Last time on NYC 2016, Ben and I came up to my home city to eat and catch up with an old friend. And we had more eating and catching up to do!
After getting some much-needed rest, it was time for me to meet up with my brother! He’s been staying in the East Village for his summer internship, so we headed over to check out his place and take him out for dinner. (I actually bumped into one of my friends on the subway trip over there! Ben teases me relentlessly for how many people I know and run into unexpectedly. This chance meeting marked unplanned encounter #1 – keep track of these, there are more coming.)
My brother was sharing the apartment of an art director for Marc Jacobs with one of his college roommates, who was working crazy long hours but still had a smile on his face when we saw him. It was a pretty nice place, and within walking distance of The Bao, where we went for dinner. I really loved the xiaolongbao (soup dumplings, aka XLB) at Joe’s Shanghai last year and wanted to compare this spot on St. Mark’s. My brother and boyfriend were both very surprised when I thought we had been a little ambitious with 6 orders of XLB and a vegetable. As it turns out, they were right; we left with plenty of room for more food.
Last time on Spring Break 2016, I saw my old friend Ran after over a decade apart and explored Santa Monica and Venice Beach with her. She was a much-needed ray of sunshine on the still-overcast day. After eating In-n-Out, we set off for Griffith Park before spending even more time with more friends!
We got to take a “scenic” drive up to Griffith Park to check out the famous observatory, during which we saw many fancy Spanish-style houses. (Really getting that true California experience.) The drive up through the park was gorgeous but long, and as we neared the ridge where the observatory sits, we were faced with a lot of cars trying to do the same thing. We waited in a long conga line of cars for a good 15 minutes, inching up slowly, watching hikers walk by, and passing a lot of parked cars as we got up there. Ben started wondering if we should park also, but we were still a decent distance from the observatory, and it was a steep hike up! I didn’t want us to park only to discover a bounty of great parking nearer to the observatory, but I got really nervous as we climbed closer and closer.
Luckily for us, as the staff were controlling inflow and outflow to parking, while we were directed back down and around the ridge to a farther lot (noooooo), a staff member told us that they had just opened the lot right in front of the observatory and to go back. We did and got a spot REALLY close! So close that we were really sure it was a handicapped spot for a while but I couldn’t see any indication that it was. Several cars in front of us passed the spot, probably also suspecting that it was too good to be true, but we nabbed it and it was one of the luckiest moments in my life hahaha. (Also, parking is free.)
It was still fairly overcast when we finally got out of the car and looked upon the still-beautiful Griffith Observatory. One of the ulterior motives we had for visiting, aside from visiting the observatory itself in all its free admission glory, was because it has an amazing view of the Hollywood sign.
Not only did we not have to hike to see this iconic LA landmark, the most magical thing happened: the sun started to come out. I have seen the sun before, of course, but you wouldn’t know it from how I almost cried at the sight of golden light through the clouds and how many photos I took.
I basically was too scared to actually enter the observatory, for fear that I would squander the few precious hours of sunlight that we had, but I finally did go inside.
The Griffith Observatory is really amazing. Again, it’s totally free to go in and explore all the cool exhibits, like the Tesla coil, a working camera obscura room, scales that you can use to see how much you’d weigh on different planets. We acted too late to see the last planetarium show, which I am quite sad about and would recommend you not hesitate so much to try to catch it. It is kind of the signature thing to catch at an observatory with a planetarium, but we got confused in the mayhem of ticketing and the deluge of people at the front. We also watched the documentary, The Once and Future Griffith Observatory, about the observatory itself in the Leonard Nimoy Event Horizon Theater, narrated and presented by the late and great Nimoy. I really loved learning about the history of this iconic landmark and how it fit into what was going on with astronomy and Southern California’s history as well.
We also caught a really cute marriage proposal outside as got ready to leave! I wasn’t sure if they were hoping to catch the girl when she came out or if she was in the camera obscura room that was showing the outside of the observatory, but it was very sweet and had us in a great mood as we left to see some friends.
We headed for Koreatown to gorge on friendship and AYCE (all you can eat) Korean BBQ. First I met up with some friends from Xanga! I had met Sonlay and Alex before, although I hadn’t seen Alex in a few years, but it was my first time meeting Lily, who I’d been talking to for a few years now, and Sonlay’s roommate Mark. It was great to get to see again / meet for the first time some high-quality Xangans. It still blows my mind a little that I made friends through a blogging platform I’d been using for over a decade during the last 2 years of Xanga being around. I actually didn’t even realize that I was meeting Lily and Mark for the first time, because I’ve talked to them so much over the years and met all these mutual Xanga friends that it didn’t occur to me that I hadn’t met them before. Especially because I was so nervous to meet the other friends who were joining us.
Unfortunately, they were running late because of subway stuff (a coast-to-coast issue) and we had to relocate to Star BBQ (I mean, honestly, I can’t be too mad about relocating to a place with “Star” in the name) but I was finally able to meet Adam and Briana! Don’t tell them I told you guys this (shh!) (if either of you two read this, shh!), but I was extreeeeemely nervous to meet them. I got to know Briana through Disneybounding, and I am going to talk about her amazing bounds another day on this blog, but she was always so sweet and funny and kind of amazing with her Disneybounds and cosplays. Through Briana, I got to know her boyfriend Adam, who is hilarious and was also SUPREMELY helpful when I was planning our LA and Disneyland days. Honestly, I don’t know what I would’ve done without his tips and advice. But basically, Adam and Briana were always Internet celebrity-type people to me that I never thought I would actually get to meet, so the fact that they had so happily agreed to see me when I was in town totally blew my mind.
Star BBQ was fun because a) it was actually Adam and Briana’s first time having Korean BBQ! and b) we were only served “water”. Briana noticed when we walked in that the fridge of Korean beers had a sign saying that they were not currently serving alcohol. My Xanga friends were immediately like, “What do you mean you’re not serving alcohol? At a Korean restaurant???” Our server apologized for alcohol not being available but did let us know that we could have flavored water if we were interested. (The flavored water was soju!) We actually got several different flavors of flavored water, but because I was only given a flavored water cup for my regular water, I did get the different types of water confused once. Still, it was a fun time, despite me having to reign in my stomach so that I wasn’t the last person stuffing my face at an AYCE joint. Again.
From there, we tried to head to a karaoke place that said they could accommodate our group of 8 people without a reservation (always make reservations, folks!) but when we arrived, they said NOPE and we went back to Star BBQ which was underneath a place called Star Karaoke. (!!!) We had to wait about half an hour, but it was a nice time for me to get to know Adam and Briana better without meat sizzling between us, since I had that luxury before we went to barbecue with my Xanga buddies.
THEN KARAOKE. I mean, I will never not have fun at karaoke, I think. At first, I was too shy to put down any of my favorite Disney hits because Adam and Briana are such a Disney power couple, but Lily – unencumbered by the star-strucked-ness that I was feeling – was not going to be held back from singing her favorite Disney songs. This emboldened me to pick some really out there songs (“Careless Whisper”, “I’m On a Boat”, to name a few…) that, gratefully, Adam and Ben sang along with me.
The karaoke joint closed and we walked back to our car, which had been moved from the lot where we valet parked it so that was a small scare ahahaha. We bid our farewells and headed back to our AirBnB, pretty exhausted but really glad to have been able to meet friends for the first time in years or ever!
What did I miss at the Griffith Observatory and Koreatown?
Have you met friends from the Internet in person and been really nervous and/or starstruck by it?