Apr 26, 2017

Loving Boy Bands as a Teen Made Me a Stronger Woman



I was driving Patrick to the airport a week or so ago, and we were listening to John Mayer in the car. When I hear John, or Dave Matthews, or Counting Crows, I'm instantly transported to when I was 16.

I remember my dilemmas at that age: having a "cool" car, having a crush on a boy that wouldn't reciprocate; and serious issues, like one of my close friends enduring a very aggressive eating disorder.

That story is for another post, though. This post, on a lighter note, is all about my love of boy bands, and how it's affected me as an adult.

Most of us chain memories to songs. Most of my memories are, at least. For instance, we'd drive to San Marcos and watch Counting Crows with our lawn seats most summers. The boys we were with would drink, and everyone else was high as hell. My friends and I, on the other hand, happened to remain somewhat relevant to the more popular kids without having to engage in either.

The point is I became fans of these bands — John, the Crows and Dave, as I fondly know them now — because they were impressed upon me by someone else. Taylor, a girl a year older than me, introduced me to Room For Squares when I was a freshman. I would listen to that CD through my computer speakers because bluetooth didn't exist then. I might have had a boom box, but I was obsessed with being online at that point, and I wasn't allowed to have Napster, either. Dad's rules — and thank the lord, because many of my college friends got served with a massive fee for all the illegal music they downloaded.

Counting Crows were introduced to me by one of my best friends. The guy she dated and his group of friends were really into them. My first real interaction hearing them was on the Clueless soundtrack, and even then I thought they were a whiny college band. Once I took some time to actually listen to their music, though, I was addicted. I'd drive my Sebring Convertible, thinking I was hot sh*t, down dirt roads to bonfires while blasting "Up All Night" and "Good Time." You know I love them red head girls, I'm just another boy from Texas...

And Dave. DMB was my first boyfriend's absolute favorite band. Hearing songs from Under the Table and Dreaming transport me to the end of my sophomore year, meeting said boyfriend at my long-lost friend Amy's house, and then spending every waking moment I could with him that summer before he hauled himself off to college.

I avoided going to my job as an usher at the local movie theater, but recall the movies playing that summer: Charlie's AngelsThe Fast and the Furious (number God-knows-what) and Finding Nemo, based off the songs that would play during the credits, when I had my broom and dustpan and went in to sweep popcorn out of the aisles. (For the record, the songs were "Any Way You Want It" by Journey, "Somewhere Beyond the Sea" by Robbie Williams and "Pump It Up" by Joe Budden.)

As you can tell, the soundtrack to my teenage years was heavily influenced by other people. Which is not a bad thing! But that's why boy bands are so special. When I became a fan of *NSYNC, I was 12, or maybe even 11, and that decision — embarrassing or not — was all mine.




Nobody told me to like them. Nobody else was really listening to them, and if they were, they weren't openly admitting it. (I take that back. People were listening to them: 2.1 million people were, at least.) My best friend and I bonded over our mutual love and adoration of this band — of these five grown-ass men, who wore outfits in similar yet different fabrics and color patterns, who sang about space cowboys, cyber sex and having no strings to hold them down. (I always say that I wish *NSYNC performed Backstreet Boys songs, because BSB's music has produced many earworms and is lower on the cheese scale than, say, "Bye Bye Bye" or "Tearin' Up My Heart." Although we wouldn't have this Justin Timberlake meme, so never mind.) Just reading that sentence makes me cringe a little, because I am imagining how deeply obsessed and emotional I was over these men, whose schtick was unadulterated, cheesy pop. There's no denying it — they even wrote a song about it!

But I loved them. And loving a boy band as a teenager shaped me into a better person. I know... That's a stretch! I mean it, though.

When I went to my first *NSYNC concert in March of 1999, I was beyond excited. I can't remember how I got turned onto this band. Maybe MTV? But I had the opportunity to see them in concert and meet them before the show, and I was downright giddy.

I wore the worst outfit ever, but I was dedicated. I wore a JC necklace I bought at Claire's. It was a cheap silver and painted in blue and sparkly blue. I brought a CD I ordered off eBay, which was from another country. I wanted to make sure they knew my dedication. (Are you cringing reading this? I don't blame you.) While signing my CD, Lance commented that he hadn't ever seen the CD before and said it was cool, and my efforts were validated.

We got a ton of photos with the boys afterwards; I got mine with JC and was so excited to put them in my binder and show everyone when I returned to school that week. Because, yes, we did not have social media. We couldn't Snap/IG/Tweet/post to Facebook what we were doing the exact second we were doing it. We actually had to physically verbalize our actions to the people we wanted to share the information with. Novel concept!

When I returned to school, I was absolutely dying for someone (anyone!) to see my photo collage in my binder pocket. Just ask me what this is about so I can word-vomit that I met the love of my life. And someone did!

"Who's that?"
"JC from *NSYNC. I met him this week before their concert!"
"Oh. What a loser."

And from that one interaction, I realized that loving this boy band was not the cool thing to do, even in 6th grade, when it's basically your job to love stuff like this. The boys who recognized I was a fan of this band would call them "gay" as a derogatory term, as young, dumb boys did (and maybe still do?) to the guys all the girls loved back then. (I heard that about Leonardo Dicaprio and Jonathan Taylor Thomas as well.) I didn't care if they were gay or not. I loved them.

While that event did keep me from going to school and yelling from the rooftops that I met (or loved) *NSYNC for some time, it didn't deter me from doing things I loved involving the band. I recorded every TV program they were ever on. I recorded TRL daily, on the same tape, in hopes that it would be the day my message would be broadcast on the ticker on the bottom of the screen. I bought merch from other countries. And I went to every concert they had in the state of Texas each year — usually three — and tried to meet them every chance I could. I would go to the concerts with my close friends, and it was something we all legitimately looked forward to. My mom says one of her favorite experiences with me as kid was going to *NSYNC concerts. They were fun even for the people who weren't in their target demo. (They would often cover hits from the 60s/70s/80s. They're the reason I know Michael Jackson's "PYT," "Sailing" by Christopher Cross and legitimately every Bee Gees song.) I even became pen pals with friends I met online through *NSYNC forums.

It was the equivalent of what you might be doing as a One Direction or Harry Styles fan today: looking up concert clips on Youtube and saving them to different playlists, buying merch from Instagram stores, learning songs like "Teenage Dirtbag," obsessing over photos and finding leaked songs online, or finding Twitter friends to bond over 1D news with. In fact, you guys are sleuths and have so many different ways to keep up with your favorite artists than I did.




Don't let being "uncool" keep you from loving your favorite bands, or celebrities, or whatever it may be. I was inspired to write this post from Harry Styles' comments to Rolling Stone about teenage girls.

Styles is aware that his largest audience so far has been young – often teenage – women. Asked if he spends pressure-filled evenings worried about proving credibility to an older crowd, Styles grows animated. "Who's to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That's not up to you to say. Music is something that's always changing. There's no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they're not serious? How can you say young girls don't get it? They're our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don't lie. If they like you, they're there. They don't act 'too cool.' They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick."

Right on, Harry. We need more idols that teens worship to speak of young women this way. I would have loved to hear Justin Timberlake say something like this when he went solo. Maybe he did? But I would bet I would have the quote engrained in my head. After all this time, I still love Justin, but it felt like when he transitioned into the Justified era, he was ready to grow up, and he was ready to leave the *NSYNC fandom behind — almost like he wouldn't be respected if teenage girls were still his target demographic. (For the record, they were.) With Harry, it's thrilling to hear that while he might be maturing musically, he's not throwing his babies out with the bathwater, so to speak.

My best memories came from finding a band that genuinely made me happy. It helped me embrace my love of dance and entertaining. It made me passionate about writing and interviewing. I'd write faux profile pieces about my favorite artists, aspiring to emulate a piece a la Cameron Crowe's account of Harry, and ask questions to imaginary celebrities in my car. And it helped me find my way to Los Angeles. The feeling I got when I went to their concerts gave me a high. I was straight-up emotional when it were over, because I wanted so desperately to make other people feel the way I felt after watching them. I was transported to another world for an hour and half, where I wasn't worried about anything other than enjoying the show.

So, friends, both young and old: enjoy being in a fandom. Even as an adult. I am.



Apr 11, 2017

"I'm a Dude... What the Hell Do I Wear to Coachella?" 2017



Coachella weekend 1 is about to commence, and since my original post from 2011 decided to stop showcasing the mood boards I created, I figured I'd dust off the ol' blog and come up with some fresh outfits.  YAY FASHION. You know, Coachella is basically becoming NYFW. Music? What music?

Below is visual inspiration; most of those items have sold out, since I'm repurposing this post for 2017. I did include some links, though, should you want to shop.

Let's start with...

Preppy (Shop the look by clicking on this link)
If you're going for a preppy vibe, plaid needs to be a major part of your weekend uniform. Plaid shirts, shorts, shoes — not altogether, though. Actually, who cares? Be a plaid lad and deck yourself out. Prints in general are popular at Coachella parties, so don't be afraid to wear a Hawaiian getup or something tropical or floral, either.
Shorts: jorts are totally kosher at Coachella. Linen is another go-to.
White lace-ups are clean and crisp, but don't expect them to go without a little dirt to not be completely destroyed by the end of the festival. If you're worried, buy a cheap pair you can toss after the weekend ends. And don't forgo socks! You'll end up with blisters, and that ain't cute. (Especially if you plan on wearing sandals at some point.) Also, on the grooming front, moisturize your damn feet before you gallivant around the fair grounds. You can thank me later.




Chill
If you want the "IDGAF" look, pack 1000 muscle tees and you'll be fine. This look is for the man who doesn't want to spend a ton of money on clothes and would rather repurpose items he already has. Go with cutoff jean shorts and pair them with Converse or boots. Pink is a big theme this year, so if you're willing, sport a "millennial pink" tee, pink shoes or pink sunglasses.
Chill outfits are meant to be casual (duh) so play with accessories to add some personality. Dad hats are all the rage again — thanks, 1992! — and adding a pendant necklace will jazz up any boring shirt that's sitting in your closet. Patches are also a good idea.
I included moisture-wicking underwear because I hear you guys getting a little schweaty down there.
Don't forget to bring something warm for the evening, because while you're a sweaty mess during the day, you will freeze your gonads off at night.




Cutesy 
Guys: for the love, just got for it. Imagine you could do whatever you wanted, fashion-wise. Coachella is the place. Curious about overalls? Do it! Want to wear a gold sequined kimono? Get on with your bad self. I couldn't find an option to share, but this would also be the time to wear one of those cute short-sleeved/short-short onesies from the 60's. 



Rocker
Bust out your fake vintage rocker shirts and rip a bunch of holes in them — you should be fine. Bonus points if they have cigarette burns. Pair with black, shredded-knee jeans and a leather jacket at night. If you want, throw on a beanie during the day. It will be 1000 degrees, but it will complete the look — and you won't have to shower! If you're concerned about your skin, because let's get real, any guy who goes to Coachella is 90% vain and there for photo-ops, try this giant fedora to protect yourself from the sun. Combat or Chelsea boots are your best shoe options.


Dec 5, 2016

Kirbie's Dream List: Jewelry Edition (2016)

Hello heathens. I'm back.

It's been a hot minute. Work has well, been work, therefore my dedication to the blog has been slacking. But the holidays are coming up, and I love a good gift guide, so I figured it was time to pinch off the acrylics and get typing. 

Jewelry is always a touchy subject for the holidays. It tends to be a deeply personal gift for both the gifter and the giftee: usually, the piece is more expensive than a votive candle, so it requires some type of emotional or monetary investment. Also, if you pick a piece that doesn't "speak" to the giftee, there's a 100% chance they will shove it into the jewelry box that they hide in their TV stand, along with all the other outdated baubles they will never wear. (And, frankly, are too ugly to re-gift or donate.)

The skinny on moi: I love dainty pieces. I'm not a huge statement necklace person, unless by "statement" you mean a v. delicate chain and a tiny charm. I've recently gotten into embellished chokers, but when it comes to adorning my body, the smaller, the better. You'll see a lot of there here, as well as chokers. Chokers for EVERYONE! Hopefully, you'll find something that caters to your personal tastes, or at least the person you're buying for. Enjoy!

In LA? I highly recommend these jewelers. They specialize in gorgeous custom pieces:
Edward Avedis Jewelry
XIV Karats

JEWELS

Bare Collection
Arithmetic Studs (Small), $525

I was introduced to Bare Collection in 2014, after I attend a press trip in which I got to attend the Emmy Awards. Stylist Ilaria Urbinati allowed each attendee to pick out a piece of jewelry for the show, and we were all thrilled to learn we'd get to keep the piece.
I fell in love with the Arithmetic Studs. They're the perfect mix of glam, but still small enough that I can wear them on a regular basis. I have the small studs, which, to me, are the perfect fit. I ended up losing my "X" and the cuff it came with, so I plan on picking those up again for my 30th birthday.


State Necklaces, $395

I wear a necklace with a heart-shaped, flat pendant on it every day. I only take it off to spray tan, and it has quickly become my signature piece. For the longest time, everyone asked where I got it. I didn't know because I had received it as gift. (Tough life.) By the grace of God, Instagram came to the rescue when Maya Brenner showed up on the Search page and I was able to identify the piece. 
Maya is an LA-based artist, known for creating designs that include letters, numbers and charms to personalize each piece. 
The State Necklaces are made with 14K gold and hang perfectly on the d├ęcolletage. They're perfect for someone who misses home or has pride in this home state. She also makes a pave option


The Iconery x Striiike
Striiike Mes Soeurs Necklace, $315

The Iconery is a favorite amongst the fashion set, like Emily Ratajkowski and Chiara Ferragni. And the Striker sisters (Ashley, Jen and Kristie) are a favorite amongst celebrities like Mandy Moore and Emily Blunt. This collaboration includes a mix of their iconic "Striiike" logo, pieces inspired by their favorite vintage pieces that they've picked up around the world, and this necklace. The Mes Soeurs necklace ("my sisters") was inspired by the electric pink sign that hangs in their Beverly Hills bungalow, and has taken on a bigger meaning since the election. "We're all sisters, in this together," said Ashley.

The entire collection is lovely, but this gift would be perfect for your siblings or your besties.



Miansai
Split Layer Ring, $95

I was introduced to Miansai two years ago and fell in love with the brand. Juxtaposing the idea that jewelry is supposed to be "feminine" with pieces that resemble hardware — many of the bracelets include a screw to fasten them — is a great twist. I personally love the bracelets, some of which are thick enough to get engraved. But the Split Layer Ring is an awesome accessory for someone who loves stackable rings, but doesn't want to risk losing one. The split of the piece makes it look like it's two separate pieces.



For those of you who are having a full-on stroke regarding the prices of the first three gifts, perhaps some of these chokers are more in your lane. Chokers are considered a hot item among the millennial set (please note that I say this like I'm not one) and while some of them can look super cheap, you can find chic and edgy designs that are made well and sit at a nice price point, too. There are some expensive options here if you want to give a big ticket item.

Below are some of my favorites. Numbers correspond to where they sit in the grid:

1. CRISTABELLE
Fringe Choker Necklace, $89

2. Vanessa Mooney
Lovetta Choker, $45

5. Frasier Sterling
Jett Lace Choker, $36

7. Chan Luu
Crystal-Embellished Black Lace Choker, $145




What other guides do you want to see? Let me know!

Oct 2, 2016

Escape Hotel Hollywood: Review


Escape rooms have taken over Los Angeles, and they're a little sadistic, aren't they? Locked in a room, forced to look for clues and hints in order to escape the impending doom that will result if you don't get the hell out. You're forced to work with other people, which can result in one of two horrible things: you realize you're a complete idiot, or you realize your friends or loved ones are complete idiots. (It's a great work activity: you can weed out the weak and learn who is the best leader, analyst, etc.)

All kidding aside, escape rooms are a great activity for those that hate scary Halloween haunts because they're, at most, stressful. Unlike haunted houses, there is nothing too terrifying about an escape room. Nobody is jumping out and making you wonder why you paid someone to do this to you (usually). If you like games and puzzles, this might even be an exciting hour for you! But not all escape rooms are made equal.

I've been to a few rooms before, but I was blown away by Escape Hotel Hollywood. Located right on Hollywood Boulevard, the hotel could be mistaken as a legitimate place to stay. (In the case of my makeup artist, Kasia, she did!)

Hotel Cortez from AHS: Season 5
Inside the haunted Stanley Hotel
The lobby is reminiscent of a few different haunted hotels, like The Hotel Cortez (American Horror Story) and The Hollywood Tower Hotel (The Disneyland Ride — RIP), with red accents and a wooden concierge desk, along with old school chandeliers and lighting. The hallway that leads to different escape experiences, include doors that are painted red, a la haunted The Stanley Hotel in Colorado. (Although the hotel doors appear more of a mahogany red wood finish). 

When you enter, Motown hits are playing. For some, this is comforting. "They're playing happy music! It can't be scary!" But I couldn't help but feel like the juxtaposition of the happy, upbeat music with the eerie hotel setting could result in something terrifying. Spoiler: it wasn't that scary.

Escape Hotel Hollywood offers 5 experiences that are currently open to the public (as of 9/10):
Mafia
Witchcraft
Zombie
Daycare
Agent

There are 5 more rooms opening soon:
Pirare
Circus
Slaughter
Heist
Kidnapping
Plus a FOX-sponsored Exorcist room

And they vary in their difficulty. Our group of 11 chose Witchcraft and Daycare since we were forced to split into two. I had to escape from the Witchcraft Room, and we had a great time figuring out each clue bestowed upon us. Going into the room is the most terrifying aspect of it all, because you don't know what to expect. Like most escape experiences, you have one our to "get out," and in our case, that meant getting into a second room, and then finding out way out of there.

The production value for Escape Hotel Hollywood is better than any other experience I've been a part of. While trying to decipher each clue and figure out what each element meant, I was also curious how certain clues were able to unfold for us — the execution was perfect. I don't want to give too much away, but, for instance, at one point we had to use a Ouija board to unlock a particular clue, and whenever we ran the planchette over the correct letter, it would light up. There was also an awesome effect involving a blacklight that impressed me as well.

Sadly, we did not make it out in time! As we were unlocking the last clue, our time was up. Overall, I think we could have done it if we had a smaller group — less than 5 people. 

The other group told us Daycare was actually terrifying, and mentioned something about dead babies hanging in a closet, so if you're into grotesque action like that, perhaps that's the room for you. 

One cool aspect is that EHH gives you a passport that gets stamped after you complete each room, kind of like a badge of honor for getting through each experience. If you get a minute this Halloween season, check it out and let them know I sent you! 

6633 Hollywood Boulevard
Hollywood, CA 90028
$42.50/person 


Grumpy because we didn't finish in time



Jul 4, 2016

BBQ in Los Angeles: Holy Cow BBQ on 26th




As southern folk would say, I had a hankering for BBQ the day before the 4th of July. I missed home (Austin, Texas) and memories of gallivanting around my parents' home with family and then running off to watch fireworks in an open field with friends were flooding my brain. So when I saw Holy Cow BBQ after an appointment at Queen Bee in Brentwood,  I knew gorging myself was imminent.

Patrick (the boy) is from Pittsburgh, and I don't normally associate country music or BBQ with that area of the country, but the man loves country culture, so he was just as excited (if not more) than I was.

Holy Cow BBQ
310-883-6269
11:30AM - 9PM SUN - THURS
11:30AM - 10PM FRI - SAT
264 26TH ST, SANTA MONICA, CA 90402

Locations
Brentwood Country Mart (where we dined), Culver City
Atmosphere
Down-home BBQ. Casual attire. Country music. Indoor and outdoor seating. Walkable area in Brentwood, off San Vicente and 26th, near Intermix and Sweet Rose Creamery
Ordering
You seat yourself and order at the cashier when you're ready. They'll bring you your food as it's ready

The Menu
Now to the meat of the matter! (Puns!)

You can buy a plate with your choice of 1, 2, 3 or 4 meat options. It comes with one included side, like kettle beans or collard greens. (There are four to choose from.) Patrick and I ordered the #4 with pulled pork, pulled chicken, tri tip and baby backs to share, and in addition to our side of kettle beans, we picked up the mac & cheese and Texas Toast because OBVIOUSLY.

The BBQ Sauce
There are four options to choose from, all conveniently located at your table.

Original Q: The best of the four. A little sweet and reminiscent of the sauce you'd get in a traditional Texas joint
Carolina Mustard: Tangy and creamy
Texas Red: Spicy, with a kick and a little smokiness
Kentucky Vinegar: This reminded me of Italian Dressing for some reason

The Food

Our spread at Holy Cow BBQ

Mains
Pulled Pork: Patrick's favorite. I enjoyed this too, but I didn't appreciate it as much without the Original Q sauce. I drenched my portion in it.
Pulled Chicken: Patrick and I both agreed there was something left to be desired here. It was a little dry despite being prepared with sauce on it; I love my pulled chicken to be super moist (don't worry, I hate that word too, but sometimes we have to do things we don't like to prove a point), with juice that essentially makes the chicken melt in your mouth. This preparation did not have that effect.
Tri Tip: Pretty good, but nothing to write home about
Baby Backs: These were my favorite and probably on par with how most southern joints prepare their ribs. I didn't need to add anything to this item because it was perfect the way it was. They weren't fall-off-the-bone ribs, but they were still damn delicious.

Sides
Mac & Cheese: Get this. You will not be disappointed! They bake the shells with a mix of five different cheeses including two cheddars and aged Vermont, so you get a nice creaminess in addition to a melted consistency on top. NOM.
Kettle Beans: I love kettle beans and these reminded me of home. They're sweet and tangy and come in a little boat.
Texas Toast: You can't screw up Texas Toast, but I did think the bread was a little dry and almost too crunchy to be considered authentic.

Dessert
Elvis in a Jar: I might get dragged for this, but I am not a huge banana pudding fan. Puddings gross me out in general, so I was thrilled that they offered a banana option without the pudding. Elvis in a Jar includes a banana, peanut butter chunks and hot fudge with vanilla bean ice cream, topped with whipped cream, toasted almonds and candied bacon. It was bigger than I thought — when I think of jars, I think they're single servings, but this was definitely big enough to share; it's small by any means.

It was delicious, but my biggest complaint is that you can't really taste the peanut butter or the banana! I was searching for the banana and I can't figure out if they mix it into the ice cream or what is going on there. I enjoy sticking a spoon down into a jar and getting the perfect spoonful of banana chunk, peanut butter and ice cream, and I didn't get that. The ration of ice cream to banana could have been better.

The Review
If you're in the mood for traditional BBQ, you will be overly satisfied here. Upon looking at the menu, there was an internal struggle of what I would actually order — I wanted to try everything. I wish they had a giant sampler platter you could order, but by ordering the #4 and a few extra sides, we got the job done. They do have a BBQ Combo, but it's not a comprehensive sampling.

I wouldn't have done anything differently! If you go and want to try a bunch of items, definitely grab the #4 and then order a few extra sides. It is more than enough for two people — just enough for a 6'4 giant and a 5'4 person like myself.

Also, they should definitely look into sweet tea. I asked if they had any and they said no, and mentioned that people here don't drink it. If you advertise that you have sweet tea, the people will drink it. It's a no-brainer!

Next Time
I totally plan on going back. Duh. And there are a few things I had my eye one that I'll plan on getting, like:

Collard greens
Cornbread
Smokey corn chowder
Peach crumb
Chocolate bread pudding

Rating: 4 out of 5 

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