Musings: 6/28/14

A collection of images, links, videos, and anything else I come across that I think is worth sharing and/or discussing on my blog. This is part two…

Jessa’s style on Girls

Ahh yes, Jessa, a character on the popular HBO series Girls, is my style muse! Played by the beautiful Jemima Kirke, Jessa’s style is always so on point. It took me a while to get into the show, but I found that I wanted to tune in every week just to see what Jessa was going to be wearing…

Broad City

Speaking of shows about twentysomething girls living in New York, Broad City has been my latest addiction. My cousin told me about the show, and as per usual, I put off watching it, until one night I decided to watch a few clips of it on YouTube. After that, I scourged the internet looking for episodes, and ended up watching the entire first season. It’s absolutely hilarious!!! It perfectly depicts the trials and tribulations of people in their early 20s who are falling short of trying to successfully transition into adulthood, but are having fun along the way regardless. I love it.

Maya Angelou

As I’m sure you’re aware, the brilliant and gifted Maya Angelou passed away a few weeks ago. I recently read this article about Dr. Angelou’s thoughts of women and modesty, and it’s most definitely worth the read. Here is one of my favorite quotes of hers from the article...

“So we mustn’t run out of steam. Sometimes young women think ‘Dammnnn, I’ve been doing this nine years and I don’t think anything has budged.’ But keep plugging away. Nothing succeeds like success. Get a little success and then just get a little more.”

West Coast

For my next adventure, I am staying “local” and exploring the US! I’m flying out west to Phoenix to meet up with my good friend, Ashlee, who I met on my Europe trip last summer, and then we are taking a road trip up and down the west coast! I’ve never been out west before, so I am incredibly excited, but I’m also mostly excited to see Ashlee again!! I cannot believe it’s almost been a full year since I embarked on my journey overseas to Europe. I miss everyone so, so much from that trip, and in addition to reuniting with Ashlee, I’m planning to meet up with others from that trip who live out west.

I will certainly be chronicling my time out there, just as I did when I was in Europe, so stay tuned for that…

I Never Learn

I discovered the ethereal Indie Pop artist Lykke Li around 2009, and she quickly became one of my favorite musicians of all-time. There is something just so honest and raw about her music, and I love how her sweet, innocent voice coincides with her melancholic lyrics. She described her newest album, I Never Learn, as a “bummer”, because she wrote it after going through a bad breakup. While the songs are certainly obvious that she is dealing with immense pain, the album is also so cathartic that I can’t help but love listening to it.

The Sartorialist

I recently discovered this Instagram account called The Sartorialist, where the photographer captures every day people on the streets in cities all over the world and their fashions. It’s so fun to look at all the different outfits and styles each individual puts together for themselves, and how where they live influences their looks.

Outside of Urubamba, Peru

Milan, Italy

David Sedaris

One of my literary heroes is David Sedaris…he’s lived such an interesting life and he knows how to tell us about it. His essays and vignettes into his travels and just everyday occurrences are so entertaining to read and they inspire me to keep writing. I saw him speak at UB a few months ago, but last week I saw him in a smaller, intimate setting at a book store. There he shared with the audience a new story about his recent visit to Sweden, but more excitingly, I got to meet him! He was incredibly down to earth and easy to talk to, and he’s known for asking his fans odd questions and autographing his books in peculiar ways. After chatting with him briefly, he envisioned me going on a strange picnic…

New York City Jaunt

Last weekend I took a quick trip to New York City with my friends, Kim and Sean. We are all huge fans of stand-up comedy, so a few months ago when we learned that Dave Chappelle would be making a return to stand-up by performing a string of shows at Radio City Music Hall, we knew we had to be there.

It was the most perfect trip ever! Dave KILLED it, he was absolutely hilarious. And his opener was Hannibal Buress! I had no idea if he would have an opener or not (he had a different lineup every night), so when Hannibal was introduced onstage I was so excited! I recently got into him because he’s a regular character on Broad City, and after that I discovered his stand-up and he’s great. So we got Hannibal, Dave Chappelle, and…. Kanye West?! Yep, Yeezy made a surprise appearance after Dave’s set and performed three songs. Insane!

Dave killed it!! And then Kanye West gave a surprise performance right after Chappelle's set!

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We spent the next day wandering around SoHo and Greenwich Village in picturesque weather, enjoying the sights and sounds of Washington Square Park, which probably ranks as one of the best places in the world to people watch, and we stumbled upon a block party a few streets away.

Summer days in NYC

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That night, we went to Sleep No More, an immersive theatrical experience. It was Kim and I’s second time there, and it was Sean’s first time. It’s so hard to explain Sleep No More to a person who has no idea what it is, but the best way I can describe it is if you traveled to an alternate universe and participated in a production put on by Shakespeare, Alfred Hitchcock, and Stanley Kubrick. It’s an unbelievable experience, and I think the less you know about it, the more you will enjoy it! If you’re adventurous and are looking for an incredibly unique experience, definitely go!! It’s produced by famed British theatre company, Punchdrunk, so you know it’s legit! I think one of these days I am going to dedicate an entire post about Sleep No More, because it’s just that awesome.

As I mentioned, it was Kim and I’s second time there, and it was COMPLETELY different than the first time we went. I discovered different rooms, wings, storylines, and characters.

Mementos from Sleep No More

This trip to NYC was also my first foray to the world of AirBnb, and it was great! We stayed with a guy named Tony in Harlem. I was a little nervous, because I was the one who convinced my friends to use AirBnb and I was the one who booked the place, so I was apprehensive and I crossed my fingers that everything went okay. And it did! Tony and his roommate were so nice and made us feel right at home. Our first night there we had some drinks on their rooftop, and then later met two German guys who were staying there for the night. They were on a 10-month, around-the-world trip, and NYC was their first stop. It was such a great experience and I can’t see how I could ever go back to normal hotels… With AirBnb you have the chance to stay somewhere way cheaper than you would at a hotel and you meet and interact with people you may not have the opportunity to at a hotel. Plus staying with locals is always a plus when you’re in a different city!

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Charleston, South Carolina: Quaint, Traditional, and…Icy?!

At the end of January, I took a semi-impromptu trip to Charleston, South Carolina. My cousin moved down there in April 2013, and my aunt followed a few months later. It’s funny, because prior to my cousin moving down there, I didn’t really know much about Charleston at all, but it seemed as though as soon as she moved there, I kept hearing about what a lovely town it is. And the more I researched it, the more eager I was to visit.

This winter has certainly been more brutal than recent winters, and even places in the south have been feeling its wrath. January is an awfully unpredictable month weather-wise, so I knew that I was taking a bit of a gamble traveling down there that time of year, but hey.

As soon as I stepped outside of Charleston’s airport, I was greeted with glorious sunshine and a temperature in the mid-60s; two things I hadn’t experienced in Buffalo in months. It was such a lovely and foreign feeling for me to experience such weather that time of year, and I got a good chuckle seeing the locals all bundled up in their hats and scarves because it was too mild for them. I’m really glad I arrived in the early afternoon, because my first day in Charleston was the only day I was going to experience warm(er) temperatures…

I was picked up by my cousin Chelsea and she took me straight to my hotel, an Embassy Suites located in downtown Charleston, which used to be the Citadel, a famous military college. The hotel was gorgeous inside and out; the outside is painted a pale pink and is reminiscent of an old castle.

The lobby of my hotel.

Charleston was really my first foray into the American South, I’ve been to Florida a few times, but I wouldn’t consider Florida the “traditional” south. As soon as my cousin and I cruised around town, I could see that Charleston is a great blend of history and contemporary; it’s a huge college town so downtown was filled with college students walking and biking, and the streets were lined with trendy shops  and upscale boutiques.

Seeing the Antebellum homes up close was such an experience! The homes were massive yet quaint and charming at the same time. Most of the homes still used gas lanterns for their porch lights, and many of them had these gorgeous open-air porches that stretched alongside the home with a doorway. My cousin told me those are iconic to Charleston homes and were designed to catch the breeze from the ocean to help beat the heat. The streets were narrow which made it difficult to navigate in a car, especially when you had to share the road with horse carriages pulling tourists. Chelsea said it can be a real pain to get caught behind them, but if you pulled up close enough with the windows rolled down, you could hear the tour guide, which was pretty neat.

After driving around a bit, my cousin drove me to Battery Park, a great spot near the waterfront filled with the iconic southern live oak trees. I’ve been dying to see these beautiful trees in person! They honestly were the things I’d been most excited to see, aside from the Antebellum homes…and my family. It felt so reinvigorating to be near the ocean again. I just love, love, love the ocean. Any body of water, really. I don’t know if it has anything to do with growing up next to a Great Lake, but I’ve always been drawn to the water and everything that living near it entails.

Visiting the south also means eating a lot of food, and I was so ready to indulge in some southern delicacies. I was lucky enough to have my aunt and cousin take me to some tried and true places, but I also reached out to Katka Lapelosová, a managing editor at Matador Network, to suggest some great places. Katka went to college in Charleston so she was full of great suggestions!

My first meal in Charleston was at a restaurant called Virginia’s on King, and we honestly chose this place because we were both pretty hungry and it was literally right outside of my hotel. The interior was beautiful and both the hostess and my waiter had thick southern accents, so it was easy for me to like it right off the bat. I got fried pickles and a shrimp po’boy, and they were both pretty damn good. I actually ordered a fried clam po’boy, but my waiter made a mistake putting in the order so I ended up with the shrimp po’boy. I really didn’t care that much and felt too bad saying something, but my cousin Chelsea spoke up for me. To apologize, he decided to send us a slice of pecan pie for dessert, and oh my god…it was to die for! I think I made out pretty well for my first southern meal, yeah?

My very healthy meal I ate at the famous Hominy Grill... Fried chicken in a biscuit with sausage gravy and stewed okra and tomatoes as a side.

My very healthy meal I ate at the famous Hominy Grill… Fried chicken in a biscuit with sausage gravy and stewed okra and tomatoes as a side.

It was so easy to fall in love with Charleston, and I wanted to kick myself because I kept saying the words “quaint” and “charming” over and over again, but those truly are the two best words to describe it. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t on our side, and we were in for a quite unique experience over our upcoming days…

There was a huge ice storm brewing and many people were preparing for the worst. My mom and I got a chuckle out of this, being from Buffalo, but it really was a huge deal for the southerners. They simply do not have the resources to combat an ice storm, so all the schools and many businesses were shut down during our stay.  The weather itself didn’t bother me that much, as I’m from Buffalo, although many of the museums and places of interest I wanted to see were closed, so that wasn’t ideal. But what can you do? I’m SO grateful that we were staying at a hotel located right downtown, because almost everything was within walking distance. Had we been staying at a hotel near the airport, we really would have been screwed because many of the roads and highways were closed because of the ice.

A fountain outside of the Thoroughbred Club covered with icicles.

Even though the weather was putting a damper into what I wanted to do, it was pretty amusing seeing the city try to handle the elements. We even saw a business owner pour boiling water on his steps to try and melt the ice, and when we tried to tell him that was a terrible idea, he got annoyed with us and continued. Sometimes I’d encounter a few people originally from the north who were now living Charleston, and we would exchange winks and laughs at how the entire town was shut down because of some ice.

With a lot of businesses closed, it was a challenge finding places to go, but ironically, one of the few places open on King Street was a really cool bar called Closed For Business. Funny, right?! It turned out to be a really cool bar with an extensive beer menu, so it was a nice place to chill out instead of hanging out in my hotel room.

For the nightlife, I’m more of a dive bar/pub kind of girl, so I really enjoyed a bar called ACs which came at Katka’s recommendation and was really close to my hotel. It seemed like a perfect place for the college crowd to hang out, and I know if I lived in Charleston, it would be one of my haunts for sure. I also enjoyed Juanita Greenbergs (another one of Katka’s recommendations!) for my taco and margarita fix.

We also stopped at a very swanky steakhouse called Halls Chophouse, and what a kick that was. I got the vibe that when anyone who is famous/important rolls through Charleston, they definitely stop there. It’s pretty pricey, but it’s worth it to stop in for at least one drink to just experience the owner…he was hilarious! He literally comes up to every single person in the restaurant to shake their hand and thank them for stopping in. Talk about southern hospitality! We stopped in on our first night and then a few nights later, and he still remembered all of our names and that my mom and I were from Buffalo. When my cousin and I were standing at the crowded bar, he searched high and low for stools for us, and he eventually found some for us. I just got a kick out of watching him run around to make sure he stopped and talked with everyone.

I wasn’t able to see any of the plantations because of the weather, but I was able to tour the historic Aiken-Rhett House. It was very well preserved, with lots of original artifacts and pieces from its time, and I was glad to have toured at least one historical destination to gain some more knowledge of Charleston’s history and the Old South.

No, I'm not a fan of the University of South Carolina, but I just had to get a picture by the store given its lovely name...

No, I’m not a fan of the University of South Carolina, but I just had to get a picture by the store given its lovely name…

While the weather certainly wasn’t convenient, I still felt like I experienced a lot of Charleston and I still got a good feel of the city. I saw the beautiful architecture, the ocean, market vendors on Market Street, a museum, delicious southern food, and wonderful, hospitable people. I’m really excited to return to Charleston when it’s in full swing, when the poor palm trees aren’t being weighed down by icicles, and the locals aren’t using sand paper scrape ice off their car, or pouring boiling water on their front steps…

Musings: 2/21/14

A collection of images, links, videos, and anything else I come across that I think is worth sharing and/or discussing on my blog. This is part one…

1. Olympic hockey!

(AP/Julio Cortez)

So as I’ve mentioned before, I am a HUGE hockey fan. And I love the Olympics. So when the Winter Games roll around every four years, I am super stoked to see all of the hockey teams. Of course, I am 100% behind Team USA, especially since my main man, Ryan Miller, is the GREATEST AMERICAN GOALIE EVER. In 2010, Ryan Miller had an amazing run in Vancouver, but unfortunately, he and Team USA fell short of a gold medal and lost to Canada in a really tight and entertaining game.

USA and Canada have developed quite a rivalry when it comes to hockey, and on Friday afternoon they are meeting again in a rematch in the semifinals. The winner of the game will advance to the gold medal game, and the loser will compete for the bronze medal. It’s not the rematch we were hoping for, where both teams would again compete for the gold medal, but it’s close enough!

Team USA has been pretty dominate so far, but Canada has been struggling a bit. They are a team full of world class hockey players, all of whom are in the NHL, but they have been facing some difficulties against unexpected opponents. On Wednesday they played Latvia, and WOW, was that a great game. There is only one player on Latvia who is in the NHL, and he happens to be 20-year-old rookie Zemgus Girgensons who plays for the Sabres. While Canada was basically in control of the entire game, the score remained tied at 1-1 until late in the 3rd period. Canada had FIFTY-SEVEN shots on Latvia. 57!! The average shots on net in a typical hockey game is around…20 to 30 shots I’d say. But that wonderful, amazing, steadfast Latvian goalie held Canada at bay despite facing nearly 60 shots.

Unfortunately, Canada scored a late power play goal and ultimately ended up winning 2-1. But what a game! No one expected Latvia to get this far in the tournament, and for them to keep Canada to only one goal for almost the entire game is just nuts. I was really hoping they’d win, not just because USA’s rivalry with Canada, but because who doesn’t love a great underdog sports story?!

As an American Olympic lover, sometimes I forget that it’s not about racking up the highest medal count; it’s about the unknown, “regular” athletes competing on a global platform against the best athletes in the world. It’s neat to be exposed to athletes and nations that we don’t normally hear about when it’s not Olympic season. So I salute you, Latvian hockey players! You guys are fantastic.

2. Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick

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Back in October, I saw the amazing David Sedaris speak and read new material at UB. He told us how he had just finished reading this book, Nothing to Envy, and how as soon as he finished it, he read it all over again. The book tells the stories of six Koreans who defected from North Korea. I know many of us are aware of how dire things are there, but to hear the real-life accounts of just day-to-day living from actual citizens really impacted me. I’ve always been fascinated with the country, mainly because of how isolated it is with the world, so it was quite eye-opening to read. The book mostly details life in North Korea, but toward the end it also focuses on how difficult it is for defectors to adjust to their new lives living in a free country. I highly recommend reading it, I think it’s important to gain perspective on how different life can be for individuals around the world.

3. Frozen Great Lakes

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This winter has been pretty brutal, yeah? It seems habitual at this point to bitch about how nasty the weather can be this time of year, but it seems as though most of the country is facing the harsh impacts of winter more so than usual. But winter can be beautiful! All of the Great Lakes are almost completely frozen over, and ice caves have formed over Lake Erie, drawing a lot of people to visit them.

I took a quick trip over the border to Crystal Beach in Fort Erie, Ontario to see the ice caves in person with my mom. It was pretty neat to walk over the lake, I must say. Cold, but neat…

4. grav3yardgirl

I randomly stumbled upon this girl while cruising YouTube the other night. And she is hilarious! She has over 2 million subscribers and her videos get hundreds of thousands to millions of views, so clearly I’m late to the party. But I’m glad I found her. She is delightfully bizarre in her own special way, but every video I watch I find that I’m laughing out loud because she is pretty damn funny. Her channel ranges from fashion videos, vlogs, makeup tutorials, and the like. However, my favorite installment is “DOES THIS THING REALLY WORK?” in which she buys As Seen On TV products and tests them out. Hilarity ensues.

5. Georgia O’Keeffe cell phone

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I found a website where you can make custom made stickers/skins for your phone, so I got this one made of O’Keeffe’s Ram’s Head White Hollyhock and Little Hills. It’s always been a favorite of mine, I love skulls and flowers, so. What a world we live in where we can have priceless works of art decorate our phones!

6. Disclaimer

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If you haven’t played Cards Against Humanity yet, well what are you waiting for?! Since first being introduced to the game last year, I’ve put “Writer for the White Cards” on my list of dream jobs. A few months ago while playing a round with friends, I discovered their disclaimer. Genius.

7. My fortunes

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I just love the sentiments of the first one.

My second fortune has a little story to it. After my mom and I explored the ice caves, we went to a GREAT Chinese restaurant called Ming Teh to eat and thaw. Upon walking to my table, I couldn’t help but notice an older man staring at me, and throughout my meal, every time I glanced over, he was still transfixed on me. So it was with great amusement when I opened up my fortune cookie at the end dinner and read this…

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8. Lorde

I’m really digging her! Her song Royals was a big hit over the summer, and right now her single Team is getting a lot of radio time. I decided to give her album a listen because I like both songs, and I am really, really enjoying the entire album. Usually when I listen to a new album, a few songs will stand out, but it takes a bit of time for me to really appreciate and enjoy all the other songs. It’s quite rare and lovely when I can listen to a brand new album and love almost every song on it, which is exactly what Pure Heroine has done for me. Give it a listen if you’re looking for some new music to add to your playlist.

New Year, New Opportunities

Well hello there, 2014! Are we already in mid-February? Right, okay then… Life just keeps on moving, whether we’re ready for it or not.

2013 was a strange year for me, but I suppose all years tend to turn out that way. I would categorize 2013 as a “transitional year” for me; I graduated college in December 2012, and I didn’t feel quite ready to leap into the job hunting world, because I just had no idea what I truly wanted to do. I have a BA in Public Communication, and I can honestly say I loved my experience at Buffalo State and the program I was in. I felt like I was getting a good education and I enjoyed my classes and the content I was learning. A degree in the communications field can be great because it’s quite versatile, but what did I want to do with it?

I made sure to remind myself that I don’t have to be boxed in to my degree. All because I have a degree in Public Communication it doesn’t mean that I have to get a “traditional” PR job. In fact, traditional PR jobs is something that I never wanted. I’ve always been more interested in the writing aspect to public communication and I knew I wanted to pursue a career with a strong focus in writing. All I knew is that if I could find a job that would keep me surviving and happy, that is all I wanted. If it didn’t necessarily pertain to my degree, that was okay.

But…still. What did I want to do? It’s a question young adults are always asked, especially after they graduate college. I loved getting an education but I couldn’t imagine digging myself deeper into debt by pursuing grad school. Plus, I had that trip to Europe coming up in the summer, and I’m not sure if I wanted to head into any job interviews with me having to say, “Oh yeah, I will be in Europe for the month of July, I hope that’s okay.” For some reason I had a feeling that might put a strike against me during the hiring process. Plus, how could I think about getting a job and diving into the real world when I had Europe on my mind?

So Europe became my haven. Whenever I was asked the dreaded “So now what are you going to do?” question, I confidently answered, “Well, I am going to Europe for a month in the summer, so right now I’m just focusing on saving up money for that.”

And just like that, instead of being met with the quizzical-meets-judgmental stare that I usually got after I danced around that question, peoples’ faces instead lit up with smiles and enthusiasm.

“Europe! Oh my god, how exciting!”

“You are going to have a life changing experience!”

“I went to Europe when I was your age, it was the best time of my life!”

“You might never come home!”

“You might fall in love and get married over there!”

So maybe I didn’t get married (there’s always next time) and I ended up coming back home…but everything else certainly happened to me over there. Even though I knew it was going to be an amazing, life changing experience, nothing could prepare me for the profound impact traveling abroad left on me. Every single day I was there, I said to myself, “Yep. I need to keep traveling. I need to do this for the rest of my life.” I already knew that this wasn’t going to be my last big trip, and that I would somehow need to find a way to keep this going, well after this trip concluded.

I never expected or planned to have my trip to Europe help shape what I wanted to do when I came back home, and inevitably to the real world, but that’s exactly what it did. I kept a blog while I was there (this one, duh) and I loved recording everything that I had done while also reflecting on my experiences. Maybe I could do this for a living? Coming home from Europe, I discovered the vast and wonderful world of travel writing. I was inspired, encouraged, and motivated. I loved reading everyone’s experiences and I also loved seeing people making a living doing it.

While it still remains to be seen if I can or will make a living off my travel writing, I feel really happy and excited that I can more accurately pinpoint what I’m looking for when it comes to my career. I want to write and have the freedom to explore the world. I want to write meaningful content and inspire others, whether it’s to travel or to be a part of something much bigger than themselves. Now that we’ve turned the page to 2014, and I look at my “transitional year” in the rear-view mirror, I’m grateful that I can answer the question, “Now what do you want to do?” a little bit more accurately.

Travel Epiphanies and Night Ferries

“Just one drink,” I say, as I’m looking at myself in the mirror of my tiny cabin on board an overnight ferry. My face is sunburned and my hair is frizzed, I had just spent three very hot and exhilarating days in London. I expected to fall deeply in love with London, for reasons I couldn’t really explain, and London certainly delivered any preconceived expectations and then some. My final day in London consisted of riding the tube to Camden, browsing all the open air markets, and then finally settling down on a grassy hill in Greenwich Park with a bottle of wine and friends. My new friends. People whom I’ve met about a week before in Dublin.

After spending a few hours lying on the grass, talking, drinking, observing, and laughing, we force ourselves out of London and onto a ferry bound to the Netherlands, where we will continue our adventure together in Amsterdam. I’m tired, and already feeling a little boozy from my wine. While already declaring that it will be a quiet night on board, I make no effort in my appearance, and I sheepishly leave my room in a t-shirt and yoga pants, wearing no makeup. I see some familiar faces, and we convene by the bar in the lounge. Someone remarks that the bar drinks are overpriced, and it makes more sense to buy bottles of liquor from the duty free shop on board. I shrug and buy myself a glass of wine, as I don’t expect to hang out for very long before returning to my cabin.

As we were one of the first passengers to arrive, the deck is completely empty. The chairs and tiny tables are strategically attached to the deck with wire, but we figure out how to arrange a little sitting area for all of us. Slowly, my travel mates find their way to the deck and we begin to chat about what we all did in London. Soon, everyone becomes generous with their bottles, and paper cups filled with nothing but alcohol are passed around. I can’t tell if it’s from drinking or being on open waters, but I start to feel dizzy. As I sit around and look at my little group, I am taken over with pure happiness and amazement at how well we are all getting along, despite being strangers just days prior. Somewhere along the line, I relent and buy myself my own duty free bottle and have been taking swigs out of it for who knows how long? How long have we been out here? What time is it? Don’t we have to be up pretty early tomorrow? Who cares? It’s a vacation, dammit, and I’m enjoying every second out here on this boat deck. Tomorrow morning can wait.

After a while, I worry if we are being too loud and disturbing the other passengers. I turn my attention away from my crowd, only to see that we have become the center of a ring of other passengers, who have been happily watching our antics for god knows how long. Instead of the scowls I expect, I only see people drinking and smoking while shaking their heads and laughing at my crew. A few eventually decide to come join us. An employee makes his way on deck, but instead of telling us to quiet down and go back to our rooms, he exchanges smiles with us and asks if he can take any garbage or empty glasses.

The night carries on, people keep coming and going to the duty free shop to replenish, regrettable photos are snapped on smartphones, and I sit there thinking how I’m so glad I decided to come out for “just one drink”, instead of curling up on my cot and catching up with my friends and family on Facebook. Somewhere, on that ferry, mid-transit between London and Amsterdam, I fell in love with everyone I was traveling with. I felt so lucky that somehow, by fate, we all unknowingly decided to travel together. We crossed the boundary of simply being companions while abroad, and were now, undoubtedly, friends. No more awkward icebreaker conversations, we were instead freely conversing and divulging; without worry of any judgment from someone you don’t quite know yet.

It was that night when I had my first “travel epiphany”, where the profoundness and magic of travel really came flying at me and hit me in the face. It wasn’t when I saw Big Ben and the London Tower for the first time in person, nor was it when I had my first pint of Guinness at Temple Bar in Dublin, as wonderful as those moments were. No, it was there, on the deck of that ferry, sitting in a metal chair, resting my elbows on a table littered with paper cups, empty bottles, and ashtrays, that it really hit me that I was in the midst of something truly special that will stay with me forever.

I got up from my chair to stretch my legs, to prepare myself for what was already making itself into a very long night, when I looked over the railing and noticed that we hadn’t even left port yet.

Lamenting Lindy

It’s been eight months since Lindy Ruff coached the Buffalo Sabres. A considerable stretch of time, but to say that I’m completely over his firing would simply not be true. A lot has happened since he’s been fired; the Sabres, again, missed the playoffs, the NHL carried on, with trades and transactions, and new rules were implemented. Fans went about their lives, watching hockey, watching the playoffs, and enjoying the summer offseason.

To say I’m an avid Sabres fan would be an understatement. I was the type of fan who would plan my social life around hockey season. I’d always be down for hanging with my friends, as long as it meant after a game. Of course there would be times when I’d miss a game to go out and do something else, but checking my phone for score updates was a must. I even made sure to book my trip to Europe this past summer until July, making sure that I wouldn’t miss the playoffs. Going to games were special events, included with my ritual of arriving at least an hour early so I could watch the pre-game warmups and snap pictures of my favorite team.

But now, for the first time I can remember, I don’t plan my social life around the games. Hell, there have been a few times where I’ve completely forgotten the Sabres were even on. I’ve never been so blasé about the Sabres. My younger brother and I have regularly attended Sabres games for the past several years, and a few days ago, he mentioned he got tickets to Monday’s game against the Dallas Stars. And for the first time since, oh I don’t know, forever, I am very hesitant in attending. And it has nothing to do with the fact that the Sabres are playing absolutely dismal hockey, and are completely unenjoyable to watch. It’s because I really don’t know if I can handle seeing Lindy Ruff coaching behind the opposing team’s bench.

No matter how ridiculous it sounds in the world of sports, deep down I always wanted to believe that Lindy would stay with the Sabres until he retired. Even when the logic no longer made sense, and there were no more arguments to be made as to why we should retain the longest-tenured coach in the NHL, I still couldn’t get behind firing Lindy.

At 23 years old, Lindy is the only coach I can really remember coaching the Sabres. I was seven when he was hired, and that’s around the age when I really started becoming a Sabres fan. As a child, I remember going to the games with my family, playing roller hockey in the streets with my brothers, going to Sabres carnivals at the arena and getting the players’ autographs, and staying up really, really late one night in June to watch Brett Hull cheat his way to a Stanley Cup and breaking thousands of Buffalonians’ hearts in the process. And Lindy was there for all of it. He was there to roll up his sleeves and go toe-to-toe to the then-coach of the Ottawa Senators, telling him “don’t go after our fucking captain.”

As the head coach, Lindy is the leader of the pack. The guy that everyone looks to. And as a fan, I felt the same. I’ve had my fair share of favorite players, and I’ve watched them come and go, but Lindy was always there. Always there standing behind the bench, arms crossed with a stern face.

Like an embodiment of the city of Buffalo, Lindy was a hardworking, tough hockey player. He’s a man who can be terrifying, yet also incredibly charming. Lindy’s a guy who can seamlessly crack a joke with a twinkle in his eye, or make a sarcastic remark, just before turning on a reporter who crossed the line with a question and becoming ornery, revealing the short-tempered side to him. And I loved him for it.

Change is constant in the world of professional sports. The shelf life of a player’s career is not incredibly long, and with millions and millions of dollars on the line, the shuffling of a roster and the replacement of the coaching staff is natural. Call me a sucker, but I truly loved how the Sabres seemed to be incredibly loyal to their guys. The philosophy of growing from within and sticking with your players was something special to me. Lindy being the second-longest tenured coach in all of professional sports in North America was something I was so proud of. Rick Jeanneret, the legendary sports broadcaster, has been with the team since its inception in 1970. My spirits soared when Ryan Miller announced his contract extension in 2008, stating that he wanted to remain with an organization that drafted him and he wanted to win a championship with a group of guys he came up the ranks with. These were all things that made me feel proud to be a Sabres fan.

To me, Lindy’s firing back in February signaled the beginning of the end to a lot of things that I hold special when it comes to the Sabres. Rick Jeanneret has announced his retirement for 2016. Ryan Miller is 33-years-old, and on the last year of his contract with the Sabres. The odds of him wanting to wait another several years as the team rebuilds itself into Stanley Cup contenders again are pretty slim to none.

Replace “Azkaban” with “Buffalo”, and this basically sums up Ryan Miller’s career so far.

For the past several years, I found myself desiring the Sabres would win a Cup based around all these guys. I wanted Lindy to have the glory of coaching a Buffalo-based team to a championship. I wanted to hear Rick Jeanneret go berserk as the seconds dwindled down while the Sabres were preemptively ripping off their equipment on the ice to celebrate a Cup victory. I wanted to see a straggly-bearded Ryan Miller skate around the ice while triumphantly lifting the Cup over his head.

While it was not surprising, Lindy’s firing devastated me because it meant it was time to come to terms with the fact that everything I romanticized and fantasized about the Sabres might not come to be. Things will always change…new players, new coaches, new management. These are all things that any sports franchise has seen and will continue to see. This isn’t news to the many Sabres fans who have watched the team since the 70s. But to this 23-year-old fan, Lindy was the only constant to my beloved team, and it’s only now that I realize how my love for Lindy and my love for the franchise itself had been so intertwined.

So as I file into the arena (an arena whose name has changed three times since 1996) on Monday, adhering to all my little pre-game rituals I set in place years prior, I’ll be mentally preparing myself not for Lindy’s homecoming back to Buffalo, but for officially saying goodbye to Lindy and letting go of something that first ignited my passion and love for the game of hockey.

(Photo by Karl B DeBlaker via AP)

Halloween Double Features

Ah, October. One of my favorite months. The air gets a little more crisp, the leaves turn beautiful colors, and it’s finally time to start preparing for one of the best holidays ever…Halloween! Halloween is so much fun for so many reasons; whether it’s embracing the dark mysteries of the afterlife, or dressing up in costumes and pulling pranks and getting candy, it’s a holiday that can be celebrated by all ages in very different ways. When you’re younger, it’s all about getting decked out in a fun or scary costumes and collecting all the candy your pillowcase can hold. When you’re older, it’s more focused around alcohol…which seems to be a recurring theme with adulthood.

 

But no matter if you’ve grown out of trick-or-treating and are now more concerned where the best and booziest Halloween party is going to be, other Halloween traditions will never go out of style. Going to haunted houses, carving pumpkins, and of course, watching scary movies. These are all essentials to celebrating Halloween, and I don’t see myself refraining from partaking in these festivities anytime soon.

 

The horror genre has always had a special place in my heart. I’m more of a fan of the older, more established horror movies, but I’m always on the lookout for new movies that are bound to become classics in due time. I love compiling a list of movies to watch around this time of year… There’s nothing better than curling up on the couch on a cold, rainy October night with hot cider and whiskey while watching some good horror movies. Below is a list of double features to watch on the nights leading up to Halloween.

 

Halloween/Scream

 

These two movies are staples when it comes to watching movies on Halloween. With a masked boogeyman terrorizing neighborhood teenagers, John Carptener’s Halloween set the tone for modern classic horror, and Scream pays homage to this formula. Both movies are great fun to watch.

 

 

Psycho/The Shining

 

Alfred Hitchcock and Stanley Kubrick are two of my favorite directors because of their extreme care and attention to detail in each and every scene. Hitchcock’s Psycho is known to have validated horror to be taken seriously as a film genre, and it’s not hard to understand why after watching it. Kubrick’s The Shining is one of the greatest and scariest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s one of the only movies that truly instilled fear in me (and still does) when I first watched it.

 

I think these two films are great to watch as a double feature because they both take place in a lodging of some sort (Bates Motel in Psycho and the Overlook Hotel in The Shining), and the main characters lose their mind due to extreme isolation and are haunted by ghosts; Norman Bates is haunted by his mother and Jack Torrance is haunted by the ghosts of the Overlook. Both movies also feature some of the most classic and infamous scenes in cinematic history, with Pyscho‘s shower scene and The Shining’s “Here’s Johnny!” scene. Although, I think the twins scene will always be one of the scariest scenes in all of movie history…

 

 

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre/The Silence of the Lambs

 

One is a slasher film, while the other is a psychological thriller, but both feature diabolical cannibals who have a penchant for wearing human skin. Leatherface is the main terror in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but The Silence of the Lambs features both Buffalo Bill and Hannibal Lecter. All three characters have left a legacy in movie history. Both movies feature a number of disturbing, gory scenes, but I think Hannibal Lecter’s escape scene is the best.

 

 An American Werewolf in London/Shaun of the Dead

 

Two great movies that take place in London. Both movies do a fantastic job at combining scares, violence, wit, and humor to make enjoyable movies to watch around this time of year. An American Werewolf in London has its classic transformation scene, however I’m more partial to this perfect scene in Shaun of the Dead as being branded an instant classic…

 

Rosemary’s Baby/Carrie

 

Two equally creepy movies that both feature a mother who bore children with demonic qualities. Rosemary is pregnant with the spawn of Satan, whereas Carrie develops her telekinetic powers after years of being taunted and bullied by her Christian fundamentalist mother and mean classmates.

 

 

 House on Haunted Hill/Night of the Living Dead 

 

I don’t think it’s officially Halloween season until you’ve watched a Vincent Price movie! House on Haunted Hill is undoubtedly a classic, despite if its thrills and special effects are extremely outdated. But campiness and familiar scares is part of what makes Halloween an enjoyable holiday to so many well after childhood.

 

Then there’s another black and white classic, Night of the Living Dead…the starter of all zombie flicks. I think the zombie flesh eating scenes still hold up to today’s standards in grossness, and it still has one of the most surprising and disturbing endings even after all these years. Do yourself a favor and watch it if you haven’t yet seen it…

 

Beetlejuice/Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

 

 

Even if you’re a big fan of truly scary and creepy movies like I am, you’ve gotta throw in family-friendly, fun movies around this time of year. Both movies are classics! Beetlejuice exemplifies Tim Burton’s ability to seamlessly combine creepiness with his twisted humor, making Beetlejuice a good movie to watch at all ages.

 

I don’t think I need to go too in depth as to the fame of the Harry Potter franchise. I chose Prisoner of Azkaban over the other movies because I think the movie is wonderfully whimsical and pretty dark; the terrifying Dementors are introduced and a werewolf is also featured! I think this is one of my favorite Harry Potter movies out of the eight adaptations, and that largely has to do with Alfonso Cuarón’s direction and John Williams’s score.