Floral

Zilker Park in Austin, Texas

Zilker Park in Austin, Texas

Many of a kind

standing out nevertheless

a lesson to pick

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A day in Santa Monica

It was Saturday and my colleagues craved beach breeze. We were in Pasadena, a graceful town not too far from the Santa Monica beach.

Although I had my eyes and mind set on visiting the Griffith Observatory, my colleagues had planned to take a cab—first to the beach and then to Hollywood. Calculating the time and effort it’d otherwise take me to get to the Observatory, I caved to peer pressure, spending the afternoon with my colleagues and then taking public transportation to the Observatory. After all, it was closer from Hollywood than it was from where we were staying.

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As we walked down the wooden ledge that led to the Santa Monica pier, I wondered if I made a mistake. Rows and rows of cars lined the parking lots and crowds of people swarmed every restaurant. Flashy candy floss, drippy ice creams, and crunchy pop corns jumped out at my eye. Thousands of people bathed on the water while a hundred more sniffed at the fresh seafood platters on their table. Kids of all ages and sizes ran about, liquidating their parents’ credit cards for merry-go-rounds and two-hour crash courses on the trapeze.

None of them were locals. The whole place was more touristy than I’d ever imagined possible.

While I turned my attention to the many souvenir shops along the way, I couldn’t help but nod along to the live music around. Individual string artists demonstrated their prowess as passers took to applauding and Instagramming their appreciation.

Standing inside a souvenir store, I realised Santa Monica was exclusive for visitors of California. It’s a nice ocean spot for those who don’t have beaches at home, and it’s a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon—swimming, eating, musing with live music, and a day of rest and relaxation. It’s not for everyone, however, it sure is ideal for those who can afford to spend the time and money. It’s not for me, I understood, but the experience did show me a lifestyle, which although I’d never adapt, was still interesting to watch.

To end the eventful afternoon, we spent some time overlooking the ocean from the pier. After spotting exotic birds no one knew the names of, taking selfies to preserve a lifetime of memories, and strutting along as if we knew where we were doing, we left Santa Monica for our next spot: Hollywood. But that’s another post altogether.

Busy Beaver Buttons

I’ve never understood the hoopla around buttons. When I say buttons, I don’t mean the essential ones that hold shirts and pants in place. I mean the ones that pop up in unnecessary places and situations just because they’re a cool thing—places like school bags, caps, hats, and scarves.

Students and adults alike share this affliction with buttons, I realised when I was in Chicago for a work-related event. It’s now the most popular swag corporates can give away at trade shows. People grab these fancy, custom-designed buttons, endorsing companies they’d never even heard of before.

And so it seemed pretty ordinary to have a museum of buttons. Or so I thought until I visited the place.

The Busy Beaver Button Museum (go o, click the link—it’s an online museum too) in Chicago hosts buttons dating back to the 70s and 80s. They have about 1200 buttons on display, all categorised, awaiting appreciation and well-deserved jaw drops. Oh, and they had another 3200 buttons in crates still unopened.

How do they get all these buttons?

They buy from various people and organisations—it was obvious that they’d been doing this for years.

As I browsed through the many witty buttons, I realised that the trend wasn’t new or specific to modern corporate culture. There were buttons about beer, parenting, wine (of course!), social causes, awareness, politics, and so many other topics the world’s cared about for years.

Buttons have helped people express their emotions for years. And this trend won’t go away anytime soon.

Oh, and if you’re interested in getting yourself some buttons, the folks who maintain the non-profitable museum, also have a for-profit business of making buttons. The factory consists of a few people and you can hear the machines while you walk along the wall of exhibits. It’s one of those little things in a city that not a lot of tourists know of. But it’s so worth the 20-minute train ride. Well, if you’re ever in town…

Maternal

Umlauf sculpture museum in Austin, Texas

Umlauf sculpture garden in Austin, Texas

Expecting a naught

return on her investment

a mother nurtures

Epiphany at the American Writers Museum

Say Chicago and most people think about The Bean in the Millennium Park. Or the architecture tour, or the Sky Deck.

They’re all great, for sure. But there’s so much more to Chicago than that. So much that never makes it to the tourism blogs or brochures.

Like the homeless people who stay by the Magnificent Mile. Or the tea shop near the Millennium Park that has over 150 flavours (David’s Tea, I learnt later, is a popular brand with stores across the US). Or the writers museum.

Yes. Chicago is home to the American Writers Museum.

I hadn’t heard of it anywhere. No one insisted that I visit it. And I wouldn’t have known of its existence if I hadn’t stumbled upon it while wandering the streets looking for nothing in particular.

As soon as I saw it, though, I knew I had to go in. Although I’m always wary of unreasonable entrance charges in museums, this time I didn’t care.

As I entered the hallway, a long wave of American history hit me. I spent over two hours walking through aisles of portraits and photos that enacted the lives of authors who made American literature great in the first place.

Looking at them, I realised making a living by writing isn’t easy. It’s not all fine and dandy, and life will not be as kind as we want it to be.

So many writers survived backlashes, self-doubt, and discouragement before creating anything worthwhile. And it made me appreciate them even more than I ever did.

Seeing their books, quotes, and anecdotes made me understand that writing isn’t just about putting words on a paper. Writing is about reflecting the world. Sometimes it’s the real world, and sometimes it’s an imaginary one. Either way, writing brings to life, life as we don’t know it. It depicts both the good and the bad around us. And that’s when it hit me: a writer has the power to create history.

Inside of a writer’s mind lies an entire generation’s perspective of the world. If that’s not power, I don’t know what else is.