Monthly Archives: June 2008

las vegas / nyc

11 june
flying to vegas… the afternoon sunlight moves like magick over my hands and i turn palms upward to accept it. when i close my eyes and relax my shoulders i can see the photos that i am about to take. low angle, jonas on his cyr wheel in sillouette form, strong against the saturated colors of a desert sunset. he is a performer in cirque de soleil’s ‘zumanity’. i’ve been excited about this shoot for weeks…

i see the images… they are already here… i just need to watch the sun, to believe in the moment. it’s a fine line between paying attention and conjuring… i want so much to be inside the beauty, to shine into it and make it bigger… i can do that now… i am learning… i see clearly what people want more and more. and usually it’s what i want too. i bounce in my seat, still obsessed with this feist song. we are landing… i put my hand to the window… it is hot, desert hot…

14 june
on a flight from las vegas to nyc. the woman next to me lies sleepily against her husband’s shoulder telling me how their daughters sent them to vegas for their 50th wedding anniversary. “50 years together… what’s your secret?” i ask. they look at each other smiling and in unision say “love”. the man orders an orange juice and while i chat with him, she reaches over and sneakily finishes almost the entire glass, then feigns sleep but not before winking at me.. when he realizes what she’s done, he looks at her with such a look that i burst out laughing. “you always do this!” he says all full of gestures. they are adorable… i order an orange juice and put it in front of him and he is happy.

jonas met me at the airport and we rode out to red rock at sunset. i started the shoot by putting an inflatable eyeball on his head and, as he stood barechested in pinstripes and coat tails, i heard my voice echo up from the valley “gimme some john travolta!” ah, the things i do for a living…

sillouettes and shadows did happen as planned… as well as…other unexpected things. golden hour had come on fast and furious and with every second, the light changed in such a way that we literally had to keep chasing it. we’d throw his wheel over the hood of the rental car, jump out, shoot and drive on again. at one point, jonas jumped out of the car with it still on and not in the ‘P’ position. i leaned over to turn the car off, to grab the keys not realizing it wasn’t in park and when i turned the car off, it began to roll backwards… and it gained speed… and i saw it wasn’t in park and i threw it into park but it kept going, making this hideous clicking sound. i panicked. i was in a car heading off the road with my entire life in it.. me, my cameras, my lights, journal, computer, everything. my brain seized up and i was screaming and i couldn’t find the emergency brake. i grabbed one of my cameras and prepared for the crash. just then, jonas opened the driver side door and stopped the car.

we were both shaking but he flew me out there to shoot him and goddamn it, golden hour was almost over, so i shook my hands, threw the panick to the dusty ground, stepped on it and tried to continue. ‘refocus, reset’ was my mantra. i pretended it didn’t happen and continued on… afterwards it really hit us and we needed to have a drink. we could then laugh about it.

we drove to the bar that my friend, tricia worked at. tricia and i grew up together, have known each other since first grade, hadn’t seen each other in over a decade. we reinacted the scene for her as she fed us cocktails and crab cakes. i then went home with her. coincidentally she lives in the same apartment complex as jonas… is the world this small?!? of all the addresses in vegas…

keys in the door, two deadbolts behind us and out of the darkness emerges this docile creature, a husky dog called riley. i instantly fell in love with him, rolled on the floor with him and pet his thick fuzzy soft bear ears. he doesn’t bark. he loves the car. he has bad hips. he tests boundaries. he eats lying down and only when trish is home watching him. her apartment was immaculate. fancy furniture, family photos. we talked of the treehouse in her backyard and i told her that to this day everytime i heard van halen’s ‘dreams’ i think about her and that treehouse and us screaming the lyrics from its porch.

“remember when we rode in the back of the blue station wagon to your grandmother’s house in pennsylvania when we were little?” “remember misty the blind dog?” i literally saw her face almost every day from first grade til college and even though it’s been so long since we’ve seen each other, we both agreed it was like we hung out yesterday. so comfortable with her.

the next day i had the whole day free. i never have free days and had a very difficult time being lazy. a late morning nap made me sluggish as i never sleep that much. i took a bath in the dark and then decided to go on a walk. 103 degree heat pummelled me instantly. i had burning man flashbacks and realized that i’m still traumatized by my 3 weeks out there last summer. i was too hot to eat so i crawled back to the apartment and laid on the floor with riley and let the day go by.

cameron soon came to pick me up. we had engaging talks about photography and life. he brought me to mandalay bay where he works doing sound for ‘mama mia’. it was early evening and no one was backstage so i crept around the stage fascinated by the tracks on the stage that move the sets around. i then walked the strip to new york, ny where a woman met me at an elevator with a walkie talkie and took me up into the world of ‘zumanity’. i had never seen a vegas show or a cirque de soleil show before so i was very excited. that i got all this VIP treatment was just over the top. she turned a key in the elevator and brought me to an enclosed booth overlooking the front of the stage. it was too protected so she sat me by the spotlight operator. i could feel the heat from the light and had an amazing view. the show was so sexy, so cabaret. i loved it.

after the show, she came back, took me to the elevator, put a key in the wall and poof! i’m hanging out with the cast of zumanity. they were making espresso and playing backgammon. entranced by foreign accents and wild make-up, i just sat and stared…

the next day, i had photo shoots from 11am til 9pm. i set up early in raven’s side room and was quickly introduced to the vegas way, as a man that is criss angel’s right hand man, his ‘consultant’ walks in. flashy black magician cape, dripping in silver jewelry, spikey hair, another beautiful accent and so we get to rocking… soon after, dancers and more polished vegas performers show up. it was candy to me….

i slept 2 hours and then trish and i headed out into the nevada desert…. the valley of fire, our destination. it was a starry black night as highway gave way to familiar desert desolation. riley was with us and slowly inched up between us, precariously balancing on the emergency brake until trish urged him back. we descended into the valley as the night turned to indigo and change was spilling all around us.

i jumped out of the car fearless to mountain lions and set up long exposure shots thru brittle desert plants.

dawn approached and we found ourselves at fire canyon surrounded by red and white rocks. the great expanse of it all was breathtaking. we were in a valley hovering over even more valley below. i sat for some time just breathing it in. “we are part of the fabric of each other’s childhood,” i said to trish staring out at the canyon…

we followed winding roads and thought we were lost. we were supposed to be heading to lake mead but signs said we were heading towards hoover dam ‘nevada? arizona? sure…’ and that’s when i passed out. i woke up a little later on and the road had not changed. hoover dam signs were still popping up but we somehow made it back to vegas.

i packed up quickly and we headed out to the airport… and here i am exhausted but very excited for sunday. i’ve been planning a surprise party for my father’s 60th birthday for a year already and it’s finally happening… he has no idea… backflip:giggle fit:zzzzzzz….

18 june – nyc
in the garden, in a corner of mirrors at yaffa cafe. i’ve lost my voice and whisper my order to the waitress. she smiles in a way that tells me she is my kind. no one is here… i can finally hear birdsong. even against the drone of traffic it is what i need. i’ve been sick for 2 days. from 105 degree dry desert heat in nevada to thunderstorms and humidity here in nyc, it is almost expected that my body would have a say in this. so i listen, i stop. i find my corner of mirrors and i stare a tree…

the city and i have reconciled. it’s as if we had a hideous break-up. dishes flying, hurt feelings. and then we surround each other again and i still love her but i can’t go back, what would we eat off of anyhow? and then we go on with our lives and bump into each other by circumstance and i want to feel her pulse, to bed her again just to conquer the past but i know its bad for both of us so i leave awkward and too soon. and then i feign disinterest, apathy. i pretend it’s just another city on my tour. i pretend to forget her name… and she haunts me and haunts me… and then time passes… and i realize i am happy exactly where i am. on this trip i invited her to tea. on this trip we do not discuss our past. on this trip, there is rediscovery and although i am feverish and without a voice, she accepts me for who i am. i think we will be friends now…

20 june
above lotus puffs, i watch the steady shadow of the plane form and drift over dark green fields, eastern states will retreat in favor of my blessed west. wrapped in a burgundy blanket, cold steel of my metal studs in my hood press against my forehead. i can’t sleep. i tried all night, lying beneath the window in my sister’s apartment listening to traffic and my heartbeat. the top of my lungs hurt, perhaps bronchitis. i have a constant cough, breathing is difficult. i pull my hood down onto my nose. kate bush is the nurturing i need… she tucks me in, makes me softer. i’ll go to urgent care straight off the plane. the extremes i put myself through are all worthwhile though… dad’s party alone was the timeless stuff of family memories…. and the photos and the art and the people and the adventures… yes, all worthwhile…

i landed into newark at midnight into thick humidity and pounding rain. it was like inhaling soup.. 3 years it’s been since i’ve experienced humidity, it was quite a shock… paula picked me up and brought me to her house in livingston. i’d never met her two babies, jack and bruno and had to wait til morning. we talked in hushed tones in the computer room for a bit. updates of life, work, love and motherhood, that looming pearl in my near future… i slept in their guest bedroom on a four-poster bed that i had to climb up into. i heard jack during the night, 2 years old and pukey.

in the morning i found them all in bed. jack was being spoon fed water to see if he could keep it down. bruno, 4 months old, was so content and wide-eyed. i propped him up with a pillow and poked his nose alot. chris made me coffee and waffles and then we had a family photo shoot in the backyard before my sister arrived. it was a short visit but sweet and aligning.

sunday was a whirlwind of party preparations, catering, charging batteries, picking up last minute things. this party was a chance to give back to the man that has taught us all so much. we had it at the country club that my family spent every summer at for over 20 years. the same family still runs the place and remembered us.

i delegated responsibilities between my 3 younger sisters and my dad’s girlfriend, alice. it was such a great bonding experience. adrienne handled the desserts, diana handled the alcohol, alice got the decorations. renee helped out and we all set up and came through like clockwork. i called them all my co-conspirators. we even had a code word for talking about the party.

i had planned on editing a video of my dad’s life but as the date neared for me to leave home for vegas, i doubted that i could get it all done. i had 30 shoots to edit. i did as much as i could and spent the last three days and nights editing the video, digging up old images from my shoeboxes in the closet. with a box of tissues, doubleshot espressos lined up, and my kitty on my lap i worked thru the nights to get it done, often in tears as forgotten footage and photos were unearthed.

those nights i saw myself in split screen with my friend, brian, whose father was imminently about to pass on. he too was gathering photos for a video about his father’s life. my heart was hurting for what he was going thru, which furthered the great tissue depletion of 2008. i finished the video hours before my flight and was releived when my uncle said he had a projector to play it off of.

the set-up that day went smoothly… and excitement was growing. my sisters and niece left to get dad to take him out for a ‘father’s day dinner’. afterwards they told me how it all went down… “where are we going to dinner?” dad asked… silence and smiles… “well as long as you’re not going to blindfold me,” he said… “well actually, grandpa we *are* going to blind fold ya!” and alexis pulled out a tie from her pocket as diana drove up to the swim club. i saw the car and started giggling… i bounced in place as 60 of his family and friends huddled behind me. the blindfold came off and everyone screamed ‘SURPRISE!’ and i’ve never seen his smile so big…

he scanned the room in shock and when he saw me, his face lit up. i had called him earlier in the day wishing him a happy father’s day ‘from california’ and ‘so sad i can’t be there with you’. so i ran to him…. “happy birthday daddy’ i laughed into his cheek and he laughed too…

the beach boys were playing overhead and everyone hugged him. joe showed me these old letters from 1970 that dad had written to him while he was in the army. his handwriting is the same. he wrote about how hard the army was and instead of curse words he used blank lines. old family friends showed up. later on, heather and her mother sandy came. they were part of our swim club gang for all those years. tj, my first love, showed up with his parents. friends of dad’s past and present were there, most of the family were there. the food was delicious, dad had a great time, just everything about the day was perfect…

my favorite part of the night was when my video played. i was standing to the side of the crowd with my arms around my sisters real tight and the room was dark, save for the glow of the screen… half the people watching it were crying… it was the story of my dad’s life, who he is, the people that make him happy… and i had this moment, this heart bursting moment, where all those years of being the family archivist, from disc film to digital had led to that exact moment… to tell the story… and there it was… and love was there… and my sisters were with me…

at the end of the night we all ended up in the pool. dad and i swam across the deep end alone like we had done so often all those years ago. “isn’t this a trip!?” and we both smiled. i had hired lauren to shoot photos of the party. i wanted a night off to be a daughter. with her dyed hair and sparkly personality people were asking if she was a friend of mine and i’d say ‘yes’ while she chimed in cutely ‘i’m pixie, version two!’ and the next day when i saw what she had done, i was so overwhelmed that she got those photos that i had to pay her double what i promised. her composition, exposure, instigation and storytelling really meant so much to me… it was important for me to release the capturing of the day and just enjoy… and with lauren there, i knew i could do that…

nighttime happened and we all set to work dismantling the place. dad said he was still in shock. i had finally gotten some sleep that night. my kitty had gone missing for a few days and brady called after the party to say he’d finally come home and was fine. he was as worried as i was but peter came home, the party went well, the video and the food was a hit, dad was happy and i fell asleep for 6 hours straight, waking up smiling and thinking to myself how it all went even better than i planned….

i headed into nyc where i had various shoots for a few days. i had a shoot with dancers in central park. it was raining as i walked thru harlem. all i could do is eye the sky and text them with a ‘LOL! i still have hope!’ and when they showed up late, it was a rush for the fading light and threat of rain. i noticed then that i had a fever… and my lungs were tight and i was coughing alot. i love working with jenivive though. she’s one of my favorite models so i stuck with it. the light on her porcelain skin was magick. and with some coaxing, her friends too were shining. as soon as the shoot was over, the sky opened up and poured all around us. we took cover under a tree hashing out payment and contracts. yes, my office is a tree… we said our goodbyes and then i walked with my camera in an unassuming plastic bag towards where i thought surely a taxi would be driving past. i ended up soaked and losing energy by the second. i pulled myself into a small humid restaurant and watched raindrops from my hair make purple stains on the floor. an umbrella blew past the window and despite my aversion to them i chased it down and went on a walk in the rain… it was beautiful… i found the subway and my sister took one look at me and put me to bed.

why do i do this to myself? why do i travel so much? i’m so driven to experience, be and do everything, yet for my past few trips i end up ill and feeling frustrated for the most part. i must pay attention to this… the next day my fever broke, yet the feelings lingered… i don’t think i want to travel with my studio anymore… it’s so hard… i have 4 bags, some of them weighing 70 pounds. i break my back, i get sick, dancers that have a journey to shine grate against me alot lately. i lose patience more often lately. i want to work with more confident people. i crave that instant synergy that i’ve had with models like zoe, perish and jenivive. i think my september trip to seattle, detroit and minneapolis will be my last… i need to take care of myself better. i am taking the next two months off except for local shoots here in los angeles. i need a break. i need time to reevaluate, prepare for gallery shows, have meetings with various publications, kick open new doors. i want to go bike riding at dawn every day, spend more time with brady. we’re going to hawaii in august instead of burning man… we’re so excited… i can set things up this way now… my life is nothing if not for intention, awareness, love, art and action…