farm trip

A few weeks ago, the company I work for sent me up to their farm in northern California, to provide hospitality at one of the guest camps.


The camps are offered a few times throughout summer, and give those who are interested (and who can afford it) an opportunity to learn about sustainable farming, ethical butchery, and, of course, cooking techniques. The guests stay on-site, in luxe, semi-furnished tents directly adjacent to the land, the animal pastures, and very close to the harvesting facilities and processing plant. There are basic camps, advanced camps, family camps, and I think there might even be an all-women's camp. I was tapped for advanced camp.


For each camp, the staff is pulled from the seven locations (three in LA, four in the Bay Area) where our company has restaurants/stores. Typically, two front-of-house people are chosen for hospitality duties, two chefs for cooking, and a butcher for lessons on cutting meat.


It just so happened that on the day my camp started, there were some major internal changes in the company, necessitating the redirecting of the other front-of-house person to another location, to act as an interim manager. In other words, I ended up being the sole employee filling the hospitality role.


The campers were a mix of wealthy foodies, Silicon Valley bros, and professional chefs. With one or two notable exceptions, they were a warm and gracious bunch. They mixed well, and by the end of camp, particularly the two last dinners (on farm tables out under the stars), the vibe among them was really lovely. They truly had a blast, in no small part because two of the guests own a vineyard, and came loaded with case upon case of wine that the whole group blasted through. Jovial scenes a-plenty.


For my part, though, I was pretty miserable. My responsibilities weren't entirely clear at first, so I spent a lot of time trailing the camp director (a really sweet but somewhat disorganized man) around while he figured out - usually at the last second - what he needed help with. The camp was twice as big as usual (22 people instead of the usual 10), and they had brought in minimal local support. So it quickly became clear that what was really needed was someone to clean up after these twenty-two people, all day every day. That fell to me. Laundry. Dishes - oh god, so many dishes. Cleaning out bathrooms. Making coffee. Setting and clearing tables.


Once things really kicked in, I didn't stop running, for three consecutive seventeen-hour days. No, really. Up at 4:30, not back at our guest house until 11pm.


I don't mind hard work, or long hours. Believe me, I put in plenty of both at my job. But rather than earning my usual hourly rate, at camp, I accepted a stipend payment, for a camp that is actually longer than the other ones. I don't even want to tell you what it worked out to, hourly. But it was pretty insulting, particularly because all I ever wanted in exchange for my time and efforts was a chance to get up close and personal with the animals. I expressed that desire to several people in a position to make that happen. It didn't happen, though promises were made to me about taking fruit to the hogs, visiting the farrowing barn, and going out to see the lambs at pasture.


But it was a chance to get away from LA for a few days, and for that I am grateful. The scenery was amazing, the guests were great, and I ate like a king. And of course, I took a whole bunch of pretty photos for Insta-bragging, though now you know the truth that it wasn't as amazing an experience as it looks. That's your reward for reading here, rather than just my IG captions: the unvarnished, ugly truth.

"Lady, you think you got problems? I'm competing with thirty other single women for every eligible bachelor in this town."


The sunrises were lovely, as viewed through my half-asleep, barely open eyes. 


In addition to the animals, the farm has a garden (pictured) in front, and an orchard in back. One of the girls I worked with was a professional pastry chef, who made fresh tarts from the berries picked out back. 


Apple tree with swing attached. I didn't realize these things exist outside of children's books.


Pissed off several dozen bees cutting these for centerpieces. 


Pretty for sure, but it was effing hot in these tents. I was glad to be staying with the other employees in an actual house, with actual air conditioning. 


Bucolic, much?




My first smore. Really. 


A new wildfire sprung up the first day of camp, blocking the freeway and forcing a few of the campers to reroute through massive detours. I can't remember what fire it was, though, because there are so many these days I forget their names. The earth is dying, you guys. But gosh the end of the world is pretty. 


All-you-can-pluck asian pears. 

And finally, one last surprise for making it to the end of this lame post: my overlong chicken cam video.



in the name of simple gratitudes

Hat tip to The Mental Illness Happy Hour for the idea, which I've wanted to implement for a while now. 

---

I love listening to news clips from the 80s, especially ones featuring Tom Brokaw and Dan Rather,

I love the polished floors of auto mechanic garages.

I love the curl of frost that comes out when you open a bottle of champagne.

I love sleeping in t-shirts with graphics or sayings too ridiculous to wear in public.

I love when people, without asking whether I even like the variation, take the liberty of calling me "Elle" (or "El" or however they mentally spell it) instead of Ellie.

#4

My skin is sparkling, I have just realized. Tiny flecks of coruscating color: pinks and silvers, blue-whites and white-blues. I'm laying on my back, holding my right arm skyward, looking down (up) the length of my bare wrist. High above me are the treetops of the small olive grove where Timo has helped me set up camp on a twin-sized mattress we carried out from the house. The sheet on the mattress is a repeating vine-and-leaf pattern, the greens and golds of which perfectly match the greens and golds of the olive grove. Just a coincidence. Just a delightful coincidence.


I let my eye move slowly along the path of my skin, drinking in the supernatural flashes of color. This is the acid taking hold, I know. In my mind, I will it forward. I open myself up to it and dare it to do its worst. Right now, during the preamble, I'm unafraid, hungry for the unimaginable joys it holds. Slowly, slowly, I absorb the realization, as my body absorbs the chemical. And as reach my palm, I let my fingers uncurl towards the sunny canopy above. And oh my god, here it is. My fingers stretch out and reveal themselves to be thirty feet long, capable of touching the tips of the trees.


Laughter and wonder.


Timo’s face appears over me. He's come down from the porch (where he's set up his own camp) to check on me. His features are slightly distorted, but it's nothing frightening. I've only taken one hit this time, about a third of my usual dose. This is just a gentle ride through the stratosphere. I doubt I'll get much further up than the outer edges of the cosmos. I certainly won't be diving into any psychological black holes today, that I can already tell, from how mellow the onset is. No rocket ride up. Just a smooth, slow, stardust-strewn launch.


"I'm fine," I assure him with a smile. "I'm great."


I stay in this space for what seems like hours, but will later prove to be only about half of one. At my request, Timo brings me things. I want colorful things. I want something pink. He brings me a toothbrush holder and a lipgloss. But both are manmade, and therefore ugly. "Take them away," I beg. He tries again but there are no pink flowers in the yard or the driveway of the house we've rented for the weekend. Instead he offers me a selection of small leaves, twigs, buds, and other bits of the landscape, chosen for brightness of color, or intricacy of shape. My favorite is a finger-sized bottlebrush-looking sprig, with tiny milky blue facets at the ends. The texture and color blow my mind, and I twirl it with fascination. Really, I don't need much more than this beauty.


For once, I am lucid enough to be able to self-assess, objectively. I'm definitely tripping, but I'm in control of my facilities. I can steer this thing, a little bit. On a visit to the bathroom (always slightly challenging on acid), I become suddenly aware of the music we've been playing, across two speakers (one at Timo's camp, one at mine). It's ODESZA. It's perfect. So perfect in fact, that I need it closer to me, louder. I pick up one of the speakers and hold it against my ear on my way into the house. When I have to set it down to actually pee, I realize this will never do. I can't be that far away from it, ever again. Back outside, I hand the speaker to Timo.


"Put this in my head," I say, because it's the best way to explain what I need. Timo, himself pretty high, blinks.


"Put me in this song," I clarify. And my boyfriend, acid trip babysitter extraordinaire, understands. He plugs headphones into his phone for me and I happily traipse back to my camp, eager to see how this new dimension of stimulation will unfold.


Well.


There is a reason I take LSD once or twice year. There is a reason I feel I actually *need* to, because it constitutes a sort of psychological reset. Put simply: I need to visit the wonderland. I need to remember that the world can be this beautiful. Months and months of getting saturated by all that is ugly in life. The sickening realities of politics and economics. The physical death of the earth. LSD pulls back a curtain and reveals another place, full of hope and wonder and possibility and heartbreaking beauty. It makes me believe that it's all worth it, that at the end of the day the universe holds purpose and meaning.


I lay and listen to the same song, over and over and over. "Late Night." I gaze up at olive branches and know peace. Laughter bubbles out of me. It's the color. I can't believe I ever thought there were just a few colors here, or that the landscape was drab. The geometry of the ground is captivating. Dropped olives the color of blackberries, fallen leaves like little gold coins. And above, shafts of yellow sunlight weave through blue sky. I'm gripped by how gorgeous it is, and float away on thoughts of love. I'm clear-headed enough to text several of my friends. (The colors on my phone are heaven itself.) To Mason I say


I'm tripping on acid right now and here is what it is

I cannot go much further in life without knowing I've done everything in my power to persuade you

It is so beautiful

You need to know

Everyone needs to know but especially you


I'm crying. Timo's face again. I try to explain. "It's so beautiful. And it's right here. I wish everyone could know. It's right here." He smiles and brushes his hand against my cheek and then lets me be alone in my reverie. He knows this is the breaking-through - the reset that I was looking for.


Loving, laughing messages come back from the friends I've texted, and they feel like stars falling on me. Sparks of light and love. The tears in my eyes only make everything more beautiful, splintering the scene a hundred-fold. A concept comes to me: a kaleidoscope. Wait, there must be...


Dizzy with anticipation I search for a kaleidoscope app in the App Store, vaguely wondering what Steve Jobs would have thought of this moment. I find one, and it's free, and within a minute I've got this:


....and about a dozen variations of it. Pics like these are probably the closest visual approximation I can get to of what Trip #4 was like. Very, very mild, but still pretty enough to make me cry. And now for The All-Important Disclaimer:


I write about LSD not to evangelize for it or condone its use. Because I cannot say emphatically enough: LSD can be utterly terrifying, absolute hell, and I would never want anyone to try acid who wasn't completely aware of the possibility of having a very scary time on it. (The latter part of this very trip, in fact, got a bit hairy as night came on.) I would never want anyone to try it who didn't feel that they had to, because the unsatisfied curiosity would otherwise be unbearable. That's how strongly I caution against its casual use. I write about LSD precisely because I know most people will never touch it - but are curious about it. I certainly was.

almost nothing

The inane clown posse is coming to town. They'd like your money, but they'll settle for your attention. It's all they've ever wanted, anyway. For the low low price of second-hand embarrassment and a few hours in their company, you can earn a hand-stamped Certificate of Participation. But be forewarned that this participation, billed as the selling point of the experience, is actually meaningless. Your presence is merely another ridiculous stage on which they take themselves much too seriously. The inane clown posse always has been - and forever will be - enamored of only itself.

Blame their mothers, their fathers, their teachers, their childhood keepers. Blame whoever looked the other way, disinterested, at their desperate cries of "Watch this!' and "Watch me!"

The inane clown posse just wants your love. Please, won't you give it to them? Be kind. Tickets are cheap. Let them feel almost famous, for almost nothing. 

camellie in Mexico, part 3

There's a multi-level, clifftop restaurant on the way to Mismaloya called, imaginatively enough, Le Kliff. I saw the listing on Yelp while searching for the city's best (it was my birthday trip, after all), but we initially balked at the $$$$ price rating -- until we remembered that a Puerto Vallartan $$$$ = an LA $$, so we said fuck it, and went. It was our most expensive meal by far and it was about $70. Huzzah.

We had the place entirely to ourselves, and it was every bit as breezy, airy, and glorious as it looks:





Full disclosure: I didn't like the food, which was overwrought and overthought. But they made a killer pina colada, which was really all I required the entire trip - one pina colada per hour of daylight; two per hour of nightlife. And maybe some guac.

And so, nightlife. We dined and we danced, and we divided our time between straight bars and gay bars. Storms had been forecast for the entire week, but we lucked out -- there was maybe one evening of very light rain. I will never forget that night, the gritty streets still hot from a scorching sun, now sizzling as raindrops hit them. For some reason, now long lost to rum and tequila, we sang the Little Mermaid soundtrack as we walked across town. Later, after dancing ourselves sweaty and emerging from a pulsing club, we caught the tail end of some fireworks. We ate street tacos, debated continuing the night despite our exhaustion, because we never wanted the trip to end. The sights and sounds and smells pushed everything else from our heads, all our worries and stresses from back home...until, of course, being the best friends that we are, we disclosed them in the quiet of Cameron's room. Or rather I did, and he listened.

It was like he'd never moved away. It will always be like that, I know, and for that I am unspeakably lucky. To have a true best friend, to have real emotional intimacy and boundless comfort with even just one other human being in this crazy, crushing life? If you have that, what more could you possibly ask for?

Reinas, an awesome little spot frequented by expats, queens, and would-be queens (there's an entire rack of dresses as well as a vanity loaded with cosmetics, and patrons are encouraged to go to town with both)

Hydration is important, kids. As are post-dinner, table-top disco naps. 

Tannest my legs have been in a decade. I was proud, ok?


Fuel.




Bo Derek I am not.


It was great to get away, to take a much needed break from work and from LA. But even better than coming home feeling refreshed, I felt empowered. It was a reminder that having someone amazing in your corner can make you emotionally invincible -- unfortunate maillot fabric folds notwithstanding.

TinyTown

It occurs to me, a year and a half into living here, that I've never shown you my place, aka TinyTown.

It's somewhere around 350 square feet, a size at which every last inch of space has to be carefully considered. There's just no other way to survive living so small.

The day I moved in, I had a panic attack. I thought maybe I'd made a terrible mistake. Just fitting my few things in here - a desk, a chair, some boxes and a king size bed - was a challenge. Oh and Chaucer. All 135lbs of him.

I had no choice though. In fact, Chaucer was the reason I moved here. My previous apartment was on an upper level and had an unreliable, often out-of-service elevator. And Chauc couldn't do stairs anymore, so it was developing into a really bad situation. This spot is first floor, and right by the back door exit where he could easily step out. It was Chaucer-accessible, if cozy for us both. (Mastiffs are actually such couch potatoes that they make great apartment dogs, though granted this one was a leeeetle small for him. We did our best.)

Anyway, the pictures don't do it justice, because it really is super cute. The pictures are blurry AF, because I get very little light this time of year. Also I'm still using an iPhone SE. Duncurr.

As you can see I neutraled myself. This was partly in response to how tiny the room is (a lot of color feels overwhelming to me in such small space), and partly a result of how my experience of color has changed since taking LSD. (Yes I know how stupid that sounds. We'll get back to it at some point, I promise. Spoiler alert: it changed for the better.)

Anyway, come on in:



Note the lack of:

couch
TV
dining table + chairs

The desk is easy enough to clear for plates, my bed is massive and glorious enough to fulfill all sofa-esque duties, and I just DGAF about TV at this particular point in my life. It's just not a thing I need.

So yes, it is minimal as can be - but it works (probably because all I do is work).







My two closets are actually pretty pimped out with Elfa, and I love them - but I wasn't ambitious enough to wake up early enough on a Saturday to get the best light to show them. Next time.

camellie in Mexico, part 2

Casita Cameron™ was tucked away at the bottom of the hills a few miles north of Mismaloya. A short walk from his door took us to a footpath that led up to a treetop eco-park with zip lines, jungle tours, and a lush lunch spot perched in the canopy.





We were tempted, it really was spectacular scenery - but there was a weird, musky, rotten-fruit smell coming off the trees in the area that I couldn't handle. To this day we don't know what it was. At first I thought it was durian, but I don't think that grows in Mexico. Whatever it was, it was too intense for me. So we bounced, but not before spending several minutes watching a frog orgy we noticed in a pond on the way back down.

No, really:


One of the greatest things about my friendship with Cam is how more often than not, we notice and are amused/fascinated/repulsed/captivated by the same things, in the same way. We really are brain twins. Whether it's walking through a mall, listening to a podcast, or hiking through the jungle of Jalisco, we process our inbound information almost identically. It's the best.

And one of the things we both can't get enough of? Animals. So whether it was the mating frogs, the street chickens, the thousands of crabs that emerged to cross the town roads at night, or all the sweet doggos we came across - we were happy to just stop and gawk and joke and babble to them in funny voices.

Anyway, Mismaloya.








Mismaloya is home to a modestly-sized, crescent-shaped beach towards the southern end of Banderas Bay. There's a handful of very casual restaurants where you can gorge on chips and tacos and other traditional fare and get absolutely plastered on massive goblets of alcohol for cheap. Like, obscenely cheap. Just post up on a lounge chair in the sand and laze the day away. Or you can take up one of the many extremely, uh, proactive entrepreneurs who patrol the area on their offers of snorkeling, boating, cave exploring, etc. Running the parking lot-to-beach gauntlet of these tour operators is a little harrowing - they don't really like "no thanks" or "maybe later" as an answer - but who can blame them. That's the deal down there.




So we took one such deal down there and spent an hour or so getting chauffeured out to snorkel at Los Arcos, a cluster of granite islands just a ways from the coast. It was super lovely:












We spent a few of our afternoons at Mismalaya. It was close, it was chill, it was friendly. It was also home to a gorgeous little pup we fell in love with and quite seriously wanted to bring home with us.










Last chapter, in which we make ourselves regulars at all the bars of Gayvallarta and take, literally, ALL THE SELFIES, still to come!