Tag Archives: life

blaugust #03: same eyes, new day.

augie wren

Smoke is one of my favorite movies. I love the interwoven stories, the raw immediacy of the characters, and the setting. The thing that really keeps me coming back over and over, though, is Augie Wren and his series of daily photographs that he takes of his cigar store corner. The same photograph of the same corner at the same time, every day. And never the same thing twice. I love that.

Last week, my Atlas Obscura weekly email included this pointer to a father and son who have taken the same photograph together for 27 years. It’s fascinating to see the changes in them as the son gets taller and the father’s face gets older and rounder. And then the last photo rolls up and well, I got something in my eye. That’s an amazing record.

The year after I graduated from college, I resolved to look out my window every morning and write a brief description of what I saw. It was interesting for a while, but the habit didn’t last longer than two weeks because there are only so many words to use for the same things. Photographs are different. The same thing will never look the same twice, and I’ve often wished that I’d taken photographs of that scene for a year instead of writing it for less than a month.

I want to try this for a year, so I’m on the lookout for a spot to photograph, and a time of day. Out of my windows is easy, but I’d like someplace that’s likely to have more human action at any given time. A record of the plum tree across the street throughout a year is nice, but not exactly what I’m hoping for. When I settle on a place, I’ll be posting them daily on Instagram, thinking of Augie Wren every time.

(If you’re interested in finding out more about Blaugust, or you’d like to join in, read all about it over on The Aggronaut.)

family ties.

Phil was here for one of our precious few-and-far-between visits two weeks ago. And in a very rare turn of events, my entire immediate family was here as well, for a reunion. Our visit was much too short and, of necessity, really intense. But it was so good to have everyone in the same room together for a little while, to get to introduce Phil to my family, and vice versa. The kids, in particular, really bonded with him. We got some very precious one on one time with one sister, who lives overseas, and a morning at the zoo with my other sister and her family. There was a lunch with my parents, and a couple of gigantic family dinners and game nights. In amongst all this, we caught a few nights to ourselves as well. Two visits to Killer Burger in Hollywood for peanut butter-pickle-bacon burgers, a night out to celebrate Shana’s birthday, and a sold out show of Vertigo on a restored 70mm print at the Hollywood Theatre. Much, much too short, but very important time and I’m so grateful we had it.


I’ve been smiling for 730 days.

006Two years ago today, I made a phone call.

Phil and I met on Twitter in, as best we can establish, early 2011. We followed each other and starred tweets and chatted sometimes, like you Twitter do, and after some months the chatting became more frequent, more habitual. One day I noticed some tweets I particularly liked about a book he loves, and I decided to read the book. I read it, I loved it, and I had a lot of things I wanted to say about it. So I asked if I could email him, and he said yes, he’d love that. We began a correspondence that quickly outgrew the one book and tumbled over into conversations about other books and music and stories about ourselves and what we did and who we were and what we thought about all sorts of things.

That first email grew into hundreds of emails and thousands of words, and after a while that didn’t seem like enough. So we started playing an online game together as well.  And then he worried that maybe he was pronouncing my name wrong, so I recorded a short message with a memo app and sent it to him, and he sent one back and we carried on with that for a while. And then a day came when that wasn’t enough either and we wanted to talk to each other and see each other properly. So we set a date and an approximate time and then…

Well, and then I freaked out. Our story is a great story. It’s incredibly romantic and I like telling it. But it’s also our real life, and there is no question that it’s a pretty intense thing to fall in love with someone who lives 6,000 miles away from you. And I know now what I wasn’t entirely aware of yet in that middle of June two years ago: I was already in love. I knew Phil was very important to me. I knew I was important to him. I knew I really wanted to talk to my friend, to see him smile, to find out what a real, natural conversation between us would be like. But I was also afraid to take that step out of the written world and into the real one, because I had no idea what was going to happen after that.

So I was nervous. I was nervous in the days before the appointed date. I was nervous on the morning of the appointed date. I was nervous and taking a walk around the block an hour before the appointed date. I was unbelievably nervous and chewing on my lower lip as I pushed the connect button and waited and waited and waited while Google Hangouts did its distinctive little dialing ring. And then there was Phil, and right away he was so familiar to me, and we were so happy to see each other and hear each other.

That first date lasted six hours, and we didn’t stop grinning at one another the entire time. It’s been two years now, and we still, from time to time, lapse into silent grinning. We are far apart, and he likes to say that we’re playing this relationship on heroic difficulty, but we are happy. We are so lucky. We’ve built a life together in this in-between space, and we’re working and planning for the next stage.

I’m so grateful for that phone call, for this man, for our life. I love you, Phil. You make my face go like this:
photo 4

Wandering in Amsterdam.

photo 2_3

Sometimes when you travel, there’s a little window of in-between-places, a bit that gets suspended in time, not touching the points on either side of it. I got one of these bubbles a couple of weeks ago.

When I’m traveling to Hull to visit Phil, I fly through Amsterdam, and a couple of times I’ve had a really long layover. If you have to be at an airport for 8 hours, Schiphol is one of the best in the world (it’s won awards for best airport to be stuck in, dubious contest though that is). There’s a museum, and a lounge with a piano for anyone to play (in a room with spectacular acoustics), there are restaurants and bars and free showers and a hotel and two spas and lots of shopping and little pod rooms you can rent if you want to grab four hours of sleep. I’ve done most of that, though (I have actually got the Schiphol Airport app on my phone. I’m that person now.). On my most recent trip I found myself with nearly 9 hours to kill, starting at 8 in the morning. Clearly, venturing out into the city was the thing to do.

As I handed my coffee cup back over the cafe counter and picked up my carry-on, I realized that I’ve never had to find my way anywhere in a strange country by myself before. I knew I had this layover, so I’d done a little research about what to see and how to get there, but until I was about to step out through customs, I didn’t really grasp that I was *by myself with no smart phone use possible in a country I’ve never seen before*. Excited! Nervous! If you’re going to do that kind of thing, though, you want to try it out in a small, friendly, English-speaking country. So I had that in my favor.

I needed to get to Amsterdam Centraal Station, so I trickled my way out of the airport to the train station on the lower level. There was a bit of a false start while I played with automated ticket machines that ultimately wouldn’t sell me a ticket due to the American-ness of my credit card. But I got a ticket from a proper old school ticket window, and then I was on a platform in that billowing current of air that seems always to be moving in large city train stations, waiting for a train to take me on an adventure. I love trains. There is always the whiff of adventure and possibility about even the smallest of train journeys.

Three quick stops later, I was in the middle of Amsterdam on a rainy morning, and being jostled down Damrak in an elbow-to-elbow crowd of people. All my reading insisted on first-time visitors taking a city tour via boat through the canals, so that was my plan. But first, I just wanted to wander a little bit, so I kept walking up Damrak. The Sex Museum is also frequently recommended, but there was a line out the door so I skipped it. Next time. (I had planned to put a link to their website here, but they’ve got horrible auto-play music on it and I like you too much to do that to you. Just Google it.) There are plenty of dim and tippy side streets to poke about in, and I wove my way through them for an hour or so, staring at enormous wheels of cheese and mystifying piles of carved wooden tulips (not one single real tulip did I see all morning), debating whether it was too early to drink a beer (it was), and eventually ending up at the top of the street in the large plaza in front of the Royal Palace. There’s a row of low stone benches all along one side of the plaza, with chess boards set into them. No one was playing – no one but me was even sitting, in the rain – but I liked the sight of them.

In fact, I liked everything about Amsterdam, in the four hours I was there. The six-deep racks of bicycles everywhere; the dolls’ house narrowness of the streets and buildings and watercraft on the canals; the cheerful potted gardens on brightly colored houseboats; the contrast between the medieval buildings and the sleekly modern streetlights on Damrak. I took photographs all morning, but none of them are very good. I was bewilderingly tired, and most of my pictures were taken while I was sitting – either on a bench or on a boat. So they’re low down and in grey light and with window and water reflections. Some of them are of places and things I can’t name, in spite of wandering through Google street-view for a couple of hours last weekend searching for them. But here they are anyway, to remind me of my four hours’ adventure in a beautiful and unfamiliar city.