Cali

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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I’m skipping around humming the outdated song by Katy Perry, California Girls, which we’d blast and sing to at 13.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.

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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.

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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.”

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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!

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City

The city is tired, the city is alive. The city is moving, the city lies still. A stop motion. A 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 signs by their fine wine glasses. Angry bright lights glare. Still cold lampposts hang. I play the streets by ear, following the crowd, hoping to god that I’m moving southeast, not north.

The city overwhelms. Screams, honks, turns right because it’s right on red. Showers rain like a garden hose lite, like a childhood treat on summery southern days. Spinning and laughing in a one-piece, now cold and shuddering in jorts, jean shorts.

The city is zha. A mess. Tight cold fear plus high strung steps. I quicken my pace as the alleyways add up and it’s no longer hipster city. I hear there are Cambodian gangs by sixth and that it ain’t pretty up North but in the South it’s just fine. Just fine. Except at home, I whisper–like it’s a curse word and I’m a clean-mouthed spiritual believer–this would be the ghetto.

The city houses nail salon after nail salon. Our nail salon’s 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.

April 2018

Sensory Clash: Washington, D.C

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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.

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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.

Empire State of Mind

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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!

Austin, Texas

Austin’s beautiful, weird, a city juxtaposed. Words that come to mind:

Urban. Street art. Hills. Vines. Curving roads. Steep inclines. Mountains. Ponds. Chipped concrete. Gravel parking lots. Loose rocks. Sprawling lakes. Kayaks and paddle-boards. Arched bridges. Pointy-winged bats. Sunsets in high places. Wealth stacked atop mountains. Income disparity. Food trucks. Bars. Loud music. Crowded cafes. Shitty parking. Rocky terrain. Small bulbs of lights, broken windows on geometrical homes. Palm trees and record shops sprinkled around the streets. Oddly California-esque for a Texan city.

On the trip, I jotted down a list of places we went, things we did, food we ate. In lieu of writing a massive post, I wrote down the highlights, which I’ve linked to in the list.

Saturday

  • And we roadtrip: playlist and stops along the way
  • Lunch and noms: chicken fried steak, a burger, peach moonshine
  • Headed out to Graffiti Park, realized we’d forgotten the spray, went back to get it, then climbed to the top to make our mark
  • Drove up to the lake for views, pink drinks and fancy glasses
  • Grabbed burgers at P. Terry’s

Sunday

  • Went hunting for cafes–all crowded. Visited a coffeeshop by a record store, dipped in. Went to yet another cafe, until we finally settled on Starbucks
  • Drove to Rainey Street, which was dotted with food trucks, bars, and restaurant. Ate at a Rowdy outdoor restaurant called Bangers, where musicians played right in our faces
  • Zilker Park. First saw the big ol’ field, then some kayaks on Lady Bird Lake.
  • Went kayaking! Decided to kayak wildly and arbitrarily to the far off bridge. One hour turned into an hour and a half
  • Afterwards, sopping wet, hiked up Mount Bonnel
  • Ate at Gordough’s, only the most delicious donut place to graze the planet. Heaps of strawberry and cream cheese on ours.

Monday

  • Gordough’s for lunch (again)
  • Third cafe’s the charm–we found one right by the Capitol
  • Went to the Capitol and walked around all the floor
  • Drove past South Congress to get Gordoughs (for the third time)
  • Took scenic route, where we drove through hill country. Passed by small towns, stopped at a restaurant. Found a hungry cat, which we fed beef jerky.
  • Sunset, winding roads, dim lighting. After a few hours, we finally reached the main highway. DJ’ed and we pseudo-clubbed on the way back.

City Respite

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To escape the city, venture deeper into the city; a necessary paradox when surrounded by people, crowds, movement and noise. Many weekends I’d escape into Center City, where I’d burrow myself in a coffeeshop or bookstore. Though I’d remain constantly surrounded by people, it was a way of finding solitude, an otherwise rare beast on the urban campus.

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