Monthly Archives: July 2013

Before You Know Kindness

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The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

– Elisabeth Kübler-Ross –

This morning has ushered in a lot of reflection and as with most stories, this should also start from the very beginning…

“Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.”
― Albert Einstein

Leave it to me to want to come into the world on a Friday morning.  In 1984, through a fantastic stroke of genius – and after 18 years of marriage,  my parents finally had their first (and only!) child and from day one, I was immersed in a world of strange coincidence and wonder.  My name had already been chosen for me – Amanda Pearl – partly because of the simple beauty, and partly because of family history.  My mother was the third in a line of amazing, strong African American women named Lola and would be damned if I was the fourth; which is where Amanda comes in.  The direct translation from Latin is “Lovable; one who is loved” and my family made more than sure of that.  Middle names have a good and long tradition of being lineage based – and mine is no different.  My parents couldn’t be more different from each other and it has very little to do with their ethnic background – but, that definitely plays a significant hand! When they went down to the courthouse to apply for their marriage license, they were asked assorted bits of information, including parents names, maiden names, place of birth, etc – and all of a sudden, they got the strangest question: “You two aren’t…related…are you?” As it happens, both of their mothers have the same maiden name – Pearl.  If that wasn’t weird enough, I just happened to pop into the world on Pearl Harbor Day.  And if those weren’t enough coincidences to handle on the day of my birth – my mom shares her maiden name with the street I grew up on.

My first word was “Hi” and it couldn’t be more fitting – I used to crawl, then skip and frolic, from table to table when my family would take me out to dinner.  I was an extrovert by nature and as social as they came; playtime was my favorite, and as an only child playtime with friends was even better. But the more I would interact with others, the more I became aware – even at a young age – that the world was cruel and slightly unfair.  To their own credit – and absolutely nothing to do with me – my parents separated before I was 2 and got a divorce shortly after. When I was 3, my father’s dad passed away and as the stories go – I sat there with him in the hospital on his last day, and asked where he was going.  He told me he was going to a much better place, where he would be better – and all I could wonder was could I go there to? I remember the look in his eyes – partially bewildered and taken back by my question, partially amused by the workings of a child’s mind.  When he passed away, the void he left permeated physical space – it crept into my heart; but at the time, I lacked the words, maturity or knowledge to express any of this.

As with most people, growing older meant growing stranger – growing wilder, growing weirder.  It took a long time for me to grow into myself – and as I sit here at 28, I can’t say much has changed.  The “big glasses”-“big braces”-“big hair” snafus that seemed to be singular occurrences for most girls hit me like a hat trick in elementary school.  I was highly intelligent…which meant I was peculiar, learning long division on my own and with my head in the books.  Social, sure – to a point; but as with every other consecutive phase in my life, I got along better with teachers, aides and instructors and found it increasingly hard to relate to people my age.  I went from being a fan of mud baths and minimal clothing to a math-nerd, book-worm, and then thanks to both coaching and coaxing from my family, an athlete.  I choose my schools based on academic and athletic merit…leaving the school district I grew up in for al all girls middle school, then twice in High School – once to play basketball and the second time, to escape it.  And each time, I had a similar thought: I had built these support systems like ecosystems around me only to disrupt them by leaving.  The only constant seemed to be me – moving on, moving forward and lamenting on what I saw in the rear view mirror.

“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, or who had ever been alive.” 
― James Baldwin

As a child, I always found myself to be of the more “emotional” variety and I think my parents would agree 110% – as a child, the news would make me upset.  I’d frequently find myself in tears without much of a rhyme or reason – and when your parents are bombarding you with statements like “If you don’t know why you’re crying, you need to stop” life can get pretty frustrating. When I was in elementary school, my parents noticed that I would get sick with far more frequency than the other kids – I would end up in the nurse’s office with a sour stomach, begging to see a doctor.  I now wish I’d been more specific – after finding out I had ulcers, I was also placed in therapy…in 5th grade.  In a few weeks, I’d grown absolutely sick of the phrases “Well, how about you draw us a picture.” and “Let’s see if you can put this puzzle back together…” – why wouldn’t they just let me talk about my feelings?!  The coup de grâce was in 6th grade when a close friend of mine passed away – I’d just started on a competitive basketball team and we were about to leave for my very first away tournament; to this day, I still feel like I don’t have closure – but it’s also helped me process death differently. The school therapist was the opposite of helpful, and  bless her soul, my sixth grade art teacher – and granted, art was my least favorite subject at this point – became my safety net.  Through her guidance, I learned that the arts were created to embrace the emotions, and there was no shame in that.  There is a confidence that we ought to possess, for life possesses us.

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.”

–  نعومي شهاب ناي –

It’s not often that I’m at a loss for words; but a year ago to this day, that’s exactly where I stood: mouth gaping open, head in my hands and tears forging a river from my duct to the floor.  Losses, I’m told, come in threes – and this situation was no different.  First, there was my great uncle who passed away, natural causes mind you but that’s of no importance to me; a loss is still a loss, the world is always dimmer in the moments we suffer.  Then I got the news that a friend had his life taken in the strangest of circumstances: whether it was his own doing or there was foul play, the circumstances are upsetting to say the very least.  Last but not least, was the toughest blow for me to take…

My step mom has been in my life as far as I can remember, and best friend, Jan, has been like an Aunt to me.  Being a product of divorce, I was given wisdom at a young age that family isn’t determined by blood – it’s determined by heart, and my step mom’s love for me is a shining beacon of an example.  Jan has been through more than any one person should have to endure in a lifetime – and I’m not just flippantly saying that; how many people that you know have survived brain cancer…twice.  That said, I’ve heard from a young age that God doesn’t give us problems that we can’t handle – well, Jan may as well be Job reincarnated.  A year ago, the unthinkable happened – her granddaughter’s husband opened fire on his two children, shooting both in the head and then himself.  Bless their souls, one of the children survived – but we waited weeks on pins and needles for the news.

In that time, I’d gone into myself and had refused to resurface; I wasn’t the bubbly girl skipping to her cubicle with a smile on her face anymore.  I was sad.  I was 28 and afraid of the world, and I’d never felt so alone.  But loneliness is like drowning, it can’t consume you unless you let it: so I reached out.  I put my pride aside and – slowly, one by one and over time – I came face to face with my fears.  What I needed to remember was that verbalizing the truth doesn’t make it any more or less true, but it makes us human.  To reach out and be touched is the human condition and by no means should we deprive ourselves of it.

As painful and tragic as this week was last year, at the end of it all, I have to – we have to – remember that even in tragedy life is magical, precious and beautiful.  It’s true that people cannot hurt us if we don’t let them into our souls, but if we don’t open up – people can’t love us, either.  The battles you’re fighting in your head – those demons you struggle against, have the courage to fight them and the tenacity to talk about them.  People – strangers, family, friends, mentors – they’re  kinder and stronger than you think, but they’re also just as broken as we are – and there’s no telling what they’ve been through…

“Put away your pride: be kind to strangers, love your neighbors, hug your friends.
Cherish the people close to you and remember that everyone is fighting their own battles;
but if this year has taught me anything, its that we don’t need to fight them alone.” 

-Amanda Pearl

[The Audiofiles] Required Listening for HARD Summer, Day 1

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This morning I woke up, looked at my calendar and almost freaked out because this is the last week of July;  I’m sure I’ve said this a few times already this year but where the hell has the time gone?! Granted, I’m far busier than I’ve ever been: last November I started volunteering at an organization called the Kitty Bungalow: Charm School for Wayward Cats and was quickly named the Board Liaison for the organization.  During my time there, I lost track of a few very important mantras – like love yourself first, be cognizant of the way people treat those who are inconsequential to their lives and that with great power comes great responsibility.  Thank goodness I have an amazing boyfriend, support system and family to keep me in check – I was losing perspective, soul and my positive perspective; there was something sucking at my soul and I needed to breathe and figure out why.  Ultimately, I realized what was going on in that pretty little mind of mine – I was placing my dreams on the back-burner so I could go and chase someone else’s, and it was causing me the most strange kind of anxiety: that my dreams weren’t _____ enough to chase.  And just fill in the blank with whatever you will: good, valid, amazing, wonderful, solid, proactive, achievable, doable.  After a few weeks of minor anxiety attacks and frustrations, I realized that what I was forgetting/neglecting/ignoring was the most important part about these dreams: they’re mine.

I took a deep breath to re-evaluate my life’s trajectory and then I made a move: I left the organization.  I love cats, I love people and I love making lives better – but it’s difficult to remain affable and altruistic when at the end of the day I’m unable to help myself.   Beyond my dreams being deferred, the kicker was that owner of this amazing foundation built on the idea of saving feral cats couldn’t figure out how to treat people.  I took a moment and mediated on an adage from an old friend – you can’t win’em all, but you can surely throw the game; so, after toying around with e-mail drafts for two weeks I finally took the plunge and sent in my resignation letter.

It hasn’t even been a month since I’ve sent it – twenty days to be exact – but in my adult life, I can tell you one thing for sure: my soul feels free again.  I’ve had the chance to experience, embrace and cultivate so many new and exciting feelings within my heart, soul and head.  Each day, I fall more in love with my soulmate – the term ‘boyfriend’ doesn’t do it justice and the English language lacks the capabilities to aptly describe the way I feel inside.   He’s my biggest cheerleader, a shoulder to cry on and the best support system – and friend – a girl could ask for.  We’ve been able to spend more time together – and productive time at that: laying down the groundwork of our goals and converting them into possible realities.   He makes me believe – not just in myself, but in my dreams and the time I’ve invested into them;  it’s surreal and I can only hope everyone finds this type of counterpart in their life.

What’s even better is that my dad came into town this weekend and I got to introduce my favorite men to each other – it was so much fun!  We ate – oh, we ate – well, had wonderful conversation and I even got to introduce my father to Danny’s mom – best relaxing weekend I’ve had in a while!  On Friday we headed over to the Farmer’s Market at the Grove to have some Brazilian BBQ and Pinkberry; on Saturday we got our Eggs Benedict on at an amazing place called Tres at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills. They had feta foam on top of the eggs; just process that for a second and try not to drool on your keyboard. During the day, we had an adventure to Universal Citywalk to catch Despicable Me 2 in 3D – if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re missing out.  One of the cutest movies I’ve seen in a long time and probably the best sequel ever  Finally, we ended the day with some stellar Sushi and conversation.  Sunday morning was for the parents meeting – and that went phenomenally.  We all took a walk down to the Farmer’s Market and got some crepes – both sweet and savory – and the Waffles Versaille.  I was tres full!  Last but not lease we rounded out the weekend with some Abbey Road on vinyl – because why not!

Speaking of being a perpetual five year old trapped in the body of a 28 year old, there are certain things that will simply put never ever lose their meaning to me.  There are little bits and pieces of my reality that I covet and keep close to my soul; n no particular order: bubbles, cotton candy, sprinklers that create rainbows, tanlines, live music, miniature bottles of liquor, costumes and fabulous people.   There’s something uniquely special about each one of them to me, but if you throw them all together and put a little magic in it – you essentially get a music festival. And speaking of, we’re currently gearing up for one in LA right now!  HARD Fest is proud to present HARD Summer – coming up at LA’s State Historic Park. Last year’s event was absolutely ridiculous and this year’s shouldn’t be any different!  I’ve compiled a playlist of the Day 1 artists to get down to and I’ll hit y’all with a Day 2 playlist later this week =) enjoy!

 

  1. Knife Party – Internet Friends
  2. Duck Sauce – Barbra Streisand
  3. Dog Blood – Next Order
  4. DJ Fresh – Gold Dust (Flux Pavilion Remix)
  5. Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes
  6. Major Lazer – Bubble Butt f. 2 Chainz
  7. SBTRKT – Wildfire
  8. Disclosure ft AlunaGeorge – White Noise
  9. TNGHT – Acrylics
  10. Tommy Trash – Monkey In Love
  11. Kill the Noise – My World
  12. RL Grime – Pockets
  13. Alvin Risk – SKYCLAD
  14. Destructo – Higher
  15. Oliver – Night is On My Mind
  16. Duke Dumont – The Giver
  17. Will Sparks – Ah Yeah (TJR Edit)
  18. Alex Metric ft Oliver – Motion Study
  19. Keys n Krates – Dreamyness

[Quotable] Love and Life in Los Angeles

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“Los Angeles was the kind of place where everybody was from somewhere else and nobody really dropped anchor. It was a transient place. People drawn by the dream, people running from the nightmare. Twelve million people and all of them ready to make a break for it if necessary. Figuratively, literally, metaphorically — any way you want to look at it — everybody in L.A. keeps a bag packed. Just in case.” 
― Michael Connelly

[The Audiofiles / Music Monday ] Keepin’ It Moving

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In standard, normal, everyday time it’s really only been a week since I’ve been home from Lightning in a Bottle but truth be told it feels like another century ago; another me ago, even.  If you want to get down to brass tax – yes, in all honesty the weekend was absolutely transformational, mercurial and magical all at the same time.  I’ve spent the past week in a solid state of reflection about life, the universe…and literally anything and everything under the sun.

My love; my life.

Part of the reason Lightning in a Bottle was such a big deal for me emotionally was that it represented multiple turning points in my life.  First and foremost, back in 2010 I actually had a ticket for LiB – but because I was just diagnosed with Vasovagal Syncope  I sold my ticket to get my health back on track.  The year after, in 2011, was my best friend’s bachelorette party in Vegas and there was no way in hell I was missing that – so this year, my adventures to and at LiB seemed more than necessary and slightly overdue.  Then mix in equal parts falling in love with my boyfriend while two of my best girl friends leave LA for Montreal and Boston respectively, and I had a whole mess of a machine to figure out for myself. Phaedra and Jessica represent two different worlds of friendships to me, but are equally loyal and loving friends; it was a blessing to have them get to know each other last summer and as people have always said – how lovely it is that I’ve met two souls who make saying goodbye so difficult.

It’s not that I define myself by the friendships I keep, but I place a lot of value on their opinions and moral codes; then again, shouldn’t we all?  In the absence of both of them I’ve been doing some soul searching and emotional wandering with this mantra in mind: we’re all cups, full to the brim of emotion and with each interaction with others we’re constantly tipping out our emotions and being refilled by the thoughts and feelings of others; I’ve come out of my shell within the last two years and maybe the shape of my cup has shifted, or I’ve switched from still to bubbling water.  Either way, I’ve watched myself grow – mature – evolve – and I simply don’t have the same needs, nor the same amounts of patience, that I used to have.  Meaning a lot of introspection into what it means for me to both have a friend and be one.

Besides taking time to detox and emotionally decompress, this past week has been about intertwining friend groups and developing the framework for future plans and ideas.  Simply put, every since LiB there’s been a sense of passion, dedication, creativity and urgency from my group of friends – business plans, life goals, trajectory altering decisions – they’re being made en masse and I couldn’t be more impressed.  As my boyfriend put it – they didn’t call it the ‘Maybe Lab’ and they don’t call it the ‘Do Lab’ for nothing; we can’t wait to see what’s possible when we put our minds together for something positive!

Besides the introspection, we did manage to have a bit of fun over the past week:  last Thursday I discovered that one our of favorite DJs and Producers – Pretty Lights – was playing a free show at the Amoeba records in Hollywood so I went with a few of my guy friends and had an absolute blast! He even freestyled for us – so legit.

Pretty Lights gettin’ funky

And now, for the next two weeks, I’ll be doing absolutely as little as possible as I get ready for the ruckus and shenanigans of Hard Summer!  Just because I’m not out and about prancing to the beat doesn’t mean I feel like sitting still – so here are some jams to help you get through your Monday – your week – your whatthehellever – just dance!

Tracklist:

  1. TJR – Whats Up Suckaz
  2. Disclosure – F For You (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs Remix)
  3. Skrillex & Damian Marley – Make It Bun Dem (Dead Battery Remix)
  4. Major Lazer – Get Free (Ft. Amber Coffman) (Andy C Remix)
  5. Fatboy Slim & Riva Starr – Eat, Sleep, Rave, Repeat
  6. Sound Remedy – Chiaroscuro (Original Mix)
  7. Boys Noize – Starwin
  8. Diplo ft. Mike Posner, Boax van de Beatz, RiFF RAFF – CROWN
  9. Mounties – Headphones (Sleepy Tom Remix)
  10. Neon Jungle – Trouble (Monsieur Adi Remix)
  11. Foreigner – Cold as Ice (A.Skillz & Nick Thayer Bootleg Remix)
  12. Major Lazer – Bubble Butt (It’s The Kue Remix!)
  13. Gareth Emery & Krewella – Lights and Thunder
  14. Thrift Shop – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (Kinetik Groove Remix)
  15. HeRobust x gLAdiator – We Are
  16. Rusko – Lift Me up
  17. Deadmau5 – Suckfest 9001
  18. Knife Party – LRAD (Erotic Cafe Remix)
  19. Calvin Harris feat. Ayah Marar – Thinking About You (Laidback Luke Remix)
  20. Krewella – Live for the Night
  21. Sleepy Tom – Let It Go
  22. Tommy Trash vs A Trak – Tuna Truffle (Tommy Trash Coachella Snack)
  23. Matthew Koma – One Night (Vicetone Remix)
  24. Smallpools – Dreaming (The Chainsmokers Remix)
  25. Capital Cities – Safe & Sound (Panic City Remix)

[ Quotable ] The Endurance of Trees

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The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber.  The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Wisdom of the Sands