Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: garfield pittsburgh, home, impossible project, instant film, polaroid spectra
Garfield, Pittsburgh: The longest I’ve ever lived in one place. When I was a kid, we’d bounce from apartment to apartment so often it became spring routine to start looking through the classified ads for another place. The trick was to not get too attached. I made do with small spaces. What accumulated over a year was easily let go for convenience sake. Moving taught me how to let go. When I moved in with Jeff nine years ago, I remember loving this strange storefront-turned-living space, but the street behind it, Gem Way, was a total wreck. There was the abandoned building next door to us that attracted drug addicts and urban explorers, and the building next to it that caught fire, sending black plumes of smoke through the neighborhood. A lawyer rented out the garage beyond that to local bands, so there was the occasional loud dance party keeping me awake on work nights. I’ve documented Gem Way over the years, and have come to love its strange vegetation poking through the fences, its ivy-covered houses and broken pavement. The family of groundhogs nesting under our porch, and feral cats wailing at the moon. Its graffiti-covered brick the only shots of color on a gray Pittsburgh morning.
The world stops when it snows, and with it, I nest. I have felt low, trying to figure out where my art is going and what, in general, to do next. And I recently received heartbreaking news about a dear old friend, which I’m trying to process. I’m being vague, but it’s something I don’t want to go into detail right now (to protect her privacy as well as my heart). In short: I’ve been in hiding.
I remind myself that it’s okay to take these small breaks from life and tune out for a while. One of my biggest dreams is for one solid week of peace without distraction. It’s funny how years ago, I wanted bigger and bigger things, and as I grow older, my desires become much less complicated.
We’re in the thick of a deep-freeze which has made it difficult and uninspiring to go on long adventures, so instead, I wake early and bundle up, tucking my pajamas into boots, and trek out back through Gem Way, circling around to Penn. Morning snow crunches underfoot, the occasional car drives past, reminding me I’m still in the city. It feels as if I’m the only one awake on this well-traveled road, snow falling, camera clicking. I realize I don’t have to go far to get what I want.
Filed under: Puerto Rico | Tags: impossible project, new years resolution, polaroid, puerto rico
A new year, a quiet few weeks, the long winter ahead. I’ve permitted myself some time to just chill and not overextend, which means binge-watching Orphan Black, and reading A Detroit Anthology; A Field Guide to Getting Lost. Last month we had an amazing trip to Puerto Rico, which I’ll write about soon, and now I’ve got the travel bug again. It’s been awhile since we’ve escaped far away. Once we woke that Friday morning at 4 am to catch our 6 am flight – traces of snow on my shoes as I walked into the airport, eyes barely open, suitcase bumping against my leg: I ached to go everywhere in the world. My main resolution this year – goal, or whatever you want to call it – is for more solace in my life. More saying no without guilt. More letters and connecting with others, online and in every day life. More adventures closer to home. More exploring the direction my photography takes me. I began this year with two photo submission rejections, but the editor was so nice in one of them, I thanked him and he wrote back: a thoughtful gesture that eased the sting. More accepting failure with grace. Also more discovering all the crazy shit I love along the way – here I go.
For the past nine years we’ve been together, Jeff and I make the ordinary an adventure. A trip to Home Depot becomes a photo opp across from the parking lot; a stroll down the Big Lots “international foods” aisle provides us a basket full of spongy, coconut-flecked cakes from Spain. Driving home from work, we’ll take a left turn instead of a right one, just to see if there is something different along a route that we’ve taken hundreds of times before, and there usually is: as early darkness softens the turns of season, we get ready for the first real snow. Colder days, thick black nights – we fill them with old movies, warm simmering stews, and plans for the coming new year. We are full of light.
Filed under: New York | Tags: impossible project, instant film, new york city, polaroid
I traveled to New York last month with my friend Becky, whom I’ve known for over 20 years. Her sister Angie and brother-in-law Mark were gracious to open their home, and their world to us, 41 floors above this magical city – because even years later, after life’s twists and turns and travels – New York still has a soft spot in my heart for magical things to happen. Our main agenda for the trip was Ellis Island – Becky wanted to look up her family roots – and so I aimed to take postcard shots since Ellis was the most touristy thing I’ve done on a trip in a long time. It was a beautiful fall day, so we walked, everywhere: through Times Squares on our first evening; from Battery Park all the way back to Midtown the next – each neighborhood we slipped into and out, I felt it become smaller, more intimate. We ate at Casa Bella in Little Italy, took a detour through Chinatown. I loved seeing two women sitting in a park, gently pushing their children in their strollers, trading stories in the early dark; how traffic glowed, and apartment lights clicked on, twinkling. I thought about years ago, I had to decide between Sarah Lawrence for grad school or stay home and go to Pitt: I was very young then, too scared to move far. I wanted to travel, and didn’t know if I could both afford living in New York and taking off; I chose home to see the world. It was the first time in my life that I experienced that proverbial fork in the road, and each time I go back to the city, there is a tiny “what if” that tugs in the back of my mind. It isn’t one of regret so much as curiosity of how we end up the places that we do: I hadn’t even thought of picking up a camera then, and now I can’t imagine life without pressing the shutter. One of the highlights of my trip was meeting my Flickr friend, Yvette, who grew up in and around the New York area. I was nervous, but excited, wondering what she would be like in person after following her photography for years and exchanging emails. Even though it’s more common to have online friends now, it’s still such a strange thing, isn’t it? And amazing, when you think about it, that we have this Internet thing now to connect us. Once she walked up to me and said hello that Sunday morning on the corner of W. 38, I relaxed. You’re real! I joked, happy. We walked: to Union Square for brunch, then to the International Center of Photography, to bond over what connected us, sharing stories about our lives along the way.
Filed under: Pennsylvania | Tags: allentown, bethlehem, easton, impossible project, lehigh valley, polaroid
I never think of traveling our home state as “vacation,” but last month’s drive out to Bethlehem to visit friends changed my mind. As we made our way along the Lincoln Highway, the towns became slower, fewer people in sight – fields of color showing signs of fall, even though the weather was more August heat. Breezewood to Chambersburg to Dutch Country, we rolled right into the Lehigh Valley. We explored miles of treasures at Renningers Antiques, ate a delicious Spicy Antipasti sandwich at Hummus House in Allentown, talked for hours with our friends, and took a walk over the Delaware River from Easton to the Jersey side just because we could. There was that moment of twilight as we crossed the bridge: pink sky, quiet river, a slight chill, an ice cream shop at the New Jersey/PA border closed for the season. The soft, neon glow of an old sign twinkling in the distance made my heart twist with a tinge of sadness – a good-bye to summer.