Living in Frames, by meshing the lyrical moments of life with the captured images of experience. This is a reverie, a journey, the fork in the road, and the never-ending story....

Monday, July 30, 2012

a pilgrim & progress.

I don't have television. I was raised without it and turned out fairly okay, without really missing what I was never accustomed to in the first place—but that's aside from my thought process tonight. At work, a sports bar and tavern with large, flatscreen TVs illuminating every corner of square footage with its quick, schizophrenic imaging flashing constantly in the background and foreground, I sometimes catch myself absorbed in the evening news. Usually when this happens, I have to pull myself away for fear of the doldrums which I know will ensue, if I think too much about what I'm being told is happening in the world, and what is actually happening in the world. For me, its important to make this distinction, so I don't get too caught up in the propaganda the media likes to spin, to sway public thought and opinion.
But then again, ever so often, there is that one story that makes you stop what you are doing, in my case sanitizing dirty glassware, and listen to what is unfolding for somebody, somewhere else. This was the story of Gray's General Store in Adamsville village, Rhode Island. Open for 224 years and owned by the same family for over seven generations, the store permanently shut its doors this past Sunday. Not only was this a heartbreaking report to hear, what further burdened me was that the reason for the store's closure, was due to a big-box superstore coming into the neighborhood and taking away their long-standing business. Gray's just couldn't compete with the lower-priced, China-made products of Bigger, Better, Plus and being no longer financially sustainable, hung their CLOSED (for good) sign in their windows. Hearing this, I teared up.
Maybe I am being overly-sentimental, but I'm not ready to "progress" in this way. I will stick my heels in (and barefoot at that, so I can still feel the soil) and not budge. I will give up the technologies and the conveniences if I have to, to support certain ideologies that shouldn't be replaced or forced out. There isn't anything more refreshing these days, then when someone tells me that they haven't subscribed to the bandwagon that so many others are so happy to jump on. Like yesterday, I met this guy (pictured left), from Juno, Alaska who was on a road trip down to a little town outside of Birmingham, Alabama, to work on a sustainable farm. Not only did this lift my heart a little, but the fact that he called me from a payphone (yes, they still exist) after I had offered him a place to shower and refresh before he got back on the road, made me happy to know that there are still people out there who don't support the monopolies and corporate enterprises, who are surviving quite well while the rest are jockeying to get ahead, or like me, just trying to keep up. It may be the old, simpler way of doing things, but simplicity and community may be the points we've all been missing.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I've spent a lot of time in mill towns. My grandfather was a foreman for Bethlehem Steel Co. by day and jazz musician by night, and my mother and her siblings were raised among the neighborhoods and alleyways, just steps from smoke stacks and the pits, in brick row homes built by Germanic and Dutch immigrants. When I was 10 we moved to the suburbs just outside Pittsburgh, another city with the stigma of being a "dirty steel town with polluted rivers." Which couldn't have been further from the truth, since by the 90's the mills in both Eastern and Western Pennsylvania had been shut down for well over a decade, and had really been making efforts to clean up their acts by promoting their ball fields, parks, museums, festivals, and restaurants. By the time I left in 1999, Pittsburgh was seeing the beginnings of a revival and "blue-collar", "white-collar" it didn't matter anymore, it was a place to take pride in.

When I was first introduced to Lowell, Massachusetts about five years ago, it instantly reminded me of where I had grown up, only a few years behind. I was given the warnings initially: "Don't be walking around those neighborhoods, it's not safe" was the common attitude of Southern NH residents, or anyone from Boston Proper. However, like all cities that are diverse--ethnically and culturally--and have a long-standing history for employing immigrant laborers; there is the funk and the bright side. But in my opinion, these are the things that really give character to a setting.
Lowell has been changing too, in a similar way to other "forgotten" industrial hubs. Every time I turn on the local radio station, I hear another ad for Lowell Festival This, Lowell Festival That; their minor league baseball team, The Spinners; or their luxury lofts that have become most-appealing to artists and musicians alike, trying to escape high Boston rents. Not to mention, this is the birthplace of Jack Kerouac, and Edgar Allen Poe and NY Times journalist, Jimmy Breslin are said to have spent quite some time working around here. Then of course there's Mickey Ward, whose rise from the streets to the ring has gained public notoriety since the film, The Fighter. It's definitely the kind of stomping ground, where you don't have to go far to find inspiration. It is usually sitting in a doorway, on a bench, or waiting for the bus. Just make sure you smile when you pass by though, because you won't meet people as authentically honest, as the people who have been living in Lowell and remember it from the days "Before".

Saturday, July 21, 2012

putting it out into the world.

photo : national geographic
The Kink's, "Summertime" just came on and it is an eery arrangement for the mood I'm in. This latest tragedy in Colorado, puts a multitude of things in perspective for me. I am both saddened and disgusted for and by my fellow mankind (and womankind). It seems as if not enough months or years can pass before we are witnessing another horrific event. There is no time to heal--to let victims and their families move on--when another reminder presents itself, admonishing us that perhaps we have become too trusting, too angry, too inhumane. I too question the capabilities of others, not necessarily how great they can become or how much they can achieve, but what will that trigger point be where they'll snap--unleashing all the pain and turmoil they have been keeping inside, all at the mercy of the innocent; the unsuspecting. What makes a person go this far? How do we live among others without always being suspicious? The pedophiles, the murderers, the thieves-- they don't go away. They will always exist, and if its not a blatant act of brutality, it is methodical, provoked, secretly executed; never seeing the light of justice.
I do not have children, (honestly the thought of it scares the hell out of me), but I give so much credit to those who have decided to. I watch my friends and old acquaintances (in this Facebook-age), hold their babies so close, with so much joy in their being, so much hope in giving their kids good, safe upbringings. I alone, have to watch my steps and actions every day, whether it is just stepping off the curb and walking across the street, or interacting with a complete stranger. These are the days we live in. We take chances often, consciously and unconsciously. We probably have more faith than we should. Being white, American-born, English-speaking, I am very much aware of the "bubble" in which I'm part of. I also have first-hand experience with violence--thankful each day to have survived--more than just survived, flourished-- turning my life into something worth fighting for; that I would never take for granted or throw away on poor decision-making or judgments.
There is the school of thought that the lessons are everywhere; in everything we do and experience. There is also the belief that everything is random, uncontrollable, a constant flip of a coin or roll of the dice, where all we can do is pray for that thing we call "luck". No matter what one chooses to believe, we need to remember that we are in this together; no matter of race, our creed, our religion. What we decide to put out into the world--our energy, our offspring, our teachings--it affects us all.

Jean-Luc "GOD" on Criticism.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Ego and Id.

A friend of mine who is a chef, likes to joke with me from time-to-time about my
writing pursuits,

"Cookbook, Sarah. Have you written that cookbook yet?"

I've worked around restaurants for almost 15 years, I enjoy dabbling in the culinary arts, and have a deep appreciation for those who do it better and for a living. Life without my taste buds would be quite bland; for it is a basic need to eat, but it is a pleasure to enjoy food.

What makes me hesitant however, to translate my passion for the edible to the page, is my ego. When writing loses its magic, its allure, its power for me, will be when it becomes so much about "me" and "my interests" that my focus shifts. The written word has always been an essential part of my life, not unlike the vittles of nutrition, but where is the line between quality work in the craft and subject matter? When does one overtake the other and become too much about the Ego or Id? Too much about you and less about the art? Or is there no division at all, since the art can't exist without the mind from which it came.

Ironically, I am introducing this topic on a blog, which is just another forum for self-glorifying subject matter. But more so, Freud was actually dying from cancer of the "oral cavity", when his daughter gave her blessing to administer the morphine that finally ended his life.

C'est la vie!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

In a pinch.

Usually, I curse having to carry my cell phone on my person night and day, because then its harder to make up excuses for not answering. Sometimes I "forget" this pocket device at home, particularly when I get into one of those moods where being disconnected is a good thing for all around...

However, today was one different kind of day, because I was actually thankful for having my mobile. I'd been walking around Portland, snapping photos and working on some sentences, but this city can sometimes be a busted box of cartoons with an adrenaline drip, and it is as easy to get sidetracked with the side shows, as it is with the wrought iron fences, white-washed trimmed houses, and the quaint boutiques. So, as I was distracted people watching, getting a coffee, and perusing used bookstores, the battery for my camera drained. I was bummed, because a friend had joined  up with me to meander with their camera too, and here I was with a disabled shutter, stuttering about the "should haves" and "could haves"-- I was a 30 min walk from home, and it looked like it was going to rain. In attempt to capture the last of the "golden hour," I pulled out my trusty phone and prayed for a little mercy from the photography gods.

I've learned my lesson about not leaving home without a pen/pencil, now I may have to resort to technological measures...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Live Free.

This is definitely an inspiring story, but I felt it should stand alone rather than be buried on one of my tabbed pages. Enter Forest Wood: In those calm hours of barkeeping when travelers from the North Country (Montreal & Quebec), parts of Europe, and upstate New York accidently stumble upon our restaurant, after a boat tour or day of shopping, I make conversation with the non-locals as they wait for their lobsters or fish-and-chip's platters, curious of where they are from and what brings them to town. On this particularly evening, a lumberjack-size of a man with full, camping equipment and a GPS hanging from one strap of his backpack, sporting a Veteran's service hat, silver-rimmed glasses, and a infectious smile enters through our swinging, nautical doors. Instantly, I take him as someone who needs to set the weight of his pack down, and enjoy some comfort food and a couple of cold ones.

Come to find out, Forest has been on the road since May, starting in his hometown of Seattle, Washington and walking across the United States. A retired naval officer, he worked on submarines for almost half his life, and part of the joy of this trip for him is to meet and see the faces of all his fellow countrymen and women. His intinerary is most impressive and I have subscribed to his Facebook page where he checks in at many of his locations, raving about the food or exilirated by a new sight. His words are touching and make me realize the odyssey that is the human spirit, and how much great acts can enliven others to dream big.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Love to see these sorts of communal gatherings pop up again. "Happenings" revisited as outlets of artistic expression & collaboration.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Hemingway believed the best way to write about a place is to have distance from it. "Never write about a place until you are far away from it," he said, "because this is what gives you perspective." Perhaps this was part of his "Iceberg Theory" writing-style (Theory of Ommission), or maybe because inspiration didn't hit for him until he had exited a scene or environment. It is true that sometimes when immersed in a situation, particularly conducive to creating, you are really feeling and taking in all the things that are going on and you don't want to step outside yourself or take a minute to reflect, because then you could possibly miss out on that one isolated incident or rare exchange that unlocks everything else.
This method doesn't work for everyone. There are authors that want and need to be flung into the middle of an experience, so that all their senses are piqued and their minds are stimulated and responsive to whatever is taking place around them. I suppose the opposite of ommission theorists, would be the adventure writing breed. Not to continuously go back to my love and fixation with National Geographic magazine as a kid (that I would actually steal from the homes of family friends or dentist offices, because my mother told me the subscription was too expensive), one of my first experiences with adventure writing was reading articles accompanied by the images of Galen Rowell, a photographer and mountaineer who heavily focused on the Sierra Nevadas, Denali National Park, the John Muir Wildernesss, and Tibet. I fell hard for the energy and liveliness that penetrated deep crevases of being, enlightened at those high peaks, and transported me to places unlike any I have known before. And it never went away, wanting to absorb everything I can, even if it is simply just capturing three, simple characters: the storyteller in the cowboy hat and bolo tie, the retired one wearing a mesh "Elk's Club" ball cap, and the pensive one sporting 70s pornstar glasses; three friends sitting outside an antique store among the dinged up dressers and side tables they hawk from the sidewalk, never leaving their aluminum chairs (today's observation).

Last year I took a workshop with Craig Childs, on being able to write anywhere, and when I say anywhere: it isn't uncommon to find him working in places either on the cusp of mortal danger, taboo to the yokels, or perfectly obscure. A spectacle and specimen in a genus of his own, his frantic yet disciplined writing on location, reminds me of the same drive of a young, idiot savant who hears music wherever they go and must in turn, orchestrate and harmonize. The lessons I took away from this master of spontaneous word, was if I wanted to truly know "what its like", then to seek out what its like; to become entranced by it, feel it on my skin and smell it in my nose, see it with my own dilated pupils and feel it with the adrenaline of a pounding heart.

At 4:30 this morning, I needed to know the quiet hour of dawn; just before the eastern horizon becomes possessed by light, and the wild things begin to stir. Working on a character who wakes to catch the deer awake, I just had to find out what this meant to a person and how I could make it even more believable. Here is what I found:
For the birds, I mean.
They begin at the hour of blue:
little ones first, chirping like crickets,
then the hollow echo, the night guardian,
the coo of morning doves.

The trees come alive,
creaking awake,
with silhouettes in their leaves,
like light-box cameos,
from early school years.

Tubes of color: ambrosia & peach,
spackled and smeared
over yonder.

They will come for the seeds,
scattered across this porch,
and amongst my begonias.

If I keep the quilts wrapped close,
maybe they won't notice me here.