High, L.A. : How a Midwest Bae Spends Vacation

#TBT to February 11, 2015 when Chicago was a frigid bitch. Although, not nearly as frigid as he was last year, or the year before. While wrapped up snugly on the couch in a microfiber blanket, I was exhaustively scrolling through my Facebook feed in an eerie, zombie-like state. My cold, lethargic existence exploded to life when a blurb from Yelle caught my attention.


I knew if I didn’t escape Chiberia imminently I was going to jump off the Sears Tower. Luckily, I had been thinking about taking a trip to California for some time. To force the procurement of a plane ticket, I did the sensible thing and purchased a pair of tickets to see Yelle in Los Angeles for April 10th. To you 365 days/year warm-climate dwellers, yes, Chicago is still cold (and sometimes snowing!) in April. The following afternoon during my lunch break, I researched and purchased the cheapest, week long, April tenth-ish American Airlines ticket I could find (rackin’ up them miles, nigga). $326 later, the countdown to Los Angeles had begun. I booked a premium car through Hertz and, due to the copious amount of points I accrued, only paid $10 for a week.


Wednesday April 8th (Day 1): After parking the car next to a homeless man peeing in broad daylight on an electrical box, I began walking toward The California Market Center for the LA Men’s Market (@LAMENSMARKET), a bi-annual men’s trade event in downtown LA.

On the way, a cube-shaped building advertising coffee caught my attention. The Classic Coffee, located at the corner of Main Street and 9th Street, is hands-down the most inviting coffee spot I’ve ever visited. Floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, dozens of hanging wall plants, and a multi-tiered wooden bench smothered in pillows ask patrons to hang around for awhile and soak up the sun and a good conversation with their caffeine. By the time I finished my latte, my bearings were secured and my excitement for LA Men’s Market (partnered with the caffeine rush) was in full swing.

I headed across the street to the thirteen-story building where the event took place. Little did I know, it was on the top floor — nice. It was glorious…I’m not typically into streetwear, but if I were to be swayed, this event pushed me over the edge. Two notable brands on which to keep an eye are Native Shoes (www.nativeshoes.com) and STIKELEATHER Apparel (www.stikeleatherapparel.com).

IMG_0014Native Shoes’ Apollo Moc collection serves a Nike Roshe Run vibe, but with super lightweight materials and a more unique design. These airy and comfortable kicks will be available F/W 2015.

Next, STIKELEATHER has developed a fresh take on modern, well-fitting blazers, baseball tees, and asymmetrical crews with — get this — completely invisible magnetic closures embedded in the fabric. Despite their muted color pallet, these fresh designs really make a statement. Did I buy anything? No. I was saving money for (legal) California weed.

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SPEAKING OF WEED, little did I know that almost everyone in California has a prescription for “medical” marijuana. After leaving the Market and stopping by Venice Beach, my friend hooked me up with three fat, pre-rolled joints from a dispensary. It only takes me two hits to get blasted — how in the hell can I finish these in 6 days?!

IMG_0191Thursday April 9th (Day 2): Located on the north-side of Hollywood, Runyon Canyon is a collection of 1.65, 2.65, and 3.25 mile hiking trails. It draws the attention of runners, yoga-enthusiasts, and (if you follow @lukeaustinphotosthe3rd on Instagram) the sexiest, shirtless gay men known to man. Before arriving, I didn’t know what to expect — I was wearing green-khaki shorts, a heavy, mesh, long-sleeved shirt, and a light-cotton floral blazer. As I approached the base of the shortest hill, I knew I was in for some sweat and stank. I removed the victory joint from my blazer and tied it around my waist. Time to climb.

The view from the top of the peak is absolutely incredible. Looking south showcases all of Los Angeles in its seemingly flat glory. Looking north reminds you of your five-figure salary, as every home is >4000 sq. feet and built into the side of a mountain.

Noticing a few Filipinos playing with a selfie stick a few clicks away, I approached them and joked, “I left my selfie stick at home — would you mind taking a photo of me?” The young woman was really nice, and even added a third-party camera lens to my phone to take a better picture. “I’m really fascinated by iPhone photography,” she says. After capturing dozens of pictures, I mentioned I was visiting from Chicago for the week. Her and her friends suggested restaurants, coffee shops, and other neighborhoods to explore. I was smitten by such generosity — I regret not asking for their contact information. Life of a Cancer…
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After making it back down the hill, I pulled out and smoked half of my now soggy joint on the way back to my rental car. For the rest of the day I explored the mansions in Beverly Hills and walked around a few shops in Melrose. A particularly elegant coffee  house, called Alfred Coffee and Kitchen (http://www.alfredcoffee.com), was recommended by my new Runyon friends. It’s quiet, but a little on the expensive side (a salad wrap and 16oz iced chai was about $18). BUT, the clientele looks like a million bucks — I was eye-fucking everyone.

I rounded out my evening exploring the mansions along Carmelita Avenue in Beverly Hills. Nothing instills more paranoia than smoking a joint while passing Aston Martins and Rolls Royces parked casually on the street.

When night fell, I drove up to Griffith Observatory to capture a glimpse of the glowing city under a black sky.

Friday April 10th (Day 3): Today was a special day for two reasons: First, the initial reason I came to L.A. was upon me — Yelle performing @ The Roxy. Second, an iconic day for one of the most influential organizations in the world — pre-orders begin for Apple Watch. While spending hundreds of dollars on another device that will take my attention away from humans and nature and the “real world” isn’t necessarily the most economical or emotionally-present decision I could make, it’s a decision I made for two key reasons.

First, it is an iconic fashion piece. Despite what Editor-in-Chief Nilay Patel and his colleagues at The Verge say about the Watch, this is the most highly anticipated, customizable piece of wearable technology to ever exist. Infinitely customizable watch faces, six new bands in an array of colors patented and built by Apple, and the potential for an unlimited number of third-party bands make this device acquirable and appealing to all ages, body types, and genders. Despite the millions of dollars I assume the company has spent on advertising, they knew what they were doing when they built a camera viewfinder for your iPhone into the Watch. #FreeAdvertising.

Second, I’ve never purchased or owned an expensive timepiece. I know what some of you are thinking….WHY WOULD YOU SPEND HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS ON A “WATCH” THAT WILL BE OBSOLETE IN THREE YEARS? It’s simple. Every watch I’ve ever owned (I’ve owned about 10) has cost between $50 and $100. When the battery dies after 3-4 years, not once have I ever replaced it. Sure, If I did replace the battery, I would wear them for many years to come. However, fashion and taste and aesthetic tend to change and develop as I age and I experience new things. For 3 or 4 or 6 or whatever years, I can customize Apple Watch with different bands until a new watch is released. Spending $500-1000 on a revolutionary piece of technology every few years is nothing considering we “upgrade” our things – shoes, cell phones, computers, jewery, etc. – all the time. I’ll wager that most of the people criticizing people purchasing an Apple Watch versus a Rolex spend more money replacing their PCs than us “iSheep” do replacing or beloved Apple devices.
Before the Apple store opened, I stopped by Marmalade Cafe to grab some salmon and poached-egg goodness. To prevent being late for my Watch try-on appointment, I scarfed my meal in about fifteen minutes and ran over to the store. Although they didn’t have the exact color/model I wanted to try-on, I knew in my soul which one to buy. July cannot come soon enough.
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Come nightfall, I called an old college buddy and invited him to see Yelle (I always buy two concert tickets, just because). While waiting for him to arrive, I walked around West Hollywood and finished joint number one. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing it feels to publicly smoke and enjoy marijuana without anxiety of being arrested. Hey, rest of the U.S., can you catch up, please?

Yelle was amazing — funny, engaging, and full of life. Her performance was perfectly planned and curated, including selfies with the audience, bongo drum solos, choreography with the drummers, and a meet-and-greet after the show. I haven’t purchased band merchandise in a long time, but this was an easy decision. If you’ve been dying for electronic, out-of-this-world beats with french vocals, check out her SoundCloud. I had never heard her opening band, Seattle-based “HIBOU”, but their electric guitar, west-coast vibe, and hot-as-shit bandmates are definitely worth checking out.
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Saturday April 11th (Day 4): People who know me personally know my wardrobe consists of three primary colors: Black, gray, and brown. As I scroll through my Instagram feed from the Winter months, most of my photos have a very clear ominous tone, even if the content or subject is positive. Today was perhaps my favorite day of the entire trip, as it popped my winter-woe cherry and allowed me to embrace color and warmth for the first time this year.

I began at Santa Monica pier, enjoying the sounds of children laughing and talented singers and musicians entertaining and gracing us. A bit crowded up-top, I escaped the boardwalk to walk along the beach, smoking joint number two and allowing the sound of the crashing waves to break away the armor I built during Chicago’s winter months. After finding the most attractive man sitting alone in the sand, I sat close enough to ogle behind sunglasses but far enough away to disguise my lurkiness. I sat for about 45 minutes, silent, eyes closed, high as a fucking kite, thinking, “Is this real?” Officers circling the beach in dune-buggies, a collection of kite-enthusiasts flying dozens of kites, rollerbladers whizzing past — I was enamored. Furthermore, the condos lining the sand were like nothing I’ve ever seen. One had a yellow-spiral staircase reminding me of slides I frequented as a child. One building was white, structured, with floor-to-ceiling windows sitting boldly like a miniature White House. One was a bold orange, flashing symmetry from all angles. I was half tempted to knock on each door and ask if I could be a live-in nanny/sex-slave — anything to see (and stay) in those condos!
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Sunday April 12th (Day 5)
: I woke up early today to go to church. Just kidding. Do people still do that? I woke up early to get some writing done, as well as spend some time at Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard — the world’s largest independent record store. Imagine two stories and about ten-thousand square feet of vinyl, posters, DVDs, CDs, and LaserDiscs (yes, LaserDiscs). I spent about 15 minutes walking around with the new album from Lapalux, Lustmore, until realizing my port-less and driverless MacBook won’t eat the damn disc. I downloaded the album later when I returned to my Airbnb (I recommend you do the same). Soon after, I went to Starbucks and awaited the arrival of my old college friend. We roamed the touristy part of Hollywood Boulevard, dodging local thugs asking if we “had a cell phone to check the time” (literally, we crossed the street to avoid them). While helping me finish joint number two, I took my friend a bit north to explore unfrequented hills. “I love this shit,” he says. I wouldn’t normally come over here, but this is really pretty.” If anyone ever wants to walk until your legs feel like they’re going to fall off, hit me up.
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After a long day of exploring, I said goodbye to my friend, went back to my loft, started joint number three, and passed out.

Monday April 13th (Day 6 – The Finale): At some point when I first arrived to the city, I passed a charming hotel with a diner on the first floor on the corner of 6th Street and Normandie Avenue (so charming, in fact, I pulled off to the side of the road to compose a note of its location in my phone). With sore legs and a groaning belly, I decided to head over to what I learned was Normandie Hotel, and its sister restaurant Cassell’s Hamburgers. One of the baristas (whose name escapes me now, sadly) was very sweet and beautiful — so much so that I asked if I could take her portrait. She didn’t feel comfortable being in a picture alone taken by a stranger (I don’t necessarily blame her), but she agreed to be in one with me. After our quick photoshoot, I went back inside and had brunch, followed by an experimental chai blend from my new friend, on the house.
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Years spent lusting over others’ pictures of towering street lights led me to The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Unfortunately, my dumb ass parked in a two hour zone a sizable distance away, so I felt hurried throughout my exploration. Hell, I could have easily spent two hours outside the museum worshiping the sky-scraping rock resting upon an underground walkway, the top of the building shaped like origami, stabbing the sky, and the shower of yellow, licorice-like strings hanging from the sky.
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I walked briskly as I entered the museum, quickly skimming the directory for exhibits that would appeal to me. I’m not a connoisseur of art by any means, nor do I have a particular favorite artist. However, after years of watching Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego (in the first episode of the series, The Stolen Smile, she travels around the world to steal facial-features from different pieces — eyes from Van Gogh, a nose from Picasso, and the mouth from the Mona Lisa), seeing a Picasso in real life was a very emotional moment. So much so that I risked being thrown out (or yelled at, at the very least) capturing a photo of one of his pieces. My favorite exhibit, Islamic Art Now: Contemporary Art of the Middle East, is the first of its kind at the museum. “Technology Killed Reality, 2013”, captured by interior/fashion designer turned photographer Abdullah Al Saab, displays a beautiful woman ignoring publications and other pieces of art to instead take a selfie. This concept isn’t new, especially in the Western world, but it is captured in a much more powerful and iconic fashion.
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As my final day came winding down, I couldn’t leave L.A. without getting my Pretty Woman on. Rodeo Drive was calling my name. I did a lap around some mansions to smoke 75% of my final joint, then headed over to the strip. I didn’t want to stay long, as my wallet was screaming “STAAAAAHHHHHHP”, but I did stop in Chanel to remind myself of how poor I am. A blouse for $3,000? Is this real life? As I continued to mosey, I came upon a bright, beautiful courtyard surrounded by a slew of restaurants and shops. I stopped at Sweet Beverly and ordered the most delicious banana, strawberry, and blueberry parfait I’ve ever consumed. It was $9, of course — which is probably the cheapest thing in Beverly Hills.
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As the sun began to set, I found myself driving to Silver Lake for one final nature-loving moment. The roads inclined at least 45 degrees, and were no doubt the cause of many “check engine” lights on residents’ vehicles. I climbed an iconic staircase to the top, sat on the stoop of one of the mansions, and watched the sun set as I took a few more hits of the joint.
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As a final hoorah, I took the train downtown to La Cita Bar for the weekly Mustache Mondays dance party. (Rather, I got on the train then waited 20 minutes for it to begin working. Some advice: Just Lyft, y’all — NEVER take the train in L.A.) It was perfect timing, as one of my favorite Instagram celebrities and Moschino brand ambassador, @Mazurbate, was DJing. I finished my final joint (R.I.P, legal weed) before approaching the bouncer, and went inside to some poppin’ ass Rasta beats, followed by #BBHMM. When I’m alone, it takes a few drinks for me to go from zero to one-hundred. In this instance, it only took two gin and tonics and I was at about one-hundred-fifty. The crowd around me was clearly surprised at my sudden urge to dance, as I had spent the first hour lurking, sipping my cocktail, and holding onto my purse. Within an instant, I corralled the people around me to follow suit. A girl approached me, saying how much she loved my moves. We instantly became friends. A dancer turned DJ, she told me that if I ever come back to L.A. and want to learn and grow from “some of the best”, she’s got my back. We exchanged Instagram handles and danced together the rest of the evening. At closing time, I took a Lyft back to the loft and prepared for my departure the following afternoon.

The warmth, as it burns the skin and inspires and puts anxiety to rest, is no substitute for the grind. It is slow — the city, it is slow. Almost too slow. Traffic moves constantly, its pace at crawl MPH. Stoned bodies smile, with sticky gums. They write, act, and talk about writing…acting. What are you working on? My audition is tomorrow. Are you in film? Advertisements loom. Homeless friends ask politely for a dollar while Six-figures worth of aluminum and pistons and leather line lavishly the perfectly-paved streets. The waves wash away worry, each breath a new hue of pleasure. Unforgettable.

Welcome to Hollywood.


Common Courtesy for Twenty-Somethings.

Whether or not your parents/caregivers planned your existence, the life-lessons they instilled within you were their way of saying, “please, don’t grow up to be douchebag, and try to make the world a better place.” I’ll always remember the things my mother taught me just before starting kindergarten in 1993:

Always hold the door for others.

Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.”

Look people in the eyes when they’re speaking to you.”

Don’t fuck men, because you’ll go to hell.

I ignored the latter piece of advice at age 16 in the middle of a field with a blonde named Tommy…but, the first three remain very much ingrained in my DNA, as will they in my children (if I have any.) Despite the twenty-two years that have passed since receiving my mother’s advice, they, along with countless others (“always use your turn signal, don’t litter, rinse your dishes after a meal if you’re going to leave them in the sink”), will forever show those watching you that you’re a considerate human being.

As technology continues its rapid trajectory of dominating every aspect of our lives, it’s important for millennials to recognize that, without proper coaching, our children are going to be socially awkward, self-centered robots who think saying “bless you” after someone sneezes is an urban legend. In order to protect the notion of integrity, here are seven Standards of Courtesy (SOCs) we need to set (or reset) for ourselves and future generations:

Yes, some over-confident bikers weave in and out of traffic while on their cell phone and cut you off, instilling hatred and rage. However, slamming into you, your vehicle, or vice versa at +/- 25mph can be fatal. If parking on a busy roadway, look in your side-mirror before opening your car door. For you small-town folk who still yell, “GET OUT OF THE ROAD! BIKES ARE MEANT FOR THE SIDEWALK!!”, please school your fucking self.

Or dancing, or shitting, or driving, or working. Your company thinks you’re rude. If you want to be somewhere else, try planning your day a bit better and decide that prior to meeting for a meal. Plus, your constant need to scroll through Instagram on the shitter has smothered your phone in poop particles, which I don’t want near my utensils.

With instant access to almost everything — a ride, your man-crush living in Australia, a glitter bomb — people expect everything NOW. As self-satisfaction and impatience becomes more prevalent in our society, composure and “customer service” — that is, for example, smiling at a customer who asks to “speak to a white-employee instead of a black one” — are critical traits to retain. Instead of bitching at an AT&T representative over the phone or sending a shitty text message to your roommate for not cleaning up after a party, SPEAK, out loud, in-person, to someone in order to make a change. If you don’t have the confidence to treat someone to their face, you shouldn’t be treating.

As millennials count more and more on ride-sharing to get to and from work and play, it’s easy to forget that you are riding in a complete stranger’s vehicle. Doing your makeup in the visor mirror? Wipe your glossy hands on your own clothes before touching anything else. Carting a new piece of furniture? Take it out delicately to avoiding scratching the paint. And please, please, if you feel like puking, say something sooner rather than later.

As much as I like to think the constant stream of information in my News Feed is intrusive, I’m starting to realize just how much entertainment, news, communication, and education I consume through Facebook. I don’t remember the last time I sent a mass text to all of my friends and family telling them, “Hey! Let’s boycott Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act!” or “Here’s how you can help prevent more trans-people from dying.” With over one billion users, your post may just start a revolution.

This oldie but goodie needs revisiting (especially for Chicago drivers.) The further to the left you are on a multi-lane highway, the faster you should be going. If you’re in the left-most lane and the car behind you is quickly approaching, get the fuck over and stay there ASAP.

Not Yours
Yes, I did just take a picture of you. Yes, I will send it to you when I’m done editing it. Do not, while you’re drunk, grab my $950 iPhone out of my hand without my god damn permission. Hey, HEY! What did I just say?! I’m cropping you out of the photo. Byeeeeee.

With a little common sense, we can help protect the future from assholes.

What new (or legacy) life lessons continue to shape who you are today? Sound off in the comments.


A Club Kid’s Guide to Saving.

Save Money

Besides my work managers and HR representatives, not a single person knows how much money I make at my job. You know why? Because I fucking hate money. I hate talking about money. I hate obsessing over it. I hate how much of an impact is has on establishing a human connection. In our current Tom Ford, $1,000 Beyoncé concert ticket, and Tesla-obsessed culture, it is almost impossible to forget about money and live a humble life of frugality. Anyone with nothing wants something, and everyone (myself included) with something wants more ― a lot more. Americans continue to spend more money than they save or, even worse, spend money they don’t even have. What do we do?

When I moved to Chicago in November of 2011, I had just finished a four-year Bachelor’s program at Indiana University. My only major assets were a four-year old MacBook and a 1995 Ford Taurus. That’s it – my life “savings”. My physically-disabled mother, whose primary source of income was a meager monthly stipend from the government, supported me financially throughout my childhood and provided all of life’s essentials (food, clothing, a place to live, and love.) As soon as it was legal for me to acquire a job at the age of 16, I started working at Taco Bell after school and during weekends. It was tough to sacrifice my free time and neglect friends and loved ones in order to buy and pay for auxiliary items and non-essentials like my first car and insurance, a cell phone and its resulting monthly bill, clothes, and other items my friends’ parents bought for them (some of them still do!) Saving money was nowhere on my to-do list. With whatever money I had leftover, I became more of a social butterfly ― going out to eat and to the movies more often, buying gifts, taking road trips, and experiencing a life I was finally able to afford.

When I got to college, the concept of saving money became even more difficult. My admirable academic standing alongside my family’s financial situation (or lack thereof) prompted a nice surprise from my school councilors: a connection to a non-profit organization that would pay my entire tuition at any four-year university in Indiana. “Holy shit, thank the stars.” I did, however, still have to pay for other essentials like textbooks, rent, and utilities, as well as my cell phone bill, car insurance, and gas, whose costs seemed to rise and rise as time went on. This was also the time I received my first, second, third, fourth, and fifth credit cards, which quickly racked up a considerable amount of debt those first three years. As a full time student who also worked at least 30 hours a week to make ends meet, I started realizing how scary and stressful debt can be ― I also started thinking about my family’s finances and how a lack of a financial cushion really put stress and worry on my mother all those years. We rarely went out to eat as a family. We had never taken a family vacation. Hell, I didn’t fly on a plane until I was 23 ― we just couldn’t afford it. One day, while sitting at a computer configuring new cars and pricing out tentative trips on the web I knew I could never afford to take, I decided to make a change. I told myself, “You will NEVER wonder where your money is coming from or worry about buying things you want or need. Pay off your debt and save, NOW. It’s time to start building your future.”

So, I did. Since I always paid my credit card bills on time, my credit worthiness began to rise ― quickly. It was rather intriguing to build financial savvy as I opened-up new credit accounts while transferring my existing, interest-accruing debt to new accounts which enticed me with their “zero-interest for a year” promotions. As I moved my debt around and maintained my credit worthiness by paying the monthly-minimums (doing this does not negatively impact your credit score), I simultaneously opened and supplemented a savings account. Despite knowing my net worth (ASSETS minus DEBT) would have remained the same if I had simply paid off my credit cards first, seeing a tangible and growing amount of cash I could touch and spend only encouraged me to pay off my debts faster. By the time I graduated and moved to Chicago a year-and-a-half later, I had considerably less credit card debt and my first ever savings account, which contained $3,200.

Exactly one year later near the end of 2012, two months of which were spent without a job, my savings account had surpassed $5,000 and my remaining $3,500 of credit card debt had dropped to $0. I know I know ― as we read through magazines advertising seven-figure homes or discussing multi-billion dollar company acquisitions, those numbers may not seem like a lot. For some perspective, I lived on no more than $150 a month for almost a year in order to pay off my debts and build my savings. Although Chicago is not the most expensive city by any means, it’s mind boggling to think about it today, as it is sometimes difficult now to get through a week without spending $150. But, it was what I needed. I needed to be debt free. With three years of spending and saving in the Windy City under my thrifted belt, I am still an avid saver ― but I found a much healthier and more satisfying balance between what I now consider hoarding my money and thoughtlessly buying things I do not need. In addition to my high-yield savings account (which, due to a recent vacation to San Francisco, is quite thirsty), I also have health and dental insurance, a 401K, and I recently invested five-figures in the stock market.

As I mentioned previously, I hate speaking of money. Frankly, it is no one’s business, and people who openly discuss their finances are typically arrogant, rich assholes who use money to supplement a lack of feelings, emotions, and relationships. But, I truly care about your financial independence, and the aforementioned data from my past helps build a picture about what is truly possible. Even if your employer doesn’t provide financial benefits or incentives, don’t fret! You work hard for your money, and only you can decide and control how to grow or deplete your funds. Here are seven additional ideologies that will minimize your debt, maximize your savings, and make you feel fucking fabulous:


Eating out is eating your money. Fast.
I’ll admit it: I am guilty of being a slave to Starbucks’ sugary crack-drinks, made and handled with love by their friendly Baristas. Additionally, After a solid two years of bringing my lunch to work every single day, I have since stopped, as the convenience of ordering pad-see-ewe from the Thai restaurant next door has rendered the grocery store useless. Totaling around $14/day, five days a week, that equates to $280 a month spent on food and coffee. This, of course, doesn’t account for my days off, which could easily be another $15/day (at least) spent going out to eat. This brings my monthly total to roughly $415 a month.

Now, consider the alternative: Spending $50 on groceries can easily last more than a week, sometimes two, as long as your portions are under control and you are buying the right items at the right time (for example, try not to buy a ton of parishable items that will spoil before having a chance to eat them). Getting into this routine saves $130 a month, or over $1,500 a year.


Brick-and-mortar banks are so 20th century.
Going to the bank is and always has been annoying as all fuck. I usually have to stand in line for what feels like hours, the hidden fees pop-up unexpectedly (I believe banks charge you each time you take a Dum Dum from the bowl at the counter), and the Representatives try to “upsell” you, offering credit card and other promotions which, despite not needing, you signed up (and are now paying) for. In 2012, I registered for Simple™, an online-only bank with no branch locations whatsoever. Their app, which I access on my iPhone, has built-in money management tools that are easy to use. Additional features include quick feedback to and from customer support via messaging in the app, thousands of conveniently-located ATMs throughout the United States, and the ability to transfer money to/from external accounts in a timely manner. Because they have no brick-and-mortar stores to maintain, they offer their services free of charge.

I am in the process of transfering my Chase™ savings account to an online savings account with Discover™. Since Discover also does not have any branches, they are able to offer this account free of charge while offering a significantly higher interest rate than Chase (.85% vs .01%). Although this option eliminates the idea of accessing quick cash in the moment, you are able to transfer money out of the account six times a month without incurring a charge. Paired with Simple’s in-app budgeting tools, it’s easy to setup a makeshift “rainy-day fund” within your Simple account if you’re ever in a pickle.


Being chauffeured is glamorous ― and cheap.
I love cars. I have loved them since I was a teenager. Coming from humble beginnings and always driving around ten-year-old shit-beaters, my goal throughout high school and college was to one day buy a brand new car that no one else has used. However, the cost of ownership, especially in a city like Chicago (time wasted in gridlock traffic, parking tickets, more maintenance caused my dings and dents, the pay-to-park requirement almost everywhere — in addition to gas and insurance), can easily account for thousands of dollars spent per year. The alternative, taking public transportation and taxi services such as Lyft, eliminates the hidden-costs associated with having a car, as well as reduces the stress and anxiety of owning and maintaining a vehicle. I still hope to one day own a car that is mine, but I will buy one pre-owned that came off someone else’s lease, as they are typically better maintained, have lower-mileage, and are significantly more affordable than a brand new one.


College is a career path, NOT a post-high-school path.
America’s education system is built upon a foundation which requires scholarship recipients and expects all other students to to immediately attend a university upon high school graduation. Unfortunately, I didn’t know what the fuck I wanted to do when I finished high school. And I’m not alone. It’s no surprise that in 2012, job-placement firm Adecco found that over sixty percent of U.S. college graduates were working in a job outside their “chosen” profession. Some people argue that the jobs just weren’t there, but that’s hogwash. It is impractical to expect an eighteen year old high school senior with no true experience in the real world to know exactly what he or she really enjoys doing, or how to utilize those passions in order to be successful. Instead of our leaders and mentors encouraging teenagers to gain real-world experience through internships or real work, society pushes them into tens-of-thousands of dollars of college loans and debt, offering empty promises of “unparalleled experiences” or a “successful life” after college. Those sixty percent of graduates working outside their field are doing so because they were pushed on a path, realized it wasn’t right, then settled into whatever job was available so they could reestablish what they want and defer their loans as long as possible. I am not working in my “field” ― however, my two-and-a-half years at my current job has offered more insight, business acumen, and deep human connections than the four years I spent in college. If you or someone you know didn’t attend college or dropped-out, don’t be discouraged. Spend time out of your comfort zone and determine what you love ― your passions will bring you more happiness and success than a $50,000 college bill will.


Frappa-latte-cinno? How about a simple coffee.
To reference my first point, eating out is costly. Every time I order a Grande-Mocha from Starbucks and see my total ($4,59), a part of me wants to beat the shit out of myself for falling victim to the cult of high-priced coffee beverages. for those of us who drink coffee daily, we can save $90 a month by purchasing a standard coffee instead of a froo-froo-frap or specialty drink. Additionally, so many coffee-houses offer loyalty reward programs that offer free drinks on certain days, or after you spend a certain amount of money. Do yourself and your wallet a favor and save the fancy drinks for those “free” days.


It’s okay to say “no” to your friends.
Being a social butterfly is great and all, but it is important to know when your body and budget need a break. I was recently out at a cocktail lounge with a few friends for my birthday. One of them, who tends to get drunk, forgetful, and way too generous too quickly, spent about $100 on drinks that night, then went home around 4AM and spent her night over the toilet. We’ve all been there, yes, but the idea of spending that much on something that not only do we forget, but ends up making us feel like shit is a little ridiculous. Nightlife is expensive. Of course, you don’t want to be a recluse ― alone in your apartment on a Friday night (unless you’re a Cancer =D) ― but spending $100 a week on alcohol will soon put you in a shared living space at the YMCA or, more realistically, in an awkward relationship with your housemates, because you can’t afford your rent. Your friends will still love you if you take a night off from partying, your liver will leave a chocolate on your pillow the next morning, and you’ll smile when you look at your bank statement and realize no money was spent between Saturday and Monday.


Put the Michael Kors back on the hook, breathe, and think.
As a Jew, I thank the lord regularly for making me a cheap bastard. As a fashionista, it is difficult for me to “window-shop”, as there is always some deal flashing in my face. Inversely, buying a $250 purse certainly turns my shitty day into a fantastic one (until the jew-guilt kicks in). When I’m in a store and find something I like, I’ll walk around with it for awhile to seek out something similar that is more affordable, both in the store, and using my phone to browse Amazon, Zappos, etc. During my walk of guilt, I also think backward and forward in time, asking myself, “When was the last time you bought an item like this?” and, “If you buy this now, will you be able to afford groceries or that trip to Six Flags in two weeks?” 95% of the time, the purse or the pair of shoes I’m holding ends up back on the shelf. There are, of course, occasions for which I have saved and planned ahead; still, I almost never pay full-price. People’s jaws drop to the floor when they see my outfit and learn I only paid $40 for the entire ensemble. Thrift stores can seem overwhelming, I know, but spending an hour rummaging through all the unique pieces versus ten minutes in a department store can easily save you hundreds of dollars per visit. It’s okay to treat yourself once in awhile, but spend five extra minutes researching prices, and hell, use the money your thrifty ass just saved to buy a matching accessory.


Purses, Pussies, and Progress.

Do you remember the last time someone around you said something so degrading — so dehumanizing, that the only reasonable reaction was to spit in their face? Okay, I realize the utter hypocrisy of that reaction…but, anyone born into a family that promotes hate and bigotry and continuing to actively pursue these practices typically doesn’t listen to reason, respond to debate, or seek to understand someone else’s struggle. As a gay, half-black, Jewish man who walks the streets carrying a purse and wearing “women’s” clothes and jewelry, it is impossible for me to avoid stares, shouts, and denial of rights from my human counterparts. In fact, these oppressors take pleasure in the rising volume of the oppressed victim’s voice as he or she attempts to defend their human rights. He grins, evilly, as he calls you a “fatass”. A “nigger”. A “faggot”. He has no reason to align with or understand your feelings because he doesn’t have to. His 150-pound frame is never judged. His ability to walk into a department store and purchase every outfit he tries on is certainly not condemned or judged. Kissing his girlfriend in public, while perhaps making hopeless-romantics jealous, does not inspire disgust or riots by bible thumpers.

A few nights ago, my friends and I celebrated a colleague and friend’s twenty-third birthday, as well as her new job at prominent publication in Chicago. We started our night at Blue Frog’s Local 22 (www.local22chicago.com), indulging in spicy wings and a few of their numerous local brews. I tried Ale Syndicate’s Municipal India Pale Ale — a floral, hoppy, yet light-tasting IPA which, after one, had me feeling quite hoppy myself. After paying our tabs separately (thank Buddha/Allah/Jesus, a fucking restaurant that doesn’t bitch and moan about splitting the tab), we decided to stop by “El Hefe Chicago”, a nearby nightclub, to dance and enjoy some margaritas. Unfortunately, my six friends and I never made it past the front door.

As we approached, still airy and lighthearted from the drinks prior, we noticed a line forming outside the door— the bouncer wasn’t letting anyone inside. Some guy, wearing sunglasses at 9pm (I will refer to him from hereon out as “douchebag”), was in an argument with the bouncer. The bouncer, clearly fuming, looks at douchebag and says, “I don’t care where you come from or how much fucking money you have. I could get the manager and see if an exception can be made, but frankly, I don’t think I’m going to do that because of how you came at me.” Douchebag, looking at his posse and laughing, unfazed by the denial of entry, demanded the manager anyway, holding up the line as we all wait patiently to continue our fabulous evening. After a few moments, a big burly man appears from inside. He looks at douchebag’s friend, whose sweatpants were in violation of their dress code. “Is this your entire party? Just you guys?” His “party” consists of two men and two women who, clearly embarrassed by the progression of events, were standing arm-in-arm far enough behind the douchebag to avoid association if a passerby were to look-in on the situation. They had clearly only been friends with douchebag for a few hours. I imagined what they were thinking…“What the hell, why not? He’s rich!” After a few back and forth comments, the burly decision-maker approves their attire and lets them inside.

Our turn. I approach the bouncer and hand him my driver’s license. I considered making a joke about douchebag, to lift his spirits, but the words were stripped by my conscious by the bouncer’s abrupt statement: “You can’t bring that bag in here.” He was referring to my humble 14×3 inch Michael Kors purse. Astonished, I point to the two women he just let inside, both carrying purses much larger and more obtrusive than my own. “But, the two women you just let inside have  purses,” I plead, blood pressure rising. The bouncer didn’t look me in the eyes as he spoke. “Yeah, they’re women,” he says. I paused, ears steaming.  “Here we go,’ I thought. I’ve experienced a similar act of ignorance in Bloomington, IN at a bar called “Sports”. (Surprising, right?) Luckily, in that instance, there was an advocate working alongside that person, who eventually let me in. In this instance, at El Hefe, I knew I wouldn’t be so lucky. I kept my glare upon this inhospitable man and said, “Yes, they’re women, and I’m a man. What’s the difference? It’s just a bag.” At this statement, he locked eyes with me and said coldly, authoritatively, “What’s the difference between a man and a woman?? A fucking dick and a vagina, that’s the difference.” Before I had a chance to respond, my friends grabbed me and pulled me away before I could debate any further. It was probably for the best.

His justification didn’t offer any sensible insight as to why someone with a “dick” cannot bring a purse into their club. His statement suggests that only widely-accepted social norms (from the fucking South, in the nineteen-forties) and people who agree with these ideals are allowed inside this club. His blatant disregard for my feelings hurt in the moment — especially after I witnessed the events that just occurred with douchebag. That smug asshole, throwing his wealth around as justification for breaking the club’s rules, was still able to pass right through. My friends and I, all honest, generous, and humble people, were denied entry because of my sex, and a purse.

Luckily, my friends presence and support turned my discouragement into happiness; my deep-sighs into laughter. The next day, I received a text message from the birthday girl stating she called the establishment to let them know their bigotry lost them six customers. This support, this advocacy, is absolutely heartwarming. The rarity of such a proactive response against hatred on behalf of another human was nipped in the ass today, and for this, Ms. Ashley Jackson (instagram: ashleeholla), I thank you.

In Spanish, “el jefe” translates to “the boss”. Changing the spelling of “Jefe” to “Hefe” so that ignorant clients pronounce the name correctly, it’s clear that “el jefe” of this establishment, Jon Wright, does not respect cultures or ideas outside his own. As the “hottest Mexican restaurant in Chicago Illinois” (www.elhefechicago.com), it is unfortunate that Mexican roots and heritage are lost so yuppie, Asshole-Americans can tell their friends about their slutty evening at the hottest nightclub in town without pronouncing “jefe” incorrectly and therefore being corrected, negatively impacting their view of the club. Disgusting. It is unfortunate for nearby authentic restaurants and museums owned and explored by accepting, educated individuals to have share a block (or a nation) with this hub of hate. El Hefe Chicago actually lives up to the German definition of “hefe”: “yeast: a microscopic fungus” (Source: New Oxford American Dictionary), which is ironic, as the only way for men and women to get into this place is to show their pussy.