Thursday, December 30, 2010

new years eve, 2010 / some sort of incubating period

"There are years that ask questions, and there are years that answer."
- Zora Neale Hurston

these will be the days. i will look back on these days and call them, "the days." i'll ask, "laurie, do you remember the days on friendship avenue?" and we'll laugh - of course we'll remember the days. the days of christmas tree lights. the december that we never left our apartment. the days when had 500 chocolate covered pretzels. we'll remember the days, when for once, even if for just a little while, we were both happily in relationships. we'll remember the days of summer when our apartment smelled like cat, and we layed in my bedroom for hours - and hours - sleeping and waking in front of the air conditioner. we'll remember the days before the air conditioner. we'll remember the time that we were infested by billions of flies. we'll remember sweeping them up with a vacuum cleaner. we'll remember the night that laurie spray painted blue paint all over friendship avenue after our first night of drinking while snowed in during the greatest snow storm of our lives, so far. we'll remember those two nights, and we'll remember the people who we loved. the people who we loved at a distance, too - we'll remember jason. who read my future. and told me everything. and saw into my soul. we'll remember nights with ricky. and we'll remember monk's macaroons. we'll remember the summer days, stumbling home, with steve linked between us, tearing stuff up. we'll remember the days when we laid on the ground, holding hands, listening to that martha wainwright song. we'll even remember the days when it was hard - when i painted black lines on my windows, wrote letters to each other, and tried our hardest, and missed the days - only, different days - the days on graham street. the smell of the incense. we'll remember the trip to west virginia, when we were lost in the woods while it was raining. we'll remember how wet our tent got. we'll remember those days. we'll remember our first fight. we'll remember trying, really hard, to make things right. to be good to the people who we love and who love us. we'll remember failing at this. we'll remember sun bathing on the roof. we'll remember when laurie moved to new york. we'll remember when chris and lacy visited over their first anniversary, and we all put our money together to buy them a hotel room to celebrate. we'll remember sitting on the porch with people we love, paul, and chris and lacy, and jenn, and dan, and krystal - and bishop - and everyone, jon too, and we'll remember all singing together their wedding song to them. we'll remember singing kathy's song. we'll remember our record players. we'll remember loving boys. we'll remember how they loved us. we'll remember giving and taking and getting hurt and hurting. we'll remember how hard we tried. that's what we'll remember the most.

some day, i'll look back on this year, and i'll long for it. i'll remember loving my parents. and feeling like i finally knew them. i'll remember reaching that relationship with them that i'd always wanted to reach. i'll remember finally feeling free and happy around my brother. i'll remember hiking with my dad in new hampshire. i'll remember realizing what makes a father's love for his daughter so special. i'll remember my mom's honesty, and courage, and daring love for me. i'll remember derek's warmth and love. i'll remember him like a big blanket: comfortable and close and soft. i'll remember his kindness. i'll remember record stores and mineo's pizza. i'll remember quitting a job i hated by sending an email. i'll remember starting a new job, and falling in love with some new kids who've become closer to me than most people in my life. i'll remember summer park benches with kristin mclain, i'll remember getting to share that love for those kids with her. i'll remember swimming in water fountains in oakland and the way mariah tillman looked when she took her hair out of her pony tail. i'll remember how wild she was, how brave she was, how strong she was - i'll remember how much i learned from a kindergartner. i'll remember going to california. i'll remember getting haircuts and finally learning to brush my teeth daily. i'll remember getting to live in the same city as steve, and driving to south carolina together, and standing in the snow for hours together in west virginia.

i will have learned about balance. i will have learned about honesty. i will have learned about compromise: the things i will give up, and the things that i won't. i will have learned what it means to live in the tension between things, to live life when things are confusing and awkward and hard. i will have learned what it means to live when life feels like it's a struggle. i will have learned about loving my family, my best friend, and a boy. i will have learned about loss and gain. i will have learned about my desires and wants and needs. i will have learned how to fight for the things that matter. i will have learned about waiting. i will have learned that even years that seem useless and motionless will become the years that you love with fondness and tenderness, they'll be the years that teach you slowly, the years that define you, the years that test you and challenge you, the years that make you who you are.

happy new year.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

california, 4 / joshua tree national park

it took us about 2 hours to find our campsite. kate and i spent a few hours in the town of joshua tree at a bar - we left early because they made us a vodka and coke, which tasted like hell, and because the irish heavy metal band didn't really suit either of our tastes. the bar was like every other establishment that we visited before we returned back to civilization at a subway in bakersfield - it was strange. and full of the same odd mixture of people. outside of the bar there were people who were missing limbs, hanging out in wheel chairs, and drinking liquids out of gallon bottles. inside the bar there were military men - really, a lot of them. and their ugly wives. but since joshua tree national park is such a hot spot for bouldering/rock climbing, you've got tons of hippies and twenty-somethings from L.A.

once we finally found our campsite, after getting to know the road between joshua tree, the town, and twenty-nine palms (the weirdest place i've ever been), we finally found our campsite. it was beautiful to drive through the park at night, although it was discouraging at times since we were tired and ready to find the campsite - but it was interesting to see the colors, rock formations and landscape change through the little light we saw from our car. once we got out tent up, we spent the evening on the picnic bench. i tried to climb the beautiful rocks behind us in my socks. we drank - a lot. the sky was awesome. and i like to think that kate and i shared one of my favorite, most real, and honest, and hilarious nights of our friendship yet. and like most wonderful nights like that, i don't really remember very much of it.

in the morning we woke up, and behind us we found a beautiful sun rising over some beautiful rocks. the park was busy - not with cars, but with people climbing these rocks. the rocks were similar to the ones in arches national park. i thought of camping with my dad there. i also thought about steve a lot this day and kept wishing i could be there with him. i don't think most people come here to see the trees. but i came to see the trees.

after leaving the park, we spent some time in the town of 29 palms. after leaving the town (nicknamed the "city" of "murals" - there's a mural on every (probably about 25, total) buildings) we drove up to death valley. i can't figure out why i don't remember most of this drive - except that we spent most of it in alien land of a new kind. driving down these long, 2 lane roads, where you pass nobody, except for huge military tanks, and there are beautiful desert mountains all around you - sand dunes that go on forever.

we did stop in a small near the nevada border, and had the best date cookie of my life. and saw an awesome elvis impersonator. if you've got the time, googlemaps the area between joshua tree national park and death valley. you'll understand. the desert is the type of place that can erase your memory of it.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

california, 3 / salvation mountain + desert

while looking through these photos, i found myself listening to some old christian music. i was drawn to the music for other reasons, but kept it on once i started sifting through these images. kate and i woke up in san diego after a really nice evening and morning with her bother and his wife. they were a sweet couple - interesting, and smart, and really comfortable to be around. it was nice to see kate with them, i could tell she felt close to them, and it made me glad. the drive from san diego to niland (where salvation mountain is) is mostly driving through strange desert towns. it seems like people are either addicted to meth or work for the military (border patrol and large amounts of government land set aside for various military uses) or are hippies on acid from LA trying to get a break from the city.

i've always wanted to go to salvation mountain - well, ever since me, and everyone else, saw the into the wild movie. kate and i planned the trip mostly around seeing this place. and it was everything i thought it'd be.

leonard knight was kind. and old. and forgetful. and mostly incoherent. but he managed to give me about 400 postcards from the joint for free. if you'd like one, let me know.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

california, 2 / highway 1

when i was in high school, my friends were applying to harvard and getting 1600's on their SATs. i wasn't doing any of these things - i was, instead, obsessed with the state of maine and reading any novel i could find on the place and daydreaming about when i would move there. after my family had spent a few weeks in maine, i'd fallen in love with it. i built a dream-life, a town, "cape elizabeth" where i would live. i did research on this city, and even wrote to someone who lived there about teaching jobs in the area. i had an image of me walking into an old house, dusting the snow off my boots and hanging my hat up on a hook. at the time, i was best friends with 3 girls - i imagined us living there together. when i was in 5th grade, i was obsessed with the state of wyoming. after a trip to yellowstone, i started researching the state and spending my free time pretending that i lived there. i imagined being a teacher, living in the park, and that my best friend at the time, emily kunka, would come and live there with me.

the only goal i ever set for myself was to drive down the pacific coast highway when i was 25 and renting a car would be cheaper. it also might be the only goal that i've ever actually met. kate and i woke up in the morning in monterrey and drove down to san diego along the most beautiful coastal highway, with the most tender, gentle air, delicate and light, warm and cool in my face and soaking in my pores. it is, probably, the most beautiful place i've ever been. i wish i could have stayed here longer. but that's what you get for driving 1500 miles in 5 days. i would live this day over and over and over again.

this is the path we walked to get down to the shorethis is in santa barbara at the beach

Thursday, December 2, 2010

calfornia, 1 / towers in the sky

on the airplane i sat next to a pastor. i could tell he was a pastor the moment i sat down next to him. as we were flying from chicago to san francisco, my eyes were glued to the window. trying to mark the passing of space - from one state to another. trying to follow what i guessed to be the route on the in-flight magazine. i was astounded by how little development there is between san francisco and chicago. i tried to guess what state we were in, what mountains we were crossing over, what lake was below us - when i was unsure, i asked my pastor neighbor and we tried to figure it out together. i think he was confused by why i cared so much. i wished my father would have been sitting next to me instead. not just because he would have known all the answers, but because he would have cared too.

i got to san francisco and was immediately overwhelmed. it's sort of how it usually goes. i don't really like other cities. i love pittsburgh. and i love anything else that isn't a city. but i'm intimated by other cities. i don't understand what it means to not know a city - to not be totally familiar with it. i don't like driving. i don't like the people. i don't understand them. i feel like an outsider. maybe it's a product of always living in one city, but i'm constantly feeling inadequate, like a fake. i'm not a 40-something with a dog living in the "bay area", drinking wine, writing my second book and wearing teva's. so why try to even like it?

i did like san francisco though. it's the first city i've visited in maybe my whole life that i just sort of liked. i think it was the bay. and the air. and that it felt small. and the temperature. and that the first person i saw there was emily. my friend for 20 years now. since kindergarten. she is one of the three people who i've known the longest and have remained quite close to.

in general, i don't think my photographs from the trip are very good. these are just pictures from the first 2 days. the evening i arrived and then the following day before kate and i left to drive south to san diego. i don't think that you can photograph things you don't know - or at least, i can't. or maybe i just don't want to. a few weeks ago i took photographs of the trees in the cemetery, and whether anyone cares of not, they took my breath away. the orange against the blue with the streaks of color in the sky were enough to make my ankles shake. i've watched these trees for my whole life, i've broken up with boys in that cemetery, i've figured things out in that cemetery, i've walked in circles around those buried bodies and watched the way the trees look against the sky since my dad taught me how to drive there. there's memory, and feeling, and emotion and attachment. i've spiraled into some sort of depression since returning from california. disappointment, maybe. i was hoping that week-long trips to beautiful places would be enough to satisfy this thing in me. but they're not enough. they're not it.

5 years ago, had you asked me who i was, i would have said, "God's beloved" - or something weird like that. now i would say, "my mother and father's child." i am destined to be them. i see in them the exact same struggles that i have. i see within both of them this constant pull between family/friends and this other thing. for my father, it's the west - it's mountains, it's climbing and hiking and being face-to-face with even a simple deer in nature. for my mother, it's this desire to be alone, independent, for the phone to be shut off - i overheard her recently say, "i can't stay on the phone for more than 5 minutes or else i feel trapped." i am determined to learn from them. i find myself still stuck in this pittsburgh vs. the west, or this people vs. place dilemma. and i don't know the answer yet. and i don't know what the next move is yet. but i think i'm getting closer. and that's good.

a rare and endless blistering sun shines down on grace cathedral park / red house painters
muir woods / sequoia trees
golden gate bridge