What do Hawaii, Indonesia, and Illinois Have in Common? Obama.

While other people go places because of meditation retreats, food, or beaches, I went to three distinct lands because I wanted to Eat, Pray, and Love my way into Obama’s childhood. That sounds so much creepier than I ever imagined, and is not true at all. Still, this year, I managed to spend time in places Obama lived while growing up (he also attended college in L.A. and NYC, both of which I have spent time in this year as well. Duh.), and here, now, I shall draw incredible comparisons.

-Because of his often varying stances on war, gay marriage, and rights, Obama has frequently been called a chameleon. In Hawaii, I found many a chameleon on my backyard.


-As a child, Obama learned in 6 months how to speak the main native language, Bahasa Indonesia. As an adult, I learned in 6 days how to eat Indonesia out of their national food supply.


-Barack and Michelle had their wedding in Chicago. This year, I photographed a wedding in Chicago.


-The islands of Hawai’i are pronounced “Huh-vie-ee” by pretentious people and locals. My favorite treat in Hawai’i is pronounced, “Lilikoi, strawberry, and pickled mango shave ice on ube ice cream, small please.”


-Obama was born in Hawaii. Not similarly, I was born in California.

-Throughout his career, Obama has received many signs threatening his efforts to improve our country. In Hawaii, I found awesome signs, like this one.


-As a young adult,Obama attended Occidental College in L.A. As a not-that-young-anymore adult, this spring in L.A. I occidentally overate my fill of petish, an Indian delicacy my friend Vic and I discovered years ago.


-Throughout his presidency, Obama has been about equal rights, no matter your gender, income level, or color. These chicks in Indonesia were not a natural color.


-Obama has tried for gun control, but after being thwarted at every attempt, it seems the government is slow-moving at best when it comes to recalling the second amendment, fighting for stricter gun laws, or changing the way our country fights such crimes. This Hawaiian turtle can’t even.


-In Indonesia, the country’s flag is red and white. My favorite color is green.

-While in NYC as a youngster, Obama became familiar with the city’s famous skyline. While in New Jersey as an oldster, I became familiar with the fact that Times Square is better enjoyed from far, far away.

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-Obama grew up in the gorgeous blue-green waters, deserts, mountains, and rainforests of Hawaii. This year, I got to live and photograph in the beautiful waters, rainforests, volcanos, and landscapes only Hawaii has. Note that I didn’t use apostrophes in “Hawai’i” this time ’round.


-As a child in Indonesia, Obama kept a pet ape called Tata. As an adult in Indonesia, I kept desiring a pet monkey but quickly abandoned the dream after 3 of my friends got bloody scrapes from these cute devils.


So thanks, Obama,



The Southwest vs. the Northeast: Obvious and Not-So-Obvious Differences



In the Southwest, folks frequently say canyon, rocks, and “gnarly outcroppings” to give a sense of scenery. Case in point: This slot canyon (above) near the Arizona/Utah border.

Conversely, in the Northeast, we frequently use words such as trees, forest, and ticks to describe the landscape. Example: This New York State lake in the height of spring (below):


This is what scholars would call a fairly obvious difference.

Other differences between these two regions of the USA, however, are not quite so apparent. Let’s go over a few.


-When I gamble in the Northeast (Mohegan Sun; Foxwoods), I almost always end up losing money—to the tunes of hundreds or even thousands of pennies.

-In Vegas, I’m able to make back ten times what I gambled!

Note: I used a sample size of one. Also, in Vegas, I gambled one dollar. My winnings didn’t even cover my Pad See Ew at dinner.



-In Arizona, locals enjoy deep-fried food such as Navajo Indian Frybread (below). They take something that already has zero nutrition, and proceed to fry it, then top the whole shebang with cinnamon, sugar, honey, fruit syrups, chocolate, and other calories.

-In New York, we would never serve food like that. We believe in frying things that are already bad for you. Any street festival will provide offerings such as deep-fried Oreos, deep-fried cheesecake, and bacon. Deep-fried (below). Photo by Victor Vic


-In California and any states in the Southwest, Mexican food is popular and delicious. Restaurants provide complimentary topping “bars” filled with delicious taco spreads such as salsas, veggies, hot sauces, and slaws.

-In New York, Mexican eateries are run by Chinese immigrants. No one knows why this is a thing, but it is. Besides, how else would you get #29—a Chinese bean curd soft taco served with peppers, onions, and Chinese hot sauce?


-In the Southwest, people are friendly.



-In New Hampshire, vehicles travel in groups of four. IMG_5846-LRsmall-logo-2

-Same thing in Utah, actually.



-In all of New England, there are multiple shades of green on trees, bushes, shrubs, grasses, river plants, and more.

-In California, there’s only one shade of green, and it’s sold at “medical” dispensaries.

Note: Keep the not-actually-ironic pity snickers to yourself.


-In California and Arizona, the sky is pink whether it’s sunrise, sunset, or in between.

-New Jersey is polluted. [photo redacted]


-In Arizona and Utah, lines are drawn by nature over time, and brought out in beautiful red-and-white sandstone.


-In New York City, no one knows where to draw the line–hence why we have park-wide pillow fights that result in many smiles and even more bruises.



-In Arizona, weather changes faster than 5,023 snaps of the fingers. The two photos below were taken while standing in the same place, but turned 90 degrees.

-In all of New England, we get approximately 5 months of snow and ice followed by 5 months of ridiculously hot summers. For a few weeks in between we usually celebrate spring and fall (below).


-What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

-What happens in Atlantic City is too depressing to even talk about.


In summation, you can see that these two distinct areas of our nation are different in remarkable ways. Whether it’s flora, friendliness, food, or more, we must celebrate our country’s amazing diversity. Next up: Rednecks of Arkansas vs. rednecks of Kentucky: Wal-Mart edition.

PHOTOS – Tennessee and Washington, D.C. Randomicity


Why did I go to Tennessee?
My friend and I, somewhat randomly, chose Tennessee for a unique winter adventure.
I bought the bus tickets.
Two weeks before the trip, my friend got a job.
I decided to go alone.
I met lovely people, ate a ton of food, saw weird things, and took mostly ugly photos of said weird things.
I then visited friends in D.C. and NY, went to several parties and food shows, and had an all-around great week. Minus the many shots with friends and food, here’s a bit of it.

Photo captions below, by number:

(1) The Minister’s Treehouse! This, I admit, was a big part of wanting to go down to Tennessee. It’s the world’s biggest treehouse, built by a man who heard God tell him to build and build and build. By himself, and over more than a decade (reports differ on this), he constructed this multi-story building from odds ‘n’ ends. It’s an incredible structure, though daylight was fading when we got there. Still, it was a dream come true since I love crazy places like this! Best of all, we were the only folks there, so we got to explore the place in the dark, alone, with the doors creaking open and slamming shut in the wind…

(2) I found out what this was, but it looks…well, you know what it looks like. Cassie, since you’re so great with signs, any great interpretations of this one?

(3) Oh yes, I always use my metal detector outside random homes that just so happen to be adjacent to sketchy little bail bond palaces.

(4) Ahhh, a respite from the weirdness.

(5) Whaaaa? Weird again!

(6) Hopefully this is a joke, but…

(7) …Maybe nothing around here is a joke? I frequently see people walking possums on cute leashes in NY, too.

(8) Caves on the Tennessee river.

(9) The Tennessee river, where one can have random conversations with random old fishermen on boats in the middle of the river.

(10) I started going into that cave but realized that if anything happened to me, no one would know where I was (or care).

(11) A cool abandoned rock quarry–Ijam’s. Those moss-covered boulders are much bigger than I am. View from inside the cave.

(12) View from a safer place on the bottom of the mountain. Each rock level there is much taller than I am.

(13) This should give you a better idea of how tall this quarry was. I’m pointing out the vultures, but my finger seems quite a bit off.

(14) The vultures.

(15) Dusk at the Minister’s Treehouse…gosh I love it!

(16) One of my favorite “haunted” shots.

(17) Now it all makes sense, right? This is the view from the near-top of the bell tower.

(18) A stained glass Jesus with Wendy behind it. Strangely, it was not located near the actual hidden pulpit in the center of the treehouse, but was placed randomly near a staircase.

(19) The crazy bell tower.

(20) The crazy wood lattice work from the ground, back view. There’s an 8-story-tall swing that lulls you to sleep, too. You really just have to go.

(21) The aftermath of an amazing Southern lunch at Chandler’s. Thank you, Wendy! We’d already eaten two servings of fried okra, two of fried green tomatoes (melt-in-yo’-mouth tomatoes), collard greens, and more. I felt deliciously sick.

(22) My favorite (and the grand prize winner!) of the U.S. Pastry Arts Competition. Held at the New York Restaurant & Foodservice Show. The theme: Cirque du Soleil.

(23) A beautiful dancer from the (free) NY Times Travel Show. She was pretty, but the event itsel is so…touristy. As in, come pay for a tour to see the (fake part of our) wonderful country!