Ramblings and Photography: Autumn in California

A two week holiday with my family in California was just what I needed after a long and tumultuous year of happenings and changes. Next time I won’t be away from the love of my life for this long (thankfully FaceTime exists), but all in all this holiday was seeped in love and happiness as the main reason for my trip over here was to see my brother marry the love of his life in a beautiful ceremony in the rose gardens in downtown Sacramento.

Two days after I arrived, the weather as warm as a summer day (minus the humidity) in NYC, I watched my little brother and his now wife vow to be together forever while putting the hand-picked rings they had chosen for each other on each other’s fingers. Even in late October the many rose bushes were still in bloom, and the lilac trees were full of pretty butterflies, the precious animal that is always so dear to my heart for so many reasons. Close family and friends of the couple were there with us, including some family from England that I hadn’t seen for years. There were lots of tears of happiness and sadness when thinking of those not able to join us in the celebrations (I am still going to blame the pregnancy hormones for the amount of times I have cried in the past few weeks though). Dylan is the first of us three siblings to get married and I am so happy to be there, and so happy that his unborn niece or nephew was able to somewhat participate in everything.

I have been very much more aware of the season change in California this time around, more than I have been in the past. Despite the warm weather the leaves on the trees are turning yellow and red and orange, and littering the lawns and the roads with their colours. The wind blows cooler and harder than it does normally, and the temperature has dropped from the summer temperatures that I felt on my first days here. It is still warm though, and not the freezing notes that NYC has dropped to during my time away. Ten days ago the sun was beating down on us as we walked around the pumpkin patch looking for witches and ghouls and random Chucky figures that were hiding out in the corn fields; yesterday while walking around a parking lot in downtown Sacramento that was decorated in Dia de los Muertos altars I had to wear a hoodie and grabbed a hot chocolate to warm up, waiting for darkness to roll in earlier due to the time change.

There are so many places in this area that I still haven’t seen, in all the years that my mother has lived here and all the times that I have visited. Mum and I went on a day trip to the Sacramento Delta, starting off at the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksdale, driving along the Sacramento River, over some of the many bridges spanning one side to the other, right up to the semi ghost town of Isleton. We had a most delicious lunch in a small diner where a few locals lined the counter, watching television while eating their lunches, and then snapped images of the buildings that were once lived in and are now abandoned, waiting to be renovated or to fall down in disrepair. An old man in overalls stopped us on the street and told us to wait until nightfall so that we could see the bats swarm from one of the building…

That would have been pretty magical to see, but we had to move on, a few miles back down the road to another semi ghost town called Locke. A town that was built by Chinese immigrants and then abandoned when the work on the delta and bridges and railroads tapered off. More old houses, falling apart and left, waiting for someone to come back and lovingly restore them to their former glory. Houses filled with stories and memories and dreams and nightmares…

I always love to walk around Old Sacramento, no matter the weather or the season. The old wooden board sidewalks and the saloon buildings make me think of cowboys and whiskey and horses and gunfights and a world different from today’s. And then the juxtaposition of the old buildings and steam trains and steam boat on one side of the river and the glass and steel edifices on the other side. Old and new; now and then. One of the coolest costume shops I have ever been to, Evangeline’s, is in one of the old buildings and just strolling around made me think about all of the cool ways I will be able to dress my baby up for Halloween next year. This year’s Halloween was spent with good friends and their children, watching them trick or treat around the neighbourhood, laughing at their excitement every time they gathered some chocolate or candy to put in their bags. Next year I will be doing the same with my child, although I doubt he or she will remember her first Halloween for very long. It will all be for my own personal pleasure of dressing up my child like a little monster on a holiday that I really love.

And then yesterday, last but not least of the California adventures, I stopped downtown to see some of the Dia de los Muertos celebrations on J Street downtown. I love the tradition of setting up altars for departed loved ones, and there were many to look at. Lots of flowers, dressed up skeletons, pictures of people’s deceased family members and friends, sugar skulls, personal items and other memorabilia. I told my boyfriend that next year we will be making a similar altar, not just because I love the idea, but also because I think it’s important that he or she be imbued with her Mexican heritage, as well as his or her English and French heritage. It’s actually going to be loads of fun mixing everything up and celebrating all of the different holidays there are to celebrate. 

And now it will soon be time to head back to NYC, prepare for a cold winter and navigating said cold winter while heavily pregnant. I am determined to enjoy this winter and the upcoming holidays as much as I can in the city, as who knows where I will be next year? Maybe enjoying another autumn in California, close to my family… I do have to say, this time round, when I was flying in to San Francisco I felt my heart lift with the feeling that I was coming home. That is usually the feeling I get when I'm flying into New York...

In order to see the full set of photos from all of the adventures above click on the link HERE, or the link under the screenshots below.

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California Autumn 2013, a set on Flickr.

Ramblings: Spiritualized again...

I should have finished this well over a month ago, but as usual, I started something with the aim to finish it “at some point”. Thankfully it’s not a review of the show that took place on September 10th at Webster Hall, just some ramblings about sharing music with my unborn baby…

Everything I do nowadays has a “We” to it as opposed to just an “I”. For example, I am not just hungry (make that absolutely starving as if I may collapse hungry) in the morning when I wake up; no “We” are hungry and “We” must eat right away. Little Munchie has taken over my life in the most magical of ways and I will never again see myself as a person alone in the world. It’s amazing. Anyway, the point of all this is that I am now sharing absolutely everything in my life with my unborn child, one of the most obvious things being my love for music. I haven’t been to anywhere near as many shows as I would like this year, but that didn’t stop me from looking forward to seeing Spiritualized when one of my dearest friends bought us tickets as soon as they went on sale this year. I didn’t know I was pregnant then, but I did before we went and it felt so good to think that my child was going to witness the live performance of one of my favourite bands before he or she was even born. 

There are some bands or musicians with whom you have a really intense relationship, one that holds you so hard that sometimes you need to take a step back to reevaluate, just to come back loving them even more. That’s my relationship with Spiritualized. I have seen them many a time over the years, at different venues in NYC, been around them with friends in different locations in the city, and have never ceased to be entranced during each performance, tears in my eyes and a smile on my face. There are some bands and musicians you go to see just for the live music, others you prefer to stay away from as they are just better recorded. And then there are those bands that you want all of: recorded, live, live recordings, conversations, everything. That special music that you will never tire of, will bore your children to death with until they, at a certain age, will appreciate your love for them and may even start to love them too. I have a list of bands and musicians that little Munchie is going to have to listen to over and over again and will probably hate for some years (some on this list are actually musicians that my mother had me listen to before I was even born, so I am just continuing a trend over the generations). In any case, Spiritualized is on this list and I am so happy that I was able to experience one of their performances with my unborn child.

"If you feel lonely and the worlds against you, take the long way home, past the scary jesus, and you'll find my door with your name in diamonds, and you'll feel lonely no more" - So Long You Pretty Things  

A list of random Spiritualized-related memories in no special order (just the order in which they come to mind when I am thinking about the band or listening to the music in some form or another): dancing round and round to Come Together with Hannah at Terminal 5 back in 2009; running late to the show at Radio City Music Hall with Meg but not missing anything due to the disco ball falling from the ceiling a few minutes before the band came on stage (and therefore being yet another narrow escape for Jason Pierce); listening to Death Take Your Fiddle with Meg on repeat for days before marching (stumbling?) off to Darkroom for another night of the same non-adventures; playing Broken Heart on repeat for days and days on end to constantly remind myself that my broken heart wasn’t the only one in the world; receiving a signed copy of Sweet Heart Sweet Light in the post out of the blue from a friend in England; the way hearing Stop Your Crying will always bring tears to my eyes, every single time; reconnecting with old and special friends I haven’t seen in a while at a show, and not feeling like anything had really changed over the months of not speaking to each other; dancing with my now-deceased and very, very special cat Luna to Ladies and Gentlemen in its entirety the moment work got too stressful… Music, friendship, memories, connections, love, anger, happiness and pain. Spiritualized embodies all of that and more for me.

Other bands/musicians on this list are of course The Cure, Marianne Faithfull, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Stevie Nicks, Tim Buckley, Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Nirvana, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, PJ Harvey… And so on…

Photography: Summer 2013 sets - Coney Island

I have always loved Memorial Day weekend, just because it basically means the start of summer, of beaches, of sunshine, of wearing shorts and dresses and no sweaters. Lying on the sand in the Rockaways or Fort Tilden, going on mini road trips towards adventures in the sun, late nights and early mornings, thunderstorms and humidity, and most importantly again, the beach. It doesn't really matter which beach (although I will miss Fort Tilden this year, as it won't be open due to the damage caused by Sandy), any beach will do as long as there is sunshine, sand and water.
The weather on Saturday was later winteresque - cold and windy and rainy. The weather on Sunday was a little better, apart from the rain, but it didn't bode too well for a summer kick-off... And then Monday dawned with sunshine and warmth, and there wasn't a better way to kick start summer with a visit to Coney Island with my Brazilian newly-wed friends Bela and Jerome. Of course I made them go on the Cyclone (and watched from afar - once in a lifetime was enough for me!).
Hopefully I will be able to document many more adventures this summer...
(Link below for the full set of photos).

AmusementTwisting and turningWatching the oceanThrillsRuby'sRemain seated
HappinessIntricate towerCarouselUnityBela and Jerome on the TwisterGoing up
ScaryCaricatures on the boardwalkCreepyBela and meMoving carriagesUpside down
Cyclone plungeFrom belowNewly wedsBrace yourselfSea buildingIntricate design
Summer 2013 - Coney Island, a set on Flickr.

Photography: Spring equals Happiness


Pink blossom 1BroadwayCashPainted wallsFlower standNamaste
Free moviesChildrenBushwick buildingWall artA wicked thing to doOn Troutman
Doll in a truckMagnoliaBushwick AveGreen and brownFreedomOK
Lost hensSuper truckWhite blossomGeneral strikeStreet artStrange
Springtime!, a set on Flickr.

Finally. This past winter dragged on and on and on and I never thought it would actually start getting warmer and brighter and more colourful outside. I woke up this morning and went for a walk around Bushwick, taking random shots of tree blossom, flowers, new and old street art and enjoyed feeling the warm sun on my face. I can't wait for it to get even warmer and for all of the adventures I aim to go on over the next six months... To be continued...

See full set of this mornings shots HERE (and link also above).

Photography: Randomly in Spring

I finally have that FujiFilm XE-1 camera that I have wanted for so long... Bit the bullet and spent the money on it and I can't say that I am disappointed at all! It really is like using an old manual SLR (a lot like the Canon AE-1 film SLR that I have been using over the past few years), with all of the additional DSLR settings that you could wish for, including a "film simulation" setting, which produces photos that look like they have been taken with a film SLR. It's kind of like the best of both worlds for me, who still prefers to shoot film rather than digital, but don't have the time to develop rolls of film anymore. Or even the space really to store all of the prints I have.

The only issue I found was that I randomly got a "lens control error" the other day and couldn't take any photos anymore. I let the camera sit for a day, removed the lens and put it back on, flipped all the switches and dials, turned it into the fully manual mode, and the error message disappeared. It appears that this is a regular issue with this model, which is a little disappointing, but if you can't fix it yourself Fuji will service it pretty fast for you. I am just glad I took out an extra warranty on the camera, especially as it's not as sturdy as the Canon Rebel.

Anyway... Here are some of the first pictures I have taken on my new camera (see set below). I need to take it out more and play around with it, and find the perfect settings, but for now I am pretty happy with what it can do. I am still wondering if I should bring it with me on my trip this weekend, or just take the Canon. I am worried that I will get another lens error and be stuck taking photos on my iPhone all weekend. I may just go with the trusty older camera and leave the new one for other adventures.

PepeLaurenHenna through the windowLooking inside 200HennaDoyle
LightManhattan skylineBrooklyn churchWood pileWompOrchard Street building
Orchard StreetStatueEast Village wallBroadwayHouston StreetWall mural
KarliTadhg and friendsSeanKarli & MattLuisReading material
Randomly in Spring, a set on Flickr.