Roadside: The Lafayette Hotel, San Diego, California


I use to find myself in San Diego more often, but these days I barely even get as far south as Orange County. The work and school double header schedule keeps me on my toes (or more accurately keeps my butt glued to a chair and my eyes crossed in the glow of a computer screen). Thankfully this summer a work conference pulled me out of my orbit around the center of Los Angeles, and sent me out into the wilds of the Balboa Park region of San Diego.

I have a soft spot for old hotels, and when I get to pick the pillow I lay my head on at night, you can bet it’s going to be in a location that’s at least twice my age, if not older. The bright side to this travel affinity is that older hotels are often cheaper, or at the very least equivalent in price, to a decent mid-range modern chain. That was definitely the case on my recent conference jaunt, that led me to a very budget friendly but snazzy stay at the Lafayette Hotel.


The photos on the web really don’t do the location justice. Sure, there’s a great pool and it was in a convenient location for Balboa Park. But what tops it all is the lingering mid-century pizzazz. It’s like all those years of star stays left a little sparkly residue.

The rooms themselves are clean and relatively basic, but then you get the old bathroom style and the big old windows. The lobby area is really where you feel jazzy. The umbrellas hanging off the ceiling look a little silly in photos, but in person they work.


And then you can drink San Diego craft beer while overlooking the pool. Good beer outdoors with a view – here’s my number Lafayette, you’ve got my heart.

That time I had a hometown.

Stuff cool nerd kids liked in the early 2000s./Corner of my high school bedroom.

Stuff cool nerd kids liked in the early 2000s./Corner of my high school bedroom.

Sometimes there is sadness embedded in a present place. It’s too rooted in the sweeping movements of the second hand and no longer able to be the thing it was many pages of the calendar ago.

I grew up in a 1960s suburban ranch style house in the East Bay in Northern California. The house still sits on the same suburban street, but it’s now a much more expensive neighborhood with houses priced only for the very affluent tech workers of Silicon Valley.

It had a driveway, a decent sized front yard and a big backyard with a lemon tree and an orange tree. There was also a jungle of ivy along the side of the house and a lollipop tree. My parents were never very fond of the landlord, who delivered rent increase notices at Christmas, but to me he was just a slightly scary older person who left suckers in the lollipop tree on occasion. One time when he backed out of the driveway he took out the last bush in a row of front yard shrubbery. The little plant stuck to the back bumper of his car and bobbed along in the breeze as he drove away.

The things I remember about living there are very rooted in the physical space. We’d always tell newcomers to look for the house with the “bright green trim.” The bulk of the house was painted an off white color, but the almost neon green paint that framed the house really made it stick out. (Clearly no HOA forcing bland paint colors on the neighborhood.)

When we first moved in the carpet was a brown, ancient almost shag carpet. The kitchen countertops were a chipped mint laminate. In the decade plus of living there the landlord did eventually replace the counters and carpet, but he hired cheap day labor and orchestrated most of the “improvements” himself. Nothing ever quite lined up right.

Nothing quite lining up is also an accurate descriptor of my feelings about my childhood home. My parents always had some resentment toward me considering this my childhood home, but it was. Most of my growing up memories center on the place.

My departure from the Bay Area as an adult-in-training was shortly followed by my parents’ exodus from the place. I use to always make a pilgrimage to the house when I would go back to the Bay to visit friends. Strangers rented it by then, but my mind erased the foreign cars in the driveway and imagined summer nights running through the front yard grass (getting eaten by mosquitos) or days drawing chalk roads and traffic signs on the sidewalk.

My weirdo drive-by visits to my childhood home made sense the first couple years. I’d drive by and little things would change. The neon-y green trim color was toned down. The plants in front of the house were altered. More strange cars parked in the driveway. But still, this is the filter I saw the world through for so many years as a child. This was home, this was a place that made sense. Or at least I fought for it to make sense in my head.

I stopped driving by my childhood home a few years ago. I started realizing that I was assigning some sort of false sense of security and identity to a place that no longer existed. I even feel off telling people I’m from the East Bay. My childhood was there, but beyond that my family historically only dipped their toes in California. We aren’t Californians, though I am a Californian. It’s such a weird disconnect to have in the relationship between people and place; between family and individual identity.

In driving past the old rental house I was trying to have some sense of belonging or roots in a hometown of some sort. In the early years of leaving home that worked to some extent, but now I see the construct I built for myself and the functional role it filled. It did its job and then it retired. It always was someone else’s home in truth, but now it’s also someone else’s home in fiction too.

The place lost its meaning, and with it I’ve had to let go. It use to make me sad, but now I focus more on the bright points of child memory over jarring adult reality. It was there for all the doll soap operas and school lessons, the fake perfume making sessions, and the backyard burritos assembled from fallen lollipop tree leaves and blossoms. I’ll always have the memories of sunny days of running through the sprinkler, roller blading around the concrete slab patio, or having elaborately themed birthday parties. I don’t need a physical touchstone to remind me of these things – all these good things filtered out of the more expansive memory pool.

Roadside: BBQ Chip Road Trip

Michigan has game when it comes to 20th century snack foods.

Michigan has game when it comes to 20th century snack foods aka the beginnings of helping Americans make themselves fat.

In 2013 I went on a road trip through 11 states in 8 days. Along the road there were plenty of stops at gas stations, and at each one I tried to find something different that I hadn’t seen before. A couple states in I started to realize that there was something regional in the potato chip aisle. Though now-national brands like Lays are well represented across the U.S., little odd ball and generic-y brands would pop up. I decided to make it my road trip quest to find the best of the BBQ chips.

I don’t eat a lot of chips these days, but as a kid BBQ Ruffles were one of my favorites. As an adult I’m a big fan of the spicy heat of Grippo’s BBQ chips, my Dad’s hometown crispy potato. During the road trip from Colorado to Ohio, and then up through Michigan to Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, and Wyoming, a few chips came close along the way, but I still didn’t find a chip to surpass the Grippo’s spice.

I resurrected the BBQ chip hunt on my latest road trip jaunt through Arkansas and East Texas and figure it’s time to start recording all those BBQ feelings before I complete forget. Still no new champions, but the quest continues. The contenders so far, along with my completely subjective and non-scientific opinions:

Regional BBQ Chip Rankings as of 2015 June:

  1. Grippo’s Bar-B-Q
  2. Better Made Special Barbecue
  3. Golden Flake Sweet Heat Barbecue
  4. Old Dutch Bar-B-Q
  5. Urge Barbeque
  6. Guy’s Barbeque

The Rust Belt region understands the fine art of properly spiced BBQ chips. This is only a scratch on the BBQ dust coated surface, so the rankings will grow as I get the chance to snack in new places. BBQ chip recommendations welcome.


Always thirsty - for knowledge, for beverages.

Always thirsty for knowledge.

From an early age my Mom instilled in me the idea that “haters gonna hate.” In grade school she put a little laminated clipping in my lunchbox with a picture of Albert Einstein and his quote, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” Kids can be really mean to each other, but my Mom made sure I had perspective and understood that things other people say about you or to you explain a lot more about them than you. I think this is one of the most valuable things my Mom taught me. That it’s ok to be your weird self. That being quirky and creative is a value, even if others react to it negatively.

Now I surround myself with a bunch of openminded wonderful people or “great spirits” and mostly only encounter mediocre mind attitudes on the internet. There’s a lot of ugly out there in the world, and I don’t ignore it, but I feel like you need to be secure in yourself first. Like the airplane safety instructions that tell you, “You must secure your own oxygen mask before trying to help someone else.” Then it’s easier to have compassion and perspective because your own negative feelings aren’t getting tangled up in your reactions. Often easier said than done, but not impossible.

One lesson of many, thanks Mom!

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the MLIS

The future is a way harder concept to grasp than the past. At the former Acres of Books in Long Beach, 2008

The future is a way harder concept to grasp than the past. Acres of Books in Long Beach, 2008 (RIP)

I started out the Master in Library and Information Science program super-enthusiastic (new program syndrome), but quickly realized that taking multiple classes and working full time was a recipe for a time crunch. I made space for things here and there – the occasional outing and wedding things. Overall it’s been an endurance test, but now that I’m closing out on my first (successful) semester I’m feeling a little more confident about time management and sanity. I can do this!

I definitely had a breaking point about midway through and turned into a hermit with a lot of repressed stress that I think I pretty successfully hid from everyone around me, aside from the occasional whiny sorry excuse for why I couldn’t go to happy hour or couldn’t go on a hike or couldn’t [insert activity here]. I’ve gotta remember that this is a marathon, and not a sprint. That would probably be my #1 advice for anyone starting an online graduate program while also working full time.

#2 is don’t feel guilty if you need to go home from work and watch five episodes of Daredevil while having popcorn and beer for dinner. Because those nights are an important counterbalance to those ridiculous days where you have a bunch of meetings at work, projects to jam through, and then you have to come home and search databases, read articles, and produce some sort of writing piece that doesn’t sound like gibberish.

History is my true love. I came to it via writing (the two are practically conjoined twins sometimes), and I will always love history the bestest. Library science is a more practical skill set. It has its mumbojumbo like any discipline, but it is the tool that delivers my love. The pizza delivery guy that brings the Pacific Veggie (which BTW is great fuel for writing a 28 page research paper in one weekend).

As a special collections library person I can work on saving the past, which is cheesy but true. Just call me indoor Indiana Jones. (“It belongs in a museum!” or: “I belong in a museum!”) Now if I could just get better at embracing the present and not stressing about the future I’d be all set.

The One Where I Go to a Wedding


I don’t know if I’m creating connections that don’t exist, but I feel like Mad Men made a sly Game of Thrones reference last week. When Pete Campbell’s kid got rejected from an elite preschool, the guy doing the rejecting said the MacDonald clan he hails from would never let a Campbell kid into their school because of an old feud. Well, that feud (according to Wikipedia, which is of course the end all be all of knowledge these days) reportedly was one of the inspirations for George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones red wedding scene. Apparently in 1692 Clan MacDonald told Clan Campbell: come on over and hang! And then the Campbells became the worst houseguests ever and slaughered 38 members of the MacDonald clan.

Coincidence? Conspiracy theory? Hommage from one great show to another? I was in one of my closest friend’s wedding the other week, so maybe I just have wedding on the brain.

It rained during my friend’s wedding ceremony, even though it was in Southern California and we’re suffering through a massive water shortage. Their love conquered drought, and even more significantly (from my incredibly cynical perspective) their love conquered all cheesy, cringe-inducing wedding cliches. It was incredibly heart felt, moving, and lovely. The rain drops that fell down onto the wedding party were definitely camouflaging some serious eye watering action.

My friend jetted off to Costa Rica with her new legal beau, and I slogged back to Los Angeles to start poking at an end of semester paper for the first semester of my second go-round at grad school. Now that the wedding’s over and I turned in 28 pages last Sunday I’ve been feeling a little listless. There are still a few loose ends to tie up in school and I have several trips on the horizon that should turn into some new Roadside posts (and work is hoppin’ as usual). Though I’m feeling really bad that my Arkansas trip is stopping me from going to another friend’s wedding in Vegas.

Before the flutter of near-future travel I’ve been turning my attention back to traveling through my closet. I’ve been hitting the black eyeliner hard lately – Mad Men’s return has me all retro-lovin’. I went to my favorite guilty-pleasure-purchase-place (Playclothes, what, what) and got a Joan dress. Time to go threaten someone with an ACLU/Newsweek/Ladies’ Home Journal lawsuit!

TV with a binge watching option (and really awesome fight scenes) is torture when you don’t have time to actually binge watch.

It’s been awhile since I watched anything on TV that made me squee with glee based on sheer visual excitement. The end fight scene in the second episode of Netflix’s Marvel’s (anyone else want to claim some possession?) Daredevil reminded me what a visual joy looks like.

The thing that got me into Pre-Code movies is the deft way they often suggest the scandalous and violent through clever language and shot framing. The period post-passing the code in 1934 went far too tame and the post-post-code era of the late 1960s and beyond got a little carried away with lewdness. I like me a good bunch of TV or film scandal, but only if it’s done in a clever way, and one of the most clever devices is that of suggestion. Give the TV viewer a little credit and the universe of a scene can expand exponentially.

“Cut Man” starts a little slow and the storyline initially feels a bit all over the place. It’s like a baby deer getting ahold of its legs – what, my legs can do this? Wiggle, wiggle, stumble, trot. But once it gets a little gallop going and realizes the elation of movement it downright frolics. Visual joyful frolics. The lighting, the tone, the sound.

In the last scene of the second episode Daredevil goes after the bad guys to rescue a kidnapped little kid. He weaves in and out of a hallway with only little hints at the levels of destruction going on in the rooms beyond the limits of the viewer’s vision. We get some pretty kick-ass action moments in the hallway, but just enough to whet our imaginations. Really beautifully done.

For awhile I was really into Arrow, but I lost track and haven’t picked it back up. (As a side note, out of the CW line up I actually think the 100 is one of their strongest shows, though I also recently lost track of it since the mountain storyline got a little wibbly wobbly and I’ve had to be choosier about what I use my limited TV time on.) Stephen Amell is so pretty to look at, but there’s always something a little too aloof about his take on Arrow. Charlie Cox delivers a perfect balance between good looks, capable action, and emotion.

I decided to dip my toes into the Daredevil universe mainly because I’ve been a Charlie Cox fangirl for awhile (Owen Slater 4eva), but that hallway fight scene 100% sold me on the concept of the show itself. And now it’s terrible that there are hours of Daredevil on Netflix and between grad school and various work commitments I don’t have time to binge watch them all in one breathless gulp. I’m going to have to watch this show almost old-school style, you know, one bit at a time. The horror!