26 December 2008

Night lights ...

really late at night during an intense snow storm ...

these were way too orange in color, i like them better in black and white, gives them a creepy, "Nightmare Before Christmas" feel ...

21 December 2008

Andrew where are you???

this came in the mail the other day and i'm still deciding if it says more about one, andrew carpenter, or the inner workings of the united states postal service.

this guy lived in our house a couple roommates back and apparently he's going bankrupt. so, not only is his life falling apart, at one point he was so pathetic he included directions to his room as part of his address ... and he never bothered to change it.

i know it's just a letter, but my ponderings since it came here are thricefold ... did the other roommates hate him so much he had to clarify that he lived "upstairs right" just so his mail would make it to him? ... is his new address "andrew carpenter, parent's house, basement" and if so, should I forward it there?? ...

did the postman chuckle at the poor bastard everytime he delivered mail here, thinking to himself, "my life is bad, i mean, i'm a postman for cripes sake, but this guy has it so much worse..." ???

so many questions...

16 December 2008

There was an immigration raid in southern Idaho this month, 16 men were arrested and most of them are about to be deported back to Mexico. I went to a vigil with the families in Boise to take photos and do some reporting for a project i'm working on.

I love that she wore these shoes, so cool and not at all appropriate ...

15 December 2008

Meet Catherine.

(AP Photo/Charlie Litchfield)

By JESSIE L. BONNER - Associated Press Writer
Edition Date: 12/13/08

PAYETTE, Idaho — For nearly a year, Catherine Carlson refused to pay the fine for driving with a suspended license because it was issued to both her and the man she used to be.

She went to jail four times over the ticket that includes both her legal name and the one she was born with, Daniel Carlson. She had surgery 28 years ago to become a woman, the gender she believes should have been assigned her at birth.

Carlson legally changed her name in the 1970s, but police and court records include both in this rural farming and ranching community east of the Snake River in southwestern Idaho.

"The ticket was the last straw," Carlson said.

Her fight against local authorities brought up questions Payette County had never answered before: where to house a transgender person in a jail with separate cells for men and women, which courthouse bathroom should she use, should the former male name be stricken from county records.

"This is a very conservative old-fashioned community, that's just the way it is. This is rural, small town Idaho. This is new to us," said Payette County Sheriff Chad Huff.

During the past year, Carlson repeatedly protested the $841 citation in court hearings on the case. Her struggle for acceptance since the sex-change operation on Thanksgiving Day 1980 has gone on much longer. She chose a life of solitude at a trailer park near the Payette city limits, rejecting a society she feels has rejected her.


10 December 2008

Gulfport three years after Hurricane Katrina

This week I am in Gulfport, MS and I have been blown away by how much rebuilding is yet to be done. The city is still working on cleaning out the storm drains near the beach. Many of the large houses that lined Highway 90 are gone and all that is left are the foundations. So here are some photos from my walk yesterday morning.

Stairs to nowhere

A building that will be rebuilt for historical purposes, I don't know the story.

The Gulfport Library

Josh O'Connor - Gulfport, MS

04 December 2008

The ice man cometh...

When I was little my godmother had a pond behind her place and when it froze over she would take us ice skating in the ridiculous cold that is a northern Idaho winter. I was the one who flew out to the middle of the ice, where it was weakest, where no one else would go, and I would wave at the line of cars that slowed along the highway to check out the stupid kid about to fall through.

So, naturally, the 26-year-old version of myself is thinking the sport cannot have changed that much and after three years of tropical living, I should probably give it another try.

I knew it was going to be bad when I saw the Russian skater team doing pirouettes in the middle of the rink, the families huddled on bleachers, the teenagers on really awkward first dates.

And then there was me, the blades of terror strapped to my feet, revisiting a former life and taking mental snapshots.

But then I realized that I would probably never see any of these people again, and I started taking real snapshots. It suddently hit me that one of the truly great things about getting older is that you really stop caring what people think.

So, I did a couple shaky laps, clinging onto the arm of a friend, avoiding glares from the Russian man-chics everytime we accidentally got in their way. The 16-year-old referee would glide by every five minutes to ask if we were alright and I would assure him that no, I wasn't having a seizure, I just hadn't done this in a while. - Jessie

01 December 2008

shutter by moonlight ...

Jessie - from the edge of a prairie in eastern Washington.

22 November 2008

Georgia Aquarium: where fish are epic

From John, in Atlanta:

Check out these videos from my recent trip to the Georgia Aquarium, which is the largest in the world (and they're damn sure going to keep it that way ... some aquarium in another country was going to be bigger, but they decided to build a new dolphin exhibit to keep up with the underwater Jones').

I sat in this room forever.

Doesn't this look like it's from another planet? Those seaweed things are garden eels!

Fall Awakening...

From Jessie in Boise

I, like all warm-blooded people before me, know that satan invented cold weather because he got bored and decided there simply wasn't enough suffering. I don't do well in temps below 70, which means I've been cranky since August, but the colors have been nice lately and I'm going to try to take more photo ... and hope summer 2009 doesn't take its sweet time getting here.

This dude did not think my Walt Whitman comparisons were funny ... i wanted to tell him he shouldn't have worn that hat then, because he was totally begging for it ...

Rub a Dub Dub...

I'm not sure why anyone would actually NEED an outdoor bathtub after the year 1812, but apparently the guy we're renting this house from did, and I can't stop thinking about it and how it got here and who the hell is supposed to use it, or if someone built it at one point and then realized there was a bathtub inside the house (whirljet, changed my life) ... and this is not even the strangest part about this place.

Oh, wait, what's that? you mean YOUR living room ISN'T covered with gold chickens?? only someone really odd would do that??

07 September 2008

Fruit that requires a screw driver

OKC -- A woman at a Vietnamese restaurant near my house gave the most convincing clue that the durian is an evil fruit that should not be eaten: "It's got spikes all over it, like, warning you to stay away," she said, before comparing the fruit's taste to vomit.

I first heard about the southeast Asian durain fruit at a dinner party, where a new friend and his wife (both white people from Ohio) said that the durain was the most delicious thing on earth. They said it was sweet, but not too sweet, and had the consistency of custard. Just be sure you crack it open on the porch, or outside your home, they said, because the fruit smells like a combo of rotten eggs and Fat Albert farts. They assured me that's a smell one can overcome, and that I would be hooked after one try.

Clearly these people have not taken human anatomy. Your nose is tied straight up with taste in your brain. And my nose is freaking huge.

My friend Jesse and I walked to Super Cao Nguyen, an Asian grocery store, on Saturday afternoon to buy a durian and try it out for ourselves. The fruit is sold out of a freezer, looks like an angry, rounded pineapple, and is pretty expensive. We picked the smallest one possible, and it weighed about 5 pounds and cost like $9. I didn't have any money in my wallet (convenient right?), so Jesse paid for it and carried it home. The durian is so spikey that, even when held in two plastic bags, it still stabbed him in the leg and litterally made him bleed. Ouch.

We got the fruit to my front porch and realized we didn't have much of a game plan for cracking it's spikey, wood-hard exterior. Here's a progression of tools used:

1. The knife: We used a small, sharp knife to stab at the fruit. It wasn't cerrated, but we still managed to saw across one side. We tried to pull it open, and just got stabbed in the palms. The fruit wouldn't budge.

2. The garden gloves: Used garden gloves to continue trying to pull the fruit apart. Not strong enough.

3. The stairs: Jesse picked the durain up and started banging it against the concrete stairs that lead up to my porch. "What are you doing?" I said. "Haven't you ever seen an otter?" Me: (Um, yes, in the Chicago Aquarium...) "Um, yes." Jesse: "They do this with mollusks, they put their little hands on the mollusk and then bang them into rocks." He continues banging, but all he does is get rid of a few spikes.

4. Screw drivers: Finally, we used two large screwdrivers to pry the fruit apart along the slit made in step one.

Immediately after the fruit opened, a stench filled the air. It was pretty sulfuric, like rotten eggs, but had a hint of otherworldlyness that for some reason reminded me of that scene in Gremlins when they all start hatching in the attic. Not that I have smellivision, I just imagine that's what it smells like.

As for the taste, I think Jesse was most accurate when he said it tasted like soggy, moldy onions. Whatever it was, it was sick, and I kept burping it up for at least 5 hours. After several washes, its smell still stuck to my hands. (It was unclear which kitchen utensils, if any, would be able to dig into the pockets of fruit beneath the spikes ... I didn't have a metal spork on hand, but maybe that would work).

Moral of story: trying new foods can be an adventure, but make sure you know what tools are required, and have a chaser and/or antacid ready.


01 August 2008

Whoa uh oh, the sweetest thing...

Yeah, so U2 was playing in my head as I watched the following hook-up at like, 3 a.m. in the morning when I couldn't sleep. I live in an old converted hotel that overlooks downtown, so basically, when Boise parties till 3 a.m. on a flippin' Tuesday, so do I, cursing them and every emo-cover band that ever mastered the art of applying black eyeliner. But that night, when I heard these guys talking below my window, it actually wasn't so bad.

The guy, kind of nerdy, looking up songs on his laptop, sitting as FAR away from her as possible.

The girl, kind of edgy, bleached hair, the preying mantis to his worst fears.

The thing is, it worked for them, and when I wasn't feeling totally creepy for watching them for a couple seconds, I kind of felt like the universe was trying to make up for a past connection between two other people that somehow got missed.

Here's to the unexpected, may it keep biting us in the ass...


I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike, I want to ride ... ok, I'll stop

A little taste of last year's action...

I think assimilation is pretty cool (if you're a communist), so when I moved to Boise I took a look around and realized I would either have to get a dog (beagle) or a bike (banana seat). The place reeks of granola (or "kashi" if you're a hipster) the type of place where mentioning "Wal-Mart" and "Starbucks" is equivalent to dropping the F-bomb (like Target treats its Indonesian factory workers ANY better) It took a while to catch on, mainly because I didn't really understand the "lingo" (note: cool word for "language") and everyone wouldn't shut up about their "times..."

Standing in the line at Java waiting for my coffee:

Dude, what's your "time" on that 4K? I got like 5:32, yeah, pretty good "time," better than my last "time"...

First, I went for the obvious -- these two grown men wearing spandex and complaining about their knees were part of some cult, that they got together on Wednesdays and did weird stuff involving clocks. But then, buying toilet paper at Winco:

"Hey Sarah! how's your time on the Eagle Run? I did about 20:13, not so bad huh?"

The homeless guy who smokes the cigarette butts off the sidewalk on 9th street:

"Hey Rusty (not even gonna tell you how he got the nickname) what "time" did you get walking from Fremont to Fairview?? I got about 20 minutes..."

Okay, it wasn't just me, it was like I was stuck in this Cindi Lauper music video where "Time after Time" was playing on vinyl (my new favorite thing) ... just circle after circle of some of one of the worst tunes (cough..George Michael...cough) produced during the 1980s. I finally broke down and asked someone about it (yes, Rusty the homeless guy). He explained like so, if you live in Boise, this weird city of hippies and Capitol types in suits, sooner or later you look around and realize everyone is either training for a triathalon, or improving their "time" on some local trail.

I got my road bike when I got back from Guatemala (where owning a bike is kinda like owning a Suzuki) and there it was, in my apartment staring at me (awkward).

And here I was, in the apparent biking capital of the world. all I wanted to do was throw on some sweats and hop in a rickshaw (preferably hauled by a dog (yeah, that's right, the tables have TURNED). I've tried to live by a non-conformist code, sometimes succeeding (nothing but cold cereal for an entire month) sometimes failing miserably (scrunchie phase, circa 1980s) but I felt I just couldn't ride my bike in a place where people actually gave you a thumbs up when you passed by and Saturdays, man, Saturdays were like a parade of goofy smiles riding Huffys and Schwins ... it was just embarrassing.

But then, there was the bike race of the year had enveloped my apartment complex, some mess of an event called the "Twilight Criterium" and it was me against the biking world as I realized the entryway to my apartment had been blocked off.

So, I did what anyone would have done in the same situation.I sat at my window mapping out the trajectory of a lugee for a few seconds, then I grabbed my bike, waded through the massive crowd (cooler and involving more sweat than it sounds) and rode to the other side of town to a really nice bike trail called the Boise Greenbelt, and for two hours I shifted gears, balanced just right on the curves, and tried to pretend I hadn't just started drinking the Kool-Aid.


16 June 2008

Going to East Africa?

If any of you are thinking of a trip to East Africa, particularly Tanzania, I recommend you get in touch with a friend of mine, Renson. He is very kind, speaks English, and is having trouble keeping his business going this season because the flow of tourism is so low. I assume this has to do with recent violence in neighboring Kenya. In any event, if you're planning a trip to that part of the world, please contact him. He does tours of Kilimanjaro, Zanzibar, and all of the safaris.

Here's his business site. (http://www.africaadventuretreks.com/) Or e-mail him at info [at] africaadventuretreks.com.

Quick Swahili lesson: safari=journey, rafiki=friend, simba=lion.

That's him in the picture above.


08 June 2008

Rodeo Disco: the circle of life

OKLA CITY -- Country bars and gay bars are like 4 millimeters apart on the great wheel of nightlife.

This is based on a recent visit to Club Rodeo, where, as you'll see in this video, a bunch of dudes in cowboy hats and nut-hugger jeans jump around beneath a disco ball to "YMCA." If you listen closely, you'll hear my boyfriend say, "Oh, goddamn!" in the middle of it all.

The line-dancing bar is seriously a two-step away from being a gay disco. Everything's about the clothes: who has the coolest cowboy boots or the biggest hat. The urinals are closer together than any straight person (or me, for that matter) could possibly be comfortable with. And guys are the center off attention on the dance floor: they wear pastel colored shirts, twirl around and whip their heads from side to side like they're in a tango competition.

The music isn't too far off, either. Club Rodeo is as big as an airport hanger, and while people wait to see live bull riding, they dance to everything from Kenny Chesney to Kanye. There's a laser light show, obviously, and the tracks that hold the lights lowers down close to the floor for the hip-hop, and pulls up high for slow country tunes ... kind of going into roller rink mode.

Of course, while women dance together openly, waiting for some cowboy to step in, you'd never see two men dancing together. But plop some of those homeboys down in a gay bar, and I'm sure there'd be a few boot heels clickin.


And they call the thang (club) rodeoooo

OKLA CITY -- Sometimes the best exploring is done in your own city ... especially if you happen to live in a weird-ass place like Oklahoma, where you can find a country dancing club that hosts live bull riding next to its dance floor.

No, not mechanical bull riding, which you might find in bars elsewhere. LIVE dust kicking, ball pinching, arm breaking bull riding. On Friday and Saturday nights, Club Rodeo has it on the half-hour. Everyone stops dancing to come watch a bunch of amateur dudes compete for $300 ($600 on Saturday because no one had scored Friday).

It's insane.

At the 11:30 ride on Saturday, some guy took off on a bull named Lickety Split. Watch the video to find out how well he did, but let's just say that he was holding his arm so tightly after the race that it looked like he needed a trip to the ER.

Which brings up a good point my friends made: What's $300 compared to an ER visit?

I want to know more about these guys who put it all on the line for some sliver of glory, or a piece of their rent check. Maybe they're trying to make it onto the big, pro rodeo circuit. Maybe they just get a kick out of it.

Either way it's pretty fascinating.

(Tip if you go: only drink beer in a bottle, and put your thumb over the top when the bulls are jumping. They kick up a lot of dust ... and since said dust smells like manure, you don't wanna drink that.)


01 June 2008

Switchbacks in the concrete jungle

SAN FRAN -- The hills in San Francisco are crazy steep. Like ski hill steep. Like tear an ACL muscle/strain a quad steep.

The hill where you'll find Lombard Street (the famous "windeyest" road in America), drops at a 27 percent grade, for example. Neighborhoods are named things like Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill, mostly so idiot tourists will know to walk around them rather than pass out during the climb. Property rates on Telegraph Hill were supposedly super low before the automobile, because only poor people were willing to walking up and down it. Take the dramatic city hills and valleys, and thrown in some serious Pacific fog, and you get a range of micro climates in the city based on the topography. One resident told me neighborhood temperatures can vary by as much as 20 degrees, just because hills hold the weather.

Sometimes, these hills have little stair steps to help you out with the climb, but often you're left to make your own path.

John and I figured out the hills are easier if you take a little tip from skiing and hiking -- and cut the grades down with some switchbacks. It makes you look a bit like a fool, but hey, I was already carrying a camera around my neck and a big yellow backpack. Not much to lose.

And I guess that's the exact technique that makes Lombard Street tolerable for cars. The hairpin curves of the road dilute the grade down to 16 percent, according to a National Geographic travel guide.


31 May 2008

Good Vibrations (of the slightly scary variety)

The Golden Gate Bridge is 8,981 feet across, and you really have to walk it to get a feel for how enormous it is.

When you do, the giant red structure, which seems more like artwork than engineering from afar, becomes a real working, moving, imperfect thing. You notice scratches and big dull spots in the "International Orange" paint. You hear the roar of traffic.

And, most of all, you feel the vibrations. The road is suspended from cables, and those cables vibrate "like piano strings," as one passer-by put it. No shock, really, since the bridge is built to handle 27.7 feet of sway in the case of an earthquake or disaster.

(some info for post came from National Geographic travel guide to San Fran ... which I highly recommend)

Bark! (get off my stinkin dock)

SAN FRAN -- At Pier 39 in San Francisco, you'll find a whole gaggle (or whatever) of sea lions. They bark at tourists and each other as they slide around looking for resting space on the pier. They're quite social, and snuggle on top of each other in piles. The sea lions come and go on their own, and, according to a sign in the area, the pier's owners actually abandoned a section of docks since it's become such a social gathering spot for the animals.

We stood by the pier for 20 minutes or so just watching the sea lions shove each other around. They have very different personalities. The fat males (you can tell they're males by the lumps on their foreheads) seem grumpy and territorial. Smaller, fuzzier sea lions stayed far away from the aggressors, content to sleep like sardines in a row.

I would have been one of the lazy sea lions. I mean, the whole point of the stop is to rest and chill out ... no need for all that alpha male drama.