*I'm in debt to my sister for an unlimited supply of donuts or milkshakes or beer for her unceasing patience filming a large portion of these shots for me. Thank you so much, Zoë, for a great trip and for entertaining me when I have weird fantasies of creating a music video about Chicago!
Happy birthday to my beautiful mom, who turns 60 today!
She can wear that number with absolute pride. She's definitely the #1 reason for my wandering spirit. It's always hard to track her down. So thank you, Mom, for showing me what turning 60 with grace and a young, adventurous, gypsy soul looks like. 60 years young, and she's held true to her values and passions. Not many people can say that, and I feel like I'm better off for having grown up with such an example.
I've said lots about her in the past, so I'll make this post short and sweet and end with this song, which my mom used to sing to us when we were children. Her singing to us is, as it turns out, one of my favorite childhood memories. She doesn't believe it, but she has a beautiful voice. Anyway, the song seemed appropriate here. Happy birthday, Mom! I love you!
Two weeks ago, the Mahoneys had a reunion. Well, some of us did. There's a lot of us, and we live all over. Only, like, .01% of them could make it. My sister wasn't even there. And yet we still had around 130 people show up. Irish-Catholic families are big like that. But let me start from the beginning...or, at least the middle...
My great-grandfather came over to San Francisco from Ireland back in 1911. He came from stereotypical Irish stock: lover of storytelling, lover of the drink, lover of the dance, lover of big families, and Catholic just to be safe. I didn't know it while living there, but back at my old apartment on Funston Avenue, I was living a mere two blocks away from where my great-grandfather had bought the house my grandfather would spend his childhood.
I wish I knew more about my family, but that's what my oldest brother's for. He has painstakingly documented our family history on paper. It's all too much for me to keep track of. But the part I do love is the pictures.
I've always loved photographs, and the older the photograph, the better. I love staring into those sepia eyes of family members who died well before I was even conceived, trying to read their glance for some sign of what their life was like.
What were they thinking at that very moment? Who took their picture? Who was their best friend? What did they listen to on the radio? What did they have for dinner that night? Were they happy? Were they in pain? Did they love their spouse? I know marriage was all so much different back then. It would be nice to know there was at least love involved.
Each picture I see of my family fills me with a plethora of imagined stories about their lives. Whether they're true or not, I'll never know: I know they say a picture's worth a thousand words and all that, but a thousand words isn't much when trying to capture a lifetime.
What I do know is seeing all the pictures taken in restaurants and nightclubs of my grandmother with my grandfather and a circle of friends--silver cigarette cases on the table with silk evening gowns and hair carefully coiffed--inspired me to enjoy the finer side of city nightlife. Thank you, Grandma, for passing down your love of cocktails and dress-up to me.
A picture of my grandmother and grandfather Mahoney.
Photo courtesy of my brother's website.
Every time I walk downtown, I think of my grandmother. She would tell us stories all the time about walking the same streets in her high heels while working as a lingerie girl at the Emporium seventy-five years ago. She passed by the same buildings, hopped on the same trolley cars. Grabbed coffee at the same ferry building. It's a nice thought.
Anyway, the point of all this is I believe in photographs. I believe in the memories they preserve, even if it's only a partial memory. I believe in the stories they inspire. And I believe that one day, my grandchildren will be thankful that I obsessively documented everything. Which is why, at our family reunion a couple of weeks ago, I spent the entire time taking photographs. Photographs of family members so far removed, many of us had never met before. All because two Irish people had a baby.
Anyway, here's some of the photographs from the day:
Let me be blunt here: living in San Francisco without a smartphone pretty much makes you a social pariah. Or an ironically technophobic hipster. Or poor. Which are all basically the same thing (kidding!).
I can't seem to wake up, socialize or even buy hairspray without turning to my phone for guidance. And I'm not alone. Here in SF, apps aren't just useful tools you download for fun, they're our lifeblood, much like Philz coffee and PBR.
That being said, let me introduce you to some of my most-used apps of the moment. These are all iPhone apps, but Android-friendly versions exist for most of these apps too.
Circa is the app created by the British news agency Reuters. I have several news apps on my phone, but this one's got the most convenient user interface. Circa introduces news stories to you a paragraph at a time, instead of giving you a block of intimidating words to tackle on your screen. Like what you're reading? Great! Simply swipe up to get to the next paragraph.
Another beautiful part of Circa is that you can share the entire article of any news story you see to your email, Facebook or other link-sharing platform. It never cuts a story short or asks you to pay for the privilege of being well-informed. If you're not the type to shriek in terror at the sight of British English (I mean, that extra "i" the Brits put in "aluminium" can be terrifying, I know), then this is quite possibly the most plebian-friendly news app on the market. "Plebian," by the way, is a big word I use now because I read Reuters every day.
Throughout the day, I'm always coming across articles I want to read or videos I'd like to watch, but as I'm supposed to be "working" at the time, or am on a crowded bus with limited patience at my disposal, I don't necessarily have the time to give all these fun little pieces of the Internet my full attention right when I see them.
This is where the Pocket app comes in. This little square on your phone enables you to save any link you come across for later viewing. Just open up the app, and view a personalized list of quality content hand-picked by you to read whenever you have the time.
I love to read, but I'm not exactly going to be breaking any world records for reading speed anytime soon, especially as my attention span gets easily distracted when there are multiple words on the page. But one word on the page at a time? That I can give my undivided attention to.
That's why I decided to give ReadQuick a try, because I've always wanted to be a faster reader. This app syncs seamlessly with the Pocket app (see above) by saving everything you save to Pocket, as well as any other text-based links you'd like to copy and paste. Or you can search for articles through the app's browser.
The app--which flashes one word of text on your phone screen at a time--tells you how long it will take to read any particular piece, and you can also change the read speed, screen mode and text to suit your needs. The theory is that by constantly feeding you text at a steady pace, you'll eventually train yourself to a faster reading speed.
Whether or not that's true, what I do know is that now I can read the morning's news in half the time, by getting each article delivered across my screen in the simplest way possible. Laziness at its finest, but let's call it productivity here for the sake of argument.
Waking up is, like, really, really hard. I personally like to wake up gradually, within the span of, let's say, an hour and a half. RadiOn thinks this is a great idea, and delivers the sweet, soothing sounds of the BBC to me at 6:00 am, and continues to caress me with that gorgeous British accent until I finally roll out of bed at 7:30. Alarm clock radios are pretty great like that.
Just like an alarm clock radio, RadiOn allows you to set multiple alarms and choose from virtually any radio station on the planet. If you don't like the radio, you can choose to wake up to white noise machine sounds or any of your iTunes music. There's a sleep timer, too.
I'm a big fan of Instagram, but the filters on that thing leave much to be desired. I get you're trying to be the simpler plastic Holga cameras of yesteryear, Instagram, but come on: you're an app on a $600 phone. The jig is up.
Until Instagram gets over its pretentious hipsterness (which could take a while, I get it, I live in San Francisco after all), Pixlr is quite possibly the best free photo editing app out there. All the filters you wish Instagram had, and some you never even knew existed but can't believe you've lived this long without.
I don't know about you, but cancer really freaks me out. The older I get, the more I'm convinced my toothpaste is trying to kill me. Well, according to this app, I'm right: my toothpaste is trying to kill me. I know I could have found that out years ago simply by looking at the ingredients list, but to be quite honest, my eyes start to glaze over when looking at long words that have a bunch of consonants strung together.
I've scanned just a few of my beauty products on this app and they've all registered as "evil." Not good. Thankfully, this app suggests alternatives that won't seep poison into my skin.
I'm now making the slow and steady transition into all-natural beauty products, thanks to this app's adorable color-coded ranking system. Think Dirty serves as a friendly reminder that the beauty and pharmaceutical industries must be in cahoots, because that's the only explanation I can come up with to why there are so many horrific chemicals in the products we put on our bodies every day.
On a lighter note, QuizUp is a great trivia app filled with every topic to pique your interest. Simply log on with your Facebook account or your email, and duel it out with someone across the world in topics covering math, science, video games, sports and current events that are updated constantly. It's a great way to pass the time while also testing your knowledge. The bonus is you get to feel smugly self-righteous when you win.
That's the list for now. I hope I introduced you to at least one app that will change your life for the better. Please feel free to let me know which apps you can't live without in the comments section below. I love hearing about new apps! Every time I download a new app on my phone, it feels a little bit like my birthday. I know how sad that sounds but I'm not even kidding.