From September 3-5, 2017 I stayed in Beirut on my way home from a workshop in Dubai. Despite having three days I think I managed to see everything - I'm not even kidding. I barely slept. Thanks to my friends Habib and Hala for hosting us. We did SO much I literally cannot even begin to remember the details for this blog post. Luckily I just snapped photos like crazy, and here are the good ones.
Over the summer I organized an event for the Media Lab called Forbidden Research, which the New York Times wrote about, and Bloomberg to name just a few. As you can probably guess the theme was about unlocking scientific and cultural research that has moral and social restraints which makes it otherwise forbidden, or at least seriously frowned upon. Some of the session topics included gene editing, climate editing, islam and women's rights, and hacking for social good.
During conference breaks I wanted to play music that would get people really fired up. Music has that ability. So I spent some time finding songs that have a somewhat relevant message to the ideas of dissidence. The music was well received, even though some of the songs (NWA's Fuck the Police) made me nervous to hit play, I did it anyway.
Here's the playlist in full via Spotify.
Oh Tokyo, you have my heart. Despite the fact that a lot of "normal" things I do in the US are frowned upon culturally in Japan - such as yelling and being a loud jerk, dancing, interrupting men while they are speaking, lol. Seriously, though. They are fine with heavy drinking.
I was there for work, but managed to sneak away to do a few fun things, here's the list:
Tsutaya bookstore, Shibuya (although they are in every neighborhood). Filled with beautiful books, mostly in Japanese but some not. Comics, magazines, stationary, and other fun browsy stuff that you think will be easy to carry home in your suitcase until you end up with 10 books.
Roppongi Hills Club. The Mori family owns a shit ton of real estate in Tokyo - and this club is in a Mori tower. One floor of this tower is the Mori Art Museum, which I will mention next. The Roppongi Hills Club is on the 51st floor, totally gorgeous, stylish, and with amazing 360 views of Tokyo. Day or night it's a must see, and the drinks are nice.
Mori Art Museum. There are a million museums in Tokyo, but I think this is the best. It's contemporary art and the museum itself it quite beautiful. I got to see the Takashi Murakami exhibit, which blew my mind.
Kurosawa Soba Noodles. Named after the Director, the restaurant, food, tableware, everything, is beautiful. Lovely place for a light lunch.
Fuku Yakitori Shop. I've done the research and I'm thinking this is probably one of the best places in Tokyo for Yakitori. Some local friends took me here and I couldn't stop eating. We ate almost everything on the menu. It's a small spot, super cool with a small bar and the BBQ grill all fired up and smoking right in front of you. Sake and Yakitori man, that's some good shit.
Narisawa, a two Michelin star "French" restaurant, although more fusion of Japanese and contemporary American I would say. This dining experience is an EVENT - it's a 3 hour lunch with several courses including bread that bakes in front of you in a stone pot, matcha coated butter that looks exactly like fresh moss, essence of the forest "starters", and wagyu beef that will make you giddy. Read this guy's much more informative post on Narisawa.
Isetan Shinjuku is where the super stylish Japanese shoppers go. Nine floors of spectacularly designed displays, obscure Japanese brands, beauty products, luxe homegoods, you name it. Or you don't name it, because you can't, because it's so unique and f*cking gorgeous you will want to max every credit line you have, even your retirement savings.
Tokyo Station Ramen Alley. So much food. But they have an alley way that is strictly ramen shops. All good ramen shops have little ordering computers, where you make your selection, pay, then a little ticket comes out. Once you are ready to be seated (go to the shops with the longest lines, that's always my plan) hand the ticket to the host, sit, and wait patiently.
For the first week of September, I was in Mexico City (again). Only this time I was with quite an entourage, as we all came here to work our little butts off in the name of innovation and technology (image above from our workshop)! I helped organize a week-long workshop with the Media Lab in collaboration with the Lab CDMX, a tech and innovation incubator run by the Mayor's office.
The city is still big, still polluted, and still loud. But one thing I noticed this time was also how unpredictable the city is. Here in Boston, you know what to expect and when to expect it. Oh there's a Red Sox game? Don't go near Kenmore between X and X o'clock on this day. In Mexico City you can throw your little day planner out the window. You NEVER know when and where the traffic will be (pretty much everywhere always), where the protests will pop up, which roads will close, when the storm will hit, and so on. That city keeps you on your toes, that's for sure. I noticed that here in Boston people have a tendency to wander around completely oblivious to their surroundings. In Mexico City people are more alert and I like that. It's a very exciting place to be. A few great places I got to check out:
Downtown Mexico Hotel: Part of the Design Hotels Group, the shopping in this hotel is pretty great. Definitely check out Carla Fernandez, a Mexican designer focusing on preserving the traditions of indigenous textile making.
Dulcinea: A very beautiful restaurant that feels like you're inside a victorian conservatory with palm trees. Add flickering candlelight and some smoky mezcal and you might forget you are a normal civilian for a bit.
Bósforo Mezcaleria: Probably my favorite place from the trip. This bar checks all the boxes for me - small, dark, good music, simple menu, mezcal options like whoa. We ordered quesadillas with crickets, or chapulines, and I had about 4 different types of mezcal and loved every one (and everyone, by the end of the night, ha-ha).
Cafe de Tacuba: This spot is one of the most old-school Mexican restaurants you can find. I hear it's a bit of a tourist trap, but we went late around 10pm and it wasn't busy, in fact it was spectacular. The atmosphere was perfect for our group of 7 women, looking to drink some mezcal, relax after an insane week, and talk shit while listening to the Mariachi players. Oh and we ate as much as we could because it was our last night. I have never eaten so well!
I've been to New Mexico twice in the past month or so. Once for work, to visit Navajo Nation which is a huge territory governed by Native Americans (parts of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico). I didn't spend much time on the reservation, but learned a lot about the injustices these people have suffered for years, and years, and years. Luckily there are great organizations like COPE (they were our hosts for this trip) who are helping to inject a quality of life among the residents of Navajo Nation through healthcare and education.
My second visit to New Mexico was not work-related. I went to see a land art exhibit by Walter de Maria called the Lightning Field. This INSANE installation was built in the late 70's. 400 stainless steel poles, 20 feet high and exactly 220 feet apart, laid out in a perfect grid one mile by one kilometer. The result, a field of lightning conductors in the middle of nowhere. One rustic cabin, sleeps 6, some rubber boots for exploring the plains, and a bunch of blankets for when it gets freezing as fuck late at night, and you're there for about 20 hours. Sounds like the opening chapter of a horror story, but it really is the most amazing experience I have ever had in my life. Hands down. Even the other 4 strangers in the cabin were fun to be with in that moment in time. Something about being with complete strangers with interesting life stories in that setting is totally bizarre and yet exciting. We spent most of our time along though, sitting in the field and just taking it all in, thinking, and clearing out the muck in our minds. It was the closest to meditation I'll ever get.
Aside from the Lightning Field, we did some exploring (mostly food related). Here are some amazing spots you must try next time you find yourself near Albuquerque, NM.
Mary & Tito's Cafe in ABQ. At 7:30pm we realized they close at 8:00, so we raced from the hotel to their tiny cafe on a creepy abandoned stretch of road, and frantically knocked on the door at 7:59 until they let us in and let us takeaway our dinner which we ate in the car, in an abandoned parking lot next door. Get the Carne Adovada Mexican Turnovers (sopapillas). I like green chili and my boyfriend likes red - you'll have to decide for yourself!
Frontier Restaurant. A sprawling diner across from the University of New Mexico. The green chili cheeseburger is the shit. And the sticky bun for dessert will give you feelings of deep regret and shame, but only after extreme euphoria. Like Heroin, from what I hear.
The Grove. This is for the hipster crowd - but it's a great breakfast spot where you can actually get fresh vegetables and greens as an alternative to the regular stewed meats with sauce and fried bread offered everywhere else.
This city is muy grande. It's so big I couldn't even begin to get a feel for where the hell I was at any given moment. All I know is that everything takes at least 45 minutes by taxi, there is always a thick layer of smog hovering overhead, children legitimately play in the very dangerous streets, and the internet is useless. HOWEVER... the sense of community in this city is something to learn from. These people support each other through thick and thin, you can just tell. Also, the food was so good it actually made me feel real emotions of joy (rare) and the norm of ordering a smoky Mezcal with your Tecate is basically life changing. Unlike Rome, it is completely acceptable to get rip roaring knackered in public. So I really enjoyed Mexico City. Although next time I go back I'll be more prepared. I'll have less work on my plate so I don't feel overwhelmed when the wi-fi shits the bed, and in general I can enjoy myself more, because every day there is a very long day. Also - drink lots of water because apparently the altitude is higher than that of Aspen or Park City, which surprised me. Water, coffee, mezcal... repeat. Some cool places I managed to visit:
La Nacional, a straight up cantina where you can drink Mezcal and eat tacos with your friends. Mercado Roma, where I haven't been, but came across it while looking for the place I really did go to. I visited a quesadilla place I thought was called Ricas Quesadillas, inside a little food-court with home made delicious food stuffs. It's very close to this Mercado Roma, and in the neighborhood where Frida Kahlo lived. We visited her home and I was inspired. I also visited Cafebreria El Pendulo for breakfast and books (a cute little bookstore with fantastic breakfast options such as the Huevos Leñero), and a nice little Mezcal bar (with worm salt?!) called Baltra. Lastly, I stayed in a very chic hotel, La Condesa DF. Here is a place where stylish Mexicanos come in the morning for famous Chilaquiles, and then stay to host business meetings followed by cocktails in the well designed lobby lounge. There is little reason to leave.
Rome is one old-ass city. I was there for four days and probably sat down 1 and a half times in total. Also I didn't drink nearly enough alcohol because apparently the Italians are so cool that they don't get publicly hammered such as Americans do, so I had to behave myself. Which actually worked out, because we were so busy being ruthless tourists. Some highlights:
Armando al Pantheon, this menu would probably kill me if I lived in Rome. I would eat there every day and die from obesity and heart failure at age 36. So worth it though. Super-Space concept store for clothing that you can kind of afford and you can't get in the states. Very fashionable and edgy stuff without feeling trendy. Like a poor gal's Dover Street Market. I highly recommend! And lastly (because I'm tired of typing, not because this is all I did in Rome) you must get drinks at Bar del Fico because it's where the very beautiful and hip young Italians hang out. Have a Spritz and watch old men play chess in the courtyard nearby. Okay, final final (I just remembered this place and have to include it) there's Aromaticus. A cute little organic market and restaurant. At first I was hesitant because like WTF no pasta/cheese/meat? But we ordered this incredible potato and fresh mozzarella dish that made me so happy. Rome is great.