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The Laylow Hotel Honolulu review: Mid-century modern Hawaii design! Kaka’ako murals, The Bishop Museum art.

The Laylow, Autograph Collection waikiki hawaii hotel room

If the tropical leaves and ukulele didn’t give it away… surprise, I’ve been hanging out in Honolulu, Hawaii!

After over a year at home in Canada, I jumped on the chance to be on the paradise island of Oahu.

In Part 1 of my Hawaiian diary, you’ll see how I fit right in at The Laylow, a mid-century modern design hotel by Waikiki beach.

Fort DeRussy Beach Park sunset honolulu

Still dreaming of this sunset… the fashionable Laylow hotel was walking distance from poke cafes and picture-perfect beaches, like Fort DeRussy Beach (above).

Kakaako district street art tour murals

Since we’re taking a look at Hawaiian contemporary design, I’ll also show you the flamboyant murals of Kakaʻako, and a street art exhibit at the Bishop Museum. (Quite a few have a Gothic and kawaii influence, which isn’t a surprise as there is a substantial Japanese population in Honolulu.)

The Laylow hotel is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, a group of unique design properties. My hotel room was made for photography, with statement wallpaper, a colorful midcentury sofa, and a ukulele to strum. (The little guitar-like musical instrument was introduced to Hawaii by Portuguese, where it took off.)

(My long bat print Goth dress is by Sourpuss Clothing.)

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Each of the 251 rooms is filled with retro-tropical touches. All guests receive this Lay Low surfer rubber ducky in a gift basket, as a memento to take home. The shelves contain nostalgic books about surf culture, art, and more. (I was fascinated by the an architecture book about Vladimir Ossipoff, Hawaii’s most renowned mid-century modern architect whose buildings were inspired by his childhood in Japan.)

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I loved “laying low” in my cozy and spacious room, which had a vintage Hawaii color scheme and design accents.

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Snuggling up in this white robe, which every guest can find in the closet. With its round illuminated mirror, the futuristic Laylow bathroom looks like something out of 2001 A Space Odyssey.

laylow hotel room interior single bed suite balcony

In addition, every stylish room has a private lanai, or curved balcony.

You may recall that my own apartment decor is inspired my mid-century modernism — it’s one of my favorite design styles. The Laylow’s custom and refurbished vintage MCM furniture includes a pin-leg lounge chair and curving table reminiscent of a surfboard.

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Everyone who checks in receives a generous “E Komo Mai Basket” of goodies to use and take home as souvenirs. These include Laylow branded flip flops in two sizes, water bottles, snacks, a cute rubber duck and a sanitization kit.

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Be sure to take a photo with The Laylow’s signature monstera leaf wallpaper, which was inspired by vintage bark cloth patterns.

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The cheerful kitsch extends to the hotel’s common areas. Behind the check-in counter, you’ll find classic hula dancer figurines swaying their hips and strumming ukuleles.

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The Laylow maintains the 1950s/60s vibe with its outdoor saltwater pool framed by foliage. I’m all about the egg chairs and retro bullet planters (I have one myself).

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The Laylow boutique hotel opened in 2017, so everything is brand new — while retaining the sprit of the 1960s-era hotel that it replaced.

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And did I mention the location, location, location? I only had to walk for a few minutes to be at Waikiki Beach! (With all my sun protection, of course.)

waikiki beach water ocean swimming fish

After the past year and more… I couldn’t believe I was in sunny Honolulu, wading in the clear waters and saying hello to the schools of fish that darted about.

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A moment of Zen, watching the waves roll over the rocks at Waikiki. (Thankfully, I managed not to drop my phone in the ocean…)

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If you’re a sportier type than me, you can take part in water activities like surfboard yoga, paddle-boarding, and sailing. (These bright surfboards lined the walkway to the water.)

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The Laylow is located at 2299 Kuhio Avenue, right by International Marketplace and major Waikiki shops/restaurants. Take the long escalator down to the street level, and everything is right at hand — including multiple ABC Stores, the infamous Hawaiian “conbini”!

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The hotel also has a stylish dining space: Hideout at The Laylow. The restaurant that serves modern Hawaiian cuisine with ingredients from the ocean and local farms.

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With outdoor seating and a sandy floor area, Hideout felt like beachside dining. Come for happy hour to try the signature mai tai made with local rum, pineapple, and lilikoi (a fruit similar to the passionfruit).

hawaiian food hideout ceviche poke

The Hideout menu includes poke bowls (I chose ahi tuna, and it came with kimchi and an egg on top). Fresh fish is always a good idea when you’re in Hawaii, and the kampachi ceviche with calamansi hit the spot.

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The seared ahi tuna sandwich has a Japanese touch. It’s coated with bubu arare, tiny glutinous rice pops originating from Kyoto.

laylow hotel balcony sunset hawaii

Later, you can grab a bottled cocktail from the ABC Store, and sit on your Laylow private balcony to take in the sunset.

bishop museum castle memorial building

I was inspired to see more of Hawaii’s art — past and present — at the Bishop Museum. Founded 1889, the Bishop is the state’s largest museum and has the world’s largest collection dedicated to the history, culture, and environment of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.

POW! WOW! Jasper Wong rabbit bunny Bishop Museum

The Castle Memorial Building held a special art show: “POW! WOW! The First Decade: From Hawaiʻi to the World.” The vibrant exhibition showcases some of the most notable local and international street artists, whose works include a big-eyed inflatable bunny.

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This exhibit was curated by Jasper Wong, the founder of POW! WOW! (a nonprofit that brings contemporary artists together to enrich neighborhoods with art). The Bishop featured over 160 artists, with 30 creating new murals and installations.

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I walked into what looked like an urban street corner, covered in decals and graffiti tags.

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The creative works included a modified old-school Mortal Kombat arcade game. I spotted a Stop Asian Hate Crimes poster by Lauren YS.

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The devil is always lurking about, wherever I go…

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The Bishop’s gallery space included over 120 new 2’x2’ paintings. In the foreground, Winnie is squatting and straining, and living up to his “pooh” name…

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The kinetic artwork drew my attention. The “”good” and “bad” ideas sway left and right into the empty heads.

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The show brought together contemporary creative expression with traditional and indigenous perspectives.

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Leave it to me to find some cute pastel monsters. Designer and illustrator Kevin Lyons is known for these funky characters.

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The Bishop has many other exhibits, as well as a museum of science and nature. Be sure to wander in the impressive Hawaiian Hall, guarded by a 55 foot long sperm whale. It houses thousands of fascinating artifacts about the royal family and Polynesian cultures.

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On the first floor, I learned about ancient Hawaiian gods and legends, which are expressed through haunting stone carvings. (They reminded me of my time on Easter Island.)

hawaii tribal native sculptures totems

A few of the many fascinating totems by Pacific Island tribes. Thank you to The Bishop Museum for letting me discover Hawai‘i’s history and living culture.

diamond head volcano lookout viewpoint view

Even for a sun-phobic Goth, spending outdoors is a must in Hawaii. At Diamond Head beach park, you can walk up to a lookout point for this view, or hike up to the summit of the volcanic crater.

honolulu roosters diamond head chickens

You’ll come across hens and roosters roaming about the park. The birds first arrived on the island through Polynesian voyagers in 300 AD, and have stuck around.

Kakaako Waterfront Park ocean rocks

There are endless spots on Oahu to see the waves – this is Kakaʻako Waterfront Park. I would have driven to the North Shore and Japanese temples, had there not been a rental car shortage…. (Something to be aware of when you plan your trip.)

cute kawaii graffiti rainbow colorful Kakaako

Honolulu’s Kakaʻako district has been revitalized with urban street art. I encourage you to come here to see the impressive large-scale works, such as “Aloha Monsters” by Kevin Lyons.

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Most of these were part of POW! WOW!, the festival that brings local and global artists to the neighborhood to paint public murals. 

gorilla street art wall murals Kakaako

Kakaʻako isn’t too far from Waikiki, so you can Uber or Lyft here easily. Set your location to the “Fisher Hawaii” office supply store, and you’ll find tons of murals in the surrounding streets.

gundam robot rabbits Kaka'ako artists

Quite a few had Japanese manga aesthetics. Here’s a gundam robot fist and hopping bunnies.

hawaii Kaka'ako public art festival

I dug this eccentric take on tiki statues.

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Spend some time walking around Kakaako, then end up at the hip Salt retail center for an iced tea.

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Tokidoki is easy to recognize. Note how the palm trees look like skulls and animals, and a dinosaur is chomping on one!

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Quite a few murals had a Goth or spooky theme, such as this skeleton diver.

japanese devil demon mural art

And the devil is always near.

japanese culture Kaka'ako cute characters

Not surprising to see cuteness like this in Hawaii, as it has one of the world’s largest Japanese communities.

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Waikiki has plenty of great Japanese food options as well as poke, the native Hawaiian dish of diced raw fish. I had this generous selection of spicy salmon and marinated tuna at The Poke Bar, near my hotel. (And I stumbled upon Satan on my walk there.)

musubi waikiki shop japanese rice balls onigiri

Hawaiians also invented spam musubi, or fried canned ham placed on a rice ball and secured with a strip of nori seaweed. (I’m not a fan, but I loved the wide selection of bento boxes and onigiri.)

Mitsuwa Marketplace Hawaii Waikiki japanese grocery store

Stop by Mitsuwa Marketplace to pick up snacks, or to-go dishes like a salmon roe chirashi. And PSA: Honolulu has Coco Ichiban, my favorite Japanese curry chain… Of course, I went out of my way to get my Coco Ichi fix!

waikiki beach diamond head volcano mountain view

After the year and plus we’ve had, it was a dream come true to be in Honolulu. I’ll miss meandering from my hotel to Fort DeRussy Beach, which has this view of Diamond Head volcano.

Fort DeRussy Beach waikiki best sunset spots

Come back to the beach at nightfall, and walk up the jetty pier to see the sunset over the ocean waves.

The Laylow design art hotel honolulu hotels

I have more to share with you from the Aloha State — stay tuned for part two of my dispatches. Thank you to The Laylow for the happy memories here.

airplane wing sunset clouds window flight landing

I leave you with a view from the wing — I’ve missed this! Please stay safe this summer.

Will you be flying somewhere soon, or do you have any road trips or local getaways planned?

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Goth Hanami: Japanese cherry blossoms picnic! Imagine Van Gogh Vancouver review, Ministry of Wings hat, Latokyo.

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Hail Persephone, goddess of spring — and queen of the underworld!

It’s cherry blossom season again, and Vancouver is currently permitting a 10-person bubble to safely gather outdoors (I’ve been following local health guidelines since March 2020). I enjoyed the baby-pink blossoms in my signature way — by attending a Goth girl picnic. 

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Anyone else have wild, extra-long lockdown hair going on? Read on for our sakura flower-viewing photos, along with my Gothic grunge meets e-girl  / pastel kei outfit.

OOTD — Black wool hat with crosses on the brim by Ministry of Wings (give them a follow on Instagram). Long sleeved crop top Latokyo. Purple Goth tartan skirt Ninja Cosmico.  Sunglasses are Chloe Rosie Heart; get them here.

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And read on for my review of Imagine Van Gogh, the immersive art and music show that is currently in Vancouver. (I attended the media preview; the exhibition has timed limited tickets, mask requirements and other safe practices.)

japanese goths cherry blossom festival sakura flowers

I’ve been rather isolated in the past months, so it’s been a treat to see a few trustworthy local friends in recent weeks. The pink and white Japanese cherry blossoms never last for long, so VesperSephony and I went to enjoy the flowers and shoot portraits.

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Travelers from over 150 countries are currently prohibited from visiting Japan as tourists, including Canadians. I miss being in Japan, but at least Vancouver has many parks with cherry bloom trees that remind me of Tokyo.

The pink canopy matches my hair color and pink Skandinavik coat (made from Mongolian sheared lamb fur — no animals were harmed).

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We contrasted the pastel cherry blossoms with Gothic fashion edge! I’m wearing Japanese-style socks, which can be scrunched down Harajuku schoolgirl-style, by Sock Dreams. I’m a long-time fan of their inclusive sizing and wide variety of alternative styles / patterns / colors.

My leather platform heels are these exact Mexique ankle boots by Jeffrey Campbell. Hat by Ministry of Wings, top by Latokyo, skirt Ninja Cosmico. Shop my look with a click below:

big japanese umbrella red inside goth latokyo

This badass umbrella and turtleneck crop top from Latokyo add to the feeling that I’m back in Japan. Latokyo is an indie fashion label that blends Eastern culture with Western apparel, with a dark yet minimal aesthetic.

I am holding their Dead Sky Umbrella, which is a powerhouse: 41 inches, with a sturdy metal frame that will never turn inside-out. The exterior is black, while the interior has an eye-catching red sky print and the LA東京 logo. The parasol comes with a slip bag with a sling, so you can carry it over your shoulder and wield it like a katana!

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I am also wearing Latokyo’s long sleeve crop top, which has the signature stripe logo on the turtleneck, and a cute red label detail at the hem. Love how it pairs well with a variety of wardrobe pieces, including high waisted skirts.

(Pair photos by Joyce Cheung of Ondine Photography. Individual photos of me by VesperSephony.)

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Latokyo’s umbrella arrived just in time for our Goth spring picnic – it shielded me from the sun and showering petals. I try to do hanami (花見, “flower viewing”) every year; it’s the ancient Japanese tradition of appreciating the sakura blossoms before they quickly fade and fall. We spread out blankets, and enjoyed onigiri (rice balls) and matcha lattes under the pink trees.

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In this bizarre timeline of restrictions and variants, the age-old Japanese concept of “mono no aware”—a wistful recognition of impermanence, as represented by the falling blossoms—hits especially close to home.

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Cherry blossom trees are found worldwide, especially in Japanese gardens. Check your local blossom forecast (桜前線, sakura-zensen) to see the “cherry blossom front,” or blooming predictions. This way, you can see the sakura flowers when they are at their finest.

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My friends managed to have the picnic at the peak time for this species of sakura (there are various cherry blossom types, with colors ranging from deep pink to white). The sun also came out, after months of rain.

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We shot some fashion-walk videos under the trees — see the best cut below and on @lacarmina TikTok. But if you want a laugh, see the “throwing shade” funny outtake here!

@lacarmina

Always dropping shade, even at ##hanami 🌸🌺🇯🇵 – w @spellbound.steph What do you think of my #c#herryblossom picnic outfit? 💞 #s#akura #p#astelgoth

♬ Substitute (Original Mix) – Liquid Gold & Liquid Gold

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Outfit roll call: Chloe Rosie Heart sunglasses, black witchy hat Ministry of Wings, long sleevee top LATokyo, purple black plaid skirt Ninja Cosmico, scrunchable knee socks Sock Dreams. and pink furry coat Skandinavik Fur.

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Have you ever done hanami, or cherry blossom celebrations? Now is the time to see these gorgeous pink flowers before they disappear.

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Vesper and I were fortunate to be able to attend another fantastic local event, Imagine Van Gogh. As you know, I adore seeing art — and this was my first opportunity to walk through an exhibition in over a year.

Imagine Van Goth is an immersive art experience, which is currently in Vancouver until August 29th. The grandiose show pays tribute to the life and work of master painter, Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890).

vancouver Imagine Van Gogh - The Immersive Exhibition

Here’s a sense of the scale — Van Gogh’s distinctive paintings are blown up and projected on multiple towering screens, which fill up a gigantic room at the Vancouver Conference Centre. (Here’s a close-up on one of his self portraits.)

Up close with his thick brushstrokes and bright colors, I felt as if I were part of his expressive works.

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The projections were constantly shifting, illuminating the room with different colors and movements. Classical music accompanied Van Gogh’s imagery, inspiring me to create this video below:

@lacarmina

Van Gogh’s immersive paintings are my new dance floor. ##vangogh exhibition in Vancouver ##imaginevangogh – tickets still available! ##puttinontheritz

♬ Puttin’ on the Ritz – Taco

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The Dutch post-Impressionist is best known for his paintings of sunflowers and starry nights. (And for cutting off his own ear!). At Imagine Van Gogh, we also got to see his lesser-known landscapes and still-lifes, and black-and-white photographs of where he grew up.

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Imagine Van Gogh is also an experience for your ears (or ear, if you only have one like Vincent). The art projections flowed to the sounds of Saint-Saëns, Mozart, Bach, Delibes and Satie.

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A black-and-white moment that matched our Gothic outfits. (My shirt and scarf are by Latokyo.)

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The show reminded me of Tokyo’s Teamlab Borderless and Planets exhibit, which I saw in 2018. (See my story and photos about visiting Teamlab in Japan.) Imagine Van Gogh is touring, and will later be in Edmonton, Tacoma Washington, and Boston MA.

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My LATokyo scarf and top were fitting for the show, as Vincent Van Gogh was rather inspired by Japanese art. He fervently collected Japanese art prints, and his “Japonisme” works are influenced by the colors, perspectives, and motifs of these Eastern engravings.

Vancouver Art Exhibition: Imagine Van Gogh tour dates 2021

I hope you’ll get a chance to dance through Imagine Van Gogh while it’s in Vancouver (through August 29). The multi-projections and immersive audio added depth to his imagery, and gave me a new appreciation of his vision.

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Bonus photo from outside the Vancouver Convention Centre in Vancouver, British Columbia. I’m posing with “Digital Orca,” a 2009 sculpture of a killer whale by Douglas Coupland. My 東京 scarf and shirt are LA Tokyo.

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And here’s a close-up of my comfortable platform sneakers by Anthony Wang Shoes, and hat by Tenth Street Hats.

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This spring, you won’t see me without my new Baphomet jacket, designed by my friends at Long Clothing. With a circular red patch of the Satanic icon on the back, this Baphomet MA1 Patch Jacket is one unholy bomber.

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Here’s a closer look at my stunning hat by startup Australian label, Ministry of Wings. This design is called the Arrow of Time — it’s a classic dipped crown oval boater, with a wide brim to protect from the sun’s rays. Ministry of Wings crafts their luxurious hats from 100% Australian wool, with silk lining inside. The black velvet ribbon and polished gold plated crosses on the outside are one-of-a-kind!

I encourage you to add Ministry of Wings on Instagram to see their other stunning, alternative hat designs.

Ministry of Wings hat Luxury wool felt hats crosses

If you ask me, the crosses spin in the left direction, which makes them upside down!

Wearing a Latokyo t-shirt featuring their Octopus Girl print. As someone who’s lived in Los Angeles and Tokyo, and still visits often (well, in a regular year), their designs are my cup of sake.

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Let’s wrap up with a few of my recent articles and press features. I chatted with Lucien Greaves of The Satanic Temple about his first musical project, Satanic Planet!

In this exclusive interview for Riot Fest, find out what his new Satanic band sounds like (members include drummer Dave Lombardo of Slayer), and learn about the upcoming music videos and album drop on May 28. Lucien Greaves also gives in-depth updates on The Satanic Temple’s activism, including erecting the Baphomet monument, and pursuing lawsuits such as a Texas reproductive rights TRO.

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By now, I’m sure we have all seen the Lil Nas X “Montero” music video where he pole dances down to hell and gives Satan a lap dance. I was interviewed by Unilad about Satanic Panic, and how it’s more urgent than ever to fight conspiracy theories about ritual Satanic abuse. We also discuss The Satanic Temple’s Grey Faction initiative to combat pseudoscience, and their World Congress on Moral Panics conference.

Speaking of the devil, Dr John Skutlin and I chatted with Satanic Study Hall podcast about our 10+ years of researching and writing about Satanism worldwide, particularly in Japan. We also preview our upcoming web TV show, “Satanic Show + Tell,” premiering soon on The Satanic Temple TV… stay tuned for more!

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I’m keeping busy with freelance journalism. I had fun writing about my favorite Japanese gardens for Lonely Planet’s Budget Travel. From a Zen sand garden in Portland, to an Edo-style strolling path in Seattle, here is a guide to the USA’s most beautiful Japanese gardens.

I also did interviews about my work in fashion / travel for Nylon Magazine and The Boston Globe, coming out soon. And I will have travel and design articles published in Time Magazine, Architectural Digest, and House Beautiful. 

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One of my work highlights of 2021 was joining the Sleep.com team. I wrote about how I still travel in my lucid dreams, almost every night! Enjoy my personal essay, and reflections of Tibetan yoga nidra or dream yoga. (Above: my cult-y Osho Zen Tarot cards, and book “The Tibetan Yogas of Dream and Sleep” by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche.)

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As I quote: “Travel in hell, in the devil’s realm. It is just an idea, you will not actually be participating there. But you will be loosening the constrictions that bind your mind.” (Above, I really was on Easter Island, but the rest is Photoshop.)

See all my Sleep.com articles here, and join me every Sunday on Clubhouse for a chat about sleep and travel! You can ask doctors and experts questions about topics related to getting a good night’s rest. Add me @lacarmina on Clubhouse here so that you won’t miss out. (The “Sunday Scaries” chats happen every Sunday at 7pm PT.)

You can keep up with my latest writings and events on @LaCarmina Twitter, which is now blue-check verified (as is my @lacarmina Instagram and Facebook page.) I’ll do my best to be responsive — thank you for staying in touch.

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