The Gateway to the West: an Outsiders Perspective

I was in The Lou this past weekend, this is a synopsis and overview of the weekends events, as submitted to Alive Magazine.
The first thing I noticed is that there are a lot of festivals and a lot of culture surrounding St. Louis. The city is definitely a lively one. One that feels fully alive, whether good or bad, it changes and escalates quickly. Being a person who travels quite a bit, I find this most exquisite and intriguing, especially to find in a city within the United States.

My friends and I traveled here from New York City, Jefferson City, and Milwaukee for an art reception opening that Sunday. We had the whole weekend to explore.

Our welcoming committee was a group of volunteers and festival organizers in The Grove. After helping out we stood in line for 45 minutes for two full racks smothered in four delectable sauces at Pappy’s Smokehouse. Our tummy’s full we went to drop off our suitcases at the St. Louis Union Station Hotel so we could continue our exploration. A quick drop-off and car exchange, we take off back to The Grove for the true Wampus Arts & Music Festival Experience.

This story goes deeper though, as with every life changing event, there are layers. Let us delve a bit beneath the surface.

We enter the gates, they stamp our hands, flashes of light, we approach the doors of a hollow room. The violinist begins his set. The crowd is scattered at best, but the man stands in front of the audience and tells us that everything that comes out of his violin is a spiritual channeling of whatever’s supposed to come out of his soul in those moments. I bite. I sit down on the floor. A cloud of smoke fills my peripherals, the man with the cigarette tubes — Oh, how I love the sweet strawberry scent!

A few more people join me in this musical sit-in. A fairy creature emerges from the crowd and dances for us her angelic song. She moves, oh lord, how she moves in mysterious ways! The lights on her wings alive, swaying to the music, each a different wavelength than the next. She disappears around the corner. Dixon’s Violin thanks her and every shaking soul body in the room becomes more attuned to what’s happening.

An inkling feeling in my intuitive gut, I reach out for my friends hand and tell her to do the same to the stranger sitting next to her, she tells him to pass it on and we become a chain-linked fence of love absorbing all the positive energy and reflecting it back to the power chords he strums through that beautiful electric violin. He assures us the power in following our dreams rather than living someone else’s. We applaud.

Another magical lady steps forward and greets us with her rainbow light entourage. Sensory overload, the hula-hoop seems to speak it’s own language because when it spins up and back down again it seems to spell out words that I can’t quite understand. She disappears. The music slows down. Time regains consciousness, slowing the momentum and we are pleasantly plopped back into reality.

Saturday had us greeted by a beer crawl in both The Grove and Cherokee Street neighborhoods. If I must suggest the flavor that kept my taste buds spinning I would certainly select the Strawberry Wheat Ale from Public House Brewing Company. We were given free samples of kombucha, sweet sticky rice, a turquoise hair extension, magazines, stickers, glasses. We sang an Adele style karaoke with a street performer across the street from the South City Art Supply Co. We danced in the street with a wedding party coming out of church. Then when all was said and done and the sun set again, we found ourselves in an Uber to the other side of town once more.

Our last day in The Lou was spent crossing the bridge to St. Charles for the opening of Freedom Imagined, Freedom Lived at the J. Scheidegger Center for the Arts at Lindenwood University.

If I were to speak of any city in which anything can and will happen, I would certainly suggest St. Louis, for those that are bold and daring.

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Party Bus pt. Un

It’s been years since I spoke to my friend from New York over the phone. Him and his girlfriend called me last night about a trip we have planned to St. Louis in a couple weeks. We all ended up talking on the phone for half an hour laughing about how the universe explodes around us when we’re drunk together. After I was done I knew I had to publish this memory. Road trips to San Francisco seem to be the theme these last few days! Anyways, enjoy the ride 🙂

A good colleague of mine told me at the start of this 48 hour period, “Libby, there will never be a time tonight where this cup will be empty.”

He wasn’t lying. I woke up and found my pimp cup near my closet, full of mystery liquids from the night before.

It was 6:00AM, everyone but my friend from New York, Chris, was gone. The house was destroyed; beads, streamers, glitter -everywhere! Someone broke the couch in half. Another person cracked the stove top. What the hell happened?

I’m not completely sure, but what I do know is how it got to that point.

My friend got in from New York Thursday night around 11:00PM. We woke up the next day and rented a car. We picked up my friend Lucas, bought the liquor, decorated the house and head off to Maria’s for the last supper.

Everyone decked out in their fanciest prom attire for a true night that only five people would remember. I entered the room after the last drop off and everyone was there. They made an announcement and handed me my holy grail decked out in a glitterati ‘PIMP’ sprawled across the cup along with signatures signifying my end in this place.

Paul leans in to assure me that it will never be empty. Suddenly we hear the honking and we know: the bus has arrived!

Everyone huddled in the living room, quiet and still, eagerly waiting. It looked more like the damn police had just arrived to bust the party then what was about to ensue.

Maria hurried back to the house and gave us her rules for the night, “Now listen up! What happens on the party bus, stays on the party bus! Also, have fun!”

The flood gates open, everyone pours out of the house and onto the front lawn, I showed my ID and entered the Mecca. Paul came in behind me. We hugged and jumped around, “We finally made it, Paul! We made it! THIS is our life!”

I looked out the door and saw the crowd of people waiting to get in. We exceeded capacity. A maximum of 35 people my ass. We had 45 people on that bus. It felt more like a club on wheels with all of my closest friends from the past year along with some people that I had no idea who the hell they were.

I plug my iPod into the jack, point to Maria, “THIS ONE’S FOR YOU!” [Insert Paso by Sak Noel] She starts hooting and hollering. The bus rolls off on its two hour tour; let the debauchery ensue!

Needless to say, “Yo paso de todo,” became the heedless motto for the night, but in accordance to Maria’s initial rules, “What happens on the party bus stays on the party bus!”

Party Bus pt. Deux

It was 6:00AM, everyone but my friend from New York, Chris, was gone. The house was destroyed; beads, streamers, glitter -everywhere! Someone broke the couch in half. Another person cracked the stove top. What the hell happened?

I’m not completely sure, but what I do know is what we were going to do next.

I woke Chris up from his fetal position on the couch, “Yo, the house is DESTROYED. Wanna go to San Francisco?”

He blinked once, “Yep!”

So we pack up the car, drive the nine hours to Frisco and die. I mean, the first thing we did was find a hotel there and I passed the fuck out. Chris went out and explored the city. I just laid in bed, terminated.

I wake up about 9:00AM. Chris slipped out at some point to attend church services. I search the internet for things to do. I find out about this after hours club that’s open from 6:00AM until 2:00PM. Chris gets back from church.

“Find anything good to check out today?”

“Well, I’ve been researching things and it looks like we could spend a fun day at the aquarium or we could go to this club that opened up a couple hours ago.”

“Well, I ain’t got shit to do for the next 24 hours.”

Club it is! We pull out the unopened bottles of Hypnotiq and Goldschläger. I fill up my PIMP cup with juices and let the party begin! We start sippin’ and tippin’, jumping up and down on the bed, me still in my prom dress from two night’s prior and pink wig. We come up with the brilliant idea to take a shot of Goldschläger and chase it with a shot of Hypnotiq, put that on repeat about five times and let the good times roll. What ensues is Chris and I robbing the mini fridge of the baby bottles of Tanqueray. Dirty mits!

We check up out of that hotel and burst into daylight! What a thrill it is NOT to walk up those damn hills sober, but drunk? Just like a summer breeze, keepin’ it easy!

We stumble down some hill and run into these tourists that were carrying American flags and wearing goofy hats. I wanted to know immediately what this situation was about.

“HEEEEEEEYYY!! You with the hats! What’s all the American flags and crazy hats business about?”

“We’re actually coming from the Veteran’s Day parade!”

”Oh, it’s Veteran’s Day? I didn’t even know! Chris, did you know?”

Chris has no idea what is even going on.

“Heyy, can my friend and I wear your hats and you take photos with us?”

“Yeah, that’s totally fine.”

I grab the flag so fast and wave it with every patriotic bone in my body.

We give them back the hats.

“We’re actually on a scavenger hunt and we’re looking for a specific cathedral.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, there’s a church looking building over there. It’s probably that!”

“Okay, bye!”

We take off prancing through China Town. I make it about three blocks and I realize I’m still waving the flag. Oh well, too far to turn back now!

We stop for some dank-ass dumplings and a few drunk dials. Then we fall into the lap of this club and just like any good kitty, we let it stroke every inch of our party consumed bodies.

The bouncer checks our idea, “You know this club closes in like an hour, right?”

“Yo, chill shawty. We’re here to party and that’s just what we plan to do!”

“Alright, whatever.”

Chris heads straight to the bar, orders us mid-day drinks, and I start raving in the middle of the dance floor with the American flag. We became best friends with everyone on the dance floor and had a photo shoot of our own in the lounge area. I found some girls jacket and Chris wore it out of the bar like a champion. We stumbled out onto the streets, hailed a taxi, and drove off with peace signs in the air to Haight-Ashbury. Chris and I somehow lose each other.

I end up in some store and purchase a tank top dress meant to be worn to a rave. Then I walk into the art supplies store and purchase $20 worth of glitter. Chris and I cross paths as I exit the art store, but he has a new add-on.

“Where the hell did you get that tail?”

“It’s cute! You like it?”

Of course not, but I support every single one of his life choices. We hail another taxi, head to this bomb-ass Italian restaurant that he told me about, have the dankest meal ever, and embark on the journey to find the car.

Officially sober, we get in, drive over the Golden Gate bridge, drive back over the Golden Gate bridge, and head south to Santa Cruz to visit my dear old friend, Mike. We get to Santa Cruz, Chris passes the fuck out, I stay up, eat a bowl of ice cream, and watch the episode of SNL when Rihanna premieres her song Diamondsset to the weirdest, trippy-ass background, which leaves all of us confused.

Chris wakes up and we head back on our overnight nine hour drive back home.

California Love by Tupac

I was reading a post by Serena Sinclair about her trip to Oregon the other day. Today I was going through and saw I hadn’t responded to a comment from her, so I went to the post and wrote back right away! Once I started writing though, the memories all came flooding back from the various road trips from Eugene to San Francisco. It inspired this post and when I thought back to that time, this was the first song that popped in my head.

“Now lemme welcome e’rybody to the wild, wild west…”

Hot rod, 2012 black Dodge Charger, sleek and sexy, that rental car that everyone wanted a ride in, a week to myself, the first ventures to that sunshine state, every song that mentions the name, photographs of the future forever in our hearts a sign of the times, desert sunshine, orange groves, Mt. Shasta, the dam, the copper bridge over blue reflections in an orange canyon, any particular order,

“From Oakland to Sac-town, the Bay Area and back down…”

Fluorescent dreams woven in painted streets, burritos around the downtown sort, a full house of ladies, zumiez along the Haight-Ashbury district, the peacock, Captain America and his glow bright goggles, they can find me in the bookstore buying journals, they can find me in the art store buying glitter, I’ll be damned if they find me anywhere else,

“Cali is where they put their mack down…”

Redwoods on each side, glimmer leaves, “where the fuck is the coast??”, the frustration finds me lost, the coast finds me frightened, a deadly speed limit, we found oceanside selfies, stop in a small village, luncheon with an old neighbour, he buys lunch, I buy my one way ticket to ride [where the fuck is I-5??], zooming across those hilltops, the mountains fly by on a 90 mph magical carpet ride, zoom zoom ZOOOOM!

“Gimme love!”

Two Years in the Making

shark hi-five

I found this old post in a blog I forgot I was apart of from two years ago. It reminded me of what I forgot most about living: to get your life!

I went to the movies this afternoon after my friend told me to watch Lucy. She told me it was everything we discussed in Brazil encapsulated in a film. She spoke with immediacy about how she wanted me to see it so we could talk about it as soon as possible. So, given the urgency, I went to the theater today after hearing about it yesterday -and boy, did it ever inspire me.

It solidified everything I’ve thought about in the last year in a half: we have the ability to become whatever and whoever we want, the only obstacles in our way are the ones we create. We alone create obstructions, we alone can clear our minds and access clarity.

I realized I’m tired of hearing excuses from my friends about them not living their lives. They wish they could do what I do, quit their jobs, move across country, travel the world. I tell them do it, the only times I find regret in my life are when I didn’t follow my heart and intuition in the first place.

Go out! Explore! JUST DO IT. Get drunk, buy a plane ticket to Europe, spend the next three months falling in and out of love with a train driver from Mexico City, have your coat stolen at a bar in London (which happens to have your debit card, passport, drivers license, student id card, cell phone and ipod in it), spend the rest of the week at the US Embassy trying to prove that you are who you say you are (as if the cute Wisconsin accent everyone else fucking adores isn’t a dead giveaway), dip your toes in the sand of Valencia, party and make-out with British boys, get in fights with your hostel security guards, be homeless, party with strangers from Chile that invite you on their bus, have sex with a man from Portugal, buy a $3 bottle of wine for the pure fact that the bottle is in the shape of a horse, go on dates with men from okcupid to dodgy hookah bars, take selfies with the Trevi fountain, miss people from back home, miss your old life, skype with your new brother about the roadtrip you’re going to embark on when you get home, get home, meet your new brother, party with his friends, have a show in his house lit by candles, smoke weed on the balcony upstairs with complete strangers, discuss life, hang out in a park all day and tour a rich home, pass a hammock in the park and think of your old life, get in the car, drive across a few states, climb a mountain to a creek, worry about dying, have a picnic, visit your brother’s old friend, stay on a farm for a week and smoke weed with the film girl from the upper east side of New York City, have your life crash down around you, have a tarot card reading that depicts and unfolds the next year and a half of your life, become friends with the dog that hates everyone, die climbing another mountain, howl at the moon, graze the countryside with the cows, watch everyone else live and observe instead of participate, get back in your car, drive across another state, meet Charleston, South Carolina’s finest, fly home, be excited to hug your mama and kiss your dog, do it all again on the other side of the country after a 3 day bus ride to Oregon with your best friend, do it all again in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, decide to go against your initial thought process of not traveling abroad for awhile and fucking get a visa for Brazil a week before your trip, GO, don’t just go, go for 4 months, go with a purpose and leave for the same purpose, live in Rio for 2 months with complete strangers, swim in the ocean topless, learn how to drive stick shift where the road ends and the ocean begins, see the way the night sky lights up from the oil rigs offshore, stick your body out of the window of a moving car and feel complete and utter infinite freedom, see the best sunset of your entire being, smoke weed with Rasta guys from Africa, buy anklets with dream catchers on them, make out with everyone, have sex with your friends in the street, spend a day in Iguazu Falls with a Parisian guy who keeps hitting on you, allow him to pay for everything when your debit card doesn’t work, pay him back, buy Pizza Hut for the sole factor that it is the small piece of home that you’ve been missing, lose 25 lbs., go clubbing in Argentina for your birthday, celebrate your birthday with one of your new soulmates and his family, drink a cup of cappucino so a man from the Middle East can read the next two months of your life off the grinds left on the side of the cup, spend 3 days on a bus, embark on a crazy adventure with 4 other exchange participants for Carnival, party your ass off with your new group of friends for a week straight, discuss life and the universe and psychology and philosophy and books and movies and music and experiences with people from all over the world, buy presents for your new sister in Buenos Aires and keep them for yourself (you’ll send her presents from America when you’re back home anyways), have your debit card copied and bank account drained (you’ll never get the money back or an explanation why from the bank either), deal with the fact that you have to have money Western Union’ed to you for the next month, have a British boy hate you because you won’t sleep with him, eat food that strangers cooked you, sing at the top of your lungs, celebrate your Irish heritage at 11:00AM on St. Patrick’s Day because there’s nothing else to do and you want to, buy that damn 6 pack of Heineken with the outrageously high import taxes on it because you’re craving anything that’s not water beer and you love the green bottles, go to Parque Lage every day to meditate because it’s exactly how you imagine your soul looks like, climb the side of a cliff with a stranger that tells you to, fear your own death again, embrace that fear and climb anyways besides you’re with a stranger, feel completely satisfied with your time in South America, explore California by train, and go home, feel the serene peaceful state of mind you now possess after a year and a half of chaotic travel, fuck peace, go against your intuition, move across country for a job, be miserable for a week, quit job, live on your best friends couch for a month, eat pie with her every night of the week, paint her bathroom in your underwear, move home and wonder what it was all for.

Results may vary; so go out and live your life!

The Night Starts Here by Stars

This song just came up on “My Mix” on YouTube and I just have to say, this is my favourite song in the world, not for the rhythm, not for the beat, not for the words, not for the band, none of that nonsense, but for the sole fact of what it represents to me: the culmination of dreams into reality. I’m so glad this song has found it’s way back into my life recently, as it’s the reminder I so much need of who I once was and who I always will be: that carefree child always chasing dreams.

“The night starts here…”

That rainy summer June day, windows open, rainstorm breeze, screen windows, standing on the porch, realizing dreams, lights off, mid-day, desktop computers researching places to live, the giddy space in between realizing you want something and getting it, Portland, Oregon, always Portland, Oregon and what it’ll always mean to me, magic.

“Forget your name, forget your fear…”

Way Down We Go – Kaleo

I’m writing about the present moment because it too will become a memory as time is fleeting. I was watching a documentary on various artists: a potter, a musician, a dancer, a glass blower, an architect. It was just their personal thoughts on creativity, sex, inspiration, and their processes. Currently I have this song on repeat, it’s dusk, the birds are singing their songs, the air is chilly and damp from the short lived storm, and three candles are burning and scenting the air as a slight glow reflects off the two crystals placed in front of them. I’m curled up in a ball against the wall on my bed, my big, white dog is asleep at my feet. These are the thoughts currently pouring out of my mind:

“Whoa, you let your feet run wild…”

I’ve been in the process of writing this book for two years, but the process has been more like, well, there’s this idea that I have and everyone nodding their heads, smiling, telling me it’s a great idea. It doesn’t get much further than that. After watching that documentary I opened the old document I had started. Well, the rough draft copy I submitted to grad school had me rename my friend Xylo. Then I thought, why’d I name him that? All I could think was, “She’s like a xylophone, high-pitched and colourful.”

“We get what we deserve…”

Anyways, after watching that movie, I thought about that Ted Talk with Elizabeth Gilbert where she describes how she knows she will probably never create anything that lives up to Eat, Pray, Love and all I could think was, what is this fascination that creatives have with having this one great masterpiece and trying to outdo it? The mere fact that you’re cognitive about trying to “beat” it already ruins the organic process of creating.

“They will run you down till you crawl…”

Here’s what I wrote:

The Best Piece You’ll Ever Create

The artist is wrong, the public is wrong, the media is wrong, society is wrong, every teacher you ever had, I beg to differ. Creators take a certain pride in what they’ve accomplished and when they’ve seemed to accomplish the best work of their career, they’re asked where do you go from here? How do you trump that masterpiece? A creator should never feel a slave to the masses to produce something that the vast majority will like or even understand. It should be a spiritual process, a primal process, the freedom that exists, the only true freedom that exists is in the fruition of imagination.

Everyone is wrong anyways, the best piece an artist will ever create won’t be a piece, but the life they live.

The greatest creatives that ever lived, the work was interesting because the people were.

“Way down we go…”