8 months later… Me doing karoake
This is me the night before I left Seattle to move to LA. Why LA? More work, more sun, more possibilities. That’s what I’m hoping, at least. Later on, I find out it’s good to have photos like this one, so that when life slaps the shit out of you, you’ll remember how to smile. Behind a semi-truck
The secret to driving during heavy rainfall is being able to imagine the road in front of you even when all you see is a bleak grey mess. You have to hold onto that fleeting clarity that comes in between wiper strokes and drive on. The road’s still there, just don’t rely on your eyes too much. The impulse is to panic when things become unrecognizable. Don’t. Burlesque show. Valejo, 2012.
The rain finally disappears when I arrive in the bay area. I stay with a high school friend living in Vallejo. We pack as much adventure as we can into two nights—a burlesque show, a blues speakeasy, the local yacht club, even Elvis (an impersonator). Part of me wants to stay. There’s a quaint charm in how confining the town is. Bridge drawing
The next day, I drive into a city I haven’t visited since I was 12 years old. I couldn’t tell you much about the first time I came here, besides that we couldn’t drive over the Golden Gate Bridge because my mother was afraid of heights. I don’t drive over it this time either. It looks like this, but red. human, dog, in park
I parked my car in a garage off Stockton street and proceed on a 5 hour walking tour of San Francisco. I see Chinatown and the Castro. I walk down Haight and admire the youth. I trek up Buena Vista park to see the city from up on high. This is the last picture I take before I return to my car. parking garage
The funny thing is my car isn’t there. I indulge myself in an exercise in absurdity by walking up and down the entirety of the garage twice. And when the reality of having everything I own stolen finally sinks in, I sit down—right there, in the middle of the parking garage. denny’s sign
There I was, reduced to a bundle of bad debts and broken dreams, and for the first time in my adult life I consider giving up photography. I call my friend Aaron and tell him the news. He picks me up from a Denny’s downtown and on the ride back to his house in Palo Alto I tell him everything that happened. He suggests I join the circus. foggy shore
That night, as I lay on Aaron’s air mattress, I start laughing hysterically. The humor of my situation had hit me like a nail-spiked bat. It’s a viscious kind of humor, but I get it. My family are refugees; it’s part of my inheritance. That night I dream of the ocean. I hear a voice say, “We are still waiting.” burning underwear
The next few days I struggle with putting effort into anything. It’s just going to get taken away at the end. This is the problem with being mortal. It’ll all end someday and there’s nothing we can do about it. Why bother? I punctuate my apathy by burning my underwear. honda accord
I get a call from the police department. They found my car. Unfortunately it costs $650 to retrieve it. They won’t reimburse me due to a mishandling of paperwork on their end. Surprisingly, I haven’t felt violated until this happens. I begin to wonder how much fight I have left. Good news, the thief left me: my coathangers, a garment steamer, and a pair of boots. new friend
The following day I go to a beach and stay until I feel like it’s time to leave. Then I stay for another three hours. A girl comes up to me and asks what I’m doing there. I tell her my story. She gives me $20. couple at beach
I take bad cliche beach pictures, and make faces in the sand. I feel the ocean wash over my feet. I watch a father fly a kite high, high in the air until a sudden gust of wind catches it and pulls it from his hands. His child points at it jumping up and down. The mother runs after it, but it’s too late. These are the most vivid memories of my new life. I stop tasting bile in my mouth. hotel window
Before I leave Palo Alto, I participate in a survey Aaron is helping to conduct which requires me to spend the night in a hotel. There’s something unsettling about how every car in the lot is brand new, how all the people look plastic and shiny. I have nothing in common with these people. The next morning the interviewer asks me, “Did you enjoy your room last night?” “Yes,” I answer, “but I think I’d be fine in prison.” Big Sur
Driving down Highway 1 towards Big Sur, I start to feel less pathetic. The majesty of the California coast takes my breath away. My paranoia starts to subside. I stop at a vista point and take this picture, and for the first time I think, “THIS IS CALIFORNIA.” Then a cyclist rides up to me, farts, and rides away. driving in Hollywood
After a night of something loosely defined as “sleep”, I head south on the 101. This being the final leg of my journey, I expect there to be some feeling of accomplishment or triumph, but there’s not—just a vague sense of loss followed by the bracing realization that I’m broke with two pairs of shoes, no job, and no dreams. For a city that’s perpetually sunny, my arrival feels rather chilly. Mile: ??? (Conclusion)
It’s funny how much freedom you gain by loosing everything. There’s a certain clarity that comes with it. All those ideas you have of yourself, who you think you are, all those go away. It’s terrifying, but strangely liberating at the same time. You thought you could be complete—that if you made enough money or had good enough taste life would spare you another pop quiz.
The truth is we don’t exist apart from our struggles. You’ll never come out of this thing unscathed. Why would you even want to? Every ounce of story would be sucked right out of you. Then what would you be? Ridiculous. No, you’ve got to learn to accept your gifts… even if it means losing everything you own.