Zee and SD

So I got to meet one of my biggest musical influences in San Diego last weekend. I first met Zee Avi at the Unitarian Church in Philadelphia last year. I was living in Washington, D.C. and made the two-hour commute to see her in Philly. This time, I made yet another two-hour trip to San Diego from Orange County to see her perform live again. I love her latest album Ghostbird, which you should listen to if you haven’t already. What a talented performer, warm human being, and unique songwriter.

The craziest part was that she recognized me. “Aren’t you Lily?” she said to me as I waited in line among other eager fans. I mumbled a shy “yes” and proceeded to blush. It was the craziest thing. I was also able to spend some time with the members of her band – all of them gracious and wonderful people. I wanted to take a silly picture with her, and this is what happened. I ended up looking like a creeper who photo-bombed this moment, but I assure you that all silliness was intended.

Before the show at UCSD’s The Loft, I did some exploring in Balboa Park. I heard there was an El Greco exhibit at the San Diego Museum of Art. You know me – anything from Spain will get my heart pumping and my feet racing. I wasn’t allowed to take any photos in the gallery (believe me, I tried, and my timing couldn’t have been worse because a museum employee walked in right as I snapped the picture). There were paintings and abstract by El Greco, Dali, and many other Spanish artists.

Yet another artful visit to San Diego. Every time I leave SD, I feel refreshed, and I usually have a smile on my face for most of the drive home – even if it is in the middle of the night.

orbital revelations in anatolia

Turkish coffee shop

Can you dream in Byzantine? When the Anatolian Culture Festival came to town at the beginning of this month, I knew that my curiosity about all things Turkish (beyond Turkish delights, “Turkish March” by Mozart, and Turkish coffee) would drive me there.

Through the lens of philosophy, you could say that Turkey is a living, breathing artifact of Ancient Greece. When the Greek empire split after the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholics resided in the west while the Greco-Christians remained in the east, which eventually became modern-day Turkey. On one hand, you can think of Ancient Greece as a redoubtable yet lost civilization. On the other, you can say it never disappeared; it only evolved.

Kolbasti dance

The entrance to the festival was a long walkway called Civilizations Path, which took you through various arches, each from a different era in Turkish history. Judging by how many arches I had to walk through just to get to the festival itself, Turkey has played host to a plethora of different civilizations through time – from the Trojans to the Persians to the Ottomans.

Beyond these arches was a giant replica of the Great Bazaar in Turkey, 50+ food vendors (including one for Turkish sticky ice cream), and an entertainment stage. There was plenty to ensnare the senses.

By far, my favorite part of the festival was a display about the whirling dervishes, or the Mevlevi Order. You’ve probably seen movies that feature shots of whirling dervishes: men dressed in white gowns and tall hats spinning – almost in ecstasy – usually on a stage or in a large hall. This haunting and mystifying dance (called the Sema) originated in the 13th century.

The Sema represents a mystical journey of man’s spiritual ascent through mind and love to the “Perfect.” Turning towards the truth, the follower grows through love, deserts his ego, finds the truth, and arrives at the “Perfect.” He then returns from this spiritual journey as a man who has reached maturity and a greater perfection, able to love and to be of service to the whole of creation.

This dance is a testament to the dizzying effects of attempting to reach perfection. Note that man can only attempt to reach it without ever truly being able to. Perfection is an idea. It’s a mystery.

The earth spins on its axis; the planets rotate around the sun. We are all eternally spinning. We’re all attempting, reaching to be better than ourselves. Isn’t that beautiful?

I would definitely recommend visiting the Anatolian Festival next time it comes to town. Until I actually get to visit Turkey, this festival is a nice substitute.

my heart in san francisco

For my 24th birthday, I took a road trip to San Francisco with Felipe. Back in December, I took a solo road trip to San Francisco during an emotional low point; I was trying to reverse the painful death of my creative self. How appropriate it was, then, to celebrate another year of life in the same place (and from a very different vantage point at that)!

How easy it is to leave your heart in a town like this.¬†Although…my stomach was the one that benefited most from this visit. We ate only at vegetarian/vegan restaurants, and there are plenty to choose from in this town. Cafe Gratitude and Gracias Madre were my favorites of all the places we tried. At Cafe Gratitude, food becomes an experience that far extends the community dining table. With menu items like “I Am Bright” (kombucha) and “I Am Elated” (spinach enchiladas), guests affirm themselves with every order — encouraging positive energy flow as well as healthy gastrointestinal flow! (Yes, I went there.) At Gracias Madre, I tried vegan Mexican food for the first time, and let me tell you — I might not ever switch back. I had mushroom enchiladas with vegan sour cream and red sauce with a side of kale and refried beans. Both of these places grow their own food at the Be Love Farm, which encourages sustainability and battles overconsumption. For someone who recently declared herself an herbivore, this city was like a Disneyland for my newfound life choice.

We veered off the beaten tourist’s path and visited the Marin Headleads for an alternative view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Not too far away was Rodeo Beach, which was quiet and unpopulated when we stopped by. We also drove over the Bay Bridge to Oakland to visit the Redwood Regional Park, where the Art in Nature Festival was. Artists came together to paint, sing, dance, and rejoice in the forest. We managed to film a video there that I’ll be posting up on YouTube soon. I’d say we got equal doses of city and nature, a perfect blend.

For my birthday, Felipe organized a little scavenger hunt WHILE I WAS SLEEPING and woke me up early on Sunday morning to have me hunt for my gifts. Am I lucky or what?

The thing that made our trip most unique was where we stayed. Opal offered her beautifully decorated “post-apocalyptic gypsy room” in her 1895 abode. This house pre-dates the famous 1906 earthquake that destroyed the majority of San Francisco. Opal is an artist who frequently hosts travelers passing through town, and she couldn’t have been a better host. Her house is filled with art and artifacts. The room we stayed in even had a closet full of creative costumes that she has collected, which all of her guests are privy to try on!

San Francisco has only recently become a getaway city for me. When I was little, it was a city to which we took day trips with my family when we visited aunts and uncles in San Jose. Now, it has taken on a new form in my life. A city of constant inspiration, of repair. It’s a city that has kept up its end of the bargain in its relationship with the nature that surrounds it. Whether it’s the fresh bay air, the quiet woods in the periphery, or the abundance of healthy food, I cannot help but feel cleansed after this visit. San Francisco, you’ve been there for me during low points and life highs. You have my heart, and I’ll be back soon to reclaim it.