They sent me to Binghamton

I've always wanted to be on the east coast, and the universe responded…by sending me to Binghamton, NY. Oh you've never heard of it? Neither had I, but I do so love adventures and that's how I choose to view this. Let the adventures begin!


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Taking the Road Less Traveled

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference”

– Excerpt from ‘The Road Not Taken’ by Robert Frost

For the past three years, it has become a tradition for me to hang out on Father’s Day with friends whose fathers have passed away. My own father is alive and well but lives on the other side of the world, so I figured those of us who are unable to spend time with our fathers should spend time with each other instead.

In previous years I’ve done this more for them than for me because I know I would want to be kept distracted on Father’s Day if it were my father up in heaven. This year, I needed the distraction myself. As it turns out, it was also my friend’s birthday, the one who recently passed away. He would have been 37…thirty freaking seven! It still blows my mind that he’s gone. But I can’t be in denial about it anymore. I went to his funeral, paid my respects, said my goodbye…Ever since the funeral, I can’t get the image of his body in the casket out of my head in each quiet moment that I have. I used to love the quiet moments. Cherished them even. Scheduled them in my damn calendar so I can recharge. Preached about the importance of alone time and actively practiced what I preached, but now I can’t be by myself for five minutes without that image appearing in my mind…

I know I’ll get there eventually after I let myself go through the grief process, but in the meantime, it hurts every time. I feel a physical heaviness in my chest and a burning in my throat. I’m just so sad and the tears are never far. It’s a process, I know. I’m feeling better day by day, I know. You know what else I know? It sucks and it will always suck, no matter how much better I get at processing grief. I’m going to have to go through this again, and again, and again, and it will hurt just as much each time. I can only hope that I continue to be surrounded with people who care about me and who listen to me with compassion when I talk about it. People who ask me how I’m doing, give me space when I need it, and aren’t afraid to have the hard, emotional conversations with me. You know what else I know? I truly am blessed.

I don’t know why we are so surprised when death happens. It’s the only certainty we have in life. We all die eventually. And yet our reactions are usually to be in denial about it. “Wait, how?” “But, why?” It makes no sense. It makes me wonder if I have to change my own view of death so I can process grief better. It’s certainly something for me to think about once I’m in the right emotional and mental state.

In any case, this was and still is my current line of thinking every time I’m alone, so like I said, this year I also needed the distraction on Father’s Day.

Fortunately for us the weather has finally been cooperating lately and it was a gorgeous day to be outside! We decided to go hiking to a place neither of us had been to before, a place called Bear Swamp State Forest. The plan was to go hiking for 2 or 3 hours and then have dinner at a restaurant in Skaneateles. It was a simple plan, I printed out a map this time, how could it be anything but a straight forward, fun, distracting father’s day?

mapbearswamp

Bear Swamp State Forest Map

Ok, first of all, the map lied. There is no parking lot on Harnett Rd. Second, Google led us astray and we ended up inadvertently going off-roading in my beautiful not-meant-for-unpaved-road Silvie (yes, I named my car)!

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Silvie’s Twin – as you can see, NOT made for off-roading

In any case, we eventually found the other parking lot and made our merry way through the clearly marked “Y” trails. We followed Y1 to Y7 to Y8 to Y9 and when we got to the juncture where it met up with Y5 and Y6, we decided to go the Y5 route because we weren’t tired yet. The thought was to follow my handy-dandy map and loop through the “B” trails and eventually back to the “Y” trails where I parked my car. Then we could go to Skaneateles, have dinner, and head home as planned.

Here’s what happened instead: We thought we were on the “B” trails because we noticed there was blue paint on the trees, so perhaps “B” stood for blue. After all, the “Y” trails were marked with yellow tags. So there we were, chatting, walking along the trail and as we got deeper and deeper into the woods, we noticed the trail got less and less maintained looking. Then we noticed a fallen tree blocking the less maintained looking trail. We didn’t think anything of it because after all, trees do fall sometimes, but after the third one I commented on it.

“Do you think they put the trees on the path, blocking it like this, on purpose?”

My friend looks over at the base of the tree and goes, “Nah. It looks like it fell naturally.”

In hindsight, the likelihood of three trees naturally falling directly on the path is highly unlikely.

Nature: 1, Our collective common sense: 0

We continue on our ignorant, merry way until the trail is looking even less maintained than before.

“Do you think this is a path?” my friend asked me.

I compare the length of the grass and weeds on the “path” we were on versus the surrounding area and conclude that it looks slightly shorter.

“Sure, it looks kinda like a path,” I said.

Nature: 2, Our collective common sense: 0

So we go on like this for a while as the “path” becomes less and less visible (truthfully, it probably never was visible) until suddenly…we are in the middle of the woods and no longer on a discernible trail. We couldn’t go back, because there was no trail to follow, and we couldn’t go down because we were already at the edge of state property, so the only way was up. Way the f*ck up.

There seemed to be a ridge at the very top, but it was a steep incline and pretty far away so before embarking on our journey, we decided to check if we could figure out where we were on GPS. I did not take a picture of our location on the map at the time, but it basically looked like this:

Capture

We couldn’t tell which direction we were facing because the signal wasn’t great and we couldn’t do the trick of “which direction is the sun?” being that we were in the middle of the woods, surrounded by tall trees and all, so we confirmed that indeed, all the way up was our only option.

“Hey, what would you do if we got all the way up to the ridge and it doesn’t lead us back to the trail?” I asked my friend.

“I would cry. Then I would sit down and eat my banana. And then come up with a new plan,” she responded.

I probably would’ve done the same, except with the fancy pureed snack that I brought that was essentially baby food marketed to health-conscious, fitness freak idiots like me.

After about an hour of hiking up a steep incline, literally crawling on our hands at times and just aiming from one tree to the next, we finally made it. All 98 flights, according to my friend’s FitBit. For the non-FitBit owners like myself, each flight is 10 ft. We were none the worse for wear other than a few bug bites and scratches, so yeah…

tenor

The rest of the hike was uneventful and fortunately the way out didn’t require any off-roading, unintentional or otherwise. We found the turn we should have made to avoid the unintentional off-roading so at least next time we know where to go. We did end up going to Skaneateles for dinner, albeit a few hours later than intended. Nevertheless, mission accomplished, we were both distracted from the forever absence of loved ones in our lives. Perhaps, we could have found a less scary way to distract ourselves but hey, now we both can say we’ve had an adventure and this father’s day memory will forever be remembered.

Two roads diverged in a wood. Check.

I took the one less traveled by. Double check.

And that has made all the difference. Err…check?

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We All Can Fly

A couple Saturdays ago, 81 North Media and Productions, a local media entertainment and recording studio, presented Matthew Cornwell, a very talented musician also local to the area. He also happens to be my friend. No, really. He knows my name and everything, I’m not just making that up. I know him through his girlfriend, who does my eyelash extensions and who I travel around the world with. Only in Binghamton will you find such a strange collision of worlds…

But I digress.

The show featured Matt’s new album entitled “ICARUS,” which was inspired by the Greek mythology story of Daedulus and his prideful son, Icarus. Daedulus had created wings made out of feathers and wax so they could escape the tower they were imprisoned in. Prior to their flight, he cautioned Icarus not to fly too low to the sea because the wings will absorb the water and cause him to crash, nor must he fly too close to the sun because the sun will melt the wax and he will crash, to which Icarus replied, “I stickith to you, Father. I dost do what I desire!” Then he flew too close to the sun and crashed down…oh the arrogance of youth.

Now I will admit that I had to look up the exact story because I got it confused with the Minotaur and labyrinth story. Daedulus was the one who designed the labyrinth so I wasn’t too far off, but I had my stories mixed up. In any case, just the fact that Matt decided to reference Greek mythology is completely fascinating to me. One, I love Greek mythology, and two, not many people are familiar with it. Now since I know Matt personally, I was able to ask him what inspired him to use “ICARUS” as his album title. Fortunately for those who don’t know him personally, there was a portion of the show where Matt got “interviewed” about his album, so they got to hear it for themselves. What a brilliant idea! Who came up with that? (Not me)

So why “ICARUS”? Well, just like Icarus flew too high towards the sun in spite of, or perhaps because of, his father’s warning, Matt described the making of the album as embarking on a similar journey in his life, where he pursued his “Hollywood Hills” dream, continuing to go up, and up, and up…only to find out, the hard way, that success is not necessarily what awaited him at the top. That aiming too high up will only lead to crashing back down. Thus, he decided to get grounded, regroup, and come home to Binghamton.

A year and a half later, BOOM! “ICARUS” was born.

I have to say, all personal biases aside, the album is DOPE. Granted it is exactly my kind of music but I think even if it wasn’t, I would still appreciate how easy it is to listen to, the flow of the album, and the quality of the sound. Now because I do know him I also have the added benefit of knowing how driven he is and how much he cares about his work and the people he works with. With the advent of social media and consequently the birth of the instant gratification culture, I was impressed with how he waited until he was satisfied with the quality of his album, based on a higher standard that he put on himself, before releasing even one of the songs as a preview. When I talk to him, I hear fully formed ideas and a clearly defined vision. Now the details and steps on how to get there aren’t quite there, but… that’s why I’m here.

I’ve always been a systems thinker and a problem solver. If I can sum up what I’m the greatest at, it’s getting things done. So when I meet a highly driven person like Matt, who is from Binghamton, bound to be part of the growth of its community, and willing to pay it forward for the people he works with, I am compelled help. Specifically, I am compelled to take his vision, create a system with actionable goals, and get. It. Done. There is nothing more fun to me than to take a seemingly vague idea and turn it into reality. And if it results in paying it forward to this community I now call home, then my work has been done.

When Matt and I were brainstorming for taglines for this show, we came up with: wax wings, too close to the sun, we all have wings. But then he mentioned that one of the songs on the album has a phrase in Greek that translates to,”We all can fly,” and that just felt right. Because it’s true. We all can fly. And if I can help it, we all will. At least those I’m working with here in Binghamton.

Όλοι μπορούμε να πετάξουμε


πετάξουμε.We all can fly.


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“Settling Down” – What’s that, and is it contagious?

When I made the decision to move to Binghamton permanently it was with the understanding that it was more like “permanently.” Why? Because I can’t seem to sit still. For someone who highly values making a home and establishing some sort of roots I sure can’t seem to settle down. I just…don’t want to.

Shortly after I moved here “permanently” I was already thinking about where my next move was going to be both geographically and career-wise, something I voiced often to friends.

“You never know, though, maybe you’ll settle down when you meet someone.”

Um. Sorry. You lost me at “settle down,” and then you continued on with “meet someone” and suddenly all of the evens I had were significantly less than the cans, and therefore, I can’t even. 🤷🏽

I’m not sure why I am so strongly against the notion of settling down, whether it’s in context of a romantic relationship, career, or where I want to live; it all just makes me feel antsy. So when people innocently suggested I may perhaps possibly maybe one day feel that way, I looked at them with Thizz Face.

So then I started to think, why? Why do I feel this way? Is it because I moved every few years in my childhood so that has become my norm? What draws me to move in my adult life anyway?

Upon some introspection I realized I just have a need for change because I get bored easily. I need a constant challenge and a semi-regular change of scenery, at least every few years or so. Then I came to the conclusion that perhaps those who said I might settle down when I meet someone were right. Maybe I do need a man to ground me and give me a reason to stay. Because otherwise I really have no reason to stay anywhere. My friends will always be my friends regardless of where I live. My family doesn’t have a choice, they’re stuck with me. I like new adventures. They make me happy and get me excited about life. Why settle down anywhere?

And then it happened. I found a reason to stay. I stopped dreaming about where my next adventure would be and started thinking about what my next adventure would be, here, in Binghamton. My daydreams about the future still contained uncertainty, which I seem to enjoy, but they were located in Binghamton instead of Boston or NYC or even back home in L.A. and I still felt just as excited.

So what happened?

Kidding! I wish that’s what happened, but no. I did not meet Isaiah Mustafa. He did not suddenly carry me off on his white horse to the house he built just for me with his bare hands while also making me dinner with food he, himself, hunted and gathered. But I still hold out hope that one day this may happen. 😂

What actually happened was I took my head out of the clouds, looked around, and realized I lived in a growing community that I really want to be a part of. I want to be a part of its growth. Not only that, I want to be one of the reasons for its growth. I want to not only effect change, but lead the change, or perhaps lead the leaders who will effect change. I want to help local people realize their dreams, spread their wings, and share their vision with the community. I’ve realized that I don’t care about the world but I do care about my little world, and I’ve decided Binghamton is my little world, at least for the time being.

Of course the way the universe works, it conspires to get you what you put out, so after this train of thought, two of my friends coincidentally asked for my help with their projects. In helping them organize their thoughts into clear goals, deconstructing a seemingly messy project into concise, doable steps to lead to their success, I realized that a) I’m really good at it, and b) I thoroughly enjoy doing it. And just like that, I decided to call Binghamton home and consider the possibility of a new side-gig as my new adventure.

Just like that…I settled down.

For now.


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A Whirlwind of Motion

It’s only mid-March and I’ve already done a lot of things, some for the first time and others because it’s a known favorite.

First, an old favorite: Snowboarding.

These were taken at Gore Mountain, which is part of the Andirondacks. It’s a pretty large mountain (none of which I explored because I’m a scaredy-cat and did the same run over and over) and I was fortunate enough to go on a weekend when it was actually warm and the sun was shining. It was a little too warm for me on day 1 but the snow was still great. I also finally invested in a helmet. Not because I’m looking to be the next Shaun White…more as a precaution like if I fell while getting off the ski lift and got hit on the back of the head (which happened to me while I was in the beginning stages of dating this guy…reason number 455 why I’ll never be the female equivalent of Hitch #noGame).

I’ve also been going at night locally (Greek Peak) since lift tickets are only $20 during the week and it’s only 45 minutes away! One night I went when it was 10 degrees… it’s a good thing I finally learned to put on my ski mask properly after years of owning it…

Then I switched gears and went all fancy that one weekend in February when it was 65 degrees! I went with friends to the Liberty Ball in Philadelphia, a formal, black tie event sponsored by the Four Diamonds Foundation in support of pediatric cancer research.

The nice weather didn’t last long (of course). The Northeast likes to tease around this time of year. So back to indoor activities, this time, indoor rock climbing at the Lindseth Climbing Center at Cornell!

And since we were at Cornell, my friend suggested we visit the “Harry Potter library.”

This library is easily the coolest one I’ve been to! If I had gone to school here I definitely would’ve been at the library a lot.

Even though I’ve been out and about, don’t think I’m not spending time enjoying my new home! When I bought the house it was a fishbowl (I.e. no window treatments) and now it’s a fishbowl with cool looking shades!

And last night I did my most favorite thing ever…I sat on the couch with my two kitties while watching a movie in my lion onesie! I’ve lived here for three months and I just now got to this! For shame!
What’s next in store for can’t-sit-still me? More snowboarding, this time at Jiminy Peak in Massachusetts, then meeting my Cali friends in Denver. Then possibly visiting my friends in Boston. Or perhaps the introvert side of me will put her foot down and insist on another onesie weekend, who knows. One thing I know for sure is 2017 has been amazing thus far and I can’t wait to see what’s next. 

Life has been so much better since I’ve let this little girl come out.


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Hiking is my therapy

“Hey, it’s supposed to be beautiful out this weekend. Care to join us for a hike?”

“I’m in town today! Free for dinner?”

“I have dinner plans in the evening so I can’t go hiking with you guys during the day…because, you know, timing…” …That doesn’t even sound convincing to ME…

“Errr…I would go but…I already made plans with my cats.” No, that’s not an acceptable answer.

“I’ll have to pass, but next time for sure!” There! Vague, but polite. Just make sure not to post pictures from my solo hike on the same day they went hiking and no ‘solo dinner, finally!’ type of posts either…

It’s still a struggle for me sometimes to say no to people I usually love spending time with without feeling guilty. I know it’s a cliche but really…

Alison-Brie-Its-Not-You-its-Me-On-Community.gif

The things is, I’m known for my need for alone time, my preference for doing things alone, and my love of staying at home in my lion onesie while hanging out with my cats. And yet…I still feel bad for saying no, especially when I intend to do the same activity I’m being invited to. Perhaps with time I will learn not to feel guilty for doing what I need to in order to recharge but for now…vague responses and setting a separate time to hang out it is!

Guilty or not I did end up pretty much not talking to anyone I know that weekend and it was exactly what I needed. First of all, it was an incredibly beautiful weekend due to the unusual occurrence of gorgeous autumn colors coupled with summer weather. Think fall foliage with 70 to 80 degrees F temperature. YES.

Thank you, Google Photos for this awesome stylized photo! (original wasn’t this cool)

Second, with the election going on and people commenting on the election on social media in ways that I feel are not conducive to intellectual and meaningful discussions, my social capacity bucket has been near empty pretty much everyday. Did someone poke a hole in it when I wasn’t looking? Because lately my inner grumpy cat has come out and I’m annoyed with everyone. Well, not everyone per se. Just certain types of people.

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This is not like me. I do enjoy being alone and I particularly love going on hikes by myself but spending time with those I consider my good friends usually makes me happy. But, unlike me or not it was clear to me that I needed to clear my head and so I pushed the guilt aside and went hiking. The day before I went to Sugar Hill State Park  in Watkins Glen, NY and this time I decided to check out Salt Springs State Park in Montrose, PA. I didn’t realize the food connection until just now lol! I guess I decided to go somewhere sweet since I was feeling salty. Pa dum ching! 😄

Salt Springs State Park is not actually maintained by the state contrary to what the name implies. It is, however maintained. What that means is there are marked trails and maps and everything!

Ooooh…

Aaaaahhh…

Even though the trails were marked, the path itself wasn’t as well maintained as state maintained parks, which means it looks really pretty with all the leaves on the ground!

It also means you have no idea what you’re possibly stepping on, as I came to find out when something jumped out from under my feet.

I’m very glad I stayed true to myself and went in anti-social mode this weekend because at the end of the weekend I felt more like myself again. Nature tends to have that effect on me. How could it not?

I was happy, my mind was quiet, and I felt excited about life again, even though Monday was fast approaching.

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Hiking is my therapy and I am very grateful to live in an area full of beautiful trails.


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Releasing my inner #basic

It’s fall season! That means it’s time for sugar and pumpkin spice and everything nice! Leggings and sweaters and fuggs (fake uggs) and pumpkin spice latte and my favorite…the fall foliage!

Yaaas! Look at ALL the trees!

Take all the pictures!

Even if you know the pictures will end up looking the same, take more pictures anyway!

Being from LA I had no idea what a true fall looked like. I mean, the leaves back home changed color too but they mostly just turned brown before dying. We did not have this explosion of colors that look almost fake in its brilliance.

I mean, just look at that! Doesn’t it look fake? Heavily filtered? Something out of a fantasy video game?

Pardon my excessive enthusiasm but I just can’t help it. Fall seems to get me every time.

Tired of looking at trees yet? Come on, just one more.

Oh come on. One more won’t hurt. Just the tip (of the tree, that is. Stop that dirty mind!).

Oh but right. Details. Where was I? I was in Sugar Hill State Forest Park in Watkins Glen, NY, a park that along with hiking trails also has horse trails and a cool fire tower. 

I thought you would be able to go all the way to the top where that enclosed shed looking thing is in the picture. Unfortunately, there was a locked shut trapdoor (that I almost walked into) on the last flight of stairs. Oh well. Maybe next time it’ll be open. 

This is the first state park that didn’t have any paper maps available. It’s also the first state park I’ve been to where I didn’t have to pay for parking so I’ll take it! But they did have this cool map:

I made sure to take this picture prior to my hike so I could follow the right trail (I didn’t follow the right trail) and so that I didn’t get lost this time (I got lost).

It was a very short hike (because I went the wrong way) but it was still exactly what I needed. It was such a beautiful day. Perfect for just being in the moment and getting away from everything else. I ended my day with a cup of hot mulled cider, and by cup I mean ginormous mug.

Just kidding. My day didn’t actually end there. It was a friend’s birthday party so I went out afterwards.

I know, I know. My face looks really different when I actually do something to it, right? 😀 

Today was actually a very good day. It was a great combination of enjoying my solitude on a beautiful day and having a blast at night with some good company. My favorite kind of day. 

Balance is key.


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The Clueless Rebel

This past weekend I did my first hike of the summer. I was trying to figure out why I hadn’t gone on any hikes before this weekend considering it’s already mid-summer and summer is short around here. Then I realized it’s because I could barely walk. Ah. That is a critical component of hiking so no wonder.

But no matter, at least I can walk with barely a limp now so I’m ready! And for my first hike I decided to go to Letchworth State Park, which is considered the Grand Canyon of the East. In hindsight I’m not sure why I thought that would make a good first hike considering it’s 7 miles one way, but in the end it didn’t matter. I got lost and inadvertently turned around about 2 miles in so yeah… that happened last time too…sigh…

But whatever, I got some pretty cool pictures and was able to relax a bit.

I noticed the waterfall seemed a lot more dried up than the last time I was there in September. It wasn’t as powerful but it was no less majestic. In fact, because it was pretty dried up you could actually go down on the river bed, which I did.
Not shown here is a man wearing a bright yellow shirt walking towards me, almost ruining this shot for me.

Also not shown here is me getting kicked out by said man in the bright yellow shirt because apparently you’re not supposed to be down there… Oops… but I took one last shot before I got out. Take that, bright yellow shirt man!

After my short hike I decided to go home. Well, more accurately, my stomach decided it was time to go eat and my stomach pretty much rules all so off I went. On the way home I noticed a few places where one could pull off to the side and check out the overlook. So this one did just that.

Then a child kindly informed me that sitting on the ledge was unsafe and started explaining to me the dangers of what I was doing. Boy, I just couldn’t win that day! 😁

So in conclusion, I found that I am a clueless rebel who has a terrible sense of direction. Next time, I swear I’ll be successful in finding and completing the trail AND won’t break any rules!