Skid Row Schools Us Again: Identity Edition

It wasn’t until recently that I realized something I had never thought about while working on Skid Row.

In western society, we look to “stuff” to delineate one another. Do you live in an apartment and have no car? You’re ________. Do you live in a big house and have lots of cats and children and golf carts? You’re __________.  Fill in what you will, but usually we see one another at face value.

He’s wearing nice shoes, she has a crappy car. And we place people on a scale usually ruled by how much money he/she has, which directly translates to how much they are “worth” monetarily and intrinsically. At least in America, and at least from my perspective.

Skid Row is this unique place where story rules identity.

“Stuff” has recently been ripped away, or was never had, by most of the individuals there. My friend Michael would tell me (and still tells me) that “you know you’ve arrived when you no longer need to look through the donations bin for clothing…you can save up your change and buy something for yourself.”

So, people told me stories. Everyday, someone would walk into my office and talk to me about who they were or who they are or the things they’ve done or the famous people they’ve met or used to work for. Literally, I rode home on the train and would run into people from Skid Row and they would tell me stories all the way to my next transfer.

Because the stories kept them alive in today’s world.

The stories held their identities because surely (from a western perspective) how could anyone accurately know who they were by looking at them?

Do we do that to everyone, not just those on Skid Row? Do we do this to that girl you sit next to in class? Do we do this to that “annoying” coworker? Do we do this to that person that always parks too close to you with the “crappy” car?

When you see someone, think of their story. Don’t forget the person they really are isn’t reflected by their exterior, but by the lives they live.  

The Stranger in My Closet : Becoming Your Own Fashion Icon

I was talking to my BFF Kasandra a couple weeks ago and she had realized something that day about herself that I think a lot of people do (or just us, but don’t lie I know you do too):

She realized that she was dressing to be someone else, and she was tired of it.

She had looked in her closet and realized that she wore the same things over and over and ignored the other clothes that she actually loved.

I feel the same way a lot of the times – I’m dressing for the person I imagine myself to be (which is really not me, it’s someone else I’ve made up) and I lose myself in something as small as what I’m going to wear that day.

yes, this is our album cover. 

If the first decision we make in the morning, aka choosing our outfit, reaches for someone else as opposed to who we are as a unique individual then how will the rest of our day go?

Does that set the tone for the rest of the day’s decisions? Will they be made for someone else without staying true to ourselves?

If we remove our voice first thing in the morning then who’s live are we living?

Having a gut reaction to something is our privilege as humans and makes us who we are. Don’t mask it. Don’t start your day by asking whomever dwells in your head what he/she wants to wear. Wear what you want. Go with your gut. Repeat endlessly throughout your day.

Guts. Grit. Getting Married.

April 6,2013.

Our wedding was one of the harder things we've ever pulled off – we put so much of ourselves into it. And I wouldn’t have done a single thing different. I find that the things we really dive into, the things we do as extensions of ourselves and then work the hardest to turn those dreams into reality, are the things that we are never unhappy about doing. I can look back on plenty of other things I didn’t put my heart into and have regrets and criticisms. But not this wedding, and never anything I know I put my entire soul into and worked the hardest I’ve ever worked.

Sure, I definitely made things a lot harder than they had to be to create this wedding, but there’s not one day I’ve ever regretted it. I mean, I said my vows on a checkerboard dance floor and got confetti thrown at me instead of rice.

What would our lives look like if we lived everyday like this? Would we be happier? Would we feel more accomplished in our jobs and our personal lives? It takes guts and it takes grit, but aren’t our lives worth nothing less than that beautiful pay off when we are extremely and unapologetically ourselves? 

*All photos below are credited to Kyle Ng, master photographer and architect (literally, he went to school for architecture, how badass is that?). 

The 7th Street Bridge over the LA River with that DTLA skyline in the background. 

The 7th Street Bridge over the LA River with that DTLA skyline in the background. 

I had the privilege a little over a year ago of marrying my best friend. His name is Micah Twan Heykoop, for those of you who don’t know him and/or didn’t know “Twan” could be a middle name (pronounced “Tao-” like the nightclub in Vegas “-juan” like the Spanish version of John).

He wanted me to make sure you knew how to pronounce it before moving on.

Being the traditional people we are, we decided to have a warehouse rager in Downtown Los Angeles and invite the grandparents. 

Primping at  The Standard Hotel  in DTLA before the ceremony. 

Primping at The Standard Hotel in DTLA before the ceremony. 

Some yoga to calm my nerves lead by my BFF  Melissa . Definitely needed it. Definitely. 

Some yoga to calm my nerves lead by my BFF Melissa. Definitely needed it. Definitely. 

A short note about the proposal: Micah flew home from a business trip to Florida one day early and had my best friends (Melissa & Kasandra) set up and distract me from coming home to the apartment I lived alone in at the time so that he could fill the scarce living room with Christmas lights, sunflowers, and champagne. Successfully scaring the crap out of me when I came home and thought there was an intruder inside my apartment, only to propose to me with our favorite songs playing on the iPod deck.

I wanted to get married under a tree, but April was a little spotty when it came to the whole “will it rain or be 100 degrees that day?” California question. So clearly the next logical step in that scenario was to get married in a space large enough to bring a tree indoors. 

Peering out the window at the Standard Hotel in Downtown LA, where the girls got ready. 

Peering out the window at the Standard Hotel in Downtown LA, where the girls got ready. 

At the time, I was working on Skid Row in Downtown LA (DTLA for short) and was always riding by the warehouse district with tons of “rent for filming” signs on the empty buildings. Since we hadn’t found a venue yet and we were less than three months away from our wedding, I decided we should try this avenue and with much success we located Six01 Studios. 

"I'm N Love (Wit a Stripper)" by T-PAIN on the radio the second the wedding party got in the limo to take pictures. We all sang along without skipping a beat. Of course. 

"I'm N Love (Wit a Stripper)" by T-PAIN on the radio the second the wedding party got in the limo to take pictures. We all sang along without skipping a beat. Of course. 

It was time to convince someone to rent a tree to us, so naturally we found a set landscaper in North Hollywood. A grumpy genius owned this massive lot filled with fake versions of every natural landscape on earth, and after initially shutting us down with the line, “Listen, I do movies and commercials and TV shows, there’s no way in hell I have time for a few topiaries and a tree,” we kept bugging him and grew on him enough to drive us around his lot in a golf cart and let us rent a few topiaries and a tree for our inane sounding wedding. I think he wanted to just see if we could pull off what we were saying.

My "Something Blue" was pieces of hair dyed blue. You can spot them just above my eye. 

My "Something Blue" was pieces of hair dyed blue. You can spot them just above my eye. 

We rented the actual stump and branches of a real tree, and then selected the fake leaves to be assembled on it out of a warehouse of shrubbery for this type of event (aka stapling fake leaves to a real tree stump, part of this man’s everyday life. Am I jealous? Yes). 

Another insane genius and friend, Ryan Choura, helped us with our rentals and reconfigured the entire set up of our wedding just before the big day after standing in space and deeming our original plan impossible. He, too, a mastermind. 

My mom & dad crafted a golden tower for donuts. Cause I can't think of anything better than that. 

My mom & dad crafted a golden tower for donuts. Cause I can't think of anything better than that. 

My mom made and decorated our cake. It helps when your mom is a professional at a lot of things. 

My mom made and decorated our cake. It helps when your mom is a professional at a lot of things. 

We did have a live jazz band. They were the dopest.  Dustbowl Revival  was their name. 

We did have a live jazz band. They were the dopest. Dustbowl Revival was their name. 

The Wobble, of course. Is that master Wobbler, Nolan Goff?! Look at that hip action. 

The Wobble, of course. Is that master Wobbler, Nolan Goff?! Look at that hip action. 

The customized tattoos that said "I survived the Heykoop Wedding" and had photos of us from our photo booth save the dates. 

The customized tattoos that said "I survived the Heykoop Wedding" and had photos of us from our photo booth save the dates. 

 

The set up day consisted of 10 friends, live sod to be cut up (naturally) for centerpieces, one person getting electrocuted setting up the lighting and almost falling off the ladder, the massive golden wall that made up the background of the stage almost plummeting off the back of said stage, me setting up chairs right up until the minute of the rehearsal, hundreds of bottles getting washed for water, and the love and dedication of our dear friends filling the room with their elbow grease, sweat, and blood.

Of course I had a massive head cold/infection the days leading up to the wedding and into the honeymoon, but luckily my two best friends are a nurse and a licensed cosmetologist so no one knew any different. 

The entirety of the wedding, I can only describe to you in the pictures included. Words can’t express the perfection of the crazy sweaty mess that was our wedding. When it started getting warm, we just rolled up the warehouse doors and let the breeze in. People sat and dangled their feet off the sides of the delivery openings, there was a classic Pac-Man arcade game in the space, we ate quiche from a dear friend’s customized menu he created with his students, we had a tower of donuts, customized temporary tattoos that read “I Survived the Heykoop wedding,” and a massive open bar with drinks called “the Bethany” and “the Micah” (we ran out of creativity there at the end). Goldfish were swimming in massive vases on top of sod in the centerpieces. It was the best day.

Also, a special thank you to the angels I call my best friends & family, who got us down the aisle in one piece and swept up every bit of confetti off the sticky floor the day after.