Tuesday, November 11, 2014

#PiconesGoWest: Our 4,596 Mile Cross-Country Drive to California

This September, I left my home of five years, New York, to move out west to California. It was an abrupt decision made by me and my husband, propelled by our ending lease, rising rent in Brooklyn and the option of being closer to my family in Hawaii. Deniably, I was also becoming jaded by my life in New York--living a "sitcom" life where I was married with roommates, shot-gunned beers on Sunday and chronically complained about the L train. What I've learned from sitcoms like Friends and Gossip Girl is the story starts going downhill after five seasons--and so, I ended it. I left my dear friends and work family in New York for the promise of a new adventure.

Picones Go (East Then) West
The destination was Mountain View, California (where I now work). We could have flown direct to Mountain View in 5 hours or drove 2,944 miles over 5 days, but instead, we decided to take the super scenic car route, which would take us 13 days to cover 4,596 miles. The 12 overnight stops of our cross-country road trip were:
  1. Boston, MA
  2. South Hadley, MA 
  3. Plainville, CT 
  4. Harrisonburg, VA
  5. Charlotte, NC
  6. Mobile, AL
  7. New Orleans, LA
  8. Austin, TX
  9. Marfa, TX
  10. Albuquerque, NM
  11. Las Vegas, NV 
  12. Bakersfield, CA 
The route was not entirely random, as our strategy was to see as many friends and family along the way. The rest were chosen because we wanted to explore the South and eat really, really good Southern food. We documented our journey using the hashtag #piconesgowest and started a tumblr piconesgowest.tumblr.com for our families who weren't on Instagram.

Moving West, the New Aspiration
Over the years, a handful of my NYC friends moved to the west coast, where the standard of living is higher and cost of living is "supposedly" lower. Moby also wrote an article about why creative types should leave NY for LA. So, with a growing curiosity of what the west would really be like, I was convinced that moving to California might not be a bad idea; however, I knew the change would not be easy.

Adjusting from the hipster capital of the world, Williamsburg, to the full-blown suburbs of Santa Clara has been an interesting experience (which I'll save for a later post). What saved me from PNYS (post-New York shock) was driving across the country and experiencing a gradual change in geography, climate and time zones--this allowed me to slowly adapt and accept a new, sunnier life on the west side.

We crossed 17 or so state lines, and here are some of my favorite moments:
  1. Seeing a Christmas Tree farm for the first time in West Virginia
  2. Eating a silly amount of raw oysters, baked crab claws and shrimp and grits in Mobile, Alabama
  3. Drinking my first frozen Cafe Au Lait at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans and loving it
  4. Driving through the Louisiana/Texas border surrounded by refineries thinking it was a scene from Dark Angel
  5. Listening to live country music at Continental Club in Austin while drinking a Lone Star, "The National Beer of Texas"
  6. Watching thousands of tiny bats fly out of the South Congress Bridge at dusk in Austin
  7. Discovering a cute German town named Fredericksburg in Hill Country Texas that sold awesome mid-century furniture
  8. Staying overnight in a minimalist 1970s trailer in Marfa, Texas
  9. Being in awe of New Mexico's White Sands National Park and the Valley of Fire
  10. Eating fresh tortillas and green chile stew for $5 at Frontier Restaurant in Albuquerque
Some photos from our journey:

America the Beautiful
This sounds super cheesy, but it wasn't until this road trip that I truly understood and appreciated the lyrics of "America the Beautiful":

O beautiful for spacious skies, 
For amber waves of grain, 
For purple mountain majesties 
Above the fruited plain!

There were so many moments I would look out on the road and it felt like I was looking at the world through a fish-eye lens. For hundreds of miles, I saw flat-top mountains, blue sky and desert plants. It was overwhelming and beautiful to experience a landscape so pure and undisrupted.

I'll always be grateful for New York City's electric energy that sparked a passion inside of me to pursue my love for brands and advertising, but for now, I'm enjoying the slow burn of a calmer pace of life. Hello, California!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The 7 Nachos You'll Eat in Heaven

Nachos is one of my all-time favorite foods. It makes me think of happy memories at Ice Palace (the only ice skating rink in Hawaii), sporting events and college bars. I decided to have a nachos themed dinner party where everyone could make whatever nachos they liked. There were no rules except one: you have to be able to eat it with your hands. 

Some stayed true to the classics and some ventured into foreign territory. If I died and went to heaven, I'd be super content eating all of these:

Saturday, August 16, 2014

How Porter Robinson Created His Own World Separate From The EDM Scene

If you haven't heard of Porter Robinson, that's probably a good thing. I'll tell you why: the reality is Porter Robinson has been a big-name electronic music producer and DJ for several years (see "Language" and "Unison"). He's performed at big festivals and mega clubs and hangs in the circles of now popular artists Zedd and Skrillex.
So, how is Porter Robinson supposed to launch his newest album Worlds without being sucked into the polarizing EDM bubble criticized for commercializing the scene and diluting the music? He creates his own world. And, his world has brilliant marketers. 

To avoid being associated with the garbage in mainstream EDM, you basically have to avoid it all. Robinson skipped this summer's festival season and is, instead, headlining his own North America tour. Rather than having Billboard or Dancing Astronaut leak his album, he had a 'First Listen' on NPR music. And of all places to attract a new niche audience, he had an interview with vogue.com. It's not to say his team isn't doing any mass marketing, such as Youtube pre-roll ads and companion banners, they've just chosen to be strategic with its targeting.

Of everything I've seen for the promotion of Worlds, I was most impressed by Robinson's choice to livestream his entire album and himself answering fans questions on Twitch.tv, a platform typically used by videogamers. Robinson sources video games as a big inspiration for his album: "For the Twitch stream, I'm going to wander around a few of my favorite virtual environments while streaming the record. I'm hoping it'll give people a sense of what inspired the album."
Additionally, his own site porterrobinson.com is smartly designed to keep users engaged with large video player and running playlist of music videos and his social streams.  

While Robinson tells Vogue that his "new music isn’t a reaction or an intentional subversion of EDM,” you can't deny that he's paving his own path away from the bubble. At 22 years-old, Robinson's approach to his album, attention to the details and restraint in selling out sets him apart as an artist. Especially when many artists today choose antics and gimmicks for stardom (Miley Cyrus?). I admire his hard work and hopefully can experience how Worlds comes to life on his tour.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Garry Winogrand Convinced Me That Summer is Better in Black and White

In need of some culture, I forced myself to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art last weekend to see the Charles James costume exhibit and the Garry Winogrand retrospective. Both were equally inspiring, exceeded my expectations and definitely worth leaving Brooklyn for. I was particularly inspired by photographer Garry Winogrand and his black and white portraits of America, so much that I ended up shelling out money for the 463-page exhibition catalog. I took a black and white photography course back in high school and his photographs made me nostalgic for the full process of shooting black and white film with an SLR (notice the missing "D"!), developing the film, creating proofs and enlarging the photos in a dark room. I now take photos recreationally with my DSLR and seeing the beautiful grain and soft lighting in Winogrand's photographs inspired me to take another look at my photos from this summer--this time in black and white:
Locations, top to bottom: Children's Museum in London, Donau Kanal in Vienna, Jalpa's birthday surprise, Alfresco dinner in Williamsburg, Ai Wei Wei exhibit at Brooklyn Museum, Streets of Bushwick, Rockaway Beach, Streets of Portland, Portland, View of Manhattan from my roof, Charles James at the MET, and Terrace on the Park in Queens.