Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Long Beach California, The Two For One Vacation

Long Beach California, the former low profile neighbor to glitzy Los Angeles, has stepped up its vacation getaway game.


Are you trying to decide where to vacation or staycation on the West Coast? Not sure if you want to explore a big city or dive into a manageable metro area? Look no further, Long Beach is Southern California's two for one destination.

Geographically, you can choose to fly into LAX airport or Long Beach's new airport. Once in town, Long Beach is only 45 minutes from downtown L.A. via the above ground metro train. The train costs $5 per day and is the fastest, cheapest, and most energy efficient route between the two cities.

On the street, you can ride the free Passport bus service that continuously loops around the city's major tourist attractions, including the Aquarium, Shoreline Village waterfront shopping district, Long Beach Museum of Art, and the Nu-Pike amusement park. If you want to get some exercise you can rent traditional and electronically powered bikes, that allow you to peddle or just enjoy the ride.

The LBC as locals call it, is full of hidden gems that may appear unremarkable from the outside, but are full of beauty and amazement on the inside. One such gem is the RMS Queen Mary ocean liner, which is permanently docked in Long Beach.


I have to admit that my first thoughts about anything related to British aristocracy is usually accompanied with a look of extreme boredom. To my great surprise my visit on the Queen Mary was not only enjoyable, but downright fascinating and luxurious. Made of the British Empire's most exotic woods and marble, the art deco ship was the gold star standard for luxury travel and glamour.

During World War II the boat was commissioned for active duty, transporting over 850,000 soldiers across the Atlantic, and consequently became a bounty target for Hitler's pilots. Winston Churchill even occupied a private suite on the ship, where he signed the D-Day papers. After the war, the Queen Mary returned to her luxurious roots and became the transport of choice for Hollywood celebrities.

Today the ship is permanently docked in Long Beach's harbor and operates as a museum, restaurant and hotel. You can tour and stay overnight in the many rooms, still decorated with the original furnishings. You can also walk through Churchill's private suite, enjoy a harbor view dinner in the posh Sir Winston's restaurant, and socialize with the numerous ghosts reportedly still on board the Queen Mary after all these years.


Do you still have a fantasy of sailing to Europe? No worries, the good people of Long Beach decided to build a version of Italy right in their own back yard. Seriously. Naples Island is a California version of the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. You and your loved ones can hop into a traditional gondola boat, with a traditionally dressed gondolier (except for the Vans footwear), who will row you through canals lined with multimillion dollar waterfront homes, and they will sing (in English of course) to your heart's desire. Just in case this sounds like a big joke, these gondoliers annually compete in the world renowned Venetian Regatta. Don't forget to bring your wine and cheese for the romantic sunset views.


Speaking of food, despite California being famous for its health kick culture, the LBC gets down to the nitty gritty when it comes to food. Do yourself a favor and forget about your diet, and  jump into the city's vast array of southern delicacies, craft beers, and ingenious concoctions. I'll simply go down a short list of must haves. The Breakfast Bar's lemon cake pancakes, SIP's grilled cheese crab meat sandwiches, and watermelon ahi tuna tacos, Beachwood BBQ & Brewery's deep fried pickles, Bo-Beau's goat cheese with roasted beets pizza, all things Mexican at Fuego Hotel Maya, and The Attic On Broadway's gigantic Bloody Mary with a burger or BBQ ribs sitting on top of the glass! Food gone wild!

If you have a thing for oldies but goodies, 4th Street also known as Retro Row, is an entire street full of vintage stores carrying everything from retro furniture, clothing, records, books, and art. However, this is no typical hand me down stuff, this area is where the Hollywood set designers and stylists come to scour the bins for the perfect find for hit movies and TV shows. Surprisingly, the selection of goods are in great condition, neatly sorted, and affordable for the average buyer.

Long Beach is a laid back and interesting city to soak up some California sun, good vibes, and good times. The only thing Long Beach doesn't have yet is, native son Snoop Dogg as the city's mayor. However, I'm sure that day will come soon, fo shizzle.

Photos© Lauri Lyons, @boop_aloop, The Queen Mary.

Tupac Takes On Broadway

In the early 1990's the very idea of a Broadway musical being focused on the work of rapper Tupac Shakur, would have been unimaginable to most Americans. At that time rap music, especially gangsta rap, was widely considered to be a moral and physical threat to the well being of our society. Tupac Shakur was easily the perfect target for a media assault, due to his lawsuits, rivalries, jail time, politics, good looks, and gunfights. His life was a perfect storm of details which created a legend.

Today, Tupac is one of the most successful recording artists of all time, selling over 77 million albums worldwide. His music is now studied at Harvard University, and there is a Tupac Shakur foundation, arts center, scholarship, films, and books, about his life and work. Tupac has become an omnipresent visage of the anti-hero, who once was feared but is now generally accepted by the mainstream.

The only domain left for Shakur to conquer is Broadway, "The Great White Way". Judging by the extremely diverse audience presence at the Palace Theatre, which included multi-generations and races, the appeal of the show is very wide. Holler If Ya Hear Me is not a musical biography about Tupac's life, but rather an original musical featuring his lyrics and poetry.

Breaking new ground as being the first Broadway musical based on a hip-hop artist's work, Holler is exploring uncharted territory that may set the stage for a new Broadway genre, Hip- Hop Theater.
The production of Holler If Ya Hear Me faces a unique creative challenge. Tupac's lyrical prowess is the musical's strength and driving force, but it is also the biggest mountain to navigate. Watching the performances on stage, one quickly realizes that the quality of Tupac's writing far outweighs the quality of the musical's plot. Tupac's storytelling is layered, dramatic, clever, and descriptive. You can vividly hear, see, and feel his world.

Holler If Ya Hear Me's plot is a simplistic and predictable story about jail, pain, and home. Although the cast members performances are good, they really don't have enough material to shine. As a viewer, you basically want the original dialogue to stop and the music to begin again. The heart of the story is in Tupac's lyrics. The highlights of the show are the songs Thugz Mansion, Hail Mary, I Ain't Mad At Cha, Holler If Ya Hear Me, and the classic California Love.

One can't help but to wonder what type of story Tupac would have created for the musical, if he were still alive. It will be interesting to see how future productions of hip-hop music will translate to the Broadway stage. One thing is for certain, rap music has proved to be a genre of writing that can hold its literary own. The question is, will Broadway be able to rise to the challenge?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Riding the Waves

                                                      Video Interview Link
 As I sit here writing this new blog post, I realize that today's blog inspiration comes from the artist M.I.A. Although I have not consistently followed her musical career, I recently came across a video interview with her, discussing her perspective on the creative ebb and flow of a 'successful' creative career.

That lead me to remember that many years ago, my first job in the photography industry was at the legendary Magnum Photos Agency. As a totally green upstart, I was smart enough to know that I wanted to learn the ins and outs of the photography industry, from the best. What I learned, went way beyond the brick and mortar skills of being a photographer. I learned that a photographer's career - even the best photographers in the world - is akin to the waves in an ocean. Sometimes you're 'in' and sometimes you're 'out' of favor with editor's, clients, your peers, and the general public.

Regardless of which category you are perceived to be in, the artists with a strong belief in their vision, abilities, and growth, always seem to ride the waves over a long period of time. Their ability to navigate the waves is usually due to their innate knowledge and acceptance that each wave cycle provides an opportunity to dive in or pull back. Both choices are equally important and necessary for one's creativity to flourish.

Needless to say, this point of view is quite contrary to today's popular belief that you have to constantly be 'out there' to be relevant, or that success is solely defined by your Google ranking, auction prices, and the number of 'friends' or 'followers' you have. As M.I.A. brilliantly says in the interview, "My growth is not supposed to look like the growth chart of Mac, each quarter. Whatever happened to being a human being?".  #Truth, #Humanity,  #Creativity,  #M.I.A., #Questions.

Lauri Lyons

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I Am the Greatest! (and you are too!)

What's the difference between Greatness and Okayness (my made up word)?

Okayness requires a lack motivation to fly high. We can all just skimp along and steadily glide by on life's cruise control. There is no need for original thoughts (everybody 'borrows' from everybody anyway, right?), no need to push harder, work smarter, or challenge the status quot (God forbid!), or ask the outrageous question: 'Why not?'  In a nutshell, Okayness is the best friend of Mediocre, who just happens to be the best friend of Wack.  Are you down with that crew?

Greatness requires us to push our boundaries, go the extra distance, take a leap of faith, and at times make a sacrifice. Working towards greatness does not mean that we have to live like a monk or subscribe to a life of misery. To the contrary, working towards greatness means we willingly subscribe to courage and authenticity.

Yes, I used the 'C' word and the 'A' word. I know neither one of those words are very popular these days. In fact, the words 'courage' and 'authenticity' are usually met with a collective sigh, a rolling of the eyes, and a quick changing of the subject.

However, no matter how fast and far we think we've run away from those two words, they keep showing up. Why do they keep showing up in our lives? The answer is, because whether we like it or not, we all have the potential to be great. Great is not good, not alright, not cool - it's GREAT.

Courage is the seed of our being, from our first breath to the last. Every day, every action, every creation we make, requires courage. Whenever we shrink from a challenge, or sink into our comfort zones, or choose not to speak up, we eventually feel the pain.

Authentic is not just an adjective, it is a verb.  Authenticity is the action of fulfilling the essence of who we are meant to be.  It requires constant growth and expression. With that said, authenticity is also the task master of life, because everything done in darkness comes to light.  Sound familiar?  If we think back over our lives,  I'm sure more than a few prime examples of this theory will surface.

Deep down inside, we all know that courage and authenticity liberate us from being small versions of ourselves. They move us out of the sphere of Okayness and into the sphere of Greatness. So I ask you, which crew do you really want to belong to?

Ciao Bella,
Lauri Lyons

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Human Touch

Have you noticed that as people acquire more communication devices, the less we know how to have a conversation? It's great to be 'wired' and spread your thoughts around the world, but there comes a time and place when talking to another human being in person is helpful - very helpful.

Believe it or not, the art of conversation usually requires more than 140 characters and a 'Like' button. The human voice can reveal a treasure chest of emotions, and sometimes a pause of silence can speak a thousand words. Your voice and body language can convey the very essence of your thoughts - for better or worse. They relate your feelings better than any computer software program ever will.

It is precisely for those reasons that as we build our 'social networks' and 'brands', it is important to remember the power of one on one communication, or rather the human touch. Although most of us have a plethora of  websites, usernames, profiles, and resumes - people still want to see us, smell us, touch us and talk to us. That's just how human beings are wired.

Instead of dismissing these opportunities to connect, we should create more opportunities to bring our 2D persona into the 3D world. If who you are on paper and on screen, is authentic, meeting people in person will usually enhance your likeability (flaws and all). The plain truth is, people want to know you, not just know of you.

After some thought, if you realize that you don't actually like your circle of 'friends' (it happens), change your friends! We all have the ability to pivot in new directions. Once you change direction, make like Diana Ross and Reach Out and Touch!

Ciao Bella,
Lauri Lyons

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Creative Journey Continues

Whew! It has been quite a long time since I created a new blog post. What have I been up to? Well, let's see... Publishing Nomads Magazine, shooting & publishing the Flag International book, shooting 'Inspiration' - a celebrity portrait book, mounting art exhibitions, reporting for the Huffington Post, teaching photo classes, traveling to Australia, Costa Rica, South Africa, Jamaica, Brazil (and a few other places I can't recall at this moment), and living an unpredictable life in New York City. Other than that, I haven't been up to too much.

If I had to write about all the lessons I've learned since my last blog posting, cyber space would run out of space. What I will say about that time, is that my life has been FULL. If you need a visual, just conjure up rainforests, camels, hot air balloons, crocodiles, subways, perpetually half packed suitcases, LOTS of laughs, BIG fights and sterile photo labs.

Now in my new phase, it's time to create new thoughts, new ways of being, and new ways to engage the world. So this new blog post is about someone who recently inspired me to be more proactive, more curious, and more productive. His name is Inaki Escudero, and he is the Chief Creative Officer (I like that title) and Partner, of globalWORKS.

To make a very long resume short, Inaki is basically a walking creative sponge. For the past 5 years he has read one book per week, and wrote reviews about each book. He also writes over 300 blog posts per year, runs a large advertising agency, has several children, runs marathons, and has time to participate in panel discussions that I invite him to, at the last minute. Oh yeah, Inaki is also bilingual, and a very nice man, of course.

Feel lazy yet? I sure do. In order to be able to function on a high level like Inake, I realize that most of us mere mortals don't need more energy, intelligence or time. What we need is more CURIOSITY.  Curiosity + passion + discipline, go a long way in our never ending quests for creativity. When its all said and done, the goal of living a creative life should not be about 'making it', but rather, making things we are curious about.

Ciao bella,

Friday, July 4, 2008

Welcome to Jamrock! Jamaica

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Welcome to Jamrock!
Come back to Jamaica…….I have not been to Jamaica in almost twenty-five years! Something happens when you are a child of immigrant parents: you either always go 'home' or you never go 'home'. Somehow I ended up running around the world before returning to my roots. The night before my departure I was speaking with my friend Jamel when I casually mentioned I would be flying on Air Jamaica. This is when the scary movie music should have piped in. 'What! Air Jamaica', 'LL you do NOT want to do this. Can you change your ticket?' He then went on to tell me in great detail about his Air Jamaica nightmare which included no luggage for his entire trip. I laughed, because it was too ridiculous. Surely, things must have changed.
Before I go any deeper with my experience let me just say for the record:
I love my people, BUT…..

You know when something just doesn't feel right and makes you go hmmmm? Well check this out. Due to my explicit warning the night before, I decided to check Air Jamaica's website to make sure the flight was not delayed. The website only stated 'The plane has not departed' hmmmm. I arrive in Newark airport and realize there are no ticket kiosks, which means I had to join the main check in line. Anyone who has ever had to fly anywhere in the developing world knows what that means. To put it mildly just think chaos, crowds, arguments, and lots and lots and lots of 'luggage'. Luggage is a relative term and used loosely in this context. Let me break it down for you:

Step 1: You buy an extraordinarily large suitcase (usually on 14th street), you stuff it with household goods, clothes for everybody you ever met in your entire life, electronic goods you plan to sell but are passing off as personal items, and lots of food wrapped in plastic bags and foil. Once you have done this repeat the process with several more suitcases.

Step 2: Bring as many relatives as possible with you to the airport. Do not have all their documents.

Step 3: Insist your bags are carry on size.

Step 4: Become irate when the counter person tells you you're luggage is overweight.

Step 5: Begin to unpack and rearrange your luggage at the counter in hopes of being underweight.

Step 6: Begin swearing.

Once I finally get to the ticket counter I realize I have entered the Twilight Zone.
I am immediately informed that my 1pm flight has been delayed to…….are you ready for this.......8:30 pm! Not only is the flight delayed (just a little), but I must not leave the airport because if they can fix the plane earlier they will go ahead and leave!? Twilight Zone music.
Do not attempt to use logic because it only gets worse.

Since I have a whole lot of time, I make my way over to the food court with my bogus food voucher. Once seated in the food court I meet what I will now refer to as the Hallelujah women, older Jamaican church women who have sworn allegiance to Air Jamaica. No matter what, they fly Air Jamaica and are part of the 7th Heaven Mileage Club. These women love Air Jamaica because they are ultra patriotic, love the food, and because Air Jamaica waits for late passengers! Ugggh. No matter how much you complain their response is 'but the food is good!'. During the luncheon I am informed by a young woman that Air Jamaica is notorious for the following: fist fights, being hours late, strikes, and forever lost luggage. She goes on to reminisce about seeing passengers with overweight bags begin to layer on clothing (i.e.: four hats on their head to create space in their bag!).

After many long phone calls and reading a book, I decide to go back to the ticket counter and check on the flight. Twilight Zone music. I walk and walk and walk. No Air Jamaica counter. Ok, I must be mixed up, so I walk in the other direction. hmmm. Logic time: Start on one end and walk all the way to the other end, right? I do this several times, and finally I start asking airport employees where the Air Jamaica ticket counter is. Everyone is confused, I'm confused. Newark Airport only has two floors. I've been to the ticket counter before. Has the ticket counter disappeared? Twilight Zone music. Yes!, the counter has disappeared….on purpose. The Air Jamaica employees have taken down the sign and put up a sign reading 'USA 2003'! They were hiding from their customers!

Do not attempt to use logic because it only gets worse. As the day became night I started to notice something peculiar….Twilight Zone music. The departure time on the flight board became later and later, yet I heard no announcements. hmmm. Soon other people began to notice the same thing, and then all hell broke loose. Think of all the bad Jamaican words you have ever heard, then make some up. It got ugly, real ugly, Jamaican ugly.

Finally at 10pm we boarded the plane! Hallelujah! The flight was sold out, they ran out of overhead space, and people were aggravated and hungry. Not good. I noticed two highly confused African-American women walking to their seats muttering 'I just don't, I don't, I don't understand!' The pilot then had the audacity to say 'We are sorry for the delay. You must understand that we had technical problems YESTERDAY and planes take a long time to fix.'
At that point a passenger yelled out 'Buy a new one! Mi want a refund!' The woman next to me was sitting with her legs completely wide open because she had an entire Radio Shack store shoved in her bag. She explained to me that last year she packed her electronics in her suitcase and everything was stolen. Not this year buddy, she's got her stuff somewhere safe….between her legs!

I soon began to notice another peculiar thing….It was hot on the plane. I soon remembered Jamaicans hate the cold, therefore there is very little A/C on the flight. I was burning up! Now get ready for this one, it really put me over the top (as if you have not read enough)…..As we were preparing to depart the plane (yes, we actually made it to Jamaica) an elderly married couple were standing in the row before me. The husband began looking around for something, when the wife asked him 'Pop, what you looking for, your teeth?' I swear I'm not making this up! By the grace of God at 2:30 am I finally escaped from the Twilight Zone and met my sleep deprived family in Montego Bay.

Waking up later that day I opened the window and realized I was in Jamaica!
Hot, sunny and lush. What is the first thing I did when I arrived in Jamaica?
I began to eat. Jamaica is without a doubt the culinary king of the Caribbean.
My trip was not only a homecoming but a food odyssey, so I dived right in.
Ackee and saltfish, calaloo, bananas and dumplings, jerk chicken, sorrel, rice and peas, red pea soup, pepper pot soup, spiced bun, Red Stripe beer, Guinness Stout, rundown mackerel, curried goat, rum pudding, black rum cake, roasted breadfruit, festival, conch, escovetiched fish, plantains, and oxtail. After stuffing myself I headed for the beach. The beautiful beach and warm water seemed to erase the previous day away. All I needed was a beach chair, umbrella, and some sun to make things irie.

After a couple of days my family and I jumped in the rental car and began a trans-island road trip. If you want to get a thrill of a lifetime, drive in Jamaica. Just understand Jamaicans drive in an improvisational spontaneous way, especially around blind curves on hills, and you must drive on the left side of the road. Other than that it's a breeze! In Ocho Rios I really got into the beach.Of course while laying out I met a Visa Boy. FYI: A Visa Boy is a beautiful man who thinks you are so beautiful, unique, and special, he would like to spend some time with you and later come live with you in your country (all expenses paid by you of course). hmm…Sorry babe no Stella stories here!

After the beach I ate some more. One of my favorite food finds is the Ocho Rios Jerk Center. Real Jerk and an amazingly spiced Conch fish, which I washed down with a cold Guinness. While in Ocho, we reunited with my cousin Judy who updated us on family business and warned us about the notorious Stone Crusher Gang. She told us Ocho Rios people don't put up with the Stone Crushers. 'They walk in live, but they leave dead. We just nicely put them away' Out in the streets they call it muurdah!

Back on the road we made our way over the mountains and through the bush.
I must say Portland is one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. The mountains are amazingly high and the dense plant growth is stunning. Once in Port Antonio we are reunited with my Grandmother and Uncle, and began to eat again! Christmas morning I took the liberty of baptizing myself in the Caribbean Sea. A couple of days later we were back in the car heading for St. Thomas. I don't think St. Thomas parish has built a new road… in a while. Nevertheless, as you are driving through miles of sugar cane you don't seem to notice the bumpedy, bump, bump.

Some of my favorite things about Jamaica are the roadside food stands and local bars. Surprise, surprise! I love the hand painted signs, the impromptu DJ's and speaker systems, and the split open oil drums grilling spiced food. At this point I should say, I actually weigh less than 300 pounds, in case you were wondering. While in St. Thomas we stumbled upon the 'Chill Out Lounge' by the sea. Dominoes table, hand painted d├ęcor, a beautiful beach view and amazing food! Keeping with the One Love spirit I later spotted a taxi with a hand painted sign on the rear window which read 'Squeeze Her Breasts'.

The other thing I love about Jamaica is the news. Outrageous headlines read 'Thugs Target Dogs', 'Man Runs Up $7,000 Bar Tab, Waitress Chases Him to Next Town'. My personal favorite was a female street vendor being interviewed on TV regarding the relocation of vendors, 'Mi been selling since the time of Genesis. Mi nah go nowhere!' Only in Jamrock.

Unfortunately it was time for my vacation to come to an end. An even more unfortunate thought was that I would have to fly Air Jamaica again! Scary music. My flight was scheduled for 8 am. As I made my way to the ticket counter (scared yet?) I was informed the flight would be delayed three hours! My family and I were now due to depart within a half a hour of each other. At 11:30 I parted ways with my family and actually boarded the plane! I'm happy to report I made it home safe and sound. Around 9pm my parents called to say 'Guess where we are?' $^*&^@%!