So Cal Culture: Celebritology Part 1

As much as people say that celebrities are overrated. I would have to say that It’s always interesting to know that super talented human beings walk amongst us. I have been fortunate to have had a fair run in with a good amount of them and to have been raised by parents who were never afraid to talk to anyone about anything.

In Northern California, it’s a lot easier for them to hide away in their homes or fancy hotels without being bothered too much. Jamie Lee Curtis and Ellen frequently stay at the Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur. Mike Love of the Beach Boys and John Travolta own homes in Carmel. But, you would never know that unless you were a local to the area who happened to work in nearby businesses and high-end motels (or in a State Park).

In Southern California, they are hiding in plain sight but no local can seem to agree on proper celebrity interaction etiquette. It’s really a matter of what the specific situation is and whether or not you consider your personal amusement or their comfort level to be the priority.

My parents taught me to seize the moment and live a little, which has made for some very fun I Love Lucy type experiences which I share with you:

1) When I was in high school. I met someone in a Hanson chat room who was advertising her friend Michelle Branch’s music and website. At the time, she was completely unknown and living with her family in Sedona, Arizona. I ordered her CD which was adorably accompanied by a thank you note.
To make a long story short, I had offered to write a music review for her in my local paper and mailed her a copy after we had done an e-mail interview. I asked her what plans she had for the future of her career. She told me big things were coming, but she couldn’t really talk about it. She invited me to see her perform at a show in Hollywood while she was there (I later found out she was signing onto a major label).
Disclaimer: I do not recommend chasing down anyone you met on the internet as a general rule. But, this was a solid situation at the time. I guess you had to be there to understand, it was all very safe and harmless. In a very cool/uncool manner, I had my parents drop my friend and I off at this event.
It turned out to be a  major charity gig known as the Art of Elysium. I had to drop Michelle’s name to get in because they were “full.” Low and behold, there were celebrities galore. We met and took a picture with Rachel Leigh-Cook. We saw Mark Walberg, Nick Cannon and Jeremy Pivens. And we got to see Michelle Branch and Duncan Sheik do an acoustic show in very close range.
2) l’m a huge fan of Weird Al. I’m not sure how, when, or why. But I just am.
I’m also a huge fan of The Beatles and their solo music.
When the opportunity arises to see Paul McCartney solo in L.A. and my dad is paying- of course I go. He bought a couple of the cheaper seats and had one $200.00 seat. He let me take the $200.00 seat because he’s cool like that.
I’m sitting there for about 20 minutes into the show and I see Weird Al across the row. I enjoy the show and try to think of a way to get to him. I didn’t have a cellphone camera (or any camera for that matter). I wasn’t sure how this was all going to go down, but I was determined to take this opportunity of fate. I didn’t want to interrupt this already amazing show and I was sure the last thing he needed was to be bombarded by a weirdo stalker. But, what did I have to lose?
So, I wait until the last encore and everyone is rushing out. I had to meet up with my dad and sister so we could go home, but I was not thinking about that AT ALL. I watched him walk up the aisle. He walks with the stride of a gazelle on stilts and I run right behind him. I really had no plan. When I finally caught up to him, I tapped him on the back. He turns around and I SPAZ OUT. I tell him that I’m his biggest fan (so cliche) and he looks at me in that very cartoonish and confused Weird Al expression (one eyebrow way up, with a bit of a sneer).  He says, “oh, really?” I desperately look around for a pen to get an autograph on my concert booklet and there is none to be found. He shrugs, his shoulders and looks at me very sympathetically. Then, he wraps is big, long arms around me and gives me one of the biggest hugs I’ve ever had. 
At this point, my sister and dad found me when this all was going down. My sister says, “Adriana??!!!” 
Then, he walked away because he was in a hurry of course. And I just kind of stand there is shock and dismay of how this all went down. 
 
Next on Celebritology: Misc minor encounters with celebrities (ie. hiding from Josh Gad) and what I have learned about the etiquette of approaching one. 
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The Great Disney Debate: One man’s dream, another man’s nightmare

After visiting the upcoming Tomorrowland preview at Disneyland this past weekend, it brought to mind some of the things that truly terrify and mystify my poor naive little mind – how Walt Disney’s genius/ego had eventually turned into a full-fledged God complex toward the end of his life. I can’t wait to see this movie because it looks visually compelling and I’m a huge fan of science fiction. But, the inspiration of the film goes a bit into the past of what is often overlooked and rarely explained about the strangest aspects of a beloved icon – the conceptual birth of E.P.C.O.T. (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow).

Walt Disney and his legacy are greatly admonished, especially in California, where his career in animation and film and the birth of an iconic theme park originated in 1955. According to the Disneyland Tour guide who hosted the Walk in Walt’s Footsteps Tour I took a few years ago, Tomorrowland was loved by Walt because he believed that technology was the hope for a better humanity. Tomorrowland was partially inspired by the World’s Fair in New York where “it’s a small world” and the GM Carousel of Progress were originally showcased and eventually transplanted to Disneyland and Walt Disney World (respectively).
His participation in the New York World’s Fair was the very beginnings of taking what was amazing about the world around him and turn it into a sterilized version of itself for children and adults to enjoy together (Disneyland). It also inspired a new dream of a world that he could use technology to improve- a world called Tomorrow. Once Disneyland was fully established, Walt turned his focus to “The Florida Project,” which we now know as Walt Disney World. Walt Disney World was to be composed of the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and E.P.C.O.T.
  EPCOT was originally designed to be a prototype of his vision for a Utopian society that he hoped the rest of the world to duplicate. It was a world without controversy, without poverty, without governments, without war, with the leading edge on all technology and entirely enclosed in weather controlled dome. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this and tell me what YOU think? 
It truly is a thin line between genius and madness. It has been said that Walt’s last dying request was that his brother (Roy) promise to complete EPCOT. Roy, being the more practical one, didn’t believe that such an ambitious project was something they could afford. It would be too time consuming and nothing that could be accomplished without the direction of Walt himself. EPCOT as we know it today was one half of the realization of what the plan was originally meant to be and the other half was a planned community known as Celebration, Florida
Not having seen the full movie as of yet, I’m not privy to fully analyze the storyline. Having seen the extended preview, the Tomorrowland Exhibit at Disneyland and the DIsneyland Expo two years ago, I can tell you there is a lot more to this story than meets the eye.
The movie was inspired by a box found in the basement of the Disney animation building labeled 1952, containing what looked like the remnant collections of a madman. For more details and descriptions of what was enclosed in the box, follow this link. 
One of the major objects of inspiration in the box was what looked like a damaged metal record, but was nothing of the sort. The writers of the film described it as a metal disk with many grooves that functioned more like a DVD. It was a technology that has never been seen as far as they were able to discover. They had to send it out to have the data taken out of it by technological experts, seen only by themselves and the audience of the expo. It was a short adult animated film briefly explaining a short history of mankind and an introduction to the potential of a future – a future that apparently had already been realized. 
Tomorrowland, staring George Clooney, hits movie theaters on May 22nd. The Tomorrowland extended preview is currently showing at the Magic Eye Theater at Disneyland and includes an exhibit featuring interviews with the writers, props from the film and artifacts from Disneyland past. 

So Cal Culture: Sincerely Insincere

Yes, we would love you have you over for dinner and a chat! You know, whenever…

One of the major difficulties I have experienced after coming back to Southern California after my four years of going to college in Central California, was trying to survive in social group settings.

It was fantastic being told all the time that people wanted to get together, only to find that they were totally caught of guard when I decided to take them up on the offer. It tends to drive people to make up slightly more detailed, yet  still wildly vague stories. They will tell you, “maybe next week sometime,” or “I’ve been busy with x-y-z, I’ll let you know when it slows down in a month or so.” That’s So Cal Speak for, I simply didn’t mean it and I refuse to be labeled a chump for outright rejecting your friendship.

I have since learned to be a bit more thick skinned about dealing with the fact that this is going to happen frequently around these parts. I have also had to learn to still try, to hope for the best, and to keep in mind that I don’t have to let it discourage me from being consistent. I also now greatly appreciate the wonderful people who don’t fit that particular description here and from out of town.

I can usually tell right away when someone is from out-of-state or up north by how they are actively listening to what I am saying and responding in a direct, declarative way. They are the kind of people who tell you they will come to your party and come. They are also the kind of people that will ask when and where, when you ask them if they would like to hangout sometime.

That is not to say I haven’t met anyone from Southern California who has been down to earth and specific with their responses about whether or not they wanted to hang out, but it’s very rare. The other side of that is learning to be ok with people who will directly tell you they wish they could, but they can’t due to completely legitimate reasons. It’s a little disappointment, but much more merciful to mean what you say and say what you mean. At least it gives the other person an opportunity to make other plans.

Just Fondue It.

According to Wikipedia:

Fondue (/ˈfɒndj/ or /ˈfɒnd/;[1] French pronunciation: ​[fɔ̃dy]) is a Swiss, Italian, and French dish of melted cheese served in a communal pot (caquelon) over a portable stove (réchaud), and eaten by dipping long-stemmed forks with bread into the cheese. It was promoted as a Swiss national dish by the Swiss Cheese Union (Schweizerische Käseunion) in the 1930s, and was popularized in North America in the 1960s.

I had only seen Fondue on television on 1960s themed shows like “That 70’s show.” It looked delightfully uncool and tasty. I often wondered if anyone still did it or if it was just a fad that eventually faded out due to obvious impractically. I’m happy to report that it still happens and it’s super fun, if you’re as into nostalgia as I am.

If you have ever been to a fancy wedding, you’ve likely already experienced the Fondue’s slightly fancier sister, the chocolate fountain. You’ve probably attempted to take a couple of pieces of dessert, dip them, and then walk away daintily to appear as if you weren’t wishing the host had just be reasonable enough to give you one large piece of chocolate cake to save some time; not to mention being able to avoid the embarrassment of feeling like a messy giant.

I had seen melting pot equipment at Target which seemed like too great of an expense for something I wasn’t willing to turn into a lifestyle. They also had the cheaper $15.00 option that consisted of a small ceramic bowl with a candle on the bottom, is for chocolate only and sold around Valentine’s day for couples to enjoy. How would such an introvert do something associated with communal dining and have any kind of desire to make it a nightly habit? No thanks.

It took me a while to realize that I could finally conquer the entire fondue experience locally, without having to commit to the purchase of a melting pot and without having to find Doc Brown and ask him for a ride to the 1960s. I wish that I had done the research without discouraging myself from looking into it a long time ago.

Believe it or not, you can have a three course Fondue meal as we did at Rok N Fondue in Redlands, California. Our appetizer consisted of bread, crisp vegetables and green apples to dip in a melted cheddar cheese blend. I chose the Cap Sirloin Steak cooked on a rok (volcanic rock block heated to 900 degrees), with bacon baked green beans and garlic mashed potatoes. As a dessert, we shared a tray of rice crispy treat squares, brownie squares, sliced bananas and apples with the cookies and cream melted chocolate blend. It was a great opportunity to have an amazing meal, do a little bit of cooking, share and have great conversation. There were a couple technical difficulties with the equipment, but the customer service was amazing. I highly recommend it for a date night, family meal or with great friends for a birthday celebration. I would have to caution that it may not be suitable for families with very young children as fire and hot melted things further than an arm’s reach don’t go well together.

As I mentioned before, the best known Fondue restaurant in California is The Melting Pot with 10 locations throughout California. It’s fairly expensive and mainly in larger cities such as San Diego and Irvine, but very well-organized and decadent.

There is also a spot called Hip Kitty in Claremont for those of you who might be into more of the nostalgic feel and jazz. Be forewarned, I’ve been told by a good friend that it’s a bit of a “hole in the wall” spot. So if you are into taking a plunge into adventure and totally new experiences, that might be the spot for you.

These places all allow walk-ins, but for your best bet, make a reservation at least a week in advanced. The spots tend to be very popular and have a limited amount of set ups.

Enjoy!

Is there any food trend you think is noteworthy? Have you ever tried Fondue? If so, what are your favorite combinations?

If there are any events, locations or cultural issues related to California that you have questions about or would like me to cover in this blog, please let me know!

California Culture: Taboos of Touring Solo

As a kid, I never really felt the peer pressure and group mentality that most kids tend to go through. My parents raised me to be an independent thinker and not really get too caught up in being concerned about what other people were doing. I spent most recesses in the library reading and chatting up the librarian because I enjoyed it more than going outside and playing games that I had no interest in. It made for a very challenging middle school and high school experience when group mentality hits an all time high and you find yourself having to face the reality that compromising your independence is a matter of survival.

As an adult, I’ve been through both phases of co-dependence and independence and have (mostly) come to terms with the benefits and detriments to both. However, nearly everyone I come into contact with can’t wrap their mind around why anyone would do anything outside of their house alone other than run errands. I’ve been asked more times than I can count why I didn’t ask “so-and-so” to come with me or why I would go anywhere further than a half-hour away by myself.

Here are the following reasons:

1) As an introvert, I find that I need the rest and freedom that comes with doing things alone so I can muster up the energy and fully appreciate socializing in group settings. If I’m feeling particularly moody, I don’t have the additional pressure of feeling guilty about being bad company or not being decisive about where we should go and what we should do next. To me it can be so entirely frustrating to sit around going “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” back and fourth until you give up and just go home.

2) I enjoy talking to strangers and meeting new people. Sometimes, when you are confidently having alone time out in the world, people find it interesting and a conversation starts from there.  I’ve met some very interesting and very kind people nearly every time I have ventured out on my own.

3) I would miss out on doing a lot of cool things if I only did things with other people. I LOVE ‘it’s a small world,” but I understand that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I like sitting and watching the shows or just doing one type of thing all day and that can be very boring for others. It can be difficult to match up schedules with others. I don’t always have as much free time as I would like, so I like to make the most of it and not stay home. Then other days, I want be spontaneous and do very impractical things.

4) There are certain places where I just naturally associate with solitude like at the beach or in a forest. Nature is such a personal thing for me that even when I am experiencing it with other people, I’m in my own little world. It’s a place where I can automatically zone everything and everyone out. It’s almost as if the smells and sights are so overwhelmingly beautiful that I don’t have anything to say at all. The sand at the beach and the stars in the sky remind me of just how big God is and how small I am, yet still precious.

All of the questions and concerned attitudes that people have towards solo travel are mainly projected insecurities that don’t hold a lot of weight at the end of the day. It’s only a big deal if internalize the limitations that society can place on us. There is no problem doing everything with other people also, but it’s not the only option and no one should feel ashamed either way.

32nd Birthday Adventure

I tend to celebrate my birthday all April long because there are a lot of different things I like to do every year and at least one new thing that needs to be strategically planned. This  year’s celebration was more of a four-day holiday birthday weekend.

Thursday night, my friend and I took a trip out to Orange County to see one of my all-time favorite Christian musicians, Jon Foreman ( lead singer of Switchfoot) at a small venue called Lido Live in Newport. I had never been to this particular venue before, but I would have to say it is a perfect venue for an acoustic show. It was reminiscent of Club Nokia in Los Angeles, but at about half the size. How could one not love a theater where you pay general admission price and have the option to sit in movie theater type seats or stand directly in front of the stage? Did I mention the five foot disco ball? How can you not like a place that has a disco ball at a time when discos no longer exist (as far as I know)?

Jon Foreman is a fantastic musician, songwriter and all around cool dude. I was very fortunate to have interviewed Switchfoot in their early days of being signed onto a major label and to have gone to a good amount of Switchfoot shows in my concert heyday. I can tell you first hand that not only are they great musicians; they are also very down to earth, funny, and poetic guys.  If you ever get a chance to see them live, they always offer meet and greets at a slightly additional price either as part of a VIP package or through membership in their Friends of the Foot fan club. While I will always love the amount of energy and unique sound the group provides; there is a lot more love, poetry and Jesus in a solo Jon Foreman show.

Friday, was more of resting up day to the annual Disneyland birthday celebration trip and the free birthday stuff stops around town.  This year the big scores were the Sephora VIB Birthday gift (totally free), a free Big Western sandwich from Dickey’s BBQ, free drink or any other item at Starbucks and buy-one-get-one free Coldstone Creation. I believe I still have a free pastry at Panera to go. The only requirement of all of these freebies is generally to sign up for their e-mail lists or participate in their free frequent buyer programs. Even if you never go to any of these places, you can always sign up right before your birthday and then unsubscribe right after if you hate being bombarded with emails.

Saturday, was the annual Disney birthday trip. Birthdays at Disneyland are great fun in that a whole lot of strangers wish you Happy Birthday all day. No they aren’t clairvoyant. You get a fantastic Happy Birthday button at City Hall or basically any shop on Main Street to let everyone know. Various restaurants offer free desserts and will sing to you (good dorky fun). You can even pre-order (three days in advanced required) a personalized cake with your choice of character decoration, serving size, flavors and the name of the birthday girl or boy. This year, I ordered (no-preorder required) the limited edition Olaf ice cream birthday cake inspired by the Frozen Fever Short from the Carnation Cafe. I also have to note that I was super fortunate to have been offered up a free blended ice drink at one of the Cozy Cone snack stops in Cars Land, which is not something that offered on a regular basis. I suppose the cast member was feeling particularly generous that day. Surprises abound when you least expect it, which is something that you don’t find everywhere.

Today , (Sunday) is my actual birthday and all I really genuinely wanted to do was have a quiet meal with my family and two of my closest friends. My niece and I have always wanted to try Fondue (consists of a melting pot wherein you dip various foods). They only problem is that all of the ones I knew of were The Melting Pot restaurants, which are only in major cities (Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego). But, after some research and talking to some people I also found locally owned spots Hip Kitty in downtown Claremont and Rok N Fondue in Redlands. We ended up going to Rok N Fondue which is the nearest and had an amazing three course meal. They even threw in apply cider for a birthday toast (other option champagne) and a Birthday card signed by all the employees that were working that day.

It was definitely a jam packed birthday weekend with plans and surprises. While I only briefly touched on all of what I did, I hope that it gives you some great ideas for all your birthday celebrations to come in Southern California as an out-of-town visitor or as someone who has lived here and thinks they have done it all.

I can’t wait until next year! 🙂

The Great Disney Debate: The Infamous Renewal of the Annual Pass

As part of this blog, I would like to touch on one of the major Southern California destinations that nearly requires no introduction – Disneyland.

I’m frequently asked the same question about it. As recently as yesterday, I was asked, “What do you do there ALL THE TIME?!”

First off, just because I have an Annual Pass, it does not mean that I spend every waking minute of my free time there. I know plenty of people who do. In fact, there is a dude on Facebook who has a page dedicated to documenting the fact that he has been there everyday since 2010 (Disney366).

In a month, I visit the Disneyland Resort an average of two times. If it’s a holiday season or I take a little vacation time, maybe three or four times.  I go with friends, which is nice because there is an awesome buffer for awkward silence. I also go alone just to reflect on life, do whatever I want to do and to be free to talk to strangers in a socially acceptable setting.

If you live in Southern California and can’t afford to travel out-of-state due to time or money constraint, you may want to consider a Disneyland Annual Pass.

Despite popular belief that Disneyland is over rated, I can tell you from first hand experience that there is a lot more than meets the eye. Yes-they make it all look effortless. And yes- there is something to be said of a certain amount of campy/childish atmosphere that will leave most rolling their eyes and begging for Six Flags. But, if you really think about how much goes on behind the scenes and what the DIsneyland Resort truly has to offer, you might reconsider your stance on the subject.

Let me just take the time to point out the many types of professionals required to make the “magic” happen:

*Varying media artists: painters, animators, videographers and photographers, musicians (writers and performers), actors (voice, stage and characters), stage crews (sound, lights, sets, hair/makeup, costume designers and special effects), singers, conductors and band leaders, puppeteer, culinary artists  and servers (because the food has greatly improved since the over priced, dry hamburgers and chicken sandwiches that I remember as a kid) and interior decorators, ect.

*Customer service representatives: Cashiers, travel agents, phone agents, tour guides, guest relations representatives, concierge, receptionists, maids, security, cleaning crews, parade organizers, train/tram/bus drivers, event planners ect.

Misc: Engineers (Imagineers), scientists/inventors, public relations representatives (social media, media spokespersons, web artists, copywriters), environmentalists, landscapers, historians, business executives, merchandisers, child care (in the hotels), interns, animal handlers, emergency response, fire department, trainers, interns ect

I’m sure I’ve only named about half of the types of employees it requires to make it all work and look effortless. I would also like to add that I did not take into consideration anything other than just the Disneyland Resort and that nearly all the park employees start off at minimum wage and have very stringent rules they have to abide by just to keep their jobs.

Not everyone can make the expense of an Annual Pass, especially those with large families. However, you might change your mind if you consider what you might already be paying to see parades, going to other sub-par amusement parks, movies, museums, zoos, shopping, parking, dining out, gas and time required to go to each place on different days.

As you can assume at this point, I decided to renew my annual pass. Due to some changes at work that will greatly impact any future time off requests I can submit, it’s nice to have the option flee to Neverland and remember that there is still a bit of a kid in me.

I look forward to occasionally writing features on all of what will be going on for the 60th Anniversary, the Citizens of Disneyland and all the things that go through my mind as I wander into the Looking Glass into the lands of Fantasy, Tomorrow, Adventure and the Western Frontier.