Iceland in January

Iceland in February

the cold is jarring—
a reminder or something like it.

everything is olive and jade
everything is edge:

the largeness of it overwhelming–
yet reassuring somehow

the sea is rough
&    dark   —    crashing

into the black sand beach
underneath.

i stand still,
overlooking the cliff,

thinking:
i am nothing and not even that.

First Look at Russ Erikson: 2016 Demos

Russ Erikson is the musical project of Kennan Banks, a singer-songwriter from the Charlotte, NC area. Russ Erikson’s 2016 Demos is a 6 track indie-folk EP released in early April 2016. They were all recorded in one take on Kennan’s iPhone. The lyrics, vocals, and acoustic melodies accompanying them mirror the way they were created: raw. In the most beautiful way.

Kennan says, “I’m really into music that is really personal. It’s sort of therapy for me. I would still make the same stuff I’m making and put it out there even if no one was listening.” But people should be listening. You can hear the heart Kennan puts into his music, like in the lyrics on the stand out track “When I was Young”:

“I’m on the Brooklyn Bridge and I’m looking down/ I would never jump but I get the appeal.”

His music is so personal and emotionally charged. You can hear it in his voice. The EP includes some covers, but the originals (“I Am a Father,” “When I Was Young”) are the biggest standout tracks. The emotion Kennan puts into his music bleeds out and infects the listener, urging them to feel or understand what he is saying. And that—along with Kennan’s obvious lyrical and musical talent—are what make Russ Erikson great.

After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a degree in film, Kennan adopted the name Russ Erikson (inspired by his middle name and the explorer Leif Erikson) to separate his music from his film, since he says his music is “so personal” to him. Kennan says that once he gets around 10 songs he’s really proud of, he will record them professionally and make an album.

Check out Russ Erikson Bandcamp above and be on the look out for new music from the up-and-comer.

This was first published on Next2Shine.

Yalikavak, I love you.

I spent two months in Turkey last summer. I might have more to say about it later, but I just want to share some pictures I took of one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen: Bodrum (Yalikavak), Turkey.

It is all white-washed houses, bright pink and purple begonvil flowers growing. The Aegean Sea contrasts against the rocky terrain surrounding it. It feels small. It feels unreal. Here’s my proof that it is.

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Merhaba, y’all

I’ve been in Istanbul for over 2 weeks now and here’s what I’ve learned about it:

It has hills. Lots of them.
It has stray cats and dogs. Lots of those too.
It is an almost weirdly harmonious mix of traditional and modern, gritty and elegant, European and Asian.
It is magic and I love it.

There will be more to follow, but for now I’ll just let some of the pictures speak for themselves.

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Red Eye to Istanbul

I flew into Istanbul on a Sunday morning. The flight was nice in the way that I find all red-eyes nice. The opposite is also true.

I couldn’t see the ground below from my window seat, only wing. I watched the peach-colored horizon, a yellow haze above and purple below, deepen to a rosy glow in a matter of minutes. I love red-eyes for this. I love chasing the sunset across the sky. Not letting it happen to me–fall on me in Eastern Standard Time. I find some kind of liberation in it, though I recognize its futility.

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When everything was black outside of my window, I ate the surprisingly good in-flight meal and  chased an ambien with a mini-bottle of dry white Turkish wine. Sleep eventually came (after a very uneasy trip to the water closet) but only in fractured bits. I am not a great sleeper in general which makes me exceptionally bad at sleeping upright in an airplane seat. Hence, my red eye ambivalence.

After however long, four hours maybe, the woman next to me tapped me awake. I immediately wished she hadn’t, but accepted the meal being handed to me from the flight attendant. I picked at the tray of fruit, cheeses, eggs, and vegetables and drank a cup of tea that warmed me up to the idea of being awake.

I opened my window blind to the same view of sky and wing, only now it was bright and blue and there were clouds below us in the distance. I put on a favorite album of mine, In the Aeroplane over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel, because I was in airplane, and we probably weren’t over the sea anymore, but we had been, so it felt appropriate. It’s an album that always feels good, and it felt exceptionally good then. I looked out the small, dirt-speckled window at the sky unfolding. There was about an hour before we touched down in Istanbul.

I remember the excitement–feeling refreshed in the way that red-eyes always make me feel refreshed, even despite the lack of rest. At this point, I have two months ahead of me in an unfamiliar, foreign, fascinating place. I thought about this without trepidation. I thought about how it felt right to be on this plane, right to be going, and about how long it’s been since I felt thatin the right place. It feels strange in the best way. The words, “how strange it is to be anything at all” flowed through my headphones and into my ears. Indeed. How strange. And how lucky.

Breaking for Spring

Here in South Carolina, it’s officially feeling like spring. There’s the sheer yellow pollen coating everything, little bumblebees buzzing around, and the air is warm–most days. That’s the definition of spring in my state. The thing about South Carolina springs, though, is that they are mind-warpingly fleeting. It will go from balmy and warm to sticky-hot in just a couple weeks. You have to break for Spring, because believe me, it goes by fast.

Over my spring break, I mostly hung out with my best friend, Jessica, in my hometown. And this is the best thing. But probably not the most interesting.

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Parking garage views in Asheville, NC

Asheville, North Carolina, is a little hippie haven up in the Blue Ridge, and I took my first trip there over break. It’s a NC version of Portland and it is absolutely lovely. My dad and I took the 2 hour drive from Charlotte on a sunny Tuesday afternoon.

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The first thing we did after parking in a garage was walk to a little park in the center of downtown and find a cafe to eat lunch. We decided on Isa’s Bistro, a beautifully decorated, slightly up-scale restaurant. We started off with a gorgeous charcuterie and cheese plate, which included a selection of artisinal meats and cheese, cranberry mustarda, and local honey. Cheese will forever have my heart, but I had a pretty serious affair with the local honey. So. good. 10/10 would recommend.

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Isa’s Bistro
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Cheese plate aka my personal heaven

For my entree, I had an herb roasted chicken chopped cobb salad. It had crispy shallots, egg, avocado, blue cheese crumbles, and buttermilk dressing. My dad had some kind of burger that was a special that day. It tasted nothing like a burger, which was weird. In a  delicious way. Both of us left very full and very satisfied with Isa’s Bistro.

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My entree
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My father refusing to let me take a good picture before digging into his entree

We spent the rest of the afternoon just wandering through the streets of Asheville. We went to Grove Arcade, which is just as interesting as it is pretty inside. We went to a couple antique shops and a bookstore/champagne bar there.

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Grove Arcade

After seeing a few of the sights (Basilica of St. Lawrence and Urban Dharma Buddhist temple were my favorites) we headed back to the car and called it a day (after stopping by a local record store to pick up my favorite band’s new album, Strangers To Ourselves by Modest Mouse–it’s amazing but I digress).

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Basilica of Saint Lawrence

After the Asheville trip I spent most of my break enjoying the company of my dog (and the rest of my family too, of course) and pretending that I had no responsibilities. So nice. But no trip home is complete without spending some time in the heart of the city of Charlotte, North Carolina. The Saturday before I left to return to school, Jessica and I spent the day shopping for clothes and records and hanging out in the district North Davidson, better known as NoDa. NoDa is (arguably) the coolest place in Charlotte; it’s lined with eccentric boutiques, restaurants and bars, tattoo shops, and art galleries. It’s visually vibrant–they’re big on the street art there–but it also feels vibrant. There’s a really cool energy there, and on this warm, beautiful day you could especially feel it. Jessica and I stopped in at Cabo Fish Taco for lunch and it was both of our first time there. The atmosphere is really cool and the food was nothing short of amazing. They start you off with a ridiculously fresh tomato and corn salsa, and Jessica and I both had the blackened mahi mahi tacos with baja rice. There’s only a few of these restaurants around, so if you find yourself anywhere near one, do yourself a favor and stop in.

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Photo of blackened mahi mahi fish tacos courtesy of Jessica

So that pretty much sums up my spring break. It ended, but luckily the lovely weather is sticking around for a bit longer.

I’d love to hear what y’all are doing to celebrate the season. If you’re anywhere near me, I’m sure it will involve lots of Zyrtec. Happy spring!

Uptown in the Queen City

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From South Tryon green space

I’ve lived in a Charlotte suburb since I was four years old. Despite this, I didn’t really get to know the city until I was much older. Sometimes being so close to a place causes it to lose its novelty, even when there’s still so much you’ve yet to experience there. However, I’ve found plenty of things to love about Charlotte recently. In this post, I want to focus on my favorite street located right in the heart of Uptown: South Tryon.  Whether you’re rediscovering the city you’ve written off or exploring it for the first time, you’ll want to check out this street.

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Charlotte skyline from park behind Latta Arcade

If you’re an art lover, like I am, then South Tryon Street is where you want to be. Spend part of your day wandering through the expansive Mint Museum Uptown. Their website boasts, “the oldest art museum in North Carolina, and the art museum with one of the largest collections in the Southeast, The Mint Museum offers its visitors inspiring and transformative experiences through art from around the world via innovative collections, ground-breaking exhibitions, riveting educational programs, and profound scholarship.” Just next door is the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art. While it’s by no means the NYC MoMA, it is absolutely worth a visit, especially if you’re a lover of contemporary art like me.

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Bechtler MoMA: South Tryon St
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Inside Mint Museum Uptown

Across the street, there’s a parking garage and a lovely little green space perfect for spending an afternoon. Grab a late lunch at the upscale, farm fresh restaurant Ratcliffe on the Green. Walking north on South Tryon, past the green and museums, you’ll come across the small french bakery Amelie’s. Try some of their loose leaf tea and a pastry. Not far from there is the indoor atrium Latta Arcade, which is full of cool little shops and has a pretty outdoor section lined with multinational restaurants and outdoor seating.

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Bonus tip: have lunch with a view at the Terrace on South Tryon Square! Pictured here is the business park from ground level.

South Tryon Street is one of my favorite streets in Uptown Charlotte. With tons to do, see, and eat, you can wander the streets for hours and keep discovering new things. If you’re visiting Charlotte for the first time, or rediscovering it again, don’t miss exploring South Tryon Street.