimming in points.

And finally:

Quote of the Week: “Can someone please kill me in my sleep so I don’t have to do the Challenge tomorrow?” — Naomi.

Obviously, girl is in it to win it.