Why I’ve Stopped Eating Animal Foods

This is dreadful! Not only the suffering and death of the animals, but that man suppresses in himself, unnecessarily, the highest spiritual capacity – that of sympathy and pity towards living creatures like himself – and by violating his own feelings becomes cruel. – Leo Tolstoy

“It’s inevitable,” my boyfriend said to me late last year, on the prospect of us becoming vegan. We’d recently gotten deep into the Rich Roll Podcast, and the evidence for a plant-based diet was mounting. “Yeah,” I sighed, already mourning the loss of cheeseburgers and gooey chocolate chip cookies. “You’re probably right.”

He was right. He was so right. After six months of edging towards it, I’ve now been a strict vegan for exactly one month, and I’m never looking back.

Well, that’s not true. I’m looking back right now, on my blog, because it’s actually really important for me to understand why I’m making this bold, life-changing choice. Just as it took lots of processing for me to come to the decision to give up alcohol. And sugar. And crazy obsessive exercise. You see, it’s all interconnected. Profoundly interconnected.

This isn’t my first foray into the land of almond milk and agave. My earliest attempt at vegetarianism came in grade school, around the age of 8 or 9. The epiphany that meat was the same thing as the cuddly animals I loved so much, only murdered, came from my best friend in the whole world, Michala Heyford. I was so shocked by this sudden realization that I came home and proclaimed that I wanted to be a vegetarian.

“Well, then, you’ll have to cook your own meals,” my mom replied. And that was the end of that. No more questioning the cuddly animals come edible flesh. I was destined to be an omnivore. (Not that I blame my mom in the slightest – my conviction was obviously weak, and she was only operating within the same paradigm as most of our planet since the dawn of animal agriculture.)

After that five hour stint, I remained an avid animal eater until November of 2012, when I watched Forks Over Knives. I honestly barely remember the film now, because I was deep in my alcohol addiction and body obsession, but it jarred me enough that I went vegan for a month, and vegetarian for a year.

During that time, I remember my conscious feeling way better. It seemed pretty straightforward to me – factory farming was evil, I wanted no part in it, so the easiest way was to stop eating meat. I still didn’t quite understand the cruelty of dairy and eggs, so I reintroduced those, eating only “organic,” but otherwise I felt solid about my decision.

So why did I start consuming meat again with reckless abandon? Because my hair was falling out. And I felt fatigued. And I was self-consumed. But instead of re-evaluating my diet, which was completely out of whack thanks to my eating disorder and alcohol consumption, I just assumed it was because I wasn’t getting animal protein. WRONG. (This is one of the major fallacies about nutrition that helps maintain the status quo. Look up Scott Jurek, Rich Roll, Tony Gonzalez, or any of the other incredible vegan athletes if you don’t believe me.)

Anyway, fast forward to last summer, when my body felt so broken I thought I must be suffering from a chronic disease. Every day I felt so tired and so foggy and so sick that I thought I must be dying.

And you know something? I was right. I did have a chronic disease. A few, actually: alcoholism, food and sugar addiction, and exercise bulimia. And I was dying. Slowly, maybe, but make no mistake I was killing my body and my spirit. At my physical last September my cholesterol was through the roof and I was on the borderline of pre-diabetes. At 29!

By my 30th birthday, I was starting to think a little more clearly, having given up alcohol, but I still fumbled my way through the dark. It wasn’t until I finally completely quit sugar and admitted my exercise addiction that the curtain began to lift. And boy, has it been hard to see the truth.

But there it is, plain as day: for 30 years, I have been complicit in humanity’s darkest, cruelest, most ruthless practice – animal agriculture. As harsh as that sounds, it is the capital T Truth. And the consequences of this culturally sanctioned violence prove it — it’s destroying our planet and ourselves.

What started as a choice made out of concern for my personal health quickly morphed into something much greater. The more I read and watched, the more my mind exploded. One pound of beef requires thousands of gallons of water?? 80% of deforestation in the Amazon is because of CATTLE GRAZING?? Animal products cause cardiovascular disease and cancer?? (Okay, I knew that last one.) The idea that I’d given up dairy in November for my skin, congestion, and digestion now seemed positively quaint.

With each new source I consumed, I grew deeper and deeper in my conviction on becoming vegan.  Eating Animals showed me there was no such think as humane slaughter or family-run farms in this country. I used to order Niman Ranch menu items with a little less guilt, but how could I now that I knew that Bill Niman won’t eat meat from there?

Cowspiracy taught me the extent to which the media, government, and even environmental companies will go to protect animal agribusiness, even though it’s the leading cause of global warming, ocean dead zones, species extinction, water shortages, you name it!!


And then there was The World Peace Diet. Recommended to me by one of the gentlest souls I know, I took to this book like a fish takes to water (where it should always be!) With each chapter, the dots started to connect for me in a way that they never have before. EVER. I mean, the Sanskrit word for war translates to desire for cattle. FOR CATTLE. #mindblown

I spent full days reading The World Peace Diet because I kept getting lost in rabbit holes as I looked things up to do further research, stumbling across gems like this treaty from Plutarch. If ever you’ve questioned why there’s so much suffering in this world, from war, to slavery, to rape, to poverty (both economic and spiritual), look no further than this incredible book.

It’s the Golden Rule, folks, simple as that. Do unto others as you would have done unto you. What clearer example of “reaping what you sow” can we have then animal agriculture? We enslave and kill animals, and thus we enslave and kill ourselves. It’s not rocket science what needs to be done. I’m no Bible Truther, but if only we could all take this passage from Genesis 1.29 literally: Then God said,”Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you.” (Yes, the Garden of Eden was vegan.)

So how to make sense of this wealth of information when you’ve been participating in it your whole life? Well, I can tell you, it ain’t easy. Paradigm shifts rarely are. I’ve broken down in sobs dozens of times in the past few months, over the devastation that I’ve happily, mindlessly been a part of. Last night as I listened to birds and watched bats flit through the palm trees, I cried as I said a prayer for all of the animals I’d been an assassin to.

This has without a doubt been the most painful awakening I’ve ever gone through. I look around me and now I can’t help but see it everywhere – the misery in the grocery stores, at restaurants, on the plates of my loved ones, on my feet. Sometimes I just want to scream at the insanity of it all, at the wretchedness at the blackened core of our herding tradition, but then I think of Gandhi and my heart softens. After all, that is what is at the core of veganism. Compassion. For all sentient beings.

And that is ultimately what carries me through. What helps me knock down the walls that have been erected around my soul. What mends the gulf that’s been created by my inherently violent food choices, between who I am and who I want to be. What allows there to be mercy for myself and others, for we know not what we do. But now that I finally do know, there’s nowhere to run and no turning back.

The mission is clear. It’s time for me to take a stand. To practice loving-kindness, with my thoughts, with my words, with my actions. Every day, every meal.

Oh, and I almost forgot! While it pales in comparison to the softening of my heart and the spiritual connectedness I’m now experiencing with the Earth, it’s still worth mentioning: I’ve never felt more at peace with my body. Finally free from the toxic trifecta of alcohol, sugar, and animal foods, I am energized, clear-headed, and healthy. Who woulda thunk?


Adventures in Istanbul: Day 4

With Amanda in Ephesus from sun up to sun down, I had the whole day to explore Istanbul on my own. Or not, because after a few messages with Jonathan, one of the San Franciscoans from the previous night, I had a lunch date with them at 2pm. How easy it is to make new friends abroad! I thought, scarfing down the chili-flaked omelet and Turkish cheese that had become my morning staple. Until then, I’ll go shopping!

Now, I am not one of those travelers who empties their bank accounts on clothes and souvenirs. In fact, I almost never declare more than $20 on my custom’s form, intentionally bringing only a stuffed carry-on to prevent such impulse buys as 400 Euro army green coats in Paris (so happy I didn’t pick up that one– thank you tiny Samsonite!) But I wanted to bring back something for my boyfriend, and I’d heard Istanbul had great leather products, so I headed to the Grand Bazaar.

My first instinct when I stepped into the legendary shopping mecca was to take a selfie. Maybe it was because the myriad of colors and shimmering objects brought out my pink lipgloss, or more likely because the frenzied consumerism spurred on the “me me me” philosophy, but that’s exactly what I did. Then, I faced the madness.


And I do mean madness. My friend Lauren had warned me before I left to go in with a plan, but I felt in no way prepared for the onslaught of men aggressively hawking their wares. The second I stepped into the leather section it came at me from all sides.

“Miss, over here, I know what you want,” one called. You do?! Awesome, please tell me so I can stop stressing about what to give Daniel!

“Everything almost free!” another regaled me.

“Ha! Almost!” I laughed.

“You can try on, you don’t have to buy,” a younger guy pointed towards some quite cute jackets. The fact that that was even a commendation made me run the other direction.

To twenty more men saying the exact same things. Overwhelmed, I snapped a quick photo of some man bags and rushed back into the main hall. Or a main hall. The Grand Bazaar has so many entrances and exits and aisles and off shoots that even Google Maps can’t figure out where you are. I decided to just browse the stalls, collecting iPhone shots as souvenirs.

Pretty lanterns.

Pretty lanterns.

When I’d tired of pretty lanterns and Turkish tea sets, I set out for the Spice Bazaar. While not as big as the Grand Bazaar, my mom had assured me it was more “photogenic.” It was indeed – no need for selfies here.


The second I stepped in a big goofy grin spread across my face. The baskets filled with nuts and spices and Turkish delights, the colorful store fronts and old men holding out sample – I was in heaven. And Daniel would’ve been too. I suddenly knew exactly what to get him.

I walked into the very first stall and bought “Love Tea,” red peppercorns, traditional kebab seasoning, and Turkish delights. Was this the best economic strategy? Probably not, but I didn’t feel like haggling. Besides, the prices were lower than the states and the short good-looking salesman flirted respectably.

“Your boyfriend would want you to go out and experience the city with a nice Turkish guy,” he insisted, offering me his card.

“I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t, but I’ll ask,” I smiled, paying for the items and stepping back into the market.

Flirtacious spice seller.

Flirtacious spice seller.

I wandered the aisles for a bit, sampling sweets from trays when the shopkeepers weren’t looking. I found my way outside o the cheese and olive and fish vendors. Now that’s what I’m talking about! My mouth watered over the huge vats of creamy white goodness. I couldn’t bring it back to Daniel, but I could at least dedicate a photo to him on Instagam.


By the time I’d finished at the market, I had just enough time to walk to the restaurant for lunch. I took side streets, weaving through less touristy, more raw parts of Istanbul. There were no kebab shops here, no throngs of people. In fact, there was no one. I tried not to be intimidated, and picked up my pace.

When I arrived at the aqueduct, a block from the restaurant, I still had 20 minutes to kill. My feet hurt, my head ached, and my illness flared – I needed to meditate, if not medicate. I sat down on a bench looking out at the centuries old waterway, closed my eyes, and focused on my breathing.

Fifteen minutes later I felt like a new person. I stood up to leave, and was immediately stopped.

“Excuse me, would you mind, uh, sitting there again. For a photo?” the man asked in broken English. I stared at him, incredulous. What are you trying to sell me?

He sensed my hesitancy and showed me his camera. “I took this of you, but it would be better centered. I can send to you if you like.”

I liked the photo, and seeing he had pure motives, agreed to model again. I wondered how many other photos belonging to strangers I appeared in. Hundreds, no doubt, intentionally or otherwise. It didn’t seem a coincidence that this one happened to be brought to my attention while meditating, a practice I’d only recently begun. The universe guides us in mysterious ways.

Courtesy of Gökçe Ülgen

Courtesy of Gökçe Ülgen

The San Franciscoans were running late, so I waited patiently at the restaurant, perusing the menu. When they finally arrived, it felt like a mad rush to make up for lost time – the 20 minutes of tardiness, the lifetimes we’d lived ignorant of each others’ existence. Jonathan talked faster than any New Yorker I’d ever encountered, and it thrilled me. He spoke of his current nomadic living situation, of jumping from one country to the next, not knowing where the following week would take him. Of giving back to the community and saving lives (he gave bone marrow – twice!). Of the company he was currently launching involving online dating.

“Online dating?! Are you serious?! I knew we met for a reason!” I told them about my Tinder escapades and my forthcoming book, and we laughed at the serendipity.

“Maybe we’ll be able to team up!” Jonathan exclaimed. I concurred. Again, mysterious ways.

After lunch, the four of us made our way to the Suleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul’s largest. While not as beautiful or crowded as Hagia Sofia or Sultanhamet, its austerity provided a stronger sense of spirituality. It invited mediation, contemplation, mindfulness…


But right then we were more interested in mayhem. Heather wanted to buy a few things from the bazaar, so I led the way back to the shopping jungle. This time, though, I felt more confident with friends by my side in the bartering battle.

“I’ll pay ten Lira for this mug,” I told a salesman. He shook his head, and I walked on. But Jonathan stayed to fight the good fight. He lost, but we won at the next vendor, scoring a coffee cup sporting a Turkish flag.

“Why did you want that mug?” Jonathan asked, trying to mask his judgment of my souvenir predilections.

“Well, it’s what my boyfriend and I are collecting when we travel. He’s already been doing it for years with his mother, and then I got him these mugs for his birthday, with this hashtag we created together, team no days off–” I blushed. “Oh god, we are so crazy cheesy in love, it’s disgusting.”

“No it’s not, it’s amazing! You’re glowing,” he smiled. “I love romance, tell me more.”

I told him we’d only been dating for a few months, but that we both just knew right away, like my parents. That I’d also given him a puzzle of us for his birthday, because he had all the pieces I’d been working on putting together for years. That he completed my puzzle.

“That’s funny, because my ex and I had a similar thing between us. We used to say we were each other’s corner pieces,” he confided. I smiled, feeling more and more comfortable being my hopeful romantic self.

The bazaar was now closing, and we all felt in need of a nap. But I didn’t want this to be the end of our journey together.

“Amanda and I are going to a restaurant at 9 in Beyoglu with a friend of a friend. Would you guys want to come?” I asked.

They loved the idea, so I confirmed the reservation change, and we agreed to meet a couple of hours later in Jonathan’s lobby. We had a quick drink there, then ubered over to Antiochia Concept, the restaurant chosen by Ally’s English friend Andrew.

It. Was. Delicious. Of course, I had expected it to be – Andrew is a chef currently working at an upscale French restaurant in Istanbul. If I was going to trust anyone aside from TripAdvisor, it was him. And he did not lead us astray with this hip place specializing in Hatay cuisine. From the stylish décor to the stop-my-heart-right-now fried cheese to the chef de cuisine sending us out extra dishes and feeding them to Jonathan with his eyes closed (don’t ask), everything was divine.

This steak though!

This steak though!

Especially the company. Sometimes bringing together complete strangers can be awkward and terrifying. But with Andrew, Amanda, Heather, Tony, Jonathan, and myself, it felt as organic as a health food store in Marin County. The conversation just flowed. I felt like I could talk to them about anything and everything.

And in fact, we did. Before dinner, during dinner, after dinner. The conversation just flowed. I won’t go into it here, because it got so deeply personal and unbelievably intimate and doesn’t belong on a blog, but in just 48 hours, I had managed to delve into topics with these five former strangers that many people spend their whole lives avoiding. The experiences they shared humbled me. Through each of them, I was beginning to see why we really travel: to expose ourselves to the stories of others.


Home Sweet Los Angeles



I sink into an inevitable depression every time I return from traveling. It’s one of the ramifications of being abroad – in getting to experience the world in a larger sense, my own small life back home takes on a glow of insignificance. It’s like being shown a buffet of all the best offerings of cuisines from Thailand to Turkey to Timbuktu, and then being told I will only be served chicken and steamed vegetables for the rest of my life (or until I can afford that next plane ticket). Not that I don’t like chicken and steamed vegetables. In fact, after three weeks of subsisting almost entirely on carbs, meat, beer, and wine, chicken and steamed vegetables sound like downright heaven. But as the bloat subsides, so does their appeal, and pretty soon I’m left hungering for one more slice of jamón ibérico, one more pain du chocolat, one little stein of Austrian brew…

Knowing this about myself, I made a concerted effort this time around to change my mentality. Even before I left Europe, I devoted a small chunk of time on a Seine river bike ride planning my return strategy. I would take my newly acquired rosé-colored glasses and use them to see afresh the city where I had spent my entire adulthood. I would write a blog about Los Angeles illuminating all of the things I had missed before in my day-to-day complacency – architectural details on downtown buildings, neighborhood coffee shops with handcrafted soy candles, funky galleries featuring hip young artists. There were angels somewhere out there in LaLaLand, and I was going to locate them. For too many years I had been decompressing from travel the wrong way – lamenting the end of my exotic experience instead of embracing the beginning of a new perspective. Well, not this time! I told myself, pedaling fiercely along the cobblestones of Île de la Cité. This time I’m coming home happy! And you wanna know something? I did. I came home happy.

For about 36 hours.

I touched down on the evening of July 11th, a huge smile across my face. Mostly I was relieved to survive yet one more harrowing excursion in a big chunk of metal hurtling through thin air 30,000 feet above the ground. But I also found myself in awe over the golden light basking the urban sprawl. I’d forgotten just how expansive Los Angeles was, how many places I had yet to explore, people to meet, restaurants and shops and museums to patronize. The mountains beckoned me to come hike them, the ocean to run along its sandy beaches. There were so many wonderful things to do in my hometown, and with the new enthusiasm Europe had gifted me with, I would do them all!

But not that first night. That first night I would just drive home with my friend, try and form coherent sentences about my trip, pick up a few groceries, then collapse on my bed. My bed. Of all the things I’d left behind over the past month, my bed was probably the thing I had missed most. Aside from the Carlton, most of the beds I had been sleeping on hardly deserved their title. They had been more like… cots. I snuggled up with my teddy bear, turned off the light, and passed the eff out.

I was so excited to begin rediscovering Los Angeles that I woke up that first morning at 4:30. (Alright, fine, I had jet lag, but I was trying to reframe things.) I made a damn good gingerbread cappuccino, watched the sunrise, spent a couple of hours on one of my stories for my acting class, worked out while watching the pilot of The Leftovers. It felt good to be back, and it was nice having the time to myself, knowing everyone was still asleep and I didn’t have to reach out quite yet. I was enjoying the quiet.

Around 10am, I decided it was finally reasonable to start texting people. The malaise had begun to creep in after only 5 hours, and I knew I needed to act fast. Luckily, my friend Jairo quickly picked up the ball I was dropping, and invited me down to his place in Culver City to go for a bike ride along the beach. He showed me his regular route, a wonderful pedestrian path stretching essentially from his backyard all the way down to Redondo Beach, and we conquered a solid 25 miles, broken up by margarita pit stops. We got back to his place around 6, took a little nap, then headed out to Malibu for an outdoor screening of Back to the Future for a friend’s birthday. It was exactly the kind of LA outing I had had in mind only a few days before in Paris. Ahhh, Paris…

The next day was a little harder. The World Cup and my friend Hannah helped alleviate things a bit, but I could feel the quicksand of depression beneath my feet. By 6pm, I grew so tired of flailing around in it that I gave up. I left the lovely people at the porch party I was at and returned home, exhausted, sad, defeated. Why was I already crossing over into the dark side? How was it possible that I was already becoming jaded?

Over the next 48 hours, I tumbled head first into the black hole I’d been so afraid of. There were flashes of glorious light – throwing a spinning descending angel on the pole at S Factor, tap backs with the beautiful Jenny C. at SoulCycle, the insightful lecture from my profound mentor Diana Castle at The Imagined Life – but it couldn’t seem to stop the plummet. What was I doing in Los Angeles? What was I doing with my life? Who am I, what am I, why am I? I skipped from news article to news article, website to website, put 20 books on hold at the library. I read 15 pages of Romeo & Juliet, then 10 of the Silicon Valley pilot, then 5 from a Richard Linklater script. There was so much to do and see and read and watch and people and places and restaurants and plays and artworks and and and – – –What was I going to write?!

I felt crushed by the weight of my own desire for experience, immobilized by the sheer vastness of the world and the shortness of life. My body ached, my mind ached, my heart ached. I was mad at myself for not being stronger, for succumbing to my old tendencies, my old insecurities. Why hadn’t I been able to bring Europe home with me? Where was that joie de vivre? I laid my head down and cried…

I woke up several hours later to the sound of my phone vibrating. It was a text from a friend, asking about dinner that night. I rubbed my eyes and took a few deep breaths, still groggy. I listened to the whir of the washing machines coming from next door, the soft Spanish murmurs of two neighbors on the other side of the fence. Laughter erupted between them, a joke I would never understand. I smiled, thinking of the various languages I had just been immersed in the last few weeks, the places I had been. Six different cities in 24 days. No wonder I’m exhausted, I thought, reliving the culturally-packed days and fun-filled sleepless nights. No wonder it’s hard to readjust. I forgave myself for the nap, the tears, the tumbling existential thoughts, and picked up the phone.

Sure, what time? I texted back, and watched the three little dots on the screen. 7, any preferences on place? I thought about it for a moment, then responded. No, not really. The dots reappeared, then- great, let’s do Sugarfish. I grinned, immediately excited by the prospect of one of my favorite sushi restaurants. That sounds amazing, I replied. See you at 7.

I reached across my bed, grabbed my computer, and opened it up, finally ready to get to work. Maybe Los Angeles doesn’t have centuries old boulevards, beautiful parks brimming with roses, and awesome public transportation, but at least it has more than chicken and steamed vegetables.


Paris, je t’aime

One of my favorite shirts is a tank top with a broken heart and the phrase “Paris is overrated” on the front. It’s one of those hipster racer backs I picked up at Urban Outfitters a few years ago, and every time I wear it, without fail, someone comments on it. “So you don’t like Paris?” They ask. “Bad experience?” I smile and shake my head. “No, no, quite the opposite. It’s a rather poor attempt at irony, you see, because Paris is my favorite city in the world. But… she always breaks my heart.”

I first fell in love with Paris when I was 14. My mom took me on a tour of France the year before I started high school, and it remains one of my most cherished memories of our relationship. So many of my passions in life can be attributed to her- art, reading, movies, food – and on this three week trip she transferred her lifelong love affair with France to me. The Musee d’Orsay, Versailles, the Eiffel Tower, prix fixe lunch menus, cathedrals and chateaus- she squeezed as much in those few weeks as possible. I fell for the country quickly, of course, being at that age where the heart longs to know more than it can yet understand. But it was a kind of puppy love, the love of a burgeoning adolescent still much too unsure of her own self to truly appreciate the beauty and depth of another.

It wasn’t until a decade later when I chose to do a summer session in Paris that I really fell head over heels in love with Paris. After my grandfather passed, he’d left his grandchildren a tidy little sum of money, and I wanted to do something special with it, something I would always remember, rather than paying rent or grocery bills (also important, but not quite the tribute I had in mind.) I had always wanted to study abroad in France, as my mom had, and I needed the language credit to graduate UCLA. It all seemed to line up perfectly, and so with no hesitation I booked the French class and my flight. It was the best decision I ever made.

It’s almost impossible for me to describe those two months in 2010, living in the 15th arrondissement with Lara Dvorak, one of my female soulmates. It was a kind of extended joy I’d never known, a restless excitement that never seemed to dull. The closest thing I’d felt to it was my first real boyfriend in adulthood. The romance, the sensuality, the heightened reality, the late nights and blissful mornings. It was the type of high one had to eventually crash from. I couldn’t believe people actually lived in Paris, spent there whole lives walking her streets, breathing in her energy. Did they look at her the way I did, with fresh hungry eyes? Or had the relationship evolved, moved past the lust and the dizzying thrill of the new and into something deeper, or more settled, or, God forbid, complacent? I wanted to know what happened after the honeymoon period was over, but I didn’t get the chance. My last day approached right around the time you say “I love you” and mean it. I cried the entire way to Charles de Gaulle, staring out the window of the RER, my heart in pieces. I’ll be back, I tried to comfort myself, it’s not over.

As I write this, four years after that summer, I feel the same heartache again, having just left the city of lights. Like my last visit in 2011, our time together this go-around was painfully short. Four full days, five wine filled nights. I didn’t try to cram everything in as I had done in London a few weeks prior, but rather, having learned from that experience, enjoyed the city with a more relaxed patience. That’s not to say I didn’t maximize my time, but instead of trying to see everything in the Louvre in two hours, I meandered through one wing slowly, maybe even just a room. It was the gentle, meaningful kiss, not the hurried, sloppy deed, performed like a chore.

And what a kiss it was. I’d almost forgotten how it felt to be embraced by Paris, wrapped in her beauty, her taste, her smell, the scent of freshly baked bread curling through the streets on my morning runs. I savored every bite of tuna tartar, beef filet, macaroon, warm chocolate cake, baked goat cheese. I found respite in the cozy spaces, the restaurants and bars with ten seats, the antique shops barely large enough to fit a trio of trim girls, every inch covered in hats and shoes and purses telling a thousand stories. It’s not that I don’t appreciate wide open spaces and large homes and yards and vast dining halls that don’t require a reservation, but there’s something about the scale of Paris that really registers with me. There’s a reason I’ve lived in my tiny Hollywood cottage built in 1919 for 8 years. I like things small and intimate and full of history and character. In Los Angeles so much feels transient, here one day and gone the next. But in Paris there’s a sense of permanence I find profoundly comforting. History adding to itself instead of subtracting. Even the night clubs can last for decades, enjoying fresh permutations like the famous Raspoutine.

And then of course, there’s the art. During that first summer of love I had made an effort to visit a museum a day, and had nearly succeeded in my goal. This time around I made no such attempt, spending just a few hours on a rainy afternoon in the D’Orsay, but one need not visit a museum to experience art in Paris. All you have to do is step outside. Every street, every park, every way you turn you are bombarded with the artistic spirit. It’s almost too much, like that unbearable moment right before release. The little death. Perhaps this is what I love most about the city, why I fell in love in the first place. Truth, beauty, creativity – these things take time to develop, to build up, and Paris has been working on it for centuries. She is a master, and I a willing apprentice, wanting desperately to learn from her.

Riding the train to the airport this morning, I cried once more, overcome by sadness and longing. I didn’t want it to end, I wasn’t ready for the breakup. I needed more time, there was still so much to do, to feel, to experience. Why did it have to be over already? And then I realized, it didn’t have to be. Yes, I would be boarding my plane in a few hours. Yes, I needed to get back to Los Angeles for work and for other reasons. But it wasn’t actually the end, the affair wasn’t actually over. Unlike the on again off again lover who may eventually leave forever, Paris isn’t going anywhere. In fact, she is waiting for me, ready to take me in when I am finally ready. It’s up to me to someday make the commitment and put together the pieces of that broken heart.

Father’s Day



When I think of my dad, I think of the outdoors. I think of mountains, and trails, and lakes full of fish, and trees. I think of vast open skies and shimmering rain and air so crisp it almost hurts your lungs. I see beaches extending for miles, stretches of highway leading nowhere and everywhere, sunsets scorching the desert. I can smell the musk of the forest floor, the sweetness of wildflowers, the crackling smoke of a campfire. It feels like the exhilaration after a long run, the cool shock of jumping into the ocean, the rewarding pain of a blister from a day’s hike. And when I listen, I hear his laugh. Pure, childlike, contagious, ringing through open fields.

When I think of my dad, I think of compassion. I think of him as a missionary, in Africa in his 20s, then again in Thailand with my mother and me as a baby, and my brother born in Bangkok. I think of how he’d give away every cent he earned if we would let him, of the tenderness he feels towards those in need. I hear him talk about his sisters, my aunts, his parents, my grandparents, and I feel the weight of his love, his desire to ease their suffering.

When I think of my dad, I think of food. I think of pancakes and waffles and fried eggs on toast. (How lucky I was to have a dad who made us breakfast before school every morning!) I think of grilled cheese sandwiches, and hot dogs and hamburgers, and all those bachelor foods he cooks so well. I see him going back for seconds, and thirds, finishing everyone else’s plates, a human garbage disposal. It’s that Dutch metabolism – eat and eat and eat and never gain a pound. I taste ice cream and brie and chocolate chip cookies and all the things I shouldn’t eat but can’t help myself when I’m with him. In his world, the concept of dieting has never existed. So much the better.

When I think of my dad, I think of honesty. I think of the time my parents came home from the symphony and I lied about walking the dog. The look of disappointment in his face- I never wanted to lie again. I think of the business my parents ran, and how he never in a million years would rip anyone off. And if an accident was made, an overcharge here, a misstep there, he would be the first to correct it. For him, honesty isn’t the best policy, it’s the only policy.

When I think of my dad, I think of sports. I think of marathons and tennis and golf and skiing. I picture him on the court, racket in hand, 7am down at the club. My jaw drops when I hear he played 106 holes of golf in a single outing… in 105 degree heat. I remember Columbia Park and batting practice and learning how to field grounders and catch pop flies. I see him cheering at basketball games, and track meets, and cross country finish lines. I taste the sweetness of the win and the bitterness of the loss made so much better by his embrace. I still want to call him after every long run, every hard work out – “Dad! Look what I did!” He’s always proud.

When I think of my dad, I think of traveling. I think of Thailand and France and Mexico and cruises. The Cruisemeister, we call him. Always searching for that great deal, that next getaway. I think of happy hour on hotel balconies, fresh snow on the slopes in Canada, hiking through the forests of Angkor. I hear his snoring in shared rooms in Dordogne, and it bugs me and comforts me and I feel grateful. I smile at his fanny pack – the money belt – and label him the Original Hipster: Mustache Not Ironic. We twist his arm to take a photo at the Alhambra, and he obliges, grumbling. My dad is so handsome, I think, pouring over travel albums made by my mom with love.

When I think of my dad, I think of happiness. I think of ridiculous songs sung in minivans on road trips, tears of laughter streaming from my eyes. I think of inside jokes and outside jokes and silliness and teasing. “Wibbly wobbly” and “beddy bonkers” and “crab bites” and tickling, so much tickling. He smiles and I smile, he laughs and I laugh. He calls me Baby Amykins and my heart practically breaks with joy. I’ll be 55 years old and he’ll still be calling me that and it will be as true as the day I was born. How wonderful to be his Baby Amykins. How blessed to have him as my dad. How lucky to be his beloved little girl.

I love you, Dad. Happy Father’s Day.

Rob Dreams of Soylent



The other day I came across an article in the New Yorker entitled “The End of Food.” My initial reaction was “NOOOOO!!!” Beyond just the basic fact that food keeps me alive, I love love LOVE food. I love shopping for it, preparing it, eating it. I love going to new restaurants and experiencing different combinations and styles of food I wouldn’t have previously considered. I love Chinese, Italian, Japanese, French, Ethiopian, vegan, etc etc et al et al. I love pasta, I love salmon, I love bacon wrapped dates, I love pumpkin cheesecake. Did I mention I love food?

In spite of the physical repulsion I felt from the heading alone, I couldn’t resist clicking on the link and seeing what all this “no food” nonsense was about. It turns out some guy has created a substance called “Soylent” which provides all the essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins to keep our bodies functioning. First of all, couldn’t he come up with a better name than Soylent?! Ugh, it sounds like a crop fertilizer, or a super rubbery vegetarian sausage link. Moreover, Soylent Green was a product in a Charlton Heston movie that ended up being made out of humans. Marketing fail.

Before I even made it past the first paragraph of the article, I already had a hankering about what sort of “genius” created this so-called food destroyer. A. It had to be a guy- no woman subjected to the monthly trials and tribulations of PMS would ever dare try and erase the basic food groups of chocolate and potato chips from our planet earth. B. He had to be socially and romantically challenged. Imagine asking a girl on a date to go and get soylent smoothies? Check please! Sorry guys, but we need that three course buffer to get to know you before we decide to go home with you. A bizarre concoction possibly composed of other human beings is just not gonna cut it. Plus, how would any movies ever get made in Hollywood without power lunches? This no food thing continues to sound worse and worse.

Turns out I wasn’t far off. Soylent’s founder Rob Rheinhart is an electrical engineer/ start up guy (aka nerd) who had gotten tired of the time and money he wasted on food. I can just hear Gordon Ramsey’s British accent now- “you f***ing wanker! You know NOTHING!” He was sick of eating top ramen and frozen pizzas (who wouldn’t be?) and thus came up with the idea of designing a product that could replace food altogether. Okay, this is great if it’s the zombie apocalypse and nobody has time for anything but kicking serious zombie ass. But it’s not. This is the 21st century, where cultural pleasures include going to the theater, wandering around in museums taking in Rembrandts, and yes, enjoying 7 course meals with exquisite wine pairings (all of which I can only assume Mr. Rheinhart has never had the delicious opportunity to experience.) How terrible would life be if it were only about efficiency? Sorry, bro, but there are more important things in life than just developing the next app that can help you stop and smell the roses. Like actually STOPPING TO SMELL THE ROSES.

Alright, I need to take a deep breath and calm down. But seriously, Rob’s proposal to eliminate food because it’s time consuming and expensive just misses the point. Somebody force this guy to watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi or Spinning Plates ASAP! Some of my best experiences in life have been around a dinner table, philosophizing about the meaning of life while indulging in octopus confit with grilled white asparagus (I just went to Trois Mec last week, omigod). Why would we go to wonderful restaurants on special occasions if it weren’t special? Try and imagine going to Paris and not having croissants, or Italy without pasta, or Thailand without pad Thai. Horrible, right? What’s next, a pill that makes us drunk without having to drink wine? (That’s already being developed, btw, kill me now.)

The fact is, food is so much more than just food- it’s an art form, a communal event, a celebration of life. If a bunch of nerdy tech guys want to stop eating it and simply drink their nutrients, by all means, let them have Soylent. But do not go around proclaiming the “end of food.” And if we truly are headed down that disturbing path, let’s call it what it really is: “the end of one of the great human pleasures.”