Uptown Block Party

So the other day, my boyfriend and I went to a local block party at a neighbourhood park with a few friends from our charity league plus a friend of mine from college. And man, they had me at Mediterranean gyros from a food truck. I was sold. Plus, Bob Schneider was playing and if you’re not from Texas & haven’t heard of him, I’m not surprised. He’s a local to Austin and is pure Texan country. But you’re probably wondering about the segway between gyros and country music. It works, promise.

The Uptown Block Party was a blast. They had food trucks (warm gyros covered in feta and lamb, yummmmmm), Peroni the Italian beer sponsored (don’t worry, Mom, we went over this), and there was live music. I was with great friends dancing on the lawn and trying to pet all the dogs I could without making my own jealous when we got home. It was a blast. 

I’m not entirely sure how they got Bob Schneider to headline a freaking block party but they did. And he was super interactive with the small-ish audience. He’s hilarious, plays acoustic guitar, and is a blast live. My boyfriend and I danced together, were probably a little nauseating, but it was worth it.

I guess what I’m trying to say that even though they had food trucks, a great band, and I was with good friends, it was just as much fun to do something free in the neighbourhood, go to a local park, and just have fun. If there’s something like this near you, I highly suggest going. Worst case scenario, you’ll have a story to tell and suggestions for next year’s block party!

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The Sun & Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

I’m sure you’ve seen some of Rupi Kaur’s poetry all over your social media and it’s probably made you cry. Or at the very least, pulled at your heart strings just a little bit. Unless you’re the Grinch or that guy who says ‘Bah Humbug’ during the holiday season every year.

Rupi Kaur writes poems on everything from being an immigrant to falling in love to being victim to sexual violence & incest. Her stuff is powerful, poignant, and gut wrenching at the same time. I read her first book, Milk and Honey, earlier this year and thought this second novel of hers would be a similar gut punch. While it was, I wasn’t expecting to have nightmares, flashbacks, and an unexpected catharsis at the end of it.

She’s blunt in her diagnosis of being a child of immigrants and how strenuous it was on her parents to come somewhere new and with a significant language barrier. Her work is novel in its simplicity and it’s no shocking development that The Sun & Her Flowers is yet again a bestseller for Kaur. Her pieces are short, sweet, and to the point. They pack a punch harder than Tyson and Mayweather combined but with the virality of something you can’t stop thinking about it, even when you don’t want to.

Kaur is brilliant. Her work came to success thru social media and the day & age where we passionately look for something to cling to when we’re so unsure mentally and politically. For me at least, Kaur put my own pain and triumph into words. She made things in my past come to light and made me face them head on not because I was afraid but because I was ready to tackle them. I wasn’t alone after reading her work and I’m beyond thankful for that.

Whenever somebody can take trauma into words that are poignant and not condescending, I’m in awe. And i’m thankful for the addition to the ever changing conversation. With the ever growing need for the arts, especially poetry, we need authors and poets like Rupi Kaur to be unashamed in their past and vigilante in their futures.

Be warned, this book is frank in its discussion of sexual violence, abuse, and immigration. If you’re in a spot where you can read about this subject matter, please do. It will take your breath away but it will bring you back to center all in the same cover to cover.

Favourite poem: I woke up thinking the work was done/I would not have to practice today/how naive to think healing was that easy/when there is no end point/no finish line to cross/healing is everyday work 

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Peterson

First off, this book is a series of essays about famous women we all know — ie, Hillary Clinton, Kim Kardashian, Lena Dunham, etc — and all have strong opinions about, whether positive or negative. And second off, it’s nothing quite like I expected. Which I’m still trying to figure out if that’s a positive for me or not.

Originally, when I heard about this book, I thought the essays were penned by the women they’re about. But each woman portrayed is an image of something in our society that women aren’t necessarily supposed to be. Like too naked, too queer, or too loud. And all the essays are by Anne Helen Peterson, diving into what it means to be a woman today and be accused of being less than femininely perfect.

It’s a fascinating read and demands that you analyze these women thru Peterson’s lens and see if the points she brings up ring true for you. Taking, for example, the essay about Serena Williams, Peterson shares Williams’s history, how she was introduced to the game, and for being an African American woman who’s beyond successful in what’s typically presented as a white person’s sport. Then she pulls apart how the media and casual conversations attaches adjectives like “too strong” or “too masculine” or “too muscular” to Williams like it’s perfectly acceptable to criticize a person’s body when it’s not seen as the norm for something.

With Kim Kardashian or Nicki Minaj or Hillary Clinton or any of the women in this book, there are strong opinions about them. The adjectives we use daily to describe these powerful and strong women can be nothing short of ridiculous. And while at times Peterson’s prose is a little in your face at times if you’re not used to a women throwing caution to the wind and being an unapologetic feminist, she demands that you look in the mirror and see how you yourself see these women as well as how you address them.

To be honest, it took me a bit to read this book. Not because it was dense or uninteresting or material I didn’t want to dive more into, but because it was material requiring me to think. We’re so used to throwing these words around about women that they’re too much of something and not enough women. When the reality is that we live in a world where women can quite literally be anything they want and are still susceptible to ridiculous questions about their ideologies, their weight, their age, etc. And not to mention the wage gap or the inability to grasp that a woman can in fact know football routes in addition to STEM and fashion.

It’s a crazy world out there right now and I’m tired of the division amongst women. It’s books like Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud that take a critical lense to feminism, the lack of intersectionality, and what it means to be a woman in the public eye. This book may not be for the hearts unwilling to be exposed to new ideas but it is for those who are too much of something and refuse to fit into a box.

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I can’t remember how I heard about this book but I’m sure glad I did. Maybe in Another Life is totally a beach read that you must have in your library if you’re getting over a bad breakup, need a reminder that love does exist out there somewhere, or if you believe in parallel universes and the butterfly effect. Or, ya know, you just need a good beach read that doesn’t take much brain cells or neurons to get thru.

I’m fairly certain I finished this book in about a day or so, give or take. Maybe thats because I needed a good mind numbing book or maybe it’s that i heavily relate to the protagonist, Hannah. The book starts off with her moving back to LA from New York City, fresh off an affair with a married man. She’s worked a few jobs since graduating college and lived in more than a few cities across the country. If you know me in real life, that’s me. I’ve moved 5 times to 4 different states in about 5 years. And let me tell you, it’s not easy. It’s confusing, weird, and I’m still not entirely sure what I’m doing. But i”m starting to be a lot happier than I was a few years ago. I’ll take that as a win.

Tangent aside, I relate heavily to the protagonist. And this novel, though fiction, is set up in an interesting way. The first chapter is present day, Hannah moves back to LA. Goes out with her friend Gabby and meets an old high school boyfriend, Ethan, where there’s still some unresolved ties left to be dealt with. At the end of the night, when Gabby decides to go home, does Hannah stay out with Ethan? Or does she go home early?

Therein lies the rest of the book. Every other chapter explores what would have happened if Hannah stayed out or if she went home. There are some overlapping characters that it seems like she would have met regardless and some overlying themes, like a freaking unexpected pregnancy by said married man. Don’t worry, I’m not giving away anything too major here.

It’s a really interesting read that explores the could bes and the what ifs that we all have about ex significant others.  That if we chose differently or if our car didn’t break down or xyz event, how would our lives end up? What kind of people would we be if we made different choices or were in different circumstances? It’s fascinating to think about, as long as you don’t go down the rabbit hole for too long.

This is a really easy read, especially if you’re laying out in the sun by some open water with your drink of choice nearby. It won’t necessarily rock your world or teach you quantum mechanics anytime soon. But it will make you think about your life and your choices and that one ex we all have that got away. This book is delightful and fun and witty and I love that it’s set in one of my loves, The City of Angels.

4/5 

“Good Old Days” by Macklemore & Kesha

Take two of my favourite music artists, have them create a song together, and I’ll be jamming for the next week, at the very least, if not longer. I’ve been listening to Macklemore since my senior year in college (5 years ago, barf) since he’s a Seattle native and I went to school just down the highway 5 from there in Tacoma. And oh, Kesha, my fiesty sparkly love you. I love her, her strength, and her music. I don’t know which part i love the most if i’m being honest.

Anyway, I follow them both on social media and when I heard they were collaborating on a song together, I was ECSTATIC to say the least. It’s a fun song that’ll quite literally make you miss the good old days — maybe the whole point of the song but anyway.

It’s got a fun beat and is in line with both their current music. It’s got a message, it doesn’t condescend, and it makes you think. Good Old Days” is that song for reflection that you can still bob your head to in the car and sing every word. It makes you think how far you’ve come and how far left you still have to go before you’re golden.

It’s a great song. Both Macklemore and Kesha have new albums out. I highly suggest you buy their music, stream their songs anywhere you can, and keep growing. Keep doing you, boo. Listen to “Good Old Days” wherever songs are streamed and bought these days.

The World According to Star Wars by Cass R. Sunstein

Okay, first off, I know I don’t look like a Star Wars fan but as I’m sure many can attest, Star Wars is my jam. It’s like Rocky but the nerdy version and less fighting meat racks & running up stairs. Star Wars reminds me of the days and weekends spent with my brother and dad just watching the original trilogy and trying to figure out who shot first. Which was Han — am I right or am I right?

Anyway, I picked this book up on a win because a blog I follow recommended it and I needed a geeky yet fun book to read. I honestly thought that this was a fun read about some nuances to Star Wars trivia that I didn’t know before. But what I didn’t realize is that I’d finish this in 48 hours (because, ya know, sleep and work. adulting stuff) and learn more than I thought I would about religion, philosophy, and political rebellion in terms of pop culture and potentially the world’s largest movie phenomenon.

I almost want to read this book again right now just to absorb all the knowledge dropped on me in 180 pages — it’s a short read with a ton of references to studies, papers, and more that were actually done on the relevance of Star Wars in today’s society and culture. It makes sense if you think about it and if you’ve seen every installment, including the less than stellar trilogy in the early 2000’s.

Anyway, the author, Cass R. Sunstein, is one of the United States’ most cited law professors both stateside and internationally. He’s married to the US ambassador to the UN and has been published more times than I can count on any limb. His main argument is that while Star Wars is a timeless installment in our media files, it also draws a lot of parallels to modern and current affairs.

Take for instance, the Empire v. the Resistance. throughout Amerian history, when has there not been some sort of counter culture or outright rebellion against the government? For Christ sake, we were founded on one when our Four Fathers led a revolution against England on religious freedom and taxation with representation. Sunstein (what a fun last name by the way) dives into how each factor of Star Wars is basically a metaphor for strife, overcoming hardship, and making something out of nothing. He also highlights the potential reasons why a movie like Star Wars was such a hit and became such a classic today. It’s mostly, as with anything, timing and a bit of luck. Plus, in the 70’s, there was Nixon, and from what I’ve heard from first hand accounts and history books — the people needed any form of good they could get.

Additionally, I was shocked to find out that not only George Lucas but also Fox Films, who financed the original trilogy, didn’t even think Star Wars was going to be a success and that it’s a loose remake of the old Flash Gordon series. Star Wars makes you feel good. It makes you realize that there are people with truly good intentions and that there is real evil in the world. We’ve all got both sides in us, it just depends on which side we feed the most and what circumstances we fall into when we need to make the decision the most.

Read this book. You need to. It puts our history into perspective and how we can learn from the past without fear of knowing we’ll repeat the same mistakes again with our own children.

Favourite quote: Because casual chains are so complex, and because so many events are necessary conditions for others, the idea of a butterfly effect is not at all preposterous. If someone’s dog had gotten sick on an important occasion, or if someone else had stayed home….perhaps everything would have been different. World changing butterflies are everywhere; they define our lives. 

Drugstore Cowboy

So I’m in Deep Ellum because, honestly, I needed time to be surrounded by my fellow hipsters and to have some me time. Deep Ellum in Dallas is the cliché hipster neighbourhood here. It’s grungy, there’s coffee shops everywhere, and bars that probably serve drinks I cannot even pronounce. Plus, everything seems to be fair trade, vegan friendly, and it feels comforting to be in this neighbourhood for some reason. Maybe it’s the concert venues, maybe it’s the constant flow of coffee & donuts, or maybe it’s just the gritty feeling of it mixed with up & coming. It’s probably the gentrification of it that feels familiar of the Bay unfortunately.

But anyway. I saw Drugstore Cowboy when I was getting brunch with a few friends the weekend before next door. I wanted to stop in but after brunch, i couldn’t justify another cup of strong coffee. But I’m definitely glad I stopped in when I did.

I took Sunday morning while my boyfriend went to work to take myself on a date to Deep Ellum and finally check out this super hipster coffee joint out for myself. It looks like it’s almost in an old pharmacy storefront with the reclaimed wood bar and the industrial feel to it. And I’m sure that’s exactly what they’re going for with the name. It perfectly encapsulates Texas with hipster. It’s adorable.

I went for their drip coffee and some water as I’ve had more than my alloted lattes for the week and I’m trying to stick to my diet. But dang, even their drip coffee is strong. It makes me wonder what their espresso drinks are like. Maybe next time I’ll try their lavender or flavoured lattes. Since we all know anything lavender is my jam.

This place is especially cute because it reminds me a little of my old neighbourhood in Chicago. It has open mic nights and an open jam session too. Of course they’re way past my bed time or else I’d check them out. Maybe next weekend I’ll make myself stay up til 10PM to see what local artists are coming up here. I’m thinking date night with the boo?

I’m not sure if I’ll be frequenting this spot for more than a cup of joe and go but the reclaimed wood tables and cozy feel are definitely a hipster paradise. Plus, they sell kombucha — a major selling point for me, not going to lie. And if you decide to imbibe, their alcohol options are from local Dallas or Texas breweries and they have extensive options available. I’m taking a bit off from drinking so I can really focus on finding work that makes me excited (besides this blog of course!) and it’s really nice to see a spot really dedicate their menus to supporting local companies.

Anyway, if you’re in the Dallas area and need a real dose of hipster, check out Drugstore Cowboy. Their coffee is strong, the baristas are cool, and you’ll have some quality people watching — even at 10AM on a Sunday!