NYC Summer Goals!

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Summer in the city means sundresses, rooftops, sidewalk cafes, turning hydrants into sprinklers and, of course The Great Flip Flop Debate (as an island girl, I refuse to give up my flip flops). I’m not a huge fan of the heat, but I’m determined to put down the controller and brave the sun more. So I’ve put together a list of fun summer outings I want to accomplish before September.

Sister Tattoos – Scheduled!

Ride the Thunderbolt

Find the most wild ice cream concoction

Sip fancy cocktails on a rooftop

Pack a picnic and head to a park

Rent kayaks

Explore a new neighborhood on a Citi Bike

Go to an outdoor concert

What’s on your adventure list?

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Lessons New York Will Teach You

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An ongoing list of lessons this great city will eventually teach you…

If you wear a dress, expect your ass to go on display at least 3 times a day. Plan underthings accordingly.

If you accidentally sext your Super, your apartment problems will be solved much faster.

You cannot walk your dog after 10pm in the East Village. Drunk girls WILL mob your dog for pets and gush over how adorable he is. You can’t have a puppy in NYC at all. Same reasons.

Cohabitation seems like a good idea to save on rent and bills. It is not a good idea.

Electric blankets for winter. Ice packs in your pillow case for summer.

It’s expensive to live here, but not to live it up here. Rent includes your membership to the greatest city in the world and endless free/cheap food and entertainment.

San Jose Sidequest: The Winchester Mystery House

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“This house will poison you.” The tour guide warned. Between the toxic red wood and the original lead paint, he meant it literally. The Winchester Mystery House was built by Winchester Rifle Company heiress Sarah Winchester who, as legend puts it, was directed to never stop building by the spirits of people killed by the guns that made her family so wealthy.

It’s a solid ghost story made more interesting by the fact that the layout of the home is so strange and unusual. Cabinets open to reveal solid walls. Stairways end abruptly into ceilings. Doors open into 10 foot drops (or more!). And those are only a few of the oddities within the walls of the sprawling Victorian mansion.

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I believed the legend. I believed it because I lived it for years. In high school and into my Freshman year of college, I was plagued by a reoccurring nightmare where I was running from something chasing me through a bizarre mansion. As I ran through decadent rooms, I’d encounter stairways to nowhere, doors that opened into thin air, windows in the floors, walls that sparkled like embers and floors that shifted. I remember several of the rooms, but the dream always ended in the same place – a blood-soaked room full of candles with a pentacle drawn on the floor and a single light fixture in the center of the ceiling with a dim red light.

At least twice a week I’d wake up crying and sweating, but I had no idea this house in my nightmare was real! Then one night Freshman year of college, I had the TV on as background noise while writing a paper and I heard a creepy voice describing the house from my nightmare. The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. That moment triggered two things: 1) I never had the nightmare again and 2) I knew I had to visit the house someday.

So with my trip to E3 taking me to California, I booked a little side trip to San Jose to finally explore the mansion.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I booked my Mansion and Explore More tours. Was I Sarah Winchester in a past life? Would I feel weird? Would I get sick? Would I end up possessed? I tempered my expectations by reading Captive of the Labyrinth on the plane so I could better understand the facts of Sarah Winchester’s life.

The night before my visit, I pulled a card in my hotel room while thinking of Sarah Winchester’s life. It was the Six of Wands.

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This card is all about harnessing your talents and embracing success to make yourself known, which is exactly what Sarah Winchester did in building this house. Really, in building her life after the tragic deaths of her baby and husband.

 

On Sunday, I arrived at the site super early. The grounds are free to explore and they have a little cafe and gift shop. I didn’t get any ominous feelings walking through the gardens. Then again, I’d never seen the house from the outside before…

All around the sun-soaked grounds, fruit trees stretched their limbs, heavy with pears and apricots. There were even almond trees shading a quiet patio on the north side of the house. The aroma of flowers was overwhelming, but seemed to delight the hummingbirds darting above my head. I didn’t feel anything ominous or dark (despite the massive headache I ended up with all day). In fact, the energy was buzzing with creativity and curiosity.

I sat down in one of the stone rotundas by the front door and pulled more cards. Again I got the Six of Wands. Clearly, the card is Sarah herself.

Next I pulled a card to ask the spirits what I should expect once I entered the house. They gave me the Moon. It was an invitation to the truth. They wanted to set the rumors straight and remind me that I shouldn’t believe everything I hear. Things aren’t always what they seem.

Finally, the guide called my tour number and my group was ushered into the carriage port to begin. Inside the house, I felt comfortable, confused, but safe and curious. We wandered up steps and through narrow hallways. The guide pointed out a set of stairs that led into the ceiling, just like I dreamed. There was a window built into a floor in one room, which I also recognized. And, of course, the well-known door to nowhere (which is visible from outside as well).

We were several rooms in (there are 160 total) before my surroundings got SUPER familiar. The guide took us into a tight cube of a room with doors on every wall (one of which led to a steep drop if opened). In the center of the room was the light fixture from the end room of my nightmare – the one I’d seen covered in blood and filled with candles. The fixture and covering were almost exactly as I knew them to be, but in my version, the light was red and here it was blue. The guide described this as the seance room where Sarah communed with the spirits on what to build next.

A few rooms later, we were in the room with shifting floors. In my dream, the floor was covered in somewhat spongy, moveable panels. As it turns out, in the actual Winchester Mansion there’s a conservatory where Sarah Winchester kept her plants inside a sunny room. The floor panels ARE movable so staff could take them up to water the plants. AND they’re slightly soft, unlike a normal floor. Excess water from the plants would be absorbed and redirected to plants outside in an ingenious irrigation system.

On my second tour, a guide took a smaller group of us through closed off, damaged or unfinished rooms of the house. It was here I saw the “burning ember walls” from my dream. In one of Sarah Winchester’s bedrooms – dubbed the Crystal Bedroom – the walls glittered as the light hit them. As I moved around, the walls sparkled spectacularly. Crushed mica, our guide said, embedded in the wallpaper. It was absolutely stunning.

Sarah Winchester House Crystal Bedroom Crushed Mica Wallpaper

This photo doesn’t do it justice, but the pattern does look a bit like sparkling flames.

There were other rooms I knew – the ballroom, Sarah’s main bedroom – but those three were the most prominent. It was so bizarre to see the house in real life after seeing it so vividly in my dreams for so long. I still don’t know why I dreamed of this place or if there’s any real connection there, but I’m glad I go to see it and end this crazy story.

Have you ever had a wild case of deja vu?

Looking for LA Recommendations!

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I’m heading to E3 in a few weeks, guys! Having never been to LA, Glux set up a map of things we should check out while we’re there, but we need help! I hatehatehate being a tourist, so I’d love to hear about the coolest local spots to check out.

Here’s where we’ve landed collaboratively so far:

I’m likely going out a little longer so I can take a day trip to San Jose and knock the Winchester Mansion off my life goals. And I’m working through my carney connections to get some access to Universal Studios (mostly to do some Jurassic Park 25th Anniversary shopping). Street artist, Invader is currently installing new pixel art on buildings around LA so I’d love to go hunting for some of them! The ones I’ve found in NYC have been all over #GamesIRL.

So where should we eat? Where should we stay? I’m looking at several retro/mid-century style hotels. What should we see? Any good witchy shops? And aside from the big guys and some of my indie darlings, what booths should we check out at E3?

Favorite Places: The Neon Boneyard

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Vegas is a crazy place and not my choice of destinations, honestly. To me, it’s a city that tries so hard to be other places (New York, Paris, Egypt, Italy) that it ends up being its own unique thing that lacks any authenticity.

I was wrong.

Several days around tens of thousands of colleagues drove me to seek solace off the beaten path of The Strip. After the conference ended Thursday, I bee-lined to Downtown Las Vegas to hit up a brewery until the sun went down. Then the magic happened.

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The Neon Museum sits just across the highway from downtown in a drastically more peaceful part of Vegas. They collect and preserve some of the most iconic vintage Las Vegas signs, saving relics from the 50s and 60s “doo wop era” so close to my heart. My hometown of Wildwood, NJ is (or… was) home to the largest concentration of mid-century architecture famous its atomic and space-age themes, including lots and LOTS of neon. My childhood was bathed in a neon glow. The Neon Museum in Vegas actually sells a book about Wildwood in its gift shop. We are somewhat sisters, I suppose.

And while we have a small tribute to the demolished past in our Doo Wop Museum and tiny neon garden, it’s nothing compared to the amazing work the Neon Museum is doing in the desert..

The visitors’ center is the rescued lobby of the former La Concha Motel and now it serves as a gateway to the past.

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Inside the lobby you’ll find a pretty great gift shop and the meeting area for the tour. My guide was super fun and knowledgeable. She told us stories of Las Vegas history and signage over the course of an hour as we walked a long slow loop through broken glass and buzzing electricity.

There’s a second part of the experience – The Neon Boneyard. If you add the Brilliant Experience to our tour, you can access this place and I highly recommend going after dark. In this yard, most of the signs no longer work, but they’re brought back to life through projection mapping in a 40 minute show set to music that transports you back in time to Elvis’ Las Vegas.

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Elton John even made an appearance! For me, seeing and hearing these signs come back to life was an especially emotional moment. I can’t believe I didn’t discover this place two years ago when I took my sister to Vegas for her birthday. She would have loved it.

So if you’re in Vegas, please PLEASE seek this place out and support them. I know you’ll appreciate it and you’ll be helping to preserve something so special.

What’s one of your favorite places?

Favorite Places: Coney Island Brewery

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Since we’ve reached peak craft brewing in this country there aren’t many breweries left where you can feel like a regular or enjoy truly exciting beers. But in a world of IPAs akin to kiddie rides, Coney Island Brewery has earned their hashtags #TakeTheRide and #ThrillYourTastebuds.

On a typical Saturday in summer, you can find me wandering between the brewery and the Freak Bar, sipping beers, emphatically cheering on the sideshow and talking to freaky new friends. Even on winter weekends it’s nice to escape to a place that feels so much like my childhood home in Wildwood, NJ.

Coney Island Brewery Black Lager

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I’m a big fan of their quirky and creative events. In the summer, they host big happenings and can releases at least once a month. My favorite last year was the Cotton Candy Festival. The Cotton Candy Kolsch is one of my favorites so I had to pick up some cans to bring home.. Not too sweet, but perfect for a summer afternoon.

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The Brewery’s Birthday Bash in August was also a total blast. Sideshow performers hung out and did their acts among the crowd Adam Realman, my sideshow professa from Sideshow School 2012, ripped a deck of playing cards in HALF and made my boyfriend bleed trying to replicate that feat of strength.

We spent Super Bowl VII with CIB at Kitchen 21, enjoying our favorite craft beers as the Eagles historically won their first Lombardi. Most recently, we celebrated Valentine’s Day with an excellent beer and chocolate pairing.

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Freak Show Saturdays are a great opportunity to get freaky with flavors. As CIB describes their Randall infusions:

Every Saturday a new, mad, reckless experiment in beer science will be conducted in our taproom as we infuse one of our styles with a new ingredient.

Think NY Honey Stout infused with Cafe Grumpy espresso beans, our Merman NY IPA blasted through two chambers of whole cone Mosaic hops, or perhaps Mermaid Pilsner infused with lemon starburst?

As someone who is routinely drawn to events to try their newest releases and limited editions, this is a kryptonite that guarantees I have plans every Saturday!

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It’s no surprise I’ve been a member of the Beer Freak Club since last year. I’m only one punch away from the mug club and definitely on track to score one of those BEAUTIFUL Beast Stainless Steel Growlers only the freakiest fans earn.

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NYC Beer Week is coming up fast and I’ll be checking out a couple of spots. I’ll definitely be at the kick off party at the brewery next Sunday. Then March 1, I’ll be hanging out for a while at the Brazen Fox. I love when CIB comes to my neighborhood! Who else is coming out?
beer week