For more please head over to my collection on Flickr, Street Art Photography, an album containing over a thousand photos of street art captured over the past 15 years in NYC and Sacramento, with some images taken in other cities and countries. From tags to large scale murals, with everything in between… Some of this artwork has long disappeared, others remain, some are hidden between buildings, others are displayed prominently, proudly, on visible walls. Many of the photos in this album were taken in Bushwick in Brooklyn over a decade ago, an area which has undergone significant changes in the past few years, with more artwork going up, but, at the same time, a lot disappearing too. Art is everywhere, we just need to look around to see it.
NYC, London, Sacramento, over the past decade. So many more where these came from, so many more that are still waiting to be taken.
“It appears to be the same rotten old wheel that keeps this country churning:
Oppression, hatred, cruelty, and fear.
We are hanging in there, tiptoeing around, then suddenly jumping full force
With our Doc Martens into the middle of it.
It’s either hide in the shadows and hope for the best or be the change you want to be for your children.
It won’t happen for us, but we can do it for the next generations.
If we don’t maintain some kind of semblance of hope there wouldn’t be any point in living anymore.
So hope pushes us forward, but reality makes it clear that Hope alone won’t save the day.
And if we don’t fight then we are no more than cowards really.
This world is so much bigger than a bar, a city, a country.
This world is so much bigger than the individual.”
(Excerpt from a work in progress with a working name of “Belonging”. It may or may not see the day).
I wandered off down memory lane last night, a little trapdoor under the carpet, a rabbit hole again. What started it off this time? Somehow reading about the scene on Ludlow St in 2005 led to me thinking about 1994, and tap tap tap a few minutes later a face, a memory, oh my gosh it’s you, and you, and you… Another half-written memory, another playlist revisited and another story to tell.
Writing this book is HARD. I hesitate between telling myself that I have been waiting to get all of these pieces out of my head, journals, and off of my laptop forever, and telling myself that no one wants to read hundreds of pages about me. That’s a little boring, no? But really it’s not all about me… I’ve lived in some really special places at some really special times surrounded by some really special people, so maybe someone would be interested enough to buy a copy, to read a few pages?
I keep adding and deleting and realizing that a story is missing and another is too much. Some years I wrote a lot more than others, and I keep finding loose sheets of paper, scribbles in a park on a lunch break, emails to myself from 2001 or 2015, and notes and post-its stuck to postcards. I have to decipher them, connect the dots… Where was I, who did I love, what was I listening to? Was it vodka, whiskey, coffee, or sobriety? Was it film, digital, phone, or all of the above? Was it Doc, Frye, or barefoot?
Do I publish 600 pages of stories, memories, moments in time? Do I divide it into two? Chronological? Random order? Poetry sneaking through the pages? With Spring Comes Hope was straightforward: a beginning and a place to finish. Of Hearts and Sea Glass is a brick, a cloud, and a marble, or maybe a snowball, rolling, rolling, rolling, collecting layer after layer of thickly packed snow.
You tell me… Are you interested in England? In France? In Israel? In NYC? Are you interested in music scenes, depression, sex, drugs and rock n roll? Are you interested in heartbreak and happiness, facts, autobiographical fiction, real people with fake names? Are you interested in the ocean and the stars, writers and dreamers, lost souls and barefoot wanderers? Are you going to be upset if you recognize yourself? Are you going to be hurt if you don’t appear? Couldn’t give a shit either way? My writing is often impulsive, spur of the moment, a sudden image flashing from my memory unraveling a string through time, words rushing to get out, to convey that one moment. It’s that song that takes you right back there, every single time, a punch in the gut while it rains stars over your head. When it happens I have to drop everything and grab what I can, writing, typing, dictating, because once the string has unraveled she floats off downstream, just another pearly drop in the water.
I stood on the beach in Nahariya in 2003, and the streets of Oakham in 1995. I walked through Place Grenette so many times I could still do it with my eyes closed, the same way I walked down Orchard St in 2005 or in 2014. I have stepped into the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, the Pacific, and my beloved Atlantic, toes touching sand, fingers shielding my eyes as I looked out over the water to the end of the world. I’ve walked up mountains and through deserts, lived in the biggest of cities and the smallest of villages and places in between. I have loved many and probably been loved by many, often letting it all flit through my fingertips. And right then, typing those words, Catch starts up in my head, and immediately the feeling of sitting in the passenger seat next to my best friend, zooming down the New Jersey Turnpike towards our skyline, cigarette smoke and dreams, wind tying our hair into knots. Our freedom was the city, nooks and crannies filled with stories upon stories upon stories. I still smell the Bakers Oven across the street and dream of soft éclairs and baguettes from the boulangerie next to Stendhal. I try to treasure all of these memories, because I am so afraid that one day they will all disappear into a black hole.
Are you interested? Am I writing this for me alone? For you? For my children? For no one in particular? I don’t know. But it will be done soon, another month or two of editing and it will be done, as long as I know where to start it and where to cut it off. Words for days, stories for years, it will all come together soon.
In the meantime, if you want to help me choose a cover for Of Hearts and Sea Glass, as well as read some previously unpublished snippets over the next few weeks, add your email to my mailing list (see below). I don’t email often, but I promise it will be worth reading when I do! <3
Where is home? I don’t know, it has changed so many times over the years. Sometimes it changes over the space of a day. You know, home is here, or home is there. Home is everywhere! But where is home really? I spent many years wondering this, yearning for somewhere else, nostalgic, homesickness just another part of my everyday emotional pool. I put my hands in, try to wash it away put there she is, wrapped around the reflection of the New York skyline or the Vercors mountain range. I close my eyes and there it is, my old boulangerie, the smell of freshly baked baguette right there in my nose. Or sometimes it is the bar on Orchard Street, the sounds in the walls when you walk open the doors, cool air, dried glass rings, the comforting smell of old beer that never goes away. Other times it is the churchyard in England, moss-covered tombstones, and names that have long since been forgotten by most. And then I imagine myself walking barefoot down the hill to the little beach on the Mediterranean, a mile or so from Nahariya, a few more from Akko. Home was leaving one home and landing in another, even when I had never been there before. Home was a suitcase in one hand and a cigarette in another, $200 in a bank account and a new life wherever I laid my head. Home is and will always be where I feel safe, happy, and with those I love.
The smell of rain on the warm pavement in the middle of the summer, a couple of swallows flying for cover into the eaves above my bedroom window, and the sound of the breeze rustling through branches and leaves, that is home. England in the summertime is home. Right there in the village where there is one main road and a few smaller ones, and two churches, the bells ringing on Sundays in time for the morning service. England is also the little room at the top of the building, with the grand staircase leading down to the rest of the apartment, cooking smells coming from the kitchen, the fire crackling in the living room. Home is the warm, thick quilt on Nana’s bed, watching television in the evening because I was allowed to stay up later than my sister. England is also living in London on next to nothing, writing poetry on my lunch break in Putney by the river; dreaming of Israel and California while wandering through the streets of Streatham. England is my first home, the home where I was born, and where I have returned to many a time. England is the comfort, the warmth, but also the grey and the dark. England is living as a working class family under Thatcher in the 80’s, but England is also rolling hills of green beauty and old, old pubs with real ale.
The unseasonably warm breeze cutting through the November air, leaves falling red, yellow, brown to the ground, but still t-shirt weather when yesterday we were in winter coats. Home is the Mistral whistling through the mountains into the valley, a city where the blue sky is tainted by brown pollution, nestled down between different mountain ranges. Vercors, Chartreuse, Belledonne: that is where I am from. France is nights spent sitting on the statue of Berlioz singing songs with a bottle of rose in my hands, hand in hand with my best friend, running through the cobbled streets causing havoc. Home is ivresse, home is warm bread and brie, ravioles baked in the oven, and countless espressos sitting outside en terrasse, no matter how hot or cold it is. Home is the relentless snow in the summer, and the snowcapped mountains in the winter. Home is opening your window shutters every morning to be greeted by the foot of a mountain, looming up into the sky, faces in the rocks, trees that turn with the seasons, somewhat oppressing, mostly a safety blanket. Never a real sunset on the horizon, sometimes I missed that, but those beautifully dramatic thunderstorms made up for it twice over. Dancing in the rain, happy faces, a kind of freedom from everything. Home is teenage years and metal and grunge and goth and friendships that last forever. Home is the most beautiful language in the world.
The smell of 5am in the spring, early morning jogger passing late night last caller, city that never sleeps: that is home. New York City, the place where so many dreams go to die, where so many dreams go to shine, is my home. A decade of decadence, a decade of wonder, of ups and downs and squiggly all arounds: a home that I never expected, but the home that I always craved. So many boots worn into the ground, uptown, downtown, Brooklyn, Queens, bridges and tunnels and subways and ferries. I can still find my way there blindfolded, the city sounds music to my ears. City sounds at night put me to sleep now, silence keeps me awake, ears craving the soothing sounds of sirens and cars, loud beats and voices travelling below my window. Home is the smell of laundry, bakery, trash, and stale beer all on the same block. Home is where love waxed and waned, and finally fell straight. Home is where my daughters were born, where the eldest took her first steps, and where life took a different turn. New York City: city where I lost and found myself over and over again, falling, crawling, standing up and walking tall. Home that haunts my dreams and my daydreams. Homesickness is the strongest with this one.
And now, home is here in this little city, capital of such a big state. Boiling hot in the summer, damp in the winter, wedged between desert and mountain, I suppose it is home. Home because we have a home, and home because my family is here. I still wander the streets like a stranger, one foot on, one foot off; looking for places we can make our own. We live in the bustle, but it is quiet, and we walk everywhere, every day. Past the Capitol where laws are passed and protests are held, through the gardens where each tree proudly displays a name and a history, up, up towards the real bustle, figuring out where we belong. I have known Sacramento on and off for 17 years and she appears to be struggling. Growing, but not fast enough, streets a mess of new and tumbledown, not enough room for the residents, K Street an image of the US that no one wants the world to see. Old Sacramento has my heart; the rumble of the wooden sidewalks as the stroller rolls over the slats, Evangeline’s beckoning us inside, memories of centuries lingering in the alleyways. I learn to love you, new home, the place where my son was born, but we will not be staying, our plans have many more horizons ahead of them.
Laced in between those homes are other homes, temporary stays that became more permanent, and forever etched into my mind. Barefoot walks to the edge of the moshav, running around the kibbutz at night… The little house in the suburbs, the place where I learnt what prejudice really meant, being spat on because I wasn’t blonde and didn’t speak Dutch. Biking to school, rain or shine, learning a new language in the space of weeks, months, little brains like sponges, watching, absorbing, listening. I still smell the Prasad in India, the overpowering smell of flowers on the tomb in the early morning, a perfect quiet, no one to bother me while I wrote and sketched. Sterilized water in containers outside of the rooms, perfectly crafted vegetarian meals, and people from all walks of life, a moment in time, ships passing through the night. That balcony in Barcelona, summer moon shining through my cigarette smoke as I listened to Cat Stevens and dreamed about coming back home, because those streets reminded me of home, of France home. My life is formed by a pattern of homes, all tracing backwards and forwards, down hills, over mountains, with many, many flights between them.
One day we will make our home somewhere else again. Another country, maybe one I have never resided in before, maybe one that I already call home. The wind has a tendency to turn and cast me off into all types of directions, heart first, the rest following right behind. If there is one thing I have learnt it is to never wait for something to happen, instead one should grab ahold of it and not let go.
I sift through the oversized box, full of band shirts in different shapes of wear and tear, tour shirts with the date emblazoned on the back, women-sized shirts bought at merch stands, old, old shirts from decades ago, bought with money I scrimped and saved ahead of time. Widened neck holes, arms cut off, some teeny tiny that barely fit over these breasts I have since grown, kept out of nostalgia and memories and a faint hope that once my breastfeeding days subside I will comfortably fit in them again. Band names that no longer exist apart from in memories of basement bars and long nights, good looking guitarists always shredding my heart into pieces. The soft feel of the material between my fingers, the smell of bars and booze, Chanel no 19, coconut and cold vodka still in my mind, conjured up through the long-lasting lavender softener scent.
Music you own me, you are the rhythm of my memories and haunt my future, hold me up and pull me down, bring me back and push me forward. The Siouxsie shirt that went from office stress to DJing til early in the morning at Midway, fence down low so the sunlight wouldn't bother us. Years gone by and I can still taste the air, jager and stolen kisses in the DJ booth up high, Bonnie Tyler for a laugh, the electric slide along the floor. The tiny Secret Machines shirt, so tiny I don't even know how it fit, fills my soul with a swaying happiness, because despite everything it was always going to be OK, right place and right time, a moment in time which would slip away from us, both moving along and thanking each other. The one Cure shirt from back in the day, proper vintage, a perfect gift from a perfect friend, a mutual love of The Cure framing a friendship, an appreciation of the deeper impact of music drilling it deeper.
The pale green Sonic Youth tee, the eye staring, knowing, watching, a time of sitting back and listening, observing and not participating, a time of sunshine and beaches and sobriety, where the drunken stories were no longer my own bit those others told me. Barcelona wanderings leading me to moonlight ramblings from a balcony I will never see again, chain smoking with one hand, furiously writing with the other. The black Interpol t-shirt, purchased many, many years after my first Interpol show, that one in Staten Island, new to NYC, embracing my new life with an old but new friend, a door opening towards Ludlow and Orchard - Darkroom, Motorcity, and then The Skinny and later 200 Orchard. Pianers on Sunday, and so much stomping up and down those streets, heels worn down on my Fryes, eyes bright with anticipation or ivresse or both. The first time I met them, these people I fell in love with through my headphones, I was shy and intimidated, and then it was just all home anyway. The streets, the people, the music. Interpol and Calla and Dead Combo, my Ludlow, maybe yours.
Oh look there is my Spiritualized t-shirt, washed and worn so many times, so many memories of shows, Terminal 5, Radio City, Webster Hall... Hotel Rivington, watching the sun rise over the East River, a glass of red wine in my hand, having meaningful conversations with musicians, wishing I had more to offer, constantly feeling less than others, undermining my own value and feelings, a warrior fighting my own demons, while fighting my own self-worth. Spiritualized, weaving through my life, my firstborn's first show, a little secret in my womb, a pregnancy announcement whispered from one side of the balcony to the other. Come Together, before our lives all fell apart in an explosively wonderful manner. Spiritualized, always a cleansing, beautiful way to raise my soul, my happy music, sealing broken hearts, lifting me towards love. And always with my best friend, together even when we weren't. Surprisingly only one Nick Cave, my love now worn by my true life love, but so many moments in his presence from Lyon to the Beacon Theater, standing over me, that voice that transcends all others, whispering, goading, flipping your stomach inside out, grabbing you by the heart. There is no other, no other like him. The Kills, the one band I have seen more than any other, every time better than the last, never failing to grab me by the guts and shove me in front of my emotions.
And then there are those shirts that are only left in my memories, the original Ride the Lightning, paper thin with age, hash holes along the bottom, Metallica. I finally saw them 18 years later, Megadeth-Slayer-Metallica, teenage dreams coming alive in my 30's, jammed against the fence by the pit, screaming along to old songs with unknown new friends next to me. Strangers but together with the music. Seasons in the Abyss alive and well, lyrics taking me back to my teenage room in France, while standing on the soil of NYC. A 200 franc note blowing down the street, landing at my feet. I kept it for a week in case anyone claimed it and then ran to the shop in the center of town, spending half an hour deciding between two Nirvana shirts, finally opting for the one that wasn't the yellow smiley. My first own music t-shirt purchase, teenage uniform with my mismatched Doc Martens and ripped jeans. The Nine Inch Nails shirt, bought in the US on the Fragile tour, worn into the ground on a kibbutz in Israel, Trent’s voice’s effect on my heart lasting so much longer than his merch.
Hundreds of shirts, all neatly folded in a box, all waiting to be worn again, telling the stories of a lifetime of music, of lifetimes of music, memories dancing to the beat of a drum, twirling towards a crescendo, caught in time. Right there, that high note, Leonard Cohen's smile as he dances across the stage; the smoke surrounding American X, still true today BRMC; Peter, white faced and dark-eyed, once again reunited with Daniel, David, and Kevin, and me standing from that balcony in the Times Square venue, wondering how I had finally managed to make a teenage Bauhaus dream come true. Red wine and Lit, running through the streets of NYC, places that now only exist in my memories and maybe yours. An unfinished story of places, people, and the music that brought us altogether.
I don’t remember writing this. But I do remember the exact moment that this was written, my first late summer in NYC, my first taste of that magical month of September when you can finally breathe again. I didn’t really act on my thoughts right then, I’m still waiting for my writing to pay for that beach house, but I remember that girl so well. She isn’t all that far away really, still there, still me. She used to push herself to do things she found uncomfortable (move to a random city in a foreign country where she knew absolutely nobody for example, although that was easier than going out of the house and walking into a bar by herself sober). She used to wonder why she was so often alone, and then would refuse the advances of men all the time. She held on to nostalgia (still does), and dreamt far ahead, of days when there wouldn’t be a need to hustle anymore. She wasn’t innocent, and had seen things other would never see or experience already. She, me, would often sabotage everything for herself before it even began, or would pretend that certain things were more important than others (doing well at work vs being happy and free). I don’t regret anything, but stumbling on this folder full of 2005 journal entries, and especially this one, made me realize all the more why I need to finish what I started many, many years ago.
There is a big reason why my blog is all over the place. I started it in 2003 before I went off to Israel for what ended up being over a year and a huge moment of change in my life. Over the years it evolved into a place where I force myself to post writing that would otherwise stay locked up on my hard drive or my written journals forever. Of course, I want people to read what I write, to react, to talk to me about it, but at the same time I can’t force anyone to. I’m terrible at marketing and I couldn’t sell myself to save my soul, so I most likely won’t be ever buying a beach house with my writing. But sending some of my most personal writing, poems and stories out there into the big wide world is something that I have told myself I will do for decades. And I promise myself this year it will happen. With Spring Comes Hope was my first step into this lake, dabbling my toes, and with Of Hearts and Sea Glass will be a full on dive. In the meantime I will continue to share some of what I write with the world via my blog. It doesn’t have a niche or a certain topic, but it’s my home on the internet.
Here you go, the ramblings of a lonely 27 year old, ready to settle her roots in a new country, but not entirely sure where her roots are anymore. All content, apart from names that I have removed, has been exactly copied from when it was written in 2005.
Saturday September 4th 2005
Although still hot during the day, the evenings are cooling down. Now I can sleep with a cover again, instead of rolling around all night, sweating… Most days I feel like I haven’t slept in months. Most mornings I wake up before dawn, worrying about something or other at work. I think it’s time to get some sun as I am paler than I have been in years.
I feel so lonely. My life feels fulfilled on a few levels: my job, my own place… But I miss my friends, I miss flirting, drinking, dancing, dressing up, emotions, emotions, emotions. I want to share my bed with someone again. And I seriously need to erase the [ex boyfriend] demon for good. He needs to go. I need closure because he’s not going to come back. I don’t break my promises, but it’s difficult when the other person forgets so easily. It’s over [ex boyfriend]. I can’t give you my heart anymore, I’ve tried for too long now. You’ll never ever find someone like me, and whether you regret that or not doesn’t even matter anymore.
All those men in my heart, and he’s the only one who sticks. I can still remember his touch on my body, I want to forget and remember at the same time.
I want to lose control again – down a bottle of vodka, sleep with a random guy who keeps complimenting me, dance all night, feel free free free again. I’m young. It’s time to start living again. I feel like I haven’t been doing that since I left Israel. I’m setting my roots down again. I know the pain of ripping them out, but it’s worse when I just stumble along day by day, just surviving. It’s time to be alive again. See, do, hear, feel. No more walls again. Just me and my life. My friends will always be here, and now it’s time for them to come to me. And time to make new ones in this city. Time for real hugs again. Time to remember how things are for real.
[Close friend] will be here in a few weeks and I’m really looking forward to it. Having a friend here, sharing my little haven with someone else, partying and talking and walking and sharing and drinking and smoking and giggling and smiling and crying.
I have to put [ex best friend] behind me too. I’ve given so much in the past, and there have been so many times that it’s been thrown right back in my face. But I will never stop giving because that’s the way I am. Her spirit was just not free enough. Maybe I was just too wild but sorted at the same time. I can take on so much, I can deal with it all, and she obviously couldn’t. Tant pis, ce n’est pas si grave a la fin, n’est-ce pas? Life can be strange at the oddest times, you just have to get up and leave it behind. Some things just cannot be fixed however hard you try, as sad as it is.
I remember sitting on the wall next to the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco in the background, smoking a cigarette, wind blowing, running up to hug the sailor statue, singing out of tune in the truck. I remember lying on my bed in Sassenage dreaming of Kurt. I remember tickling [friend] in l’Ile Verte, talking about everything and nothing. She never left, she just got older and maybe a little wiser. Yes, me. Remember going to school and running off to Champollion with [great friend] every break? Stalking men we had never spoken to before… Pine’s Friend, Pine, Bog… Nirvana, Hole, PJ, Candlebox (well that one song). 11 years ago. Who would have thought that at 27 I would be living in New York?
One day, when I finally get my act together I will tell the story to all. The one about the young and shy girl who overcame (maybe) her tragedy and found herself. I wish I would stop making excuses. I don’t need the house by the beach to live. My writing might just buy me that house one day though. Forget your fears and just go for it.
I don’t want to say goodbye to anyone or anything. Not even au revoir. Not anymore. Enough is enough.
Compiling and now editing my next book, tentatively titled Of Hearts and Sea Glass, has been a bit of an arduous process, mainly because it's very autobiographical, and I am naturally a nostalgic person. It stirs up a lot of memories and feelings, some of which I am happy to wander through again, others not so much. I edited this piece this morning, previously published on Life With My Little Duck, a view into my early 20's and some of my travels...
Young Heart, Old Soul
In my world the devil dances and dares, To leave my soul just anywhere, Until I find peace in this world, I’ll sing a song everywhere I can, Just too young to know anymore. – Tim Buckley, Sing A Song For You
You know, I always thought that you turned 18 and there you were, an adult. All of a sudden the skies would open up with the knowledge you would need to understand everything around you.
Yeah, that doesn’t happen at 18 and it doesn’t happen at 21 either. Nor at 24.
I’ve been walking around the city recently, it some sort of a blur. Sylvia Plath is doing my head in and I can’t run away from her, not until I have finished my thesis anyway. I listen to the same few albums turning round and round on my record player, twirling round and round on the spot and wishing I could just click my fingers and disappear into a void.
I feel so bloody depressed.
Everything is in little pieces, little compartments surrounded by bigger compartments, and I shove each and every little component into its own neat little box, walking through a fog and pretending to reach out, but with no real zeal. I lost most of my spark somewhere between 9/11 and the twentieth time I read The Bell Jar. I go out some nights, wander over to the bars we all frequent, already drunk, and dance round and round, twirling to the sounds of The Cure and Bauhaus, wishing that I could be someone else, somewhere else. Those are paradoxically the moments when I feel the most free, hiding behind my “ivresse”, unafraid of myself and ridding myself of the fear of actually reaching into the future to become who I always imagined I would become.
And then comes that interminable nausea, the one that locks me into myself and gives me panic attacks, so that every time I take a step forward I end up taking two more backwards again. I can live with my timidity, but I can’t live with the inability to count on alcohol to give me the courage I need to be myself. I stand by the river, breathe in the stink and shout into the wind, feeling the bridge sway beneath my feet. Yes, I’ve contemplated jumping off and letting the cold water pull me away, but I don’t even know where I would want to be pulled to. All I know is that all of my life there has been this constant dream of just disappearing, taking off to never return, recreating myself somewhere else. It’s laced into my stories and my poems, dripping from the words I write every day in my journal and I honestly believe that one day it will just happen. I will snap and then be gone. It’s hard to manage the fear of having to compromise and this overwhelming need to shout from the rooftops I EXIST.
I need to get away from here, and I need to leave this cocoon behind. I love my friends, I love them with all of my heart, and I love this country that has become my home, but I need to be able to step out from the shadows and find the path or the paths that I need to take. I used to feel safe here, but the safety is beginning to strangle me, and this depression is getting worse and worse. Every morning I have to mentally prepare myself for the outside world, but the walls have crumbled so much and I don’t have the energy to rebuild them. I am too vulnerable and without my inner strength I won’t make it much further. I have to move away from my comfort zone and take that leap into a new world. What is there here for me right now anyway? Years and years of studying something I lost interest in a while back? Teaching in some random school hundreds of miles away from my home? Or just sitting her, stifling under my self-created and inflicted bell jar?
It really is time to go.
And all I ever wanted was the simple things, A simple kind of life. – No Doubt, Simple Kind of Life
It’s amazing how much difference a year can make. Last year I was treading water, breathing in the same recycled atmosphere, living in the shadows of my mind and wondering why I felt so trapped. Now I am sitting in the afternoon sun on my multi-coloured beach towel, contemplating the shiny Mediterranean and admitting to myself that there are times that life can seem pretty perfect. Or at least not as complicated as I was making it be.
I tried to stick it out back home, and then I tried to move closer to my family again, but neither option worked out for multiple reasons. So, instead of just going to London and aimlessly walking around searching for a job that I didn’t want, I chose Tel Aviv, the Israeli desert and finally a kibbutz up near the Lebanese border. You know what I discovered? I discovered that inner strength that had carried me through my childhood lifting me up again. I discovered that I could be a natural leader instead of pretending to be a follower, and I discovered that while running away may not always be the best solution, it is always an option.
Probably because I ran towards myself rather than away from myself.
I am made for kibbutznik life. I love the work, the freedom. I love the volunteer house and the volunteers. I love our routine and I mostly love that I feel like I can be me here, ME with a big, fat capital M. I can’t stay here forever, and I will never be able to stay here forever, but I can stay here for now and that is all that matters.
The parties, the love, the friendship, the family, the walks to the beach, the train rides down to my family in the desert. Learning and speaking Hebrew and passing for Israeli wherever I go. The market shuk every Sunday after work with the colourful clothes and the serve yourself falafel stand in the centre of town. Dancing in the rain and touring Egypt on $200, memories that I know will be stamped into my brain for the rest of my life. I’m in love, in love with a country, in love with a boy (maybe) and in love with life. This was the jolt I needed to wake me up; this was the change I never really knew I needed.
It’s so warm here, and time passes more slowly, we sit around sipping coffee and tea, smoking endless cigarettes and pondering on life and love and friendships. Friendships are made fast and firm, bonds created over the manual labour and the long nights of vodka and dancing. We are all here for our own reasons, but these are now the people I would trust with my life. I can’t ever imagine never seeing these people again, not talking to them every day or laughing about the silly things that we get up to when drunk. This is the life that I have always wanted, simple, but I also know that it’s only a halfway house really. I can’t stay here, not unless I make some drastic choices in my life, and I’m not ready to make any permanent choices now.
Israel has taught me to accept that sometimes you cannot control the outcome, and as frustrating as it may be, there are other solutions, other places to go, other lives to live. Our world is so huge and full of people, cultures, history and things to learn that I need to use the dead ends in my path as signs to go find another direction. I am no longer scared of myself or of what I can accomplish in my life if I put my mind to it. I am lucky enough to have choices and places to go. I am free, so why create a prison for myself?
In the meantime I will continue to enjoy the warm sand in my toes and the sun on my skin, waking up before dawn and sleeping way after midnight, watching the stars light up the expansive sky, guiding me to the extent of what this world has to offer me.
Always the same, nothing ever changes, English summer rain seems to last for ages. – Placebo, English Summer Rain
Have you ever felt like you make one choice after another and it becomes a chain reaction of sorts, pulling you one way and another? I’m twirling on one toe, pushing myself faster and faster but willing the world to stop for a minute so that I can catch my breath and my balance. London has served its purpose, a place to tiptoe through while looking elsewhere. Every time I lay my head on my pillow I think of elsewhere, every time I write a poem by the river on my lunch break I dream of where I want to be, and every time I walk the same steps back home I wonder how I am ever going to leave. London is comfortable and foreign, we speak the same language but I see further than the end of the day. I’m sure others do too, but I don’t want to spend the rest of my life waiting for spring to arrive, year in year out.
I walk over to the corner shop and buy my Sunday papers, reading them in bed with a pot of coffee and a pile of toast and butter, reading stories that I wish I had written, and staring aimlessly at the screen of my new iBook hoping to squeeze just a little inspiration out of my apathy. My housemates are wonderful, there are a lot of comforts in my life here, but it’s not enough. It will never be enough will it?
This is why I am off to New York City next week. I have never been there, I have never really even dreamt of going there, but I am still going there. A new job, a new life and another choice to be somewhere else. Ever since I left France I haven’t been able to find that one place where I really feel I belong or at least that one place where I belong and where I can actually stay. Visas and documents may stop me from staying somewhere, but they won’t stop me from looking for my home.
I’m 27 now and although I have experienced more than many, I still find it hard to believe I am actually an adult. Yes, I arrived in London with no place to stay and no job and within a week I had both. Yes, I have a job with responsibilities and I pay my rent on time every week. Yes, I have orchestrated my own move to NYC with no idea where I am going to live or what to even expect when I get there. Yes, I have traveled extensively on little to no money. And yes, I even managed to get an MA before I left France. But I still feel like that shy little girl is right there, just below the surface, waiting to pop up at any given moment. She makes me second guess every move and makes me doubt everything I say. The only way I can make her go away is with vodka and I still haven’t learnt how to get past that stumbling block yet.
I’m sure there will be enough vodka for me in NYC. I just hope I won’t lose myself in that big beating heart of a city. Or maybe that is just exactly what I need to do?
As I am working on my next book I have been coming across written and half-written essays, moments suspended in time, and scribbled notes in journals, often opening boxes of memories and feelings. This one will most likely find itself in the book in some shape or form... It reminds me of many people and nights.
There are certain sounds that transport me right back there, like Julian Casablanca’s' voice for example, I can smell the dry ice, taste the ice cold vodka that never had a chance to melt. I can feel the sweat on my neck, rooting around my bag looking for elastic to tie my hair up with. Dance dance dance amidst everyone, friends, acquaintances, random people, together and alone, drunk and high.
Friday night Darkroom. Friday night Annex. Saturday day hangover. Saturday evening Darkroom. Saturday evening Motorcity. Saturday evening Misshapes. Saturday evening Annex. Sunday morning somewhere. Home? Maybe. Elsewhere? Possibly.
Those days were so innocent; there was a lot of laughter and fun and some responsibility, lots of words unspoken and some fear bolstered by Stoli. We all fit in, fit in together, little groups of people, friends, moving in the same circles, some crossover, nods hello, hugs, sharing, bitchy looks, drunken tears, hook ups, nights that went on and on in bar basements.
Monday, drinks. Tuesday off? Wednesday Darkroom after Sidewalk. Thursday Motorcity. Back to Friday again. Sleep was one of those things you could do when you were dead. Skinny jeans and heels and biker boots and black tops. Pad Thai delivered from the place across the street on Sixth Avenue, cheese enchiladas from the Hat, sandwiches and cigarettes and beer and Gatorade and coffee and chips delivered from the deli on Bleecker to my teeny tiny studio where my bed fills my room.
I don't miss those days but they are days that should be written about. Days where I would stand next to one of my favorite musicians in a dark bar and just smile and walk away, afraid to say anything and appear anything other than aloof and fabulous, trying not to hyperventilate while lighting a cigarette in a corner to calm my nerves. Sitting on the wall of shame outside Darkroom watching the world, Ludlow St, go by night after night, breathing in the air around me, wondering how I had ended up in the most perfect place at the most perfect time and thanking my lucky stars for aligning when they did.
It was a time when we didn't face our demons we just ran with them. A time when we just wanted to dance and to sweat and to sleep around, a time where we all pretended we weren't looking for anything more, where we tiptoed around feelings and love and hatred and fear, where the music brought us together and where sex and drugs and alcohol ripped us apart inside. It was all fun and games, laughter and shots, innocence and pretense. Walls were built high, high and knocked down brick by brick. I let some people in and others let me in, friendships were built through the haze of all of the fake smiles and bright eyes. We bumped into each other so often in the same places, we ended up having real conversations leading to brunches and dinners and heartfelt talks. We talked about life and love and fears. We listened to music, always the music, we tried new restaurants and venues, pretending we were bored of the "old" ones, but heading right back "home" after an hour, finding comfort in routine, even if we pretended we didn't.
How many days and nights did we waste running after things we would never catch? How many nights spent swimming in booze and sweat, how many days alternating between wishing we had just stayed in and wishing that we didn't need to live a life during the day.
The best days, the worst days. Dancing on a table or a bar, no cares in the world, shots, another round of shots, I need more than this, no I don't this is perfect, this is now.
Ten years ago, a decade from the innocence, old enough to know better, young enough to know that we would make it through ok, at some point. I close my eyes and I see a sparkling darkness, a road well trodden, at least 6 pairs of boots worn down on that street, stomping up and down. 2006 was happiness and elation, there were no bad days then, it was a long chain of days strung together where everything felt right and friendly and interesting and fun. Sometimes I pulled myself back to the fringes, not interested in stepping into the abyss that appeared sometimes. No need to dip my toes, I liked dancing around the borders, butterfly wings light and fragile holding me away from the pull.
There was a lot of love around at that time. A lot of scared young adults who needed each other but didn't want to say so. NYC is a big dark city if you don't find your place and I found mine. It will always be there on Ludlow Street, a stomping shadow moving from bar to venue to restaurant to bar again. A city of moving pieces where everything changes, but where your spot never goes away, a beacon in my memories, a highlight of every story.
I will always remember the first snowfall of winter, that sudden peace all around, snowflakes creating a barrier against the usual city sounds. I would watch and wait, hoping that it would settle fast, so that I could make the first footsteps in the snow, a satisfying crunch in those soft layers of snow. There is something very special about that first snowfall, magical nearly, everything is slower and less sudden, and a soft glow emanates around the city, silence. By the time February arrives the snow has become an inconvenience, piles of blackened ice-snow packed up against sidewalks and eyes searching for the first signs of Spring, but back in December the snow is just magic. Have you ever been snowed into your apartment building? I have, quite literally, and had to wait for friendly outsiders to dig us out. New York City may be a huge city but it is on the cusp of so many elements, and sometimes lets Mother Nature unleash herself all over the population.
That includes hurricanes. We were warned but never really believed the hurricane would hit us straight on like a ton of bricks. Hurricane parties, all snuggled up in our homes or local bars and then BAM, the power disappeared, only to return over a week later. Tunnels and streets flooded with salt water, houses destroyed by wind and rain and waves and fire. Utter destruction. There was a huge shortage of gasoline, cars would line up for blocks and blocks near a gas station, drivers sleeping in their cars, waiting for a tanker to hopefully arrive. We walked a lot, thinking about friends and family and strangers who were a lot worse off than we were, hoping that we would be able to go back to work sooner rather than later, collecting food and clothes for people who had become homeless overnight, losing everything in the process. A hurricane is no laughing matter, no matter the category, and can cause massive damage in the space of minutes. I will never, ever underestimate the power of Nature again.
I sometimes did very stupid things. I went up to the roof of our building when the storm was hitting the hardest and stood there screaming in the wind. There were piles of loose wood on the roof and I could only stand up by holding on the railing with both hands. Exhilarating but so, so stupid.
My feet still walk through the streets, blindly following the routes that I would take day in, day out. Up the steps from the J train stop on the corner of Essex and Delancey, along Delancey, turning north on Orchard. Popping into Le French Diner (the original one) for a coffee or lunch before heading into 200 or Taqueria for work. Walking around the neighbourhood in Flushing, listening for the sounds of the ice cream truck and wondering when we could move back to Brooklyn again. I can close my eyes and look up, up, up to Empire State Building, see the reflection of the sun in the Chrysler and then stomp down, down, downtown towards my Ludlow and Orchard again, ready for anything that the day or night would throw at me. I can still smell all the city smells so vividly, the trash, the Laundromats, the fresh food frying from carts on the street. The subway smell, one that you never forget, and definitely not after 11 years of taking it up and down, east to west, west to east, north to south and all the way back round again.
Spring always arrived as a surprise, but a well-awaited and old-friend surprise. One day you would be complaining about the bitter wind in March and the next windows would be opened and the fresh, sweet air would bear tidings of sun and longer days and blossoming magnolia trees. Winter coats and scarves and hats took the backseat of the closet again, replaced by dresses and cardigans and my everlasting Fryes, stomping through the city streets season after season, bar after bar. Spring always brought hope and happiness, bright lights and better times, beaches and lazy days exploring new places in the city, photographing walls and people and buildings. I always moved house in the spring, from the Lower East Side to Spanish Harlem to the West Village to Brooklyn. Only my last move happened in the winter, between two snowstorms at 34 weeks pregnant. There was more of a rush with that one, the rush to create a new family home in the city we all loved so much.
Good news and bad news, life and death, friendships born and friendships disappearing, all moving parts in the whirlpool that is life in New York City. For such a little island that is Manhattan, there is a lifetime of discoveries and happiness, sadness and changes to come across, a death on Broadway leading to a marriage on 116th and a birth on Avenue A. Scars created by heartbreak and sadness, healed by ointments created from love and joy, an army of people always by your side wherever your feet took you to. I have never felt as at home as I felt in New York, from the moment I saw the skyline in my cab ride from JFK, and the moment I said goodbye to the skyline 11 years later. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of the city, of the streets, of the smells, of the memories, of the friends. I think of the many mistakes, and of all the better things that I did. The stories are coming along, I sometimes worry I will forget them and then I remember that I can’t forget nearly a third of my life just like that. So while I shed a tear writing this, I also feel so inspired and renewed and know that once a home is found, it always remains home, no matter how far away your feet are, pieces of your heart and soul remain, even if all of the buildings have disappeared…
Rockaway Beach in the summer, hungover or sober, year after year. Those waves, that sand, the Sand Bar. That humid air, unrelenting, but never bad enough to actually wish for winter. Enough to wish for sunset when the breeze would brush the hairs on your arms ever so slightly, live music sounds coming from bars and clubs and open windows, strolling down the busy streets, smoking cigarettes and chatting about love and life and dreams. Midnight would turn into 5am and sometimes artificial joy would turn to black, but other times 5am meant pulling the gate on the bar and grabbing a sandwich and tea at Sugar on the corner. Going to bed when the sun was rising, or already risen, was a normal activity, waking in the early afternoon, ready for the next adventure. Walking across the Williamsburg Bridge was always a highlight, touching the skyline with the tips of my fingers and reading the words etched into the ground and the walls along the way.
And summer always turns into autumn, September bright and beautiful, perfect beach weather because everyone has gone home, and those of us who don’t work normal hours or normal days can enjoy the peace under the sun. The sunset seen from the roof, skies of fiery red and pink and purple and yellow, casting a glow over the city, one last gasp of natural light before the city lights illuminate the sky again. Camera in hand I would walk and walk, capturing everything I could see, year in year out, through-out the seasons, memories in my head, on my screen and hanging from my walls. Beautiful city you will always be mine.
The last week of the year is going out like a lead balloon falling straight into the deepest part of the ocean. We have all been suffering from the most terrible cold and haven't set a foot outside of the house since Boxing Day. I find being ill very hard to deal with because I rarely am ever ill, neither are the children really. But I suppose being pregnant just makes it worse. So tonight will see me falling asleep by 9pm with a book on my chest, Cesar working late downtown, and hopefully a restful and peacefully healing night's sleep for our little ones!
Anyway, 2016 has been a strange, interesting, wonderful and terrible year altogether, better than some years in some senses, worse in others, but all in all full of changes, love, friendship and some sadness. Late last year we made the decision to leave our beloved NYC and move nearer my family in Northern California, a decision that still weighs heavy on us. While it's been wonderful to be close to my mum, sister and brother, living here isn't as easy as we had thought it would be, and both Cesar and I still miss NYC terribly. We also know that the move was the best thing for us as a family, so no regrets, just a little nostalgia, and a lot of thoughts towards the next few years and where we see ourselves then. So while the children are watching the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and we all cuddle in bed, coughing and sneezing up a storm, I will write my own little retrospective of the year, complete with my personal favorite blog posts...
This year two of my absolute favourite all-time artists passed away, amongst many other wonderful artists, some of which were a little expected due to age or illness, others whose death came as a sad surprise to us all. Losing David Bowie and Leonard Cohen sure felt like personal losses to me, and while I don’t blame 2016 for “killing” so many favourite icons I do believe that we were hit a little harder than other years, especially those of us who were kids in the early 80’s.
2016 was the year that our eldest turned two and finally started speaking. All of my worries in that department have disappeared as she now speaks as well as a three if not four year old. I shall have to write a follow up blog post to my previous speech-related one in the new year, especially now that our 16 month old has started talking and repeating everything we say. I started a high needs child series on the blog (Sleep is a Luxury, A Heart Warrior Mum's Account, Trust Your Instincts, Trust Your Child) that I hope to continue in 2017, because there are so many things that people don’t tell you when you are pregnant, and so many things that I feel women don’t talk about out of fear of being judged. While I still owe my blog a 15 month summary for my youngest, I’m pretty proud of the fact that I managed to continue her baby book/blog in the same way as I did her sister’s, because I will be taking all of the posts and photos and actually creating real books for them in the future. In other parenting news I blogged about tandem nursing, rambled about middle of the night and daytime thoughts, dreamt of the beach, discussed my vegetarianism, and talked about how we lead by example. And of course, not to forget, our newest news, that baby number three is on his or her way! And by the way, keeping with our tradition of not revealing the name until birth, this time around we will not be revealing the sex either.
One of my most proudest blog feats this year is gathering and publishing a collection of amazing immigration stories, and I hope to continue this series in the new year too (#IAmanImmigrant, The Ten Year Wait Part 1 & 2, Serial Immigrant, Henna from the Heart, In the Dead of the Night, They Are Coming For You, Female Janitors say Ya Basta). There were so many really awful things that happened in the world this year, civil wars spinning out of control with no end in sight, Brexit, US elections that made me want to leave and never come back (something that will happen once we get everything sorted, as we are a multi-nationality family that requires at least one person obtain a specific visa wherever we decide to move in the world), and horrific terrorist attacks leaving us all wondering if we will ever feel safe anywhere ever again. There were many, many other things that I wish I had taken the time to write about, but I’m spread so thin nowadays, between my work assignments, the girls and just trying to find quality time to do the things that I love that some things fall between the cracks. I did find time to continue my travel memoirs series though, and will continue to add stories over the next year (On Kibbutz Evron, One Night on a Felucca, Falling in Love with Barcelona, Working in the Kibbutz Dining Room, Memories of Poland, From Milan to Rome, via Venice and Florence).
When it comes to time, I feel like I haven’t taken the time to really work on my photography enough, and even the things I have worked on I am so behind on editing! So in the new year there will be collection of air show photos, some of Old Sacramento during the Gold Rush Days celebration, and quite a few autumn photos of the kids! In the meantime I have published quite a few albums, a retrospective of NYC street art that I shot and collected over the space of many years living there, the Western States Horse Expo, the California State Fair, the Chalk It Up festival, the Sacramento Mural Festival and the awesome Art Hotel 916, as well as a collection of photos taken in our local park during the summer months. All taken with Canon, FujuFilm and Nikon. I really want to work on more portraits as well as more horse show coverage this coming year, and possibly some sunrise/sunset photos on the delta too, but that will require some advance planning!
I’ve also had the opportunity over this past year to meet some wonderful, like-minded people via the internet, who have become my friends, and had the honour of having quite a few guest posts published. Ally on Life with my Little Duck published five (!) of my childhood stories, Jenny at Mamazou published my ramblings on tandem nursing, the words “fat” and “skinny”, and traditions, Vicki at The Honest Confessions of a NICU Mum published my story on raising a multi-ethnic family, a letter to my little girls on Pabarilife, and my story of unmedicated birth in a hospital appeared on Womb n Wellness.
I also had the opportunity to post some wonderful guest posts and interview some amazing people for From the Inside over the past year: Fear is Four Letter Word, So is Bomb by Simay Yildiz, Raising a Heart Hero, and Raising CHD Awareness with Dara McBee, Ramblings with Charlie Romijn from Thought Forms, Interview with the Pechos Libros organization, Interview with Lynn Doak, Holistic Fertility Coach, A Chat with the Inspiring Jenny from Mamazou.
There were many other posts that have been published over the past 12 months, easily accessible via my Archive, and I aim to try to write more next year, at least until our third is born and then it will be a question of really finding the time! I have been blogging in some form or another since I created my LiveJournal account in 2003, and journaling and writing since I was 7 years old, and I love how far I have come in terms of finding my own voice, writing about things that are very important to me, and continuing to maintain my own little place on the web that will never be able to be categorized. I have some self-publishing plans for 2017, so hopefully they will work out and I can finally get some collections of poems, stories and essays out there! One step at a time.
I wish everyone near and far a very Happy New Year, much love, health and happiness in 2017, and to remember to feel blessed with what we have, and to reach out to those who need it, no matter where or who they are. I’m a little apprehensive about 2017, but at the same time very positive too. Come late June/early July we will have another little munchkin joining us, and while the world as it stands today is in complete turmoil, I hope that we can all stand up together to make some real changes. In the meantime, much love to everybody, and I hope that 2017 treats us all well.