Monthly Archives: April 2008

nj, nyc, washington dc

4 april
the road back east is long. flight delays and a precarious belly. i left the house before sunrise and will arrive to new jersey long after sunset. airports have become subway stops.

my medicine is in my checked luggage and all i’ve eaten today is a pear. this comes one day after gloating to dr. cory that i’m healed, cured, back fully in the game. the medical bills are all coming in now. i collect them in a black folder called “UGH!”. i plan to make oragami with them. except for those evil tomatoes and citrus, and a list of other devil things i avoid, i eat mostly veggies, brown rice crackers, and pears. i make events out of steamed beets and squash over quinoa… but i cheat… i drink wine, crave chocolate like crack, have gluten things… but for weeks now no big reaction so i deemed myself healed. apparently not so and i worry now, shrinking down in my plane seat cursing my boasting and figuring out how to get to my medicine on the layover in denver somehow, just in case this pain increases… for now, i think calm thoughts and distract myself by ice formations on the plane window…

i realize i’ve agreed to another winter adventure. i ask my sister to bring me a coat. we will sleep at our mother’s house tonight. she says she will wait up for me…

i am feeling anxious… tight, worried… and i can’t pinpoint the source of it. i will see all of my family at a party on sunday. i will spend time with my sisters, have lots of shoots lined up, meetings at record labels. i’ve negotiated my first full buyout. roadrunner has bought a few of my dresden dolls images for the ‘no, virginia’ album cycle. hopefully i’ll get to see the packaging when i’m there. that’s always such a high, to see my work in print. the images they bought were taken on my first shoot with them at a san francisco hotel in 2005. they didn’t have wardrobe so they got naked… and brian turned up the heat really high and suggested i take my clothes off. my assistant sat in the corner giggling. we wrecked that room moving furniture and bed things. i ran out of memory cards and had to stop. there were many things i did wrong technically in that shoot that i cringe at, yet those shots have been all over magazines including playgirl and now will be used for some upcoming press and releases…

it’s hard for me to give up control like this, that my work is now a company’s property but it’s a label i’ve been involved with for a few years… i’m curious how they will be used. i guess we’ll find out. i also think i’m ready for an assistant. i’m shifting things around in my mind to make this happen. i want more time to write… my daily emails, travel scheduling, mailings to publications, the following up, scanning model releases and dealing with my receipts and quickbooks are so time-consuming… they are now taking me away from the other pathways within me… i envision showing up to shoot on large sets and shooting, leaving the planning to someone trustworthy, detail-oriented, involved, experienced, direct yet calm. but trust and reliability are big with me. i realize that no one is going to care as much about my business as i do. again, i must trust the experience of letting go… and that happens just by doing it… so maybe soon…

9 april – nyc
jostled by subway cars, hesitant to breathe or expand my elbows too much. children come on smiling and that is the only sunshine radiating. the noise and calamity must be such an intrusion on their little psyche. i have unknowingly sat on a woman’s coat and she shuns me instantly with a scowl. a smile is met with heat,yet courtesy is expected. it’s a strange world here…. i was born here… i lived here for 15 years. i know this place. i know what it does to people. this is not my home. i am not new york. i am the city tempered by time, mellowed by its polar coast, enriched with extreme experiences. snippets of convorsations leave indelible marks. confrontation, slighted feelings, want of desire, not fully formed. to ask a question, to truly ask a question… of life, of path, of resonance and destiny is to conjure the answer in itself… and there are many lost faces here. i am removed. this is not my city. this is a place i poorly protected myself from.

it is late night and upon transfer, the train left the station and i felt very lonely, lost, in danger. i walked unwillingly toward the loud echo of a vomiting man, only to discover he was in drag and missing one shoe. this was a lou reed song gone bad.

unexpected things fall like rocks into life here. weather, train delays, a crazy person on a train. in los angeles i don’t need as much preservation. in los angeles, i relax my elbows. i see sky. i smile more. i belong. i am permitted. i am myself. i don’t have to feign disinterest like the people on the subways. i am myself. if places and people were gates, mirrors, paddywagons, ghosts, nyc is all those things to me… but none of them define my life anymore. i am surging in spite of it as my base. i thrive in the face of adversity because of it. i have been filtered by having space to be. thankful for the reminder and perspective of this trip… moving on now… washington dc tomorrow… i knot my eyebrows and question my heavy heart. this city burns me…

14 april
…and now i head home via denver again. my eyes are puffy, my back hurts, my stomach hates me. i am exhausted. i want my kitty… i want a bath with lavender, a white candle. i want to kiss brady for 3 hours straight. i’ve been working and playing so hard these past few weeks. so many adventures…. so much art…

my mother, who sent a black sedan to pick me up from the airport, was celebrating her birthday with two of my sisters and my neice. i made small talk with the driver, chewing licorice root tablets and acclimating back to new jersey accents and route 9. i met my family at a restaurant and ate steamed brocolli. diana and i slept on a sleeper sofa. i always feel happy when i awake and she’s next to me. i like to pet her nose and smile at her. the next day, my father and i went on a 5-mile walk around manasquan reservoir, just me and him whispering in the woods so as not to disturb the birds. he pointed out feathered one camouflaged. things i had to search for that only he noticed… and when i found them, i gasped and he laughed. a duck sleeping, the same color as the tree, was especially concealed.

my father is my world. he is the rock from which i leap from. this solid, stable base of love where i learn, challenge and relearn all the good things in life. we approached a bridge and i held up my video camera and decided to interview him. “is this a bridge over troubled or UNtroubled water?” he smiled into the camera entertained but, ever the optimist, replied that the bridge was indeed over untroubled water, just as suspected.

“what’s the meaning of life, dad?”
“well, it’s to be happy, to have fun” he said

my father is like billy crystal, a strong new york accent, a happy face, a good listener. he listens to the temptations and the beach boys, has a convertible sports car, many gadgets and yet in his house, a cassette player from 1982. i think he just recently threw away the old 8-track tapes of donna summer… he saves everything. he used to save syrup bottles. he sends me cowbells when he goes to vermont, engraved boomerangs when he goes to australia, necklaces of crystals when he goes to new mexico. he’s sentimental like me… i almost cried when i saw in his new house, my red schwinn bicycle hanging there. he taught me balance… he’s saving it for when i have kids, for him to teach them the same things too. bicycles are sacred in my family. the joy of riding, the clearing of the mind, the challenge of the pedal up hills, makes me feel closer to my dad. when he’s bored he books a trip to china to ride his bicycle. he recently ziplined between trees in costa rica, a week before back surgery. he makes friends everywhere and is the most content man, in want of nothing. “just rolling along” as he would say. he is not overwhelmed or resigned like most people his age. he adjusts to life’s changes. he just means the world to me… that i can’t recall the last time we took a walk alone, that we connected in this way, is wrong to me… or as dad would say, “just how it is.”

diana and i slept in dad’s bed that night and awoke into a frenzy of a family day. my niece, alexis, was having her bat mitzvah. she looks and talks like someone i need to keep meeting over and over again. she is growing so fast that i have to stare at her to realize she is the same child. she has the most beautiful dark eyes she straightens her hair, is embarrassed of everything, hardly moves her lips when she speaks. she is on the journey, the teenage place of fitting into other people’s expectations. i am in awe of her. despite all the issues of her upbringing, she is thriving and is growing up as we did. these gluttonously ‘religious’ rites of passages, the braces, the influence of our dad to counteract the inconsistency of our mother who is raising her. she feels like another sister to me, instead of a niece.

to see all of my extended family aging and together at this extravagant party made me warm and happy. my cousin jay wrote me that next day telling me that even though we go years without seeing each other, that he is always there for me. he commented how as he looked around, he noticed that for once, everyone was happy. and he’s right…. my mother clapped when my dad and his girlfriend were called up to light a candle. my sister renee seemed more stable and aware. everything just felt like it was as it should be… lessons had been learned, stressful family experiences had settled, the meaning of family thru recents deaths realized. we all seemed so content and at ease with each other, genuinely wanting to be there, making plans for the future.

i met my second cousins for the first time…. the new generation of the family. i stared at them teary-eyed… and then i stare at my cousins with their husbands… and we are all getting older. life is marching on predictably but to experience it in bursts the way i do, because i live so far away, feels a bit overwhelming. we are multiplying. my uncles have grey hair. my grandmother is 90 years old and because of advanced altheimer’s, doesn’t know who we are. “bubbe, i’m your oldest grand child.” and she smiles at me but i know she doesn’t know me. if only it was a matter of just updating or reminding her. “remember when i used to play with blocks in your living room in brooklyn, the room where all the furniture was covered in plastic, even the side pillows? remember when you taught me to put milk in my eggs to make omelettes fluffy? remember when grandpa would push me on a swing?” but it is not that way and she doesn’t know who i am or who she is or where she lives or what year it is… it’s as if she’s gone already…. getting old and not remembering is my worst nightmare. perhaps this is why i keep my cameras always on me, my journal nearby. maybe it all means nothing anyway but still a great fear of mine…

towards the end of the party, lauryn, who lived down the road, came and crashed it. we were both wearing polka dot dresses. “this is my family. everyone’s drunk. c’mon, let’s go play photo!” so i posed her in a makeshift forest for a bit before heading to diana’s place in the bronx to set up for shoots the next day. brian, my photo agent, met me there. he’d bought me a new sandbag so i didn’t have to travel with one. i loaned him my negative scanner. a few days later we made his mother cry in central park. i acted as a video-taping tourist and surprised her. we were both in town visiting at the same time, hadn’t seen each other in 10 years.

three days of packed photo shoots and meetings yet still met up with friends in the in-between spaces. i had dinner with cody, and also with buck, who i met thru ed in high school. they were both in a band that was on nickelodeon. they were my first rockstars. i remember one day skipping school and going to buck’s mother’s place on roosevelt island. we sat on backless yoga-type chairs and she made vegan food which i was unaware of before. her guru had just died and there were shrines all over the house to him. the lead singer of the band lived in a trailer and had posters up of ‘the church’ which, to this day, still reminds me of him. i had never been in a trailer before, never was aware of shrines or gurus, never sat in chairs like that. i spent time with rick becker, my old boss when i lived in nyc. i was his photo assistant. he shoots for cigar magazines and kitchens & home type magazines. his eyes were the same… calm, peircing and kind. “so you own 3 houses and you’re a successful photographer. how do you keep it challenging?” i am noticing this need to interview people lately. more and more i want to know what makes people happy, why did they or didn’t they have kids? what are they passionate about? what gets them stuck? what are they working on within themselves? what are they learning? afraid of? from total strangers to old friends, i want to know….

i had a full day of meetings with record labels. i met the doll’s new manager at madison house. we had coffee and talked of life and the upcoming tour. i have a few weeks break from travel. i wish it were longer but i would do anything for my dolls, as i’ve learned so much from working with them the past 4 years. i then went to roadrunner records where i was taken out for a sushi lunch and at the end, a folder with a contract was pushed across the table. i came back to the offices and hung out with david, who i met on the set of the last video. we listened to amanda’s new solo cd… so much biting passion with a chaotic undertow of anger… we played it loud as i fauned over a one-eyed fish in a tank by david’s desk. “the other fish ate his eye” he said over the music, pointing to a sign that amanda had drawn. he piled me up with schwag and cds and sent me on my way… i then met with sam, who runs projekt records. he’d never had a frozen hot chocolate before so i dragged him by his ear to serendipity on E 60th street and poured it into his face. hes’ now a fan… no nyc trip is complete for me without a visit to serendipity, dylan’s candy bar, st marks and yaffa cafe. it just isn’t…

sam and i walked 30 blocks south and talked about projects and life. i had brought a print of my favorite tree for danny & sarah but i had yet to find a suitable frame for it, so we popped into an art store and i set up a corner as a work station to get this photo into its frame. sam deposited me at the wood-paneled pub on W. 30th street where danny was waiting. i love his face. it’s like home. he told me he’s my biggest fan… he liked the tree photo…

the nyc shoots were wonderful. i met such sweet girls. jenivive and i just instantly bursted synergy all over the place as soon as we met. it was her birthday that day and her mother was with her. she was a perfectly confident noir-goddess rocking the direction and acting out in this 1920’s headspace that i instigated. while she was changing, her mother told me how when she was a little girl, she would play dress up with her friends and take pictures. i smiled, as i did the same. at some parts of the shoot we had to banish her mom from the room. love and rockets blared out and the patent leather was adjusted. she was amazing… all my bands, families and dancers were amazing… such passion….

and then scott showed up… we’d met at his cousin’s wedding last year and talked of becoming invisible at will and of photography. we kept in touch on email only and shared photos and east coast plans. 23 years old, lives in syracuse, a great photographer, offered to drive me from nyc to washington dc. he’s never really worked with people and wanted to learn. so he drove down from syracuse and we made a photo roadtrip out of it.

we left the bronx at 4am, having only slept an hour. as soon as we left the city, my shoulders relaxed and i realized that the tight anxious feeling that i had on the flight in, was just nyc reminding me that its talons were still within me. so out to wide open spaces and highways and we show up in front of the paramount theater in asbury park, new jersey. our original goal of hunting old signs there immediately got thwarted. it seemed they were all gone except for one.

the sky began its indigo churning and we brought out the tripod. long exposures in misty streetlights. the wooden planks of the boardwalk were rain-kissed and perfect. stray cats glared out at us and i tried to ignore the construction, holding on to some hope of just one more old sign somewhere.

we spent the morning driving down the coast of new jersey, stopping in sea girt for hazy beach photos. we also visited point pleasant beach, my old stomping ground. “these were the benches that the goths and punks used to hang out on when i was in high school.” i told him and closed my eyes and remembered how that felt… sneaking off with my boyfriend to make out under the tiki bar, eating orange and vanilla ice cream. the crash of the waves…

nothing was open, no skeeball, nothing. we snuck into the amusement park. getting caught was imminent so i shot fast and furious. there was some poetry in what i was there for. my old haunts, an air of caution, such loneliness paralleled with such color. childhood things smiling for nothing and no one. we got thrown out of there and jumped back in the car.

we saw and did more before 11am that day than most people do in a month. plans for atlantic city got sidetracked as we made an impromptu right turn inland. we visited a town called ‘batsto’ which i called ‘bats town’ despite numerous corrections. i was so tired that i thought this hilarious each time i said it. “BATS TOWN! BWAAAAHAAHAHAAHAA!” my peripheral vision began to blur and i knew a nap was needed. i held out til late afternoon… as soon as we reached cape may, i became a little pile of black garments smushed into the sand on the beach there. 20 minutes down and i was good to go. we halfheartedly searched for the jersey devil, we crept around an antique iron garden where an old dog drank slowly from various discarded sinks and tubs. in a tent was an old stained glass door ready for soddering. wrough iron spires, a field of sinks, all things collected from old estates. such a gift for the fine art side of me. scott shares the same enthusiasm for these things and no apologies were ever uttered about taking a while to compose a shot. we split up, came back together excitedly sharing what we saw and shot. such a great roadtrip!

we really started losing our minds in cape may. we stole two cubes of fudge and left town quickly. sunset was spent in an orchard of blooming trees. it was like a dream….

we deleriously made a beeline to maryland where the shakra girls welcomed us with hugs and understanding of our need of rest. i started to move furniture to set up for shoots but decided to listen to my body and wait til dawn.

the next few days were mad fun. we had a pocket of a few hours to go explore washington dc. such vibrant colors. we were such tourists. i was dead set on adding to my cartwheel gallery and giggled lots when it was done.

the shoots in dc were of mixed experiences… from frustration with a model showing up jacked on pills unable to take even simple direction, to a troupe of gothic dancers that sparked me crazy happy… from fun shoots like a punky mom and her little son dressed in a monkey suit to a dancer talking herself out of feeling beautiful. “it is absolutely the worst thing you can do to yourself to tell yourself that you never take a good photo, that you’re fat, etc. when you step on the white background pretend you’ve done this every day for a year, that we’ve known each other for a decade. i won’t bite. just shine.” i often have to say this to dancers that talk themselves out of themselves… own your beauty, girls! everyone has issues but by bypassing your insecurities, they begin to dissipate… “magick can happen when you believe in yourself. i already do, just from your want of being here, so let’s rock! don’t get cerebral, just BE here!”

all in all, the same result, undetectable self-consciousness for the most part… and me, drained. and then there’s shakra…

raging na’la, giggling bronwen, fierce hilary. they are one of my favorite troupes to play with. from the feathers in their hair to their pure hearts. these girls inspire me to no end. “look out over your kingdom…” i whisper to na’la, her in a forest setting, her dreads covering her exposed breasts. she stands up bolder, harnessing her warrior spirit and i realize i’m in love with her… she owns it. she fucking owns it. she can act out her story. she can grow from her fear quickly and ascend into her own legend of who she is right here, right now. that energy is unique and propels me.

bronwen bursting out joy in a bed of ivy. her faerie spirit surging. her nurturing and trusting love spills out like layers of waterfalls… and they cannot be forced… she just laughs, she just is…

hilary and her deep stares, the dreamy yet fierce way she penetrates and longs for you to know her. her braids and screaming mouth against cherry blossom petals.. primal and beautiful… almost at the edge of laughter…

“the shakra girls, they are a guitar riff,” i tell scott… and now he knows. after assisting me for a day, i pushed him into a shoot with them. “pop his cherry good!” i told them and so they did… and his first shots of people were good, really good.

we all went out to a yuri’s night party on saturday night. paco was performing in a burlesque show there. he was introduced as ‘boy-lesque’ and came out on stilts with zombie make-up and speedos with a $ sign on them. hilarious!

one of the highlights of my time in maryland was one night after a nap, i walked into the studio and lou handed me a chocolate martini. a spontaneous party had erupted…. the demon in my camera made the girls take their clothes off and play with fire. the neighbors watched from windows… i slowed down their fire fans to barely moving and instigated tension… fire and passion… and then the sky opened up… literally… my palms turned up and a few big drops and we all look skyward and lightning sparks…and then it happened. full on monsoon… side-slanting rain… a laughing drunk mad dash inside. “grab the light!” “grab the martini!” laughter and towels and…. oooh, what a rush…

a two-hour layover in denver and i’m back on another plane and shayde sends me a funny youtube video and i watch it on my iphone and a man sits next to me and instead of doing the uncomfortable nod, i bust out laughing trying to describe the video. “and there was darth vader, lord vader, in a cafeteria but see, he was all legos and AAAAHHHH!” and the man looked at his boarding pass and abruptly switched seats. and i calm down and i listen to ‘air’ and i touch airplane windows to see if winter still exists but no, it’s warm. i am heading west. i am heading home…

“i know so many places in the world
i follow the sun in my silver plane.”
~air, universal traveler