the 2016 election write-up you desperately have been waiting for

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i’ve been taking a calligraphy class!  the class itself has been not lifechanging, but it has been fun learning something new and having a creative outlet.  this is my homework from this past week; the slants (especially the t’s) are a bit of a mess and there are a couple of oddly shaped characters (and some really greatly shaped characters!).  but i’m also learning, in a world where computers can be perfect, it’s sort of the imperfections that make calligraphy interesting.  (hah!  i would say that.)

calligraphy class this past tuesday (11/8/16) was a bit hard to concentrate.  class already is a bit light on content, and with the election results swinging from the direction of a hillary win to a trump win, it was hopeless concentrating on the spacing and rhythm of the writing.  though, i do have to say that practicing the same two letter combinations over and over again was perhaps more enjoyable than going to an election party, where a pretty incredible election upset would have led to an undoubtedly somber vibe.

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SNL – Election Night (both a funny and insightful sketch imo)

the results the day after were, of course, heartbreaking and scary and angering.  i came across a piece the day after that mentioned that, when obama moved into the oval office, he got a new carpet with 5 quotes on them, four from former presidents, and one (pictured) from MLK (though it’s paraphrased and misattributed and originated from an abolitionist).  an appropriate sentiment to guide us through the next couple years–perhaps a minor setback for now but we have to believe things will get better in the long run.

it’s been quite an emotional, crazy week (for us and the nation)! my election “hot takes” and not so hot takes:

  • just like we would have needed trump to concede for a peaceful transition of power to heal this nation, we need to concede and work together.  not doing so would be hypocritical and petty.  rooting for trump to fail is like cutting off your nose to spite your face.  i am especially respectful of democrats who try to find solutions with trump instead of doing what the republicans did to obama and lead us through another 4 years of obstructionism.  and, to quote matt yglesias of the weeds, also very respectful of the nevertrump republicans who now have to work with him.  life is messy, and the high road often sucks.  the vindication and smugness of trump crashing and burning perhaps is not worth it.
  • i’m sick of the blame game and the infinite “what we missed” pieces.  i’m sick of monolithically defining and stereotyping donald trump supporters (i don’t think it’s obama’s fault, but can you really blame the white lower/middle class for not loving the last 8 years?  not sure if calling people “racist xenophobes” is going to sway any minds… i mean, talk about the vocab word of 2016).  i’m sick of the idea that we didn’t need to empathize before the election, and now we do.  i’m sick of the idea that we didn’t know racists were in america, and now we know.  i’m sick of the narrative that the democratic party was flawless before, and now inherently broken (and vice versa for republicans).  a mis-estimation of polls by 5% in 5 states (or, a lower than expected turnout) should not have the earthshattering implications that everyone is reeling from right now.
  • who has ever had an enjoyable conversation with someone with differing political views?  and, asked more rhetorically, how do we create more productive discourse about something so important in our lives?
  • from the bleeding hearts of keepin it 1600 (politics-focused podcast hosted by obamabros in a nonapologetic, passionate fox-news sense. never have i heard the word “CRAVENLY” exclaimed so many times with so much intensity <3), we have got to stop thinking of the election in terms of “red team vs blue team, we lost this round, let’s win the next round.” which is important in a couple ways, but to me, it’s more about the over-polarization of politics that has come to dominate the “echo chamber” of facebook.  we need to stop “crying wolf” over everything (like–you can’t say trump will be the worst choice for the president ever, and then complain about how pence would be worse).  for all my liberal friends that complain about inexcusably biased conservative news stories, stop sharing the same deluded, unreasonable liberal news stories and cherry picking the stories that work for us!  again–someone has to take the high road.
  • i admire hillary’s grace, passion, preparedness, and temperament in a vicious election against a vicious opponent with unending, unfair attacks. i despise trump’s values, his “fake it till you …file bankruptcy and make it someone else’s problem”, his ego, his inability to apologize or take responsibility, his blatant self-interest and track record of taking advantage of those unprotected by society, his petty bullying and name calling.  but–i also don’t want to conflate being a great guy with being a great president.  correlated to a degree, but there are checks and balances, and i think our discourse would benefit from more policy discussion than emotional intensity of these personal attacks.
  • yes, i believe that trump’s policies are flimsy, unrealistic, and will likely hurt his supporters more than clinton’s policies.  i’m trying to gauge what i’m most concerned by, in descending order: foreign policy/nuclear proliferation, supreme court, environment/climate change, institutionalized racism/etc, exacerbation of wealth inequality.  and you know what, it’s still okay to be optimistic and believe that trump is really a moderate at heart and will hire educated people and that he will change course once he’s elected.
  • i am concerned about “emboldened” trump supporters (factoid: post-brexit has seen a noticeable uptick in hate crimes).  but, hate crimes were still a problem under obama, and would have continued under clinton.  it has always been a problem and we can’t use trump as a scapegoat for everything in a post-11/8 world.  a personal aside: while i’m really worried for victims of hate crimes, i also empathize with the less overt but still damaging experiences/”microaggressions” faced by women/minority democrats in red environments feeling silenced and like second class citizens.  being gay in a christian high school definitely did a number on me, and i cannot thank my (gay!) (bible!) teacher enough to unequivocally tell me that i should get out of georgia as soon as i could. (and–if anyone has ideas on donating time or labor to a helpful defender of these people, daniel and i are in the market for ideas!)
  • i don’t like that the lesson of the 2016 election (and, to some degree, obama’s elections) are that inspiration and making promises you can’t keep make a better candidate than well informed, well researched policy substance.  we should all listen to the weeds!!!!
  • some silver linings: 1) a republican president with a republican congress is in some ways better than hillary facing an obstructionist congress.  there certainly are good republican ideas (case in point: obamacare is not perfect!  the tax code is impossible (and in many ways regressive but that is probably not a republican plank)), and the degree to which we can actually pass laws with a republican president might be better than another 4 years of bickering gridlock.  (might!  i said might!) 2) historically, midterms tend to swing the opposite direction of the presidential election, so this could work out well for democrats in 2018!
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life’s 3 accomplishments

someone asked me for my three biggest accomplishments in life.  my response:

i know it’s cheating but i’m going to go with thematic life change accomplishments:

1) running a half in 1:34 (7:11 pace).  probably the most “accomplish-y” of the 3, it’s a damn good time that i’m really proud of myself for achieving.  but more generally, taking vanity more seriously (half facetious), training at running and achieving my goals, exploring many other types of exercise and overcoming my fear of the gym/bros, and being more comfortable with the way i look. 

2) doing dance marathon (a 24 hr dance fundraiser).  not really that impressive on the face of it but a lot more reflective of my personality transformation, where i was scared of everyone at high school and avoided dancing at all costs.  i learned the value of being silly and approaching people and being effusive.  just like being an RA, i would have never guessed in high school that i would have been that person in college but i loved dancing/being an RA and the person that it allowed me to be.  i still continued to be awkward well after college but it was the first big step that got the ball rolling.  

3) gaywakening.  loosely defined as the 6 month period where i went from never having been to the castro to circuit parties with a gay majority of friends.  i had just broken up with then boyfriend, i realized i was still totally uncomfortable with my gayness and really wanted to make that a priority.  and it’s really paid dividends, discovering my “authentic self” and connecting in a deeper way with great people (especially daniel) and having a lot of fun with them (i’m including partying in that one). 

honorable mention: placing really well in some puzzle hunts, incl first in a couple.  relatedly, writing my own puzzle hunts and HBFS.  super fun and proud and rewarding.  

OKAY.  you?

———

(i also was put on the spot and asked what my biggest mistake in life was.  oof, awkward/tough.  perhaps a blog entry for another day.) (but i do have my canned very, very elaborate answer to biggest regrets in life.)

2014, a retrospective – peaking

i have this favorite genre of questions, which are “seemingly innocuous but deeply personal,” with the question that started them all, “when do you think you peaked in life?” it’s a great question, but as to why it is is a topic for another entry.

before 2014, for when my life peaked, i probably would have chosen 2006, my sophomore and junior years of college.  i had just met bristin, and i was overwhelmed by love for my friends (brijigrestaja <3), i was exploring this whole new side of me, between getting my first boyfriend and my passion and energy for dance marathon and successfully getting an RA position, all things i would have never pictured myself doing in a million years.  i was doing well in school and, though i didn’t know what i wanted to do after school, the world seemed like it was full of possibilities.

subsequent years were less enjoyable or less life-fulfilling for various reasons… imperfect job or friend status or dating/relationship difficulties or confusion or whatever.

but 2014 was really great!!!  i’m in a job that i generally enjoy that i could see myself staying with.  i have a boyfriend that i love incredibly and we have too much fun together.  i developed a really deep friendship with mason and also met some really great new friends, specifically, sean, josh, and colleen.  i had generally good health and successful passings of actuarial exams.  a lot of fun events.  anyway, i would say that 2014’s theme was peaking–a great amount of satisfaction and accomplishment and fun.  but, as they say, what goes up must come down.

one of my things i tried out in 2014 was that i would rate each day out of 10.  below is a distribution of my results! (5=a neutral day, 10=one of the best days of my life)

2014 day distribution

a couple things to note:

i realized that it can be difficult to reconcile when i SHOULD rate a day very highly and i have pressure and expectations to view the day very highly (EDC?) and really spontaneous days that happen to be awesome.   like, this list tends to pick up a lot more ordinary events and can drop bucket list items.

the “score of the day” also suffers from some law of averages that really great moments from a day can be cancelled out by really bad moments of the day.  in which case that day wouldn’t be that notable?  when it should be REALLY notable for two reasons.

2015 is already shaping up to be a much worse year.  my friendships are basically getting wiped out–mason is getting a job, which has meant much less time and availability to do things together.  sean and colleen are both leaving/left my company, so i see them much less regularly.  and my relationship with josh perhaps burned too brightly in the beginning.  job wise, the attainment of my FSA has been great but emptiness inducing in a way–not really sure how to harness extracurricular energy or how to best use/be productive with my spare time.  and i think the stability of a 3 year relationship with daniel and 1 year of living together has made keeping the relationship new and fresh difficult.  like 2015 is almost half over, and i’m pretty sure i’ve had <50% 8.5+ days that i had last year at this time.

it’s weird reading about fights after the fact.  i remember how passionate i felt at the time, but they also feel so insignificant in retrospect.  maybe i will do an entry listing all the fights we had, lol.

BEST 5 DAYS OF 2014 THAT I WILL REMEMBER FOREVER

  • 4/12 – beatbox with josh, jon, mason
  • 6/28 – spectacularly beautiful and fun wedding with one of daniel’s former coworkers
  • 6/29 – wine tasting, goofing off in napa, and french laundry
  • 7/12 – spontaneous sunday adventure to alice’s and half moon bay ritz carlton and shell collecting
  • 9/21 – hangout day with mason and coherence and mac n cheese round 1

reasons why i would have

  • fights with daniel (~40%)
  • sick/feeling crappy (~30%)
  • annoying/irritability by circumstances/friends (~30%)

days exceeding or equal to 8.5/10: loosely defined as days where i felt really satisfied and the day was memorable and special.

  • 1/10 – passed actuary test
  • 2/8 – meeting of kyle/jesse/josh and mason/wayne/jon officially
  • 2/9 – fried polenta, hottubbing, and prisoners
  • 2/15 – dillon, jordan, dan, and bear at mezzanine
  • 2/21 – paint nite with coworkers
  • 2/23 – farewell house dinner at commercial with zak hazen
  • 2/26 – run club in the rain followed by hottubbing
  • 3/14 – lunch with angeles/kathy/sid and hh/mama ji’s with jyoti and boaz
  • 4/8 – david’s funemployment party and cafe dancing with john
  • 4/26 – DASH6 lemonade puzzles with jon, brian, rob
  • 5/3 – dinner at angeles’s oakland place with jyoti/boaz and alicia/her lawyer date
  • 5/11 – nice ordinary day of climbing, friends, great tv, good food
  • 5/14 – daniel being charming, great tv, and run club
  • 5/17 – jon’s housewarming on the floor
  • 6/3 – banh mi, josh, and wc cheesecake with rachel
  • 6/7 – sound factory with bear and mason with prepartying
  • 6/12 – college reunion, starcraft, cosmos finale
  • 6/14 – 22 jump street, taco bell/kfc dinner, daniel getting into solar max 2
  • 6/16 – game night at bear’s, where daniel and i each won a game of 7 wonders
  • 6/20 – EDC with trap and the crew incl jon, justin, mason
  • 6/28 – boozy hh and red jade with josh, jason, regulars
  • 7/5 – prepartying and beaux to dj haute toddy
  • 7/13 – kome birthday dinner!
  • 7/19 – dj haute toddy at qbar with jesse’s friends
  • 8/2 – santa cruz camping trip with KJJ and wayson and sean and brian and jon
  • 8/9 – preparty at patrick’s and bootie with colleen and angeles and others
  • 8/15 – never neverland at the armory with brian, jon, ravi
  • 8/26 – spontaneous state bird provisions with dallas and colleen and the magnum
  • 8/30 – meeting up with ravi and dancing at beaux
  • 9/1 – unboxlove frisbee golf wagers and outerlands
  • 9/2 – gogi time test celebration with coworkers!!
  • 9/9 – a really fun, advanced dance class to jeremih
  • 9/12 – fun work hh and fun castro hh
  • 9/13 – mr. s with josh and harness shopping and beaux dancing with ravi
  • 9/20 – ryan’s wedding and folsom
  • 10/8 – bali, danshui, biking, wine in taiwan with daniel
  • 11/1 – hangout day with mason and lobster mac n cheese and sunshine
  • 11/16 – helping josh move and unikitty costuming and lego party late night chat
  • 11/23 – trap city at f8 and extreme dance chemistry with random girl
  • 11/29 – yosemite tent disaster and hike and campfire drinking and pizza
  • 11/30 – serial and daniel birthday kome
  • 12/18 – mason phd celebration at umami burger and mission chinese and black mirror
  • 12/20 – atl gay scene and kimball house with anthony and mom’s dumplings
  • 12/31 – sean’s NYE party and colossus with daniel after

2014 in numbers

  • dancing – 21x
  • happy hour – 22x
  • glg – 22x

TV (bolded are favorites)

  • sherlock
  • happy endings
  • enlisted
  • chuck
  • blacklist
  • elementary
  • house of cards
  • survivor
  • helix
  • hannibal
  • looking
  • the Americans
  • orphan black
  • cosmos
  • the challenge (battle of the ex’s 2)
  • veep
  • orange is the new black
  • fargo
  • the comeback
  • you’re the worst
  • so you think you can dance
  • leftovers
  • bates motel
  • bojack horseman
  • silicon valley
  • transparent
  • happy valley

movies

  • prisoners
  • lego movie
  • veronica mars
  • how to train a dragon
  • neighbors
  • cloverfield
  • 22 jump street
  • snowpiercer
  • edge of tomorrow
  • guardians of the galaxy
  • divergent
  • coherence
  • wolf of wall street
  • sunshine
  • American hustle
  • gone girl
  • maze runner
  • grand budapest hotel
  • interstellar
  • mr nobody
  • theory of everything

trips

  • atlanta (jan 2014)
  • pinnacles (may 2014)
  • vegas/edc (june 2014)
  • yosemite w/ family (july 2014)
  • santa cruz beach camping (aug 2014)
  • taiwan (oct 2014)
  • yosemite with wayson/jon (nov 2014)
  • atlanta (dec 2014)

new friends

  • ravi
  • jesse/kyle
  • josh
  • sidney
  • sean h
  • andrew h

games

  • adventure capitalist, civclicker, and tons of other clicking games
  • diablo 3
  • hanabi

milestones

  • moved out of commercial (feb 2014)
  • told mom about daniel (summer 2014)

something that happened in my life – the french laundry – june 29, 2014

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i feel like french laundry definitely hit the dollar threshold that requires a blog entry, so… here goes!

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definitely stole the clothespin.  though i think everyone does.

daniel and i had a wedding in napa and were staying the night, so we did our prior planning and decided that, since we were “in the neighborhood”, that we would go to the french laundry! yes, one of only eleven restaurants in the united states with three michelin stars and consistently ranked as the top or one of the top restaurants IN THE WORLD, that french laundry.  but okay, first, let’s get this out of the way:

OMG how was it?!?!

so i wish i could write something like this:

And so began the unforgettable, intimate, beautifully orchestrated dinner that has remained one of my and [Daniel’s] most treasured shared memories. That, in fact, it even managed to register as such in light of the incredible number of cocktails and wines sampled throughout the evening is further testament to Thomas’s uncompromising vision. From the gin-and-tonics (concocted with housemade quinine), accompanied by a delicious signature amuse-bouche of “oysters and pearls,” through to the finale, a trove of impeccable chocolate truffles, we felt ourselves to be transported, a lone table in a sea of balletic servers. Delectable morsels arrived in waves over the course of the five hours, never interfering with the intimacy of our tête-à-tête—rather, the beautiful food and wine seemed to amplify the joy my daughter and I were taking in each other’s company. via

but, as jyoti pointed out, we don’t really have a refined-enough palette to appreciate the difference between a $30 meal and a $300 meal. like the $300 meal is better, but probably not TEN TIMES better. (as of writing, the cost is $295/pp (which includes gratuity but not tax.) (BUT it turns out it also includes coffee after the meal, so… drink up!!))

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Amuse bouche: Gougère and Salmon Tartare Cornet

Pâte à choux filled with warm aged Gruyère mornay sauce. Very light pillows filled with a slightly salty crème which still showed the typical aged Gruyère flavor. A rather classic French start to the dinner and for us a kind of palate cleanser for the coming dishes.

One of the signature amuse bouche’s of the French Laundry. The cone had a buttery and soft texture with some sesame seeds. The salmon was almost pate-like with a delicate taste. The bottom tip of the cone was filled with some crème fraiche to give it a slightly tangy finish.  via

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“Oysters and Pearls”
“Sabayon” of Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and White Sturgeon Caviar

Perhaps the most written about savory course at the French Laundry and one of the few courses which are part of nearly all tasting menus. Even though we wanted to experience the French Laundry as a whole event we were looking forward to finally try this dish – and it didn’t disappoint. The creamy and rich sabayon laid the foundation for the dish and the tapioca supported this richness with its texture. The perfectly cooked oysters had a wonderful sweetness whereas the quenelle of caviar provided the right balance of saltiness. It’s easy to understand why this dish has such a reputation as being a showcase for Thomas Keller’s cooking as it is a perfect combination of texture, flavor and creativity. The use of a mother-of-pearl spoon to serve the dish fits perfectly into the picture. via

the buildup.

after we decided to go, we had to make reservations, which proved difficult. i’ve heard concierges can do it without breaking a sweat, but we decided to call in. reservations are released exactly 2 months before each day and you have to call a number that you cannot get through. daniel and i both continuously redialled (daniel holed up in a conference room with the land line and his cell phone), and on the 33rd minute (i had given up after 30 minutes), daniel got through!!! though he was only able to get a 4 person reservation (they honestly don’t have a large number of 2-person tables).

choosing the other people to go with was somewhat difficult; we considered a lot of factors including:

  • how much we liked them/how comfortable we would be with them/how close we were
  • people who would appreciate the niceness of the event and had experience with fanciness
  • people in a stable relationship
  • people who made sufficient amounts of income where the french laundry budget is not their entire food budget for the year
  • people who had a car

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jyoti and boaz posing in the french laundry garden

we ultimately settled on jyoti and boaz! who we don’t spend a lot of time with, but who we both really like and were a great fit otherwise. jyoti had always told herself she would treat herself to french laundry if she passed her bar exam, so it was a nice belated celebration on that front as well.

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Garden Bean Salad
K&J Orchard Peaches, Oregon Cèpes, Marcona Almonds and Crème Fraîche

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Squash Blossom “Porridge”
Toasted Pine Nuts and Shaved Australian Black Winter Truff
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(they billed it as a “truffle centric” dish and brought around truffles in a humidor and then shaved it in front of you.  it was weird.)

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Salted Butter and Bread from Bouchon

ways i would describe the food:

delicious. i mean, everything tasted good. i would have happily, happily eaten 5x sized portions of every dish. though, boaz pointed out that nothing really tasted super intense, that the flavors were generally very understated (“balanced”!??!). like there is nothing as obvious or with the taste intensity of a costco hot dog or a costco slice of pizza with a side of ranch dressing. or jalapeno poppers. i guess that was the most surprising part.

tiny. french laundry was a nice thematic continuation of the afternoon of wine tasting, where tastings that i would have drunk in one gulp i would separate into the tiniest of sips, spreading it out for 10 minutes. pieces of meat i would have happily thrown into my mouth, i now sliced into delicate pieces, trying to savor every moment.

against the exhortations of our brunchmates, daniel and i made the most of the omelette bar and gorged ourselves before dinner. because, cmon, no matter how many courses they serve (let’s go with ~8, excluding desserts/amuse a bouches), no fine dining meal will ever make me full. and if there’s anything that would make me feel worse about spending >$300 for one meal, it’s spending >$300 on one meal and still feeling hungry.

interesting. there was just such a wide array of ingredients and cooking styles. various types of morsels and mushrooms and truffles. oysters with tapioca balls and caviar (as jyoti put it, “slimy balls”). wagyu steak, lamb, sea bass, chicken, abalone. a mushroom gravy. a spinach puree. some really unique textures of food. other things i’ve never eaten before, certainly never prepared in that specific way.

beautiful. plating for each plate was so unique. the colors. perfect fried cubes of chickpeas. butter shaped like a beehive. the tiniest of flowers placed onto a dessert. a 3D tendril of chocolate. a garlic puree in a fried pastry shaped like a flower. a quail egg cooked over a perfect circle of potatoes. okay, i’m sure someone from the food network would do a better job explaining, but those were some of my favorites.

technically impressive. all the meats were cooked perfectly. there was this sort of weird eggplant soft cheese jello thing that was… something.

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Sautéed Fillet of Mediterranean Loup de Mer
Preserved Green Tomatoes, Garden Radishes, Sweet Garlic “Barbajuan” and Tonnato Sauce

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Pacific Abalone “Poêlée”
Garden Carrots, Toasted Cashews, Cilantro Shoots and Sweet Curry “Ragoût”

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Four Story Hill Farm Poularde
La Ratte Potato Purée, Brentwood Corn and Morel Mushroom “Blanquette”

the service

so the service was…. interesting. i’m actually intrigued about the demographic that goes to french laundry. what percentage of people are insufferable and snooty, what percentage is a major foodie, what percentage is new money trying to impress a date, what percentage is just random riffraff who happen to stumble into french laundry and maybe shouldn’t belong (us).

in any case, it feels really stuffy. they are definitely warm, but they are not terribly funny or likely to laugh heartily or crack jokes. they are ridiuclously attentive, in a way that makes me uncomfortable (but in general a sign of good service, i think). they speak in a very calm, cool, understated inside voice. the server to diner ratio must be about 1 to 4.

i guess i was just surprised that they didn’t notice that we were of the last demographic and they didn’t tailor their service to be a little more informal and jovial… but i guess that would be unbecoming.

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Herb Roasted Elysium Fields Farm Lamb
Crispy Chickpea “Panisse,” Garden Cucumbers, Moroccan Olives, Romaine Lettuce and Spiced Tomato Conserve

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Charcoal Grilled Japanese Wagyu
Short Rib “Rösti,” Chanterelle Mushrooms, Pickled Ramps, Creamed Arrowleaf Spinach and “Steak Sauce”

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Springvale Farms “Landaff”
Brooks Cherries, Charred Eggplant, Sweet Pepper Essence and Watercress

irreverence

i was telling sean that i was going to french laundry that weekend, and he blinks a couple times and pauses and looks at me and goes, “….. james… you do realize that that place is expensive, right?…” (because i am by far the cheapest member of the oakland lunch group.)

lol, boaz had apparently left his dress shoes at home and only had sandals and socks, and we were FREAKING OUT because french laundry has a strict dress code. while they were freaking out in the cab ride over, the cabbie was yelling at them about how they needed to get their act together and how they were disrespecting the best restaurant in the world and what was wrong with them!?!? we flanked him going inside so they wouldn’t notice his shoes.

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changing in the parking lot at the outlets before heading over

it was really great going with jyoti and boaz, though, in the sense that they were both very excited about the event but also didn’t take the experience too seriously and weren’t afraid to laugh and poke fun at some of the more ridiculous aspects of the event.

two of the highlights include the waittress talking about how a dish included “the hunter of the sea” (aka sea bass!?) and jyoti made a comment about how “it was certainly no chicken of the sea”, which even got the waittress to laugh.

later, daniel had chosen a baguette from bouchon bakery and carefully buttered the insides and put the two halves back together. the waittress came over, and goes, “a butter sandwich! i’ve never seen something quite like *that* before!” in a sort of ambiguously judgmental tone. it was sort of ridiculous and hilarious and we got a lot of good mileage out of that. OKAY you had to be there sorry.

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“Assortment of Desserts”
Fruit, Ice Cream, Chocolate and “Candies”

the experience

i knew daniel really enjoyed the symphony because he had brought me to the sf symphony once early on when we were dating. i later got these tickets for me and daniel to go see the sf symphony, who was performing at an outdoor stage, which was …. a very different experience, despite the performers and music being the same. attending the symphony hall felt a lot more special—people were dressed up, everyone listened with rapt attention, the concert hall was beautiful. that’s when i realized that, while the music was nice, it was the whole package of the experience that really made the trip worthwhile. 

so my go to answer about “how was french laundry” is that it was a great experience that i’m really glad to do once in my life, and i encourage everyone to do it once, and that i wouldn’t go back again. it felt very special, and it felt very fancy, and it felt unique. and that’s the sign of a great experience!

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they personalized the menus for us!!!!  how crazy is that.  and they gave us an “opera cake” (tasted like a tiramisu) and daniel turned the stick into celebratory candles. 

major aside, for those of you keeping score at home, daniel and i got two separate dishes for two of the courses, so the number of photos doesn’t match the number of dishes you actually receive.)

the value/”was it worth it”

so at french laundry, the idea of “marginal happiness per dollar spent” metric was born. where does spending your money get you the most happiness bang for your buck? my answer: almost definitely not going from a $50 meal to a $300 meal. or a $10 bottle of wine to a $100 bottle of wine.

good happiness value with daniel: (we mostly talked about big ticket items)

  • EDC (~$1,200 vacation)
  • driving at a race track

good happiness value with james:

  • getting appetizers
  • buying something new/decadent at costco

not good happiness value:

  • staying at a $300 hotel vs. a $150 hotel

it might be helpful to split activities into “big ticket” and “small ticket” items. and generally you can’t factor in close-to-free items like “cuddling” or “watching a tv show” or “going to the gym”.

OTHER PHOTOS FROM THE WEEKEND

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photos from the wedding, a very nice event held at durham ranch.  a former coworker of daniel’s was getting married. 

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animals in the thomas keller garden

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goofing around/glamour shots in the thomas keller garden.  LOVE the guy-leading-the-girl shot

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the ever so classy menage a trois vineyard.  1) it’s actually a very nice winery to go visit, they have ladderball and bocceball and cornhole and a nice outdoor area.  2) it’s actually sort of funny because menage must drive 100% of the customers into the door, but they sort of treat it is as their bastard child and i think the salespeople have much, much stronger incentives to push their other labels over menage.  poor menage 😦

love in theory vs. love in practice

Love in Theory

Love is unconditional and eternal. Love is durable and resilient.

You treat the ones you love the best because you treasure them the most. You do your best to earn their love day in and day out. You worry about their feelings and you spend the most effort on making them happy.

You ignore misgivings and apologize for the small things because being with them is worth it because they are what gives our lives meaning.

They bring out the best in you and you bring out the best in them.

Love is putting another’s needs, desires, and happiness before your own. Love is the ultimate act of selflessness.

Love in Practice (Sometimes)

You hold your loved ones to the highest standards and cut them the least amount of slack. The people who hurt you, frustrate you, anger you the most are often the people whom you love the most.

Love means never having to say you’re sorry. Love means that when you’re mad at them, you don’t have to hold back.

You bite your tongue with friends and coworkers and strangers, but you don’t bite your tongue with loved ones, because they can handle it. Because they’ve seen worse. Because they’re stuck with you. Because love is unconditional. Because you are beyond pleasantries. Because they are an easy target. Because you want to hurt them the way they’ve hurt you.

Love is a bank where if you withdraw enough funds and treat them bad enough and ruin enough nights, they will stop loving you. People only love people who make them happy.

Love fades away. Excitement becomes dull. Novelty wears off. People stop treasuring love and start taking it for granted.

Love is a Paradox

We are willing to move mountains to win someone’s love, yet we stubbornly refuse to budge an inch during an argument. We will sacrifice everything for those we love, yet we can be resentful our whole lives over a moment of errant insensibility.

Love is a paradox. Love is vowing to treat them the best, only to lead to moments you treat them the worst. Love is trying one’s best, but also being unbridled from the need to try at all.

Saying “I l— you” is regarded as momentous, but I am always skeptical that the speaker really understands the basics of human nature–how the feelings are but the spark of a bulb before potentially burning out forever. 

You are not given love. You are not entitled to love. There is no lifetime pass for love; you have to earn it every day.  Engage.  Try.  Give.  Apologize. 

The idea that love is not susceptible to a rough patch, a bad fight, or a better prospect is reserved for fairy tales and rom coms. We are all selfish animals, and we quickly forget about an intimate past, dwell on a noxious present, and fantasize about a perfect future.

founding gaystotska, the gay separtist nation

it was at my 27th birthday party when i finally had to confront the truth; the gays and the straights had separated like oil and water, with the gay guys in the kitchen and dining room (the bar!) and the straight people in the living room and deck. and it was then that i realized that gay people didn’t really want to spend time talking to straight people—that i didn’t really want to talk to straight people anymore. (luckily all my straight friends are grandfathered in 😉 but in all honesty it has become increasingly difficult to keep in touch with my straight friends outside of one-on-one hangouts…)

in college, i only had gay friends by happenstance. now, i only have straight friends by happenstance. (the tipping point was probably right after party cat was dismantled and i had my gaywakening.)

it’s difficult/unsustainable to keep up with people who aren’t friends with each other (which is probably one of best things about being in a clique). in some ways, it’s sort of like real time strategy games; it’s easy to have 100% gay friends or 100% straight friends. or you can skirt dangerously at the 50/50 equilibrium with both friend groups perfectly balanced. but if you have slightly more of one, it generally is just easier to tip to one end of the spectrum with a few straggling one-off awkwardly-attends-your-birthday-party friends (OMG yes millions of exceptions). i feel like this applies to cliques as well; if you’re part of two cliques, one will likely win out over the other.

anyway, i digress.  every once in awhile i hear this phrase: being gay doesn’t define me. i think of people as more than their sexuality. and it can be offputting to deal with people who do identify primarily by their sexuality.

there was a time when i used to strongly believe that statement, through college and the beginning of my professional career; now, i would probably say the opposite. 

why do gay people love to hang out with each other? here are some reasons why it’s less likely for gay people to be friends with straight people and more likely to be friends with gay people:

gay topics of conversation. there are certain go to gay topics (and gay terminology) that every gay guy is well versed (!) in. this includes working out, eating habits, gay dating, hot guys, and gay sex. man, gay people love talking about guys and sex. and, again, given the small gay community, there is likely a lot of gossip. discussions about weekend activities and venues are all things that your gay friends likely all know intimately. sometimes i start talking to straight people and honestly they sometimes hang out at totally different places and watch different tv shows and it can be hard to know what is an easy conversation topic.

the gay experience is something we all have in common. more generally, we all have the shared experience of being gay. it’s no different than people of the same race hanging out together, or people who do the same activities or work in the same industry or were part of the same frat or grew up in the same area or are part of the same religion or socioeconomic class tend to stick together.

being gay is a lifestyle, and shared experiences make for an automatic sense of community and rapport and belonging. so many gay people have gone through their lives hiding and lying and feeling abnormal, and the gay community provides a welcome change from the rest of our past where we’ve felt scared or lonely or abnormal or silenced.

i was at a wedding recently, and there was an older fella who was being friendly (in a wedding way, not in a creepy way), and then he made a comment about my boyfriend and then it all clicked why he was being so nice (unfortunately not because i’m a good or fun dancer). and then we became instant friends! and we talked about how pride was that weekend and how we were missing out, and how he was worried that he would be the only gay person there and how he was glad to see us, and how he once saw the groom as a boy call a waiter “gay” and how he scolded him for doing so, how he had been married to a woman and had kids. it was so easy! i can’t imagine trying to find stories of equal relevance with a straight stranger.

because love and sex are life’s greatest motivators. things people would never do for their friends, they will do in a heartbeat if it gives them a chance at sex or love. not to mention, there is a strong networking effect where each gay person can introduce you to exponentially more gay people. nothing in life is more distracting than looking forward to a sexual encounter. people will move mountains to get a first date with a crush. nothing can throw someone into a state of depression like heartbreak. especially if you’re single and/or ready to mingle, hanging out with straight people, especially going out with straight people, suddenly becomes much less alluring.

networking. the gay community in san francisco is, at the end of the day, not a huge community. (yes, pmc, you can be vindicated.) for every given gay person that you meet, there is a very nontrivial possibility that you will see them again. there are only so many gay venues and everyone is friends (with benefits) of friends (with benefits). and that makes interactions with every gay guy you meet infinitely more fulfilling than any interaction with a straight person. everyone is a friend of a friend, and having a familiar face in a crowded bar can be immensely comforting.

senses of humor. somewhat controversially… i think gay people are funnier than straight people. *hides from the boos*. though it sometimes works against the community to have the predominant senses of humor be this mix of catty, sarcastic, sassy, shame-y, sardonic, double entendre-y rapidfire. okay, put less controversially, there are many different flavors of straight people, and there are comparatively fewer flavors of gay people. and if you like those flavors/learn to thrive in those flavors, then you will like gay people more. (OF COURSE it should be said that i know many incredibly incredibly funny straight people as well.)

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interesting factoid: definitely a great “seemingly innocuous but deeply personal” question to ask a gay person why they think gay people only like spending time with gay people and using it to understand their motivations and values in life.  (thanks to sean STK, pmc, josh, mason for participating in my psych study.)

my… 28th birthday is coming up this weekend!  and… i’m still not sure if i should have a separate gay table and a separate straight table.  (okay AFTER THAT WHOLE ENTRY a lot of straight people will actually be coming on sunday :|)

something that happened in my life – edc las vegas 2014 – june 20-23, 2014

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GUEST BLOG WRITER jonathan a. contributes his thoughts!!!!  thanks jonathan!!

You are the headliner. These words are the first thing to welcome you to EDC, plastered on a billboard right outside the main entrance of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. This tagline is graceful in its simplicity, yet powerful in its meaning. It’s not just Kaskade or Calvin Harris that make up an unforgettable EDC experience. It’s all of us reveling together.

In my three years of attending EDC, I’ve mostly only encountered festivalgoers with good vibes and high spirits. We’re there to live by the code of peace, love, unity, and respect, after all. Sure, awful people are out there (I’m looking at you, shuttle girl who loudly and obnoxiously taunted our driver when he became endlessly lost), but the positivity of the community far outweighs the negativity.

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people were not happy after the shuttle driver got lost and drove into a huge traffic jam.

Each year, EDC highlights always include brief, yet meaningful interactions with strangers. Trading kandi with those around you (enjoy those sparkly stars!). Meeting up with a girl from Seattle who we met last year, who joined our group for a night after positively identifying us as a “gay brigade” (her words). Receiving my broken iPhone after it had fallen out of my pocket (thanks for not leaving it on the ground).

I quickly learned about EDC’s spirit of togetherness after my first night of my first EDC in 2012. One of my friends, Andrew, drove himself from LA directly to Vegas after work Friday evening. Separated by spotty cell phone service, we only met up with him after the final set early Saturday morning. Exhausted, Andrew gave his rental car keys to me and another friend, Janelle, and rode back with the rest of the group.

The entire trek to find Andrew’s rental car took Janelle and I over two hours, searching in vain under the brutal Vegas sun until 9am. It was a grueling journey filled with hot tempers and dry heaving, yet we encountered some of the nicest people along the way.

One guy gave us a lift in his car and drove us around a couple parking lots to quicken our search. Janelle and I asked another woman for some of her water, and in a fortunate twist of fate, it turned out that she operated EDC’s dry ice. She took us to her truck and gave us each a bottle of water. In the end, two EDC employees on a decked-out daisy golf cart found us. They picked us up and took us to where they thought the car could have been. And lo and behold, there it was, in the employee parking lot.

Fittingly, it wouldn’t have been a fulfilling and full-circle EDC experience without giving back to someone else. I lent my phone to a guy whose phone had died and whose group left halfway through the night. Here’s hoping he got back to the Strip safe and sound. Perhaps two years later, we could have been dancing to the same DJ, both of us headliners.

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MY (JAMES’S) ENTRY:—————————————————

“how was it?!?!” (ugh, one of the questions that i struggle with a lot when i hear it.) short story is that it was really fun! there dancing and fun music (though i somewhat struggled to find sets that i enjoyed spectacularly) and it was great bonding with friends.  but i can rarely muster enough enthusiasm to convey my actual enjoyment when i answer the question nor do i generally have stories that translate well to people who weren’t there. 

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7up trying to send me a message

fuzioing. angeles and i once discovered this great italian place in fidi called fuzio with a great creamy pasta. we got it like three times in one week. the first time it was mindblowing, the second time, it was good, the third time, it was …oof’ta. we then coined the term “fuzioing”, which basically means ruining a good thing because you do it so often. i worry that this year i may have fuzioed EDC.

a lot of the surprise of music festivals or rave culture or vegas buffets has been dulled, and going to EDC with strangers and someone you’ve only been dating for 1.5 months is arguably much more exciting and dangerous from going to EDC with old friends and someone you’ve been dating for two years.  and, on the one hand, it’s sort of cool to have the logistics down to a t, but on the other hand, knowing exactly how everything will turn out can dampen the experience as well. 

it’s sometimes hard in my mind to reconcile how i can be really happy with the experience while also not wanting to do it again in the near future.

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i am such a sucker for candid photos.  justin’s smile!  😀

why EDC is special. that said, there’s something about EDC that makes me hug everyone a little bit harder after the event. YOU JUST WOULDN’T UNDERESTAND, to ironically quote burners.

i would argue that it is slightly more bond-y than other trips sort of in the way that hazing is bonding through adversity. or the way that staying up the whole night on the last night of summer camp or dance marathon is bonding and magical.  obviously EDC is a ton of fun, but there are definitely moments where you sort of become delirious from the exhaustion to the point where you feel like you are part of something epic and special. file this into the “is it real bonding or fake bonding? or does it not even matter?!” bucket. 

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photo obsession.  my obsession to capture every moment is getting out of control.  it’s not quite PANIC ATTACK level, but there’s always this constant struggle between deciding whether to withdraw and try to capture the moment/potentially ruin it by pulling out a camera or whether i should fully immerse myself.  case in point: there’s a fireworks show every night at 2:30AM on the dot (okay i actually didn’t pick this up until night 3), and the last night my internal monologue was roughly “ENJOY THE FIREWORKS ENJOY THE FIREWORKS!!! NOW TAKE A PHOTO CAPTURE THE SHOT!!!! NOW VIDEO TAPE IT!!!  GET SOME BETTER COMPOSITION!!! BUT ISN”T THIS SUPER MAGICAL!?!?  GO HUG DANIEL!!!  BUT I STILL REALLY WANT A BETTER PHOTO OF THE FIREWORKS”  i don’t think that it’s SUPER unhealthy yet, and it’s certainly alleviated by the fact that i love looking at old photos/videos. 

but MAN, it really sucks to see a really great moment occur and kick yourself for not capturing that defining moment.  especially with video.  argh.  this is why we need google glass/hire a videographer/star in my own reality tv show where i get edited montages of all my funniest/best moments.

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on representing gay people.  i don’t really want to represent gay people at EDC, but it is generally inevitable. it’s a weird environment because it’s like… one of those situations where there are very few gay people, but they all really want to support gay people?!  or maybe it’s still really rare to see out gay couples in most of the country outside of SF, LA, etc and people want to express their support for the gay rights movement?  which is great, right?..

on representing gay people, with a group. being paranoid, but there was a part of me that was worried we were getting shot dirty glances from some of the straight people around us because (me overthinking):

  • gay people sexualize everything and insist on being shirtless and grinding (i would say 25% of straight guys are shirtless and 90% of gay guys are shirtless).  and i also don’t really think of EDC as being an especially sexual event.
  • when someone compliments daniel about how him and his boyfriend are such a cute couple…. and daniel says that he’s just dancing with a friend… but he DOES have a boyfriend and he is “over there” (okay that part did happen, but i’m guessing straight people don’t have this problem)
  • gay people are sometimes totally cracked out and don’t fully appreciate the music

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on representing gay people, with me and daniel. i am not particularly sure why being a gay couple was so noteworthy. but it was really cool!!! and sort of weird at the same time. a catalog of our gay-couple-related enthusiasm:

  • *heart hand sign*/”i love you guys”
  • “you guys are SO cute/hot!”
  • *gives me a really elaborate rainbow kandi cuff*/*gives me a kandi bracelet*, saying “someone gave this to me at my first EDC” (i feel like this is a huge honor but i also have no idea how to reciprocate something like that?!?!)
  • *shows me her HRC equality tattoo* (which i asked to daniel’s horror what it meant. not sure why i asked that.  well i asked because she could have been a supporter for gay rights but straight!?!?  and had someone close to her who was gay!?  small-talk-james says the darnedest things)
  • “i’m bi and sometimes make out with girls… but i know that it’s so much harder to make out with guys in public than girls.” *proud-of-you-guys-eyes”
  • “i broke up with my husband after 12 years and now i’m so much happier dating her”

we also may or may not have gotten a cup thrown at us… i’m convinced it’s random debris though daniel thinks it was a hate crime.

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sunrise on the last day.  always a marathon.  always exhausting.

dancing – beautiful exhaustion. there’s something really beautiful about watching people dance really hard even though they’re about to collapse from exhaustion because they’re so passionate and have so much resolve.  reminds me a lot of the inspiration i got from dance marathon.  not to say that there is anything noble about pushing yourself to dance through the night at EDC (and not to say that there is anything super noble about dancing through dance marathon after raising money), but it certainly adds to the magic. see: EDC as a bonding event.

dancing – what makes a good dancer (to me)?  my current answer:

  1. a basic level of musicality and coordination
  2. really showing that you’re having fun, through smiling or projecting energy or getting into it
  3. responsiveness –  there have been two guys who really stand out as my favorite people to dance with, and i have done a lot of thinking about what i enjoyed so much about dancing with them.  and i think that the key was that they were just incredibly responsive – responsive to the changes in music and responsive to their partner’s movements, their partner’s energy.  if i’m doing LLRR, don’t do LRLR.  if i’m getting low, you should get low.  if i’m doing body rolls or just head bobbing, don’t jump up and down.  if i’m approaching you, you should approach back.  (also, obviously a two way street. and there’s a lot of supporting what the other person is doing… and then later adding and see if they bite.)

i think that playfulness and that interaction between people i dance with is important to making it a great night for me.  otherwise, i might as well just be another stranger in the crowd.  even surrounded by friends, i think it’s easy to feel alone if nobody is willing to engage you and have a proverbial dance conversation with you. 

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dancing – eye contact. sometimes i ask mason why he avoids eye contact with people, and he says that it’s awkward/uncomfortable and he would just rather not make eye contact, even if it is part of that social convention we call life.  and while it’s really easy to scoff at his answer… i also totally get it.  even looking at myself in the mirror made me really uncomfortable until i was midway through college. 

eye contact while dancing i find really difficult as well.  it requires a certain level of vulnerability and desire and confidence that i find really awkward to do with outside of a small number of people.  i don’t know if being able to make eye contact would make me a better dancer… or probably a really creepy intense dancer. 

eye contact came so easily with the morale committee at dance marathon (shoutout to lia and claire and joe and ilana and brittany and ugh the best).  and it is absolutely impossible with my mom.  i will never sillydance with her.  that is officially the new spectrum of dance-eye-contact-comfort.

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after taxiing to the runway… we were told we had mechanical problems and then had to sit in the plane for another two hours.  oof

qualities that you look for in travel mates.  traveling with friends in large groups always makes me think of what makes a good travel group.  (it was a really great travel group, phew)

flexibly excited. they are flexible about their preferences and are not dead set on what they want to do, from when they wake up to which DJ’s to see to where to eat to what to do to how much to spend to dependency on the group. and whatever the group ends up choosing, they are generally excited about the outcome. 

handled roadbumps well. traveling is so fraught with things that go wrong that it’s important to stay levelheaded and not lose sight of the fact that traveling is supposed to be FUN.

hats that are nice for at least one person (exactly one person?) to be able to wear:

planner: choose where to eat. how to get to locations. which sets to see.

whip: yells at people to stay on schedule. makes the tough decisions that are good for the group which other people may be unwilling to make.  someone to herd sheep.

the person who has the most fun/the craziest: like my partner from bain used to say: strive to have the second most fun of everyone at the holiday party. you need someone to set a high bar for craziness so that other people feel comfortable being crazy.

the glue: someone who is able to engage and facilitate the conversation between various subgroups. someone to make people feel engaged and not lonely. 

the hype man/spinner: someone to get people excited. someone to keep morale from getting low. 

the life of the party:  sort of a combination of the glue and the hype man.  in chinese, there’s this phrase “da4 fang1”, which literally translated means “generous”, but chinese people also use it in the additional context of being generous with your… attention?  energy? like you can imply that someone who is the life of the party is very “generous” with his attention and outwardly directs it and shares it with a lot of people.

historian: obvi.

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being the only couple in a group. it can sometimes create awkward dynamics, especially if i’ve had enough life experiences to know what it’s like to be bitterly single around couples. like, am i giving daniel too much attention? have i given enough attention to others?  who should i be bus buddies with? am i being too couply?  is making out/pda allowed or not?

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random highlights

  • going to mcd’s with daniel and justin after we got in on a really delayed flight and were really, really hungry and SO GLAD to have made it to vegas
  • mason asking the incredibly hot lifeguard for a photo
  • using a BOGO at wicked spoon
  • getting a rainbow kandi cuff/meeting gay allies
  • when the guy mumbled something and slowly pulled down the neckline of his shirt…. to reveal his pacemaker?!
  • dancing with brian at the borgore set
  • the bro safari and trippy turtle sets
  • david insisting on an ellen-style selfie even though we were 45 minutes late
  • getting the kissing fish bonuses in the slot game and having everyone go crazy

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