10 December 2008

that sweet southern comfort

I spent last weekend split between Dallas and Waco, Texas,
and there’s nothing like a little family time to make you realize that finals aren’t really so bad.

But seriously,
words fail my family and how great they are,
and being back actually made me a little nostalgic for the south (crazy I know).

More than anything, this short southern soiree reminded me of where I've been and how far I've come. And that's what gives me strength to get through what will come.

Day 1:
Flight delayed, so the G-rents and I decided to pass the time with delicious bowls of clam chowder.

Day 2:
The whole family was reunited in the parking lot of some random Waco hotel. Epic.

My sister had her end-of-the-semester choral concert at Baylor that night.

But it looks like the getting ready process may have been more entertaining.

As was the after party.

The feeling in the air on a Texas night is something I will always long for.

'Cause Texas is like no place in the world.
I think this song says it best:


Oh girl, I’ve been told,
When I grow old, I’ll be alone
But I don’t mind if I’m Texas

Oh but it’s been said
When I am dead, I’ll be alone
But I don’t mind if I’m in Texas

- PlayRadioPlay!

05 December 2008

"You are exactly my brand of heroin."

It kills me that I haven't written for almost a month.

So my head as of lately has been as such:

Twilight, Twilight, and more Twilight. Edward Cullen makes the best final paper topic.
Texas. Tuesday my weekend was only for finals. Then Wednesday brought cheap flights and a mother's whim to bring me home for Thanksgiving a week late. Be home Sunday.
Cold. Winter finally arrived in the cities. And the soles on my Rubber Duck boots are starting to come apart. damn.
Africa. The Poisonwood Bible calls to me every second I'm doing anything else except reading Barbara kingsolver's brilliant prose.
The economy. It was so much better when I was blissfully ignorant - and unaffected.
Finals. Will hopefully be done before I shoot myself.
Vanity Fair. I want to contribute to that magazine some day. Can I please be the next Annie Leibovitz or write stunning articles on Robert Pattinson?
Paris. omygosh Paris. If I dwell too much then I can't focus on anything else. I've been trying to master essential phrases. "Je voudre un verre de vin?" Wine please... I'm in need of an adventure ASAP.
Writing. Am I born to do it? These days it's all I want to do in life.
Familia. Seeing them tomorrow. And my puppy too!
Vegetarianism. Not a concept well understood by old people. Yes turkey counts as meat. No picking meat out of something does not make it vegetarian.
Red Bull. What a product.
JOUR 3006: Visual Communication. What a joke.
Australia. Want to see the movie again ASAP.
Winter Break. Rolly and Austin come home!
Airports. Not so bad really. Especially when you chat with a twenty-something man who's not ashamed to love Edward Cullen. There's my Twilight fixation coming out again..
Semi-Charmed Life. Still the best song ever.
U of M's Saint Paul Campus. Fabulous. Except for the d-bags on the bus who get up and move seats when you answer the phone call of your best friend from TX.
People dressed as toy soldiers in the art building. SO Minneapolis. SO epic.
ho-ho mint mochas at Caribou. Again, what a product.
Feed My Starving Children. here's to saving the world.
The Sartorialist Blog. If I weren't excited enough about going to Paris.. the Parisian fashion photos he posts every day make me want to drop out of school and spend my tuition money on an uber-chic wardrobe.
Space heaters. Almost as amazing as cuddling.
Britney. Should probably join the circus herself. I really want to see her when she stops in the cities on tour.
Crossword puzzles. Are the only thing that get me through JOUR 3006. One of my greatest aspirations is to follow my Grandpa's footsteps and complete a NY Times Sunday x-word all by myself.
Scrabble. It's best when you don't follow the rules.. haha.
Rough drafts. I write better if I don't do one.
The O.C. Miss it from my life.
Roomates. Neverending stories.
Writing on my palms. Will always be the absolute best way to remember anything. Until you wash your hands.

And my heart as of lately? Still beating.. No vampire venom for me.


10 November 2008

dinner. fiesta.

I don't have photos of that epic evening. Even though I definitely had two of my cameras with me.. somewhere. I'm being programmed to see the world in strings of images - colors - light qualities - audio on occasion - like I'll miss something if I don't have a Holga or a Nikon attached to my fingers.

But if I'm honest - really, truly honest - I need to be inside it all. Let it soak me all up and settle in the caverns of my chest where it'll live and grow and one day explode into letters and words and sentences and paragraphs inked on a page or blinked on a screen to be read in 2-D, in Times New Roman, in black and white.

My heart's not in the images but the stories.

And the story of dinner. fiesta. goes a little something like this:

The countertops couldn't hold another bag of chips or bucket of Margarita or slice of lime or shotglass of tequila or bottle of tequila or container of salt or forgotten cup-plate-knife-spoon or bowl of salsa or of guac. Twenty-something twenty-somethings filled the Fox Lodge to overwhelming capacity of smiles and hugs and kisses and teases and insiders from Freshman year on the oh-so-spectacular 8th floor of Middlebrook. Our aim: to be us again. Whatever that means. And quite possibly to "drink ourselves under the table" in a delightfully sickening tribute to the year that brought us all together and then spit us back out again into a world we hadn't really prepared ourselves for amidst the nirvana we'd created in our nesting grounds on the beloved West Bank.

Gatherings of all of us were all but uncommon back then (two years ago). Now they're just a happy novelty. And now they welcome not just us but those who love us. The ones who see us now, post-dormitory days, but still very much a product of those days. They didn't ask for it - but by default they are now a part of our whole. And the spaces between us all exists the Lexis and the Austins and the Lelas whom we'd swear were here just yesterday but we know won't be tomorrow. So we live through them as they live in us.

And though we've spent our days flirting and fighting and flailing and flying and falling in love - with or without one another - sometimes we'll find ourselves in a place where those things aren't about what we've done or said or felt but who we are and what we've learned. For me, dinner. fiesta. was such a place.

At one point during the night, Sarah came up to me and told me how spectacular our night was and how she thought everyone was there not because they felt they had to be but because they wanted to be. And that she was so glad we had this idea because she hadn't been happy like this for so long.

So it was for me as well. Cause the happiness I get from being in the presences of those who have loved me in a way I'll never really understand, who took that little girl from Texas and let her in and showed her that the whole world doesn't have to hurt like it did in junior high and high school and fuck anyone who tries to tell you any differently. It was they who gave me whatever that thing is that changes everything. That changes you.

And then there was what Sarah said later.

"Let's have an epic moment."

And we did. It was like having her read me New Moon and chat for hours about Edward or hogwarts or Lost and defend me after Padre and be my date to that nautical date party and dance with me in the rain sans t-shirts and drive me to anywhere when it's raining or cold and bring me Red Bull before we go out and fall asleep in my bed some nights and spend way too much money on good food and talk me out of - ahem - hallucinations and drink wine and listen to Amy Grant and sing every word to "Semi-Charmed Life" and Metro Station and go to every emo show we can and write the most epic and whimsical poems of our hearts and souls and lives.

And then Daniel reads that poem by hafiz and says "Thank you. That means a lot." And I can't look at him during "F&*% the Dealer" because we'll read eachother's minds and we don't talk about Rolly because it kills us both and we say everything through gazes and waves of energy and now we have all the time we lost when Summer swallowed us whole.

And I humiliate my cousin. Not on purpose. And then he humiliates himself by being that Freshman who drinks too much and throws up and passes out on the couch before midnight - that same Freshman who came out every weekend in each and every one of us on the 8th floor (save Kris and Shana) and who appeared once again to tell me to let Charlie go. Let him have that epic Freshman year that we had and loved and then lost when we shut our doors for the last time and went home for the Summer - only to come back to a different house in a different part of campus and oh so much more "grown up."

And "the man of the night?" - Was loved by all. Long after the beer pong table was pulled out from behind Granthony's famous - infamous? - couch and the lights had been turned out and the music had been turned up and the tequila had drenched our insides and made us blissfully hazy and so much more aware of the surreality of the evening, I stood in the kitchen with Daniel and Sarah and from across the room I saw him walk over to my cousin and check to see if he was indeed still breathing (he was).

That he did so meant everything.

My heart is too full for any more words.



26 October 2008

our epic something

For Sarah:

Can we just waste away the day –
This day
Like we did when it was summer
And we were
By long hazy nights
On the back porch at Granthony’s
Holding tight to the railing and laughing at wherever tomorrow would take us?

With Gin Ginger Ale and Djarums
(And Tequila and Dos and limes)
And sleepovers
Just the three of us
in my bed
hours scrambling into whole days like the pieces in our games of Scrabble

Our lives were semi-charmed
You remember?
We'd sing every word we could
And on that last
When we still had Austin
And things made sense
Metro Station sang the words we couldn’t and dresses and jeans hid nothing

Let’s waste our days again
Like that
Where the words we write mean everything
And the boys we read are perfect
Cause now you and me
Just spend our days
Looking for that epic something
We’re missing – that one great whimsical story of our precious young and wild lives

20 October 2008

The Then

Like Waking Up Fully Rested

Journal entry: August 19, 2007
I have just finished reading In Other Words: a Language Lover’s Guide to the Most Intriguing Words around the World by Christopher J. Moore.

“esprit de l’escalier” [es-pree-der less-kal-lay]
(French Idiom)
“A witty remark that occurs to you too late, literally on the way down the stairs.”

Memory # 1:
I am eight years old. Jamie Kissell, our next door neighbor, is riding bikes with my sister and me. Our u-shaped driveway is the best in the neighborhood for bike riding, so Jamie and the other neighborhood kids are here almost every day. With his brand new speed bike, Jamie is the fastest of all. I’ve worked all summer to condition my legs and my 10-speed Magenta to keep up with him, even though he’s two years younger than me. And right now, I’m so close. I’m not sure how long we’ve been circling my driveway, but I’m only a few feet behind him. We lap my sister – again – and a few seconds later I hear a crash and a scream. Jamie and I stop pedaling and run over to her. My mom appears beside us, and the three of us gape at the huge patch of scraped flesh that used to be her unscathed back. Red and raw and mixed with bits of gravel, the sight makes me cringe, but I pretend to be calm so I won’t cause my sister any more panic. My mom assures us my sister will be fine as she carries her towards the house to fix her up. Jamie and I don’t feel like riding bikes anymore, and I’m not sure I’ll even want to race him again tomorrow. I put my bicycle away in the garage and return to find him inspecting the patch of gravel where my sister fell. We spend the next half an hour searching for the piece of skin it had scraped from my sister’s back. We never find it. For weeks I will gaze downwards every time I bike over that spot, and the memory of the accident will sicken me. It won’t take long for my sister to heal, but wondering how such a huge piece of skin could just disappear will distress me for months afterwards, even when I realize that “skinning” a knee or another portion of the body doesn’t mean the literal removal of a large chunk of skin. I will never own another bicycle after I grow out of the Magenta.

Words of wisdom:
To remind you that some people are meant to do great things, and others are meant to do humble things in great ways. Happy 20, Tara. ♥ Lela

Memory #2:
It’s July, and the South Texas heat is unbearable as Megan, Jeramie, Colleen, and I load into Jeramie’s 1995 Toyota Land Cruiser, “Frank the Tank.” Nicknamed for his uncanny ability to start running smoothly again whenever Jeramie’s parents decide to trade him in for a shiny new Sedan, the Grandpa SUV is the vessel that will see us through our end-of-summer (for high school sophomore Colleen), off-to-college (for Megan, Jeramie, and I), break-from-our-jobs-and-families (for all of us) road trip to San Antonio. We’re all absolutely pumped as we hit expressway 83 going north. Jeramie is “treating” us to some of her iPod’s infamous ghetto beats, and Megan is clutching her seat nervously as Frank plateaus at 75. We stop for Taco Bell 15 minutes into the trip – not even the miserably high humidity level can curb our appetites for some Nachos Bell Grande. Besides, once we hit that barren stretch of road between the checkpoint and San Marcos, there won’t be any place to stop for miles. When we do hit that barren stretch of road, we hear a tiny thud. Jeramie pulls over to find that her left rear tire is flat. I start laughing because none of us really know how to change a tire and this sort of thing would happen to us on an empty highway with spotty cell phone service. We get out the manual and Jeramie calls her dad for help, even though she can only make out every other word of his instructions. Megan gives Jeramie a spiel about the physics of tire changing in her car, Herman, but as Jeramie’s spare tire is secured underneath Frank, and Herman’s is conveniently located in the trunk, Jeramie doesn’t really listen to her. Colleen and I see a state trooper heading the opposite direction so we dash to the highway and flag him down. Officer Hernandez is our new hero. He takes Jeramie’s tire changing kit and gets to work while the four of us gawk at him. I’m still laughing at the ridiculousness of the situation, when, as fate would have it, it begins to rain. Not just a light drizzle either, but fat, hard drops pouring down so fast I can hardly see three feet in front of me. I’m also wearing white shorts. But with the Texas countryside stretching for miles all around me, my best friends right beside me, and the comfort of knowing that we would get out of this predicament, my heart is too full to hate the irony. And finally pulling back onto the highway minutes later, the rainstorm steadily decreasing, and the San Marcos Outlets closing in a few short hours, I almost feel sad, like we somehow left too soon that place where our plans were interrupted with the pop of a tire and the crunching of gravel on the shoulder.

August 19, 2007 continued:

“kvetchtc” [kvetch]
(Yiddish Noun)
“The deepest of sighs for all the burdens and troubles of the entire world, past, present, and future.”

Memory #3:
I’ve only been in school for a few weeks, and my best friend Sarah and I are not in the same classroom. The only time we see each other at school now is when we run into each other in the hallway. But she’s always with friends from her class and so am I. We don’t get to play every afternoon anymore like we did in the summer, but we promise each other we’ll always be best friends. I return home one afternoon to what sounds like a thousand buzzing hornets in my backyard. My mother won’t stop asking me questions, and I know that she is trying to keep me from seeing something. Fear like fire licks my insides, consuming every inch of me. I’ve known this day would come for weeks now, ever since someone tied an electric orange ribbon around the trunk of Sarah’s and my beloved tree fort in the woods. When summer turned into fall, and the ribbon began fading a little, I had hoped that they had forgotten. Part of me still hopes that as I dash to the sliding glass doors that open towards my backyard and the woods beyond. Except today I see right through the woods and into the ashen realm of the backside of Goldenrod Lane. The woods behind my house have been demolished, every tree leveled into a grotesque graveyard of lifeless stumps and branches. I rush outside, tearing down the back porch steps and praying with each step that our fort has somehow averted the massacre. It hasn’t. My mother must have called Sarah and her mother, because the three of them soon appear at my side. When I feel Sarah’s thin shoulder brush against mine, the full weight of everything hits me with a crushing blow. Hot, bitter tears escape from both of us, and one sideways glance at our mothers’ dampened cheeks reveals they share our anguish. We stand there until we can no longer bear the sight of our fallen palace in the trees. Then we walk together along the well-beaten path that leads to my house, now clearly visible in the distance. The next time I walk that path is to explore the foundations of a cavernous, three-story house – a skeletal memento of my summers with Sarah.

Words of Wisdom: He has made everything beautiful in its time. – Ecclesiastes 3:11

Memory # 4
Wade has just spent the whole week at his dad’s house in Wise River, which is about 3 hours away from our home in Bozeman. I’m so excited when his mom asks me if I’d like to drive with her to go pick him up. We leave Sunday morning, and I play with Kyla and Caitlin, his adorable little sisters, in the car. We are driving further and further into the mountains, the minivan clinging to the narrow road that weaves in and out of the Bridgers. A sign on the right hand side of the road says we’re only a few miles from Big Hole River Outfitters. My heart does a handspring in my chest and I feel my cheeks blush a little – the feeling I will forever connect to my eighth grade year, though I couldn’t know this yet. Wade gives me a quick hug when we step out of the car, so as not to aggravate his mother. Nestled quietly into a haven of rivers, trees, and mountain terrain, his dad’s resort is one of the most stunning places I’ve ever encountered, and Wade quickly drags me away to give me the grand tour. With his sisters close behind us, we soon reach a tiny clearing that smells of moist earth and pine trees. Laced between two knobby trees is a homemade zip-line. I look down at my brand new white platform tennis shoes and picture them streaked from the dusty ground underneath the zip-line. Wade jumps on the apparatus and lands with a soft thud on the other side. He makes it look so simple, but I’m afraid of smashing into the tree on the other side. What if I can’t stop myself so easily? But I would do anything for him, and he says he will run behind me and use the tattered rope hanging from the zip-line to slow me down. He promises I won’t smash into the tree. I climb up the rickety wooden pegs leading to the top of the zip-line and grab a hold of the handles. When I see that Wade has a firm grip on the rope, I bring my knees to my chest and let go. But halfway down, he falls, and the rope slips from his hands. I close my eyes and dig my sneakers into the ground. They twist and turn beneath me, and dirt flies up around my calves and ankles. I release the handles of the zip-line and brace myself for the feel of rough bark against my bare skin. It doesn’t come, though my landing is far from graceful. My shoes match Wade’s t-shirt now, and I pretend not to care. Of course I’m fine. We leave the clearing and spend the rest of the afternoon soaking our feet in the river, not mentioning how we fell. On the car ride home, he holds my hand the entire trip, pulling away only when his mom stops in my driveway, triggering the interior lights and threatening to expose our secret to the slowly darkening world.

Journal entry: August 13, 2007

Things that make me smile happy [abridged]:

Bleaching stains out of a white t-shirt (so I don’t have to scrub!)
Remembering my first love
Jumping in puddles
Learning new words
Hugs from my daddy
Wise River, MT
Meteor showers
Sitting on my front porch
Tire swings
Having a heart so full it surpasses all words
“When You Are Old” – Yeats, W.B.
Waking up fully rested

Memory # 5
I am relapsing.
On this November evening, I understand what it is not to have a care in the world. I’ve spent the entire day with Serene Cusack, my Montana best friend, and her parents, and it’s been such a wonderful time. They’ve invited me to spend the night and I’ve accepted. When we stop at my house to pick up my toothbrush and pajamas, I see everyone talking in my entryway and it causes a wave of warmth for my two families. Even my puppy is there. He loves Serene’s house too, so with a little coercing my parents let us bring him along. In my driveway we stop and gaze at the stars for a few brief moments. There is nothing like the Montana sky at night – so deep and brilliant and dotted with stars so close and bright not even the Bozeman city lights can overpower them. I can’t wait to see what they look like from Serene’s house, which is higher up in the mountains than my own. On the ride to Serene’s home, I tell them all of the time a few years back when I was in second grade and my best friend Sarah and I sat in the circle driveway at my Minnesota house and watched a meteor shower together. I am about to describe the sensation of being seemingly bombarded by stars, but I am stopped. There is a loud crash and the shattering of glass all around me and someone screams (is it my own?) and all is black. When I wake up, I know I am alive, and that everyone else is too. My hand is streaked with blood, and bits of glass fall from my hair and the folds of my coat when I step out of the car. But what matters more than that is when my parents’ car pulls up behind the wreckage and my daddy runs to me and scoops me in his arms. I am safe, protected from anything else that would harm me.
It’s like the time when, a few years later, Wade and I end it all and I wake up crying after falling asleep crying, and my dad holds me again and promises it will all be ok – even though it’s hard for me to believe him. Or the time Freshman year when I am crumpled in the hallway of my dormitory from a night of heavy drinking and my roommate Ashley rescues me and sits up with me all night, or the time my friend Rolando cradles me in my Texas driveway because I am lost and confused and don’t see a way out of the mess I’ve created.

Someone has always saved me.

When visions of shattering glass disrupt my sleep and I wake up afraid, or when the plaguing anxiety that comes in springtime overwhelms me yet again, I am held.

And it gives me the power to save myself.

19 October 2008

"You don't just say, Well, see you around sometime, bye."

For Lexi. (And my literary journalism class)


The breathless rhythm of the message ends in one word: serendipitous.

“How could it happen that I would find that little piece before it was broken beyond recognition? Or swept away by the street cleaners? Or washed down the gutters by the rain? Holgas are not that common at all. That I happened to stumble upon the one piece of Holga in Paris is incredible,” she wrote, in the same breathless tone.
For Lexi Trauger, the moment truly was serendipitous.

It brought her back to that freezing January day, eight months earlier, when she had first encountered the Holga camera amongst the strange plethora of toy cameras lining the back walls of an Urban Outfitters store. She’d never heard of a Holga before, and the bright, bold letters on the outside of the box, which proclaimed: “The World Through a Plastic Lens” were a little strange to her. “Sixty dollars for a little plastic camera?” she had puzzled. “And wasn’t film photography a dying art?”

But the Holga was so much more than that, the friend who was shopping with her had gushed. The nature of the camera’s plastic lens often creates images featuring blur, extraneous streaks of light, vignetting (the unintentional darkening of an image around its edges), and other distortions. The Holga even has a built in color flash – also plastic – that emits a tiny burst of red, blue, yellow, or white light, further adding to the surrealism of Holga photographs. The aesthetic of these images, Lexi’s friend told her, have made Holga the instrument of choice for an entire sub-culture of photographers. They call themselves lomographers, and their art, lomography. They live by the Kodak-inspired mantra: “Don’t think, just shoot,” and they rely wholeheartedly on the uniqueness only a toy camera image can provide to convey the spontaneity of everyday life in a way that pays no mind – defies even – the formal elements and precision that are so highly valued in digital imaging.

Her friend’s excitement spread to Lexi like wildfire, and approximately one week later, a brown box bearing the Amazon company logo arrived at Lexi’s Minneapolis apartment. The Holga inside, which has since documented many an adventure with Lexi, would now be the lomographer’s dearest companion as she immersed herself in Paris for the 2008-2009 school year.

On the first Monday morning in September, while her friends back at the University of Minnesota are going about their routines in and around campus, Lexi sleeps in. She awakens in the late hours of the morning to the sun slanting through her window, illuminating the desk that stands in the corner of her tiny upstairs bedroom. Her eyes flutter at the sudden onslaught of sunlight, and then pause to rest on the empty film cases strewn about the desk surface. Accompanying them is an ever-growing pile of film just waiting to be processed, and an ever-dwindling pile of yellow Kodak boxes which she eagerly – though against her better judgment – exchanged for her last two paychecks before leaving the states. The sight of them stirs within Lexi the excitement that she constantly squanders as she walk amongst Parisians, feigning the bored expressions they carry as they go about their own daily business (she would hate being labeled as yet another enamored tourist) and collecting on film (discreetly, of course) those images that would always bring her back to Paris when her memories begin to swirl and fade like scenes outside a speeding metro window.

“I’m in Paris! You’re in Paris! We’re in Paris.”

A tiny, junky piece of plastic, placed tenderly on the shelf by Lexi’s bed, stands in memoriam of the previous day’s events. On that day, which was a Sunday, Lexi had met up with a friend in her study abroad program so the two could explore the city together. The weather was sunny with a touch of wind, the perfect day for a long-sleeved shirt and a very French scarf – the perfect day for photographing. But as the skinny streets of Paris go in every direction, hours later, lost and confused, feet throbbing from walking so long, the two friends found themselves forced to abandon any plans they might have had. In those hours, the childhood terror of being lost had seeped through Lexi’s very skin, bringing with it a longing to be carried away from the beloved sights and smells of Paris and back to the safety of her apartment. Anxiety welled within her chest, threatening to swallow her whole, when she spied between the crevices of the cobblestone street a tiny piece of Holga. It was a piece to connect the batteries to the flash. Lexi recognized it instantaneously and hurried to rescue it from its graveyard in the streets.


Since she arrived in Paris, all Lexi has dreamt of is the metro – checking the map, finding the line she needs, the direction she needs, the stop she needs. Then transferring to the next line, the next direction, and the next stop, over and over as she fights to keep her balance. The smells of hot charcoal and the sweat of everyone around her, which only grow stronger with each opening and closing of the subway doors, surround her, and the alarm that sounds to warn passengers of departure rings through every crevice of her brain. Her eyes strain under the feverish flickering of lights, and she can feel the heat outside clashing with the wind that blows through the windows and in the tunnels. She reads the same ads again and again, climbs and descends the same stairs, runs her ticket through the same readers, and works her way through the always unfamiliar crowd, praying she doesn’t get stuck in the turnstiles. Even in sleep, the same overwhelming anxiety threatens to devour her again and again, night after night, causing a nagging, plaguing longing to be home, where she is surrounded by friends who love her and a place as constant and familiar as her own steady breathing.

More often than not, so are her nights as well as her days.

But not with Holga. When she found the piece, Lexi knew it was silly to be excited over something so utterly worthless. The lifespan of a Holga flash is never long, and the cost to fix it is more than the camera is worth. Her own Holga’s amazing four-color flash had expelled its final burst of light only a few blissful weeks after Lexi had torn into its box. She laughed aloud at the irony. Underneath that laugh, Lexi had felt “like some greater force was intervening, reminding [her she] was on the right track.” With certainty she would write home later: “I [will] figure out which direction I need to go. I am supposed to be in Paris, it's the right thing to do. [The piece] was an encrypted glimmer of hope meant only for me.” In the midst of creeping doubts and fears, the Holga piece brought not only a sense of reassurance and belonging, but the energy she needed to make it through the harrowing metro ride back. And even more, the Holga piece reminded Lexi of the home that would always be waiting for her as she pursues crazy photo adventures and fulfills her dreams of Paris.

For Lexi, Holga lomography is “wonderful… a mix of no thinking at all and constantly thinking about everything.” She loses herself in the setting up of a shot and the subsequent clicking of a shutter. From the lighting of the scene, to which type of film to use, to the distance between Lexi and her subject, life behind the plastic lens leaves little room for her to focus on anything else. It grabs the nuances from the world around her and exposes them, preserves them. It allows a second glance into the funny, the interesting, the unique beneath the surface. The serendipity of finding the piece of Holga is “what lomography is all about. [It’s about] finding the extraordinary in the very very ordinary, having chance encounters, capturing something that lasts only a moment, shedding new light on something old, turning something banal into something magical.” The piece is her greatest souvenir so far – “free, dirty, broken, worthless, special. Holga.”

Before leaving her apartment on any given morning, Lexi grabs three rolls of film off her desk and loads them into her purse. Like any great lomographer, she knows that such over-preparedness will save her from the agony of missing that one photo-op that would inevitably occur on the day she is fresh out of film. After checking that her Holga is nestled safely next to the rolls of film, she makes her way towards the kitchen, determined to cook a successful Parisian breakfast that will carry her through another day of her new life – another day of crowded metros and snapping shutters and endlessly sore feet. “Like learning to play guitar, I’m learning how to get around Paris,” she wrote in another letter, “French women must be made of steel.”

As she will soon be, she hopes.

12 October 2008


My roommate and pseudo-mom Kelsey. This girl teaches me everything I know about living in "The Brick House" and being an all-around "hot mess." She cleans my side of the room cause I never do, drives me to all of my errands when I'm too lazy to walk, puts up with my indecisiveness and wierd sleeping habits, laughs at my terrible jokes, and brings me pitchers of water when I'm -er- sick. She has the most hilarious baby voice ever and sends me texts just to say she hopes my day is going well.

And she's taught me the beauty in waking up early. Cause you can't find sunlight like this in the afternoon.

29 September 2008

For Daniel

I think we are frightened every
Moment of our lives
Until we


15 September 2008

Since I'm feeling nostalgic, an oldie

A New House Stands on Goldenrod

School was finally over, and for the kids of Goldenrod Lane, summertime had never felt sweeter. At nine years old, every inch of my body quivered with the anticipation of summer adventures yet to ensue. My imagination soared boundlessly, a stark contrast to the reality that stretched only so far as my dearly loved backyard and quiet suburban neighborhood. Just minutes had passed since the school bus dropped us off in the cul-de-sac, and the boys were already racing on their bicycles down the big hill at the crown of Goldenrod Lane, shadowed closely by the whispers and giggles of my boy-crazy little sister and her best friend, Brielle. I waited on my front porch steps for Sarah.

Growing up, my backyard was a child’s paradise. It was Goldenrod’s finest, its grassy expanse large enough for neighborhood-wide games of freeze tag, kickball, or hide and seek. The grass was soft and lush, and even the patchy prickly-pear weeds could not deter our bare toes from prancing in its velvety sheen. There was a rickety swingset off to one side, with a lone blue swing, a trapeze bar, and a pair of rings like those that a gymnast would use. On the other side was a miniature sandbox, where countless earthworms were inadvertently unearthed in many a quest to build the perfect sandcastle. But between the swingset and the sandbox was the castle. A wooden tower covered with a weathered yellow tarp, the castle overlooked the backyard and was the gateway to almost every backyard fantasy. But even in all of its royalty, my backyard alone could not satisfy the curiosity that grows with age. That summer, our insatiable appetite for exploration led Sarah and I away from the comforts of our familiar backyard wonderland and into The Woods.

The Woods was the name that the kids of Goldenrod Lane had given to the cluster of trees that occupied the empty lot behind my house. The forefront of The Woods was guarded by a massive oak tree, in which not even boldest of the neighborhood boys had ever dared to climb. The Woods were rarely ventured into, but on that first day of summer, they beckoned to Sarah and me. It was the start of our third summer together, Sarah having instantly become my best friend after moving to my hometown. Our friendship just happened; it was not something that either of us could fully describe or understand. One day she walked into Mrs. Tobler’s second grade classroom, her bespectacled blue eyes filled with fear at the foreignness of it all, and the next we were inseparable. Every day she sat in the desk to my left, and every possible afternoon was spent together at one of our houses, which were in adjacent neighborhoods. We were exactly the same height, her wavy blonde hair only slightly longer than my boyish brown bob. More than once we pretended to be twins. And our names rhymed, which surely meant that we would be best friends forever. Our third summer was to be our best one yet, and so we embarked upon our inevitable trek into the woods. It was then that we saw the tree.

Unlike the Guardian Oak, this tree was neither majestic nor intimidating. Had it reached its prime, it probably would have extended well beyond its 15 feet, but it had stopped its vertical growth only inches taller than Sarah and I. Its trunk had curved abruptly, so the rest of its height had grown grotesquely downwards at a 45-degree angle towards the ground. And by some force unbeknownst to us, a fallen branch was leaned up against the far side. The rest of the world had overlooked this particular tree, as its deformities had apparently rendered it useless. But to Sarah and me, the tree was magical, brimming with endless possibilities. We gazed at The Woods around us and saw that the entire earthen floor was littered with similar sized branches. The idea formed wildly, instantly sprung from the most imaginative of spaces within both of us. We began constructing our walls. Slowly at first, methodically selecting the branches nearest to us, and then taking turns resting them against the cool spine of the arched tree. When the area around the fort became barren of branches large enough to lean, we started off into another part of The Woods. But the branches never ran out, and little by little, our fort in The Woods began to take shape.

There was just enough room for two people inside the wooden walls of our fort, but our fire pit was set for three. Three blocks of real firewood made a triangle around the circle of stones that contained an array of delicate twigs and leaves – our imitation firewood that we knew we would never light. Around our imaginary fire was our favorite place to be on sunny afternoons. Our shaded citadel was the perfect escape from the other neighborhood kids and from our parents’ incessant need for our assistance. The ground always smelled like it had just rained, and the feeling of moist earth between my toes felt even better than any lawn. Besides the gentle tones of our conversations, the only noises Sarah and I heard were the cheery songs of forest birds and the distant hum of cars on Goldenrod Lane mixed with the joyful shouting laughter from the other neighborhood kids. From our ceiling hung several handmade ornaments – maple leaves strung together with twine, wilted yellow dandelions whose stems were carefully braided between blades of tall grass. They were tiny masterpieces within our greatest work of art, and each day the ones that had faded or blown away were replaced with those freshly made, often much more intricate than their predecessors.

The fort required constant maintenance. Summer rainstorms often damaged the flimsy walls, and Sarah and I would spend several minutes every day repairing fallen branches and adding new ones from other parts of The Woods. We grew to love these precious minutes even more than the fantasies we created within the tree fort, and we often spent so much time tinkering and building that the sun would sink below the horizon of The Woods before we could begin playing. In this basking, golden glow of sunset Sarah and I would walk together along the increasingly familiar path back to my house, our heads and hearts filled with unspoken awe at the place we had created. Our fort was unique to our best friendship. It was the one thing that Sarah and I could call completely our own – the one thing that separated us from the rest of the world, that nobody else could ever touch.

One day everything changed. There was a tension in the air around The Woods that indicated they no longer belonged solely to us. Overnight, the natural, earthen tones of The Woods had been invaded with a new color. Around the base of almost each and every tree, a ribbon had been tied. The ribbons were rough, tightly knotted, and colored the same hideous shade of orange as hunting vests and construction cones. My insides clenched in sinking fear, and Sarah’s gaze told me she felt the same. Our legs felt heavy as we sprinted down the familiar path to our beloved paradise in the trees. It too had been condemned. We did our best to ignore it, to pretend that nothing was different and that our fort would always be our summer secret – our safe refuge in The Woods. But summer ended too soon, as all summers do, and its end only brought more change. Sarah and I went to different schools, and the onset of fractions and decimals resulted in less and less time outside in the tree fort. We both met other friends at our new schools, and without our daily routine in The Woods, Sarah and I were powerless to halt the slowly creeping drift that had begun to settle between us.

I returned home from school one fall afternoon to what sounded like a thousand buzzing hornets in my backyard. That day, my mother had twice as many questions for me as she usually did, and I knew that she was trying to keep me from seeing. I dashed to the sliding glass doors that opened towards my backyard and The Woods beyond. Except that day I saw right through the woods and into the ashen realm of the backside of Goldenrod Lane. The Woods had been demolished, every tree leveled into a grotesque graveyard of lifeless stumps and branches. I rushed outside and tore down the back porch steps, praying with each step that our fort had somehow averted the massacre. It hadn’t. My mother must have called Sarah and her mother, because the three of them soon appeared at my side. When I felt Sarah’s thin shoulder brush against mine, the full weight of it all hit me with a crushing blow. Hot, bitter tears escaped from the both of us, and one sideways glance at our mothers’ dampened cheeks revealed how they shared our anguish. We stood there until we could no longer bear the sight of our fallen palace in The Woods. I reached down and uncovered a small orange ribbon lying in the dirt, and the four of us turned to go. It was the very last time we would travel along that well-beaten path.

A new house stands on Goldenrod Lane. It is misshapen and blue-grey, and its backyard consists of a gaudy three-season porch directly above an unnaturally flawless patch of sod. This artificial backyard connects with mine, and only the Guardian Tree is left to separate the two. The magic of my backyard has faded with age, and I can no longer call the house on Goldenrod Lane my own. But even now, never have I loved and loathed a place so much as that patch of sod where The Woods once stood, where underneath lies the sawdust of my childhood fortress – an everlasting memento of my summers with Sarah.

31 August 2008

like winning in the last 40 seconds

"I miss you."

I miss you too, Mom.

(That we say all the time.)

"Are you happy?"

.. That's a new one.

On September 13th, the Gophers will be playing Montana State.

Montana State.

Daddy just got offered a job in Montana. In Bozeman. The place that showed me the meaning of soul-worming. It was my mom who said it, actually.

"You know, there's some people and some places that just dig their way deep into your soul."

Bozeman is one of those places. The wacky neighbors, the mountains

My first love.

The place just grabbed us both - my mom and I. And now my family may go back? It's funny that the very afternoon of the next big game is so close to the day daddy's new job would begin.

But will it be the same?

The thing about that soulful place is that it has eaten parts of us alive. It breaks my heart to remember most days. The pages of my junior high diary read like a Nicholas Sparks novel - only less eloquent and much more humiliating.

But the raw, soul-wrenching emotion? It was never like that in Texas. And Minnesota is different now that I'm older. A young soul - like mine was in Bozeman - takes to things so much differently.

I'm an old soul

It feels so kooky and obnoxiously philosophical to put it like that. But things that go as deep as Bozeman tend to do that to you. And my mom's soul must be even older.

I cried all of Christmas Day last year.

"I know why you cry," she said. "You're just like me."

Just like her.

"You don't like change. It doesn't feel right. It's not right - Christmas in a hotel."

She was nothing short of spot-on. We both know that stuff shouldn't matter. That being with your family should make Christmas a happy holiday.

But she wasn't with the rest of her family.

Was it too much to ask for a home and a tree and maybe some snow?

In Texas it is.

Photographing a Big Ten football game is terrifying.

How can turf be at once squishy and scratchy? It's unnatural. And the light? artificial. And the crowd? distracting.

But I have the best job in the world.

And the best friends in the world. Because even though my pictures were shit, Sarah's still proud. And Charlie and Rolly and Sam.

Sarah called me her "little world class photog."

world class.



The change did bring me Sarah.

And Bozeman will be back the 13th.

Will I feel it in the air the players expel from their lungs? In the scent that hangs from their skin? If my family goes back, will it be ok?

Yes, mom, I am happy.

Blissfully and divinely

25 August 2008

Freshman year everything

What a shame, they’d say, those bridges burned

Such time wasted on intricacies

The ash and smoke of which would linger long after the smoldering heap had cooled

And vanished,

Choking with invisible hands the throats which breathed together

The scent of books and sweat and old brick buildings

With a twinge of alcohol on most nights

Making us feel sleepy and fuzzy and so much more sure

Even though we knew next year would come

And you knew decay was inevitable

But we told ourselves anyways we were resistant to flames

It’s not your fault, they’d say, that she turned out to be

So different than you’d expected

That she’d lit the proverbial match and made worthless all your efforts

And we’d believe them for awhile

Maybe even enjoy watching the dazzling flames

And inhaling their scent

The buzz of which would remind us so much of how things were that we could almost believe

They still were

Even after we screamed and I cried and you felt sick at heart

Maybe it still was

Maybe that – with time – was all we needed to begin to rebuild and re-carve and relive

But on the eve of my departure

Not too long before your greatest adventure, perhaps

Scenes sputtered and danced across the old T.V.

That sang you to sleep oh so many times that year

And I felt somewhere within my being

These words I now stammer to you in verse

The words that fan away the choking smoke that only served to burn our eyes

And cloud the cavities of the hearts

That would have, if we’d asked, told us all along

The beloved bridge had only concealed the spot where, briefly and beautifully, our paths entwine

Carrying us safely ahead

22 August 2008

Pirates and Princesses

I do not speak French.

Lexi speaks French, and she teaches me completely useless words and phrases whenever we're on one of our infamous adventures.

Last summer, I learned I was "maladroit mais charmant." La princesse. Even though it was she who started a fire in the kitchen at Cafe Paris (microwaving a metal basket can have that effect), and even though it was I who cooked for her every day (due to obvious reasons, perhaps. But still.), so were my Parisian descriptors.

And she? My summer sister. Le pirate. She swallowed my summer whole. Or maybe the summer swallowed us whole. In South Texas, the heat is unbearable. Even now as I sit in my new room at Alpha Chi Omega, the creases of my knees and elbows drenched in sweat due to the houses' lack of air conditioning, I know that summer in Minnepolis is nothing in comparison. On some nights, when my parents had fallen asleep, we would sit on my front porch and smoke djarums, reveling in the stickiness of the air around us and the sweet scent of cloves. It was easier to ignore our creeping anxieties when we were in it together.

Then the night of the party came. My worlds collided - Allyson, Rolly, Marco, Danny, Jer-Bear, Megan, Miles, Jeramie and her entourage. Some people worm their way into your soul. Like every wrong in the world is nothing when theirs, like every pounding of their chests matters more than your own. They're your limbs, your tears, your raison d'etre. Your soul-worms. My soul-worms. And they made Lexi their own. And when the alcohol and cigarettes had clouded me and I made mistakes that everyone knew were stupid, they were still mine.

"Vous puez, chien," Lexi and I would tell my puppy Timber as we cleaned up the morning's mess. I would be all apologies, Marco and Miles and Jeramie and Danny would be gone, and Rolly would make my parents' bed and laugh that laugh as Jerry tried to explain to Lexi and I how he just couldn't figure out how he ended up next to Lexi after she had passed out. And Ally would kiss us all on the cheeks and say how much fun that disaster had been, and together we'd gather the djarum butts from all over the back and front porches so as to leave everything the same as it was before.

The beginning of our first summer in Minneapolis would come, and Lexi and I would drive to the run-down computer repair shop in Frogtown that only accepted cash. Lexi would call it a "c'est un magasin de merde," and Huy would roll his eyes at our tragic selves for not knowing a thing about laptops.

That first adventure of the summer would bring everything back that we had locked away when the school year had stolen our focus. But we, le pirate et la princesse, would be ready.