Saturday, September 26, 2009

something about that jesus position just felt so right

During college, I used a desktop computer that was totally reliable all the way up until the moment it spontaneously exploded one day during my senior year, almost definitely as a result of my downloading one too many mp3's and Davey Havok videos. I wasn't one of those computer users who did any kind of backing up of anything, ever, so it wasn't just a matter of getting a new computer. I needed this specific computer back. And when I mentioned to my parents that my computer had exploded, they took it to their Computer Guy, who was the friend of a friend's cousin's sister's brother-in-law's ex-girlfriend's dogsitter, a man completely unaffiliated with any legitimate computer repair service, and he solved the problem by reinstalling Windows on my computer. A bootleg, unauthorized version of Windows. And the best part about this bootleg version was that it came complete with pop-up security updates informing me that it -- IT, ITSELF! -- was unauthorized, warning! warning! warning! Needless to say, my computer was returned to me as a withered shell of its former self, albeit with all Davey Havok videos intact.

Shortly after that, I invested in a laptop and my life turned into one long orgasmic caffeinated possibility of working on a computer IN COFFEESHOPS, and the old withered shell of a computer was tucked away into the closet. And I had every intention of pulling all of my old files off of it and then recycling it, but it took me a while to feel up to the job of hooking it up to a monitor and navigating its unauthorized innards.

And so it had been a while, but I finally spent a few hours the other night going through old college-era journal entries, photos, academic papers, etc., off of that computer. Among other files I found, there is one ongoing Word document that served me as a journal between January 2000 and October 2005, and it is NINETY-NINE PAGES LONG. Ten-point font, single spaced. It is the Holy Bible of my confused, sarcastic, thoughtful, despairing, earnest, undergraduate, 18-to-23-year-old mind.

For example:

My Undergraduate Mind on things that are attractive in a man:

He is sick and has been complaining for the last two days, every time we talk on the phone (once a day), and sounds like a goat. God I miss him. I have been thinking about him and writing sappy poetry and dawdling for days. I have images of knocking on his door tomorrow, throwing myself onto him, and doing indecent things in front of the fireplace. I keep replaying scenes in my head, like that time he came into my room while I was trying to study, and I lay with my head in his lap while he told me about the time he singed his six-year-old ass on an open light bulb while making butt shadows with his brother.

My Undergraduate Mind on having a "mid-life crisis" at the age of 19:

Last night I watched “Road to Perdition” at AMC Mercado 20 with Jack, after he called asking me if I wanted to go do something. It was the weirdest thing… I think I wanted him to kiss me. It was like… the desire to do something uncharacteristic and stupid, like having a pointless fling. I think this whole mid-life crisis thing may be the end of me. In fact, after the movie ended—in that one surreal point that always happens after a movie, where the theater is still dark and the whole audience is weirdly united by the movie experience—I was going down the stairs and Jack put his hand on my back. Maybe it was just to stabilize me in the dark, but in that moment, it felt as though we had gone strangely back in time to senior year while we were going out, and I kind of automatically reached back as if to invite him to hold my hand. Then I thought better of it, converted my gesture to a simple hand-flap as if to acknowledge his presence, and felt stupid. Then we didn’t talk about anything except the movie on the ride back home, but I think we could have had quite a discussion about Other Things had one of us brought something up. I think it’s a good thing that we didn’t. I just hate feeling lonely. I hate feeling like myself, sometimes… in the sense that I want to lose myself in new experiences, and possibly stupid ones too. I wouldn’t call them “self-destructive” activities, in the interests of avoiding sounding suicidal. Instead, I’ll just quote Samuel L. Jackson in “Pulp Fiction”: I sometimes feel like having one of those experiences that “alcoholics call ‘a moment of clarity.’”

My Undergraduate Mind on learning that a late-night drunk dial from an ex-boyfriend does not mean that he loves you and wants to have babies with you:

I checked my voice mail yesterday afternoon and found that Jeff had left me a drunken message at 2:30 a.m., saying that 1) he was drunk and just wanted to talk to someone, and 2) he had an extra ticket to the Cal basketball game on Monday and I could go if I wanted to. As usual, I interpreted this message to mean that he must still care about me on some level, if he’s gonna call me to talk to me at 2 in the morning. This interpretation was, in fact, a mistake. I finally got up the nerve to call him back around 8 that night, and he not only said that he did not remember leaving me a voice message at 2 in the morning, he also completely forgot about me after he asked me to hold on while he answered call waiting. After waiting about two minutes, I hung up and waited for him to call me back once he was done with the other call. Five minutes passed, I was getting cold (I was sitting on the balcony, the only place in the house where there’s decent reception), and I called him back. Oh shit, he said. He’d forgotten about me completely, and gotten sidetracked when Dom called him. Thanks, bud.

So I’m going to the basketball game on Monday night, but I’d like to consider this as being merely a situation wherein I take the ticket because it’s free. I harbor no particular expectations about seeing him. For all I care, he can ignore me completely all game long, and I’ll enjoy the game for the sake of the game.

Haha! Of course you will! Good luck with that reaction formation!

There are also, of course, photos. So many photos. This one is one of my favorites.

Annie, Allyson and I used to do this OFTEN during the year we lived together in the dorms. It was always Allyson in the middle, Annie and I flanking her on either side. For some reason, all three of us found it extremely comforting. We would just lie there in the middle of the hallway and talk. We called it the Recreation of Jesus on the Crucifix.

Then there was Adam, my best friend in college, my buddy, my first real brother in all things.

We took endless road trips together, particularly the San Francisco-to-LA stretch; went together to Cal football games, concerts, college parties and everything in between. We once spontaneously drove all night to Las Vegas to catch a free Red Hot Chili Peppers concert over July 4th. We saw more of each others' embarrassing moments than we knew how to give each other shit about. We talked about the hard things and joked about the hard things.

And, despite all of the confusion, there were lots of good times:

My 21st birthday bonfire at Ocean Beach (San Francisco), which I remember fondly. We grilled hot dogs.

With my friend Verna on a New Year's road trip to Joshua Tree, Palm Springs and Santa Barbara.

I've been embarking on a self-documentation project of sorts -- sorting through old photos, journals and videos -- so probably more to come. It's a trip to look at myself with different eyes.

Thursday, September 24, 2009


really not sure if the food i eat is "local" like bon is enjoying regularly in cali, but damn it's good. i don't care what anyone says. my esophagus loves cayenne. esophagus, you will eat it and you will like it, you hear me?

pistachio ice cream

Monday, September 21, 2009

theme of the week: 20.sept.09

"typical morning"
diptych of the week: geometry

(click for bigger version)

Friday, September 18, 2009

2009 indie erotic film festival

I count myself lucky enough to live in a town where, within a span of 36 hours, I can go from a town hall about health care reform, to a farmer's market where I play with kids and eat cookies in the sun, to an indie erotic film festival hosted by sexologist Carol Queen and a trio of drag queens (Lady Bear, Hugs Bunny and the unflappable Peaches Christ).

I'd never been before, but this year's was the fourth annual Good Vibrations Indie Erotic Film Festival (IXFF). Tonight's screening was held at San Francisco's famed, beautiful Castro Theatre. We got to screen everything from independent porn to an Israeli black+white animated film, and the audience's choice winner of the night, by a landslide, was director Travis Mathews' "In Their Room." (Check the site if you get a chance- a full 20-minute film is on there, as well as some really intriguing and witty interviews with the film's subjects. The film features a candid look at men, alone in their bedrooms, sharing of themselves and their own intimacies.)

Then, having faithfully completed our cheering duties, my friend C-Monkey and I headed down the block to Orphan Andy's for late-night diner grease.

And now, trooping off to bed. G'nite!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


This cake-eating cutey-patootey lives here and we hardly ever say a thing to each other even though we meet every day. We mostly giggle together and he sheepishly comes up to me if I have fruit in my hand to gesture for a piece. His name is Nakshatra which means "Constellation" in Sanskrit.

3 photography projects of note

1) Journey to Midway

Chris Jordan is an incredibly creative photographer who documents humans' impact on the planet with scaled images. The figures are staggering: "2.4 million pounds of plastic pollution that enter the world's oceans every hour; 1,000,000 trees cut down every year; 9,000,000 American children without health insurance; 2,000,000 plastic bottles used every five minutes; 2,300,000 adults incarcerated in U.S. prisons." It's horrifying. He is currently in Midway Atoll with a team of five "media artists" documenting the Pacific Garbage Patch. They have some sweet pics and they're posting about every detail of their journey.

2) 30 Mosques in 30 Days

Read about this project to visit a different mosque in NYC for each day of Ramadan and photo blog about it. Their pictures are good, but their insights are even better. Among other topics, these two south asians talk about visiting mosques from other parts of the world, and on feeling welcomed and othered. digging it.

3) Trapped

I stumbled on this gold-medal documentary piece in the winning images section of College Photographer of the Year. Can't believe what "kids these days" can achieve. Trapped is photojournalist and Ohio State alum Jenn Ackerman's piece on Mental Illness in America's Prisons. Be prepared for shocking and violent images.
telegraph avenue 9/11

Monday, September 14, 2009

ok, netflix or theater?

This past weekend marked the first rain of the season here in the Bay, which is always an occasion that I mark with internal fanfare and a feeling of deep content. It's the closest we usually come here to a change of season, and in the high days of "Indian summer," waking up to rain is a perfect peace.

On Sunday I holed up indoors with Sve, looking at photos and old journals, until we decided to plunge outdoors for burritos and "(500) Days of Summer"... fitting, on a rainy night.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

theme of the week: 13.sept.09

diptych of the week: favorite chair

(click for bigger version)

[left] btown. - avocado green armchair, Berkeley, California
[right] shelley - view from her usual seat at a Mumbai cafe with a relaxing cafe mocha

Friday, September 11, 2009


fruit cart

seeing this felt like a rare vision of abundance around here:

Thursday, September 10, 2009

just to say this out loud

I want to buy a Canon 5D (I think).
I want to go back to school.
I want to sell my Ford Ranchero to buy a Canon 5D.
I want to take photography classes.
(It really never occurred to me before that photographers can and do take photography classes, they don't just cobble skills together themselves.)
I want to learn.
bike at rest

razón collective - holy moly

Hi friends,
This is mostly a space for bonnie and me to share our collaborations and we also would love for our friends (and wider photography community) to interact, post their comments and link to their own projects so we can learn from each other. "Cool photography web sites I ran across" technically doesn't fit in our mission, but I was so moved by this site that was posted on a list I'm on, that I couldn't help but share it.

The site is The Razón Collective and it's a group of five photojournalists who are
"visual storytellers pursuing stories independently, but sharing, inspiring, and motivating each other to seek and convey truths and reasons behind every story to be told."
I'm a sucker for South Asia, so I started with Jared Moossy's photography because his are images from Afghanistan. beautiful. poignant. harsh. vivid. horrific. breathtaking.

I was moved by so many photos throughout the whole site that I couldn't possibly link them all here, but I'd highly recommend you check them out when you're not rushed and you have a few minutes to reflect on the human condition (pain and joy alike) through images.

You can join them on Facebook, too.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


On Saturday I drove north with Minh, Josh and Joey to 13,000 acres of sprawling ranch. This is northern California on an afternoon in late summer.
fab india

I went to Fab India today. It's a trendy store that reminds me of Pier 1 except 1) they carry clothes as well as home furnishings and 2) the goods aren't imported. They're actually made in India and sold in India. They sell lots of bright linens that look so pretty all neatly folded on the shelves.

Going back to my argument about "wannabe-ism," I feel that this is an example of reclaiming traditional Indian style. It's obviously catering to a certain elite class because the prices are sometimes exorbitant, but that's sort of the point. They have brilliantly marketed cottons and "ethnic" prints to be chic and trendy. Instead of selling the idea of Italy to Indians, this sits much better with me. That is, assuming that selling an idea or image is necessary at all...but that's a whole other debate.

Knowing that if anyone saw me taking pics, they would probably escort me to the door (they are very strict about that kind of thing in this country; I get scolded all the time for taking pics in public), I snuck a couple of pics while standing behind a curtain.

Monday, September 7, 2009

jasmine incense

Living by the beach is fabulous in many ways, but the intense humidity is one downside. I don't feel very uncomfortable, actually, since I grew up in Atlanta. In my book, if you don't have at least a few days where you are walking down the street but feel like you're sitting in one of those saunas at the gym, then you haven't experienced a decent summer. One unfortunate side effect, however is that all the rooms in the dorms here have a stale, musty smell. My solution is jasmine-scented incense. It's only halfway covering up the stank, but this remedy will have to do for the rest of the monsoon season.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

theme of the week: 6.sept.09

"favorite chair"

(click for bigger version)

[left] There's an unmarked, largely artificial Berkeley-Oakland border running along Alcatraz Ave that becomes most pronounced for me whenever I'm surfing Craigslist rentals listings. At this divide, I often see properties described as "practically in Berkeley" when it's an Oakland zip code. In my experience, this means either 1) the kind of landlord to stay away from; they live elsewhere and don't care about the experience of living in the area, and sooner or later you'll get kicked out when they decide to put the place on the market (*cough Andrea), or 2) the kind of landlord who's responsive; who wants to say to those who are unfamiliar with the area, You should check this place out- North Oakland has its own sweetness.
[right] I found this posted at a Barista coffee shop in Juhu as part of their current "Escape to Italy" ad campaign. I took this picture because I've been thinking about what it means to truly be authentic in this modern India. In being "opened up" to the West, I find that in the past few years, India has transformed, and its establishments (and people and culture) are facing a sort of identity crisis. They want to be chic and posh, hip and modern (for example, by cultivating a US-style Starbucks cafe culture), but that doesn't necessarily match traditional Indian style, so other cultures' styles are adopted and appropriated. Consequently, we are left with a lot of what I call "wannabe-ism," e.g. really striving with all the intention in the world to be something "better" but missing the mark. I wonder if, in time, people will see through this and start redefining "Indian" to include modern, civilized, hip, and cool.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

trying to learn

I'm learning how to read and write Hindi. I can read, but it's pretty slow. I'm still sounding out words and probably sound like a 1st grader trying to read out loud so I spare myself the embarrassment and generally try not to do this in public. When I'm writing out assignments, even though it takes 10 times longer, I've been pushing myself to do so in Hindi. A page from my notebook:

Thursday, September 3, 2009

from the string fever collective, berkeley branch
Hey everyone, thanks for the feedback and emails so far, it's been amazing. And pretty nerve-wracking. Ambiguity is scary- What if people don't like it? What if there's just dead silence because it sucks? I didn't get support about stuff that mattered to me as a kid, so I have a poor understanding that the most important thing is that I just do what I do and have fun with it... which I have been, very successfully so far.

So our thriving international collective of two is getting this thing rolling, and yesterday night I got home to a timely little package waiting for me, mailed from Mumbai and addressed to:


(that's my thumb)

It contained a small battered journal. Nice!


Shelley and I met at a leadership training in Washington, DC, in the summer of 2006. We'd both cut off all of our hair right before arriving in DC (Shelley had shaved her head), and I remember having some conversations about what that was like for us. We hit it off pretty immediately, and since then we've had lots and lots of conversations, about head-shaving and otherwise.

One topic of conversation that has come up OFTEN is the theme that this blog is named after: the metaphorical strings that all lead to different possibilities and life paths. Whenever I think about this, I see myself standing in the middle the world, holding the ends of 827176 strings that all lead off into different directions, needing to let go of some of them so that I can follow others to where they go. Some strings I'm holding: Grad school? Backpack and travel through South America? Save up for the down payment on a house in Oakland? Live and work and surf in Hawai'i? Move to Brooklyn? Learn to farm? For myself, the difficulty has been in letting go. I have felt emotionally homeless for a long time and I'm also blessed with an infinite number of possibilities around where to go and what to pursue- no real constraints other than time, a nonprofit salary and not knowing myself very well. All of the different possibilities have all held the idea and possibility of Home.

So a couple of years ago, Shelley suggested that we keep a journal together to write and think about all of this biznatch. We mailed it back and forth a couple of times, but then the last time I saw it was when I mailed it back to Shelley in April of last year, whereupon she *cough* squirreled it away, re-found it, squirreled it away again, and finally took it to India with her.

And then I got home last night and there it was. I got to read through all of the things I'd written. Here's an excerpt from something I wrote on Dec. 22, 2007, before leaving for Chiapas:

I had a moment, while driving around running errands today, where a clusterfuck of thoughts went through my head re: Mexico--
--Damn, I really want to go to that club opening on Saturday night, but I won't be here.
--Wait... did that travel agent ever get back to me about my flights within Mexico?
--Did she ever ask for my credit card info?
--Hey, maybe I don't have to go...
--Wait, I want to go.
--Oh shit, what if she never booked me?
--Damn, I want to go to that club opening.
This happens every time, always- the ambivalence and push-and-pull that guarantees, every time, last-minute doubts and scrambling. For what? For 12 days in Mexico. My brain is trying to make decisions as though it's a question of moving there.
I think that's why it's so hard for me to let go of strings. Every move I make feels paramount in a way that is disproportionate to reality; and everything that I give up when I make one decision also has consequence that is disproportionate to reality.

I want to say that I've gained clarity on this high-stakes ambivalence, but I'm still workin on it. What I do know is that I'm here in Berkeley nine years after I first moved here. Most likely I would have been decently okay if I'd followed any of the other strings on my list, but a few years ago what I did instead was: put myself in therapy to figure out why I was so f'ing unhappy, smoke a lot of weed, make some career decisions, move from Oakland back to Berkeley, take a handful of road trips, and start trying to cultivate a sense of Home inside of -- instead of outside of -- myself.

It'll be interesting to come back and revisit this question again of choosing without regret- to stop and breathe, take photos, and see where this string goes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

rock n roll is my life

i like how the shadows create a sort of vignetting on the right side of the frame.