31 March 2020
I got lost in chinatown in san francisco. turned right when I should have turned left or left when I should have turned right, who knows. felt the edges of panic and ducked into a nearby stairwell to reassess, which is when I convinced myself it might be nice to just be lost for a little while. to use an entirely different compass, if only for a few minutes. to wander for an hour with nary a glance at google maps.
30 March 2020
while we were passing through palm springs, I made my entire family wait in the car while I ventured inside the parker hotel. I had to see the place for myself. and it had to be done without two kids and a husband in tow, which was totally the right call at the time. and of course, completely worth it.
29 March 2020
we showed up at the park for international pillow fight day. expected to find forty, maybe fifty people gathered but instead arrived to find at least a couple hundred. and so we made our way into the middle of that big, beautiful (strangely hopeful) pillowy mess and fought until we were covered with sweat, until we were so exhausted we could no longer dodge the swings, until our stomachs hurt from the laughing.
28 March 2020
I wandered the streets of a small folly island neighborhood in south carolina. stumbled onto a fence draped with candy-colored fishing buoys and was instantly filled with a particular nostalgia I couldn't name. and then I remembered a picture book I loved when I was little, and the girl in it who wore a beaded necklace, one that looked just like those fishing buoys. I remembered how much I loved that necklace, how much I wanted to hold it in my hands and wear it around my own neck. and so I stood there and let myself slip down inside that lovely childhood rabbit hole for a few minutes. savored the memory of it like the last bit of candy on my tongue.
27 March 2020
26 March 2020
25 March 2020
we passed an old drive-in movie theatre on our way to a fleamarket in texas. my cousin, who'd driven this way countless times, flew past it with nary a mention. I, on the other hand, thought my eyes might pop out of my head. so beautiful my heart beat a little faster at the sight of it, so perfect it did not seem real. all I had time to do in the moment was point and gasp.
on the way back, I asked if we could stop. we were in a bit of a hurry but my cousin indulged me, pulled the car into what was left of the entrance. as I got out to take a closer look she mentioned she'd stopped once before for a yard sale and had talked with the owners, actually, who lived in the little brick house right next to the drive-in. as it turned out, it had been in their family for decades. they'd tried to keep the starlight alive as long as they could, they really tried, but finally had to let it go.
so, there it sits. a golden beacon of nostalgia set along a mostly forgettable stretch of texas highway. an american poem. the beginning of a song, maybe, or the end of one.
24 March 2020
I spent a few days with friends in a skinny three-story flat on the back end of an ancient building in new orleans. when we first arrived, we ran our hands over the golden peacock wallpaper on the first floor, joked about who might fall while climbing the rickety red spiral staircase that led to the second floor and laughed when we saw the old wooden ladder that led up to the sliver of sleeping space above the tiny kitchenette. we spent most of our time on that second floor, though. eating brown butter drop donuts from the bakery down the street, talking about all the things we should be out doing instead of laying around eating brown butter drop donuts.
my own version of a barbie dream house is what it was. gently decayed, slightly oddball in all the right ways. as if my nine year-old self somehow combined powers with my forty-something self and magically conjured up the place and said, here. this is for you.
23 March 2020
22 March 2020
21 March 2020
20 March 2020
our car broke down in tennessee. somewhere between nashville and chattanooga around midnight. just whimpered along the shoulder of the highway and sputtered to a stop. I swore the night never felt so deep and dark and ominous than in that particular moment. isn't that always the way? flying down the highway in the middle of the night feels like magic until your car dies and you suddenly come so close to the unknown you can practically feel it slide across your skin.
a fireworks store as big as a warehouse with monster floodlights to match but of course, it was closed. in a pre-cell phone era, there was nothing else to do but walk. towards an exit we thought we remembered passing a few miles back, along the soft, narrow shoulder of a major highway in the middle of what will always be remembered as the most lightless night.
three miles felt like three hundred years. every semi passed with a violence that nearly lifted me off my feet and for an hour we walked like this, wincing at every passing truck and shuffling and swearing and praying until we reached the exit and finally, our salvation: the old roy acuff country inn.
I almost cried when I saw that giant neon cowboy boot.
19 March 2020
18 March 2020
I made a portrait of a stranger outside a coffee shop in portland, oregon. I was nervous about it, hemmed and hawed over whether or not I should approach him. eventually, I got out of my own way. we exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes while I fumbled with my camera. I was awkward, I am sure of it, but I did the thing, thanked him and walked away.
seven years later, I received a message from this same stranger, who had somehow miraculously stumbled onto my work through a friend. he had since become a photographer himself and felt, in some small way, I had sparked the beginning of something in him that day.
17 March 2020
while wandering the streets of savannah on a tuesday afternoon, I saw a girl wearing floor-length prom gown the color of apricots, a man scream-singing rock the casbah out the window of a beat-up datsun and a woman in a starched calico bonnet so enormous it completely obscured her face.
16 March 2020
my brother, who was raising two young daughters at the time, said balloons were nothing but heartbreak on a string. in the most dramatic of scenarios, they disappear with a violence that is not soon forgotten. they pop quite suddently or float up into an infinite sky, if the holder loosens her grip for even a second, lost forever and ever, amen.
15 March 2020
14 March 2020
we bribed our children with cherry slurpees so we could stop and marvel at all the old motels we saw along route 66. this will be the last one, we told them. really. promise. the last one. and they sat in the back seat, mouths stained cherry slurpee red and groaned in protest because they knew. this would not be the last one.
13 March 2020
I watched a couple in matching floral outfits dance while a zydeco band played. spinning and swinging and reaching for each other as if they'd been dancing together like this for a hundred years. and when they stopped for a few minutes, held each other as if they were the only ones in that tent, that park, that town, as if they were the only ones in the universe.
12 March 2020
11 March 2020
I saw a kid arguing with his mother outside the photobooths at the carnival. he wanted pictures of himself shirtless, she did not. she held his shirt in her hands, balled it up and thrust it in his face. he kicked at the ground and yelled at her until finally, she gave in, put the token in the slot while her shirtless son slipped behind the curtain.
10 March 2020
I spent the night at howard finster's paradise garden.
the little rental cottage across the street granted us full twenty-four hour access to the garden so of course we wandered the grounds during magic hour and then during blue hour and then late at night, simply because we could. twin tabby cats slipped in and out of shadows as we walked, string lights hung from the eaves like jewelry but the real prize was the garden by moonlight.
all we could see, could not see, maybe did not want to see, is what I woke up thinking about the next morning.
09 March 2020
we got up early on a saturday morning in july, packed the car with suitcases and coolers, floats and and cheap beach chairs, drove ten hours south, down through the state of georgia, through the middle of the state of florida, past billboards advertising gun shops and shooting ranges, end times and alligator souvenir spots, drove until we were nothing but a car full of tired. drove until we hit that little stretch of beach that is not ours but feels like it is.
we drove until we saw the signs for the place with the condo that belongs to the friend of a friend who is kind enough to let two families squeeze into it for one week, free of charge. we pulled in, scrambled to unload things, shimmied into suits, made a beeline.
by sunset, we were in the ocean. warm as bath water, soft lavender sky. another continent, really-- an altogether different planet.
08 March 2020
07 March 2020
06 March 2020
I met a man in washington square park holding a small cardboard sign that read: IF YOU WANT, I WILL BE YOUR FIRST MARIJUANA MAYOR. we talked about the possibility of this for a few minutes before he slowly flipped the sign over to show me what he'd written in block letters on the back: WHY NOT REPLACE TRUMP WITH ME?
05 March 2020
04 March 2020
03 March 2020
I lied to my son. when he asked if it would take more than three days to drive across the country, I said no. though I did finally admit that maybe --maybe-- it might take a little bit longer. I kept my answers vague because three days was his scary number. three days was the answer he had hoped against all hope he would not hear. to a ten year-old, three days on the road to a is a lifetime but fourteen days on the road is, well, unfathomable. so I did what I had to do, I lied. I'm not proud of it, but I lied.
but after three days of driving, he stopped asking 'how much longer' and started asking 'what next'-- what city, what park, what mountain, what highway, what adventure, what next? what next?
I came to love the sound of those two words: what next.
02 March 2020
I took the kids to an orchard to pick peaches a couple hours outside the city. we filled our baskets in no time but kept working our way deeper and deeper into that fragrant thicket of fruit, as if maybe there was something else waiting for us in what felt like the very center of the peach universe.
01 March 2020
we stumbled onto a group of young native american dancers downtown santa fe in new mexico. I crossed the street to the plaza in a flash, clumsy with enthusiasm. I snaked my way to the front, fished out what few dollar bills I could find to drop into the donation bucket and then kneeled to watch, wide-eyed. as if I were back in elementary school at assembly, fourth grade all over again.
hours later, I saw them loading drums and costumes into the back of a burgundy minivan, the dancers dressed in street clothes. baggy nylon shorts, neon pokemon shirts. freshly scrubbed faces with the ghost remains of charcoal face paint. they chased each other across the sidewalk while the adults worked, drank mountain dew from cans, laughed, kick rocks. fourth grade all over again.