(get over the) hump day inspiration: Tennessee Williams edition

TennesseeWilliamsQuoteI haven’t posted an encouraging quote for awhile but I crossed paths with this one via Brain Pickings a couple of days ago and it seems eminently appropriate for the times we’re living in. To say the zeitgeist has been getting me down is an understatement. I keep coming back to the conviction that community, connection, and love is the only thing that can save me – us – from chaos and despair.

I have been saying it to myself in much less poetic and profound ways than Tennessee Williams does here, though. This is a beautifully wrapped reminder of what it means to be human.

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My gray places

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Much as I wish I were a laid-back person who could live easily with uncertainty, I am not. Though theoretically wonderful, in practice I don’t like gray areas of any kind. One of the gray zones I am most annoyed by is the one created by layovers in states or countries I’ve never been. Having touched down on Chilean tarmac and spent three hours in the Santiago airport en route to Buenos Aires, for example, I might claim to have been to Chile. But having never actually stepped foot on Chilean soil or breathed in fresh Chilean air, I don’t feel that I can. Instead, I imagine myself occupying an uncomfortable liminal state between having been and not having been, that must be rectified by going on a real visit to Chile as soon as possible. Most people could shelve that feeling, or would not have it in the first place. But I like things black and white, and so it nags at me.

Here are my gray area places. Fortunately, I actually do want to visit most of them. Unfortunately, I don’t have plans to do so anytime soon. As the list grows, so does my discomfort.

Countries:

Chile

(The most notable detail of my layover was when a woman in the bathroom stall next to me puked all over the floor and it started seeping into my view. How can I have not truly been to Chile when I was traumatized by an experience I had there? It’s a paradox.)

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Mali

(Below, a view of Bamako, where I spent an hour sitting on a plane with the doors wide open, troubling my “no fresh air” rule.)

bamako from the air

Monaco

(I took a train from Nice to Rome and it went underground through the entire tiny country of Monaco in less than twenty minutes. I only saw a glimpse of it out the rear view mirror from Italy, so to speak.)

U.S. States:

Georgia

(I’ve been through the Atlanta airport twice. Georgia remains the only state on the East Coast that I haven’t officially visited.)

Ohio / Kentucky 

(This one is a double whammy because I flew through the Cincinnati, Ohio airport only to later learn it’s technically in northern Kentucky, which means I now have to visit both states to put the discomfort to bed…)

…Or I could just learn to live with the gray areas of through-travel, and life in general.

Does anyone else have this particular brand of neurosis or am I the only one wasting brain space on it?

 

 

Vietnam part 4: Trang An

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The day after my Halong Bay trip, I boarded another bus, this time to Ninh Binh Province. I spent the day touring Trang An, a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of the Bai Dinh Buddhist temple complex (the largest in Vietnam) and a system of waterways and grottoes in which other temples are hidden.

The landscape was just as beautiful as Halong Bay (in fact it is sometimes described as Halong Bay on land), and the temples were stunning, too. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.  Continue reading

Vietnam, part 1: Hanoi

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In March I spent a few days in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi on either side of a shoot in northern Vietnam for an NGO that works throughout the region. It was my first time in the country and I was so lucky to see it from many different angles: urban, rural, natural wonders, hyper-local color.

I’ll share more photos over the next few weeks, but for now here are highlights from Hanoi:  Continue reading

joie de vivre

LES sunlight.jpgApparently the unexplainable feeling of wellbeing I found in Paris last fall was not city-specific. I am very grateful that it has stuck with me in New York, despite the fact that I am cold and penniless. The other day I sat down on a bench at the intersection above, spread my arms out like a preacher, and started smiling maniacally about how gloriously bright it was. For perhaps the first time in my adult life, I seem to be carrying this good feeling around inside of me like Baby Brute in the little Brute family.

It is surely chemically enhanced but it is authentic nonetheless.

The sun helps, of course. There is so much more of it here than in Paris. Knowing when to quit does, too.

My usual tendency is to behave like I’m living in an environment of scarcity. I hold on to every good person, place, or plan as though it’s the last of its kind. When they run their course and come to an end, it kills me. I expected to feel awful about leaving Europe before I was ready to. But I think I have finally internalized that there are opportunities for me around every corner, so I can more gracefully let go of things that just didn’t work out despite my best efforts.  

It helps that the universe is now smiling upon me after months of shit storms. The luckiest break is that I’m off to Vietnam this Friday for a shoot. I’ll be M.I.A. here for two weeks, but then I’ll have lots of photos to share from foreign lands. (I also have a one-day stopover in Hong Kong, which I am super psyched about.)

See you in a few…

My Dakar places

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On Valentine’s Day two years ago, I flew to Dakar. So much has happened since then that it feels more like a decade.

It also feels like I left Dakar ages ago, but it’s actually only been eleven months, which is so unbelievable to me that I redid the math twice. Still, eleven months is long enough to lose touch with a place, and the list I’m about to post may be a little outdated. But I’ve been promising it to myself and others for too long to let it evaporate. And things change far more slowly in Dakar than in New York, so even though there are surely new places to discover, almost all of these old places could still be going strong. (I’ll edit the post accordingly if I learn differently.)

Without further ado, and in no particular order, my favorite places in Dakar… Continue reading

so this is the new year

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It won’t take me long to fill you in on what I’ve been doing in 2018. I got sick within hours of stepping off the plane on New Year’s Eve and spent the following week on my parents’ couch in the suburbs. I find it ironic that after months of saying I could not wait to close the door on 2017, I started the year in the least fresh way possible, dragging all of last year’s germs into 2018 with me.

Oh well.

I’m feeling better now, though my brain turns to mush in New Jersey and it seems like I have to wade through life force quicksand to get anything done.

Case in point, this post took me like six hours to write, over the course of two days. And it doesn’t even have a point, except to say hello after a few weeks of silence.

So… Hello! I hope your new years are off to wonderful starts.

I’ll be back when I remember how to string words together into sentences.