California

Three Weeks in Los Angeles

by Jackie D on January 21, 2016

madonna innSo last week I came back from almost THREE weeks at home in Los Angeles. I was on vacation from December 22 through January 3 — a glorious 13 days of reading, writing, road trips, holidays, all of the food ever produced, donuts, old friends, good bars, tea with my grandma! –and then I worked from home from January 4 – 8. I think it’s the longest vacation I’ve taken from a job since…ever.

12546323_10104142429624653_723892049_o12562552_10104142429759383_387632681_o12557649_10104142429699503_274825285_oAs you can see from the photos, it was an insane two weeks full of a lot of different but equally fun things. There was Christmas, of course; high tea with my sister and Grandma at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills (this was our Christmas present to our grandma); a day trip to Salvation Mountain and then a day trip to Madonna Inn (each of these trips was three hours of driving each way); a morning at the newly revamped Peterson Auto Museum with my dad and sister, followed by an afternoon at Lacma to see Rain Room with an old friend; a trip out to Burbank to see my college friends for a night of bowling and then going to sleep early because we are old; a night of beer drinking and reminiscing about poor college choices with my two best guy friends from college; and the most marvelous event of all: the wedding of one of my best friends from childhood!

12562609_10104142429879143_1664288591_o12620826_10104142429814273_947747754_oI think I probably tried to fit in too much and ended up exhausting myself, because literally within 10 hours of landing back in New York, I came down with a really bad stomach flu and was out of work for two days. Jackie travels!

Now that I’m back, I’ve been meeting up with New York friends, catching up on a lot of work, reading The Bell Jar for the first time (obsessed), returning some very overdue library books, hanging up a shelf that is longer than I am tall, and planning my next getaways for 2016 (Mexico City, I’m coming for you).

Also, apparently a snow storm is supposed to hit tomorrow or something? I’m preparing by making all of the soup.

More adventures at home:
Zip Lining in Catalina (Or, “Just Step Aggressively Into Nothing”)

Snapshots of Other People’s Houses in Los Angeles

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Snapshots from Salvation Mountain

by Jackie D on January 13, 2016

salvation mountainSalvation Mountain was originally created by someone who worshipped God, but now it’s mostly visited by people who worship color. Social media – and especially Instagram – has been the sole reason that certain places have become popular in recent years, and Salvation Mountain has become popular because it’s basically an Instagram dream. I’m not sure how anyone even found out about it before Instagram existed because it’s out in the middle of nowhere in the southern California desert.

salvation mountainsalvation mountainA friend and I took a day trip from LA to visit one day – and if you want to take a day trip, you really need to commit, because it’s 3.5 hours driving each way. Despite the drive, it’s a doable day trip because once you get there, it doesn’t take long to see the whole thing. It’s a giant man-made hill painted in pretty much every color you’ve ever seen. There are painted “waterfalls” (blue and white stripes), a “yellow brick road,” (this is the only portion of the painted area that you’re supposed to walk on, do NOT walk on the waterfall or you will get yelled at), and then there are also painted crosses and bible verses scattered throughout.

Off to the side of the hill is a small cave-like structure that is collaged with photos of Salvation Mountain’s creator and notes that visitors have left for him (he died in 2014 but people are still leaving notes), and then off to the side of that there is a painted forest type of thing made of painted branches.

salvation mountainsalvation mountainsalvation mountainIt didn’t seem like anyone there was visiting for religious reasons. Everyone was there to take photos of this colorful place to probably post on Instagram later – which is why we were there, too.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a religious person anymore – attending Catholic school and memorizing medieval paintings for art history classes has ensured that I’ve seen enough churches in both photos and real life to last a lifetime. So even though I tend to avoid things related to religion when I travel, I can appreciate when faith is expressed in a unique way that I haven’t seen before, and I definitely haven’t seen anything like Salvation Mountain before. So basically, my overall impression of it – don’t necessarily agree with the message, but I respect the approach. And I definitely respect the Instagrammability.

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A Writing Retreat at the Madonna Inn

by Jackie D on January 7, 2016

madonna innSomething I’ve noticed now that I’ve started to mention to people that I want to write a book: a lot of people look at me like they feel sorry for me — probably because it’s a ridiculous thing to want to write a book. But I have no shame about it, and even though writing has felt a little exhausting lately, it’s exhausting in a good way, like when you feel like you’ve actually made progress on something. So I’m going to keep pressing on and hopefully taking more of these little “retreats” throughout the year.

I’ve wanted to visit Madonna Inn for a while because I didn’t believe that any place in life could actually be so thoroughly hot pink and I wanted to see it for myself. Of course, I would have preferred to visit with a group of girlfriends, but I don’t know the next time all of our schedules will allow for it. So I woke up around 8am on New Years Day and drove the 3 hours up the coast from LA to San Luis Obispo, and I arrived at the hotel around 2pm (stopped in Santa Barbara for lunch, because tacos).

madonna innmadonna innBlog Madonna Inn 9I spent the afternoon wandering around taking a few photos, and then I sat by the pool and read for a while. I was starving by 5:30pm so I went to the bright pink steakhouse right when it opened and treated myself to a steak — I can’t even remember the last time I ate steak. I read my book while I ate and then went back to my room and wrote until I fell asleep on my laptop. In the morning it was more of this: eating, reading, writing. I highly recommend sitting at the bar for breakfast (before 10am, which it was when it got really crowded) and eating at least one giant waffle (or 3).

It was, as you can tell, a very simple weekend: eating, reading, writing. I took some photos. I sat by the pool. I listened to music. I took a long shower.

madonna innmadonna innmadonna innmadonna innThe hotel was anything but simplistic — it really is as bright pink as it looks in the photos. And it’s the best. There are pink basketball and tennis courts, the steakhouse has bright pink booths, the carpets are pink floral patterns, the barstools are pink leather. And you can’t miss the bathrooms in the steakhouse (the waiters will also tell you this) — the girls’ bathroom is also bright pink and apparently there is an actual waterfall in the men’s bathroom (will sneak a peek next time). The cocktails are pink, many of the rooms are pink (not mine, mine was bright yellow), all of the souvenirs in the souvenir shop are pink, the rental bikes are pink, the golf carts are pink. Guys, if you hate pink, stay away from this place.

But the ridiculousness of this hotel is exactly why it was the perfect place for a little writing retreat. When you want to do something as ridiculous as writing a book, it helps to force yourself to sit still for a minute in an equally ridiculous place.

And waffles don’t hurt either.

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