Monday, May 31, 2010

365 photo Project - Day 151

Taken: May 31, 2010, 7:30 p.m.
Location: Santa Rosa, Ca.

Like most people, I left home at 18 to go to college and for the most part, I never went back. I spent the last two summers of high school working at a sleep-over summer camp and when I moved to D.C. to start college, it never occurred to me to go back home in between semesters. It wasn't that I didn't want to spend time with my family, it was just time for me to move on. I was on my own and I knew I had to learn how to make my way in the world.

I started talking on the phone with my parents a lot. I'd call a few times a week, get them up to speed with the goings on, sometimes ask for money and hear about how everything was going back home. We didn't have cell phones then; you had to stop somewhere in order to make the call. Whether it was the phone in my dorm, the pay phone out on 20th Street, you had to sit in one place for the duration. I can't believe how weird that seems to me now. You too, I'm sure.

I had one other weekly call I would make. To my grandma Ada in Brooklyn. She was my Mom's mom,   an often dower, cynical redhead who didn't take shit from anybody. She was what was once called a "piece of work" -- a true original. I don't think I ever really understood her and she died when I was in my early 20s, way before I figured out who I was much less my crazy iron-fisted grandmother. But we did talk on the phone a lot. I don't remember any details from our talks, just the general feeling of them and a vague recollection of her voice.

I don't recall if she gave me any advice or if we just talked about what was going on in my life. I just remember I could call her and talk. And then when she died I remember thinking how I couldn't do that anymore. And for a long time after, I would think about picking up the phone and calling her like she was still around. I still think about her sometimes and our phone calls. I wish I could remember what the hell we talked about.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

365 photo Project - Day 150

Taken: May 30, 2010, approx. 10 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

When my husband and I sold our house in Santa Monica and moved up here, we figured it wouldn't be long before we'd be able to buy something new up here. That was almost four years ago and our dream of owning property again seems as unlikely as ever. We're both freelancers. When we work, we do quite well but we sometimes go for long stretches without getting jobs and that sucks. Big time.

The year we moved up here was the Hollywood strike year. Up to that point, I'd had a pretty good run. As some of you know, I've been fortunate to work on some pretty iconic TV shows, including 24 and the Law & Order franchise. I even developed a few shows, though none of them made it on the air. Still, I didn't expect to be having so much trouble finding work after so many years of doing so well.

Lucky for me I have my novels and the shows I did write for, continue to provide residuals. Yet, it's been difficult. Hollywood is one of those industries that opens doors wide and closes them fast. You have to be smart and good an agile, you have to have a thick skin and you can't take any of it personally. There is a long list of Hollywood success stories that came after long stretches of not being able to find work. You can't start a career in this business without understanding you are going to have a dryspell at some point. It happens to almost everybody.

The most important thing to remember in those lean times, is to keep writing and creating and to never lose faith in your own talent. I'm one of those people that believe cream rises always. I believe in hard work and I mostly always believe in myself. I admit, though, it's been tough to keep the faith these last few months and that's why I've been writing so hard and so much lately. I want to reclaim what I had and I want it before it's too late, whenever the hell that is.

I feel close, too. Closer than I've felt in a long time. I know I've never wanted anything for myself so much, that's for damn sure.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 149

Taken: May 29, 2009, 6 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca.

These are my new Converse. I've been wanting them for months but didn't want to fork out the $150 they cost retail. But I'm patient and when they finally went on sale, I pounced on them.  Got me a great deal, too. I know I'm going to look back on my blog a year or so from now and be totally chagrinned for the days when I just wrote about my silver sneakers. But these days, I've been leaving a lot of my work on the page and for a writer, there's nothing better. I'll catch a second wind soon. I hope you'll bear with me 'til I do.

Friday, May 28, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 148

Taken: May 28, 2010, approx 3 pm
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

I probably write too much about the weather but today was such a sparklingly beautiful afternoon, that I just couldn't stand being inside. I had to make a trip over the hill into Napa Valley (to see a young friend in his school play) and it gave me a chance to take in the sunshine and relatively clear skies. It feels like spring is finally here to stay, though it's been a tease for much of the month of May so I'm not betting on anything.

Apologies for the last few brief posts. I'm trying to catch my breath these last couple of days and I'm pretty worn out from an intense writing week. Sometimes when I tap the old brain cells, nothing good comes out of them.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 147

Taken: May 27, 2010, approx. 9 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca.

When I drove home from work tonight, this moon was hanging over the city, so big it seemed like it had grown 1000 times larger during the day. I stopped along my road to try to capture it but I only had my 200mm lens, which isn't quite big enough to get a great shot of something so far away. But the cloud cover rolling through the sky was passing over it, so I got some cool detail in it.

I didn't alter the color in this image -- it's exactly as I saw it.  The only edits I did was to crop and blow it up slightly.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 146

Taken: May 26, 2010, 2 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

I've had several straight days where I've slept very well. I can't explain it. I've actually had a lot on my mind lately, more than usual which is saying a lot. I'm facing another TV staffing season and so far, not much is happening that makes me think a job is in my near future.  It's not over yet, though and I've got some meetings in LA coming up, but so far, it's been truly a bummer.

I'm also involved in a personal legal situation that's taxing my patience and my wallet. I'd rather have not pursued this course of action, but I felt I was left with no choice. It feels good to take action, though, and while I hope this will turn out in our favor (and believe objectively that it should) I didn't take this action without a lot of forethought. Sometimes you have stand up for yourself even if it's painful to do that.

My work has been generally going well and I'm beginning to see a true end to this novel I'm writing. I don't think I can go another fall and winter with it on my conscience so I'm feeling the pressure.  It's no wonder I was having trouble sleeping for so long but the last few days, I've gotten a lot of good Z's.

It's amazing what a little rest does to a person's general disposition and how easily I forget how important it is until I have a good stretch of sleepfull nights. Sometimes I think I should be more like my pugs. They sleep, they eat, they play, rinse and repeat. Work is good for the soul I know. I'm not kidding. It's good for you but if you take it too seriously, if you mistake the goal for the journey, you end up missing really important stuff -- like, um, life.

The best kind of "can't sleep" is the one that comes from anticipation. The good kind of anticipation, the "I can't wait for tomorrow because something big is going to happen" kind. The word "big" here has no particular meaning -- it should mean something different to each of us. I love nights like that because even if you don't get as much sleep as you want, when you finally do fall into dreamland, it's with a smile on your face and a beat and a half in your heart.

When I was a kid, I used to get into bed and concentrate really hard on the next day. The idea was to pick out something cool about tomorrow, something worth getting up for, something to anticipate. It was an exercise that helped me deal with some awkward and painful growing pains. And I used it many years into adulthood until somewhere along the way, I just stopped. I don't even remember when or why. I've been trying to start up again. In many ways it's like riding a bicycle, even to the point where it feels like you're exercising whole new muscles you haven't used in awhile.

But the feeling of anticipation and the wonderful lightness it brings with it hasn't changed. I remember it like it was yesterday and it still makes me smile.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 145

Taken: May 25, 2010, 5 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

I drove home in the middle of a long writing session yesterday in the late afternoon. I was hoping to find something for today's photo on the way -- two birds with one stone and all that. It was raining, again and it was cold, again too. This weather has been a bitch and it's showing no signs of letting up. I can't believe it's nearly June and I'm complaining it's not hot enough but I am. I'll regret it in a few weeks I'm sure, but right now, I could use some warming sunshine.

There has been a low line of clouds hanging over the vineyards along the road on the way to my house. Lots of photo ops but I'm getting over those views too -- at least for this project. I want to shoot something else. How cool that as I was driving along, I saw this bird, it's white feathers standing in stark contrast to the dark, grey sky.

I don't know what kind of bird it is -- looks to me like a crane -- but it sure was lovely framed against the green landscape. The bird wouldn't let me get too close, flying off each time I walked toward it to get a better shot. In fact, this image was obviously taken as the bird was trying to fly away from me.

Anyway, since I'm trying to get all caught up with my posts, this will be another quick and dirty entry. Promise I'll write more for the next one.  Before I go, though, I should mention that my friend who has been in the ICU at UC Davis medical Center for more than a week, has shown amazing signs of improvement. After a visit from her rescue pug Betty, she opened her eyes today. Long way to go, but any progress at this point is worth celebrating.

Monday, May 24, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 144

Taken: May 24, 2010, 6 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca.

I'm behind in my posts -- again. Been doing some writing and then resting and also working on a personal project that is relatively easy but emotionally charged to the point where it's been stressful.
I hope by some time tonight (or tomorrow) I'll be all caught up. Up to this point, as my loyal readers can attest, my self-portraits have hidden a lot of my face. As I've written about here, it's mostly my vanity at work here.

But they've also been progressively offering more, which is not entirely on purpose. It's been a naturally evolution for me as I become for confident in myself -- and even more important -- my photography abilities. I'm happy to report that I'm trying to branch out more in that regard and am shooting almost entirely in manual mode. This might not seem like a big deal to some but it's huge for me -- it means I'm taking more chances, using my gut and my eye more and drawing on everything I've ever learned about this craft. Fun meet scary. Ha.

The other evening I was working in my office and needed to take a break from a sticky writing problem, I decided to try setting up a real self-portrait. I used a halogen lamp and some cardboard to direct the light, set the camera up on a tripod and then later just took a bunch of shots handheld style. This image is my favorite of the bunch (one of the handheld versions). I like it metaphorically as well as actually because of how my face seems to emerge from the shadows. They do say a picture tells a thousand words.

I think of this blog like that, as me offering more insight into me even as I learn more about myself. It's been grueling but fun too and I'm mostly enjoying the ride. But since I have two more posts to put up before the end of the day, I'm going to keep this one short.

365 Photo Project - Day 143

Taken: May 23, 2010, 10 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca.

That's Chamuco, my little pug all tuckered out after spending the day with me. I took him down to Sacramento today -- a 3-hour round trip -- to visit my friend in the hospital. She is still very ill and not out of the woods yet, but she has made progress. The nurses at the hospital, encourage family and friends to bring their pets -- believing that it helps patients in their recovery. My friend is the reason we have Chamuco and I thought it was fitting to bring him along for a visit.
I was worried that he would be a little bit too rambunctious for a visit to the hospital, but he did well. I know this sounds silly, but he is a very sensitive soul and I think he sensed the gravity of the illness around him. I know that scientists have shown that some dogs can sense when people are sick and without knowing anything about it, I believe it. 
When we put Chamuco on my friend's bed, he didn't get excited. He wagged his tail and sniffed around, licking her hands and feet, but he resonated a Zen-like calm. Very unlike a dog whose name means "Little Devil."
He had a positive effect on everyone who saw him that day -- even my friend's father who we met outside her room. Chamcuo went right up to him and sat at his feet, letting him rub his head. This is the same dog that would rather jump on a person to greet them. I was impressed with his demeanor. Perhaps he is smarter than I give him credit for.
I loved to see the smiles on people's faces as we walked through the hospital hallways. Pugs are indeed strange looking dogs, what with their scrunchy flat faces, bulging eyes and stocky builds, but I defy you to find a pug that can't put a smile on someone's face.
It was a long day for Chamuco but I was glad to have him along as my copilot for the day. I hope the visit helped my friend, even just a little. I don't need any reinforcement in my belief of the Power of the Pug, but seeing my friend get better would be a warm and welcome sight.

365 Photo Project - Day 142

Taken: May 22, 2010, noon
Location: Healdsburg, Ca.

Yes, I know, another vineyard and sky image. But look at those clouds. How could I not take this one?
Life, once again, seems to be filling my days with too much to do and too little time to do it. I've been trying to stay abreast of this, but I can't seem to keep up. Tonight, I'm putting up three days of posts. So there won't be much writing.
As you can see from the image, we've had a lot of weather. It's been an odd month of May, with days on end where the sun and the clouds seem in a constant battle for supremacy. I've seen two rainbows this month and twice, have driven through a pouring rain one moment that turns to sunshine minutes later. I don't want to make too much of it, but it's hard not to believe in global warming plan you experience such rapid-fire changes in the weather.
It's not that I don't like it. Believe me, after more than a decade in Los Angeles, a change in the weather within even a five-day period is welcome. Down in LA, anything besides sunny and 70 degrees is just weird.
But even saying that, I'm ready for summer. I want to sit on my porch and look out on the view and feel the warmth of the sun on my face. I don't want to be cold at night, not at least until late September when the hot weather will be what gets on my nerves.
I love describing weather and of course, finding a way to link it emotionally or psychologically to whatever it is I'm writing. It's a great way to set certain kinds of scenes as well. But I don't check the weather daily and I'm often surprised when I wake up and it's raining.
And as much as I like a little change in the seasons, I don't think there's anything that could get me to move back to the East Coast, or any place that has real winters. Hell, I love snow but the slush and slippery ice, the brutal cold and chilly winds -- you can keep all that stuff. I want nothing to do with it.
When I moved out to Los Angeles, my father told me that he was sure I would return to the East Coast within two years, three tops. He had been out in Southern California when he served in the Navy in the 1950s, and like any experience that happens to you when you're young, it left an indelible impression on him. That impression wasn't a good one. A born and bred New Yorker, my father didn't quite understand the West Coast temperament. I think it felt too new to him, too much like it was temporary.
This is a rap that has dogged Los Angeles even as it has grown into a relative middle age. Like any cliché, it is not entirely untrue. Certainly when my father was there, it undoubtedly felt a lot more like the reality. He has only been out there I think two more times, both of them to visit me. I'm here to report that it did not change his opinion. My one regret is for the first time they arrived. I didn't know Los Angeles as well as I would come to know it and I wasn't sure yet how the relationship would turn out.
When I first arrived, I immediately started a job that put me on the road for most of the next 2 1/2 years. I hardly had a chance to stop and get to know my neighborhood, much less the city itself. A combination of factors, including, ironically, the 1994 Northridge Earthquake, forced me to discover the the City of Angels and began what has been an uninterrupted love affair.
When the 10 Freeway went down during the quake, it forced many of us who relied on what was one of the busiest freeways in the country, to take surface streets. Up to that point, I was so concerned about getting where I needed to go for work -- and I was working seven days a week -- that I didn't bother veering off the freeway or learning shortcuts. My days off were spent catching up on sleep and TV and reading, I had very few friends outside of work and not much time to spend looking for any. Suddenly, I was having to learn how to navigate all these streets I'd seen only as signs on the freeway. It changed everything I knew and everything I thought I knew about LA.
I am sure everyone who moves to a new place has this same experience, one way or another. And eventually they get to the point where I finally did when you can close your eyes, and see the once complicated seeming grid of streets and buildings and skylines and know exactly where most everything is -- more or less.
But when my parents arrived, my knowledge of LA wasn't that much more than your typical tourist.  I didn't really know where to take them or where to eat or even the best way to get there. And while I covered a little bit of my Los Angeles on their second trip, which was in the early part of the last decade, I was a different person then. I was living with someone, we'd bought a house, got a dog. It wasn't the same LA I'd discovered as a single working woman, unattached, free to roam.
I think there's only one time in your life when you fall in love for a place and a friend or parent or a sibling will come to visit and you are in that perfect mode to share what makes it magical for you. With LA and my parents, I think I blew it.
Had my parents come to visit me a year or two after Northridge, I would have shown them the Los Angeles of my dreams, the one I came to write about in my novels, the place that will occupy a little room in my heart forever. I believe I may even have won over my father, if only a little. I would have totally done it different that's for sure.
Even so, I know they understand a little because my Los Angeles is also in the pages of my novels, at least I hope it is. Of course, for my father to admit that he was wrong about me, is something else entirely. It's been a bit longer than three years since I've moved out to California and I'm sure he knows by now, I ain't going back. 
I will always be a New Yorker, but I'm now a Californian too. And I'm totally okay with that. I know he is too.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 141

Taken: May 21, 2010, 7 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Here I am, writing and filing two posts within a few minutes of each other. I'm telling you, this shit ain't easy.

I have a friend who is very sick and has been on life support for much of the last week. She's a lawyer and a tireless volunteer for a nearby pug rescue. She has come to the aid of many needy pugs and adopted a few herself. It was through her that we found our youngest pug, Chamuco.

I don't know this woman particularly well, but we've had some long phone calls about pugs and life and a dinner or two when I've had to bring my other pug, Louie, down to UC Davis veterinary hospital. There was a moment apparently when her condition was so grave, we weren't sure if she would make it. But she's relatively young and very tough and she has shown some signs of improvement. Her friends and family are hopeful, as am I.

What has really amazed and inspired me is the outpouring of love and support she has received from all over the world. This is what community is all about.

While many people have offered prayers of a religious nature and are talking about the power of God's word, I think there's something else entirely going on here. I think I've said this here before, but I don't believe in religion per se. I believe in spirituality, however that may come to you or work for you. If you want to go to church or temple or dance naked in the woods, it doesn't matter to me. Just don't try to sell your Way to me. Seriously, I think proselytizing should be illegal.

I do believe in positive thinking. I think that sending positive vibes out into the world can do some good. I mean I'm not saying that a group of people all thinking the same thing can make an elephant float in the air, but I do think energies can be created.

And if I can bring this back down to earth, there is no practicality in worrying. Most of the time what we worry about happening not only hasn't happened yet but probably isn't going to happen, Not in the way we expect. And really, what we want to have happen often isn't what needs to happen. This is all that ridiculousness that people get bogged down in, the idea that our futures need to unfold in a very specific way for us to be happy. Well I'm sure you don't need me to tell you that it's all bullshit.

So I guess what I'm saying is why not think positive thoughts and while you're at it, why not spread the love?

I don't know and I don't think anybody knows why our friend has come back from the brink. And I don't even think it's important to dwell on the reasons why. But I do know a lot of folks are thinking about her and I'd like to believe that the sum total of all that positive energy has had an effect on her cautious recovery.

What it does prove for certain is that our friend has touched a lot of lives, two legs and four legs alike, and if there's one truth that I know for sure, it's that if you put love out in the world, it will come back to you one thousand times over.

I don't want to get ahead of myself, as my friend's recovery is still in progress, but my favorite part of the story so far is of her rescued pug Betty who was brought to the hospital in hopes of providing her comfort. Betty, a little black pug with a face whitened by age, curled up at her owner's feet as she lay there on a ventilator unable to speak and unconscious. Yet I'm told that she reached out to touch her pug at one point. And Betty, being a pug, curled up and went to sleep. Reportedly her snoring could be heard throughout the ICU.

Clearly, there was a connection between them that could not be broken, that spoke to each of them, even when one of them simply could not speak. If you want to put a name to it, fine. But I'd like to believe there's magic at work here.

Is it any wonder that God spelled backwards is dog?

As a matter of fact, I know there's a connection between pets and their owners. I think sometimes we tend to ascribe human feelings and thoughts to animals and I think that's probably presumptuous of us. But I do believe that they understand us and love us and we can form bonds with them that are as strong as the bonds we form with each other. If that doesn't make you put a positive thought out in the world, then nothing will.

I'll be keeping my friend in my thoughts as long as she needs them. But I'll also be thinking of Betty, for I have confidence in the power of the pug. I expect if more people believed in that, the world would be a wonderful place.

Told you I was an optimist.

365 Photo Project - Day 140

Taken: May 20, 2010, sunset
Location: Healdsburg, Ca.

I've been without my laptop for almost a week. The touchpad stopped working and I had to leave it with the geniuses at Apple. Already, I was having trouble keeping up with my posts here. But losing my laptop, where I file most of my entries at night before I go to sleep, really put a hitch in my get up and go.

I know I talk a lot about how far behind I am and I hope you will forgive me. I guess when I started this project I didn't really think much about the commitment I was making. It is a big commitment, not really in time as much as effort. Ironically, it's not finding images that slow me down. It's coming up with something write here that does.

Strangely -- or apropos depending on how you look at it --  this project has become more about the writing then the photography. I suppose that means the joke's on me.

I'm a little fascinated by it to be honest because after a day of writing (which is the way most days are for me now), I'm surprised at how much I have to talk about. I know that part of this has to do with the subject of my novel as well as a couple of other things that I've been dabbling in. I've been trying to do more with my work, I mean as an artist. It's not that I don't like what I've written before -- I'm very proud of my first novel for example -- it's that I feel that I needed to find something more,  dig deeper, find another gear so to speak. I wanted to be better.

I've talked about this here before, but it's been a long time since I've had a novel published.  It's occasionally been a source of disappointment, perhaps a little humiliation. I don't really know why I've not finishing something I like these last few years and part of me doesn't even care. But for a long time,  for better or worse -- mostly worse -- I blamed myself fully and completely for my failure. 

Of course, I played a role in the publishing drought but a lot of other factors were involved too. Too many to name really. Whatever. I just knew it was time to give myself a break.

And I'm not beating myself up about it anymore, at least not every day. In the mystery book business, authors are expected to pretty much have a book out once every year give or take a few months. I don't think I'll ever be that kind writer. But at the same time, if I'm going to take some more time to write something, it's got to be really good. Imagine that thought cycle running around your brain and it doesn't take a big brain to figure out why I've been unpublished for 10 years. 

Talk about your self-fulfilling prophecy. 

The funny part is I never thought I'd be one of those writers that got writer's block or couldn't write for some reason. I've always loved writing, never really thought about it as work or drudgery. In some very real and important ways, writing has been a sanctuary for me especially when my day job was a bitch. But some where in the last 10 years or so, it has become work and I've forgotten what it's been like to write free.

Of course, this makes me unbearably sad. But if there's anything I can say about it now, it's that I'm beginning to break out of that bad place, open up my self-constructed cocoon and fly unbound. There's going to be a day some time soon when I'm going to be able to sit at my desk and the words will come with an ease that will make my heart sing. I have faith remember.

Until then, I'm going to think good thoughts and let my better intentions guide me. Tomorrow's a new day. Always. And being an eternal optimist, I always expect it to be a good one.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 139

Taken: May 19, 2010, 7 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Late in the day, I went for a long drive. It had been raining on and off all day and as I drove along the winding, narrow two-lane Westside Road looking for something to shoot, the light was fading and sky, dreary and cloudy, hung over everything like a white shroud.

A few miles down the road, I turned around to park across from a local dairy farm, where I could shoot some cows that were grazing on the side of a hill. A squirrel darted in to the road but it juked at the same time and angle that I did and that was all she wrote.

It’s not unusual to see and sometimes hit animals around here. My husband, driving up our long dirt road shortly after we moved here, accidentally ran over a neighbor’s dog who had gotten loose at night. When he got out to see what he’d run over, the dying dog had the same flat-nosed face as our pug. Broke my husband’s heart. A few months after that, I hit a small bird that just like the squirrel, swerved with me as I try to avoid it.

It sucks of course, even if it’s part of living in a rural area. Confrontations between creatures and car wheels, gardens, lawns, swimming pools – are common. I hope the karma police give me a pass for the poor squirrel I hit last night, though.

Later, as I headed back to town, I stopped on a small bridge to take photos of the sky as it was rapidly changing from cloudy to light even as the sun was setting. As I was shooting, it started to rain again. The droplets were big almost like tiny snowflakes and you could see them against the backdrop of the bridge and the trees and the sky as if the view was an old grainy movie. It was strangely affecting, beautiful and I stood there transfixed. I stopped taking photos so I could breathe in the moment and then suddenly like a tap on the shoulder, I felt it.

I turned around and stared at the rainbow I knew was in the sky even before I saw it. Not the prettiest rainbow I’ve ever seen nor the biggest and I was caught in a pretty terrible position to take a good shot of it (which is why it isn’t my shot of the day. You can see it here on my Flickr page). But with the light falling rain and the rapidly evolving sky, the weirdly warming temps and the sharp rays of sunlight peeking out through the darkening clouds, it was breathtaking. Almost a religious experience.

Another reminder why I love being in a place where nature is always visible, always changing and  unpredictable.

I had a similar experience the first time I drove through the Colorado Rockies. I had only been in Los Angeles twice before I moved out there in the summer of ‘92. My travels had been limited to a few places along the eastern seaboard, some spots in the Midwest for some sportswriting assignments and one trip abroad to England, France and Switzerland.

My first view of the West by car came at the end of my cross-country drive Washington DC to LA over a seven days at the end of that July. I stopped to visit a friend in Denver and then drove south over the Rockies, to see the Grand Canyon before heading for the City of Angels. As I drove up into the mountains the weather kept changing, alternating between light and dark, blue skies and white and following me through the pass, a heavy threatening cloud.

When it rained, it rained hard and more than once, I had to pull off the road because I couldn’t see two feet in front of me. But the storms were short-lived, just like every other weather change. I’ve since learned that mountainous areas can be that way, the constantly changing and evolving weather patterns bringing sun and rain, sometimes in the same fifteen minutes.

I was awed by the views, most of them seen through the ethereal mist of low-lying clouds. The high mountains in the background, rose above the scene with a kind of hyper detail, some of them snow-capped even though it was well into summer. I pulled over at a touristy truck stop to call my parents from a payphone so I could describe the scene to them. I knew then that, despite my Dad’s prediction I’d be back east within a year or two, I had found a place to call home.

It’s natural to wish you could bottle moments like this. But I think maybe that might ruin the rare times when you find yourself in the same place again. Believe me, they are worth waiting for. Like falling in love with the same person all over again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 138

Taken: May 18, 2010, 7 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

I talk a lot about my Internet addiction but I don't mean to dismiss it entirely. There is so much you can do online now that in certain ways it does make your life easier.  The access to photographs, art, essays, fiction, all sorts of scientific and medical materials, interviews, historical documents, research papers and more makes it a virtual university for learning about almost anything.

My personal favorite is iTunes University and podcasts. I usually only listen to the radio when I'm in my car and unlike the my time in traffic-challenged Los Angeles, I don't spend all that much time in my car anymore. I miss listening to my favorite NPR shows, like Fresh Air. But now I can keep up with them through iTunes and it's changed my life. I have only scratched the surface of iTunes U, picking and choosing lectures, interviews and readings on a variety of subjects that interest me. Every time I find something particularly interesting I'm reminded of the power of the Internet to enlighten, instruct and educate. Way cool.

In two recently Fresh Air interviews, successful middle-aged adults talked about their parents, how misunderstood they were as kids and how hard they tried to not become like them. For a kid whose parents were both (relatively) loving and understanding, I admit I'm fascinating by stories of strained relationships between parents and children. I write a lot about them -- very few of my major characters come from typical, so-called normal or well-adjusted families.

I won't put too fine a point on this --  I mean the reason I like to write about troubled relationships is because it's interestingly dramatically. I think I empathize because I know what it's like to be safe and loved. It's helpful to have a comparison to draw from -- not that growing up my siblings and I didn't have major bumps along the way. I remember a time when I could barely speak to my Dad. Thinking back on it now, it just makes me seem like a brat but my 16-year-old self would probably disagree.

I don't mean fighting was wrong. Like I've written here before, I learned at an early age that the road isn't straight and you're as likely as not to tumble and fall. Collecting scrapes and bruises, wounds and battle scars is part of the experience. My parents taught me it was okay to fuck up, as long as you were willing to learn from it. You might disappoint them every so often but you could never lose their love. That's just the kind of gentle landing pad a kid with big dreams needs when she's about to jump off into the deep end.

The other thing this attitude teaches a person is that disappointment is part and parcel to the journey. There's a line in an Indigo Girls song that touches on this: "I hear the owl in the night / I realize some things will never be made right."  When you grow up knowing you're not going to win every battle, get everything you want, you gain a crucial understanding how the world works. The first and most obvious lesson is how terribly unfair it is. But if you're getting the right education, you quickly realize that's just surface shit. In the end, fair or unfair, it won't matter.  Thinking of yourself as the center of the universe is only gonna bring you grief. Everybody thinks they're getting a raw deal, even the beautiful people.

The thing that will stick with you, the lesson worth learning is that life isn't going to always work out, not in the way you hope it will. Not even how you imagine or fear. The irony is that this isn't always a bad thing. You must follow your heart whenever you can -- to me it's the only way to truly be happy -- but you can't forget that it's the journey that's ultimately the story of the life you will live. The end doesn't matter - the only end that's important is the one nobody survives -- focus too much on the finish line and you'll miss everything.

I sometimes think back on my old successes and wonder why I made such a big deal about them. They seem so small and inconsequential now.  Same for those nights when I cried myself to sleep over some big sorrow -- turns out whatever I was unhappy about wasn't the end of the world after all.

My father is big on taking stuff as it comes, never making too much out of the victories or the defeats. If you make too much about them, your life will just be a roller coaster with steep climbs, death falls and a whole lot of blind turns. Might be fun to live with way for awhile but, you'll just be making things harder on yourself.  Trust me on that one.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 137

Taken: May 17, 2010, 10 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

I slept through the night last night. First full night's sleep in more days than I can remember. It felt good to wake up with the lightness of a good rest. Sometimes I forget how important it is.

I used to take naps every day. I read an article how a 20-minute nap around three in the afternoon could do wonders for your energy,  rejuvenate the mind and body and so I decided to try it. I had this job on a weekly paper in a small town outside Washington, D.C., which was about a mile from my house. So I got to eating lunch at my desk most days, then sneaking home for an hour in the mid-afteroon for a 20-minute nap (yeah, I timed it). Afterward, I'd go back to work and feel like a new person. I don't know if it was my youth or the nap or the fact that I exercised like a mad person back in those days, but I remember feeling sharper, quicker, more on my game, especially when I took that quick little power nap.

Plus I loved the feeling of crawling into bed in the middle of the day, letting sleep was over me. Those first few moments when my eyes got heavy and I started to fall into dreamland were addicting they felt so good. Over time my body got so used to the routine, I could fall asleep around 3 p.m. on cue. The tough days were the ones when I couldn't break free to get my 40 winks. I'd have to drag myself through the afternoon like I had lead in my shoes.

I used to write in my head when I slept. Whole sentences, paragraphs, pages would appear to me in my dreams. Not all of it was usable but it was a big part of my writing process. It's how I wrote the opening page of my first novel.  I wonder sometimes if getting older makes us slower not because we're older age-wise, but because all the small stuff suddenly seems so important. We have bills to pay, responsibilities. people who rely on us. In some ways I feel I've let this steal my creativity, like boxing it up on the top shelf or storing it in the attic.

Could it all be because I don't nap anymore?

Writers have to work almost every day. Believe me, it's not easy. And by not easy, I'm not comparing it to digging ditches. It's just hard to maintain faith in yourself. This is something I talk a lot about here. It's possible, I'm having a crisis of creative confidence.  Even saying this, I know I'm making progress. I'm putting myself out there and I'm writing. Every day. But it's a bitch when you know in your heart you're making progress and yet you've nothing to show for it.

Then I think perhaps I'm thinking about it all wrong. I should listen more to my writing hero, James Lee Burke. You can't be worrying about all that extraneous shit. Focus on the work. Take it one day at a time and believe in your vision and see it through and you'll know when it's done. When it works.

Jim Burke is a smart man. I've got his words on my wall over my writing desk and in a real sense, I feel I'm starting to recapture that post-nap euphoria of my youth.

Trust the work, keep my head down and plow ahead.

Watch out world, I'm coming.

Monday, May 17, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 136

Taken: May 16, 2010, 9 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

I'm trying to get more organized. I'm convinced it's going to help me be more, well, me. I've got a new dry erase calendar on my wall and I've got my office mostly in order. I'm putting a schedule together so I know what I need to do and when I need to do it. The only thing left is for me to put it into practice.

I'm not the neatest person in the world but I've always been more-or-less organized. I like having things within reach and even when my office is covered in paper, I pretty much know where everything is. Every few weeks, I go through the piles and organize and then start new piles. Hey, it works for me.

The only reason I'm getting more serious about the order of things is because I have so much that I want to do with my time. I know there's almost enough hours in a day for me to accomplishment most of what I want, but it's not going to work unless I make sure it works.

So have pity on me the next few days as I try to better myself and set and keep to a schedule. Maybe even I'll get these posts up on time.

Gonna talk about this photo if only because I was trying for something that didn't quite work. These night shots are tough for me and I'm having to do a lot of experimenting and bracketing to get one that's usable. Unfortunately, my days have been so full lately, that getting out to take a photo before dark hasn't been feasible. This is a shot of a flag in the breeze over a strip mall in town. While I like the capture of the flag's waving, I wish the exposure worked better. Like I said, I'm learning. Some days, all I have is an experiment gone wrong.

365 Photo Project - Day 135

Taken: May 15, 2010, 10:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

It's after 3 a.m. as I write this. Rewrite it really. I lost the first draft. I should be sleeping though. But it's been a long time since I've had a really good night's sleep.

I don't know why I'm not sleeping. I blame a part of it on my internet addictions. It's added a lot of noise to my life -- the cacophony of blips and bleeps, whines and hisses, talking and singing, rhythms that never stop. Don't get me wrong: the Internet has been a life-saver too. Access to information and research, the ability to keep in touch with friends without having to deal with everyone individually. The immediacy of email, the fun shopping. Lots of good there.

But I've been trying to tune it out more and more lately and I think it's helping. So does Ambien but I can't take it every night. Exercise sometimes does the trick too but it doesn't always quiet the noise. What I miss most is my writing voices. They don't talk to me the way they used to and I'd give anything to get them back. I think turning the sound down on everything else is going to help me get them back.

I've found kindred spirits though in the new HBO show, Treme. As readers to this blog know, my friend David Mills wrote and produced on the series, which is co-created by his college friend (and "The Wire" creator) David Simon. Mills died suddenly in March just two weeks before "Treme" premiered. I remember him telling me about the show and how he wasn't sure it would work or if anyone would care.

Well, it works all right. I'm so taken with its sense of place, the dramatization of the struggle of New Orleans residents in the months after Katrina, people saved from drowning in the flood yet sinking in bureaucracy and red tape, weighed down by racism, corrupt politicians and ignorance. I love how the show celebrates and uses live music, how it moves along at a pace that is one leisurely and urgent. And I feel a slight kinship with the characters and their battle against the extra noise in their lives.

I'm not saying my struggle is any measure as bad as what happened to the people who are trying to recover from Katrina. But I do empathize and I love where the producers are taking us and am enjoying the ride.

I just wish I wasn't contemplating it in the middle of the night. But that's my lot these days I guess, lying awake listening to the creatures scurrying inside my bedroom walls, hearing the variety of sounds outside -- the freeway in the distance and closer, the owls, turkeys and occasional dog barking.

I miss sleeping like the dead and I feel the strain the day after a restless night. I think sometimes part of my problem is, like most people, I'm not satisfied with dealing with today. I'm always thinking I have to get there, though where "there" exactly is is debatable. I know the Tibetans are right -- the future is unknown and wishing for it to be like we want is fruitless. I try to live in the here and now but it's hard sometimes, especially when you worry you're not as far along as you should be.

I've started to make daily lists. Not just to keep a record of what I need to do every day but also to keep track of what I've done. I can save them and look back and see how much I've accomplished and the progress feels more concrete. If I could just accept the small things, I have a feeling it will help me sleep at night. It's a start anyway.

Friday, May 14, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 134

Taken: May 14, 2010, sunset
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Today is my Dad's birthday. He's 84. It's a big number, bigger to him then me I'm sure. He was born on Mother's Day, which makes remembering the day easier.

I've written before about my parents. Amazing, generous, happy, smart as hell and, like their four kids, slightly nutty. I know how lucky I am to have them and I call them almost every day, tell them (almost) everything. Nobody in my family lives and dies the ups and downs of my artist's life then them. I'll love them forever for that.

I wouldn't be doing this project if it wasn't for my Dad. He introduced me to photography. He gave me first camera and let me spend a good portion of my childhood in his darkroom, learning how to develop and print film.

Up until a year ago, my Dad was in remarkably good shape, healthwise. He's one of those people who has always eaten whatever he wanted including enjoying a daily cocktail - he makes a pretty mean martini.

But the last few months have been tough on him. He had a big health scare in the fall and when I visited them in October, I couldn't believe how much weight he'd lost. I remember sitting in my parents' living room when my Dad came in, just up from a nap. He stopped at a side table and I watched him adjust it. He always fiddled with stuff around the house. Nothing couldn't be improved upon or fixed. He was constantly lugging various items, from toasters to picture frames and radios and other gadgets, down to his workshop. And most stuff was better for having made the trip.

I saw this in the moment in the living room that day. In a way it was heartbreaking but it was also reassuring to know he was still my Dad.

I know he's slowing down and I think some days it seems like he'd rather just walk off into the sunset and be done with it. It's hard getting old, he tells me. It's tougher on a man who has lived every minute on his own terms with a clarity i've always envied.

Some days I wonder how well I know him. I was born when he was nearly 40. I never knew him as a young man - back when he had hair and a Sunbeam convertible. Over the last few years we've shared some long phone conversations though -- he'll start talking about the past and tell me things about his life I never knew. Probably I should record these conversations and sure I'll kick myself one day for not doing that. But they're so spontaneous too so maybe it wouldn't be the same. A few years ago, I videotaped him talking for an hour. I have never watched them but I know where they are. Keep thinking I'll put them on a DVD for my nieces and nephew. One of these days.

It will come as no surprise then that my Dad doesn't much care for birthdays anymore. I guess when you get to his age, it's understandable. Doesn't mean I can't make a deal out of it though. So here's to my Dad on his birthday. Happy Birthday, Pop. I love you.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 133

Taken: May 13, 2010, 11:30 a.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

No less than seven women that I know are expecting. Little Serafina above is the first of them to arrive - she's but seven days old in this photo. You might remember I snapped a photo of her mom Dawnelise very early in this project (Day 8).

I don't have children and I'm now at that age where considering it is fanciful. I don't know why the motherhood bug never hit me. I mean I used to think the idea of having a baby would one day be too overwhelming to ignore, but the feeling has never lasted longer than a passing moment and even then it's never felt very real.

I don't feel bad or guilty either. Some women are meant to be moms and I'm just not one of them.

I shudder that this makes me the crazy aunt, godmother -- the woman with the pugs. Ironically, I'm great with kids. I love my three nieces and my nephew and I'm close to a couple of my friends' kids. I love to share in their discoveries of the world. Maybe that's because I'm a big kid myself.

One day I suspect I'll find myself teaching somewhere, but until then I'll just live vicariously through my friends and siblings, doling out wisdom, advice and proper hitting technique to their little ones.

You know, "crazy aunt" doesn't sound that bad after all. Maybe I'll make that my next tattoo.

365 Photo Project - Day 132

Taken: May 12, 2010, sunset
Location: Santa Rosa, CA

Most days I have no idea what I'm going to write here until I actually sit down to write it. So far I haven't run out of things to say (those who know me are laughing right now), but today is one of those days where nothing good is coming to me.  So I'm going to just let my photo do the talking.

My husband and I had dinner out at a wonderful little place in Santa Rosa called "Zazu." There's a garden out back and this cat has adopted the restaurant staff as her keepers. They call her BW for Black and White and she's among the friendliest feral cats I've encountered.  And why not? There's a long history of restaurant staffs adopting stray animals (at least among the restaurant people I know). Can't blame the stray for making its way over to a place where scraps are plentiful and hearts are full.

I had to step outside to take a phone call and old BW came over to make friends. She even tried to jump into the front seat of our car. In this image, she's making a rubbing-my-leg run at me. Her attacks are persistent and if she doesn't get what she wants, she throws herself onto the gravel and rolls around on her back. This is one cat who will not be denied a tummy rub. I obliged of course.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 131

Taken: May, 11, 2010, 6:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

I've been without my car for a couple of days which has forced me to walk more. A lot more. Living in a small town makes not having a car a lot easier too. Of course, I had to walk over the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge, camera in hand, knowing I'd get a chance to shoot the railroad bridge from a new angle. As you can see, it was a spectacular late afternoon and the light glancing off the Russian River and the metal bridge girders, the stanchions  and the surrounding hills was very cool.

I love walking and I hate that I've forgotten how much I enjoy it. You see the world in such a different way when you're seeing it from eye level, when it's not speeding by through the glass of your car window. The thing I notice most is the smells -- I mean it helps that we're solid into spring around here but so many different scents wafted around me as I strolled into town or on my long (hot, up hill) walk home last night. Rose bushes, orange blossoms, new garden dirt, cookout smoke ... it was refreshing to close my eyes and breathe in and try to identify them all.  I've been meaning for freaking years to get to walking every day and being stuck without a car for several days has got me really thinking about it again. Now I have to commit to it.

I'll let you know how that goes.

Been having trouble with my camera so I traded up for a newer version. This will be the last installment of the project taken with my trusty K100D. Looking forward to seeing what I can do with the new one (if I can figure out all the controls).

Having said that, you might notice I'm talking a lot less about the camera I use, how I edit the images, etc. I've come to feel that it's better to let the image speak for itself. Let it be there in all its magic and not worry about how I got there. I do know some of you like to know the image information and you can find it by clicking on links to my page. I've made the information available there. And of course, you can always write me if you want more detail.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 130

Taken: May 10, 2010, 7 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

Another pug photo. My almost three-year-old pug, Chamuco.  This is a slice of my life that's very easy to show you -- one of the faces I see every day.  I love this look of his, too. One thing I love about pugs is they all seem to have very distinctive personalities and they're very clear about letting you know about them.

Chamuco is much friendlier and cuddlier than my old man pug, Louie, who seeks out your attention only when he wants it. Chamuco always wants to be around you and he's constantly "asking" to get in your lap even during dinner, no matter how hard we've tried to get him not to beg at the table. At night, he crawls under the covers and always sleeps next to my husband but come morning,  he'll sit on top of me as soon as I wake up.

Mischievous doesn't begin to describe his personality.  Half the time when he does something "bad," he sneaks off to do it in another room. The boy knows his place -- he just won't mind it.

Lots of times he'll sit as he is in this photo, against a wall, a door or his dog bed and give us The Look. This gaze has different meanings depending on the time of day and the situation but no matter what he's done,  it's hard not to forgive him when he looks up at you with that face.

Shot this with my K100D and edited in Photoshop.

Monday, May 10, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 129

Taken: May 10, 2010, sunset
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

I'm a day late putting this up but it's still my Mother's Day day of the project. I have the greatest mom. She's smart, tough and funny and she's got one of the world's best bullshit meters. No fun when you're a teenager constantly trying to get away with whatever it is teenagers want to get away with, but the older you get the more you appreciate someone who doesn't sugar coat stuff just to make you feel better.

I talk to my Mom almost every day. She loves mystery books and is a veracious patron of the local library so she keeps me up to date on what's worth digging into. And she's the person I call when I want to read a passage out loud or check to see if it's any good.

More than anyone else in my life, it's my Mom who keeps me from taking myself too seriously. And I think when I write, she's the reader I have in mind. She's never been afraid to speak her mind (something else I get from her) and she's passionate about her family and friends,  loyal to her causes, her beliefs and her sports teams and she could teach the ridiculous Tea Party a thing or two about independent thinking.

If I end up being half the person she is, that will be okay with me.

This is the railroad bridge that runs parallel to the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge. Shot with my K100D and edited in Photoshop

Sunday, May 9, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 128

Taken: May 8, 2010, approx. 2:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

When we first moved up to Healdsburg, we lived at the end of an almost three-mile road that started out paved and then turned into a mix of gravel and dirt, winding in a single lane of climbs and switch backs and ending at the house we rented. It was a 20-minute trip from driveway to the bottom of the road (and the mailbox) which pretty much made spontaneous trips to the supermarket a real drag.

Sometimes we would go for days -- and in stretches of really bad weather as long as a week -- without going into town. It was a beautiful spot, the last place at the very end of the road and for awhile, we loved being there. I didn't think we'd find a place near town that would have the same "end of the line" feel, but we did and frankly, I'm loving being five minutes from the center of things now. Part of me wishes we had moved sooner.

That road was a big deal for us during the time we lived off of it. It defined us, a living metaphor for the change we made in our lives -- trading in the city of Angels for an angelic piece of wine country. Every one of our city friends who came to visit had to navigate this road on their way to see us -- and every one of them was awed and maybe a little frightened by it. Halfway up was more than enough to understand how far we'd come -- literaly and figuratively. More than a few pulled into our driveway breathless. And they were the ones who drove it during the day.

I had a love/hate relationship with it.

I hated what the bumps and turns did to my car, the dust that it kicked up, the time-suck of having to travel it every day, how every plan we made had to start 20 minutes early so we could be on time. But I loved the way it snaked through a thick cover of trees, how broken light would shine through the tops of the branches in the Magic Hour, the sound of the gravel under my tires, the sightings of quail and deer and occasional rattlesnakes.

Still, I'm glad to be done with it, happy as hell it's in my past and maybe even a little proud that we had the balls to actually live on it. When we gave up city life for the country, we really gave up city life for the country.

I was on that old road today for the first time since we left. Unfortunately, some circumstances of our move have left a bad taste in my mouth and being there brought me some anxiety. But it wasn't all bad. I went up it to see our old neighbors -- and by neighbors, I mean they were nearly a quarter-mile down the road from us -- who were having a party. It was lovely to be there and I'm thrilled that I still knew how to navigate the road, remembered the general location of most the bumps and potholes, the familiarity of its turns and sights. The day was lovely, the view from the top was as clear as I can remember -- the recent rains painted the valley floor a deep green -- and it was wonderful to see my friends' place again. But I think the thrill of the drive is gone now. A mountain climbed, a tough task accomplished, been down that road, done that.

I think for awhile that road was our identity, our way of saying "look what we did it!" As seamless as it was to adjust to life here, it was still a really big move for us and I'm not sure we quite appreciate it, then or now. But having that crazy road between us and the rest of the world was our calling card. We almost needed it to prove we had made it here. I realized today we don't need it anymore. Maybe we never did.

Funny how that works, how the roads we travel, both real and imagined, can feel so vital and important for so long until one day they're just not anymore. Another stop along the way, something else to conquer always out there, waiting around that s-curve.

Today's shot is of my ex-neighbor Kathleen's roses. Shot it with my K100D and edited lightly in Photoshop.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 127

Taken: May 7, 2010, 11:00 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, CA

This is another one of my experiments. I sometimes drive by the windows of the shops near the downtown plaza at night and think it would be cool to take a photo of them. Last night, I had precious few photos for today's project installment so I stopped and walked along the side streets with my camera. I call these "experiments" because I'm still trying to figure out how to shoot them well. I wanted this to be a little more spooky in feel but I didn't quite get it the way I wanted it.

I know the woman who owns this store, which is called Arboretum. I love how she does the front windows -- bringing a little big city to our small town.  We have a lot of young creative talent around here and it's very inspiring for an old dog like myself.

I shot this with my K100D and edited it in Photoshop.

Friday, May 7, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 126

Taken: May 6, 2010, 1 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Here's the bridge I used to have to cross every time I went into central Healdsburg, It spans the much more modest Dry Creek River north of town and is only narrow enough to let one car pass. I used a shot I took from this bridge earlier in this project but this is the first time I'm using one of it.

When my husband and I sold our house in Santa Monica and decided to move up to Healdsburg, it was me who was sent on the task of checking out the house we wanted to rent, meeting the landlord and such. When I drove out to the place and had to cross this bridge, I knew immediately this was the place for me. I grew up in a relatively small town but have lived 90 percent of my adult life in or near big cities so it came as a bit of surprise how quickly I fell in love with this place.

A lot of it started when I crossed Dry Creek here on a beautiful October afternoon, the expanse of the just-picked vineyards spreading out in every direction. I remember friends would ask me how long it took to get used to living in the country and there really was no adjustment, passed getting used to real darkness at night and a place where the sounds that dominate aren't car wheels on pavement and the buzz of phone lines.

To this day, as readers of this blog know well, I haven't grown tired of the view. It feels as much like home as it did the day I drove over this little bridge.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 125

Taken: May 5, 2010, approx. 7:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca.

Still trying to get the self-portrait right, obviously.  I think my vanity is showing in my choice of shots -- a friend told me today that for a self-portrait, this says "I'm hiding," and he's totally right. I've said this before, but I just hate photos of myself. I do, however, kinda like photos of specific parts of me, mere suggestions of the whole if you will.

I mean it makes sense in a way. What do we see of ourselves in the day to day except bits and pieces? Without the help of a mirror, the pictures we paint are based on an image we put together in our mind's eye. The "truth" is mixed up with all sorts of our own specific baggage and how close it is to reality differs with everyone. I have a pretty decent self-image, actually. Some might even accuse me of having an overly positive one.  It's always a shock when I see my reflection. Never quite lives up to the image I have in my head. Which is probably why I don't like photos of myself.

I blame my folks. They allowed me to be confident in me, to be myself even when being myself was pretty damn weird.  I would say there's good and bad in this kind of self-belief. Disappointments are many but you never stop trying, you never give up and you always think victory is just around that next S curve.  That pretty much sums me up. I am the last true believer. Or a sucker, depending on how you look at it.

I'm not joking -- the two aren't so different. You gotta be a bit of a chump to make it as any kind of artist I think. Just putting your creative self out in the world requires a belief in something, whether it's yourself or that somehow, some way what comes out of the deep recesses of your private soul will resonate with complete strangers. It's a big leap of faith and it doesn't get any easier. Trust me.

And every day is a new journey to a place you couldn't name or describe if your life depended on it. The only saving grace is you'll know when you get there. You'll know.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 124

Taken: May 4, 2010,  7:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

I'm behind a day again and still haven't decided on today's (tomorrow's) image so I'm going to keep this short. I took a drive out Alexander Valley road around sunset looking I admit for something interesting to shoot. The light was so pretty on this hazy spring day and you could see forever over the tops of the freshly blooming vines, to the mountains on the far horizon.

I actually stopped to take photos of something else along this road but when I uploaded the images, this was the only one that caught my eye. I did a bit of editing in Photoshop to bring out the road more and added some color saturation trying to get close to the way it looked and felt when I stood by the side of the road. It was a perfect evening -- the air was sweet and cool and when I pulled over, I was listening to the radio through my iPhone.

I'm an iPhone addict as readers to this blog know -- (and yes, I've more or less kept up the ban on night-time iPhone use). One of my favorite apps is the one that Major League Baseball sells where you can follow games on video and radio during the season. For less than $20 you can have access to every radio broadcast of every game (a good deal more can get you video for all but blacked out games. Pardon me while I rant for a minute but I hate the MLB black-out restrictions and think it's total bullshit that you have to buy a subscription to MLB's At Bat video feeds even if you already get the DirecTV MLB sports package. Without boring you with the details, it's just another in a long list of things Major League Baseball does that is totally fan unfriendly and in my humble opinion, do great harm to baseball especially in comparison to the more fan-friendly NFL. Baseball ought to get its act together and make it easier for fans to follow their teams from other markets. Okay, end of rant.)

Having access to games of my hometown Mets is what makes new technology such a wonderful thing. It's like a trip back into my childhood. When I can't (or don't have time to watch) games on TV, I'll play the radio as background in my office while I'm writing. There's nothing quite like listening to a baseball game on the radio -- or timeless. With few exceptions, it's gotta be the one constant in the lives of every baseball fan no matter your generation. I just can't think of a sport translates so well through words without pictures.

I know the old timers love their voices and it's true that the art of broadcasting is all but lost in some places. The great Ernie Harwell died this week represents all but the end of an era. Every baseball fan of a certain age well remembers that Southern drawl as a big part of their summer soundtrack. His death leaves us with precious few of the very great legends. Vin Scully still works all the Dodgers home games and Ralph Kiner makes an occasional visit to the booth for the Mets. But they're both grandfathers by now and we're lucky to still be able to hear them.

I like some of the "new" guard too (been a big fan of Jon Miller's since I first heard him doing Orioles games back in the 80's and Mets broadcaster Howie Rose has some nice chops too) but even the so-so guys will make a mark in the lives of young fans everywhere who secretly listen at night after lights out. I had a transistor radio under my pillow and one of those one-ear do-dads that only worked well if I covered the other ear with my hand (or my pillow). Kids today can listen through their iPhones, but close your eyes (and turn off the lights) and the experience is exactly the same. Every time I tune into WFAN, I am once again transported back to the summer evenings of my youth listening to the voices through the static and seeing it all unfold in the baseball field of my imagination.

Doesn't get any better than that.

365 Photo Project - Day 123

Taken: Mary 3, 2010, 1:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

I grew up loving cars. Got it from my Dad who turns 84 next week. I was one of those kids who knew all the car types, brands, even some years. My two favorite places to think are in the shower and behind the wheel of my car driving and listening to the radio or my iPod. I'm not sure there's a seat that's more comfortable for me (and my sometimes cranky back) than the one in my car. It just seems to fit me perfectly.

As much as I love the natural beauty of things, I can also fully appreciate a good man-made road, especially one that winds and bends through a flavorful countryside. To my husband's constant chagrin, I've never owned a car that didn't have a manual transmission. I don't know if my next one will an automatic but the day I buy one is going to feel like the end of an era.

I get this from my Dad, all of it.  He used to tell me that women needed certain skills -- how to do simple household fixes, use basic tools, change your oil, drive a stick. Skills you never know you'll need until you need them. Trust me on that.

He always had cars around - mostly in threes. Typically, though, only one of them would be running. Sometimes two. We used to joke the others were for parts. They were also exotic, at least for me. Names like Fiat, Saab, MG, Alfa, Citroen -- a lot of names most people know now but when I was a kid, Saab was just trying to get a foothold in the car market (funny but it looks now like we may have seen the last of them).

The coolest cars were the Citroens. Truth be told I couldn't appreciate them when I was a kid 'cause I thought they were ugly (teenage prerogative)  but now whenever I see one on the road, I think about my Dad. Which is a very cool thing if you think about it. It's one of the many things I love about my Pop. He had a immense and deep interest in the world around him, a curiosity about the way things work that led him to tinker with all of it. I'm sure a lot of daughters think of their Dad as being the smartest guy they know, but my mine is seriously gifted. A total right brain/left brain kind of guy -- he made beautiful sculptures when he was a young man, an art he picked up again in his retirement and he taught me a lot of what I know about photography. As long as I remember, he had a workshop where he made things out of wood -- useful stuff from cutting boards to grandfather clocks. And whenever we needed something around the house fix -- vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, leaky faucets, etc. -- we didn't have to call any old repair man.  

Everything I know about tools and toolboxes and fixing stuff, I learned from watching/helping my Dad. And something else too: I got my curiosity about the innards of stuff from him too. Every few months, I find myself sitting over some gadget I've taken apart, trying to figure out where all the parts fit. Unfortunately, I'm not as smart as my Dad where these things are concerned. In fact, if I've got one regret, it's not paying more attention to my Dad when I was a kid. So many opportunities to get a lesson on cars, woodworking, art, photography and a thousand other things and yet half the time I was just too busy with my shit to take the time to watch and learn. Color me stupid.

And something else about my Dad - he knows how to chill. I'm serious. He worked hard, believe me, he knew how to have a good time. He had a ton of hobbies and he kept most of them all his life. He always had a sailboat, that workshop, got to be a pretty good cook who is known around his digs as The Hors d'oeuvres King and he makes a damn good martini. I guess in a lot of ways my Dad's a renaissance man.

If it's true we keep the flame of our loved ones alive in our memories, my Dad is going to live forever. So much that I do, so many things I see and appreciate are because he had such a deep interest in the world and he made sure to share it with us kids. I know your Dad is supposed to be a good guy, supposed to be there for you, give you advice, counsel, comfort but I know there's lots of Dads who aren't up to the task. Mine was -- and is. In fact, I think I'm going to go call him now and ask him what the hell this car is in this picture. Whatever it is, it made me think about him.

Monday, May 3, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 122

Taken: May 2, 2010, approx. noon
Healdsburg, Ca

Days like today are why I love living here. The lazy Sunday blue skies, the sun's warmth cut by the loveliness of a stiff breeze (around here they call it "May Winds") -- alone would have made for a fabulous spring-to-summer day. When the temps start climbing into the 90s, the May WInds keep the heat at arm's length and believe me, when it gets hot, you're thankful for them.

Pretty much describes Sunday here. But it also happened to be the 2nd anniversary of Scopa, one of our favorite little restaurants in Healdsburg. It's a fine place for delicious Italian food and even though the San Francisco Chronicle recently named it one of the top 100 restaurants in the Bay Area, we weren't surprised.

Still, what draws me to it is more than food, it's the whole of the place. Like it's part of the community. Stopping in to chat up hilarious and brilliant Chef Ari Rosen is one of the highlights of my day (though I'm not sure it is for him).  Some days my husband and I, in our separate trips around the plaza (usually me to get coffee or to take a walk a think, he to go tot he market or read his paper and have a cold microbrew), will have dropped in at different times to say hello and shoot the breeze.

So much of the way places like these work are integral to small town life and I think Ari and his wife, Dawnelise, really thought about that when they designed this tiny little place.  Goes without saying that the suppliers are local farmers, ranchers, wine makers and even Ari's Dad, Norm, is the pastry chef (and no slouch at it either, as he got a specific mention in the Chronicle's write up).

Those of us who dine ( some of is even help put from time to time) could never put a price on the friendship, camaraderie and welcome of this place, all of which are quite genuine. Like Ari said yesterday at the gathering, it's like a big family.

When I lived in big cities, I always carved a little niche for myself that I considered my community. You have to - especially in a place like L.A. where everything is so spread out. Otherwise, you never get the feeling that you belong anywhere, just one of the millions always moving from here to there and back again. Living in a small town can be scary too -- sometimes you need a break from the familiar -- but if you're lucky and you can find a little community, I find it can have a settling effect on your life.

I'm not trying to route everything I write here back to this project but this one naturally does. Like I've said countless times here, I'm learning to stop and appreciate the here that's out there. It's a lot easier when you don't have to sweat the small stuff because at the end of the day you're part of something you can call home.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

365 Photo Project - Day 121

Taken: May 1, 2010, approx. 4 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

Where last we left off, I was getting ready to do some relaxing. Been working so hard lately, it's been hard for me to take time off without feeling guilty about the writing I should be doing. Like I've forgotten how to take a breather.  All I needed to do was pay attention to my pugs.

Today we had some friends over for some grilling and chilling and my husband put the grill rack down while he was getting ready to start the fire. My pug Louie decided it needed some cleaning. When I saw him licking the grill, I pointed it out to my husband who just laughed at me. "I'm going to put it on a 600 degree fire," he said. He had a point I guess.

And hell, Louie had a great time saving us from having to use steel wool and elbow grease to get all that char off. The lamb chops and sausages were damn good, too.  And it gave me my photo of the day.

Ya gotta love pugs.

365 Photo Project - Day 120

Taken: April 30, 2010, 11:30 p.m.
Location: Healdsburg, Ca

I worked in my office until after midnight, capping a long couple of weeks trying to solve a particularly vexing writing problem. Thanks to some hard work and the help of a couple of friends who were more than able sounding boards, I think I got it figured out. It's a really good feeling.

I had a few shots from earlier in the day but none of them did anything for me.  I shot this late in the day in my building. I'm it was wishful thinking -- I just wanted to get done and get out of there and go home. And so I stayed until I got it done.

And the result has freed me to take a couple days off from writing. I need the break, clear my head, recharge the batteries.

I need to use the exit.

And so I am. Sunday, for once, is going to be a day of doing nothing but hanging with my friends and drinking wine,  playing some cards perhaps and then watching some baseball on the tube. Chilling. I can't slow down fast enough.