Looking back: my first year in L.A.

one year in L.A.

We woke up in the canyons of Utah, braved 115-degree dry heat in Vegas, and paid nearly five dollars a gallon for the last leg of the trip. It was a Thursday, and it was L.A. or bust.

John and I arrived in Los Angeles one year ago Friday. We’d been on the road for 10 days, driving through small towns, big cities and vast deserts. We saw a lot of incredible things, but the most vivid memory of all was when we crossed into L.A. County. The highway was wide, the mountains were high and the setting sun gave it all a dreamy, hazy glow. We had made it. This was “home.”

driving into L.A.

Adjusting to our new surroundings wasn’t easy. Within the first day, we had a stinky iPhone full of air freshener juice and a ticket for talking on said phone as welcoming souvenirs. Thankfully, we had a place to stay, but finding an apartment was frustrating and difficult. Our bank accounts took major blows, jobs were scarce and grad school was looming. It was a lot to deal with at once.

Santa Monica beachcity-smog-2 trails-2

The first year certainly hasn’t been easy, but it has been amazing. I’ve had the chance to meet some extraordinary people working as a journalist and have taken the time to explore the Golden State with short road trips and camping adventures. I’ve woken up in a tent on the beach to see seals frolicking in the ocean, I’ve interviewed rock stars and activists and politicians, I’ve made a ton of new friends at school and through the blogging community, and I’ve had my best friend and partner next to me every step of the way. Being on this adventure with John has made the difficult times easier to deal with and the celebratory times even sweeter.

kisses-2 venice-canals-2 hills

And what’s not to love about L.A.? You could look at the negatives, and a lot of people choose to. I’ve encountered many of them myself, but the good has far outweighed the bad. Los Angeles is such a diverse city, both culturally and geologically, and that has made for so many new-to-me experiences. I needed a culture shock. I needed to step out of my comfort zone. And I needed to live in a city full of opportunities to make me realize just how many are open to me if I go after them.

cassie-walking

So thanks, Los Angeles, for giving me the biggest thrill of my life. Thanks for making me work for it and for letting me reap the rewards. Whether I stay another year, five years or a lifetime, I’ll always look back on the first 12 months as a game-changer.

Happy anniversary, Los Angeles.

 

Becoming yourself

Joyce Carol Oates quote

So much has changed in the past few years, it’s hard not to think I’ve changed drastically, too.

I certainly feel different. Wiser, more thoughtful, unafraid to ask for what I want, adventure-seeking and self-loving. My younger self would be pleased. Pleasantly surprised, even.

But I think Joyce Carol Oates—fabulous woman that she is—said it best when she wrote the line above. At our core, we always remain the same. The potential for all those qualities I mentioned was always within me. It just hadn’t been realized to its fullest yet. And if that’s the case, how much more room for growth is there? I’ll play it safe and say it’s limitless—just in case it exceeds my expectations.

@wittycassiehere Instagram

P.S. Related reading: A woman to aspire to

 

Summer Road Trip Series: from Chapel Hill to Los Angeles

This time last year, John and I sang together at an open mic night in Nashville.

We were on day two of our cross-country road trip, it was 96 degrees, and honky tonk music blared from just about every bar on Broadway. (I was also super paranoid that something was amiss with the holes where my wisdom teeth had been only a week and-a-half prior, but I prefer to forget all those saltwater rinses in gas station bathrooms.) Aaaaaand oversharing complete.

For round three of the Summer Road Trip Series, I’d like to introduce you to Evey Wilson, a journalist and photographer at UNC Chapel Hill.

Evey and her friend Em spent six days traveling 2,500 miles across the country from Chapel Hill, North Carolina headed west along I-40 and occasionally hitting up the famous Route 66. Along the way, they stopped in Asheville, Nashville, Oklahoma City, a couple small towns in Texas, Albuquerque, a couple places in Arizona (including the Grand Canyon), the Mojave Desert Preserve and, finally, Los Angeles.

In Evey’s own words: “I swear we danced and laughed every inch of the way.”

Evey Wilson

THE INSPIRATION

“One of my best friends, Em, got a job in L.A. for the summer, so we decided to make an adventure out of her move out there. Em and I are both photojournalists and have both been working on emotional, issue-driven pieces for the past few months so we wanted to document our adventure along Route 66 just for fun.”

Evey Wilson Evey Wilson

THE HIGHLIGHTS

We met so many incredible people! Route 66 is just a warp in the universe where so many fascinating people wind up somehow. A lot of the people we met had been traveling Route 66 and then eventually moved to live around the Route. It has that effect on you. The owner of the Midpoint Café in Adrian, Texas had been driving the route with his wife when they saw that the café was for sale and decided to buy it. We also met Bob ‘Crocodile’ Lile, a man that I swear knows every fact about the Route. He owns a gallery in Amarillo and does preservation for Route 66. I took a portrait that I just love of him and his dog, Lady.

There was a lovely woman, Judie Breidenback, with a stunningly unique ring that we met in her jewelry store in Albuquerque’s Old Town. Turns out she used the stones from her engagement ring to make her new, more modern ring. I asked her about the ring and she totally opened up. Judie told me that next week she will have been married for 59 years. Her advice? “Be willing first of all to say I’m sorry,” she says, “And even better, ‘that you were right.’ That’s really important.” She told me that she knew her marriage was going to last when they successfully made their first cross country trip, from California to New Jersey, after being married only a year.

I met so many people that had a heart for adventure. Along the way, Em and I kept bumping into this hilarious Brazilian family that was traveling the route and making a video of their trip as well. It was so much fun because we saw them a few times along the way and then we just happened to run into each other at the end of the Route 66 sign in Santa Monica. We were all celebrating together that we had finished our adventures.”

Evey Wilson

“If you have the chance, you need to stop in Oatman, Arizona. It’s this hilarious old mining town that is now overrun with donkeys. The townsmen acted out a bank robbery during lunch. It’s one of those bizarre things you can’t really imagine until you see it for yourself.

It’s a little bit out of the way so of course Em and I had neglected our gas tank. We hadn’t passed a gas station in miles and we had to drive up some pretty steep hills. We wound up coasting down those hills in neutral on an empty tank. We’re so stressed out that we’re laughing when Em rounds a curve somewhat quickly and all of a sudden there is a donkey in the middle of the road. What?? Where the heck are we? We rolled into this hilarious town with donkeys everywhere. Luckily the next gas station was downhill from town, so we got a chance to explore getting the history from a fireman, grabbing lunch at a cute bar and talking to an old man in a cowboy hat that had moved to Oatman from England. It was easily our most ridiculous stop.

Evey Wilson Evey Wilson

THE NEXT ADVENTURE

“I recently moved to North Carolina so I would love to explore my new state more. My next dream road trip would be traveling North Carolina Highway 12 along the coastline and through the islands of the Outer Banks. I would love to camp on the islands and learn about the coastal culture here.”

Evey Wilson

Follow Evey’s adventures on her blog and on Instagram 

I’m so enamored with Evey’s photos, I can’t wait to follow along on her next trip.

Keep an eye for a trip along the coast this time next week. Which coast? You’ll find out.

 

Interweb Finds: Corgis on the beach, finding your blogging roots & more

bakery

Have you ever had an idea seemingly come out of nowhere that jolts your brain and prompts you into action?

(And I’m not just talking about the awesome T-shirt sayings that come to mind during a particularly hilarious and drunken conversation.)

Anyway, I had one of those ideas over the weekend, and I went to bed, woke up and still loved it. So I think that’s a good sign. I headed on over to the local library, got a library card (finally), and picked up a few books for research. I’m being a tease, because it’s not an idea I’ll share anytime soon, but it just got me thinking…

Other weekend highlights include eating Gelato al fresco, browsing the grocery store bakery above (like the pure frosting cheeseburgers), and announcing the winner to the Feminist Apparel giveaway! Congrats to Kiersten, a feminist after my own heart.

Now, for this week’s interweb finds:

Ten words every girl should learn.

Possibly the best thing ever: Corgi Beach Day. (The next one is the day after my birthday… I AM SO GOING. Even though I don’t have a corgi.)

Have you heard about the new film Boyhood? It was filmed over the course of 12 years in a young boy’s life.

People’s attitudes toward biking and cyclists can be pretty unreasonably charged with anger. Why is that? One alarming quote:

“A 2002 study found that drivers are far more likely to see a cyclist’s infraction as stemming from ineptitude or recklessness than an identical one committed by another driver.”

WARNING: cuteness overload. Seven kittens reacting in perfect unison to a shiny object.

Fellow bloggers and writers, have you found your blogging roots?

“You need to be rooted in blogland by something other than dreams of fame and fortune. Those roots, if they run deep enough, are what will sustain you through tough times. They’re what will allow you to be flexible, to go easy on yourself, and to keep pushing.”

A fascinating read about one man who studies and diagnoses depressed and OCD animals in zoos. Related: the case for the end of the modern zoo.

That’s all for this week! Now back to those library books.

 

wittycassiehere on Twitter

Summer Road Trip Series: from Detroit to San Diego

I remember the surreal feeling I got every time I told someone I was moving to California.

It’s something you need to keep repeating to remind yourself that it’s real, especially when you’re moving all the way across the country to do it.

That’s why Sarah of XO Sarah fame’s recent move to San Diego was so exciting to read about during the process. It brought me back to the rush of anticipation I felt for so long before my own big move.

To continue on with the Summer Road Trip Series (here’s part one), Sarah tells us about the big move she made last month to San Diego all the way from Detroit—more than 2,300 miles!

roadtrip2

THE INSPIRATION

“This road trip was a quickie! Four days in the car, blasting our way across the states as I moved from Detroit to San Diego. My friend Beth and my rat terrier, Slayer, came along for the ride in my tiny Scion.

Since we were trying arrive in San Diego at a certain time, most of the scenic photos were actually taken out the car window, flying 80 mph down the highway. Detroit to Omaha was fairly uneventful, outside of some killer enchiladas, a hail storm (thanks Michigan!), and massive wind turbine blades being hauled down the highway every hour or so. It was mostly farms and cows and quiet, which we happily disrupted with an Ace of Base Pandora station.”

XO Sarah

xosarah-route

THE HIGHLIGHTS

“In Denver we downed giant salads and met up with Beth’s friend who gave both of us dead-on tarot car readings over beers in the back of a dive bar. The next day we stopped a couple hours into the Rockies to cool off in Grizzly Creek and listened to old-timey bluegrass, which seemed perfect for the scenery.

Driving through the canyons in Utah was my favorite part of the trip. People use the word amazing a lot, but for this it is completely appropriate. I had never seen anything so big and empty.

On the creepy pitch-black drive into Vegas, Beth told me alien abduction stories and we were stunned by the sea of glitter that poured out of the mountains upon our arrival. Vegas from the ground is much more spectacular than Vegas from the air.

I drove the last five-hour leg to San Diego alone (Beth flew home from Vegas) and was drawn to the parched, vacant vastness of the desert more than I expected. Growing up in Michigan there are trees and grass and people everywhere – in the desert from Nevada to California there is nothing but sand and heat and I loved it.”

roadtrip7

roadtrip6

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THE NEXT ADVENTURE

“Now that I’m in California I’d love to road trip straight up the coast to Seattle. I’ve always wanted to see the redwoods, take a photo in front of the Full House house in San Francisco, kill my sugar craving with VooDoo donuts in Portland, and visit Pike Place Market and the Space Needle in Seattle. I’m also planning, now that I have my passport (only took me 29 years!), to get further out of the country than Canada at some point soon!”

roadtrip13

Sarah’s Blog // Twitter // Instagram

Live it up in San Diego, Sarah!

This time next week, I’ll have another cross-country trip to share. But this trip is taking the southern route.

 

Beer with a Blogger: Bar Food in Brentwood

How’s that for alliteration?

This month’s Beer with a Blogger was a long time coming. Hanna is a good blog friend of mine who lives in Brentwood on the West Side, but our busy lives have made it so that we’ve only met a couple of times in real life. We finally remedied that this past weekend. Read on!

Hanna Scott

THE BLOGGER

Hanna of the newly rebranded Filth. I’ve followed Hanna’s blog (formerly Excelsior Lady) since long before I moved to L.A. She made a similar cross-country move by way of Buffalo a few years ago, and I loved reading her thoughts on being a transplant in a vibrant, huge city. Hanna has one of those true artist brains, which I adore. (You can see some of her illustrations here—how cool are they?) Everything she draws or writes has a raw honesty that I really appreciate, and her eye for photography is spot-on. There’s nothing bland about her. And Hanna’s personality in real life is just as intriguing. Because we felt like we knew each other already the first time we met, it’s always been easy to talk to her. It helps that she’s got the most infectious smile and big, inviting blue eyes. Check out her blog, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Bar Food

THE BAR

Bar Food on Wilshire in Brentwood, a great happy hour spot seven days a week. And the happy hour deals are truly awesome, especially for L.A.—I had three beers (over the course of a BWAB record five-and-a-half hours) AND a hot dog, which all together cost $17 including tip! The drafts were $4 apiece and hot dogs are $1 all the time. Yelp reviewers says the other food is really good, too. The bartender was friendly, and we happened to come in on trivia night. Considering we weren’t anticipating playing trivia and the fact that we were first-time partners, we didn’t absolutely suck (i.e., we didn’t finish dead last). Neither of us is particularly great at trivia, though we killed the music round. The trivia host might’ve thrown a couple extra points our way for clever, albeit incorrect, answers. Bar Food had a fun, neighborhoody vibe.

beer

THE BEER

I enjoyed a Green Flash Black IPA and a Deschutes River Ale, while Hanna had a couple of Left Coast Asylum Belgian-Style Tripel Ales.

Bar Food dollar

Hanna & Cassie

grainy selfies FTW!

It was a blast hanging out with Hanna one-on-one for the first time (crazy it took nearly a year for that to happen!). We had a ton to talk about—staying true to our voices in writing, our love for L.A. and wanderlust for other parts of the world, and missing family back home. We also made a friend in a Bar Food regular, an older man in a beret who is a painter by way of Vancouver, born in Scotland. He was such a character, asking us about ourselves and sharing his white-haired wisdom. He was so sweet (and incredibly talkative), and Hanna and I later gushed at having made friends with such a cool dude. Between meeting him and playing several rounds of trivia, a night I expected to be a blast turned out to be just that and more.

Hanna and I vowed not to let so much time go by before hanging out again. Next time, we’re looping in Rachel so they can finally meet!

Are you a blogger living in (or visiting!) L.A.? Do you like beer? Shoot me an email at wittycassiehere (at) gmail (dot) com, and let’s go to happy hour!

Feminist Apparel giveaway! (Why do we need feminism?)

Feminist Apparel giveaway

I can think of a lot of reasons why we need feminism.

I’ll use some examples from my own personal experience, though there are far more reasons than these few:

Because the first time I was called a slut, I was 12 years old.

Because I don’t feel safe walking to parking garages alone.

Because my school campus underreports sexual assault cases.

Because I know too many people (i.e., more than zero) who have been sexually assaulted.

Because I’m called a “bitch” if I ignore catcalls or “compliments” on the street.

Because these awful things are considered normal, part of life, to be expected.

…And those experiences—through the lens of a thin, white, middle-class woman—are just the tip of the iceberg when you consider the issues women around the world face every day.

Everything feminism stands for aims to address these issues.

Which is why instead of fearing the F-word, I want to wear my feminism on my sleeve (or on the front of my new shirt, pictured above). And if you enter today’s giveaway with Feminist Apparel, you could, too. Read on.

Feminist Apparel giveaway

Feminist Apparel is a kickass clothing company that stands for equality and encourages others to do the same—while looking smart in one of their tanks or tees. The styles are sassy, clever and playful… but dead serious. (Here’s the one I’m wearing in the top photo. I love this one and this one, too.)

Most importantly, Feminist Apparel puts its money where its mouth is. Proceeds from their sales go to women-empowering nonprofits like Women’s Way, so you know your purchase is going toward a worthy cause.

But one lucky feminism-loving reader will win a shirt for free.

The details: Win one shirt of any style, size & color (winner’s choice!) from Feminist Apparel by using the Rafflecopter widget below. (You have to leave a blog post comment first to unlock the other entries.) Note that you can tweet daily about the giveaway for bonus entries. The contest will be open all week until Friday, July 11th, at 3:00 p.m. EST upon which one winner will be chosen at random. And yes, it’s open to international readers! I request the winner responds within 72 hours of being contacted, or else the prize will go to someone else. You’ll get extra love from me if you tweet/Instagram a photo of yourself in your new shirt once you receive it. (Be sure to tag @FeministApparel and @WittyCassieHere!)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

It’s so important to me to work with brands I believe in, so I’m psyched to be partnering up with Feminist Apparel. And, of course, I’m psyched about my new shirt!

Let’s celebrate the amazing things women and men can do when we work together… like ending sexual assault, sexism and victim blaming once and for all.

And tell me: Why do you need feminism?

 

Summer Road Trip Series: from Big Sur to Seattle

Summer Road Trip series

The Great American Road Trip was the stuff of my dreams in high school.

When we were teenagers, my best girlfriends and I used to fantasize about taking a Volkswagen bus (the color of which was negotiable) across the country all the way to sunny California. We didn’t talk about what we’d do once we got there—the trip itself would be adventure enough, possessing the same aesthetic as a Free People catalog.

When I finally did take that epic road trip from Baltimore to Los Angeles, the circumstances were a bit different (moving with the boyfriend, headed for grad school, with no way of justifying $80 Free People jean shorts), but the trip was no less magical than I’d dreamed up years before. Driving through the mountains, the plains and the desert all the way to the coast was satisfyingly surreal.

Almost just as surreal as that life-changing trip was then is the fact that it happened a year ago this month.

An anniversary like that can’t go unacknowledged. So I invited a few talented and adventurous friends to share their travel stories for a Summer Road Trip Series. Once a week over the next few weeks, I’ll introduce you to a bold traveler who will tell you all about their road trip—destination anywhere—in their own words and, of course, through their photos. And what better time to start than on the Fourth of July?

Kicking off the series, meet David of Death to the Stock Photo (a site some of my blogger friends might recognize… I’ve used it for gorgeous, free photos!). He traveled more than a thousand miles along the West Coast and saw some beautiful sights along the way.

In David’s own words:

“We started in San Francisco renting a car and driving it down the coast to Big Sur. From there we traveled around the area, then back to San Francisco and up to Seattle. We went north of Seattle about an hour to Deception Pass for camping.”

Big Sur

Big Sur to Seattle

THE INSPIRATION

“The purpose of the trip was that we had crowdfunded it to create really quality imagery for designers and bloggers to use in their work. So each location was filled with shooting everything we saw that inspired us and sharing it with the backers who had been following along.”

coast

David bridge

THE HIGHLIGHTS

“Catching sunset at the Bixby Bridge was incredible. The contrast of all of the elements from the hills to the rocks to the water was incredible and we got to share it with some other people who had been waiting there for the sun to go down. At the end of that night we went to these really private hot springs that only open from midnight to 2 a.m. at a place called The Esalen Institute. The hot springs were under an amazing night sky full of stars and the hot water and crashing waves below were incredibly relaxing.”

Bixby Bridge

overlook

THE NEXT ADVENTURE

“I really want to go to Iceland to explore around and see the Northern Lights. There’s a promo called Iceland Airwaves which is tickets to a music festival, hotel, and plane ticket for under a thousand dollars because they’re trying to promote tourism. I’d love to explore that landscape and capture it with my camera. Thailand has always been a place calling my name, as well.”

DavidDavid on Twitter // Instagram // Facebook

I hope David takes that trip to Iceland soon so I can swoon over the photos.

Where is the Summer Road Trip Series headed next? I’ll give you a hint next week, and you can see if your guess is right next Friday for part two.

 

Through the Lens: photos from June

guitar pedals

Once again, another month has flown by, but July marks a special anniversary for me.

In mid-July of last year, John and I hit the road for an epic cross-country road trip. We were headed West by way of the suburbs of Baltimore.

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for almost a year now, which is surreal to say. It seems like just yesterday we were crashing at a family friend’s house scouring Craigslist and Padmapper and Zillow and every other rental site you can think of for a place to call home. We’ve come a long way since then.

But before I get all nostalgic for last year’s big adventure, let’s take one last parting look at June’s adventures.

amp Angel City brewery

John played a couple of gigs, and I even joined him on background vocals for a few songs. We met some awesome people those nights.

LA Zoo El 7 Mares laundromat Silver Lake hills

I got to check out the L.A. Zoo, discovered my new favorite fish taco stand in Silver Lake, peeked into windows and dreamed about the houses in the hills.

This month’s highlight was a road trip to Big Bear Lake, just a couple hours east of L.A.

Big Bear Lake mountains

Big Bear was incredible. We camped there for the weekend and found the perfect site in Hanna Flats campground. The weather was perfect—crisp air and insanely blue skies. The highlight of the trip might’ve been the drive itself. As we climbed up more than 7,000 feet, we rose above a thick bed of clouds. I felt so small in the best possible way up in those mountains.

above the clouds Big Bear Big Bear trees Big Bear Lake Big Bear camping campsite Big Bear Lake burnt trees golden hour Cassie & John

Every time we go on a new adventure like this mini road trip and our last trip to Joshua Tree, I’m reminded of last summer and how I explored so many new-to-me parts of the country for the first time. I plan to always make that kind of adventure a regular part of my life. Being on the road and seeing how insanely different the landscape can be in just a couple hours’ drive blows my mind every time I get out there. I think that mind-blowing factor is good exercise for the brain.

For my fellow road trip enthusiasts out there, I’ve got something special planned for July that I think you’ll enjoy.

I’ve reached out to a handful of travel and photography enthusiasts who are going to be sharing their adventures in a summer road trip series, which will kick off this Friday (the Fourth of July!) and last throughout July—possibly longer. Because you can’t romanticize the Great American Road Trip enough.

So keep an eye out for that this week and join me in welcoming July! What are you looking forward to this month?

Interweb Finds: Strong female characters, summer camp for adults & more

Los Angeles sunset

Happy weekend friends!

As you read this, I’m a couple hours east of Los Angeles at Big Bear Lake! John and I are camping for the weekend (will share photos soon!), but I planned out some good interweb finds for you in advance.

Check ‘em out:

An interesting article about the lack of strong female characters in films:

“Bringing in a Strong Female Character™ isn’t actually a feminist statement, or an inclusionary statement, or even a basic equality statement, if the character doesn’t have any reason to be in the story except to let filmmakers point at her on the poster and say ‘See? This film totally respects strong women!’”

OK Go’s new video for “The Writing’s on the Wall” is so darn brilliant and clever. I’d love to be on set for something like that.

I’ve been fantasizing about New Orleans lately. (The architecture! Swoon!) So I loved coming across this gorgeous NOLA house tour.

Lauren talks about the lost art of eating in, and I couldn’t agree more myself. Cooking at home is so much fun!

Genius: summer camps for adults. YES, PLEASE.

Bad Photoshopping aside, this experiment on different beauty standards around the world was pretty fascinating (and hilarious in its ridiculousness).

So cool! The history behind Zzyzx Road. We passed this exit on our way to L.A. out of Las Vegas. I had no idea what it was.

 

That’s all for this week! I’ll have some photos to share on Tuesday when—gasp!—it’ll already be July.

How was your weekend? What are you looking forward to this week?