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Love It, Leave It: The Austin Edition



A quirky, offbeat, and liberal town surrounded by Texas Hill Country. Austin often throws down with Portland, OR for the “weirdest city” in America title. (Not sure if that’s official, but hey, they both have the same slogans). Nashville too seems to be a worthy opponent, as Austin also has a thriving music scene. Eh hem, it’s the “live music capital of the world.” 

This open-minded oasis in a mostly conservative desert might resemble the aforementioned burgeoning cities, yet it embodies a unique flare that is unmistakably A-T-X. Like the food truck game. Austin has this on lock. Just by eyeballin’ the city, it seems like there are more food trucks than brick and mortar restaurants. With an aggressive FT scene, rest assured that another Austin edition will be in the works. That, and a small confession: I didn’t properly tackle the BBQ scene (gasps) so a round deux is a must.

Love It: Veracruz. Whisler’s.

Veracruz: Everyone (read: my friends and family) says that Torchy’s is a must if you’re looking to ace the Austin taco test. But when one of your best mates moves out west and tells you that Veracruz serves up, and I quote, “the best taco on earth,” you’ve gotta give it a try. His hyperbolic statement was fortunately pretty on point. The fajita steak topped my personal favorites, with cilantro, onions, queso fresco and avocado. That was only $3, and no, the avocado doesn’t cost extra. Pair that with a 32 oz. agua fresca — preferably watermelon — for only $4. (If you’re hungry, kick it up a notch and go for 2-3 tacos.)


Whisler’s: In a big college town, there’s bound to be plenty of bars. And there will always be a range — from sticky-floored dive bars to craft cocktail bars. On Sixth Street (which one part is appropriately named ‘Dirty Sixth’), you’ll find c.) all of the above. We stuck to the east side of the strip and classed it up with fancy cocktails at Whisler’s. A hauntingly beautiful, defunct mansion vibe inside complements the lively, sprawling patio outside (complete with spicy noms from the Thai-Kun food truck). Our group was partial to two gin-based cocktails: the Gallant Fox and Queen Bee, which I kid not, was recommended by the burly bouncer whilst checking IDs. If you’re looking to get turnt in the most sophisticated of ways, dive into a punch bowl.

Leave It: Perla’s.

Holy four dollar signs, Batman. Positioned on the prime strip of real estate that is South Congress Street (AKA a money pit where I literally bought decorative deer antlers), Perla’s lures you in with one of the ::puts on Southern belle voice:: cutest patios you ever did see. Massive tree-of-life-esque topiaries soar through the deck, daintily dressed in strings of tiny edison bulbs. The ambiance is literally lit. I can’t tell you the food was bad, because it wasn’t. The wood fired creole oysters were dynamite. But, my friend ordered a lobster roll and…it was $34. I’ll break that down phonetically: thur-tee fore. Oysters run about $4 a pop. If you have pockets as deep as Jacob’s Well — google my hip Texas reference — then Perla’s is great for a chic and pricey night out. It’s also ideal if you’re on a diet — water is complimentary.

Erin Oliveri is the definition of an adventurous nomad — from eating highly questionable street food in Bangkok to plunging off of one of the highest bungee jumps in the world — there’s nothing she won’t try when traveling. A native New Yorker, Erin has eaten her way through nearly 40 countries and six continents — Antarctica, she’s coming for you next. She’s also pretty obsessed with puns, not going to the gym, and her French Bulldog, Toulouse (Erin’s #1 eating buddy and frequent star on her Instagram).


Love It, Leave It: The Miami Edition



Hi There! I’m Erin Oliveri — a sarcastic, yet unexpectedly friendly native New Yorker. My obsession with travel might be borderline unhealthy, but I’ve learned to combat this affliction with my pre-flight multivitamin. I’ve been to more than 35 countries and 6 continents, exploring the finest food and drink establishments a city has to offer.

In each city, there are those “can’t miss” hot spots that locals and tourists alike are queuing up around the block for. But, let’s be honest, many of those are overrated. I’m here to let you know what’s worth the hype and what’s not. And, maybe, just maybe, there are some under the radar places that should be on your checklist instead.

Love It, Leave It: Miami Edition

Ah, the 305. It seems like Miami is an ever-bustling scene that seamlessly transitions from beautifully buff and bronzed sunseekers during the day to slick suits, stilettos, celebrity sightings and nonstop revelry at velvet-roped South Beach clubs. Somewhere between the beach and the dancefloor, it’d be advisable to hit one (or a few) restaurants; otherwise, you may not make it to last call. With hundreds of restaurants to to snag a reservation at, you have to be careful not to fall victim to the tourist-ridden, glitzy beach spots just because they’re conveniently located.

Love It: Wynwood.

When a friend of mine took me to Wynwood for the first time, I was a bit bothered that I hadn’t discovered this hipster, art-obsessed mecca earlier. The area is most well-known for its epic, hand-painted and graffitied walls. Just search #wynwoodwalls on Instagram and you’ll get the picture, quite literally. The reason why most travelers might miss this constantly evolving community is that it’s a slight trek from the beach. From the iconic Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach to the main drag of Wynwood, it’s about a 20-minute drive (or Uber, let’s get real about it).

But, much like Williamsburg in Brooklyn, the hipster scene also churns out culinary works of art that compliment any budget (yes, even if only old movie stubs line your Velcro wallet). Let’s start with the budget-friendly joints – Coyo & KUSH. Coyo, a bustling Mexican spot on 2nd Avenue (where you typically start Wynwood excursion) dishes out reasonably priced, flavor-filled tacos, and also houses a hidden speakeasy in the back. Wait—is that possible? Yep. Go there. And KUSH by Lokal, sitting on the outskirts of Wynwood (awkwardly straddling the train tracks), has tons of local craft brews that wash down substantially sized, award-winning burgers. The Johnny Utah – which I had to try – is smothered in a homemade sauce and topped with a hearty handful of pastrami.

If you can tap into an expense account or you just saved up for one top-notch dinner, pull up a chair at Alter. This warehouse-turned-fine-dining-hot-spot is tasting-menu driven. Choose from the five or seven courses for $69 or $89. But, if you’re going all out, the ‘full chef’s experience’ comes in at $165. Bold flavors and artistically-plated entrees ensure the food tastes as good as it looks.

To keep you there all night long, Wynwood has microbreweries on what seems like every other street. From the popular Concrete Beach Brewery, with the kitschy “Drink art. Make Beer.” slogan, to the smaller J. Wakefield Brewing, decked out with the owner’s favorite Star Wars and superhero memorabilia, you’d be crazy to leave this trendy community without trying out a few taps.

Leave It: Lincoln Road Mall.

“The Beach” – Miami or South – is where nearly every tourist stays. With miles of soft sand surrounded by hotels, restaurants and clubs, dropping your bags here isn’t a question, it’s an innate decision. Yes, while one of these spots should be your designated ‘home base’ spot, venturing out a bit for your meals (and liquid refreshments) will be the highlight of your trip. The quintessential tourist trap, which I myself fell victim to and would certainly not blame you if you’ve been, is Lincoln Road. I don’t have many regrets in life friends, but this is certainly one of them. Jam packed with chain restaurants and shops, this road is one you may as well walk blindfolded down, since foot traffic moves at a snail’s pace. While shuffling down this mini-mall-esque street, you’ll see some names that might seem vaguely familiar: McDonald’s, Starbucks, Rosa Mexicano, SUSHISAMBA, ad nauseam. I kind of live by the motto that if you can eat dinner while staring at a Crocs store, you might want to re-evaluate some of your life decisions. How did I get here? Where did I go wrong? (All questions to ask your therapist in next week’s session.)

The week prior to my trip, my parents had gone to Miami and told me a horror story, brought to you by the aforementioned SUSHISAMBA. As far as chains go, this is a fairly reliable joint for slightly overpriced sushi (we have a couple in Manhattan). But, the service at its Lincoln Road locale was nightmarish – incorrect orders and exorbitant food wait times. Of course I didn’t dare step food in this establishment, but headed over to a meat-centric eatery aptly named Meat Market. Hello again, horrendous service. These restaurants are so overcrowded, and with a slim wait staff that has to service both indoor and outdoor tables, creating the “can you grab our waiter?” effect. You know it well. When you sit down, look at the menus, have been ready to order for 15 minutes, and no waiter is in sight. You start tapping bus boys, hostesses, even other patrons, just dying for someone to jot down your steak tartare appetizer. By the time the food is set down on the table, you’re so ravenous that cardboard dusted in truffle salt sounds appealing. The service – or lack thereof – just destroys the whole dining experience. Head to Lincoln Road if you need a few $10 tank tops from H&M, not if you’re looking for a quality dining experience.

Originally posted 2017-07-07 19:40:13.

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Rainbows Everywhere: Atlanta Pride 2017



June has come to a close, but just because Pride month stops doesn’t mean the LGBT+ community does. Whether you’re still sporting a rainbow shirt every day or reminiscing about the pride-react emoji on Facebook, pride doesn’t take a break. But how do you keep the celebration going?

Whether you’re queer or just an ally for the cause, pride festivals are an amazing celebration of love and equality for people from all walks of life. This year, Atlanta Pride¹ is yet again pulling all the stops to top last year’s festival and parade. With main events starting Friday, October 7, this year is sure to be just as massive, positive, and more powerful than ever. And thanks to the city of Atlanta, the streets are more colorful than ever, with the city’s June decision to paint it’s crosswalks with permanent rainbows². In memory of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims, the crosswalks are a way to remember the tragedy and why we need Pride parades now more than ever. Now you can’t just show off your pride, you can walk with pride too!  

You can spend your weekend visiting booths and food trucks at Piedmont Park, finding the hottest clubs to dance in, or just walking around, enjoying the sunshine and the smiling faces of people who want love and equality just like you. Atlanta Pride is a huge event, and you won’t find a sense of community quite like this anywhere else.

According to Atlanta Pride’s website, musical talent on Saturday features artists such as Kiiara, Zara Larsson, and Jody Watley & Shalamar Reloaded; Sunday includes performances from Starlight Cabaret, Deven Green (sponsored by David Atlanta), and DJ Citizen Jane. With all of this diverse talent, pride weekend in Atlanta is sure to be a wild party and a celebration of love like the city has never seen.

The weekend also features its various marches, including the Dyke March, the Trans March, and of course, the Pride Parade (sponsored by Delta Airlines). After the parade on Sunday, be sure to stick around Piedmont Park to revisit the booths, listen to music in the grass, and spend time with your friends or significant other. It’s an action-packed weekend but worth it for the chance to show your pride and support the rest of the LGBT+ community all in one place.

Originally posted 2017-07-07 09:58:52.

Also published on Medium.

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Donald Trump’s Failure to Declare Pride Month Proclamation is ‘Dissappointing’ and But Not So Surprising




President Donald Trump has still not yet (or maybe never will) issue a proclamation for Pride Month. The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender community groups call it ‘deeply dissapointing’ but not so surprising. It is a paradox to have former President Barack Obama issue a federal proclamation every year dating back to 2011, and seeing no recognition at this time.

Congressional Democrats are now criticizing the President for not showing any acknowledgment of June being LGBT Pride month. Sources say that Seventy-two congressional Democrats on Friday criticized Donald Trump for refusing to issue a proclamation. Fifty-three House Democrats signed a letter, while 19 senators joined a second letter, for Trump to take action. The effort in the house was led by New Jersey Rep. Donald Norcross, while Senators Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin led in the senate.

“The White House’s decision to remain silent about Pride Month after eight consecutive years of presidential recognition sends a troubling message to the LGBT community that your administration is not committed to advancing equality for all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. We urge you to honor your campaign promise to be a ‘real friend’ of the LGBT community by issuing a proclamation and supporting lasting change and progress through policies that advance LGBT rights,” the letter states.

Ivanka Trump was the only Trump family member to recognize LGBT month with a series of tweets. The first daughter’s tweet said that she, “wishes everyone a joyful #Pride2017. This month we celebrate and honor the #LGBTQ community.”

“I am proud to support my LGBTQ friends and the LGBTQ Americans who have made immense contributions to our society and economy,” she said in another tweet, regarding the subject.

No one in the LGBT community was having it with Ivanka Trump for wishing a ‘joyful’ Pride this year. For instance, The Advocate which is a predominant gay magazine, had a few words for her.

“No rainbow hashtag can fix what the Trump administration is doing.”

Other well known gay social media’s like celebrity gossip blogger Perez Hilton responded to the tweet with his twitter account.

“Who is this ‘we’ you talk about? Because your father isn’t celebrating us – that’s for damn sure!!” Hilton said.

Ivanka is usually labeled as complicit as her father by the LGBTQ community. In NBC News and elsewhere showed that Donald Trump received 14 percent of the LGBT vote against Hillary Clinton’s 78 percent.

During last year’s election Donald Trump positioned himself as a pro-LGBT Republican. On the campaign trail Trump promised he’d be “better for the gays” than his opponent Hillary Clinton. The president even made history by mentioning LGBT issues during his acceptance speech at the Republican National convention in Cleveland, Ohio.

In February, Trump rolled back protections for transgender students which allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity. It started the movement of “Trans equality now.”

Another attack Trump did to the community was when he rolled back protections in May by signing an executive order relative to religious liberty that pro-LGBT organizations say will only open the doors for further discrimination against gay americans.

Now, Trump broke the tradition at the start of Pride Month this year by not declaring a proclamation. Ashley Broadway-Mack, president of the American Military Partner Association, called “deeply disappointing.”

In order to prevent the LGBT movement from losing ground after the most pro-LGBT White House in history under President Barack Obama, veteran activist and director of Rise and Resist, Ken Kidd says leaders like himself need to remain involved and continue to make their voices heard.

“We should celebrate the heritage of Pride and the gains that we’ve made. But we also need to stand and fight to hang onto them and fight for our future,” the longtime New York City activist said.

Originally posted 2017-07-01 18:55:58.

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