A short film I made with footage taken in California, Philadelphia, Texas and New York.
Slow swaying palm trees–rugged rocks ashore– cliches washed up on the dense fog of memory–
I’m skipping around humming the outdated song by Katy Perry, California Girls, which we’d blast and sing to at 13. Ah–many moments of fleeting teenagedom, of drive-through Sonic runs and post-pool walks to the movie theatre, were to the soundtrack of Katy Perry. It was freedom when freedom was at arm’s length.
That I’m revisiting my photos from California and humming a song about it is likely no coincidence. The current revisited album is called ‘filmed up and shit,’ because I’m doing the Photoshop version of Hujifilm and fake-filming it because I’m so in love with the aesthetic (but can’t go back to retake pictures).
We’d gone to San Diego, shouldered by mountains, snaked through by tortuous roads. Precarious, precarious. I’d been alarmed by the sheer flatness of Houston, then the rockyish heights of San Diego. This is La Jolla beach, pronounced la ho-ya, not la-jo-lla. And this is the seaside.
I’d brought Steinbeck because that was the book I was nursing at the time. The book was about the West, I think, a trip West to California. The timing was apt.
After days basking in a weather too cool for swimming and too warm for sweating, we took the continental train–Amtrak?– to Los Angeles. Hollywood, or, in Bojack’s world, Hollywoo. Disneyland. Warner Bros. The set of Friends. The set of Ellen. The set of Harry Potter. More Harry Potter. Beige walls and show sign plaques and red lights “do not enter, show in progress.”
In a few months, I’ll be going back to Cali, this time a lot less grumpy than the first time around (hopefully). Even though I’ve just begun to relish staying put, a part of me itches to move, travel, sightsee. Mostly to photograph, honestly. Until then, I’ll simply continue to photographically revisit these cities– and memories!
The city is tired, the city is alive. The city is moving; the city lies still. Stop motion. Slow motion. When the light turns green I cross anyway, counting down the milliseconds, swiveling my sight in circles.
The city, from far away, sparkles and sprinkles and glitters and glows. Juxtapositions sit at every street corner. The homeless slump by the chatty elite, carry cardboard by fine wine. Angry lights glare. Still lampposts hang. I play the streets by ear, following the crowd, hoping to god that I’m moving southeast.
The city overwhelms. Screams, honks, turns right on red. Showers rain like a garden hose, a childhood treat on summery days. Spinning and laughing in a one-piece, now cold and shuddering.
The city houses nail salon after nail salon. Our nail salon is next to the gas station. Open doors. First breeze of summer wafts in. A woman with acrylic stuck in her nail drifts in, “you can remove this?” You don’t want new nails? A new coat? “Nah, just get rid of this.” Five minutes later she leaves muttering under her breath because she doesn’t want to soak them-she wants to rip them off.
The city is gritty, the city is loud, the city is terrifying, the city is striking, the city is cold. I skip down the steps to the train, slot in my coins, smile at the receiver who seems unusually patient and friendly. I pace my way back and forth as I wait stonily for the trolley.
The city is a million breaths at once, all breathing, breathing, breathing. And I’m afraid–once in love, but now just afraid.
The streets of D.C are wider, quieter, flatter, cleaner. D.C isn’t as frantic as New York. Or as gritty as Philly. Or as schizophrenic as Austin. There’s something immaculate about D.C., instead, something steely and modern and calm.
From up here, I watch the slow scenes of the city unfold. Cars whizz by, colorful legos beneath our legs. Human beans cross the crosswalks, Beatles-style, almost in slo-mo. Lotion pink berries bloom in angry succession.
It’s my third time in Washington D.C. I welcome the sensory familiarities.
There’s a distinct vibe to the D.C metro, clash of smells and sights and sounds. Smell of metros, musk. Row of escalators, steep. Metro-card, bendy and flappy. Gripped tightly in my palm, lest I accidentally drop it–it’s our way out, this card.
We’re encircled by large beige arches. I’m constantly reminded: we are in a giant tunnel.
The subway’s clean. Stops are quick. There’s a sign above a girl’s head that indicates where we are, and the announcer’s clean voice projects from the speakers, and she’s telling us we’re at this stop, that stop. It’s not our stop, and then it is, and we hop off the subway, back into the station, where we scan our Metro cards on the way out.
We exit Union Station. It’s a high-end train station, fancy airport-style. It’s got spiral staircases leading up to shops and restaurants and balcony areas on the second floor. Statues and pillars greet us from the entrance. Out and back, in and through, and we’ve hopped onto the train again, and we’re hailing home.
Photographed this about three years ago. I miss New York and all its lights; I’ve been itching to visit for the past year or so. In my general consumption of rom-com movies–always based in NYC (of course) and around Christmas (yes), Christmas lights, in particular, have become somewhat of a myth.
So I’m going back soon–for the sixth time!–this time to see the Christmas lights!
Wearing the familiarity of home like something skintight. It’s easy to forget that soon I won’t be watching sunsets in tinted car windows anymore, that in place of lazy comfort will be sprints through quiet city streets in slush and rain and snow.
Things I might be certain of:
We’re swimming in norms no one person decided. Maybe the sky is blue. This may or may not be a dream. I like writing incoherent text posts at one in the morning. I deeply suspect that a part of me secretly enjoys–thrives on–the stress of procrastinating and the last-minute headaches of: oh God, oh God, I have an essay due tomorrow and I’ve no idea what the prompt is; I didn’t pay attention any of the times my professor touched upon the paper so now I have to ask around for the prompt and I really should have done this sooner.
Oh. I did fine on the last paper, the one I wrote the afternoon before. The fictionalized one. I don’t write fiction, I haven’t written fiction, not since it got squashed out of me in HS. But when I was eight I liked writing fiction, fiction about girls with blonde and blue hair (all those Mary Kate and Ashley books getting to my head) I never wrote about aliens or dystopias but I guess I’ve been thinking about that a lot (all this data mining getting to my head) so I wrote a paper about it. My TA said he’d have liked me to elaborate more on the story, which I don’t think was even included… Was there a story? Mostly it was like an excruciatingly drawn-out description. I did this my first semester, too. I came up with some drawn-out fictionalized character reading from a book I hadn’t read and then–then what? I did fine.
This is a cycle. I procrastinate, do fine, grow lax in my ability to churn out last-minute papers, then get headaches the day before. I think it’s part laziness, part perfectionism, part I-just-want-to-do-it-because-I-can. I mean, I don’t know.
I keep wishing it’s Christmas. Yesterday I went downtown. Twice, actually. First to wander around the city, second to celebrate my roommate’s birthday. On the car drive back we passed by bars and clubs and concert-cafes and it was so odd catching glimpses into people’s lives–like the city equivalent of peering into brightly-lit homes in suburbia. To see some of the things/hear some of the sounds/feel some of the vibes these other people are experiencing, it’s like witnessing something that isn’t yours to witness or feeling nostalgic for lives you have not lived. God, it’s so unnerving, so mundane at the same time. I can’t explain it. Something to do with seeing. Living, if just for a moment, vicariously through so many people you might never see again. Maybe it’s like the concept of scopophilia we learned about in my queer politics class, just the sheer pleasure of looking, of seeing. Maybe.
Also, ah. Like the happy drunk who cries oh I love you, you know that, right? Totally. I feel exhausted-quiet-grateful for the people who’ve been in my life for years. Raises glass. No, but really. I think sometimes I have the tendency to drift like driftwood, tumble like tumbleweed, forget incessantly to respond and get back to people. (By sometimes I mean always) People come and go. So do roses, foxes, and Little Princes. But in the past few years, a handful haven’t left. And so today, I’m going to be grateful for that. Yes, yes, this is my puddle of gratitude.