Thursday, December 30, 2010

today i helped a lebanese woman study for her citizenship exam. i was tagging along with friends who thought that it would be good if i were to read through the exam questions, because she hadn't heard my voice before. the first question i opened to was, "are you or have you ever been a prostitute?" the next question was, "have you ever sold your body for money?"

it was very weird to walk into this proud woman's house where i was offered cardamom coffee and to ask immediately, "are you or have you ever been a prostitute?" it probably isn't a very good conversation starter in any other situation.

her english was a little rickety and she gave a couple of especially non-sequitur answers over the course of the mock interview. my friends and i laughed out loud at some of them, which probably wasn't the nicest thing to do, but sometimes it was just too funny. take, for example:

what is the name of the national anthem?
three hundred and seventy five.

what was the main concern of the united states during the cold war?
thomas jefferson.

who brought the slaves over to america?
my husband.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

last night i had a dream that one of our neighbors in the apartment complex got a piano, and i thought, me, me, me! i want a piano in my apartment, too!

retail has pretty much run out of charm. it is okay for a couple of months, but as soon as i start thinking about the massive amounts of time and effort i spent getting my undergrad, i immediately feel like a collapsed house of dreams. smoke furling out of shattered windows, that sort of thing.

two days ago there was a dress hanging on one of the return racks that i had never seen before. it looked like a fish, and i had to share the experience with somebody, anybody. so i addressed the most nearby customer. "ma'am, doesn't this dress look like a fish?"

she gave me a look and said, "i actually bought a dress just like that about a year ago to wear to my son's wedding. and then two months ago i buried my husband. both times i received a lot of compliments on it."


my girlfriend reminds me that every hour i spend organizing elastic-waisted velour pants and turning shirts right-side-out after they've been thrown on the dressing room floor is another hour closer to switzerland. but what kind of way is that to live, killing time?

"i believe that you are your work. don't trade the stuff of your life, time, for mere dollars. that's a rotten bargain." - rita mae brown.

so i put in my two weeks. i told them i was going home for christmas.

"going home for christmas," said one of my supervisors, eyes narrowed, like a snake about to strike.

i'm broke. i'm lonely. i'm cold. i'm making time for the work that i love every morning when the campus is covered in snow and everybody else is still in bed.

it will get better. it will get better. it will get better.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

here is what happened. i couldn't handle it, so i left the country for three months and then bought a one-way ticket to somewhere i'd never been.

what happened was that i ended up in ohio, working in retail. the joke is on me, and i'm okay with that.

what happened was that i realized that i am happiest as a pianist and i am best as a pianist and that i need to write my instructor a letter that goes something like:

dear daniela,
you're right. all i want to do is play.
i'm moving back.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

also finally got around to developing the last of my film from switzerland. here are some.

Shooting a specific image often means to complete a complex process after a deep investigation. The photographer is supposed to find the subject following too many signs. Those signs are often inside us, many of them come from our past. How is it possible to recognize those signs? Is it possible to explain how every feeling, every memory, can be put together in one single image?

sort of a lengthy and pretentious interview with the photographer, todd hido, but i like his images.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

one of my favorite photobloggers has taken some wonderful shots at the rally to restore sanity. since i cant link the images here, here are some links to the images: (<--if you dont look at any others, look at this one)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

so i shot my first wedding yesterday.
this business is TOUGH. a lot tougher than i thought.
for a first go, i'll take it.

congrats, erin and allen.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

glad i'm not at humboldt state anymore.

welcome to humboldt state

Monday, October 25, 2010

Picture 5

click on the image for bigger, if you want.

also, my manager was not receptive to my idea of building a large nativity scene out of mannequins (wearing the latest fall fashions, of course, with baby jesus in an $1200 crib and rubix-cube mobile) in a large empty spot in housewares. my coworkers were, though. we'll see what we can do.

also, none of the mannequins have heads, so even though their slender bodies look good in anything, at least our customers can say to themselves, "i may have some lumps and bumps and rolls, but do have a face, and that counts for something."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

so here's a little story.

the people in the apartment directly across the hall from us moved out last week, and a couple days ago, a master lock was put on the door, as is routine. so the assumption is that the apartment is locked and empty, until the next tenant.

yesterday, i opened the front door of our apartment to get the laundry and there was a woman standing in the doorway of the supposedly secure and vacant unit right across the way. she was thin, all vinegar and no oil, in a sweatshirt that hung to her knees and tattered jeans. the width of the hallway forces a state of immediate intimacy with anybody you encounter; she may as well have been standing in my living room, or on my feet. "can i use your phone?" she asked, a half-smoked cigarette badly in need of ashing dangling from her hand. "some guy just took my purse."

she was drunk. crying. really drunk. she wore an exceptionally heavy application of eyeliner that made her look juvenile instead of young. the bare apartment behind her yawned cavernously like a horrible mouth.

so i invited her in, gave her my phone, an ashtray, and put water on for tea. i always make tea when i feel awkward. (it was also an excuse to turn on the fan so the house didn't smell like cigarettes.)

"where am i?" she asked as she sat down. i told her where she was, and she asked me again.

the first person she called was my cousin, the first entry in my phone book, and then hung up on him. when somebody finally picked up, she spoke quietly and then gave the phone to me.

"hello?" i said. there was a long pause on the other end, until an equally drunk and significantly more recalcitrant sounding male voice spoke up.
"er, she's here."
there was a lengthy pause.
"where the fuck is that?"
i told him. another lengthy pause.
"how the fuck did she get there?"
"i dont know, but she's here now. can you come and get her?"
there was no response on the other end.
"are you there? hello? can you come and pick her up?"
"where is she?"
and on it went. it was like i was talking to a person in a deep sleep. he finally managed to come into a sort of consciousness and promised to pick her up.
the usual empty space and then, "fuck, i dont know. maybe half an hour."

which gave me half an hour with this strange drunk woman in my one bedroom apartment, with laundry to do and dinner to make before my girlfriend got home and everything else.

the girlfriend wanted chicken for dinner, and i've never really cooked chicken because during the time of life where i would have learned how to cook meat, i was vegetarian. so i asked the drunk lady if she knew how to cook chicken, 'cause i sure as hell didnt know what i was doing. she gave me a look. "yeah, of course i know how to cook chicken. i'll help you cook the chicken."

it is worth mentioning right now that our kitchen is too small to open the refrigerator door all the way.

she pushed her sleeves up to her elbows and i could see elaborate tattoos of vines (only the outlines, no color) winding all the way down her arms. she nearly spilled all the thawed juices on the clean dishes, and then proceeded to pour salt onto the meat like it was water. she kind of just took the salt shaker, held it upside down with her thin, floral arm, and let it run for a while.

"how about some pepper?" i said, to get her to cease the salting.

and we cooked the chicken.

i'm pretty sure that a good portion of what she told me was lies, and also that a good portion of it was true, if not strictly adhering to the truth. she was a design student, (lie) had split up with her husband (maybe not totally a lie), was hard up for money (probably true) and so finally gave in and slept with a guy who brought her to the empty apartment across the way and was going to pay her forty bucks. (who knows?)

she leaned against the kitchen wall, under a framed cross-stitch piece that reads, "if you go hungry here, it's your own fault."

"he told me i had pretty eyes, and i fell for it. i can't believe i fell for it. i've never done something like that before. and then he said he had to go get the money and he'd be right back but he just left. i cant believe he just left like that. i met a whore, once. i told her i was hard up for money and she told me i was cute, and that i could do it, but i was like, no. i'm too nice to do that. i'm the nicest person you'll ever meet. i'll let you do anything."
"so you couldnt stand up for yourself?"
"no. you have to be strong to do that. mean. and tell me about that! tell me about that! now my husband's coming to pick me up and i have to tell him why i'm here. i dont know what i'm going to do."

so that vital gem of a man i'd conversed with over the phone was her husband. instead of replying to this, i offered to make her a sandwich. she said, "no, but thanks. thanks for letting me in and letting me use your phone. and everything."

she was really sweet, and i did feel bad for her, whatever she was actually going through.

five minutes until husband's arrival and i told her she should get out to the corner so she's there when he gets there. she put down the tea (only sipped at) and reached for my purse.

"that's my purse," i told her.
"oh, sorry," she mumbled, and then tried to pick up my backpack instead.

"that's also mine," i said, still trying to sound friendly, and not like you-put-my-shit-down-right-the-fuck-now, lady. she put it down, obviously really disoriented.

"where's my bag?"
"you said some guy took it."
"where did i put it down?"
"you didn't have a bag when you came in. maybe it's in the other apartment?"
she dashed right over to check. it wasn't there. however, there was a bag outside the apartment complex, and she snatched it up.

"is that your bag?" i asked.
"mm-hm." she said.

i'm not so sure it was. i'm pretty sure it was just a bag that somebody had left there. she probably would have been more excited about finding her own bag.

but who knows.


two days ago i was riding my bike to campus, passing under a bridge. from the other side of the road, a man in an electric wheelchair was yelling at me. "hey! can you help me?" he cried. "i'm stuck!"

i waited for traffic to pass and crossed the road to see what was up. his foot had fallen out of the stirrup and was dragging under the chair. he had very limited use of his upper body, and so couldn't fix it himself. the road had a lot of cars and few pedestrians and i wondered how long he'd had to sit there and yell at traffic, like a crazy person, unable to wave his arms effectively. i picked his foot up, tied it back in, and told him the velcro that was supposed to have secured it was pretty worn out.

"i know," he said.

the interesting part about this, i think, was my initial reaction to being yelled at by a man under a bridge. get the fuck away! don't listen to whatever this guy's screaming at you! regardless of what was actually going on.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

'you moved all the way to ohio to work at macy's,' he observes sagely, after realizing i'm not from around here. there follows the usual comments about the mysterious beast, winter, versus that mythical land, california. he's the only gay man of that generation i've ever met who has survived appalacia. we're in the lunch room that's decorated with large red stars and way too many placards that read, 'you matter,' and 'you make macy's stronger', as if the saturation of the ego will balance out the fact that all of us know we're moving clothes, pawns in a massive corporate spidergame and that it doesnt fucking matter.

'i'm moving clothes,' chuckles one of my co-workers earlier in the week. 'i'm not saving the world, but it's bought me a house and a car.'

trucks are stacked with tipping towers of boxes, which need to be unstacked, unwrapped and categorized. some sweaters need to be hung, others folded. certain coats need security tags placed three or four inches up from the bottom, along the seam, on the left side. at first i worked really hard; now i'm working on the delicate art of looking exceptionally busy when, in fact, i'm not doing very much at all. as far as meaningless jobs go, it's a good job.

on wednesday the merchandizing people were two minutes to open and about to start bludgeoning each other with their handheld scanners for being understaffed, overworked, and unprepared for the seven elderly female customers who would come in during the next two hours. i was tagging four hundred dollar purple calvin klein coats, like omens of a monster whose breath we'll start feeling in about a month. i have no responsibility and am therefore invisible. it's awesome.

on tuesday i saved the world by ignoring corporate's prescribed layout for 'holiday toys: girls' and putting the 'i can be!' barbie in a prominent position. on wednesday i saved the world by encouraging a co-worker to cut the cardboard so it could fit in the recycling bin, instead of throwing it away. on friday i saved the world by riding my bike to work in the rain instead of asking my girlfriend if i could borrow the truck. i'm a fucking hero.

the funny part about it is that i'm actually pretty cool with the state of affairs right now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


from the chicago art institute. in chicago. last june.

all my current work is stuck in microfilm! i cannot get out!

Monday, October 11, 2010

forest on fire

wa wa wa.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


oh, wait. this is why o.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

therese poses with her bike

here is therese posing with her bike in gimmelwald. this was shot with the olympus trip 35 that i bought at the flea market on a whim. she's so cute -- just like a little kid. not a technically good photo by any means, but fuggit.

Friday, September 24, 2010


"that's a hunnerd dollars cashmunny," my dad said.


burned the last of my cashmunny on a camera. havent had much of a chance to shoot beyond the roses in my parent's backyard, but everything in due course.

as i'm writing this blog in starbucks (because we dont have internet yet), a pair of wedding photographers sits down next to me with some clients. they talk, begin to exit, and i jump on them, babbling. iammovedfromcaliforniaandthisiswhati'mdoingdoyouneedhelptakemetakemehelphelphelp!!

they say they need an assistant. i give them my contact info. i dont know who they are, or if they're any good. but they're people.

everything in due course.

Friday, September 10, 2010

i will not be the overweight bulldyke; i will not be the pleasant middle-class white woman. my mind is a weapon, my body is a weapon. moving across the country and all i want to put in the suitcase are silky scarves, black skirts, prokofiev and collections of haiku. everything that is cotton, round, soft -- no. should i wear aggressive red lipstick? cut my hair short and bleach it white? should i make a muumuu out of used bike tubing and sleigh bells?

jesus, a revolution. at least for this afternoon.


google aggressive photography and i get this:


but MARY ELLEN MARK, fuck me ragged.


i want throwing knives to come out of the end of my fingers and poisonous hackles to rise on my back and my hair to smolder at its tips and my lips to be radioactive and everything risky, everything horrible, and everything ferociously beautiful.


in california the sky is massive and low to the ground. the air is slow and heavy.
i am taller and stronger. i am moving to ohio to commit a crime of passion.

burn the scaffolding! love only ferociously! go!
"Well, she's Lady Gaga. She's not 'Lady Behave Yourself.' Do you want great behavior from a person named Gaga? Is this what you were expecting?" -- chris rock

i need a new name. stat.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

I will be back in California in eleven days. It will have been the longest span of time i have ever spent outside the state, not including the first two years of my life. I miss it like it is a person, the shape of the roads, the fengshui of certain intersections, the way the geography shifts and merges. I miss california trees, too, redwoods and valley oak and jacaranda (north to south). Maybe it is also that so much of italy is reminiscent of California ... Or vise-versa. I am happy to be here but i will also be very happy to be home, back in the familiar shape of things.

Home home home home

Friday, August 27, 2010

cinque terra.

this place is wonderful ... sort of like an exotic hawaii with the kind of espresso that justifies all espressos. and cappuchinos. and macchiatos. and everything else that comes in a tiny cup.

all of the people are like birds. young women in patterned sundresses, preening and tropical. fat old women, their faces like heavy wrinkled leather after a lifetime of deep tanning, wear floral sundresses and sit butt-to-butt on brightly colored benches and squack all at once at each other. an old man stands like a crane under a tree in the piazza, leaning forward with hands behind his back, the top button of his pants undone but held up just under his armpits by a belt. i fought like a pigeon with an old woman over my sandwitch in the milan train station. (except that this was my crumb, with cheese from the bernese oberland and i was the younger, healthier pigeon.) (nevertheless, it is worth noting that what she lacked in youth she made up for in aggression.)

all of the birds are like lizards, and all of the lizards move like water in quickly evaporating splashes.

my old undergraduate is in session and i could be in graduate school, but instead i'm swimming in the mediterrainian. (also, i am Eating Italian Food with all the gusto of a Good American.)

yesterday, i was stung on the calf by a jellyfish and followed out of the water by a fat old woman who lifted her butt to show somebody where the jellyfish had got her. she wins. the running sucks because it is just so damn humid, even at 7am. (when the church bells wake everybody up with a recitation lasting two minutes and thirty seconds.) i return every morning after my run to the hostel dripping with sweat and nauteous.

the hostel is actually a small apartment with brown linoleum from the seventies that i share with five other people. everybody is very respectful, and the apartment is quite cozy. we hang our clothes on a line outside the window to dry, though they never really do.

aside from the occasional man with a whistling tick, or the street solicitors, or the occasional hungry senior citizen, italy so far gets my check of approval. tomorrow is rome. then florence? pompeii? lake como?

i bought an olympus trip 35 at a flea market back in switzerland that WORKS. it cost me five francs and doesnt have a functional light meter, and all i have control over is the aperture. it is also a rangefinder, so i cant actually see if anything is in focus. in sum, i'm guessing with everything. other than that it takes some pretty sharp looking negs, and i'm excited to develop the rest of my film back in the states. yes yes yes.

best to everybody who reads this, whoever you are (somebody in oregon, who the hell are you?),


Monday, August 16, 2010

my german has vastly improved since my last blog installment -- my list of available communicative phrases now includes such things as

das ist folle (it is full)
das ist nicht folle (it is not full)
wo ist die whale (where is the whale)
i can also call somebody a dick, a butterfly, a pile of shit, and a bullet-shitter (perfectionist)

(it is worth noting that this did me a lot of good for the week i spent in england. i found myself resisting the urge to cry 'salle!' as i ran past people, or thank the check at the grocery with a 'merci vielmal, cheers, ciao.' signs were printed ... in english.)

the weather is either wonderful or miserable. when it is good, butterflies flutter across a path that is lined with wild strawberries ripe for picking. the view extends until a mountain rises like a seperate planet to intercept it. english tourists approach me and ask, 'do you speak any english?' there is sweat, sunburn, cold glacial river water, dirt and beer. when it is bad, the snow creeps in at night and locks down the hostel like its christmas. scents become almost palpable, the cameraderie created by common shelter and common food, the necessity is so calm it is like a sudden deep winter. quiet in the house, sounds of dishes clinking and people talking. i realized that one of the only times that my family in the states is calm and relaxed all at once in the house for more than 15 minutes is during christmas and sometimes thanksgiving. the event enforces. these people are my second family and christmas lasts for three months with extensive bursts of idyllic summertime.

a couple months ago, a friend of mine responded to an email in which i described some of the people here. 'back country whack-jobs,' he called them.

wrong. they are unreasonably kind and overwhelmingly loving. i sat and growled at my inbox for several minutes after recieving his message, and didnt reply straight away. then i am a back country whack-job.

as far as living-in-a-hostel goes, living-with-fifty-strangers-every-night, sharing a kitchen with people who dont know how to light the stove, or work the showers, or change their bedsheets --- for a while it was like watching the same sardonic film every day with a different cast. all the tourists ask all the same questions as the ones before them. they tell the same stories. and now, as horrible as it is, i dont even see them. they become like the longform of water in a stream over an exposure of a week or three. i see the shape of the building, frequent currents, and the occasional exception. i see my hosts and my coworkers, bottles of wine, chocolate cake, hams and turkeys passing through like so many essential blessings. the guests are invisible.

several days ago, i went to buy a ticket at the cable car station and was nearly hit in the face by a flying slice of sausage that the ticket lady was throwing out of the window to a tabby cat on the floor on the other side. the ticket lady was slicing the sausage into very thin pieces and smiling blissfully; the cat had so much sausage it didnt know what to do. a couple nights later, she came to the hostel and ordered a raclette (which the hostel has recently taken to serving, because the locals like it, the tourists appreciate 'cultural experiences' and because it is easy to make) and ate it by herself at one of the benches in the back. her dalmation ('my husband', as she she calls him) begged (with great success) at the corner of the table, while she smiled up at a worker who was sitting on the railing of the front porch with his guitar. she ate all by herself, and left without finishing her beer. looking down from the railing at the empty single setting of raclette and the half-full beer cast against the backdrop of the mountains after she had left, alone, was the saddest, most facinating tableau of swiss isolation.


entry from the family photographic archives for sunday, august 15th, 2010. this entry is chosen in honor of the midnight accordion lesson i recieved from an exceptionally good-looking swiss man about a three weeks ago, and the subsequent series of jam sessions. playing the piano has become sort of a social necessity -- it is a service to the people in my life. if you know carpentry, then you are obligated help with their cupboards. if you can play the piano, you are obligated to play in the evenings. wine helps. whiskey helps more.

Clarence and Frank, K Street

the boy on the left is my grandfather -- the same grandfather who serrendipitously loved gimmelwald as much as i do, and which i didnt learn about until after i had gone there, and he had passed away.

i like to think that being here was one of the things that i was meant to do, a place that i was destined to find myself at this time regardless of everything that happened before. it would have happened somehow. i would have been with these people on this mountain. i am supposed to be here.

my dad came to visit me some weeks ago, and arrived on one of the last cable cars up to the mountain. we were sitting around a table, drinking beer and listening to one of the workers play guitar. my dad walked into the hostel, pointed to me, and burst into tears. 'this really is like the end of the world,' he burbled.

i am obsessed with the idea of going further into it. but these are places that you cant go by yourself. i'm working on finding those other people.


sometimes a person does outrageous things for reasons they can't explain. the reasons surface into the living of the question. i am here for three months. nowhere. everywhere essential. outrageous?

i am experiencing ... empathy. i love people. i love textures and tastes and smells and small talk. and then i am loving people. a warm spot in my chest.

i havent felt this in a long time. that scares me, that it has been so long. that whatever happened happened however long ago that it stopped.

it's like my heart is a rusty machine that is suddenly started to work again. slow fits and starts.

that's why i'm here now.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

feels good to work on photos just a little bit. probably shouldnt be monopolizing the computer, but SUCK IT, DRUNK HOSTEL GUESTS. i miss my own camera, though ladyfriend has been kind enough to loan me her point and shoot. i feel like i've lost an eye.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

emily's socially retarded dialogues, entry no.1262

list of characters:
older man. hostel guest. eating lunch alone at the bar.
emily. at the out of tune piano with a printout of beethoven opus 109, 3rd mvt.

man. you play the piano?
emily. i'm looking for the theme.
man. it sounds nice.
emily. no, like halfway through the fourth variation it just evaporates.
man. i'm sorry about that.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

(sorry for whatever spelling mistakes there might be, or tense shifts, or whatever.)

so you build your house out of wood and it is five hundred years old, and your family has lived next door for five hundred years and all of your family dramas are older than the united states. there are only two kinds of people here: tourists and farmers. the farmers are incredibly proud. 'farmers think only the farmers work,' my host tells me. 'so all of these people in my family don't think i am good enough for my husband, and they dont talk to me.' which is a problem when your family is most of the people in the village.

but if you stay here long enough, the locals who come stomping into the restaurant for an afternoon beer or a batch of rösti (hashbrowns and sausages) about the size of a pig that is being fried out back, their boots leaving cow shit [cuesheiße] and mud under the tables with the green tablecloths that i ironed, orange pants and hands like bricks, realize that you look familiar, and that you've been around a while, and that you're greeting them with the local verson of 'whatsup' (salle).

we have made two significant contacts hitherto:

1. the old woman

like all good swiss farmers, she smells of old sweat and hearty cheese. sitting outside of her house, she tells us to guess how old she is. we write down numbers on a map of the region. we can't communicate with words, so instead we use symbols. 60? nicht. 65? nay. 71? ja.

she asks us on a hike, and is very picky about what we bring. only three fruits, one bar of chocolate, one water bottle. she strikes the things that we pass with her umbrella and saying their name. rock [steine], grass [grasse], helicopter [helicopter]. bench [bank, pronounced 'bonk'] is easy to remember because it means 'bank' in french, and something totally differerent in english. she keeps a steady pace and could apparently walk all day. we pass a group of british tourists in red linen pants and quilted jackets, complaining about how high they have to lift their legs. we pass an american family with khaki shorts and trainers and sticks and bags and cameras hanging off their neck. all of the swiss people stop her, bring her into their huts for wheels of cheese or milkshakes. in a single day, she fed us a milkshake, cookies, donuts, ice cream, rubarb syrup and chocolate. not knowing a polite way to communicate, 'no thanks', we ate every item proffered. at the top of a hill she stops and removes a shoebox from her pack. it is full of photographs of the region that she took over the last 40 years or so. she sells them for 2,50 francs and tells us to stand next to a waterfall for a picture. she's using film. a pentax camera. i wonder if we'll be selling for 2,50 francs in the milkshake hut, too. at the top of another hill she stops and, without an provocation, proceeds to performs a headsand [kopfstand]. her shirt falls down and comes unbuttoned. 'ich bin sexy,' she chuckles.

a couple weeks later we are able to start a series of primitive dialogues. they often go something like this:

good morning, therese. did you sleep well?
yes. [something lengthy, enthusiastic, and unintelligible.]
oh, sehr good!


hello! do you want to wander [hike] today?
nicht, but morgen?
nicht morgen. morgen morgen?
nay - morgen morgen morgen?
nay, nay. morgen morgen morgen morgen.
ja, sehr good wanderen morgen morgen morgen morgen. das ist good.
ist good.

2. the sketchy trashman

the other local comes to the hostel every monday and wednesday to pick up the trash and recycling. my ladyfriend was helping him load the recycling and he asked her if she wanted to help him. she jumped in his truck and left. when she came back to the hostel, it was with an invitation to bring friends up to his hut for dinner on saturday. i was a little cautious about this, but we brought four people. and he looked skinny, so if we needed to, we could take him.

it was a two hour hike to his hut. this is considered local. tourists hike in a day what we did in an evening to get to dinner.

his major dream in life was to be an american cowboy. he had an old american flintlock on the wall next to the stairs, and of tooled piece leather with a donkey profile tacked onto the door. he wore a belt buckle with a pistol on it and kept photographs of his horses in the small cupboard above the table. everything in his hut he had retrieved from the garbage: the stove, the table, the pots and pans. we crammed ourselves into the tiny kitchen (which smelled like old sweat and hearty cheese), around the stove for warmth. there was a massive piece of (hearty) cheese, like a paperback novel, on the table, and he cut off a large wedge. 'this is for me,' he said, and then cut off the rind. 'and this is for the little fox.' he threw the rind out the window. he cooked rösti and pasta. he told all of his stories in very short sentences, in the present tense. after dinner, he brought out his accordion and played several short pieces in a choppy way that was not unlike how he spoke.

some of the selections were:

mama, dont let your babies grow up to be cowboys
home on the range, and
la chupacabra

everything was awkward but pleasant until it came time to leave, at which point he suddenly became quite adgitated. why dont you stay? why do you need to go back tonight? will anybody miss you?

we're a two hour hike in the dark away from home and this swiss man who has been eyeballing my girlfriend (and we have all been ignoring it) all night long doesnt want us to leave. he told us to go upstairs at least, to see the rest of his hut. there are six beds in a very small space, and he says, 'it is like the hostel, yes?' we nod.

and then he wraps his arms around my girlfriend's waist and tries to throw her on one of the beds. it is very sudden and very strange and we get the fuck out of there right quick. we can barely see the path and a large white dog materializes out of the darkness, snarling. i just about wet myself.

getting back to a village with one lighted window at midnight feels pretty damn good. the cable car station at night looks like a docking zone from star wars.

when he came back on monday, we hid in the laundry room to avoid having to talk to him.

sometimes i find myself looking around and wondering WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING HERE UNTIL SEPTEMBER.

but that's okay.

Friday, July 2, 2010

one photo two photos some weeks later. we had hot days and cool days and now thunderstorms in the afternoon. tomorrow night, we're having dinner at the trash man's hut. apparently he used to be a chef at some fancy city restaurant but when his father, the previous trash man, died, he had to take over the job.

'i will cook you dinner, and then i will play accordion while you look at the moon.'


Friday, June 25, 2010

it drizzled continuously for the first eleven days, and every morning we woke up to find the snowline creeping lower and lower towards the hostel. consequently, the hiking was wet and dreary, and the vistas that usually provide incentive for arduous climbs are obscured by a steady, slow fog which renders distance meaningless and time far too expansive. everything is far apart and isolated. then, on the twelfth morning, like something out of a bible story, clare and i returned from our 7am run and spotted, by JESUS, a bit of blue sky, peeking out on top of a mountain on the other side of the valley. it is now the fifteenth day and everything that had previously been a set of contextless, secluded moments suddenly are now snugly together, intimately connected. the mountains frame valleys of a particular exact schematic and the whole universe forms a singular, comprehensive experience.

there is something odd and almost ... magical ... about this place. it just grabs some people by the balls and refuses to let them go, so they just keep coming back year after year after year, for reasons they can't explain except to say that they have to go back to gimmelwald. there is a book on summit of one of the mountains that contains twenty years of open letters between these people who cant help coming back. for several, it is their sole means of contact. an episolatry time capsule at the top of the world.

somebody wrote on one of the walls of the hostel:

i fell in love with a girl named eliza in gimmelwald. johnny g, you were right. i'll be back.

and who should show up some two weeks later but johnny g, who has been coming back for twenty years with his guitar. he saw the message and laughted -- that has to be from one of my students, he said.

another person who cant help but come back and back again is a nutty british boy who is also working here right now.after enough time with him, i've figured out that his usual rate of hiking is approximately three units of time to every eight units of time spent by regular -healthy- people. a four hour hike becomes an hour and a half; a one hour detour is done in twenty minutes or so. one of his favorite activities is extreme ironing, and so he straps a heavy-ass bright red ironing board to his backpack and proceeds to sprint with it up the mountain. this is one of my favorite of his photos:

he knows a great deal of the local lore and modes of operation. we passed a small barn at one point and he told me, 'that builing is packed full of dynamite.'


apparently, the owner's husband, the man who complains about people being tired, is the regional expert on explosions and demolitions. at one point, joel met him at a worksite and found him, the stout swiss man that he is, working on all fours with a stick of dynamite in his mouth. as if to prove the point, a couple nights later, walter brought his video camera over to the bar and proceeded to show us a series of things he had blown up. rocks. roads. sides of hills. and then, his voice, which is usually pure testosterone, let out a series of high and girlish giggles that were kind of manic and maybe even a little bit disturbing. he has an electric wood chopper below his house, and we joked for a moment that perhaps he uses it to decapitate stupidtired tourists, giggling like a little girl the whole time. and then the joke became quite scary and our laughter was quickly arrested.

a couple of days ago he wore a t-shirt that said ' i like canadian girls.' somehow i think that helps explain him.

time passes differenly here. i feel like i have been living here since the beginning of time. i will be staying until september, and then going back to arcata for the fall.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

i am getting very good at ironing tablecloths and folding fitted sheets. the laundry room is a like a tropical jungle of sheets that block out the light and trap in the moisture and i feel sometimes like i should navigate it with a machete. meanwhile, the weather outisde has also been foggy and wet, but colder, and it clears up every now and again, which is nice. the hostel is on one side of a glacial valley and sometimes you can see the entire height of the mountains on the other side and sometimes you cant see past the laundry room, which is about ten paces away from the main building.

murren is a town about a 30min (steep!) hike away, and it has a pool and a grocery store and small dead-end of a mountain train stop. if you need wine or chocolate or trashy swiss-german tabloids it is the place to go. apparently, it is one of the oldest tourist destinations in the world because of a ski slope that attracted a bunch of wealthy english people starting about 60-70 years ago.

gimmelwald, where i'm staying, is described by tourist books as 'a relaxing, intact apline town', or 'a car-free resort,' which translates to: some million-year-old famers and a hostel. i asked the woman who runs the hostel what the farmers think of the tourists, and she replied, 'you dont bite the hand that feeds you.'

the town is very old; nobody is totally sure how old. the oldest building was built at least 500 years ago, and the main strucutre of the hostel about 350. different sections used to be a cow barn, a hay storage area, etc.

a woman and her husband bought the structure here 14 years ago and renovated a good deal of it. (adding showers, etc.) she was raised in the most nearby city and he was raised here in gimmelwald. he is very much a stodgy old farmer man; the other morning, one of the guests tried to use the bathroom during the cleaning lock-out, and he asked the guest why they had slept in so late.

'because i was tired,' said the guest.
'tired! everybody tired, morning, afternoon, tired!' he's usually quiet and taciturn, and so when he finally looses it and has to shout, heavy accent and all, it is the most wonderful thing to witness.

sometimes his mother comes to help me with the washing. she doesnt speak any english and i dont speak any german so we just babble at each other morgen-morgen, das ist, guten tag, okayokay.

a couple of days ago after a particularly challenging hike, ladyfriend convinced me to take an ice bath in glacial melt. 'you can get the same effect from probably just five minutes in this as you would in 30 minutes in 60 degree water.' COLD COLD COLD COLD and then some hikers passed by and i waved to them, waist deep and pantless in fast moving pale water. i wasnt sore after i got out at all --- mostly because i couldnt feel anything anyway.

last night we pulled a prank on the guests: one of the waitresses came up from the bathroom downstairs and shouted at another staff member, 'joel, can you please get the snakes out of the shower?'
'sure,' he said. 'how many are there?'
this was followed by a girl running away from the showers, wearing only a towel. people in the dining area were quite worried for some time. we pointed out on a map how, 'right around this glacier, over here, there are sometimes rattlesnakes. but they'll leave you alone, dont worry.'

ladyfriend and i have a dormitory all to ourselves, essentially. last night, however, we returned to pick up our dirty laundry that we had thrown on the floor prior to showering to find a chinese family unpacking their things. we were embarassed about the laundry and they were embarrassed by, as the daughter described it:

'my daddy snores.'

we didnt think it would be too bad, so we assured her that it was no big deal at all and that we hoped they'd have a pleasant stay.

it was BAD. it was so bad it was just comical. it sounded like a gorilla trying to start up an aged weedwhacker. and then it would be refreshingly silent for two minutes, our laughter would subside, and right when we reached the edge of dozing off, he'd start again, and so would the laughter.

so we moved to another room.

where we could hear him through the wall. brilliant.

life is good. i have laundry to fold.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

23 and a half hours from my friend's doorstep in chicago to the hostel. two trains, three planes, two more trains and a gondola. i always have to keep my eyes closed on gondolas; riding on them with the rock face and the slight swaying back and forth just scares the bejeezus out of me.

23 and a half hours during which i made a couple of especially stupid decisions. however, i am going to blame them on:

an english man. i am riding the subway to the airport in chicago and it is the last stop. i am pretty much totally asleep, but i see a british passport on the ground where somebody had just gotten up and left. i grab it and dash out of the train. the gentleman is in a buisness suit and obviously not traveling for himself.

sir! sir! i say. he has headphones in. i jab his suit-sleeve with the passport and he turns around.
is this yours? i ask, holding it up.

his face, which had been tired and drawn and almost reptilian-cold suddenly opened into a totally human-soulful set of complex emotions which managed to combine the extremes of both horror and gratitude.

wow, he said, thank you, wow, wow.

i am going to imputously blame the following set of stupid decisions on the jitters i got following the dropped passport.


1. yogurt in my backpack. for later. and then i forgot to take it out of the backpack, and didnt remember about it until pulling the backpack off the conveyer belt in zurich and finding it having exploded over everything in that pocket. well done, me. stinky yogurt pocket.

2. leaving my water bottle in the side of my backpack after i had checked it. i had gotten the bottle at the dollar store, and had an extra one in the pack, so it wasnt so much of a problem to have it confinscated. the problem was when i decided to purchuase bottled water at the airport. it opened in my bag, deposited it's contents, and as i was sitting in the food court with a 7 dollar salad and not-crying about how neither of my cameras were turning on, two kindly southern women told me: put your cameras in a bowl of rice when you get home. it'll suck the moisture right out.

but i'm not going home for two months, i babbled at them.

nevertheless, once i got to the hostel i bought a bag of rice and put my cameras in them. my slr turns on now, but it cant access the memory card or show an image. i think it might still be taking images, though. the point and shoot is still shot.

i refuse to get upset about it until after a week or so of sitting in rice they still dont work.
there is a guest here who is a professional photographer for a magazine. i asked him what the best thing to do with a camera in this situation.

did you try to turn it on right away? he asked.
yeah. (stupid decision no3)
well, thats about the worst possible thing you can do, he said. if it doesnt turn on in like, 48 hours, then thats the end.


when i arrived at the hostel, the woman at the front asked if i was emily-who-will-help-with-the-washing.

probably, i said.

as it turns out, my employ is: putting several loads of sheets in the washers, hanging them up to dry, and then folding them in the evening once they are dry. it takes about two hours. i can also sweep. in return i get a bed and sandwiches and pizza and beer and coffee and the whole rest of the day to hike and/or lie in bed and read.

man. i am okay with this.

Monday, May 31, 2010

entry from the family photographic archives for monday, may 31st, 2010: sea world.

1975 Sea World San Diego

Sunday, May 30, 2010

entry from the family photographic archives for sunday, may 30th, 2010:

i could spend all my money on
challenge beers

i think mostly about

this surprises me.


having fun with old photos from NYC and i realized i'm really attracted to shadows and lens flares.

Friday, May 28, 2010

finals week, senior recital, graduation, moving.

ben alper's erasure is appropriate again.

[x] days before recital.

trying to pack and learn the third movement of the concerto and organize my life for some unpacking at an undesignated and time and place. rubbing icyhot on my arms all the way up to my shoulders for tendonitis. being generally stressed out and snappish. losing my phone and not really trying to find it because then i'd have to be responsible and communicate with people.

[x] days after recital.

it went pretty well. i'd like a re-do for some parts, but who cares, i always do. it lasted about an hour and a half and the ushers ran out of programs. my teacher thinks that there were at least one hundred people in the audience, which is an exceptional turnout for a senior recital.

(this is the dress that i wore. finally got a picture of it on the morning i drove off; note the empty room. the colors in this picture aren't very accurate. that baby is REDREDSHINYRED. it looked awesome for the concerto with the orchestra in black.)

it was a curious process, growing up in the department and watching all of these strong students give their senior recitals and leave. i wanted to be like them -- intimidating, on the ball, going somewhere. the senior recital was the culminating display of dominance, the final ruffling of feathers, the last strut. i wanted to nail mine to the wall. i wanted it to be Good and Ferocious and a final knockout punch with a square and perfect impact that maybe, maybe, other students would look at and think, "damn, i wish i could be like her", or just "damn."

but of course, the closer i got to the recital, the less i cared. i just needed to learn the damn pieces, to survive. and when i finished, it wasn't some sweaty, strong, wild-eyes, bloody fist in the air hallelujah finish-line-crossing, it was just a relief. i'd been picturing it like a fight when all it really turned out to be was proof that time keeps moving.

so i put my mattress on top of my car and drove it across town in the rain and left it in a friend's room. i gave away my bookshelf, and half of my clothes and a lot of books and wrote:

everything fits in my car
it is hard to say goodbye to this town
goodbye to the people

took a final trip to the river, to the beach, the marsh, the forest.

all of my students gave me a final hug and several asked me to please come back in the fall. (that might be enough to sway me. i didn't realize how much i love them, and how much i really don't trust anybody else to do right by them.)

i think maybe arcata is this big hole in my chest right now because i have no definite plans after august 5th and at least there i have people and the forest and familiar movements of light.

and of course, i'll miss things like this:

but i think i'm ready. here we go.

my great grandparents on mothers day in 1961. god, i love this. i especially love how the person who mounted it in the frame was careful to include their shadows.

it reminds me of:

by ben alper, from his project erasure.

real post coming soon.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sunday, May 9, 2010

three days!

dress rehearsal was this afternoon. i wore pajamas.

a friend of mine is loaning me one of her dresses. it is a sportlobster dress- red like a lobster and shiny like a sports-car. i feel like a motherfucking habanero pepper.

i have to remind myself that this semester i learned an entire bach concerto in addition to brahms' liebeslieder. i can do this.

if i write this things on The Internet, i might remember them in the heat of the moment. this is shop talk.
small notes are the energy -- every note is an event.
shape with harmonic motion in mind.
every note is an event.
voice the top too loudly to stand out against the orchestra, especially.
hear registral changes in the bach.
don't make faces.
don't apologize.
every note is an event.
dig into the left hand gestures in the schumann.
take time with cadences.
i know the notes.
i know the notes.
i know the notes.

and i'm a motherfucking habanero pepper.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

assorted things i enjoyed making and finally got around to scanning:

(the above was shot on very expired film)