Thursday, April 25, 2013


Just got back from Coachella. Well, technically I have been back for a few days, but I have been pretty damn tired, so bear with me.

Rather than report back on the weekend, the second of two wild and crazy weekends which you have no doubt heard about and seen pictures of ad nauseum already, I will provide some sort of guide to those interested in going in the future. Basically the guide for the random 30+er who is thinking about going or just wants to know more about it.

Full disclosure, I have only been this one year, so my knowledge is hardly comprehensive. Palm Springs seems like a lovely town, in theory, but we never managed to get there to check it out. In fact, we did little more than hang out at our own hotel's pool and explore the actual festival. And that makes for a very full three days.

The decision to go was pretty easy for us. Our dear friends were going and we decided to piggy back on their great idea. We then managed to convince a few of our other like minded friends (like minded about what late 30s-40s adults should be doing in their spare time) to come too. I did have a bit of anxiety when planning the trip, as we are no longer in our early 20s. Aaahh, your early 20's... when camping seems like a fun, not at all filthy idea and sunscreen is not your primary concern. These days wet wipes are my first concern, sunscreen a firm second. A far cry from what I would have prioritized 15 years ago.

So, for those of you deciding whether or not this trip is for you, hopefully I can shed some light.
From the lineup announcement to the long, restless ride home, I present:

Miss Spartacus' Coachella Guide For The Ages 
(ok, it's really for the Aged, but I didn't want to fully alienate the young'uns).

Sign-up: The lineup gets announced in January. Go to and sign up for an account. Now you can access the chat boards that discuss THE MOST USELESS information. Once in a while they give you something worthwhile like when the lineup announcement is coming, but mostly it is a troll paradise with the occassional great debate about how bad your feet will smell if you wear Toms without socks. I'll save you the time on that one - stinky. Wear comfy shoes you've worn at least once before with socks and Blister Blocker under the socks. Or comfortable sandals and accept that your feet will get dirty... but to be honest, I had to wash seven layers of dirt off my legs from the ankle up before going to bed, so having clean feet at that point wasn't that big of a deal.

Tickets: Ok, so you finally see the lineup and one or two of your favorite bands will be there as well as several other bands you've kind of sort of heard of, but can't actually name any of their songs. You say you're going to learn their songs by then, but you won't. Either way, you're hooked and you want to go. The tickets go on sale a few weeks after the lineup gets announced. If you really want to go, buy them the first day. They sell out quick. You might as well get them that first day and not chance it. (Spoken like a true 35 year old mother). There are plenty of ways to sell your tickets if you cannot attend for some reason. The flipside of that being that you can buy tickets if you didn't manage to get them on the first go round.  Stub Hub had an entire room set up at our hotel, so clearly it's quite easy these days.

Accommodations: There are lots of vacation home rentals that seem really nice. And there are a bunch of hotels that seemed really nice. Our hotel was a nice motel - no fancy decor, no bar, no scene. But that is a very good thing. We were able to take over the pool, play our music (the other guests were into it for the most part: new Daft Punk=song of the summer, SNAP! - I Got The Power = forced seven people to leave the pool), and save a sh!tload of money with one aggressive trip to the local supermarket versus what we would have easily, willingly paid a hotel bar.

Shuttle Bus: If you decide to take the shuttle bus, which we did the first two days, keep the proximity of the shuttle stop in mind when you book your accommodation. Our hotel was a 15 minute walk from the shuttle stop. We would have preferred if it was only a 5-10 minute walk both in the midday desert heat and at the end of a long day of festivalling. But the bus is super convenient, and surprisingly quiet at the end of the night... almost eerily so.

Driving: Day parking is free if everyone in the car has a wristband, but if you make the decision as a group to drive, make sure you have someone that is committed to driving. It takes a while to get out and around the detours at night, whatever your mode of transport. Just make sure your sober buddy is up for it. Especially with the potential of a car full of nutters in tow.

What to wear: Dress for a day at a festival. If you've never been to a festival, think about how you want to look and feel after 10 hours of walking around dirt and grass and dancing in sweaty crowds. We had a warm, sunny weekend which meant comfortable shorts or shants (short pants, to coin a phrase, which I think I have), dresses or skirts are good too. Note to the ladies: wear knickers that will protect your modesty when the lovely breeze kicks up. We rented a locker, which I would do again. I think we could have used it more, but I am still glad we had it. It wasn't expensive, so just not having to carry around your sweatshirt all day (which you WILL need at night) was a good thing. My advise on footwear in relation to comfort was above. See Toms/stinky feet.

4 out of 5 festival goers prefer Converse
Getting in: There are a lot of rules throughout the weekend. Some make sense, some just make you wonder. They do check you rigorously when you enter the festival. No liquids and no food get through. They will pull things from your bag and ask you to empty your pockets. I didn't see them make any boys take their shoes and socks off and I didn't see any girls have to empty their bras, in case anyone is wondering. The search process got less and less meticulous each day. By day three I strolled in with my open bottle of water. Of course that never would have happened if I had filled it with vodka, but if you want to try, do it on day three.
Leave earlier than you want to on the first day. We did not realize we would be getting there at peak time (3-5pm) and had to wait over an hour to get in.

Get a lay of the land: That long wait made it a bit more difficult to get our bearings when we first got in, and you really need to figure out where each stage and tent is early if you have a bunch of bands you really want to see. Of course if you're just there to hang out, you should know you can't actually drink everywhere, only in the designated areas, another one of those rules. For those with a less aggressive viewing schedule, I can recommend a cool blast of air conditioning in the Heineken dome followed by the beer garden across from the Sahara and Mojave tents. The beer garden between the main stage and the Ferris wheel has a decent view of the main stage but my personal favorite is the beer garden smack between the main and outdoor stages. That one has cocktails, beer, food and most important-bathrooms inside the drinking area. Plus you can bounce from seeing the main stage to the outdoor stage if you have a scheduling conflict, which we did a couple of times.

Bathrooms: The bathrooms are not that disgusting, and that's coming from a common General Admission attendee, me. They are portable ones, which inherently means they are not the loveliest place to spend your time, but I have seen WAY worse. There are a ton of them and they are all over the place. Just head further back as the days wear on to ensure toilet paper abundance and lighter loads within, if you'll pardon the expression.

Live a little: Enjoy yourself and try to see as many bands as possible. I personally enjoyed the acts that were music I don't necessarily listen to all the time. Major Lazer is my best example of this - it was a great experience. From bumping into fun friends from far away to watching my husband succumb to the demands from the stage to take off his shirt and swing it around his head, that was a tough act to follow, literally. Though several other acts did a great job impressing us too.

A few observations that all fall under the heading "Sure you can, but should you?"

Bringing kids: Ok, so I'm obviously not the person to ask since I very willingly and happily ditched my kid to have a weekend away with the friends, but some parents are cool enough to bring their kids. Of course, it's 95 and sunny everywhere you go, and the music is pretty loud in spots. So, while I thought it was a cool thing to do with your kids, I saw a few too many red-faced, tired looking toddlers to actually recommend it. Verdict: sure you can, but you probably shouldn't.

Very cool parents, very warm children
Dressing in outlandish costumes: I enjoy fancy dress. Costume parties are my favorite. And who doesn't like dressing up on Halloween? But something about standing in that 95 direct sunlight in a full body monkey suit does seem to make you into that monkey more than the actual fuzzy brown cloth you're sporting. It's funny to see someone in costume, but it does seem like a big commitment to sweating for seemingly little reward... unless having your picture taken by strangers is rewarding, which it must be, based on some of these costumes. Verdict: sure you can, but you should make sure the costume is weather appropriate.

Fuzzy boots seem like the wrong footwear for the desert
Funny and weather appropriate
Walking around in bathing suits: Ok, now back to the 95 degree heat... it's hot out there. There are several cooling stations throughout, but it is a festival, not a day at the beach. I saw several questionable bathing suits walking around... very questionable. Unless the answer to the question is: so people will take pervy pictures of me. I saw a girl with her bathing suit hiked up into her tushy creating a DIY thong, fabric billowing from her rear. As I neglected to take a pervy photo, I can just assure you it was not a good look. Just kidding... thankfully I have pervy friends who nabbed the shot for me... thanks Pervy Lu! Verdict: sure you can, but if you do, just wear the bathing suit you're wearing, don't hike it up or down to make it "sexy." That look does not translate well.

Short shorts: Speaking of pervy pictures, is everyone aware of how short shorts are these days? You know what is too short? When I can see the smiling undersides of your cheeks. See my post Fash-um? for more on that. You know how many smiling undersides I saw? More than I care to remember, but being a dutiful blogger, I knew I had to take at least a few pervy pictures just to show you what I mean. Verdict: sure you can, but know your ass cheeks are now the property of the inter-web.

Drinking all day: I think for me it boils down to the uncomfortable feeling of fullness that comes after 6+ beers... And 95 degree heat for several hours means there will be more than 6 beers. But the problem for others seems to be a lack of proper hydration. I saw a ginger man who will not have been too pleased to regain consciousness after having passed out in the sun on the lawn. Somebody get that guy an aloe bath! Verdict: sure you can, and you should, just be responsible.

Photo bombing: Photo bombing your friend's pictures is funny and harmless. Particularly in the digital age when they can just re-take it if they want to. Verdict: Bombs away.

Oh, and in response to the hysterical Jimmy Kimmel video of the "hipsters" not knowing the bands, that is some funny sh!t. All I can say is, thank g-d they didn't ask me. Hopefully we can all take a lesson in humility that it is ok to not know everything going on at something like this. You will miss things. There is no way to see it all. So prioritize. We skipped riding the Ferris wheel, but I got to hold the balloons. And given how impressed we all were by the balloons, I am happy I did. 

Love those balloons!
Hmmm, what else have I forgotten...
Don't forget your sunscreen, lip balm and wet wipes.
Sleep when you can. Your body will need the rest, even if you can't get your mind to shut off.
The garlic fries are good, but breathe-y.
Try to not take any pictures with the Ferris wheel in the background... ha ha ha, just kidding. You can't possibly resist.
Cliche, but so pretty!
Have you gone? Have some helpful tips of your own to add? Please add them in the comments section below.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Say 'Cheese!'

My husband and I were recently looking at the slideshow we made for our wedding. It included some classic pictures from when we were younger... and by classic I don't necessarily mean fabulous. We decided that very few of those old photos would pass for acceptable in today's world of re-taking digital photos in the quest for the "perfect" shot.

Our inclination these days is not only to capture a moment, but to capture the best version of that moment. If you're anything like us, that means you end up with approximately 30 versions of the exact same photo and sometimes one is kinda sorta decent. We don't have single moments in time captured. Given the quantity of photos, we have entire scenes. I'm sure we could easily do some sort of stop motion animation sequence... The title could be 'Funny Face,' or 'Seriously, How Did I Not Get At Least One Of You Smiling?'

The problem with that many choices is that you become quite fixated on the negative. Oh, her eyes could be more open, they aren't standing close enough, bad head angle, he's looking away, half of you have sunglasses on and half don't, can you bend a little more in the front so I can see the sign behind you, etc. And I don't actually think the final product is any rival to the single shot variety that now has become infamous for its imperfection. I can take 25 pictures of three children sitting together to get a half decent one. But aren't the ones where one kid was making a funny face, one was looking away, and one looks perfect great photos too?

I don't feel like the photos we took are any less special or valuable because they weren't all instant frame-rs. The ability to take more has us taking more, but the excess does not always bring success. So why do we keep doing it? If someone was talking or something obviously went wrong, I understand re-taking a photo. But the entire memory of our computer is being used for photos that are a mix bag of decent, totally suck, kind of suck and OK, maybe I could actually share that one. It's just too much.

Don't even get me started on the anxiety of picking a holiday card. Having professional photos taken has to be worth its weight in stress. We didn't have any professional shots taken last year, and come December, with the frustration of several amateur "photo shoots" of our own still fresh in my mind, I considered just finding a stand-in kid to send out to our loved ones. I ended up going with a collage of fair-to-decent pictures to show a melange of the kid, who I actually think is quite cute in person. In pictures, well, not so much.

It's not that I'm being tough on her... it really is quite something:
"The Fat Face" does seem to be her "Blue Steel" go-to
So, yes, when your professional-ish camera is able to miss the perfect moment and you end up with a library full of these shots, you become somewhat frustrated. Or, if you are me, you have an epiphany: The apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Even though we can take more pictures, if it is in your genes to look like this in a photo,

then 30 versions of the same shot aren't going to help.

We are extremely grateful for the couple of photos that we actually think are "good." We are doomed if we were hoping for great photos to hang like artwork on our wall. The fact that many people can do that is amazing to us. One day she is going to be psyched to discover this treasure trove of slideshow worthy photos we are collecting, warts and all. With so many to choose from, I think we may as well switch back to single shots. The odds of getting a frame-r every now and then are probably the same, but maybe it will prevent our computer from crashing and us losing them all entirely.

Which brings me to the next obvious issue... we never print photos anymore!  I think the lack of frame-rs has gone to my head and I have abandoned printing altogether. We own a photo printer, and yet when I looked around my apartment the other day, I realized our most recent picture of her that is in a frame is almost 6 months old... one quarter of her life. And I only did that because we had a party recently and I felt guilty because the other photos of her are more than a year older than that. It is embarrassing. The most recent pictures of us in frames are from our wedding, nearly four years ago, so at least I am consistently bad at it.

There is every possibility that our photos may one day disappear. Yes, they are on the computer, but I'm pretty sure that is neither fail safe nor fool proof. Oh simple days, where have you gone? Hopefully we won't lose them all and we will be able to embarrass the heck out of her with a slideshow one day. We are certainly ready for it!
How can she look so in pain while smiling?

Monday, April 1, 2013

Eight Crazy Days

This post is dedicated to my sister: Family, holidays, and the foods that represent them wouldn't be as tasty without you to laugh about it all with. 

As we approach the end of yet another Passover holiday, I sit (not on the toilet, of course) and reflect on what a terrible holiday it is. Well, the actual holiday is ok... celebrating being freed from slavery and avoiding plagues and all. Woo hoo! Let's party. But in relation to the food, this holiday is in the crapper. And for all the Jews reading this, you know I am being incredibly facetious using that word.

I was raised in a household with Jewish traditions. We are not that religious. I fast for Yom Kippur and I keep Passover, that's about it. I know people way more religious than me that don't do either, which for some reason makes me feel good about the balance I have found. My family does find a way to get together to celebrate many of the Jewish holidays. For me, religion is about family values, gatherings, traditions and the food associations I have for each of those.

My non-Jewish husband will be the first to admit (sometimes without even being asked, weirdly) that Passover is our worst holiday. Freedom after 400 years of slavery is good, but regarding the food, I kind of have to agree.

Passover lulls you in to thinking you could be healthy for the week. My sister and I fall for it every year. "Hey, great! Passover's coming! It's basically a religious Atkins diet, you know. No bread, no pasta, no rice (for us). I'm going to be so healthy. I'll be sure to drop a few." Yeah, right.

And then Passover is upon us and the reality hits: Passover is a bad food holiday. We replace all the bread in our diet with dessert. Really bad dessert. Chocolate covered marshmallows and sugary coconut balls. I say sugary coconut balls because I can't have you thinking we're eating those lovely delicate French macaroons. No, these things have some weight to them, but then you dip them in chocolate and... ok, it's dipped in chocolate. Who can't get through a package of anything dipped in chocolate? 

Speaking of dipping things in chocolate, someone decided to dip matzoh in chocolate. No doubt trying to replicate Easter candy, but who cares... it's matzoh dipped in chocolate! Pass me another slice. It sure beats Kosher for Passover sponge cake. This stuff sucks up all the moisture in your mouth like a ShamWow! It was so impossible to swallow, I panicked that I had actually forgotten how. 

Then there is gefilte fish. Gefilte fish is, how do I put this nicely, an acquired taste. And to put it more realistically, sweet jellied fish balls that come in a jar. You coat them in horseradish to make them taste better... horseradish! Pretty strong stuff to numb the pain. I happen to love gefilte fish, but I understand why people might be turned off, to be nice, or completely nauseated, to be more realistic.

And then there are toasted coconut covered marshmallows. I'm not sure where everyone else stands on these. Another acquired taste, sure, but I can take down a bag of these things within the first five days each year. I ate fourteen while I was writing this. Gefilte fish and the coconut marshmallows both get filed in the 'Why do humans consume these?' column in my husband's head, but then that just leaves more for me.

As if all the Passover food wasn't bad enough, someone out there actually has the nerve to attempt to make kosher for Passover versions of the food that we eat on a normal basis. And somehow we are gullible enough to buy it each year. If you like cereal, then maybe you'll like our kosher for Passover cereal. Oh, yes please.
First, let's discuss the size of the bag in relation to the size of the box:
Seriously? You could probably make the box a little smaller. All that extra cardboard could make more of this stuff:
The fine print on the box should read: Actual "cereal" bears no resemblance to anything edible. Adding berries will not help.

So we've got a week of good intentions leading into the actual eight days and what my sister calls The Disease. It is called The Disease because it is infectious and will take over your body. It is the magical combination of matzoh, whipped cream cheese and raspberry jelly. If you haven't ever tried this, I suggest you do. But unlike my sister and I, try to limit yourself to just a few pieces, not several pieces every single day for eight straight days. Yes, it is that tasty. It's crunchy, creamy, sweet, tangy with those awesome raspberry seeds sticking between your back teeth (a sensation that on its own reminds me of Passover wherever, whenever). 

Ah, but then every disease has its downside. The result of all that matzoh is... well, it is actually nothing. It is truly, absolutely, nothing. Nothing getting through, nothing going out. Moses parted the seas, let the Jews go, but nothing would pass through after them. Matzoh is essentially the most realistic way of recreating that experience. The plagues may come and go, but matzoh tummy feels like it's forever.

So, that's it. Another Passover celebrated, another family gathering, more food consumed. I love my people and I love my family and we love our food. Now it is on to eat some leftover Easter ham. Oh yes, I keep Passover and I eat ham. I also eat bacon, cheeseburgers and lobster. Try to make sense of that! I found a balance that works for me. It involves a lot of good food. Except on Passover, of course. Passover just involves a lot of complaining about these eight crazy days of food.