Friday, July 31, 2009

picture perfect

I found these two pictures at an epic antique mall in Oklahoma where Dennis purchased an old wooden pipe and I milled through boxes and boxes of old postcards. I always enjoy finding photographs coupled like this because of all the scenarios it brings into question. The singularity of the shutter snap is deferred, inviting the possibility of multiple outcomes. It's unclear who these two women are and how they know each other or maybe even if they are the same person in different outfits. If it is indeed two women, it's likely that they took one anothers photograph, trading wide straw hat for camera in between. They probably thought they were taking the same picture of one another. Justifiably, the camera was held in the same spot on the old wooden porch and each sitter was perched in the corner of the rail... but everyone's gaze is different and the pictures are evidence of this versatility.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

how to take pictures

Almost all of our sibling meltdowns on this trip have been induced by the presence of the camera. Dennis can't drive because he's 15, which means that he is the sole photographer while we are in motion. Consequently, almost all of the pictures of this trip are of when we're eating at roadside diners, Dennis shirking under my photographic gaze.

We decided to employ a strategy-- when I see something I want a picture of (something I want to remember or something I'm afraid of forgetting) I holler at Dennis to grab the camera. Inevitably the camera lens gets lost under the seat and we wind up with a sideways out-of-focus picture taken through bug-splattered window glass. Sometimes the picture isn't even of what I had been pointing at.

So now we're trying something new, which is that Dennis holds the camera in his lap with the lens cap off and the window down, ready for action. The problem with this is that I get so nervous with him sitting there with a pointed camera-- sometimes he even starts pretending it's a missile launcher.

Other changes have been made, too. I coached Dennis to stop worrying about getting the picture right in one shot because it's a digital camera and he can take as many as he wants. This has been helpful for both of us and takes the pressure off the single click of the shutter. It also means we get to look at all the pictures later and talk about which ones are good and which ones are not and why.

Yesterday Dennis started to take pictures without my encouragement , which was exciting. Some of them are really good, too. We've also started to stop the car more often instead of trying to take a picture while cruising at 80 mph down the road. We turned around for porcupine roadkill, for roadside shacks and giant fiberglass animals. Today is the last whole day of our drive together. Dennis took the top picture in Alma, Oklahoma. I took the bottom picture nearby at a civil war battlefield site.

Monday, July 27, 2009

On my way

We're still rolling on and on and on... tomorrow begins Oklahoma and my Grapes of Wrath fantasy. This picture is from a small secret cemetery we drove by with only a handful of marked stones and a flummoxing quantity of fake plastic flowers.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

stains you can't get out

Dennis and I are on the road and find ourselves in Tennessee tonight. This trip has been very different despite the consistent variables: me, the car, the trajectory, the songs on the radio, the trail mix and the yellow dashes on the roads. Dennis is 15 and I am 25. We haven't lived together since he was 8 and I was 18. Since then he has moved into my old room, has had my old teachers, and listens to my parents talk to me every week during our Sunday night phone calls. It must feel strange to be a youngest child with the legacy of older siblings hovering around. I feel weird enough thinking about the legacy of all previous ancestors and the how their story trickles into my own. We haven't talked about it or even very much at all yet-- it's kind of hard to figure out where to start. The duration of our shared memories is about the same as that of our independent ones. But the silence is a pretty good noise too, and I'm sure the trip will happen how it's supposed to happen as we roll our way into Arkansas.

Friday, July 24, 2009

collected rage

My father had an undirected temper tantrum this morning because he felt sick, was late for a meeting and couldn't find his wallet. He kept imploring me to give it to him like I had tucked it away somewhere. He threw things around the house, loudly tumbled up and down the stairs, moaning and wailing over some mysterious pains he had. It made me feel tight in my throat and I hid in my room like I did when I was small and he was like this. Eventually he left and the house let out a collective gasp for breath. The cats and I came out of our hiding places and walked around timidly.

I was an angry teenager, but my rage was expressed through my silence. I told my parents nothing about my life and eventually they stopped asking. We're still just catching up on the details. In highschool and college I took every opportunity to write short stories or poems about unhappy adults, which my teachers must have thought cliche and curious. I can't help thinking that that same impulse is what is also driving this blog posting, a small piece of writing that has undergone a terrible amount of revision because I know my mother will read it. I'm torn over what is the best expression of rage-- volume or silence? Which is a better tool to make changes? I forgive my father... almost. Mostly I'm angry that he's still the same way, and that I'm still the same way around him. I still don't let him hug me. This picture is of a Beowulf model, something I made for school in tenth grade.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

the people I saw

I've seen a lot of my dearests on this trip and am excited for some of their promised visits to the Bay Area. In Ithaca I hung out with Rachel Ostlund and Lauretta Dolch, and met their matches Christopher and Adria, both fine upstanding citizens. I worked at Grassroots where I ran into my highschool English teacher and confidante Rebecca Gergely after dancing into her husbands arms at a contradance. Highschool rowers Doug Bishop and Tucker Barrett came by the stand for a burrito or two and I met some new folks working there who I felt lucky to be introduced to. On Sunday I ate breakfast with Rebekka Grohn and then drove to western Mssachussetts to eat dinner with Morgan Kerchner and her parents. Morgan and I drove up to Vermont to visit the camp I worked at last summer where I rekindled with a whole slew of counselors and mini campers including Taylor Ross, Sarah Kinsler, and Reeve Basom. My good friend Link Klinkenborg got a job working at another camp down the road, so I got to see her too, and then Emmet Mosely drove down from Stowe on his day off so that the four of us could play hooky after all-camp dinner to get a drink at an Irish pub in Ludlow. On Wednesday I dropped off Morgan at the Boston airport and stayed the night with Hannah Kohut and her boyfriend Patrick Duff. I ran into Rebekka randomly again and then went to go meet up with Adina Bricklin, a very close friend from college whom I hadn't seen in a couple of years. I realized that there are so many people to rekindle with on the east coast that by the time I get back to the Pacific Ocean I will have to rekindle with people there too.

These pictures were taken by a foster kid in Boston with a disposable camera I gave him when I was volunteering for a foster family support organization one summer in college. It was a photo-taking scavenger hunt and this kid was the only one who actually finished his roll of film, though the pictures turned out to mostly be of his own out-of-focus face.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

hints of home

I was delighted to round the corner at the Salvation Army and see this on the shelf. I dropped off Morgan at the Boston airport today to fly back to San Francisco and whined to her about how much I wished I was going with her. Dennis and I hit the road on Saturday morning. I'm excited to spend time with him and to be on my way home to the Bay, but am also just so wary of driving.

Monday, July 20, 2009

things I'll leave behind

The very small room that's mine at 204 Salem Drive and some of the relics that are in it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

fogetting getting

I cleaned out my room at my parent's home and pleasantly surprised by all the things I forgot I had, forgot I did, forgot I forgot. Silly and emotional drawings from college, jars full of sea glass from New Jersey, epic quantities of books I read or stole from highschool, even the clothes I wore last summer folded up in the drawers. I found the pair for a lavender sock in San Francisco, old pairs of oxidizing wire frame glasses, archaic diabetic supplies, and a box of chocolates, circa 2000. My friend Rebekka is moving to Finland for five years and has also been going through her old things at her parents house to help them consolidate. She found an old journal of mine from when I was 15, which was woefully embarrassing (and illustrated!). I like this muted photograph from October of 1962. Even their red caps vanish into the grayed atmospheric softness of the sun-faded photograph. These boys could have been my father and uncle, captured here pushing a wheelbarrow with the advent of domestic color photography. I like their poses, waiting and curious, their wild ears, the strachy unbent cap brims and those sturdy tall leather boots.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

pets and pixels

I came home and remembered the menagerie of animals at my parents house. Missy, who is black and white with extra toes, I got for Christmas when I was 9, a month before Dennis was born. Her full name is Mistletoe. She got knocked up the following summer and had two and half kittens in September, the same epic day that the Nissan broke down after church and my parents surrendered their dignity and bought their first minivan. We kept the two boy kittens and named them Spike and Einstein. The half-one we buried with our old cat Heather under the birdfeeder in the side yard. Spike and Einstein became huge giant gray-striped monster cats who drool when you pet them. Credo, the brown and white rat terrier, I won in a 9th grade essay contest whose topic was "Why is learning important?" Cisco, the dainty long-haired reincarnation of Heather, unexpectedly jumped into my fathers car after work in a downtown parking lot. Kringle, the calico short hair, showed up on the back porch one Chirstmas, frozen and hungry. She got knocked up in the spring and had 5 kittens in June. Credo picked one up and accidentally killed it. We kept the orange and named it Chumley.

I spoke to a guy in Boulder about why I'm interested in other peoples photographs. He told me he was afraid of people looking through his photographs and judging him after he dies because mostly of his pictures passed away the winter before. I told him that I find pet pictures especially interesting because the fantasy of owning a pet in a photograph is more accessible for a stranger than the fantasy of having different family members. He told me he thought it was sad that photographs get stripped of their meaning when strangers look at them and I told him that I was under the impression that photographs only multiply with meaning as more people see them. He told me he loves his digital camera because he can control the pictures more and I told him that I thought it seemed like it would hurt to love something that you can't hold in your hand.

Friday, July 17, 2009

sorrow that can't talk

I'm reading Jogn Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, out of which I read the following passage, in which the Oklahomy Joad family attempts to unsuccessfully sell all of their belongings to make money for their great trip to California.

Now, what'll you give for the team and wagon? Those fine bays, matched they are, matched in color, matched the way they walk, stride to stride. In the stiff pull-- straining hams and buttocks, split second timed together. And in the morning, the light on them, bay light. They look over the fence sniffing for us, and the stiff ears swivel to hear us, and the black forelocks! I've got a girl. She likes to braid the manes and forelocks, puts little red bows on them. Likes to do it. Not any more. I could tell you a funny story about that girl and that off bay. Would make you laugh. Off horse is eight, near is ten, but might of been twin colts the way they work together. See? The teeth. Sound all over. Deep lungs. Feet fair and clean. How much? Ten dollars? For both? And the wagon-- Oh, Jesus Christ! I'd shoot 'em for dog feed first. Oh, take 'em! Take 'em quick, mister. You're buying a little girl plaiting the forelocks, taking off her hair ribbon to make bows, standing back , head cocked, rubbing the soft noses with her cheek. You're buying years of work, toil in the sun; you're buying a sorrow that can't talk.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

(my family and soft-serve)

The east coast has them, the west coast does not.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

reflections on pictures

I've been gone for two weeks and return in two weeks and feel comfortable being the bookmark between my coming and going. I brought paper to work on drawings but have felt much more comfortable spending my time looking through a camera than sitting with a pen in my hand. It's a different sort of thought process and I like how documenting with a camera helps me experience and retain things in the same moment. This is not to say I don't love drawing dearly, but it does feel inappropriate to spend my time being sedentary and reflective right now-- I'll be back in my studio in San Francisco soon enough! It feels a little irresponsible and reckless to be taking pictures... and I like it.

Come next semester and I'll be working with photographer Larry Sultan in one of my classes and am excited to dialogue with him and the other photographers in that class about some of my photo-based drawings. What is the difference between a photograph and a drawing? How can one establish when one or the other is the most appropriate format for an image? My friend Adrienne is busy curating a show and asked that I consider submitting my drawings instead of my photographs because she has been swamped by photography submissions. I'm excited to be doing something that looks different from other people's work, but am sometimes unclear on why I'm doing what I'm doing the way I'm doing it, and continue to be baffled by why some ideas turn out to be so verbose and successful while other ones suffocate and fail.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Found this little sweetheart today at the Salvation Army in Ithaca while hanging out Rachel Ostlund, a friend from waaaaay back. It was a day of other minor discoveries as well, for example, that the Salvation Army moved into a building that doesn't leak, that the catalytic converter in my car might not be broken afterall, and that my hair can be put back into an absurdly small and pert ponytail.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

who we are and where we came from II

Pictures of pictures from the house on Center Moriches. My family and I said our farewells to the land my grandparents raised their family on. Grammy had us help go through her things and help her start packing-- she moves out the weekend after next. My brothers were coerced into trying on our grandfather's worn wide-shouldered coats and I her fancy old coats leftover from an era she fondly refers to as her "New York City days." I can't imagine how strange it must be to go through it all-- everything seems to have some sort of worth or importance. As a grandchild, I kept feeling like only in the past few years have I started paying attention to the things that really matter to me-- and to see the dismantling of a home that reads to me like a primary document of where my mother came from was startling. But I'm also excited to see how memory picks up where the departure from the "real thing" drops me off. These pictures show how different the houses of my grandparents were from one another, different components of the story of who my brothers and I are and where we come from.

time to look back

On Sunday we finally made it to the other side, and here's the evidence of that culmination of our coast-to-coast journey.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

first name basis II

We drove out to Center Moriches today-- me, my mom, brothers Will and Dennis, and our small wheezy dog Credo. We stopped at the Friends cemetery where my Uncle Mark and grandfather are buried and I walked around to check out the first names as I had in Indy. I wasn't surprised to find them more familiar, or as Morgan mused, family-er.

Ralph Harold Helen Tacy Henry Marietta Caroline Byrnina Frederick Titus Ida Grace Eloise Peter Mary Edwin Markham Alice Paul Edwin Alfred Sandra Thomas Samuel Katherine Phebe Martha William Stephen Robert Lydia Richard James Anna George Sarah Carl Edward John Susan Francis Cornelia Adele Charles Wallace Arthur Benjamin William Edmund Clarence Kate Sherman Lendal Harriet Nicholas Adeliza Georgianna Caroline Helen Holland Ella Elizabeth Jane Margaret Jesse Louise Louisa Alexander Daniel Josephine Rose Johanna Jacob Virginia Herman Hilda Everard David Henry Wilbur Chester Jennie Fannie Frederick Angie Irene Ada Alonzo Philip Magdalena Thorne Lois Timothy Dorothy Stanley Edith May Emma Frank Barbara Caryl Florence Abraham Isabel Maud Henry Irene Gail Guy Clinton Ruth Ethel Matilda Eileen Jennie Lucy Nannette Julia Leon Stephen Addie Lillian Charles Eleonor Willets

Friday, July 10, 2009


Will and I ran into some trouble in the middle of Ohio when my debit card stopped working. After two hours on the phone with Bank of America, also known as Dumbest Bank Ever, it was determined that they had shut down the card because it had been used by an unknown party traveling across the country. When I pointed out that I was part of that unknown party the bank representative floundered and apologized for me being shit-out-of-luck.

We didn't have enough money to get to Center Moriches so we swung on north to Ithaca. It was great to get home, albeit unexpectedly soon. Will got to hang out with his sweetheart for a couple days and I got to sleep, get a new debit card, walk around Ithaca, meet up with my friend Seth Bernstein and have dinner with Rachel Ostlund and Lauretta Dolch. I bought these stereo cards and a couple of handkerchiefs from a small antique shop downtown that I really like called Pastimes.

Will and I are determined to finish the final leg of our trip. We're hitching a ride with our mother and youngest brother out to Center Moriches tomorrow morning for the final visit to Grammy's house before she moves out. And maybe also go to the beach too.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

"Western Cowboy names for your new cowboy or cowgirl."

List generated and discovered online, at a website for new parents:

Austin Avery Buck Beau Bronson Bryce Brooks Brant Bennett Boyd Cage Clint Colton Craig Casey Clovis Coleman Chase Carson Cyril Cooper Charlton Chance Cody Clay Claude Coke Cecil Clyde Calvin Coy Clifford Cash Cord Darrell Dale Dwayne Dalton Dawson Dwight Dock Doyle Dustin Dallas Emory Eldon Eloy Emmett Farley Floyd Forrest Galen Garvin Grady Gerald Gene Garland Garrett Grant Haskell Houston Hadley Horace Hoyt Harley Harlan Herschel Hollis Jack Jake Justin Jace Justice Jesse Kirby Kent Kendall Leland Lance Lantry Lowell Lyndall Lloyd Lyndon Landon Lyle Merle Marshall Mitchell Maddox Monty Preston Royce Rex Rusty Red Randall Russell Ridley Riley Rowdy Ross Reese Sonny Shiloh Shane Stetson Thurman Tex Tinker Thaine Toby Tucker Terrell Ty Tyson Travis Truman Troy Trace Tillman Truett Trevor Trey Vernon Vance Vaughn Wiley Willard Weston Wilbur Wesley Winston Wendell Weldon Waylon Wyatt Wade Wayne Zane

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

miniature vacancy

I emptied the doll house I played with as a child, frustrated by how hard it was for my 25 year old hands to rearrange things that had fallen over inside and was pleased by its emptiness.

my grandmother's face

Is still in my grandfather's bathroom drawers. I used to covet these objects as a child.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

who we are and where we came from

My grandmother was absolutely mad for antiques. When my father was in high school she and my grandfather purchased and furnished the home that they lived in together for the next 30 years. The home she built was one from another time. My dad has stories about how Mimi would drive to pick him up from college at the end of the year and how he would be forced to get rid of things when she pulled up because the trunk was full of antique nick knacks and the back seat stuffed with a hundred year old dresser. The walls of the house were strictly for historical pictures-- contemporary photographs were put in standing frames and nestled into arrangements in cupboards and on coffee tables. As with all versions of American history, Mimi's was sometimes falsified, elaborated or arbitrary, but indisputably puritanical and American. I'm excited about these pictures and what they mean and my head is humming with thoughts about them.

first name basis

Drove out to Middletown, Indiana, to visit Mimi at the cemetary and got lost amongst the unfamiliar and seductive Midwestern first names, names that seem like they've been forgotten. Will and Papa finally had to insist that we leave when it became unclear if I would ever be ready to go. This list is only the beginning of what was out there...

Lavonia Flory Mabel Otis Ina Ira Ella Burton Hattie Pat Louona Leora Luther Marcleen Leonard Bernice Walter Garrett Lestie Sheldon Hudie Veo Maynie Clarence Gladys Willis Lulu Lillian Mina Vora Spence Cora Leroy Virgie Myrtle Levina Samuel Dortha Roxana Izuma Clyde Opha Roland Hessel Arzella Ray Clotilde Gilla Oca Zella Ellison Bertie Santford Dewey Callie Pearl Grace May Margaretta Emeline Elsie Bertha Roscoe Sylvester Pha Lavinia Rena Asa Ruby Theodore Cornelia Zoa Franklin Olive Blanche Minerva Angeline Bailis Simon Lovicy Ethel Lou Rhoda Abraham Iva Neva Noble Clifford Mirtie Wilbur Herbert Waldo Delia Inda Loren Kenneth Homer Fern Beatrix Raymond Dottie Harriet Levi Cathern Riley Willard Lona Uela Elnora Martin Lowell Ione Alta Syvilla Viola Floyd Retta Samuel Bessie Lute Lex Carter Erasmus Cornelius Mildred Allex Chas Lottie Lewis Roxie Barrett Veleta Agnes Hilton Opal Lucille Roy Lemuel Edger Ruth Walter Cora Venona Vivian Warren Izeban Mildred Ora Harter Dorance Nelson Cloyce

Monday, July 6, 2009

windows let the light in

Taken in Indy, at Mimi and Papa's dark house.

secret life of denise

My mother sent me these photographs of her when she was doing research in Brazil, figuring out how small rainforests could be until they stopped being able to support themselves as rainforests. They were taken in 1981, and the hunky sharpshooter standing with her was her last boyfriend before she met my father in Iowa City a year later, a guy named Rob Bierregaard. She wrote to me and said on the phone that these pictures are proof that she used to be cool. I told her that I'm pretty sure that these pictures are proof that she is cool, which she liked to hear. Will I wonder the same thing about myself in thirty years? Good question.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


"Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light what so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming? Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight, o'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming? And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?"

Will and I considered the lyrics of this song and while waiting for fireworks to start in Topeka, Kansas. We realized that fireworks are supposed to symbolize the tradgedy and horror of what war was like 250 years ago, which made the awestruck ritual of watching them seem even more strange and technicolor than usual.

what you see from here

Everywhere we go there are signs, some of them oddly beautiful, others poetic or philosophical. Along the road there are even signs that let you know signs are coming up-- "Point of Interest, 2.4 miles". Then you pull over and discover something like you are standing next to the site of where the Chrysler boyhood home once sat. I'd like to take more pictures of these signs because I already collect photographs of signs from other peoples collections. I'm interested in the choice someone made to take a picture of a sign. It implies that the information on the sign is worth preserving, that it means something, that it is personally significant or important. I'm also interested in how the importance of those photographs changes when separated from the pictures of what they describe. It's an interesting medium where speech and sight collapse into one another-- it implies that you can't really know what you're seeing or what you're reading about without the other.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

purple mountains majesty

We said hello to the Colorado Rockies and farewell to any hint of land formation today as we drove into flat Kansas.

Friday, July 3, 2009

along for the ride

We've passed through California, Nevada, Utah and are on our way out of Colorado tomorrow morning. The mountains have agreed with us mightily. We're staying in Boulder with an old friend from highschool named Tyler Corson-Rikert. We ate gringo Mexican food and danced to a salsa band behind a hotel. Everyone out here loves the outdoors SO MUCH that they just can't stop talking about climbing and skiing and mountain biking ALL OVER IT. Will and I can't stop taking pictures of the interior of our vehicle.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

day two: still alive, very sweaty

Th wild west has been a pretty mixed bag so far. California was predictably awesome, Reno predictably sucked a little bit and the stretch of hot acrid desert between Reno and Salt Lake almost sucked the life out of us. But then we passed The Great Salt Lake, "great" because of it's size and NOT because of it's quality as a swimming spot, and the hills rose again and the green sprung out of them and our drive has been lovely ever since. We're sleeping in Steamboat Springs tonight and are off to Rocky National Park and Boulder/Denver tomorrow, where I'll be sure to take the time to upload pictures from the trip and write with more vigour.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

so long, west coast, we will miss you so

We bid the Pacific coast adieu and left today.