Tuesday, November 4, 2014

10 Essential Experiences for becoming a Better Human Being

It's no question the internet has more than its fair share of self-help, list style blogs. Apparently, everyone has an opinion...yet common sense seems to be melting away as fast as the polar ice caps. While no one is perfect, there is a distinct air that surrounds those who make a conscience effort to live an examined life. The truth, of course, being that life should be examined daily. The most interesting individuals, or at least those whom seem to live the happiest and healthiest, are the ones willing to progress with each passing day. So why do I think I have the credentials to give advice, then? Is it my world travels and timely man bun? The answer is I don't have any credentials, but I've had a lot of random experiences. I can tell you with full certainly that the following have shaped me much more than others. Not everyone is willing to deviate from a set path, but hopefully some of these can move you as well.

1.) Working in a retail or service industry job - If I were a tyrannical dictator, or I guess an elected official, I would write into law that every person, regardless of race, gender, or socialeconomic status (SES), should work no less than 3 months in some sort of service industry or retail job. Why? Those who haven't still find it OK to undertip (or not tip at all), while verbally abusing those serving them. Working in customer service is hard, under appreciated, and underpaid, but those who do it learn valuable lessons of how to treat others. While it may be a bit easier to treat a jerk nicely while getting paid, you best believe the first time you have someone dig into you for not adhering to their every need sticks with you. These lessons go far beyond your time in this industry.
2.) Working a minimum wage job - In a similar fashion, the only people who think it is a bad idea to raise minimum wage to a livable standard are those who haven't had to live off of it. Minimum wage is supposed to increase with the inflation in cost of living. If you have ever tried to live off of $7.75 an hour or less, even as a single individual, you quickly realize that this money is not reciprocal to the bills associated with living in a developed country.

3.) Leaving a demeaning situation - For some reason humanity has this notion that prevailing through hardship is the most noble thing we can do. While I'm not saying that hard work and perseverance aren't admirable, what I am saying is that there are certain times when throwing in the towel is the right thing to do. It is a judgement call. There is nothing more gratifying than realizing that your current situation is below you, and you deserve far better. If someone or something isn't recognizing your worth, it is OK to take a step back. If you are being underutilized, underpaid, and demeaned on the daily, you need to walk out the door with haste. 

4.) Deciding to act, instead of complaining - We've all been here. You call your parents or best friend on the phone, describing why a certain situation is awful. You even describe the perfect solution, yet, you remain in the same place. While progress is easier discussed than realized, at some point you need to take action, instead of rehashing the same conversation. The result, though difficult, will shape you permanently. 

5.) Using self-propelled transportation - This especially applies to those in a place they've been for a long time. It is amazing the things we overlook while speeding down a busy road. One simple solution to avoiding the monotony trap is to mix things up. Strap on your roller-skates, fix up that old bike, or even wake up an hour earlier and lace up some comfortable sneakers, to try a self-propelled method to some destination you go on a daily basis. It is amazing what facets of the journey will begin to pop out, even if you thought you knew the trip like the back of your hand. Life is about the little things, and once you start to see this as an action instead of a cliche, you will approach each day with gratitude. 

6.) Go on a date with someone outside of your comfort zone - I've caught some flack for this one in the past, so I want to emphasize the word DATE. If you and your DATE decide to do adult things behind closed doors after, that is your choice (defining your own sexuality should probably be on this list as well...). What I'm really encouraging everyone to do is go on an actual, IRL date. This is an ordinary date, but the kicker is who you go with. Choose someone outside of your own race, age range, SES, neighborhood, state, country, ideology, etc. Believe it or not, while what makes people being so different fun is that we are different, it is surprising how much common ground exists between those from different walks of life. Realizing this commonality bridges gaps our society has dictated for far too long. We have so many mediums now to go on dates, why not expand our narrowly chosen internet search ranges and meet someone truly new?

7.) Offer unconditional love, with no expectation of reciprocation - This could be the hardest item on the list (unless, of course, you are a parent. You guys are ballers). Offering unconditional love is not the same as loving a person. When we fall in love, we do it with a person whom we expect to offer that same level of love back to us. We take them on a date, they make us dinner. We buy them flowers, they surprise us with a movie night. While loving actions make the world go round, what we rarely do is show love to another person with no intention of them paying it back. Though mutual gain is really the answer to a lot of society's problems, offering a small token of free, unrestricted love to any person is a task that will change you for the better. 

8.) Being on a losing team, and fighting until the bitter end - Maybe we can't all identify with a sports/competition reference, but I think the sentiment is understood. At some point, everyone will fail. It can be catastrophic or minuscule, but we all "lose," sooner or later. Some of the time, we know its coming. In these situations, instead of jumping ship at the first sign of bad weather, try taking a page from the captain's log; go down with the ship. It sucks, it hurts, it leaves scars, and it is hard to let go, but with it comes an understanding for true devotion. Those who are willing to commit to something so extremely, even if it will fail or fall, will learn the true meaning of passion. 

9.) Meditate - Meditation doesn't mean absconding from everything and sitting in silence under a tree or in a cave, it means adding conscience action to your daily life. While it can be sitting in silence with crossed legs and directed focus, it can also mean concentrating for a few minutes on a sole action. Meditation reminds us how important each moment is. It reminds us how much weight our actions hold. By adding this to your daily life, the amount of appreciation one has for what awaits them when the alarm clock sounds will increase substantially. 

10.) Do something life affirming regularly - It sounds like a big task, but it's not. Really, I swear it's not. This can be as simple as going to a bathroom on a different floor at work, or driving down a different road on your daily commute. All it takes is a conscience decision to do something as a reminder that you have free will. Do you come home each night and sit on the couch? Why not take a late night bike ride? Do you go to the same restaurant or bar each weekend? Why not find a cheap AirBnb in town or city you've never visited? It doesn't have to cost money, and it doesn't even have to be time consuming, it just has to hold the idea that this is the only life we have, and each day, no matter how similar it may be to its predecessor, is unique and filled with opportunity.

Halloween isn't the only time you should wear a costume

Photos courtesy of the Huffington Post, Shift Gig, Mag Child, and Getty images 

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Fourth Installment of the BolderLife Festival

"What's your tampon?" Though out of context it may not mean much, this simple phrase, uttered by Ash Beckham of TedX fame, was enough to bring an anxious crowd to their feet. While the main event was still yet to come, Beckham, the keynote speaker for the BolderLife Festival opening gala, was a hard act to follow. Speaking about her own story of coming out, but still living in fear of judgement and question in public bathrooms, Beckham began the first of many "difficult," conversations, which will act as an underlying theme of this year's festival. Offering advice such as "Please don't be frozen in the ice of your insecurity," Beckham paved the way for the rest of the night's activities, even if the big time stars ended up postponing.

The BolderLife festival is a weeklong event that "...supports emotional education and growth with programming aimed at high-school students and the wider community." Through mediums such as film, theater, and dance, matched with corresponding educational events, BolderLife helps bridge the gap between discomfort and understanding. While often misstated as a simple film festival, the event (which runs through Sunday) aims to introduce taboo subjects through film, theater, and art, opening up dialogue and education. The 501c3 non-profit organization's goal is to cultivate mindfulness and courage, while exploring that which makes us uncomfortable.

For this year's installment, some of the bigger names include a film opening and discussion with Jason Bateman, as well as musical performances by Pink and Colbie Caillat. Along with the stars, the festival will also showcase ten films, host two days of theater programs, and align both of these with seven targeted educational panels, and three half day student programing courses. The festival is also host to a plethora of exhibits, as well as local art. The film and theater pieces vary in length and topic, with their synopsis found here

Along with both high school and community education, the BolderLife Festival is also a philanthropic endeavor. While the event is open to any and all interested parties, it does have a focus on women's and youth empowerment. This year's installment has chosen to partner with and feature multiple local and national non-profits that fall under this mission. The featured organizations are Safehouse Denver, FreeTheGirls.org, Educate2Protect, Amy's House for Girls, Dress for Success, and iEmpathize. The festival also has a monthly or yearly donating option, named BolderLove, with proceeds continuing to fund educational events targeted at middle and high school-aged students.

For those of you in the Denver area,  don't miss out on your chance to experience the sights, sounds, and lessons in abundance at this year's BolderLife Festival. Through difficult conversations and immersing yourself directly in discomfort, hopefully this weekend you'll leave with an  answer to Beckham's closing question, "What is the one thing stopping you from being the authentic you?" 

Photo courtesy of BolderLife Festival

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Harry Potter and the Unattainable Cost of Living - The Beauty and the Blunder of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios

SPOILER ALERT: I'll start this by dispelling the notion (see what I did there?) that I'm going to use this piece to knock Universal Studios or the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. While I'm primarily a budget traveler, I adore Harry Potter and amusement parks. Though I offer a critique, I'm not going to waste anyone's time rambling about consumerism or outrageous prices. Awesome! Here we go...

One of the many Triwizard tournament propaganda flags near the Dragon Challenge Ride in Hogsmeade

For those of us who treasure experiences more than tangible treasures, it isn't always easy to set your sails for a destination that moves you on a visceral level. This isn't to say that traveling retards your ability to loose yourself to sights and sounds. Au contraire, it fortifies it. It just isn't always ostentatious. Travelers are calm and collected, so finding a place that made me revert to outward emotions, especially ones derived from fictional places and characters, was quite bizarre and overwhelming.
The entrance to heaven...I mean Hogsmeade

Like many outted Harry Potter fanatics, I hold J.K Rowling's universe in a much higher regard than just books and films. No, I see Harry Potter as a completely intricate creation that helped bulldoze the barriers between genre. It showed generations alike how to exist, and that even in the midst of evil and tyranny, we are still people, and life must continue. It portrayed the beauty of innocence and reminded us that when this innocence is combatted and beaten, the youthful spirit can still thrive. Most eloquently put by the likes of Stephen King, " Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength, and doing what is right in the face of adversity." While I've spent countless hours lost in HP media, seeing the cast iron sign for Hogsmeade, framing the idyllic view of fake snow atop buildings I've only dreamed of, allowed me to be whisped away to entirely different realm.

After finding my composure, I began to venture down the Hogsmeade streets, passing HoneyDukes and the Three Broomsticks. I imagined sipping Fire Whiskey after a long day of Auroring at the Hogshead Pub, or taking my future, hypothetical children to the misplaced Olivander's to get their first wands. I listened to screeching Mandrakes and bubbling cauldrons, and passed upbeat Universal staff performing songs and dances I've performed countless times in the comfort of my mind's creatively dressed walls. I even listened to moaning Myrtle shriek and giggle as I used the public urinal. In eager anticipation, as buildings began to fade, denotated by a fabricated intersection, I starred up at the sight us HP fans have always longed to visit: 


As silly as it sounds, seeing the place I'd devoted many-a-night wishing existed in the present, was exceedingly moving for me. It is a place I dreamt housed my first love, or the failures, triumphs, and follies of my youth. It is a place I could only imagine experiencing the changing of seasons in, year in and year out. Even without stepping foot inside, I felt fulfilled...that is until I did step my rapidly moving feet through the threshold! After dropping my bag in the free locker (Whaaa? Free!), while jaunting easily through the scarcely populated single riders line, I gazed at the enchanted paintings on the wall explaining the procedures for the ride. I saw the animatronic Sorting Hat tell anxious muggles about what to expect when strapped in for the "Forbidden Journey." Even the staff seemed enthused to see riders fly along with Harry, Ron, Hermione, and a large group of notable Hogwarts students and staff, living a youthful fantasy in the flesh. Though I made the rookie mistake of downing a sickeningly sweet butter beer before departure (don't do this if you're over the age of 12), nothing about this experience disappointed. I was even enthused to look at all the crazy merchandise in the exit turned gift shop before returning to Hogsmeade. After riding all the rides and looking in the shops multiple times, the sheer idea of existing in this tangible representation of a fictional universe I love left a lasting smile on my face. 

The Sorting Hat

As nearly 5 hours elapsed in what I can only describe as how clouds in cartoons feel, I was kindly told that Universal was two different parks, and my pass wouldn't allow me to venture to the newly created Diagon Alley. Without hesitation (sorry dwindling savings) I paid the exorbitant fee to upgrade my ticket, and was quickly embarking on the Hogwarts Express to London. The ride, which is an actual train that transports you from park to park, is an extremely realistic take on what the Hogwarts express looks like in the films. To further immerse you into your wildest fantasy, the windows are replaced with projectors that show you weaving through the countryside, past dementors and ominous weather, before reaching London (where the Nightbus is weaving magically through the streets.) The Kings Cross Station is realistic enough to have a vendor selling English beer and crisps to those waiting in queue. My excitement to break through the enchanted brick wall to Diagon Alley was nearly unbearable!

The Hogwarts Express
Maybe it was my rapidly decreasing blood sugar (my purse of outside snacks didn't last as long as I'd hoped), but Diagon Alley didn't foster the same magic as stepping into Hogsmeade and Hogwarts. While aesthetically amazing, with the addition of Knockturn Alley and a fire-breathing dragon perched atop Gringotts, the experience as a whole left me longing for the comfort of my own imagination, melding with previously peered pages. Universal's blunder, I felt, was making Diagon Alley a glorified walking mall. While yes, Diagon Alley is a shopping center, it's a freaking magical shopping center. Obviously Universal wants to push a product, but making every store only a store doesn't do what Rowling has created justice. The aging Simpon's universe, while still hawking product, at least offers activities in which you can dump your money. Apart from the Gringott's Ride (and 9 or so small pieces of Diagon Alley's structure that have a "magical" movement activated with the swish of a $50 interactive wand), Diagon Alley's only option was starring at the buildings in amazement, or buying Harry Potter memorablia. While not necessarily disappointed, I found myself seeing Universal starting to fluster in their second installment to the Wizarding World. After milking my $4 pumpkin juice as long as possible, I realized I would better spend my time seeing the alternate video played while catching the Hogwart's Express from London to Hogsmeade, and enjoying a handcrafted Wizard Brew (made locally in Florida for the park) in Hogshead. While the money to upgrade my ticket was well worth getting to ride the immaculate and entertaining Hogwarts Express, my immersion seemed to only exist in the artificially snowcapped village of Hogsmeade, laying in the the majestic shadows of the Hogwarts castle.

Hogsmeade in all its glory
While one can be tempted to make jokes about how it's fitting that Harry, while sadly orphaned, was a trust fund baby, I can't but help look back on my time in the Wizarding World with fond memories. Though I think the clip at the end of the Gringotts' ride, where Bill Weasly tries to get you to invest in a vault, is fitting description of the Diagon Alley addition (the Hogwarts ride ends with Harry singing your praises and Dumbledore inviting you back), I am more than pleased with what I felt, smelled, tasted, and experienced. Having the opportunity walk through Hogsmeade,  peer into Hogwarts, and ride the Hogwarts express in real life is more than I could ever ask for. While I'll always prefer the realm that exists at the amalgamate of literature and my imagination, experiencing the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is one I'm grateful to tick off the bucket list.

Here are some extra photos to wet  your whistle until your Hogwarts Letter (i.e fat paycheck of disposable income you choose to spend on a vacation to a theme park) arrives...

More Triwizard signage
Another view of the castle
Muggles will never learn to drive...

The lovely ladies of Beauxbatons and the strapping gentlemen of Durmstrang

The Hogwart's Express made the park-to-park ticket upgrade worth the cost

Enjoying a specially brewed beer in the Hogshead

Shamelessly asking other onlookers to take my picture at Hogwarts


Disney is no longer the happiest place on earth

Photos courtesy of author

Friday, October 3, 2014

Bikes, Beer, Babes, and Social Justice

Winter Wonderland Cruise 2014

If you’ve spent a summer in the Denver area, and, you know, you like to ride bikes and what not, you’ve probably heard of Denver Cruisers (aka Denver Bike Night). If you meet these criteria, it is also a safe bet to say you’ve probably found yourself in a costume that relates to other participants, drinking an adult beverage, pondering whether or not to tempt fate by riding into the Circle of Death. You’ve probably torn through the streets, HOPEFULLLY respecting the Law of the Land, enjoying what could have been brushed off as another typical hump day. With the regular season having met its match in Mother Nature, the long haul of costume-less, cold weather rides is now upon us. As the cruise down memory lane commences, one should not only revel in the majesty of the passed season, but take the time to savor how Denver Cruisers is leaving a positive footprint in the city of Denver.

The final ride of the season offered everything a rider could want. There was a time-honored theme (Winter Wonderland!), an extremely fitting location, DJ bikes, food trucks, riding swiftly in circles, and enough LED to make any EDM enthusiast's pants a little tighter. While the Groove Subaru stage and table threw me for a loop (I guess if you want participation to grow, the luxury of dancing to random tunes from a DJ bike isn’t enough enticement), the party went off without a hitch. Participants were happy, planners were ecstatic, and the long line of loud flashing bikes will forever be etched in our memories. The season came and went, but unlike the ostentations parade of peddling partiers, the Denver Cruiser folks coyly promoted their understated agenda. 

Some bikes stick out amongst the crowd
While Cruisers often gets criticized (sometimes understandably) by city officials and occupants, the truth is, the organization itself has a much larger mission than getting folks dressed and liqoured up on weeknights. Denver Cruisers is part of a citywide initiative known as MindTheBike. The campaign was established to promote bike safety in Denver, using slogans like, “If you are a dick, you will be treated like a dick - it’s the basic law of the universe.” Though their media is humorous, the goal of promoting safety for both bikers and city occupants isn’t a laughing matter. Denver, as an up and coming city, has seen the influx of bike commuters grow about as fast as the real estate market. MindTheBike encourages riders to know their rights, obey traffic laws, ride sober, use lights, helmets, and locks, as well as reminding all people “Don’t be a douche bag.” A quick glance at the website can align any visitor with the rules of the road, such as… BIKERS AREN’T SUPPOSED TO RIDE ON THE SIDEWALK ASSHOLE IN THE TURN LANE WHO WON’T WAIT YOUR TURN! Subtly aside, Denver Cruisers and MindTheBike have made bombing down our city streets not only safe but sexy. 

Along with promoting bicycle safety, Cruisers also helps promote local business and stimulate local economy. Wednesday's meet-up, now under the moniker of Denver Bike Night, partners with different bars to act as start-up locations. With the birth of a hump day eve, hundreds of rowdy participants flock to the chosen bars before embarking on the ride. At the meet-up Bike Party, participants are bestowed the ability to purchase nourishment from local food trucks. After the Man vacates the Bike Party, another bar is chosen for the Official After Party, creating another lucrative night for the food and beverage industry. 

While cruisers has its flaws and critics, it is undeniably a positive event in the streets of Denver. The creative take on stimulating economy, supporting local business, and encouraging the safe use of green transportation has transformed our city for the better. There are always going to be those who think it's OK to block traffic, run a red light, or throw fireworks into the Circle of Death, but these outliers shouldn’t deter from the main event. Denver Cruisers is a shinning example of why our city is flourishing, and what can happen if we encourage creative ways to inspire the masses. 

Participants getting ready to cruise 

Photos courtesy of author

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Meditation isn’t Just for Hippies, and Doesn’t Need to Cut into your Precious Free Time

Meditation is an interesting word. While its definition seems pretty straight forward, what it evokes in people differs greatly one to the other. In fact, if you asked your closest friends and family, you would most likely receive some starkly different responses. Though the idea of meditating may seem to some as 20 minutes of boredom, or even wasted time, what acceptance of this word can do is outstanding. 

One doesn’t need to go on a lavish retreat in a foreign country, or seek out a guru, to learn about the benefits of meditation. All you really need is a few moments of concentration, a little creativity, and the desire to learn a new tool. Meditation isn’t about sitting alone, cross-legged, in a dark room with candles and incense, it is about mindfulness. It’s about bringing focus and acceptance to daily tasks. While we all have to-do lists containing less desirable boxes to check off, being able to go about this in a mindful way can actually make the menial more meaningful; it just takes a different approach than what we are used to.

With a simple Google search, one is able to pick up easy tips on what it is to meditate. According to the Buddhism About page, meditation is the amalgamate of 4 simple steps: 

1. Mindfulness of Body
2. Mindfulness of Feelings
3.) Mindfulness of Mind
4.) Mindfulness of Dharma

So how does this apply to your daily life? Here is an example of how one can mix meditation with something we all do each day; eating...

Mindfulness of Body - To be mindful of the body means to be aware of what's happening in you. In a meditation class, attendees will sit and begin to bring focus to their breath. This can include bringing awareness to breathing into the chest or stomach, how long their inhale (in a relative count) is vs. their exhale, as well as what areas of the body are working, relaxed, stuck, or achy. In daily life, when you sit down at your chosen space to eat, focus on your breath for maybe 30 seconds or minute, while concentrating on how it works with your body in the position which you normally eat. This prepares you to eat meditatively, bringing attention to your entire being.

Mindfulness of Feeling - While this can (and should) include what emotions become apparent during the action, what feeling means is literally how the activity works with the senses. Instead of eating while watching TV, reading, or even having conversation, try taking a few moments to engage with your food before scarfing it down. It may be weird not to use utensils, but try feeling your food, exploring the texture or temperature, smelling it, and getting a good visual image before actually taking a bite. While chewing, see how that texture feels in your mouth. Listen to the noises the food makes. See if you can still catch wafts of the food's scent. These small steps take only a few moments, but help you engage with your food, tasting it in a way we oft experience. 

Mindfulness of Mind - As simple as this sounds, this may be the hardest step. As what is off putting for many mediation objectors, this is the step where you try and clear your head. In our society, letting the mind rest isn’t easy. The harder we try, the more thoughts flood in. Instead of combating the deluge, what this step means is being aware of what is happening upstairs while you eat. Are you drifting somewhere? Instead of letting your mind engage with this thought, see what that thought is. Recognize you had a thought, maybe label if it is a thought of the future, commitments, or even a fear you have, then bring your focus back to the information the senses are feeding you about your meal. The mind drifts, but it doesn’t need to ruin concentration. By realizing you are drifting, acknowledging it, and returning to the task at hand, you continue to concentrate, continuing your mindfulness practice. This may happen one time or 50 times, but as long as your focus returns to eating, you are still meditating.

Mindfulness of Dharma - While Dharma is a debate in itself, for all intents and purposes for this activity, mindfulness of dharma means being aware of your intention and being gracious. Why are you eating? Is it for nourishment? Are you bored? Are you stress eating? Whatever the reason you are indulging in a meal, learn that reason, keep it at the forefront of the activity, and be thankful for the food in your hand. 

By approaching a daily task such as eating, exercising, or cleaning, in this fashion, a busy person can incorporate mindfulness and mediation into their daily lives. Be it 5 minutes or 15, with these steps you will gain a level of concentration and focus that seemed to disappear with the introduction of iPhones. It may not come the first try, but with a little imagination and desire to make a less-desirable task more palatable, these practices can be applied nearly anywhere throughout the day. 

People can’t be forced to become more mindful. If meditation isn’t your thing, it isn’t your thing. For those who are ready to increase focus and bring about a more conscious approach to day-to-day life, adding small increments of meditation to your day will do wonders. While it does take practice, creation of a mindful habits will increase concentration, efficacy, and overall enjoyment that will be seen day-in, day-out.  

Photos courtesy of the GuardianMemecenter, and Connect113

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Great Autumn Day Hikes, Easily Accessible to Front Rangers

The view from one of the front range's finest day hikes

Autumn in Colorado is known for a few things; proliferating yoga pants, pumpkin beer/coffee/food, and the striking phenomena of leaves changing colors. You can see it in the high country to the front rage, and even to the east somewhat if you are lucky. This is the season where afterwork trail runs and hikes are being cut short by darkness, and frost on car windows and grass is becoming more common. When the fresh, chilly autumn air begins to hit Colorado, there is a striking change that comes over the state, beyond just seasons and colors. While we may still have a handful of days in the 90’s, this is the perfect time to seize optimal temperatures for lower-elevation hikes.

Changing leaves in the midsts of evergreen

With an overflowing pool of options, this past week I decided to spend the day exploring the trails off of the Hessie Trailhead. Located only a few miles out of Nederland, these trails, which hug and penetrate the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, are great for day trippers from the city. 

With multiple trails starting from Hessie, the most popular is Lost Lake. The trail is less than 3 miles from start to finish, and offers a ton of pistes boasting views of the surrounding valley or moving water. Be warned, this is a favorite amongst those in Ned, as well as Boulder, Denver, and the surrounding areas. Weekend hikes are synonymous with packed trails.

The approach to the Hessie Trailhead

For those looking for a longer and more arduous jaunt, Hessie Trailhead is also the starting point for hikes to a multitude of lakes, with some of the most popular being Woodland, Skyscraper, King's, and Devil's Thumb. Most of these hikes run at a minimum of 8 miles for out and back, as well as posting heavy inclines. The reward, of course, is breathtaking views and lonelier trails. 

Lost Lake at its finest

The first glimpse of Woodland Lake

Woodland Lake, a 9.1 mile hike

As the leaves are already changing, it may be time to cash in one of your sick days in exchange for a intimate glimpse of the fiery reds and oranges, intermixed with fleeting green. Remember, the days aren't getting any longer, and the leaves don't wait for anyone. Before you know it, the trails may be barren and snow covered, at least until the next unexpected warm patch. 

Photos Courtesy of Author

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Patience is a Virtue... or the Collateral Damage of Travel

A few days back, I decided to bike commute to a morning yoga class. It was a dreary day, and although I was cold, I enjoy biking. I'm not a big fan of being in the car, and I'm especially not a big fan of daily commutes. After hitting some traffic, I found myself on a relatively desolate, two lane road, but with little to no bike lane. Though I was enjoying my morning jaunt to class, the lady driving the overpriced, luxury SUV behind me seemed to have a less jovial attitude as she rode my ass, laid on the horn, and nearly clipped me while erratically changing lanes (why she didn't change lanes earlier is beyond me). The Irony of our opposing mentalities and daily endeavors aside, what this small incident remind is a belief that those who travel, consciously or not, have a more developed sense of patience.

I'll be the first to admit there are definite holes in this theory. If you put me in a car, morning after morning, trying to beat traffic on the way to a job I probably am not entirely stoked on, I'm sure my patience would be waining as well. In the same light, not all people who have "traveled," have been bestowed the opportunities to learn patience that some of us vagabonds have...but bear with me, I think I can get you to see the light.

There is an intangible, yet gaping, divide between the experiences of those who have left the developed world, and those who have not. In the developed world, we believe in the "on-the-go," lifestyle. Especially in the land of the stars and stripes, the idea of sitting and eating a meal,  actually enjoying your morning coffee, or even focusing on a single task, is unheard of. We are programmed from a young age to forget our own schedules, believing that if we are late, or something breaks our daily routine, the end of the universe is inevitable. It's sad, but the idea of waiting or portraying the tiniest sliver of patience, is about as common as a lasting marriage.

Now, imagine THIS existence compared to places where linear time doesn't rule all. A place where schedules come and go, and on top of that, shit CAN and WILL happen at nearly every opportunity. Sure a bus or train can be late in the developed world, but imagine not knowing if a train or bus will even show up at all. Maybe it never reached capacity, so the company decided to scrap it for the day. Maybe free roaming animals decided to take a nap in the middle of the street, so the patrons of the bus are forced to wait while the flustered driver tries to wake and shoo the sleepy beasts. If that was something you experienced a few times in your life, do you really think a biker on the far end of one of two lanes would infuriate you to the point of near homicide?

What you learn while venturing into different existences is that the world is full of surprises. While an unexpected hiccup in the states may derail a person's day, a literal derailed train elsewhere in the world may not phase someone who is used to the adapting to life's curveballs. The unexpected is inevitable, and while we will all experience it at some point, how we react to this surprising visitor is what really matters. My guess is that 9 times out of 10, a person who has traveled will be much more patient and understanding to this simple twist of fate than that of their counterparts. I'm fairly certain that the person who traveled may even see the unexpected as an opportunity, not a burden, and their day will continue in a seamless fashion.

The next time you have an encounter with an unplanned detour, remember there are always different routes back to the main road. Are you going to be the person who lays on the horn and complains, or are you going to change lanes with grace?

Photos courtesy of Doscity

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Does a home base make you less of a traveler?

The image of a vagabond is pretty straight forward; disheveled, full backpack, tattered clothes, sun kissed, wandering. While all these descriptives do justice to a portrait many long-term travelers like to identify with, does this small paradigm truly describe what traveling should look like? Does one have to adopt a minimalist approach, living out of what fits in a backpack, and never staying in one place too long, to really be a “traveler?” Do drifters and tumbleweeds have to renounce the idea of a base or bed to be drifters and tumbleweeds? Maybe it’s just me, but I think that trying to encapsulate the idea of exploration in a simple checklist may be a misguided approach.

I’m sitting now at a desk a friend gave me. The black, functional, yet tried and tired office item is in a townhouse I own, in the state where I was born. Today marks the one week anniversary of me being stagnant in said state and townhouse. After about a year and a half out of the country, followed by another 4 months on the road within my land of origin, the idea of sleeping in the same bed every night doesn’t sound abrasive. actually, clean sheets and a kitchen to cook in nearly brings me to tears. While I am back in the good ole USA, does that mean I’ve sold my backpack and told the whispering wind to shove it? No, it doesn’t. In fact, this little side trip is a way to create a travel lifestyle that fits my needs.

What most of us travelers know, yet hate to admit, is that cash flow is an important part of life. Whether you are deep in the jungle in southeast Asia, or sipping some of the finest caffeinated beverages in Melbourne, money is important. The amount to which one needs and how one allocates funds is relative. On 
the same note, the way one finds these funds is also up for interpretation. For me, having a place that I can pay off with roommates, and also profit off of through sublets, enables me to have a small disposable income. It gives me storage space, a place to rest my head, but doesn’t nearly tie me down in a way I initially assumed. What this place does is allow me to travel and retreat based around my own terms.

One of my favorite traveler writers, Wandering Earl, wrote a wonderful piece about forgoing worry of other’s judgements. For me, I’ve come to the conclusion that as much as a dig sleeping in the cheapest guest houses, bumming on couches, and frolicking in the breeze’s navigation, I do like the idea of a safety net. I like being able to have a savings account, as well as a place to rest my head when I come home to the place and people I love. Don’t get me wrong, being 27 and shackin’ up with the parents is swell, but as time progresses, and I do in accordance, there are certain things I’ve realized are important to me. The idea of investment and multiple sources of income has become an important fixture in my vocabulary. While this new person emerging scares me, he seems to have some interesting points. I also really dig the sources he cites. I think he may be on to something…

What it all boils down to is life is about finding your purpose. For some, that purpose is to drift in the wind. For others, it is to find a career, a spouse, and a house, and live that way until the 
rapture.  For those of us in between, life is about creating the balance that allows you to flow, permeate, and hustle to your hearts content. I realize the people I respect most are those who love to travel, yet keep progressing. It’s the people who create a lifestyle where they move about freely, yet still delve into any culture that crosses their path. It’s those who can absolutely love slumming it in backpacker haven, then take a trip to the unknown, and still return to their home and loved ones for a jaunt in the frightening western world. Those people are the travelers whom I believe in.

For me, my current domicile in Colorado does just fine (that is until ski season comes and goes!) While I may be back in Colorado for the time being, I adore the 
fact I see this place as home. Travel is what one makes of it. If through your journeys you realize a home base is what you need, or at least a trip outside of your current trip, you are the only person capable of making that decision. The funny thing is, once you stop caring and actually follow that intuition, the more balanced you will feel, and the more opportunities to create this desired lifestyle will arrive.

Photos courtesy of Getty Images, Listability, and Vagabond Journey

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Dwindling Magic of the Music Industry

While the old saying states, “Pursue your passion, and the money will follow,” the truth is, sometimes it’s good to separate pleasure from work. For the last two months, I’ve been on the road working with a NGO whom partners with the music industry to help spread their mission. I took this job because I love traveling and the environment (booyah!), but I also took it because I wanted to love music as much as I did in the past. I still love music, don’t get me wrong, but it’s been some time since it has been at the forefront of my life. I signed on to re-ignite that passion for live shows, discovering new bands, and reveling in awe when hearing the perfect song at the perfect moment. While this objective has been achieved, I’ve also seen some of the mystery of the industry evaporate as my understanding of the inner-workings grow. It has been a privilege to see the ins and outs, but there are also some lessons that I won’t be able to unlearn. 

SPOILER ALERT!!! Bestowed upon you below is some of the most important things I’ve learned while penetrating into the world of the music industry. 

1.) Most people in the industry are dicks - Sorry to say it, but most people in this business didn’t get here by giving a fuck about anyone but themselves or their “art.” Be it musicians, managers, promoters, etc., I do have to believe that the music industry is where the phrase, “a big bag of dicks,” came from. That isn’t to say there isn’t a gem here or there (because there are and they are awesome!), it just isn’t a large enough number to combat the ever-growing dick-filled bag.

2.) It’s cut throat - While this can be true of many industries, following along the lines of #1, most people aren’t looking to make friends. To work your way up, you need to be ready to jump at any opportunity, regardless of who it metaphorically (hopefully) shits on. People are willing to let go of morals, values, friends, or foes, all in hopes of getting a shot at their dream job.

3.) The “biz,” is one giant pissing contest - Imagine a room full of the cockiest, most arrogant dudes you have ever met in your life. Throw in a handful of the story-topper friends, and a few chip-on-the-shoulder bros, and that is basically what it’s like. If ever there was an example needed for the detriments of male pride, look no further. Better bring yo umbrella, cuz yous gonna get a golden shower.

4.) If you’re not stressed, you’re not working hard enough - Sure hard work is fine and dandy, but truly efficient people know that being stressed constantly normally doesn’t render efficacy…hints why the music industry is not incredibly efficient. Running a tour, promoting shows, booking artists; these are not simple tasks. Each one has its set of problems or setbacks. With that being said, when you see people running around day in and day out doing the same last minute tasks as if their life was dependent on this gate being open, or that table being moved, you have to wonder if maybe a little more foresight and planning could eradicate such high-intensity worry. That energy could be used in much better ways if someone only chose to do so.

5.) Artists aren’t always the people you want to hang out with - Be it because they are absolute dicks, or just plain weird, some of the people we lionize in this industry may not actually be someone you’d wanna grab a drink with. That isn’t to say some of the artists aren’t extremely awesome, but the more artists you meet, the more you realize they would be no where without their crew, merch people, etc. Whenever I have the option, I choose be hanging out with the latter. 

6.) Women in the “biz,” are like unicorns! - Not only are women rare, though they have every right to be the most aggressive, harsh, cut throat warriors trying to slice off their tiny sliver of this male-dominated cake, the majority I’ve meet have been incredible. They have been caring, complete work horses, and not caught up in the egotistical bullshit of their male counterparts. My one piece of advice to reform this business? Hire a shit ton more women! The outcome would be rehabilitating.

7.) Truly good artists perform every night - One of the least majestic things about jobs in this business is seeing some of the same bands every night. Believe it or not, even if you think you love an artist, hearing the same song over and over every night does lose its appeal. Do I hate the bands I’m touring with? Absolutely not. Do I watch full sets every night? absolutely not. Live shows can become monotonous. Good bands, though, even if you see them 100’s of times, will still make you stop and appreciate what they are doing. Even if you don’t want to watch the whole set or you realize the headliner’s act is the only time you may steal a quick break, a truly amazing artist will be able to engage you for at least a few minutes every night you are riding with them. 

8.) Live performances can make or break a band - I think this is a statement most music fans know, but one those in the industry have had completely drilled into them. Lots of musicians can make good CDs, but not all bands can be real performers. Bands who can’t bring it live don’t last very long, and for good reason. CDs don’t make money, live shows do. CDs garner attention, yes, but live shows create fans. The hardest working bands, the ones grinding it out on the road perfecting their shows, these are the ones who are going to make it.

9.) No matter how you do it, touring is hard - While my tour is currently on the same budget as any garage band hawking CDs out of their trunk just to get the gas money to the next city, even the best of the best still have issues. Waking up in a new city everyday is hard. Living in a van, bus, or car that needs to be packed and unpacked each day becomes tiresome. Flights, long drives, buses, boats, or whatever you are taking form point A to point B is going to wear on you, even if it is top-tier. 

10.) Everything is less magical when you see its make up - Sad, but true…or is it? While there is some majesty to seeing only a final product without knowing its production, being with a project from start to bitter end opens a completely new point of view; a new frame of reference for “magic.” I’ve loved attending concerts and festivals for some time, but I’ve never been on the other end until now. Seeing the good, the bad, the bizarre, and the unbearable has absolutely had its up and down times, but the end product, while forever set in a new frame, will always be the same. Live music is live music. It will always be good. Maybe my choice in musicians, festivals, and standing within the music industry will change, but as stated before, the objective to love music with reignited fervor has been accomplished. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Mermaid and the Gaucho

       He was brought up to believe they were myths. Subjects of tales that sailors would tell, but were brushed off… the result of sea stroke or drink. The land lovers, they could never believe in anything they couldn’t see with their own two eyes. They never understood the word faith. But there was one, a gaucho. Not yet a man, but no longer a boy, at an early age he toyed with ideas of places and things that the river and springs in this small valley could never bring him. 

He spent his time on the peak. From his perch, he could peer out into the vast, endless layers of rolling waves peeling off the sea. When he felt inspired, he would scale the loose rock and debris, so his feet could kiss the moist sand. While he feared the rough waters, it was here he did witness the burning sun’s embers fall so gracefully on her shimmering, slender torso. Though just a spark, it was enough to set his arid, prairie heart ablaze. When they caught eyes, the gaze; it could have been days that passed before her lips let out the sweetest hint of laughter, as she slipped back into the blue abyss. This moment would forever alter the gaucho’s landscape.

As with the sailors, his community could never believe the tales his eyes recanted. They told him the sea was dangerous, and only foolish men would venture into such treacherous depths. The valley offered all the water one could ever desire. Their words, though, might as well have been of another tongue. He preceded to frequent the peak and sand. Holsters empty, love drawn and at the ready, the steady flow with which the waves rolled in became his closest friend. Days would come and end, and with her sails drawn, she would ride in on the wind past the break and lay on the same rock that shot the fateful arrow; the arson in his chest still roaring. Some nights, he laid his head to rest on the battered shores, waking to find his rock invariably draped in her presence. Her bird song laugher his chariot to back from slumber. Their infatuation was drawn out until the season’s change. Days drew nearer where peaks wore cloaks of snow and ice.

He never spoke of where he would go, yet land lovers could only hope he hadn’t fallen victim to the intoxicating tales the sailors would tell. They feared he would lose his life the same as the deviant seaman. You see, fear is a funny thing. With it brings intent or paralysis, will these feeling pass over, or push to the brink of fruition? Those frozen days, robbing him of the sea’s breeze and sand pillow, where sleep had never felt so resonate, had him feeling some way. He would wait on the cliff’s peaks until his cheeks turned pink with the winter’s forsaken embrace, thinking and seeking out her fueling gaze to fan its kin flame now waining. Paining and pining for the shinning and shimmering sight that forever changed how he viewed this dwindling life. It seemed she had been absent for an eternity. 

Fate’s soft strings rang on a day where the outcry and disdain from the land lover’s begin to seep into his lovelorn brain. He wondered if maybe his imagination had run astray…But from his perch he swore he saw the waves part; the sun tore through sheets of gray, illuminating the same spot he so adored, only to see her silky-linen frame lain. The amalgamate of fate and fear oozed from fluctuating limbs. Her finger beckoned, the peak and weary knees acquiesced, he floated past ice and snow. The sands welcomed him as if he was Odysseus returning to native soil. 

Her gaze extended an invitation that his head accepted with no hint of hesitation. The water was past his knees before his fluttering feet had cognizance of their motion. The Gaucho, he had never learned to swim, but that could never stop him from diving into the ocean blue for a love he knew, more than anything he ever knew, was true. The aqueous transition felt nearly as warm as her coveted embrace, as they absconded into the uncharted bliss…

Photos courtesy of Walmiru and Painted Mermaid

Monday, June 23, 2014

Let the Lights and Patterns in the Grass Guide You - The Epic Tale that was Bonnaroo 2014


Act 1: The Arrival

Arriving with the other volunteers and workers gave a false first impression. Through security and short-lines, it would be easy to think this day may define what’s to come, but that’s just not true. The journey starts when the GA gates open; like the first inundation in the spring, 90,000 people flood into miles of ground waiting to be trampled. I work first and my shift is slow but keeps me alert, flirting with the possibilities of whats to come.

I’m surprised, not once but twice, by those I’ve met at the festy’s before. I adore those moments of unexpected reminiscence, but as the clock ticks, and my shift ceases to exist, new memories are going to be made.

I venture solo, only accompanied by communal herbal remedies and a belief I’ll meet the right people. Whenever I feel lonely, I find a new stage. I get Down and Stay Down with Thao, before a glowstick lure hooks me into Banks. I’m stopped before I get to the stage by someone who thinks I’m a photographer. I try and amend this mistake, but she won’t take no for an answer, and I give her my contact. I find my first real conversation in breaks between beats during Policsia. They play great, but I decided to stay decently straight this evening, and venture home at a decent hour. The nearly turgid moon guides me down the dusty path to my dew-doused home. 

Act 2: The Time I chose mastodon over Kanye

I wake with the sounds of golf carts and orders, but the breeze on the ride to work feels nice. No one wants to wake up at 8 for a music festival, but the divine feel of freedom at noon doesn’t hurt. The clock ticks, and as the yoga and mediation ends in front of me, its time to quit.

Even though I was sitting in the dirt, the conversation was great as we anxiously anticipated what awaited in the comedy tent. With black nerd jokes by Sasheer, and failed attempts at jeers while TJ miller walked on stage dripping wet, which he never really did address, my short walk to the next tent to visit my Wood Brother friends finally saw the end of my laughter. They sang about their Muse, and I was confused how a band of this capacity could have such an awful time slot. 

Friday is my day for music. The bands I want to see are stacked, back-to-back, on a plethora of stages, and I’m determined to see them all. I haul to Which stage to catch Ben Howard. Beforehand I see kids doing headstands, so I immediately make friends. In the minutes leading up to the show, I grow aware of life outside of immediate desires, as I lose my granola-girl conversationalist to her boyfriend with tattoos from arm to wrist, in complete juxtaposition to my own sleeve. I’m relived when I realize he has substance underneath blood, skull, and tank tats, and I wonder how this old soul ended up serving in the barracks. Ben Howard starts, they begin to show affection. Ben Howard plays soft and slow, and I realize I’m the only other letter in a pool of x’s and o’s. I leave before I hear all my favorite songs.

Theophilius meets me for Janelle Monae, unbeknownst to either of us that we were about the see the best performance of the day. I two-step and stand on tippy toes to see the stage, as he whirls, turns, and squeaks in between cracks in the crowd. So proud to hold his arms in the air, spreading love in the manner he believes his God wants him to employ. I’m overjoyed to watch as the crowd sees this atypical spectacle, yet embraces with a reciprocal show of affection. Janelle Monae does not take direction at all. In light of her being the coolest person on the planet, she exits the stage through the crowd. Her band plays until she can no longer be found in the masses. I think i’m in love.

The Head and the Heart plays next. While I don’t dig their new work, I was employed by someone I wouldn’t even give the distinction of being ex, maybe just a fling, to give their new album a chance live. I arrive to an oldie, but I see a band I used to adore look like a shell of their previous selves. They seem lost; even their banter with the crowd is devoid of any identity. They butcher my favorite song as their finale.

Tonight is the full moon. The first full moon on a Friday the 13th in an absurd amount of time. I’m in prime shape after a nap and shower (perks of living in the vendor lot!), and ready to get weird. I’m torn, but I fear that I’m gonna act with the masses to see what Kanye has to offer. Though I used to be fan I can’t say I really like anything he’s done in nearly decade. There is no one else playing in his time slot. It would be a lie to say I wasn’t blown away by his furry on stage as he played “Black Skinhead,” to spark up the set. The LED screen was a three-dimensional, rectangular display. I couldn’t even tell if that was him on stage, but that song is one I respect. After this, though, the set turned into a mess. Negativity spewed from both crowd and stage, with chants of fishdicks, retorted by Kanye saying, “ I’m the number one mother fucking rockstar on the planet.” I couldn’t stay much past when he tried to say he was on par with Hendrix. The entire scene was not what one wants to see at a weekend of music, love, and peace…

Which brings me to the defense of metal! I won’t belittle the power of aggression and pain, but its insane to me that someone could cast off Mastodon as angry when you have only rage and anger pouring from any stage where Kanye steps foot. Heavy music doesn’t have to mean hate, in fact, it’s a source of raw, untapped energy. The fans may be hard and the guitars fast, and the drums may beat like thunder cracking right above your head, but the dead truth is this book can’t be judged by the cover. No one oozed aggression in This Tent. While the circle pits went back and fourth, if someone dropped to the floor, they were immediately picked up, dusted off, and sent back to a safe ground. I found this scene much less abrasive, and threw a bone to my past self who used to live for this stuff.

One of the most interesting aspects was walking from This Tent to Which Stage, in the perfect place where one could hear both Mastodon and Ice Cube play. Maybe Girl Talk once walked in this same spot and heard the power of mash-ups. I reveled in the adjoining intersection of two completely different walks of life. Ice Cube played the hits, and it never seemed to click that this man has been able to shout “fuck the police,” and trapeze into a starring role in kids films. Middle finger up, Ice Cube does not give a P-H fuck about what anyone thinks. He played “new shit,” about girls dropping it on command like a light switch.

I found a bench where a man was laying. I sat down on the opposite side. A few moments later he would rise to open up a small bag and see if I wanted a small lick, or more accurately, to a rail a pinch of the sack’s remnants. I declined, deciding maybe 1:30 am on this night was not the best place to first try MDMA. He smiled, took key to nose, then bailed. I inhaled the surroundings, breathing in Skrillex beats, Deaf Haven’s screams, and the beaming moon smiling down on my slightly burned face. I laid until I feared I would fall asleep, then rose to my feet to make the long walk back to my tent. 

Act 3: A New Ingredient added to the Potent Potion

There’s no snooze button for small land vehicles and strong suggestions, but there is consolation in a free ride to the Solar Stage. Today is my morning to play, in a way only yogis know how. The class isn’t serious, in fact, its led but two folks who may be wed (and if so they’re definitely swingers), and have a knack for incorporating animals into the mix.  I’m a lion, no I’m a snail, no I’m a snakepidegonturtleowleopard who attacks the day with fervor. We take the class further by doing moves only possible with two. To my left is a blonde; we exchange names and begin to work on a handstand. She seems shy, or a bit nervous, and I’m curious as it seems she has some life behind those eyes. I later find out she’s a 30-some who looks no older than 24, but lost someone she adored, now leading her on a new path. We finish the class with an adulterated pranayama, where we all link arms and oscillate like leaves on the trees. I feel a new arm join from the right. A brunette sits down. We don’t speak until we are no longer leaves on trees. With an arm on two contrasting hair colors, my gaze shifts right. I won’t realize until later in the night, this small act will change everything. I’ll never dream of thinking back on where the lefthand side would have led. 

We lock eyes and realize that we posses the same shade. Only a select view are invited to see the covert hazel. We seek shade under a fabricated tree, and she asks me my plans for the night. I say they are open, and she tells me hers. I feel assured when I ask if I can join, and she agrees its a good idea. I drop her off at her tent, run back to camp, and prepare for the day. The entire process devours nearly an hour away from the dwindling time here, but I find the walk somewhat soothing. A little alone time never hurt anyone. 

I need to work at 9, and while her and her friends seemed to already have reached a divine plane, she says she’ll wait for me to take the next step. Their state matches Kevin’s surname as he plays on the Miller Light Stage. I’m amazed at how small the crowd is for such a cult figure in the scene. He plays my favorite song last, and we pass by the crowds to go stake out a spot for cake. We lay in the grass and listen to my new friend’s partner in crime explain the way her brain functions in her current mind frame. She wants to play, and love, and never not have fun. I adore these ideas, and encourage her to run with it, wandering what else she’ll say. I’m surprised when she decides to head to the toilette, leaving us alone for a few moments before the set. We talk about what’s to come next, and what this night may hold. Cake takes the stage. They play songs I’ve heard for so many years, to a boom of applause and cheers. Their singer exposes small glimpses of his radical beliefs, yet never gives a full portrayal. 

After watching a magnificent set from Cake, we decided to appease our baking skin by gliding down the massive waterside. My vendor pass lets us cut line. I can’t help but sneak a peak at the incredibly fine individual standing in front of me only adorning a 2-piece. She turns to face me for one quick gaze, before the slide Guru releases his hand and she lands on her back; her head leads the way down the slide. I follow in suite. 

We meet her friend outside the Other Tent. We don’t go in, but we can hear Bobby Womack from our station. She calls it cheesy, I ask her to slow dance. A euphoric wayfarer cuts in for a moment to tell us a we’re a beautiful couple. I laugh, she giggles. We make a plan to meet at my tent after I close, and I come in close to kiss her on the cheek. She’ll go on later to promise she was just trying to reciprocate my feat, but our lips meet in the middle. I don’t want to move, but she stops, and assures me not to worry because we’ll meet in a few hours. I float a few inches above the grass to my tent.

When 9 o’clock hits, I’m alone after relieving an under the weather (festival-style) co-worker from duty. She comes to see me. We lock the tent, and head, for a few moments, to see which Lauryn Hill will be attending this event. Ms. Hill seems in good spirits, playing reggae/island versions of the songs we all love. I wonder if she’ll stay this way the whole set. We’ll never know, as we deiced to jet back to the vendor camp to finish my responsibility. At my tent I steal another kiss, and we decide its time to partake in festival activities. A hint of kale lingers on my taste buds.

We walk swiftly to catch as much of Jack White’s set as possible. A man dances in front of us, or at least I’m under the impression that’s what he is doing. I’m fixated for a few moments, realizing I can’t discern if he is coming or going. He walks close, then takes a few steps back, only to approach once again. I pretend to not notice, and start to look out to the trees, and see that we are in a small, musical bubble. The trees surrounding us feel like barriers, guarding from anything outside this stage. They glitter and wave as if plankton swaying in the sea. She stands next to me, and I steel another glimpse of her face. She looks like a person I know, but I can’t but my finger on it. I continue to gaze around the festival. She asks if I’m OK, and I smile and squeeze her hand. We are at different states, but fate won’t let the night continue in this manner. 

She takes my hand and guides us through the crowd. I’m astounded by the ease with which we weave between all these people enjoying Mr. White. Its seems that lights and patterns are emerging from the pulsating ground; we’ve found the right track to race down. A few minutes into the main festival grounds she looks at me with a grin. We realize it’s time to begin this inaugural journey together.

The balloon lights are magical. Like a scene from Wonderland, we’ve been transported to Fun Town! We walk around, engulfing all the faces and places the festival has to offer. We watch the stages sway and play songs we may or may not know. I know we had plans to see bands, but at this point it all seems irrelevant. The night and the lights are leading the way.

We plop down on her colorful sarong near the Which Stage. We lay, and her had now graces my chest. While we are at our best, we’ve become astronomers. One pair of hands engaged, while the others venture solo and play with the stars, leading them every which way. Passerbys giggle at the scene, but this all feels like a whimsical, capricious dream. It peters in and out, but now the crowds start to shout as the band takes the stage. It’s the Flaming Lips. I listen, and she tries to dance, but we find that this trance isn’t actually enhanced by the music. We return back to our horizontal state.

I look over at her and think, “You are mysterious. You’re familiar. I feel like I’ve seen your face before, while knowing I’ve never see you at all. Damn, do I hope I see you again. and again... and again. Your face changes with sky. And the lights that each new artist provides. Its as illusive as your drive, now, your capricious ways are portrayed with each new glance I peak at that beautiful face.” I continued to let my head think and dream. 

I thought the Skrillex and Janelle Monae super jam was switched to This Tent? Is it That Tent? What stage are we at? The Other Tent? Which stage? I ‘m not interested anyway, the colors aren’t anywhere near beginning to fade… and I think the earth is a little more interesting at this point. She gives me those comforting, sausage fingers, and we follow the ground’s patterns and lights; we take flight through the sprawled carcasses around the festival grounds as we venture back to her tent. 

We talk like the walls weren’t so thin. We didn’t even begin to think about anything outside this space; a place where mermaids and gauchos have no problem being friends. We swim, through topics like rushing waters; we are sons and daughters of something much bigger than what we are taught to see. Her face, its beaming. It glows with its own light. I was right to follow her on this journey. I’m glad we stayed true to this path that continues to become more lucid with every step. I shouldn’t, but I can’t seem to keep my eyes open…

Act 4: Sunday Opens the door to the End

An EDM laced rendition of “Circle of Life,” ushers in the sun.

The sun. Damn! Today, it hits hard. I’m not hungover, but I’m a far cry away from getting up anytime soon to do yoga. Vendor camping is a far trek, yet the incentive of a nice shower is quite enticing….even if the water’s somewhat sulfuric smelling. I’m not dwelling on the fact it’s Sunday, but I am kinda bummed. There’s still hours left of sun at this point, but the night is when it all comes together.

The day goes by in a blur. I spend it all with her, and her friend who has engaged in Bonnaroo life 110%. She went for it, and the chemical cocktail running through her veins is taking a bit of a toll. She is mid-roll but feels somewhat like crying. I go to the stage by myself while the two of them take time to recenter. 

Arctic Monkeys, Caroline Chocolate Drops, Sam Hunt, and City and Colour. I wander if we can squeeze in some Shovel’s and Rope before I’m supposed to be heading to work. Today is the last day and the higher ups want us pack it in before the mayhem of exodus begins on Monday. At least I won’t miss a second of Elton John. I’m sent a picture of a totem, raised high in the crowded air, where her and her friend stay. It’s close to the stage, but I’m able to make my way through the crowd as the sun sets and the curtain drops. The grass isn’t as colorful as the previous night, but it still seems to light up in a way I’ve never seen before.

I didn’t know if he’d play “Tiny Dancer,” but fate answered. My ears are smiling while my mind is trying to decide if I should activate my hands. I guess the Tiny Dancer is supposed to hold me close, but I can’t help but give her a squeeze. It was almost as good as when Buzz Lightyear took flight during “Rocket Man.” She takes my hand around 10:15 to go grab some food as the set still lingers. Her fingers are clasping the last morsel of food from whatever tent had was still serving as “Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting's” final note exits the stage. 

The end of music comes abruptly, but the night’s still young. Tent City is still kicking, and so are the vendors near 2nd Avenue. We venture, deeper into the thick crowd. It’s loud, and we are on a much more grounded level than our counterparts. She drifts to the Moroccan leather tent, and I watch the break dancers in the vendor next store. She makes a bet about the artist of a song she was singing, and I take her up on it, knowing full well I’ll win. The prize is the best doughnut I’ve had in awhile. I smile, and we share it over a steaming hot beverage. I’m not a coffee drinker but I’ll sip espresso all night for a few more moments with you and this magnificent existence… 

Act 5: This is the End

I’m resistant to open the tent even though the sun’s come and we’re baking; I’m not ready to make the move. I’m not sure how this morning will fair or what we’ll do, but I’m glad to have lived through my first Bonnaroo with her. One last kiss, a somber and sweet embrace, then back to packing up the tent. I hope this exit line doesn’t take the rest of the day. We get out quick to my dismay. As we venture into a new day, I pull off on an exit, only to see my phone’s display light up. I’d never seen her name written before…