Ghost Towns and Ghosts

If you live in Manhattan, you probably do not own a car. I actually have never owned a car in my entire life. I mean, yes, in high school my dad let me use his car to drive to school and to my awesome minimum wage job…at the mall…where I made, baked and sold Cinnabons. And yes, there is half a stick of butter in each one. And no, that doesn’t include the buttery sugar glaze that you pour on top of the right-out-of-the-oven Cinnabon.

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Where was I? Right, right, I have never owned a car. However, I rent cars all the time. Last weekend I got suckered with this baby. Texas plates and all.

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As a proud New Yorker, it hurts me to drive a red car with Texas plates, but as a typical New Yorker, I didn’t even notice the Texas plates until an hour before I had to return the car so I was completely unfazed by all the dubious looks and unwarranted honks I was getting from suspicious New Yorkers. (confession: the honks may have been warranted)

In honor of Sunday-Funday my friend and I took that little red car and went on a much needed mini-road trip to Greenport, NY in North Fork, Long Island.  North Fork is known for it’s many many wineries, it’s farms, and it’s quaint beach towns.

What no one told us is that Greeport in winter was about as exciting as…well…as exciting as a beach town in winter.

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Although on our walk through the eerily vacant town we did stumble on some glorious gifts and fabulous furnishings.  And most unique gifts.

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And this old school house…which was, of course, closed.

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But this…this was the Piece de Resistance.  Just hanging out.  In a window display.  For sale.  If someone would have just opened up the shop this guy would have been mine.

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Is this man a pirate? Is that a sawed off shotgun? Did they have sawed off shotguns in pirate times?  I will never know because this store, like very other store, was CLOSED.

We decided to explore a bit more and stumbled on this antique carousel and there were actually, like, two people there!  Two people and really really creepy horses who look to be in a lot of pain.

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We attempted to walk around some more but Winter was being an absolute jerk.  He’s like that last guest at the party that will just not leave.  Go home, Winter, go home.  It’s time.

We jumped back in our rented ride and headed toward home, but of course we had to stop at a few wineries along the way.  We stumbled upon one that looked pretty nice so we pulled in expecting a quiet, sophisticated atmosphere.

Instead we found THE ENTIRE TOWN.

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Maybe this is my kind of town?  A winery as your church?  I could totally get into that kind of worship.

We had to rip ourselves away and head home before dark because neither of us are particularly good drivers, and don’t even get me started on the whole night vision (or lack thereof) thing.

But then we saw a highway sign that said, “AMITTYVILLE”.  And I’m not one to ignore signs.  So we turned off toward Amittyville in search of “The Amittyville Horror House“.

My friend looked up the address and plugged it into her phone…but her phone kept deleting the address.  Every. Single. Time!  The iPhone did NOT want us to go to this house.  The closer we got, the less cooperative her phone became.  So I plugged it into my phone and my phone didn’t seem to have an issue with going to the house.  Probably because my phone has seen way worse things.  Poor phone.

We pulled into the neighborhood and we could not find the house because someone smartly removed the house number because jerks like us probably drive by all the time.  Finally, we resorted to pulling up a photo of the house and there it was, right in front of us.  On a surprisingly, and annoyingly, busy street.  I mean, how can I stealthily take photos when so many cars keep driving by?!?

But here it was, the house where a 23-year-old Ronald Defeo, Jr. killed his entire family while they were sleeping in their beds.  The house that spawned 11 movies!  The house that looked completely and eerily…unremarkable.

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My advice: save North Fork, Long Island for the summer…it’s probably a lot warmer then. And there are probably less ghosts.  Probably.

The Time I Met Kato Kaelin At the “Pretty Woman” Hotel

Would you recognize Kato Kaelin if he walked into a bar? Well, I certainly didn’t.

The last I had seen of Kato Kaelin he was helping OJ Simpson get away with murder and had terrible foofy 90’s hair.

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So I should not be judged for being caught unaware when this strange man came up to my coworker and me and said, “Hi, I’m Kato. Kato Kaelin. This is my friend, Bob, from Texas.”

But let’s rewind just a bit. My coworker and I were out in LA working an event which ended around 10pm, so we headed back to our hotel hoping to grab a quick dinner at the bar. We were staying at the Beverly Wilshire Four Seasons Hotel, otherwise known as, “the Pretty Woman” hotel.

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The Beverly Wilshire is leaps and bounds above most of the cheesy trendy hotels in LA because it’s true lux and not some weird modern faux-lux that falls apart after a few years. (I’m talking to you W Hotel In Hollywood.) And if you’re a city person, the Bev Wilshire is located in pretty much the only place in LA that is conducive to walking.

However, the hotel is “conducive” to some other things as well. It is a not-so-well-kept secret that on any given night you can walk into the very fine, very expensive hotel bar and find several attractive single ladies drinking alone. Who happen to charge by the hour.

So there we are, two lovely ladies, all dressed up because we had just come from our event, sitting at the bar eating a dinner of wine, appetizers and desserts. (Who needs a main course when you have cheese plates and ice cream?)

We were sipping our wine and indulging in our delicious cheese plate and in walks Kato Kaelin and a very tall, very drunk older man and they immediately zero in us.

As Kato introduced himself, Bob, his very tall, very drunk friend put his hands into my hair—a grown man who is an absolute stranger to me put both of his hands into my hair!!—and screamed, “No extensions!! No extensions!! Your hair is so soft!”

I had to pick my jaw up off the floor and say to my new friend Kato, “your friend needs to remove his hands from my hair.” Kato laughed it off and said, “Oh, Bob is harmless.”

Drunk Bob then teeters away, distracted by the scantily clad woman sitting at a table in the corner of the room and starts to chat her up/drool on her chest.

Meanwhile, Kato is trying to chat us up, but my friend and I just could not take him seriously. I tried to be nice, I really did. But then he leaned over me and said, “Oh, what kind of cheese is this?” and started eating from our cheese plate! I mean, I know times are rough, but, come on.

Still, I felt bad, I thought maybe the guy was hungry, because, really, what does he do for a living? So I told him to try the Blue Cheese because it was delicious and he said, “Oh no, I don’t want to have bad breath, do you think that will give me bad breath?”

Click, click, boom.

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This is when I realized what Kato does for a living.

Kato (probably) entertains rich men from out of town and ends the night at the Beverly Wilshire hotel bar to pick up some very expensive late night entertainment. I also realized he thought that my friend and I might be a part of that “late night entertainment”.

Yes, that’s right.

And I’m not quite sure how to take that because these girls were actually quite attractive and well dressed and really way more put together than I will ever be. But then…yeah, also not a fan of being confused for a call girl, regardless of how expensive they may be. So I quickly made it very clear that my friend and I were in LA for legitimate work that had nothing to do with selling our bodies for money. (Just our souls, but that’s another story.)

Kato got the hint and slowly (and rather gracefully) made his way over to his very tall, very drunk friend Bob and found himself a woman who was more than happy to take Bob’s money.

So do go to LA, definitely stay at the gorgeous Beverly Wilshire, and absolutely positively go hang out at the bar when the dinner rush has subsided…you will not regret it.

New Yorkers, We’re Nicer Than You Think

New York City is the 5th most visited city in the world, so I think it’s fair to include some sage advice from a New York native every now and then.

What makes one a native, you ask?  It’s when you reach this moment of realization described by John Updike: The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.

Also, I’ve lived here for just a little over 16 years.  Admitting that makes me feel really old.

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New Yorkers have a bad reputation for being rude, cold, direct, unfriendly, and blunt.  Which is true.  But mostly it’s only true because you’re in the way and we’re in a hurry.  It’s also not true and here’s a great example of why.

Yesterday, I got off the subway and headed toward the gym, heavy gym bag slung over my shoulder.  It was a bit rainy, but nothing serious.  I was wearing these boots that are a bit slippery–although I will never understand why any shoe maker would make BOOTS that have a slippery heel, aren’t boots meant for inclement weather?!

So a bit of rain, plus my slippery boots, plus my head in the clouds resulted in me first slipping on the wet pavement and then me tripping gracelessly over my own feet until I came crashing down so hard on the pavement that I literally bounced.  Bounced! 

As my gym bag went flying off to the right all I heard behind me were loud gasps of “OH MY GOD!” and “OH NO!”  I could even imagine what I must have looked like falling for absolutely NO REASON.  Thankfully I was wearing a large puffy jacket (I’m so over you, Winter) and it somewhat cushioned my fall.  Somewhat.

As I was attempting to pick myself up off the ground as quickly as I could, two teenage boys (that looked like the kind of kids that would be shot in Florida) stopped and immediately tried to help me up, and were all, “You okay, ma’am?”

“I’m okay, I’m totally fine…thank you so much, I’m fine,” but I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide forever.  And also, when did people start calling me ma’am??

I instantly decided that the gym was just not going to happen, and changed direction and started walking home instead.  A really nice, older homeless guy started walking down the block with me and said, “Honey, don’t be embarrassed, we all fall down sometimes…you’ll be okay.”

I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry, I probably did a little of both.  Then I went home and ordered Thai food and watched really really bad tv.

See, New Yorkers, they’re nice people.  When you fall, they pick you up and they tell you it’s going to be okay.

The Time We Found A Haunted House In Cooperstown, NY

Let’s go on a little adventure…in the country.

This is Cooperstown, NY.  Gather your friends or your family and drive on over.  Or down.  Or up.

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Rent a gorgeous house with an awesome name like The Treehouse.

Pull in the driveway and be all like whoa….

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Circle around back and be like OH MY GAWD.

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Then sit back, relax and enjoy the view and be all like, “alright alright alright”.

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Slowly unravel your city-self shaking off the intensity and speed with which you are accustomed and take in the quiet.  Think about you life and where you’re headed.  Take a minute to reflect.  Start to feel a little bit terrified of being alone with your thoughts…and the eery quiet.  Are there wolves out there?  Bears?  Racoons??  Why are there no car alarms going off?   How far is the closest hospital?  How long would it take the police to get here?  WHERE AM I?  WHY DID I AGREE TO THIS?  DO THEY EVEN DELIVER PIZZA OUT THIS FAR??

Shake all that off and think of…the creameries.  Where there is country, there is a dairy farm, and where there is a dairy farm, there is a creamery.  Go ahead…eat your feelings.

Because seriously.  Creameries.

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Wake up to a bright new day and go for a walk.  And see this sign.

And ignore it.

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Ignore this sign, too.

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Realize you’ve stumbled upon every child-who-grew-up-in-the-80’s dream–AN ABANDONED HOUSE THAT HAS TO TOTALLY BE HAUNTED.  Because, what’s creepier and more of a ghost magnet than an abandoned swing set?

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Debate whether the house is safe enough to go into.

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Lose one city-slicker who says, “I’m pretty sure spirits have been living in there for a while, and I don’t want to make their invisible acquaintance and then bring them with me wherever I go for the rest of my life.  Also, that floor looks like it’s going to collapse.”

Indeed, it does.

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But this brave little camper is NOT AFRAID.

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Leave your only smart and logical friend outside and forge ahead.  Because there is graffiti in there from 1979!

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Take in the conflicted messages left for you all over the walls.  God? Satan? Or Manson?

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Ponder the oddly religious graffiti artists that have been through these doors and take in the kitchen.

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And the window treatments.

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And the lovely gardens.

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Then realize that yes, the floor is probably going to collapse.  Go outside and pick some fresh flowers left by your friendly ghosts next door.

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And shake off the creepy feeling that you have ghosts following you around for the rest of your life and go have some drinks on the dock.

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Blow some bubble for the kiddies because, seriously, this entertains them for HOURS.

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Take in the beauty of your surroundings.

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And watch the sun set on yet another perfect day.

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And program the nearest pizza delivery place in your phone in case of an emergency.

The Time I Had The Best Beef Jerky Of My Life. In Cleveland.

Guys, I know what you’re thinking.  Who goes to Cleveland…on purpose?

Well, no one really.  Despite their really awesome marketing campaign here:

And here:

So you might have some preconceived notions of what Cleveland is like…I mean, yes, both times I went it was rainy and gloomy and miserable…and cold.  Very very cold.  BUT!  But I believe misery breeds creativity.  And cold miserable weather breeds the desire to eat.  So creativity + food = some seriously fine food.

And we all know how serious I am about food.

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So you can credit Cleveland’s surprisingly thriving food scene to crappy weather, the desire to eat, and of course Iron Chef Michael Symon.

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I mean, have you BEEN TO LOLA or LOLITA or THE B SPOT??  I have, I have been to all three and this is what I have to say about that.

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Michael Symon revolutionized the food scene in Downtown Cleveland, and now between the hours of 6:00 and 9:30 on any night, you had better have a reservation somewhere or you’re not eating.  Because people are serious about their eating there.  And they don’t have time for your out-of-town notions of just walking in somewhere and getting seated because, “seriously, this is Cleveland, how busy can it be?”  Well, it’s busy.  Real busy.  So plan ahead or you’ll be driving around really strange places outside that few mile radius that feels charming wondering if you should maybe drive through that red light to avoid, I don’t know, perhaps being car-jacked.  (Just kidding, Cleveland!  Sort of.)

So now that you have your dinner reservations for every night you’re in town, you probably want to start planning your days.  There is a lot to do in Cleveland and you want to be sure to fit it all in.

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But you do want to make time to go to The West Side Market.  Because it is glorious.  And you must go directly to J and J Meats and immediately order the beef jerky.  Because its not really beef jerky, it’s more like a juicy steak that you can carry around with you and bite into anytime you feel like it.

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Now, if you aren’t going to drop your vacation plans in the Bahamas to fly immediately over to Cleveland, you can actually order this beef jerky ONLINE!!.

I know, I know.

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The Time I Met Ron Jeremy, Bill Plympton, and The Hulk at Comic Con.

Sometimes my job sends me to really random places, and one of those places for four years in a row was Comic Con in San Diego.

When I was assigned the project, I was all this on the outside:

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But on the inside, I was all:

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Let’s be honest, it’s a total nerd fest, but I’m a total nerd so I felt right at home.  I mean, I wasn’t playing “Magic the Gathering” in the corner or taking Klingon-as-a-second-language classes or anything, but I was as dazzled as anyone else entering the entirely overwhelming 615,700 sq. ft. of pure advertising.  No longer a convention of comics, this convention had now become Hollywood’s launching pad.  Premiere something at Comic Con and the message goes flying to the four corners of the earth as quickly as you can say something in 140 characters.

The first year I went I was pretty impressed with the costumes.  I mean…these guys,  amiright?

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Or this curious looking group:

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Or my new friend:

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However, what I will never understand is this whole bizarre world of Anime.  I’m not judging it, but seriously, I really don’t understand it.  It this a cat?  A person?  A caperson?  And does it have a super power?

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So whenever I have a few minutes of downtime I roam around the exhibition floor and one time I just sort of stumbled upon the Bill Plympton booth–Bill is a cartoonist who I happened to think is pretty awesome.  I chatted with him for a little while, he seemed to like me, and then he drew this for me!  I think he captured me pretty well here, right?

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As I was about to leave RON JEREMY!! just sort of sidles up and totally crashes my conversation with Bill!  Not only did he crash the conversation, but he completely took control of the conversation.  And quickly organized an impromptu photo session.  He grabbed my phone right out of my hand and had his friend take a photo of he and I together (which I will not be posting because I look pretty horrible in it…and terrified).  Then he gave me my phone back and posed with Bill and I snatched this photo.

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And then we all chatted for a while like we’d known each other for years.  There was talk of drinks and “where’s the party at” which I just kind of stayed out of.  More because I couldn’t quite grasp what was happening than anything else.  I mean, it was all seriously very bizarre.  However, throughout that conversation I learned that Ron Jeremy is actually a pretty nice guy.  Maybe he’s not very nice looking, but he’s a nice guy.  And Bill Plympton, well, Bill is just all kinds of awesome.

So the moral of the story here is…everyone should go to Comic Con at least once.  Because you might run into Ron Jeremy.  Or Lou Ferrigno.  Who is pretty much the coolest guy in the world.  Hulk, indeed, although I think I can take him in an arm wrestling match pretty easy.  Probably.

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The Time I Became a Graffiti Artist in Berlin

I’m a big fan of street art, and I always wished I had one single artistic bone in my body, but sadly, this is pretty much the extent of my art skills.  Seriously, I like, just drew that.  And I was TRYING.

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Probably better to leave the whole art thing to the experts, but if those said experts ever want to employ me to help them spread their art, I’m all about it.  And this is how I became a graffiti artist for almost two whole minutes.

My friend Alexis Ames is one of those super talented arty people…obviously, I mean look how adorably arty she is!

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Before I headed out to Berlin, Lex told me about this really cool place called Kunsthaus Tacheles (Art House Tacheles), originally called: Friedrichsstadtpassagen.

No really: Friedrichsstadtpassagen

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It was originally a department store in the Jewish quarter in Berlin, and then sadly it served as a Nazi prison.  After World War II it was partially demolished and then after the Berlin Wall came down it was taken over by artists who called it Tacheles, which is Yiddish for “straight talking”.  And Germans are nothing, if not straight talkers.

For instance, when we were driving around aimlessly looking for the Berlin Wall, we pulled up to this guy at a stop light and asked for directions to The Wall.

His response:  “well, ya, you just have to go straight…back in time about 30 years.”

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But I digress.  Tacheles was at the top of our list of things to do in Berlin, and Lex gave me a FLYING BUNNY sticker to bring with me and put in as many places as I could.  The Flying Bunny is part of Lex’s logo design (see right over there on the right).

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The FLYING BUNNY was inspired by her beloved pet, the late Mr. Bun Buns:

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So I took The Flying Bunny with me to Tacheles and I totally TAGGED a wall.

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All for you Mr. Bun Buns…all for you.

Unfortunately, Tacheles was closed down on September 4, 2012 after fighting the good fight for alternative art for 22 years.

I feel pretty lucky to have seen it before it was gone, and of course I took about a million photos.  Here is a little tour through the building…

Me with a gorilla outside in the courtyard:

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Enter if you dare:

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Jewelry for sale:

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This painting both frightens and confuses me:

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People posting photos of themselves in support of Tacheles:

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My awesome nephew, Greg:

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I was a little afraid to touch it.

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And of course a super creepy hallway.

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So, I would totally say GO HERE, except that there is no longer a HERE to GO…

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