Thursday, July 31, 2008

so we've been a tad bit lax on the posting

The truth is that I don't think either of us wanted to put up a post saying our summer is over. While we may be back from our epic road trip, our travels continue. Jeana and I drove back to Michigan after one last stop off in Greensboro to visit Justin, meet his family and have some more of that sickening waffle house food. Pictures from all of these lovely events will follow shortly.

After our last push, which Jeana will have to tell about (I was passed out asleep) we parted ways in Fenton. Where she is and what she's doing, I can't say. She'll have to.

For my part, I spent a relaxing (cough) week up north on Torch Lake with my family. We boated, got sunburned, boated some more and amused ourselves with the dogs. After the vacation with my family I immediately headed out to Chicago with my father. What was supposed to be a two or three day trip turned into a week long jaunt with some other friends who were in town for Unity. Since then I've been bumming around in East Lansing, spending time with good people and being generally relaxed.

Saturday Jeana and I move into our new apartment, which I haven't yet seen but am assured is gorgeous. I'm excited to be back in town, to see old friends, to start hosting parties and to TA at MIPA next week. Things here are much as I left them, and while that's comforting to have a place to come back to, I find myself wondering what the farm kids are up to, or what weird thing is happening to Justin. The mountains have forever a place in my heart.

I love traveling. The experiences I've had this summer have been life changing, and the people beyond words. It's good to be back in East Lansing, but I don't really feel like this one place is my home anymore. As cliche as it is to say, home really is where your heart lies.

So let me say I miss you all. Thank you for being my home.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

my two cents

I haven't been posting much lately, but here are a few shots from our date to help Lydia move out of her trailer. Enjoy.

Dancing in the dark

When I met Lydia she was wearing a dress that looked like a red picnic table cloth with lace strung around it and a red hat with a wig attached inside. She told me she was a 65-year-old gospel singer and she wanted to teach me how to flatfoot (it's like tap dancing meets riverdance, check it out). "C'mon girl," she yells as she grabs my hand, and with her 4'8" body pulls me onto the floor with more force than a lucha libre wrestler. We danced and I was exhausted after the first song... But, we stayed for many.

After the evening was over I offered to help her carry her belongings back to her car. I slung her bright white guitar over my shoulder and carried a bag full of framed 8x10 photographs with me. (She loves to take pictures of people and blow them up - whether or not they are good - and give them out framed and matted. I have a few now, including some Polaroids.) In the parking lot she told me I was a sweet young lady. "I love you, honey," she said. "Can I play you a few gospel songs?" I couldn't refuse such an offer.

She pulled a new-in-the-box electric mandolin out of her trunk and slid a cartridge inside it to provide a back up beat. "This is for all the veterans," she whispered into the red darkness of exiting taillights.

As she sang, she swayed back and forth and played with so much passion I thought her skinny fingers were going to pound through the black plastic casing of the mandolin.

She played three songs and by the middle of the third, she was crying and dancing. It was just the two of us in a nearly empty parking lot. I, in my bright blue dress and she in red and white. It was beautiful.

By the end, I too was crying and dancing.

This is how I met Lydia.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Puppet Circus VI

The two Patricks and I crashed a 6-year-old's birthday party. We offered armfuls of asparagus and berries in exchange for entertainment. Although complete strangers, we were welcomed like family.

Under a willow tree in the backyard of a small Floyd farm was a time machine, a 12-foot tall paper mache elephant and an odd assortment of puppets handmade from bone, paper and pieces of trash. Besides being an excellent gardener, Wesley (the 6-year-old's father) is a puppet master.

The puppet show lasted about 30 minutes and included pyrotechnics, time travel, dumpster diving, global warming and the police. And, the whole thing climaxed with a homemade, 15-foot tall papier mache dinosaur descending from the hills to give rides to the children.

The whole performance was accompanied by a three piece band, made more fabulous by a drum kit pulled out of an old leather suit case. After the show, the band set up near the fire and continued to play Tom Waits, David Byrne, and 14th century Spanish songs.

I would have been happy to just have conversation, a potluck, and the handful of sweet pea pods in my pocket, but this will probably be the best birthday party of my life.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

I'm back

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

32 hours into food poisoning

I should have stayed on the farm. One day back in the city and I'm ill out of my mind. I equate this to a bad spirit quest. Last night, while dreaming in delirium, I met my spirit animal. It's a wolf, and not a pretty one either. It's gnarly and its coat looks like shredded tree bark. It lead me through yellow and orange caverns into the dark.

I hope I'm never this sick again.

Thank you Justin for letting me set up a bed inside your bathroom. Thank you Katie for being awesome.

I am under the weather, but hope to be back up again soon.

Monday, June 9, 2008

taking it way back; supplemental

just a few shots from the most epic foam fight ever. . . props to Nate for capturing the moment so expertly while being assaulted with foam himself. This little shindig took place after Justin, Jeana, Nate and I shot a wedding in Hendersonville, NC. the first weekend we were here. Jeana and I were soaking our feet with some bathsoap when she turned on the jets and things got crazy. It was a good night.

down on the farm

Jeana and I are staying at Seven Springs Organic Farm, which is why we haven't been too good about updating the blog. Neither of us really get cell phone service, let alone internet out there.

The farm we're living and working on is located in Check, VA, just outside of Floyd. Floyd is an absolutely amazing place, filled with the kind of people you always wanted the world to be populated with. Jeana's met some really fantastic people, but I'll let her tell you about them. I'll just say that after being here for a week, we know at least a dozen people who stop us on the street to ask how we are. They city has tons of artists, farmers, musicians and just all around good people living and working there. On Saturday we met a navy veteran who runs an Angus farm with her husband and four kids in addition to working three jobs that add up to something like 110 hours of work a week. Her doctor told her to cut it out, and she finally just picked one job outside of the farm.

Yesterday we were walking down to the Baptist Church to attend and she stopped us to say hi. The people here are just amazing.

The farm work is hard, but satisfying. We do a lot of weeding, a little planting, and every now and then we get sent out to try and catch an escaped pig at a neighbors' farm. (They'd caught them by the time we arrived, but it would have been amazing.)

I think my favorite work has thus far been bailing hay. The farm runs like it would have about sixty years ago, and the bailing is no exception. The machine is from the 1950's, and bales into squares. It poops them out and we have to follow behind and pick them up, stack them in the bed of the pickup or on the wagon, take them to the barn and restock them. The work is really hard and amazingly fun. Jeana, intern Patrick and Kari and volunteer Patrick and me were the bailing monkeys. We must have collected somewhere between three and four hundred bales over the course of several hours. It was hot, dirty and fun work.

As for the pictures: Jeana was cooking chili in the outdoor kitchen the interns have up at their quarters on the farm. It's a fully functional kitchen with one and a half walls, which is pretty cool.

The second picture is of Jeana and Kari, one of the two farm interns, hanging out by the office one evening before Jeana and I headed into town.

Farm living is the life. . . at least for a few more weeks.

Monday, June 2, 2008

natural bridge is the most incredible place ever

seriously. . . from a local drive-in that made me think it was 1954 to the wonders of a replica of stonehenge made entirely of foam. . . this has been an almost unbelievalbe place.

Tourist day

Natural Rock, Va. -Our last two days before we move onto farms. We spent them camping and being tourists.

Prof. Cline's Dinosaur Kingdom

I helped Katie set up the tent.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

my additions

I guess we really haven't kept up with posting like I'd hoped over this past week. But it's been a lot of fun, nonetheless. Jeana and I biked quite a bit (by my standards, not hers) which is really kicking my butt, though enjoyably so.

We've spent a lot of time hanging out in Blacksburg, particularly at the local coffee shop, reading and chilling. I bought a few new skirts, met a few cool people, listened to a little live bluegrass and will soon be buying a bedazzler. We spent the evening yesterday hanging out with Justin's friends Jared and Evelio again, who are great guys.

The blurry shot of Justin is for and possibly taken by, you Jared.

The hills are alive

Our stay in Blacksburg, Va. is coming to an end. We've spent the past few days biking and making plans with farms.

Katie has been a champion biker. High-five to her for being able to conquer almost 16 miles of Virginia hills!

We biked the Huckleberry Trail and were surrounded by green and wonderful people. We met an ancient man with a beautiful white bicycle who told us about coal mining history in Virginia. I also chatted with a lady who said her dog had saved her life four times. Now she carries the dog everywhere with her on her scooter.

Why are there no pictures of these characters? Because, this summer makes me understand the relationships I've neglected. For a little while I want to listen to the story and become a part of it. I've been too removed. I miss my hands being dirty.

And, I miss all of you.

Floyd County - a house where nobody lives

Bollo's Cafe: Blacksburg, Va.

I think Katie swears a lot going up the hills. She said we should record her and make a soundslides. But, don't let this picture fool you. Katie never gives up.

Monday, May 26, 2008

what a weekend

So Jeana and I finally figured out how to add her as an author to this blog, and I think, if all goes according to plan, she and I are going to be doing separate posts soon enough.

This weekend we spent in Hendersonville, N.C. shooting the wedding of one of Justin's friends from school. There were four of us, Justin, Jeana, me and Nate, another one of Justin's friends. Four wedding photographers might sound liked a tad bit of overkill, but I assure you it was justified for this wedding. To start, there were 10 groomsmen and 16 bridesmaids. . . the dress was amazing (Vera Wang) and then rented out almost all of two different summer retreats. We haven't gone through the wedding photos yet, so I'm not going to spend too much time describing it on this post, but I'll cover Saturday's events.

After driving through Tennessee to get to North Carolina for about five hours, we arrive at this really idyllic place. There's this huge lodge that three stories tall and that's the first thing we see. It's pretty much filled with wedding party guests, etc. We figured out we were staying in a "cabin" with Nate, his wife Rebecca and another of Justin's friends from school, Laura. Nate and Rebecca didn't get there until Sunday afternoon so we spent most of the day just hanging out and exploring the place.

This "cabin" was nicer than most of the places I've lived over the past few years. It had a built in fireplace, AC, a huge porch with a hammock nearby, a washer and dryer and a king sized bed on the second floor, where the three of us slept. Oh yeah, and a bathtub with jets. . . which will come in to play later.

After we got over the grandeur of the cabin, we headed out back toward the goat field. Vivaldi wafted over the meadow as the goats quietly munched on long strands of summer grass. The air was heavy with heat, pollen and the smell of Kudzo in bloom. We found out later the Vivaldi was from another wedding that was going on that day, but at the time the music was hardly audible but still present. The entire scene was surreal and yet incredibly beautiful.

Needless to say we decided to bond with the goats. We cut across their field and ended up doing some quality bonding with our four legged friends.

On an aside, I think all three of us are allergic to North Carolina. By the time we got across the field we were all leaking profusely from the face. There was a lovely older woman tending to some plants in a greenhouse nearby, so Jeana asked for a tissue. The lady obliged, and we ended up chatting for a while. This woman is the kind of lady I'd like to become one day. She was Belgian, and came here with her husband, who passed two years ago, in the 1940's to find strawberry's they had heard grew in the fields here. Her son owned the resort, and after he sold most of it he kept the house on so she could continue to live there. The lady tended the goats, peacocks, turkeys, ducks and organic garden. . . which was amazing. She also had a 15 year old, little mutt Rat Terrier named Licker, who I really loved. He was like a little sausage with legs.

It turned out she is an artist, and invited us in to look at the children's book she was working on, which will be published in France later this year. It's the story of her family during the war, I think. Justin took a ton of photos, but Jeana and I just chatted. This lady was magnificent.

After we left her, we went down to the lake, where Justin and I jumped in for a swim. Jeana has some amazing photos, and other than a close encounter with wolf spider and a dog that didn't swim well at all, it was quite a bit of fun. Because we went for a dip in our clothing, Justin and I had to walk back barefooted. . . which was just a laugh on the gravel road. The last picture included was shot just after Justin tried to ford the road by walking on Jeana's feet. It didn't work out too well, but it was really cute nonetheless.

The evening ended with us attending a pre-wedding cocktail party in town, but that's more wedding related so I'll save it for another post.

sigh. . . so much to post and so little time.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Saturday, May 24, 2008

A good start

Friday was a good day of old friends and no pictures. I am glad to have memories, which are just mine. But, I promise to do my best and describe how simple and essential this summer is to me, even if there are no images to represent my feelings or experiences.

We went out in downtown Roanoke. Per usual, I got a little restless after staying inside too long. And, I've never enjoyed smoky places or cover bands, so Justin and I took off for a skip around downtown. We took a skywalk to The Hotel Roanoke, where amid dozens of people we found EMTs biking thousands of miles for charity and a wedding with a bluegrass band. -We crashed it.

Both the bride and groom ran up to us really excited, "Are you are wedding crashers?" they asked. They high-fived us after we danced a few songs. The groom hugged me and bride gave me a kiss on the cheek. They were wonderful people. I hope they have a beautiful life together.

In the middle of a slight rain Justin taught me how to waltz. I stumbled a little bit at first, but caught on and improved his steps a little too. Sometimes you just have to learn to be gracious of the moment and just float - like a twig in the river.

an evening of no cameras

Yesterday Jeana, Justin and I toured Virginia Tech, then took a slight jaunt down to Roanoke, sans cameras. VA Tech is really pretty in a strange, cold kind of way. Most of the campus buildings are made of this thick, gray stone and look like old castles. The memorial to the victims of the shooting is really moving. Each one of their names is on a stone in a circle on their main drill field in the center of campus. We went to Norris Hall, where the shooting took place and stood in the hall. It was silent and felt like hallowed ground. The most unsettling part of standing in that hall was the eerie feeling of similarity it had to just about every hall at MSU; a sad reminder tragedy can strike anywhere.

After we got to Roanoke Justin took us to his favorite Chinese place. The food was good, but the lady who owns it/served us was really something else. Apparently people try to fuck with her all the time. The last time Justin was in with his friend Evelio some woman came in and tried to get free food. When the owner refused she started to scream and claimed the cook touched her in the parking lot. Eventually she left, but she sounded like a real nut.

Well, the owner was telling this story to the other two customers in at the time, and she mentioned the weird woman was black. Without missing a beat, the woman sitting in the booth next to our said, in the amazing southern drawl, "Well, crazy comes in all colors." I think that about says it all.

After that we headed downtown and hung out at the Roanoke Times for a while, waiting for Justin's friend Jared, another shooter, to get back from assignment. The newsroom is pretty chill, and the photo area is awesome. And I mean seriously. I wanted to move in. I lost track of all couches they had. Well, anyway, we met and hung out with Evelio, who is a writer turned videographer, and Jared for a the evening. After we left the bar at about 11 it was dark enough for us to head up to the star.

So there's this 50 foot neon start mounted on the top of a mountain overlooking the city. We drove up through the rain in the pitch black on the other side of the mountain. When we got out of the car to walk up to it, I trailed along behind. I can tell you that watching the forms of Jeana and Justin appear from the black, illuminated by a giant neon star was one of the single most beautiful moments of my life.

Pure joy. And crazy comes in all colors.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

arborterum supplimental

from jeana.

Ohio and West Virginia

So our first day and night of the trip has been really beautiful. We crashed with our buddy Josh Jarman in Newark for the night, and aside from being his usual amazing self, he recommended we visit the Daws Arboretum. . . after hiking around the entire thing we came back with a few decent frames.

The drive has been really scenic. West Virginia is incredible, although the mom van doesn't like to go uphill. . . which has been interesting.

Tonight we finally got to Blacksburg to see THE Justin Cook. We had hotdogs at the home of a reporter whom he works with. This woman was friendly and kind of like a really cool mom. So far so good.