Memory on my Mind

Walking down the street the other day, at a quick pace to keep up with the downward slope of the sidewalk, the wind rushed passed my ears and gently pushed back my arms. Immediately my mind was transported to the Inlet, where I've spent every summer since I was born; my body felt like it was going down the end of the pier, my ears heard the recognizable wind roll through my hair and my face tilted up towards the sun, like it does as I make my way to the Inlet tide. 

It's the first time, I've noticed at least, being mentally taken back somewhere because of the direction and speed of the wind. Normally, as others experience too, a distinct smell, particular song or old photo triggers a wave of memories. This time, the wind and its refreshing touch, familiar whistle and invisible force brought back those same summer sensations.

Listen: that's the wind winking at you.

 Italy 2016.

Italy 2016.

Sa Khmaw

Cambodia is full of contrast — "sa khmaw," or "black and white." There are differences on the surface of course, but beneath that, there is an excruciating divide between its dark past and illuminating future. 

When you arrive in Phnom Penh you immediately notice the air, heavy with dirt and smog. You can almost feel its orange particles turning your skin a deeper tint. After a 20-minute tuk tuk ride, the haze leaves a layer of urban sweat on you and a distinct smell that clings to your clothes and hair. In a sense, once you get to the Killing Fields, you already feel impure.

Choeung Ek is the official name of the genocidal grounds. This is where almost 9,000 people (of 1.5 million) were deliberately killed during Pol Pot's terrorizing regime. The empty spaces where trucks used to dump innocent Cambodians before executing them; the half-buried bones sticking out of the ground without a name to belong to; the tree that the Khmer Rouge used to senselessly kill babies. "Better to kill an innocent by mistake than spare an enemy by mistake." All of it is horrifying, gut-wrenching, incomprehensible. It is the deepest, darkest place your mind can go.

But when you come back up to the surface and can breathe again, you see beauty and light. Just 125 miles southwest of the capital is Koh Rong — a peaceful, clean island with long stretches of white, soft sand. The air is thick, like Phnom Penh, but this time it is heavy with salt and the sweet smell of the ocean. Like the Carolina coast. And instead of motorbikes swirling around you and tuk tuk drivers calling out "Lady! Lady! You want a ride?," you hear waves crashing in a rhythmic succession. A torrential downpour makes music on the roof. Crickets, frogs and cicadas sing the song of summer.

These enchanting sounds ring true all the way up in Siem Reap too. But really it is the sight of Angkor Thom, rather than the sound of nature, that amazes you in this historical town. Every temple in the "Big City" is different. Bayon has massive, mysterious faces carved into its stone. Banteay Srei has intricate designs etched around its dancing deities. Ta Prohm has a storybook tree growing on top of it. And the magnificent Angkor Wat is unmatched in sheer size. Its 12th-century, pristine walls and arched ceilings are a timeless work of art.

Color bursts on Cambodia's coast and life exudes from the old Khmer capital. High spirits spread throughout the countryside and along the Tonle Sap River. People are warm here and happy to share their culture and food, drink and dance. 

As dark and painful as their past is — a color so opaque you can never see through it or wash it away — their vibrant presence and optimistic outlook are constant reminders of the good in this world. They do not forget the recent suffering their people endured, but they do forgive. They have seen darkness, but they are the light.

  Ta Prohm tree, Siem Reap, 2016.

Ta Prohm tree, Siem Reap, 2016.

 

 

 

On the Way to the Củ Chi Tunnels

“You can call me Hung. It means ‘strong’ and ‘powerful’ in Vietnamese.” He looked around at the sleepy eyes bopping along the morning streets of Saigon on the way to the Củ Chi Tunnels. 

“Yeah, Hung,” he said smiling. “My grandfather was Viet Cong.” 

We were a small group from a few different countries, and all excited to see where the secretive, fierce and malicious Viet Cong fought deep below the battlefield. I was the only American. There were about four Irish, two Germans, maybe some British too — they never spoke so not quite sure.

Hung is a proud historian, eager to paint a picture of his people’s troubled past and brighter future. Well brighter for the most part, Hung thinks.

Vietnam was controlled by another nation for most of the 20th century. France owned the country for about 100 years. Japan took over during World War II (1940-45), and then France returned to power until 1954. The Vietnam War, or the “Resistance War Against America” as the Vietnamese call it, started in 1955 and lasted until 1975 — 20 whole years. That makes almost 140 years total that Vietnam faced oppression from another nation. 

“Think about that,” Hung would say.

And even after Saigon fell and the Americans finally left Vietnam, the country was far from being at peace. 1 million people left Vietnam to escape Communist control, Hung said. They fled to America, Australia, parts of Europe.

Many years later, in 1995, America and Vietnam began to open up their economies to profit from one another. That was a clear sign that things were healing in Vietnam.

“Bill Clinton, you know, good-looking American?” Hung said with a wink. “Great guy. Lifted part of the embargo you know.”

Today, Vietnam is the No. 2 exporter for rice and coffee in the world — another indication of Vietnam’s bright future. But even producing this much food and drink, Hung said the Vietnamese people still think about food all the time. In a desperate way.

He said, “They think about it because without it, you die,” referring to the many wars they waged and farmland they lost. “Americans,” he continued, “they think about their mind because the government will feed them if they starve. See? A very different mentality.” 

“Think about that,” he said.

Something else Hung paused and took a minute to reflect on was his country’s religious beliefs. 

“You know, 60% of Vietnamese people do not believe in religion. They think that money, materialism is the most important,” he said tilting his head and letting out a noticeable sigh. “Really sad.”

And just when Hung finished that thought, the bus passed a Buddhist funeral, as if to reassure Hung that not all faith has been lost in his country. You could tell his spirit lifted a bit as he ducked his head to get a closer look at the ceremony and point out the monks praying. You could hear them chanting inside while musicians waited outside with their instruments. A tuba and drums sat on the sidewalk in the middle of the crowd. It reminded me of a jazz funeral at home. 

On a happy note, Hung turned his attention to the bigger, brighter picture today. After almost 40 years, and Obama’s recent visit to Hanoi, he thinks the Vietnamese are finally 100% connected with Americans. 

“Some people still think of them as the enemy, like in the past, but they suffer inside,” Hung said. “It’s better to think about the present and future — you will have a much better life,” he concluded. 

“Think about that.”

 Củ Chi Tunnels, Vietnam, 2016. Double exposure (Photoshop).

Củ Chi Tunnels, Vietnam, 2016. Double exposure (Photoshop).

An Older Sister

Hoi An is Hanoi's older, more charming and mindful sister. She waits for you to walk and slows down time. She shares a taste of her tea leaves and coffee beans — so sweet in the heat. She lets you bodysurf her waves and play guitar on her beaches, ride through her rice fields and admire her grazing water buffalo. She offers you cover in the rain and shade in the sun. Her banana leaves lend their flavor to your fish and her bamboo makes a basket for your fruit. In a sense, she is an older sister who always looks out for you, making sure you are comfortable, happy and free.

 Rice field, Hoi An, 2016.

Rice field, Hoi An, 2016.

In the Middle of Hanoi

Hanoi is like stepping into a sauna. And I'm not talking about the heat. I'm talking about how your body has to acclimate to the hot air if it wants to soak up its benefits.

As soon as you walk onto the streets of Hanoi's Old Quarter, all of your senses become heightened — mostly your sight and hearing — so you don't get hit by a motorbike, struck by a car, pestered by a woman selling food from a basket or coaxed to ride in a rickshaw. Just like when you're in a sauna, your heart starts to race, but not because it's harder to breathe in the heat. In this situation, your heart rate goes up because you realize how easy it is to get injured or harassed.

Even though it seems like you won't be able to last another block, your body slowly gets used to the space between the sidewalk (which you can't walk on because everyone parks their motorbikes there) and the oncoming traffic. Since crosswalks don't mean anything to drivers, you quickly learn to zigzag between the lanes as small breaks open up — and to never walk backwards.

Once you're able to calmly gauge the distance between safety and danger and you know how much confidence you can display so that you're not vulnerable, but also not an arrogant American, then you start to take everything in: little kids riding between their mothers' laps, women strolling alongside their bikes filled with fruit or flowers, Buddhists praying in Ngoc Son Temple. The sooner you find your footing in Hanoi, the sooner you will soak in this city's splendor.

 Old Quarter, Hanoi, 2016.

Old Quarter, Hanoi, 2016.

The Same Open Plain

Being inside a temple is a much different, much greater experience than only seeing it from the outside. 

The first two major temples I was allowed to walk inside were Nishi Hongangi and its eastern counterpart, Higashi Hongangi. Even though both are beacons of Shin Buddhism, the impressions they left on me were distinct.

Nishi Hongangi, the western temple and first one to be built, made me feel a lot smaller. Perhaps because its beams were enormous and its corridors broad and expansive. Or maybe there was an untouchable presence so huge that it filled every corner and crack, and laid a path before me and behind. Either way, I felt like the wind could have swept me away with the slightest amount of force. But standing next to the temple's wooden columns, I felt protected. The whole time I felt small, but safe.

Higashi Hongangi, in the east, had a more emotional impact on me. Or even a spiritual one, it's hard to say. When I walked outside of its Amida Hall where Buddha is enshrined, my stomach had a sinking feeling, like something escaped me or came through me. I know this sounds made up, because I just stepped out from a temple in Kyoto, but it's what I felt. I couldn't tell if it was a weight lifted or a weight added. It kind of left me and hit me all at once.

Since no photography was allowed inside the Amida Hall (actually refreshing), I was able to take a clear mental image of its interior — gold, blacks, reds and whites. The tall, stark figure in the middle of the altar was a womanlike Buddha, sticking out from the gold backdrop. Birds sat up high, carved from cypress and painted gold. So intricate they looked like they were about to take flight. But were they all birds? Some fashioned scales, or were they feathers?

The spirit animals, along with Buddha and the dark, towering columns were balanced by the light from the sliding windows and pale color of the tatami mats. These straw mats covered the entire floor. No chairs are ever placed on tatami mats, no benches or rows of seats. There is no standing. Everyone is meant to kneel or sit on the mats facing the altar. Without a designated seat, no one is in front of another. No one is higher than the other — physically and spiritually, everyone is on the same level, the same open plain. 

Even though the sun wasn't strong that day, the contrast between the temple's dark structure and bright interior was intense. When combined, they created a striking beauty you could almost touch. That's how strong of an effect the temples had on me — a feeling you could almost hold.

 Inside the Nishi Honganji, Kyoto, 2016.

Inside the Nishi Honganji, Kyoto, 2016.

Under the Golden Pavilion

My first day in Kyoto left a trail of gold flakes in my footsteps and propelled me into a brighter future.

Stepping off the bus and into Arashiyama, there lies centuries of hard work, tradition and natural beauty. I just didn't know it yet.

Without following a map directly to the district's bamboo forest, I crossed the main bridge and started walking along the river. I figured I would see a sign to the forest and veer off once I did, but the path I chose happily took me to another place — a Zen temple at the top of a mountain. Daihikaku Temple is a peaceful, lesser known sanctuary that overlooks all of Kyoto. Above where I sat to think and read about the temple's origins, I noticed a worn banner hanging down from the roof, divided into the colors of the rainbow. It immediately took my heart to Orlando and my mind to a question I've sadly asked myself many times before — why do such senseless attacks happen? How can a world filled with so much light, become so dark?

From there, I walked back towards the bridge where I had heard there was a Japanese monkey park called Iwatayama. It's a 20-minute climb up a steeper mountain than before, and the air was now hotter and thicker. But there wasn't a question in my mind — wild animals that aren't afraid to get close to you, that's rare to find.

So I made the trek up the mountain and, as guessed, the native primates were completely worth it. The monkeys made me, and everyone else, laugh and smile at every turn. They were in their natural habitat after all, eating each piece of food cupped in their hands, riding on their mama's back, sleeping in trees and combing through each other's hair. It was spectacular. 

Now, for what I originally set out for — the bamboo forest. The way things were going up until this point, I may have subconsciously set the bar too high for the forest, but it didn't matter. The green path exceeded all my expectations. The trees' narrow trunks shot up to the sky with shades of green like I've never seen. The smooth bamboo plants bent ever so slightly, their leaves kissing towards the top. There was enough shade to keep cool, but the sun that did seep through sprinkled the ground with welcome drops. Anything was possible along its path.

At the end of this path, and northeast of the forest, was something so magical only fairytales could paint its picture. It was Kinkaku-ji, or the "Golden Pavilion" — made even more golden as the sun sinks in the west. This Zen temple houses the relics of Buddha, reflecting its radiant color onto a pond so pure. Its gold leaf walls leave no room for darkness; they only make way for the light.

 Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto, 2016.

Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto, 2016.

When Art Imitates Nature

"In every walk with nature, one receives far more than one seeks." — John Muir

Last week I visited Muir Woods and exactly three months ago today, I visited the Sagrada Família. One stretches along the Pacific coast in Marin County, CA and one stands tall near the Mediterranean Sea in Barcelona. Both are beautiful beyond words. 

Of course beauty is not the only thing these two landmarks, passageways, sanctuaries and historical sites have in common. They're both creations—one natural, the other manmade—with clear roots in the world around them. 

Gaudí, the brilliant architect behind the Sagrada Familia, made this connection between nature and art more clear than ever. HIs buildings are all over the Catalonian city, seemingly swaying between normal-looking residencies or vibrantly standing on their own, turning any horizon into a colorful canvas. You could never mistake a building for another architect. Gaudí took the closest thing to us—nature—and transformed it into an extravagant piece of art like you've never seen. Not only was his creations reminiscent of something in a Dali painting, but his art had a purpose: a home, a church, a chimney, a town square. People lived in Gaudí's buildings, people worshiped in Gaudí's chapel, people gathered in Gaudí's park. And they still do today.

Turn back the clock hundreds, thousands of years and a redwood tree was born from a seed so small it can fit in your hand. Now imagine the trees' rings growing ever so slightly, withstanding the test of time. This offspring of Earth lived through the Puebloans and Aztecs, Columbus and the colonists. 

It wasn't until after Gaudí began construction on the Sagrada Familia that this tree officially became a part of Muir Woods. Named after the conservationist John Muir in 1908, this sacred stretch of land became a national monument. And after having visited the site for the first time, I can say it had the same affect on me as any other landmark, if not more. Shortly after entering the park, I found my eyes taking in every outline and every groove of the trees, tracing its lines from the roots to the sky. My neck was stretched back trying to take in the surrounding works of natural art and there it hit me—it felt like I was standing in front of the Sagrada Familia all over again.

 La Sagrada Familia (October 2015) and Muir Woods (January 2016).

La Sagrada Familia (October 2015) and Muir Woods (January 2016).


I Am (Not) Here

"In solitude we find ourselves; we prepare ourselves to come to conversation with something to say that is authentic, ours." — Sherry Turkle

This article titled "Stop Googling. Let's Talk." struck a chord with me this past weekend. In it, the writer Sherry Turkle suggests that thinking for ourselves — alone — and letting our minds create and reflect, make us better at conversing and connecting, on an emotional level, with other people. She goes onto say that conversations with other people improve our inner dialogue. These two propositions form a cycle that depends on our ability to be alone (really alone) and our ability to be together (really together). 

Technology, as she points out, makes it difficult to truly be alone and genuinely be together. Everyone has been there; you are sitting in your apartment with nobody around and you turn on the TV, reach for your phone, flip through Instagram, skim some articles and check your Facebook feed. We do it because it helps fill that empty feeling. It distracts you, yet holds your attention. You're physically alone, but mentally somewhere else. 

Along the same lines, when you're with friends or family, you don't always concentrate on being in the moment with them. You reach for your phone during a face-to-face conversation and mentally escape the personal interaction (even if you don't realize you are). 

It's fascinating because we are attracted to deep conversations and the human exchange of ideas, and at the same time, drawn to immediate answers, fast information and fragmented, sometimes superficial, snippets of other people's lives. 

We can have both authentic conversations and instant access to endless amounts of information, but what about our inner dialogue? Technology has brought us closer together and given us the power to have more conversations with more people, but has it brought us further away from ourselves?

This article has led me to think that, just like people are afraid of change, people are afraid to be alone. And maybe the generations that came before the Computer Age were afraid of change because they didn't have all of the opportunities to experience the world as we do now. Our generation can make a change more easily — hop on a plane, make a documentary, have conversations with people across the world. Although, now is it harder to self reflect, internalize a feeling or follow your instinct? 

Having the Internet and being connected digitally is a privilege because it opens doors to many new worlds. It's figuring out how to open your own doors that is key. 

 Two places at once. Double exposure (Photoshop).

Two places at once. Double exposure (Photoshop).

Frieze: The Third Time Around

This morning I was skimming through headlines to see which stories may be good to run on Mashable and a Bloomberg Business headline jumped out at me: “Why Frieze is the perfect weekend adventure (even if you’re not in it for the art).” Besides the fact that art is a category we like to cover (if it makes sense for our audience), this story also struck a personal chord. 

Five years ago, I attended Frieze in London (the original art fair location) while I was studying abroad and working as an editorial intern for jotta (a small online arts publication). My boss, Millie, told me I needed to check out Frieze — it was the contemporary art fair of the year, truly spectacular, attracting hundreds of artists’ work from all around the world.

It was October. I wore a green felt hat that I had picked out at the Camden Market and I pulled a few friends along with me to Regents Park. From what I remember, the space was painted white with countless booths lined along each wall and in every corner. It was a maze of art, so once you thought you were at the end of one exhibit, another one was just beginning. After our eyes and brains had experienced sensory overload, we went out to explore the sculptures in the park. The leaves were changing, greens were turning yellow, yellows blending into oranges. That was my favorite part — walking down the foliage-dusted path in between two beautiful rows of trees, all lined up in a perfect, British uniform way. At the end of that walk was a pub, of course, where I remember drinking hot cider while giving our legs much-needed rest. We sat for hours drinking, laughing, basking in London’s glory and bursting at the seams with culture, character and companionship. 

Fast forward nearly two years and I was heading up to New York to cover the first Frieze art fair in the U.S. I kept in touch with Millie as I wished to write a few more things for jotta — the amount of passion, inspiration and creativity I had while I was in London was incredible, so this was a way for me to hold onto that. She agreed to let me go and take some pictures and write about my experience at Frieze New York on Randall’s Island.

I took a cab out there (who takes a cab to an island?) because the subway gave me anxiety and I only felt safe getting there by taxi (who feels safe in a yellow taxi?). It was a warm May day (much like this weekend’s forecast for the fair), but there weren’t as many trees, if at all. The tent was a massive structure standing alone in the middle of a field. With my notebook and camera in hand I entered the contemporary art playground. Everything was white, except the paintings, sculptures and intricate installations of course. There were live performance pieces, textiles hanging down, cracked tv screens playing on a loop, baby pools and barbies, monochrome canvases and other works that sent electric waves through the crowd. By the time I had explored most of the tent, my brain was experiencing that same sensory-overload. The next natural place for me to go explore was the outside of course. More interactive  exhibits were setup along the water; one trailer made into a carnival game read “Most games are lost not won.” As you can imagine, the outside was just as probing as the inside. 

And here we are today, the fourth annual Frieze New York. I haven’t planned to go out there this year, but the article we ended up publishing this week made me think: about my first Frieze in London, my solo visit in New York when I got to write and take photos for jotta, and finally, my journey through the years, landing back on the editorial side of things. And to think, this whole nostalgic reflection was triggered by a headline. 

Some things have come full circle, in a way, over the past five years. London was where my journalism studies began. I let everything inspire and influence me to create a story, no matter how large or small. And now, New York is where I am trying to perpetuate my passion for journalism and keep drawing meaning from people, places and experiences. But that circle has far from sealed off, closed to the outside. No, rather the opposite; I intend to ride the offshoots of that circle for the rest of my life. 

  World Mirrors . Frieze New York, 2012.

World Mirrors. Frieze New York, 2012.

"It's not how far you've traveled, it's what you've brought back." —Tiziano Terzani

At first thought, this entry was going to be about the physical, palpable similarities between two places I have visited—Sausalito and Cinque Terre. Their houses sit on cliffs like painted shoeboxes, tilted toward the sun like flowers stretching out to receive the light and warmth of the central star. The sea laps against the shorelines, more powerfully on the Italian coast, but perpetually in both places. 

Then I thought, these connections are plain to see. The two towns themselves are outward expressions of light, color, the coastal life. Anyone can recognize their beauty, pick up on their natural charm, but not everyone internalizes that beauty. Not everyone takes a step back to see what those places have given them. And I don't mean in the physical sense, like a pretty picture or keychain to remember it by, but in the subjective sense. What feelings surrounded you in each place? What experiences did you bring back from your visit? 

For me, these hamlets by the sea carry distinct memories and meaning. Cinque Terre was the first place I visited, five years ago, with four friends who I had only known for four days, but would keep the rest of my life. At the end of our hike through three of the five villages, we sat on the edge of a massive rock, waiting for the Mediterranean Sea to crash into the stone, form a huge wave above our heads and break over us, giving us and a number of other visitors a burst of salty water to cool down. I was far away from home, celebrating the fourth of July for the first time without family, not knowing what my first study abroad was going to bring, but soaking in—quite literally—every second of it.                                                          

Sausalito is a much more recent discovery, having visited it for the first time this past January, but it carries meaningful experiences just like Cinque Terre. Whereas my life had been much more carefree during that summer between my sophomore and junior year in college, the point in which I took my first trip to California was a bit different. Compared to New York, where I've been living for the past three years, Sausalito was rejuvenating, reinvigorating. Even though I was far away from home, again, it felt familiar. It reminded me of Cinque Terre. It reminded me of the salty air in Charleston and the laid back nature of New Orleans. It brought back previous travels, tastes and moods.

And from these two journeys, I brought back a greater self-awareness. 

 Sausalito, January 17, 2015. 

Sausalito, January 17, 2015. 


An Instant Made to Last Forever

I found these polaroids at my grandmother'sLucky Mama'shouse. That's her on the far right, playfully smiling back at the love of her life, Jimmy, or as we call him, Daddy Jim. Her house is full of old photographs, brownie cameras, rolls of undeveloped film. Every time you visit, you find something new. 

These two photos were a part of my last perusal and the more I look at them, the more they tell me, or depict rather. At first sight, the style, arrangement and photos themselves say a lot: candid, permanent, old fashioned. But then you think, how candid could these have been? They positioned themselves in the same wayknee up, against the railing, looking at each other. These snapshots were carefully thought out because they were meant to last, meant to capture the moment in a permanent, physical way. They took a fleeting moment, or what they made appear a brief second in time, and preserved it on two square-shaped, photographic prints.

Looking at these polaroids more, I realize that this is their version of a "selfie." A historian who works behind the scenes on the show Downton Abbey brought this idea to mind. He explained on a clip called "The Manners of Downton Abbey" that everything the actors do, every detail on the dining room table, every subtle intonation, is done on purpose and in a certain way because it portrays exactly how the British aristocracy and servants lived in the post-Edwardian era. This modern day television series reminded me of these preserved polaroids. The actors appear effortless, privileged, yet responsible even though each expression is precise and intentional, each detail is carefully thought out and perfectly placed. 

My mom and dad in the left photo and Lucky Mama and Daddy Jim may not have been as meticulous in making their mark for others to see, remember and reflect upon, but this instantaneous art form definitely gives us a snapshot of their lives some thirty years agobefore me, before the "selfie" and before Instagram made a polaroid filter. 

This is the real deal. This is where it all began.

Polaroids2.jpg

Into The Unknown

I've never been so close to heaven. Not in a spiritual way, but in a physical sense. The clouds stretched as far as the eyes could see west. The end of the bridge was swallowed up by the fog. You couldn't see the steel base or the sturdy cables that iconically frame the golden towers. It was as if the path led to nowhere, just hanging in the sky with no signs of the vast ocean or brilliant city below. It was liberating, but frightening at the same time. Being suspended in thin air is gut wrenching and enticing. What lies beyond the unseen? Where does the middle end and the end begin? How will you know the ground will catch you or the path will guide you in the right direction? 

In this instance, my natural surroundings rang true for my life's current path and the changes that it brings. It perfectly represents transition as I embark on a new journey. One that I began in college, but never fully followed. Tomorrow is my first day working in the editorial field. Just as the disappearing bridge evokes a disquieting sensation, the next step in my career is daunting, but more so exciting. The unknown is never reassuring, especially when change awaits. It is empowering however to take that next step to discover whether your feet will land firmly or slide until you regain balance.

I'm ready to leap!

 The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA.

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, CA.



When Darkness Becomes Light

I never knew what he was singing. I just knew I liked the way it sounded. Have you ever liked something but never known what it actually means? Well, that's exactly how I feel about Anders Osborne's song "Darkness at the Bottom." When you hear this song, especially during a live performance, you feel his desperation and agony as the guitar strikes hard and he drags out each lyric, pleading for a way out of the bottom. The beat is fast and rocks you through his pain, but his words are slow and drawn out, pulling you down with him. In order to understand the song more, I scribbled down some lyrics that I could make out:

"Leaves me wondering
Is this how it's gonna be
Everybody's talkin
Nobody's listenin

Everybody is pushin 
But we ain't got nowhere to go

Darkness at the bottom 
Of a whole lotta misery"

Although disconnected, these lyrics, strung together, tell a story of frustration, deprivation and hardship. The words paint a bleak picture, but the beat and syncopated rhythm create an amazing sound. Something you can't not feel, can't not dance to. It reminds me in a way of a Jackson Pollock. His splattering of paint is very intense and chaotic. It's dark and messy when you look at it up close. But when you step back and see how the darkness becomes light, it's quite beautiful.  

 Anders Osborne, Brooklyn Bowl. 

Anders Osborne, Brooklyn Bowl. 


The Art of Food

Being from New Orleans, there are three things that the feeling of home can't exist without: music, food and humidity. Up in New York City, some 1,300 miles away from the Crescent City, I love being reminded of its funky sounds, delicious cuisine and warm, dewy air. Jon Favreau's film Chef does just that. From the opening scene where a rendition of the Neville Brothers' "Brother John" song is playing in the background to Chef Carl's passion for poyboys and visit to New Orleans, the movie reminded me of home. More than that, though, it reminded me that like music, food is an art form. I've always appreciated music and respected musicians for their talent and incredible ability to move a listener and connect with a crowd. But—only because I haven't been around as many chefs as I have musicians—I don't know how artful and expressive food can be. Chef opened up my perspective and gave me a glimpse of the connections that flavors create and expertise that goes into making phenomenal-tasting food.

As Chef pointed out, much more than ingredients go into making the perfect poboy or smoked brisket or crispy cubano. To leave off, some culinary tips from Chef Carl: don't be afraid to get your hands dirty, be resourceful and don't take your eyes off of the prize. 

 Fried Shrimp Dressed.

Fried Shrimp Dressed.

"People in New Orleans are natural story tellers." —Walter Isaacson

This quote struck me the other day because it is succinct, truthful and says a lot about my hometown. Then, watching the sixth episode of Dave Grohl's Sonic Highways documentary series on New Orleans and its musical heritage, Isaacson's statement reverberated. All of the musical geniuses who help make up the fabric of New OrleansDr. John, Allen Toussaint, Trombone Shorty and of course my favorite, The Metersare natural story tellers, communicating the history, experiences and essence of one of the most soulful cities in the world. What they did and continue to docarrying on the beat from generations pastis so critical to the culture and spirit of New Orleans. The city's soundtrack is not the only means of telling the story of course. There's food, there's painting, there's architecture, there's writing. Traditions are preserved and new ones are born. How we get from the beginning to where we are now is all a part of the story. Just lucky my life includes stories worth telling. How to tell them, well that's what I'm trying to figure out. 

 Northshire Bookstore, Arlington, VT.

Northshire Bookstore, Arlington, VT.

Banksy's Be-trail

After watching the "Banksy Does New York" documentary two days ago, graffiti, for the first time, got me thinking about art. Usually graffiti is just there: unnoticed, unattractive and unappealing. But as I watched how NYC reacted to his one-month stint in and around the five boroughs, I realized his work really is an art form that sometimes doesn't involve art at all. It really is all one big paradox. His work is so distinct and recognizable, yet Banksy's identity has never been revealed. He creates his pieces alone, but people experience it together. He wants to send a message, but sometimes his work gets painted over and washed away only hours after it is made. His intended audience is the public, but ordinary people and gallery artists steal it and sell it for hundreds of thousands of dollars so it can only be seen privately. But maybe that's just it. The whole thing, the high value, short-lived nature of his work, is what makes it attractive. His painting or installation or balloon is in one spot, for one time and then it's gone. Banksy is like a living dead artist who dies each time he creates art. He generates a sense of relevancy, urgency and yearning for morewhen's the next Banksy? where's the next Banksy? what's the next Banksy? 

Today, I thought of his work after hearing that they painted over the John Lennon Wall in Prague. Why would they do that? It is a landmark. It stands for democracy and freedom. People experience the wall together. It's like 25 years of Banksy art being covered up.

They did it to make room for a new generation of messages. 

 John Lennon Wall.

John Lennon Wall.

A Blank Post

Also known as a "clean slate," this blank post is a fresh start. Everyone's got to start somewhere and for me, this beginning is old and new. It's not the first time I've tried starting a blogno, no, like many a blog, it became forgotten, put-off, outdated. This time however, the blank space won't intimidate me. It won't deter me. This time, I'm determined to fill the white space. To wedge myself into the crowded cyberspace, full of bloggers and writers, and mark this virtual page with a thought, sometimes an image. As it comes together, I know my reflections and photos will be different and based on separate experiences or thoughts, but in the end, they will all be uniquely mine. Here's to making my first mark, but certainly not my last. 

 The Corner of Prytania and Joseph. 

The Corner of Prytania and Joseph.