Life on an Indiana Farm

Hi all!

Who knew that life in a small college town could have such a diverse and subversive counterculture? I didn’t, and I have spent years here (ouch!).

I recently became aware of a small artisan community that exists in town, artists who make a living by dying wool, composing music, growing produce, raising sheep, and so on. While I have searched all my life for a way to live a peaceful life that is consistent with my moral values and love for the world in which we live, finding real life examples has been hard on my life path. To be honest, I had not done a lot of “seeking these people out.”

Lately, however, the more I delve into the world of “art” the more the “art world” reaches out to me. Mutual attraction of beliefs and so on.

To the point!

I met a really cool guy who lives on a farm, recently. He was kind enough to show me his way of life, his lifestyle, and the benefits of farm life. The peace that I felt walking amongst the tall yellow winter grass, land that could be tilled one day for a harvest, which he intended to use as a grazing pasture for sheep, was a stronger force than I had reckoned. The rabbits, guinea fowls, and chickens he is raising felt like a giant flock of babies that would one day range free and sow more life. It was blessed. It was beautiful. I felt for the first time, how farmers could love to live on the land, working the earth with their hands day in and day out, tilling the soil, planting the crops, tending the crops, and the thankfulness of the harvest and the pleasure of surviving the incoming winter.

It was the most beautiful thing I have had the chance to experience in a while, notwithstanding my natural love of the forests and lakes that surround the town.

Afterwards, when I read “The Wild Birds” by Wendell Berry, I had greater understanding of the characters Berry so expertly weaves, depicting farm life in a changing environment that increasingly is drawn to the city lifestyle, away from the land. And, when I finished reading “The Man Who Quit Money” a day earlier, I also felt a similar exhilaration for living as one with nature, enjoying the journey and the harvest.

Thank you for letting me experience this! Is all I wish to say. Life on earth is truly awesome.

Chicago

Hello,

I’m going to share with you today my review about a wonderful 4-star hotel I had the pleasure of staying in on a recent short trip to Chicago last week. Called the Whitehall Hotel, it is nestled in Dearborn Street across from Bloomingdale’s, in a very convenient spot right off of Michigan Avenue. It’s a small hotel, fitting to the size of Chicago’s high-rises or European standards, but quite comfortable and soundproof, and the place was decorated in pleasant blue tones and brown shades. You get the feeling that this hotel has existed for decades from the 1960’s style furnishings in the room, which adds to the authentic Chicago flair.

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Since it is located so close to the major shops, it’s only a short walk from anything and everything you could possibly want to see in Chicago. If you walk south down Michigan Avenue, you will find the high-end clothing and shoe stores in Water Tower Place and on their own lining the streets. You’ll reach Wacker Drive and Trump Tower in about twenty minutes, and in another 10 will reach the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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Chicago has a lot to do, and of course you can pick and choose whatever you like. I highly recommend staying at the Whitehall Hotel if you want a comfortable stay in a classy neighborhood without a hefty expense (my overnight stay cost only $152, including $10 for 24-hour parking, which in Chicago, I consider a real deal).

As usual, all opinions are my own!

Top 10 Arts and Culture Destinations in Munich, Germany

“The city with a heart” as Munich is called, it is truly a small global city packed with roughly one million people. There is an old-world charm surrounding the capital of Bavaria; here, you can almost imagine you are a princess or prince stepping out of a fairy tale castle, as you walk about the cobble-stoned streets of this busy old-world place.

Inside the ballroom at Nymphenburg Castle
Munich is one of my favorite places in the world because it is so fairy-tale like and close to the Alps. While visiting Munich for the second time, also for three weeks (a good duration to see all the sights, and to take a few day trips to nearby towns as well), I’ve complied my top ten favorite tourist destinations.

Flying over Europe at night towards Warsaw, Poland
If you love art and history, Munich is a wonderful destination. In particular, my top 10 favorite places to visit:
1. The Residenz Museum
Situated in the square in downtown Munich, right next to Odeonsplatz, is the Muenchen Residenz. Inside, there are restored rooms and galleries upon galleries of paintings and furnishings from the Whittelsbach family’s old royal residence. Though the building was burned down, the interiors have been restored — behold, jeweled crowns and tiaras, old swords with gilt stones in their hilts, and winding rooms like a maze filled with rich colors and chandeliers from centuries past. My favorite place inside the Residenz? The Antiquarium, where the curved ceiling stretches from entrance to exit with rich frescos, and portraits in gilt frames and white busts line the room’s stone floors.

Inside the Munich Residenz
2. BMW Welt
Shaped like a new-age modern piece of art, the architecture of the BMW Welt is worth visiting, especially at night, when the twisted glass structure glows with a soft purple light outside, and inside, the cars gleam in the artificial lights. Any car lover will enjoy a visit to the BMW Welt, where small cars mix with new cars, and a range of models are displayed in a large, airy, two-leveled structure. Walking inside this place gives me the feeling of walking on the moon. Take a picture standing next to a car, or riding one of the large, super-fast-looking motorcycles. It’s free to browse inside the BMW Welt, but the car museum adjacent to it costs money if you want a guided tour.
Inside the BMW Welt
3. Neue Pinakothek
Who doesn’t love the famous painting of bright, cheerful sunflowers clustered in a simple urn by Vincent Van Gogh?
Print of Sunflowers by Vincent Van Gogh
You can see it in real life, with your own eyes, in the Neue Pinakothek, which contains galleries filled with collections of more “modern” painters. Situated in what I call, “Munich’s Art Neighborhood,” you can walk from the Neue Pinakothek to the Alt Pinakothek (where the “old” painters’ collections are displayed), to the Egyptian Museum, the Brandhorst Museum, and the Lenbachaus. Tip: go on Sundays to view art — most galleries (besides the Lenbachaus) can be viewed for 1 Euro.
4. Englischer Garten
Mother Nature’s art is often beyond compare, although art is in the eye of the beholder.
Walking through the Englischer Garten takes one back to an era long-ago, and transports the strollers, joggers, dog-walkers, and bicycler’s into the era of Jane Austen’s time. Imagine you are walking in the late 1800s in these natural gardens, which stretch along the Isar river on the east side of Munich. You can view large swans gliding like white apparitions in the evening darkness if you find the pond. Don’t expect to cover all of it in one go, however — like Central Park in New York, this city garden is really a large expanse of nature inside a concrete jungle.

Capturing the sunset on a bridge over the Isar
The Isar at sunset

5. Nymphenburger Schloss – “Castle of the Nymphs”

It’s hard to visit Germany and not visit an old palace.
This one looks like it comes straight out of a fairy tale, with a glittering ballroom inside the main palace that you can view when you tour the rooms, leading to galleries of the famous 30 beauties of Bavarian ruler Max Emanuel (his consorts). The main pavilion was completed in 1675 and the palace, itself, has been a favorite amongst Bavarian rulers for centuries. It is now a museum, and the immaculate gardens and acres of forest are open to visitors as well.
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Nymphenburger Palace
Nymphenburger Palace
Nymphenburger Palace
Inside the Nymphenburger Palace
A panorama view
Another view


6. Museum Brandhorst
It’s worth it to visit the Brandhorst museum if you want a glimpse into the hearts and minds of modern art and their creators. Although some of the collections will make you go, “huh?” the point is to expand you mind and appetite for creativity, so give it a go. I would recommend going on Sunday, however, when entrance is only 1 Euro, to avoid the feeling of buyer’s disappointment if you don’t like what you see. Modern art, is, quite often, intended to shock, after all.
A sign of the times.
Image of Cy Tombly’s paintings in Museum Brandhorst, from munchen.de
7. Staatsoper – Munich National Theatre
It is difficult to buy a ticket to the prized ballet performances at the Munich Staatsoper, so check a month in advance, to be safe. Performances take place in a round theatre with gilt rococo decorations all over the interior, and plush red seats. You can still grab a spot in the balconies for 7 Euros, if you can’t find a place to sit, but beware, the view is not as good because you are in the galleries. It is worth it, however, any way you can get in, because the dancers are excellent and the music is impeccable. Often, the ballets will be famous classics like “Swan Lake,” “Giselle,” or “Romeo and Juliet,” so if you go, you will be treated to a life-changing artistic experience. Dress up, because everyone else does, too.

At “Giselle”
View of the Munich National Theatre
Standing by Odeonsplatz
8. Pinakothek Moderne
If you love art, and want to consider yourself a snob, wander around the rooms of the Pinakothek Moderne (Museum of Modern Art). There, you will find large, blown up photographs from the 1970s of street-scenes in Canada, crumpled metal from scrapped cars stacked in strange sculptures, a display of old computers, chairs, a 1960s mod living room, and much more. The more traditional “paintings” are in there, as well, so if you feel flummoxed by the display of rectangular cabinets or the rug, or even perhaps the large “omelet” painting-display, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts with lush colors of rich tones depicting dark-skinned women bathing or dancing, and plenty of long-haired maidens bathing naked.
What’s not to love about being a painter?

Painting in the Museum of Modern Art
9. Marienplatz
Just walking through Marienplatz will transport you to the “old world.” However, it is also one of the best places to go in Munich to see old architecture — look at the Old Town Hall and the New Town Hall — and the Fraunkirche is right around the corner, look for the two tall towers (this gave English bombers directions during World War II, which is why, unlike most of rebuilt Munich, this church was not destroyed by fire bombs).
Of the many places that do not accept credit cards, you can still buy food at Hans im Glueck, which is a popular burger chain in Munich that also serves vegetarian burgers.

Munich dress code in winter — long down coat, jeans, and boots. The more designer, the better.
Expensive fur coats and leather gloves were common Munich dress a few decades ago

10. Viktualien Markt

Food is an art form in and of itself, and if you are not shy, you can wander the many stalls of spices, fruits, nuts, vegetables, meats, and breads to find samples of these tasty offerings. Of course, you might be tempted to buy some of the food, so bring some cash with you. Although Munich is a global world city, “nubar” or “cash only” is still quite a popular way for vendors transactions.
Fruits at Viktualien Markt

Bonus places:

Angel of Peace — It’s a little park with stairs leading up to a painted stone building with a tall golden statue of an angel near Munchener Freiheit.

Next to the Angel of Peace, photo by Raphael Weiss
Enjoy Munich! Remember the Lenbachaus is not 1 Euro on Sundays, and dress up for the ballet!

Louisville, Kentucky (the Indiana side)

Louisville at night, stock photograph
On the Ohio River at sunset

There is that rocking feeling.

It persists for several hours after stepping off the boat, but perhaps that’s why sailors drink so much — if you’re already a bit tipsy, you don’t really notice the side-to-side motion as much.

A friend of mine from college bought an as-is pontoon boat he’s fixing, and invited me to spend some time on his boat. I drove down to Louisville and was overjoyed to spend the day on the gently-rocking waves, with a grand view of the bridges and the city-line of Louisville nestled behind it across the river. We kayaked down the river and back, ate some really over-priced calamari and steak with potatoes at a restaurant (Flat 12 Bierworks) up the street with a beautiful view of the river from its outside patio, and watched some fun movies — King Pin and Frida (Frida was my pick). The next day, I explored around the neighborhood and walked into a novelty party store, a novelty card-trading shop, a small sweetshop (truly the definition of a corner bakery), and recharged my phone at took a rest at Too Tired, small, hipster-esque coffee shop. Life on a boat really isn’t that bad.

It’s fun, that is, until you start to miss running water and the solid ground of being on land.

To be honest, I really didn’t mind the rocking feeling, or get sea-sick, being one who loves being by the coast and seeing the gentle break of the waves to the shore. I love mountains and coastlines equally, but the four seasons are truly my favorite.

That’s getting off-topic. The point is, being on a boat is really fun — I can imagine what owning a yacht must be like from this short experience — and I would do it again.

Maybe, next time, in the Mediterranean, scuba diving and skinny dipping by day, and dancing and enjoying festivity at night.

Walking along the bridge
View of the Ohio River at night

Chicago – Holiday Jones Hostel

Chicago – a hostel recommendation

This is a hostel recommendation for anyone wanting to stay in Chicago for a few nights.

Since I have agencies in Indianapolis, Chicago, NY, LA, and Istanbul, I have had the chance to travel around. Since I am a young twenty-something, I don’t mind staying in hostels. They’re clean, fun, safe, and always low-cost.

I used to never stay in hostels until I stayed in my first one in Cologne when I was 20, and I realized how much I enjoyed the experience. There’s something really fun about meeting fellow travelers and hearing their stories and not spending a lot of money in isolation. While I don’t like being social 24/7, I do enjoy the energy of other interesting people, and those are usually the kind who stay in hostels.

Holiday Jones is a great place to stay, located in a central neighborhood in a safe, hip, youthful part of Chicago (Wicker Park, to be precise), and its other location, Urban Holiday Lofts, is equally as nice, and low-cost. They’re both super cheap if you get the dorm ($20-$25 a night), and it’s clean, quiet, and right where you need to be if you’re on business in Chicago. They have bagels, toast, milk, cereal, coffee, tea, peanut butter and jelly, and cream cheese — aka nothing special in the morning, but for those who don’t mind the simple food and are hungry, it’s perfect. It’s like a backpacker’s hostel in Europe in the nice districts of Chicago.

I give this place 5 stars — I’ve stayed at each location for a few nights, and both experiences were highly satisfactory. Best part is, there’s free street parking in the neighborhood.

Los Angeles, California #2

Just a quick recap of a brief four day trip out to Los Angeles. I visited some cool spots!

While I did have the chance to go on an adventure to Long Beach to shoot on the Queen Mary with highly interesting photographer I’ve shot with before (Kevin Weinert, if you want to check out his work), I mostly explored around Venice Beach, watching tennis pros play paddle tennis at the courts there, and going on a Vesper ride around LA with a young MBA student from Paris who was my age. We went to the Hammer Museum and up and around in the Palisades.

I wore this Ralph Lauren dress to the wedding

The real reason I spent a few nights at the Riviera with my brother was because it was my cousin’s wedding. It was a magnificent wedding, overlooking the coiffed green grounds of the Riviera Golf Club nestled in the heart of Los Angeles, and I was happy to have the chance to see her looking so radiant on her special day.

 

A beautiful day for a beautiful wedding at the Riviera

New York City, New York

Welcome to Manhattan!

New York City is so big, there’s a lot to see and do here, and you’ll always have a different experience depending on season and what you do here.

I’ve been to NYC twice, and had different impressions both times.

The first was in 2011, for a few days, when I stayed downtown in someone’s apartment for a few nights off of Airbnb. It was a cool location near the United Nations headquarters and I spent my days wandering around the city, going in and out of shops, museums, and enjoying Central Park, and at night, discovering different pale ales in Irish pubs.

The second time, in 2016, I went in April for a short two night stay. In my free time, I walked around downtown in Times Square, visited the Met, spent time in Central Park, and browsed the wares in the shops. It was nippy outside when I went, so I didn’t really wander around so much this time around.

NYC is expensive, so I don’t really recommend going here unless you want to spend some money going around, as nearly everything requires a fee. However, it is worth visiting, even if only for a few short days.

St. Louis, Missouri

Welcome to St. Louis!

 

Inside the photography studio where I did a couple shoots

It’s worth it to see the Arch as you drive in to the city, among other things. So cool!

While I didn’t spend more than a few days in St. Louis in 2016, I enjoyed the hours I spent here in this down-to-earth Midwestern city. I shot a few times with a photographer and his awesome make-up-artist, and loved both the pictures and the laid back vibe of this city. A place I’d like to spend more time in, St. Louis has a certain atmosphere that captures a sense of retro-chic.

If you’re wanting to take a short weekend trip, consider St. Louis. It’s a fun place to explore.
Just thought I’d mention it!

Red River Gorge, Kentucky

Clip in and climb on!

Red River Gorge is only an hour and a half – two hours away from Louisville by car, so if you’re there, it’s worth a day trip. You can hike, kayak, camp, etc. without having to climb. Since it’s a popular climbing spot, however, I’ll talk about that.

Lead climbing/top-rope climbing is one of my favorite sports, along with tennis and distance running, so after visiting the Gorge, I highly recommend it to others.

The Red River Gorge is a popular spot for lead-climbing enthusiasts to go test their skills on the real rock walls. I’ve had the pleasure of climbing here several times.
If you go to The Red, bring plenty of water, hiking shoes until you reach the pitches, some food (enough until to tide you over until the pizza at Miguel’s pizza/campsite), and if you’re looking for climbers, simply head over to Miguel’s, as that’s where most climbers camp and eat, anyway.

Other than that, bring chalk, as the sandstone is a delight to climb (it’s like velcro for your fingers and shoes), and a guide book. A lot of climbs are intermediate level (5.9-5.10 range) but a lot of them are advanced (5.11 and up) so the guide book will save you a lot of problems. Or, simply check out this website for Red River Gorge route information. Happy climbing!

All opinions are my own.

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles is the city of angels, Hollywood, palm trees, and most of the world’s source for celebrity entertainment and gossip. Also in Los Angeles is the Avenue of Stars, Griffith Park Observatory, Venice Beach, and the Dolby Theatre, and the Hollywood Sign. You can go into Downtown Los Angeles, or “DTLA” as it is called locally, to enjoy a drink or a dip atop the Ace Hotel downtown, walk around Chinatown, eat at its many restaurants, visit the large, modern, library, or explore the expensive high-end designer stores.

There is a wide variety of things to do in Los Angeles, you’ll have to pick what you want or just go with the flow. Sand and sun is a popular reason to visit, as the beaches are plentiful, with some really great ones to discover.

I do recommend visiting Malibu, for its spectacular beaches, especially El Matador, and its small luxury-resort community. Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway is always pleasant, except when there is traffic. Traffic in Los Angeles can be awful, with standstills for an hour during rush hour/after work in the mornings and evenings, or if there is a crash. Using an app will help you out if you have a smartphone.

It is hard to get around LA without a car, but Uber/Lyft/taxi services are so common, you won’t have a problem.

Los Angeles is an expensive city, however, so be prepared. You can get budget hotels/hostels from $30 a night for a dorm room and also 5-star luxury hotels in this city that will break the bank. Airbnb is popular, especially in Venice beach, for rentals close to the beach.

Good luck, enjoy LA, and take care!

All opinions are my own.