Arts & Culture, Journalistic

From the Archives: “Drowning In This Frank Ocean Do Not Resuscitate”

Published July 19, 2013 for the Reykjavík Grapevine

During Frank Ocean’s Reykjavík show—the final one of his European tour—fans drowned metaphorically in the tides of his music and literally in the sea of people pushing towards the stage. 
It was great.

Swim Good
Before the show, excitement at Laugardalshöllin was palpable. Frank Ocean may not be as well known throughout Iceland as he is in the United States, however those who invested in the sold-out show demonstrated their dedication by staking out spots near the stage long before the concert was set to begin, fiercely guarding their positions.

The overexcited crowd screamed periodically as they mistook sound technicians for The Man Himself. The background music played such R&B classics as Otis Redding’s “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay,” and some whistled along impatiently while negotiating the rippling waves of the crowd.

A chant of Frank’s name rose up and died down—sounding comically foreign to an American ear. Just as Talking Head’s “Psycho Killer” reached its chorus, the man we were waiting for finally appeared on stage and even the most reserved fan couldn’t help but scream like a little schoolgirl.

Thinkin Bout You
Wearing his signature red and white striped handkerchief headband, Frank Ocean opened the show with a song about travelling all the way from California, befitting the title of his tour, ‘California Live: You’re Not Dead…2013.’

On his Tumblr page, Frank Ocean wrote, “all the travel isn’t in support of an album or anything like that really- past or ahead. there’s no label or touring firm dollars involved. all pennies from my pocket. in support of some odd daydream. ops to photograph crowds and clouds from planes. contrast all the quiet with some noise. new noise and old noise…sober crowd, faaded crowd. all welcome [sic].”

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Illustration by Megan Herbert

 
Super Rich Kids
The demographic largely corresponded to the age group most familiar with Tumblr, a ‘micro-blogging’ website popular among the Millennial Generation that Frank Ocean uses to connect most directly with his fans. There were even some surprisingly young fans in their early teens who were much too short to see the stage from the standing area. A few of their chaperones could even be spotted wandering around.

Many of these youngins were preoccupied with taking pictures and videos of Frank Ocean and themselves with Frank Ocean in the background before and during the concert, presumably to post them to social media as soon as possible. Other fans felt the need to shout the lyrics to each of Frank Ocean’s highly nuanced 
melodies.

The star mostly played the hits from ‘Channel Orange’ but mixed in “Novacane” and “Songs For Women” from ‘nostalgia, ULTRA.’ He also unveiled two new songs from an album in the works, and tested the crowd with a few deep cuts, noting that he would be impressed if they could sing along to “Golden Girl.”

We All Try
Based on the Icelandic scenery Frank Ocean posted his blog we can gather that after travelling to Germany, Sweden, Russia, the Netherlands, France, Norway, Belgium, England, Ireland and Scotland, Frank Ocean was looking forward to ending his tour here in Iceland. Although he added, “i’d tour for a year if it didn’t interrupt my recording or my weekend driving [sic].”

During his last show in Norway, Frank Ocean ended the concert abruptly after only four songs. On Tuesday he once again left the stage after performing a few songs giving many of his fans heart palpitations, however, he returned gleefully with a camera to snap a photograph of the crowd. Afterwards he said, “I probably should have said, ‘say cheese,’ or some shit like that.” And although his concert in Reykjavík lasted just under two hours, he showed no signs of exhaustion or disdain.

He ended the concert with a performance of “Wise Man,” which he said he likes to end each show with because it expresses a “core sentiment” of his. As he left the stage and his fans resurfaced, the statement, “In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were filled with joy” was projected on the backdrop. Some waded towards the stage for an encore, but it was clear that Frank Ocean had finished his tour on the note he wanted to. Until his next album release Frank Ocean’s fans will gasp for his music like fish out of water.

Note: As all photography was prohibited at the concert (which was kind of amusing in light of ALL THOSE FUCKING CELL PHONE CAMS OBSTRUCTING THE VIEW), we sent the wonderful illustrator Megan Herbert to the show so she could document it, courtroom-style. This is her illustration that you’re looking at right now. Pretty good, right?

See more of Megan Herbert’s illustrations

Read more Reykjavík Grapevine

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Photography, Travel

Road Trip Travelogue Day 1: 5 States

CA > NV > ID > MT > WY

5 States – 1 Day

Destination: Yellowstone National Park

Breakfast: scrambled eggs & homestyle potatoes

Departure: 5:30 something AM

First Stop: Black Bear Diner in Fernley, Nevada

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Unplanned Stop: adjacent casino in Fernley, Nevada

Philip’s Winnings: $12

Number of Photos I Took in the Casino Before Being Told Photography Was Not Allowed: 6

The Best Photograph of Those 6:

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Places to Pee in Nevada: Casinos

Places to Order Starbucks in Nevada: Casinos

Places to Lose Your Hope for Humanity in Nevada: Casinos

Where We Did Not Stop for Gas in Nevada:

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The RV Model’s Name: “Honey”

How I Fought Boredom While Driving Through Nevada: eating sunflower seeds and spitting the shells into a paper cup tucked into my seat belt

Number of Prisons We Passed in Nevada: 3

Number of Hitchhikers Allowed to Pick Up: 0

How Many Snakes We Stopped for in Idaho: 2

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My Impression of Idaho:

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Where We Ordered French Fries in Burley, Idaho: MacDonald’s, Burger King, Jack in the Box

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MacDonald’s: salty, greasy, too crunchy

Burger King: delicious when hot, too potatoe-y

Jack in the Box: perfect amount of salt and grease, good when cold

Winner: Jack in the Box

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Camping Advice from a Walmart Employee in Chubbuck, Idaho: “Keep the fire going all night… Do you have a gun?”

Camping Reservations Made: 0

Arrival Time in Montana: 12:30 something AM

Number of Grizzly Bear Warning Signs at Lonesome Hurst Campground in Montana: 3

How Long it Took to Decide to Keep Driving After 18 Hours on the Road: split second

Arrival Time in Yellowstone National Park: 1:00 AM

When We Snagged an Empty Camp Site at Madison Campgrounds: 1:30 something AM

When We Learned We Would Need to Move Our Tent: 8:30 something AM

Follow my blog here on adrienneblaine.com for more posts about my 10 Day Road Trip!

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Fashion, Personal

My Favorite Jean Jackets

A jean jacket is an American wardrobe staple. Levi’s were born here in California during the Gold Rush and I could wax academic for pages about denim’s evolving cultural significance.

Some of us may remember the skillful “Go Forth” ad campaign for Levi’s, which wove the brand and patriotism together using the audio from newly discovered wax cylinder recordings holding what is believed to be Walt Whitman reading his own poetry.

A crackling voice reads an excerpt from the poem “America” by Whitman. I bet Whitman would shudder to think of himself as a pants salesman.

That being said, don’t you wish you had a cool pair of jeans now? What I would argue is even cooler than a pair of denim pants is a denim jacket. After years of searching for the perfect jean jacket, I now have, not one, but three!

I bought all of these jackets second hand. Two of them I bought on the same day from the same store, which I thought I would regret, but I have yet to!

The first is the quintessential American denim jacket. And while it is not Levi’s brand it is Ralph Lauren, which is just as American as apple pie.

What drew me to the jacket was it’s dainty proportions and embroidered pockets. In the past I have tried on children’s denim jackets but still struggled to find one with arms that were slim. I appreciate the feminine details on this jacket like the pleats and the pulls that can cinch around the waist.

I like to pair this jacket with formal tweed slacks because oddly enough I am trying to phase denim pants out of my wardrobe. After wearing this on a windy day, I am happy to report that this denim jacket can also act as pretty decent windbreaker.

The second jacket is one that I bought on the same day as the first. I couldn’t walk away from it because I knew I would never find another like it. It’s a vintage Wrangler blazer with 70s styling.

The oversized lapels almost scared me off, but when I tried it on the fit was too good to be true!

Because the stitching is orange I like to wear this with a rusty orange checked shirt I own. I usually pair the jacket with black pants. I also like to pump up the 70s vibe with some platform shoes.

The last jacket is one that I have owned for a few years. It’s the most masculine of the three, but I like it for beach days that turn into bonfires. Since it’s a bit oversized on me, it’s like cozying into a jacket a man friend lent you.

 

The denim is soft and perfectly worn in and faded. The inside is lined with a quilted silky fabric. There are also four spacious pockets which is rare in women’s wear.

 

This is a jacket that I throw on more than anything. If I were to wear it intentionally, I would probably wear a dress underneath to counteract the masculine feel of the jacket.

While I never thought I would need three denim jackets, I am happy that I own all of these. Do you have a favorite jean jacket, or multiple favorites like me? If so, I’d love to hear about it!

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KQED

Read My First Article for Bay Area Bites!

Bay Area Bites is a food blog for Northern California’s Public Media KQED. My first article for Bay Area Bites was published today, and you can read it here! The article is titled: “Pie Ranch Sells Food for Thought at Highway One Non-Profit Farm Stand.”

I first came across Pie Ranch while driving from San Francisco to Santa Cruz along Highway One. It was the first time I had taken the coast for this commute and was enjoying the wonderfully scenic drive. As I neared Santa Cruz, I noticed hand-painted signs for pie & coffee cropping up. There is no one who loves pie and coffee more than I do, so I felt compelled to stop and investigate these claims. I pulled into Pie Ranch and wandered into their farm stand.

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Can you spot the hummingbird in this picture?

Something about the late afternoon light and the surprise of this quaint roadside offering really captured my imagination. Once inside I was impressed by sumptuous produce and socially conscious offerings. I have been able to visit multiple times and have learned more about the farm with each visit.

If you live in the California Bay Area, or plan to pass through during a road trip on Highway One, you’ll want to check out my article to learn about what Pie Ranch has to offer. Their next family-friendly event is happening this Saturday, April 16!

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Arts & Culture

I Locked Myself in a Cinema All Night

At noon on Sunday, March 13, a crowd of bleary-eyed locals poured out of the Del Mar theatre into downtown Santa Cruz. This group wasn’t merely under the influence of marijuana — although, that can’t be ruled out — it had been inside the theatre since midnight the night before.

Not only did we pay $25 to forgo sleep and watch six movies in a row, we did so without knowing any of the movies’ titles.

“Why?” you may ask. For the glory.

An hour before the Santa Cruz Secret Film festival was set to begin at midnight, the power went out. Thanks to El Niño, the Del Mar theatre and the downtown block it inhabits had gone dark.

Nonetheless, dedicated film nerds formed a line to get into the theatre. One block over, closed businesses sparkled ostentatiously with garish lights. Chilly without a jacket, damp from the rain and tired after my road trip to Death Valley, I was less than ecstatic about the prospect of a 12 hour movie marathon. So I was a little miffed when the power went back on. I’m no humbug though, I joined in the collective cheers.

For years I have wanted to check the Secret Film Festival off my Santa Cruz to-do list, but it had never seemed feasible until this year. Is there ever really an ideal time to pull an all nighter though?

I am not exaggerating when I say sleep is my number one priority. Even so, I was able to make it through all of the movies, taking a brief, purposeful nap during a film I did not care to watch (Tales of Tales). Unfortunately, it was still going when I woke up. Those who stayed up through it said it was not unlike a dream in that you had no idea what was happening and in the end it didn’t matter.

Luckily, most of what I saw was really great and inspired me to write this post! Here are my reviews organized under the following headers: “Must See,” “Probably Want to See,” and “Must Miss.”

Must See

Hunt for the Wilderpeople

If you have ever wished Rambo was a comedy…

Therapy for a Vampire

If you hate Stephenie Meyer but love Freud…

Probably Want to See

Raiders! The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made

If you grew up watching Spielberg and tried making movies of your own as a kid…

Operation Avalanche

If you want to see how Canadian film students think the 1969 moon landing was faked…

Confetti of the Mind

If you like the following short film, and want to see more by Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo…

Must Miss

Tales of Tales

Unless you’re a Dungeon Master, like my friend Steven…


I offer these hard won insights so that you may use your time more wisely, perhaps, than I did. I still maintain, it was worth it for the glory!

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Travel

Waiting to Be Born in Death Valley

“One day, in the Time When Animals Were People, Coyote came to the valley. The people were small then, so Coyote kept them in a large basket he carried on his back. After a long journey, Coyote grew tired. When he came to a place at the north end of the valley, he set his burden down on the earth. The moment he fell asleep, the people climbed up out of the basket and ran away in all directions. The place where they emerged is called Ubehebe Crater today, and it’s hollow like the shape of a wosa, or basket. After Coyote woke up, he walked up and down the valley naming the places where the people could live. That’s how the Timbisha knew where to find everything they needed.”

This excerpt from Indian Country, God’s Country: Native Americans And The National Parks by Philip Burnham retells the Timbisha Shoshone story of how the indigenous people came to find their home in what we call Death Valley. Burnham’s writing explores the fraught relationships between Native Americans and national parks. He goes on to explain that pioneers came through the same valley and saw it not as a gift but as a death sentence. Their hostile relationship to the land was reflected in the name Death Valley.

Standing above Ubehebe or “Tem-pin-tta- Wo’sah,” (Coyote’s Basket), I was surprised that I was not made uneasy by the site’s explosive origins. The crater was formed by what is called a maar volcano, where magma bubbles up to the earth’s surface, heating the ground water and causing an explosion that leaves a crater behind.

I can understand why this crater would seem like a great place for a heavy basket filled with humankind. There was something welcoming and comforting about the spot. Although we were not carried by a coyote, I did feel like Philip and I were carried to the crater by a certain force. An interesting encounter we had with a raven just moments before entering the crater intensified this feeling.

While eating yet another peanut butter and jelly sandwich, Philip and I sat facing away from the crater. We watched better equipped cars make their way on unpaved roads to a site we were going to have to wait to see: the Racetrack.

Both of us were having a hard time finishing our dry sandwiches in the dry weather. Philip dejectedly showed me two pieces of crust he couldn’t bring himself to eat. I pointed to a raven in the distance, which prompted Philip to throw his scraps out as an offering. The raven quickly flew over to where Philip had thrown the crusts.

After eating the first scrap it jumped up and flapped its wings before taking the next scrap in its beak. We were surprised when it started walking deliberately towards us, while holding the second piece of bread in its mouth. With its head cocked to the side, it was giving us, and particularly Philip, an assessing look. We were close enough to see the raven blink several times as it came closer: a black marble never disappearing, just briefly covered in a gray film.

It almost seemed to be asking us whether we had really intended to give it this food. Or maybe it was trying to gauge our intentions. Who knows what kind of discriminations Ravens have endured? I have heard that Ravens are capable of memorizing people’s faces. When it finally flew away, I whispered to Philip, “the ravens know your face now.”

Watching the raven fly into the crater, we felt we had been given a cue to get moving. Here are some pictures of Philip as we walked into the crater. You can see how steep the descent was, and how much smaller the people already in the crater appeared in the distance.

After hiking (read: sliding) down into the crater, we were met with a stillness that did not exist at the top, where the wind whipped aggressively. Nestled in the valley of the crater, it really did feel like we were in some sort of cradle. Looking up, we could see that our raven had a friend and a nest in the crater. It had probably brought the second piece of bread to share with its mate.

Once at the bottom we were the only ones there. We laid down on the cracked mud and basked in the sun. Feeling restored after our nap, we got up and prepared ourselves to climb out of the Coyote’s Basket.

At some parts it felt more like crawling, but there were beautiful purple and yellow flowers lining the path. There’s no better feeling than pulling yourself up to a great height. Climbing out of the crater felt like a huge accomplishment.

We returned to our campsite for our last night. We watched the sunset and the fighter jets and drank instant coffee out of scalding enamelware.

The next day we packed up camp and made one last stop at Zabriskie’s Point before driving the eight hours home.

Another El Niño storm was rolling, held back from the valley by the rain shadow created by surrounding mountains. As we drove through the changing weather, a lyric from one of Philip’s favorite songs by John K. Samson (“Heart of the Continent“) resonated:

“Inky bruises are punched into the sky by bolts of light and then leak across the body of tonight, while rain and thunder drop and roll, then stop short of a storm, leave the air stuck with this waiting to be born.”

I overheard a man say that all the flowers we saw in Death Valley were the result of one storm on the night of October, 18 2015: thunder, lightning and flash floods. The seeds of life patiently wait for their time, but when given the opportunity, they climb out of Coyote’s Basket and spread through the Valley.

This trip to Death Valley was the perfect way to celebrate turning 25 years old. I cannot recommend trips to national parks enough. I look forward to finishing Burnham’s book to learn more about how national parks can better serve the native people who knew the land before conservation efforts became necessary. Why should we value people any less than landmarks?

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Travel

No Sleep ‘Till Death Valley

Driving eight hours through the night to be in Death Valley at sunrise on my birthday was a decision Philip and I made without hesitation.

By the time Philip was ready to hand off driving to me at about 4 am, we had entered into the kind of landscape you would associate with a road trip through the desert. A two lane road with an ever-stretching yellow line pulled us forward over dips and through sharp turns.

With the moon nowhere to be found, we could only see as far as the headlights on Philip’s car (named Clyde) could reach. In our delirious state, we could have been on another planet for all we knew.

The only thing bringing us back to reality was the local Spanish language radio station 95.1 — the lone frequency emerging from comprehensive static. Its Mexican polka music was the best soundtrack for our excitement and confusion.

At night, the refineries and factories of Trona were lit up like golden honeycombs. As we left this small industrial community and started winding through craggy rocks, Philip insisted we pull over to take a look around.

The way the cold air whipped around us, we could tell we were standing on a ledge overlooking a valley. Just how far down, we couldn’t tell. The feeling of being exposed was overwhelming.

Despite how much I would have loved to stay and look up at more stars than I had ever seen in my life, my instinct to seek shelter was stronger. I rushed back into the car and turned my seat warmer on.

During our return trip in daylight I would discover that a somber cross marked the same spot we had pulled off on the road. My sense of foreboding was not merely in my imagination.

Not long after, we encountered road construction and signs indicating “end paved road.” Following a zippy Camry, we were not so brave on this washboard, taking it below 5 miles per hour at times.

We had no idea how long the road, or lack thereof, would continue. So we bumped along for what seemed like hours. Even when we were back on paved road, space and time did not make any more sense.

We would think we were following the tail lights of a car in front of us, when it would turn out to be an approaching road sign. Surreal lights in the distance beckoned from unexpected angles and made us feel like we were driving in circles.

Philip and I tried not to think about the X-Files for the first time in our relationship.

As we pulled into Death Valley and past the Stove Pipe Wells camping ground, it was a relief to know we were around people once more, but there was not time to stop as we raced the sunrise.

Our goal was to find a patch of flowers to sit in as we watched the sun come up. The only problem was that we still couldn’t see what the landscape around us had in store. As flowers started popping up in Clyde’s headlights along the side of the road, we cheered.

We hadn’t wanted to acknowledge the possibility that the flowers could’ve been gone by the time we arrived, but now that we saw them, we could justify the arduous trip.

Keeping in mind reports of where flowers had been sighted in lower elevations, we kept going blindly into the valley until we thought we had found a decent patch. I got out and began taking blurry pictures of a flower on the roadside.

I was so absorbed in this task that I took me a moment to respond to Philip’s whistle. Looking behind me, I saw a hillside covered in yellow flowers, waving to us in the breeze: without knowing it, we had hit the jackpot!

To come so far and be rewarded with such a show of flowers was incredible.

The yellow flowers dotting this hill are known as “Desert Gold” or Geraea canescens, but closer inspection revealed a range of other beautiful species. Purple Caltha-Leaf Phacelia (Phacelia calthifolia) and Purplemat (Nama demissum) provided an excellent contrast as complimentary colors to the prevailing yellow.

 

I realized that I needed to start putting my hand in the picture for scale, since so many of these flowers were unimaginably small. I’m glad I didn’t start with the Caltha-Leaf Phacelia though, because as the wildflower guide I later bought at the ranger station warns, “contact with skin can cause rash.”

The white flowers in the mix were dainty varieties like the Desert-Star (Monoptilon bellioides), the whimsical Pebble Pincushion (Chaenactis carphoclinia), which I found next to an old-fashioned can, and the Shredding Evening-Primrose (Camissonia boothii ssp. condensata). I was lucky to see the Shreding Evening-Primrose so early in the morning because it was still open from its night blooming.

Aside from the wonderful array of flowers, the rocks were just as fascinating to me.

Seeing life spring from the cracks between these rocks made me appreciate the tenacity of life in the desert.

After the sun came up and turned the flowers and mountains to gold, we backtracked to Stovepipe Wells to set up our camp and sleep the hottest part of the day away . . .

. . . or, so we thought.

To read more about our Death Valley adventures, stay tuned for more blog posts and read:

 

Death Valley Birthday

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Travel

Death Valley Birthday

I will be celebrating a quarter century of life while camping in California’s Death Valley National Park.

Thanks to rains brought on by El Niño, wildflower seeds that normally lay dormant in Death Valley’s inhospitable landscape have sprung up along the valley floor. The last time this happened was in 2005, however, Death Valley has gone hundreds of years at a time without any blooms.

This may very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity to see life spring from death.

This desert themed episode of Planet Earth shows a time-lapse of the blooms (at minute 43:09):

 

After watching this episode, I vowed to make it to the next bloom. I set a Google alert for “Death Valley” and “flowers,” but it was actually my boyfriend who alerted me while I was trying to come up with a way to celebrate my birthday.

Death Valley has been deemed the hottest place on the planet. The highest reliably recorded temperature was 134 degrees Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913. This valley’s harsh environment and macabre name have always made it a romantic destination in my mind.

My father, on the other hand, remembers his trip to Death Valley as the most unpleasant vacation he ever took with his family. I have black and white photographs of my father as a toddler looking very unhappy in Death Valley.

I’m no desert flower. I didn’t even own a pair of shorts until I started packing for this trip. Thankfully, Goodwill had exactly what I was looking for.

There’s something about National Park vacations that conjure recreation vehicles, high-waisted pants and sensible shoes. In this spirit, I have curated a campy wardrobe for this camping trip inspired by pieces I stole from my parents’ closet.

 

Vacation Dad Look

Los Gatos hat, Los Gatos Walgreens, Dad’s closet

Red graphic tee, In4mation, Santa Cruz Goodwill

High waisted acid washed denim pants, vintage DKNY, San Francisco Goodwill

Vacation Mom Look

Vintage scarf, Mom’s closet

White button-up sleeveless shirt, Jones & Co., Santa Cruz Goodwill

High waisted denim shorts with front pleats, Dockers, Santa Cruz Goodwill

I may look back on these packing choices with embarrassment but, memento mori, right?

 

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