This photo isn't easy to share. Neither is the story that goes with it.
I had just climbed the highest point of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. My parents and I were on a vacation visiting national parks across Utah and at the last minute we decided to check out the Grand Canyon. My dad had traveled there with his dad when he was younger and I thought it would be a nice moment for he and I to share. My dad's the one who taught me photography. His dad was also a photographer, and it kind of got passed down to me. My mom, who simply doesn't do heights, waited by the restaurant as my dad and I ventured along the trail to the rim.
When we got there, I climbed up this cliff, leaving my dad below with my camera and his (it was too sketchy to make the climb with my camera in hand). I had wanted this epic photo of me basically on top of the world. "Take a photo with my camera," I hollered at him. He looked at both cameras, confused. "It's the one around your neck," I said. He aimed my camera at me. I looked down and told him the lens cap was still on. "Why can't I see you?" he asked, just looking at the screen on the body of the camera. "You have to look through the viewfinder," I responded. "Okay, I have the perfect shot," he tried to convince himself. "You have the lens cap still on," I said. Tears were welling in my eyes. He didn't understand how to use a camera anymore. He could manage an easy digital one or his phone, but not a single-lens reflex camera (SLR) similar to what he taught me to use years ago, the one he gave me that he got when he served in Vietnam.
My dad took a photo of me. Luckily for me, it was from far away, because I couldn't stop the tears running down my face as I stood there. There, on top of the world, while my entire world was shifting below me. He was fading away right before my eyes. I climbed back down and we walked back to meet my mom at the restaurant (which is where she took this photo of us). The walk back to meet her was silent between my dad and I. We both knew something huge had just happened, but didn't want to acknowledge it with any words. Instead we kept moving, trying to enjoy the view.
This was only two years after my dad was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. It's been seven years. He's in the middle stage now, and doesn't really take any photos anymore. He goes on walks and listens to music. He's still the same human deep in there, but the person I grew up knowing, the man who taught me the art of photography, the fearless man who I used to go on epic hikes with, he's sitting back on the rim of the Grand Canyon with his own camera in hand, capturing moments of life and smiling.
We're driving towards the Griffith Observatory with Frank Sinatra serenading us along the way. Tiffany is sitting behind me, Josh is driving, and I'm dressed like Audrey Hepburn in the passenger's seat. There's a large black hat on my head and my Grandma's costume jewelry is draped around me. It's a beautiful day in Los Angeles, and the three of us are talking about our hopes and dreams. None of it seems real. It doesn't seem possible to be this happy.
Exactly a week ago, the three of us went on an adventure through Griffith Park as part of a photo shoot concept that Josh and I had collaborated on together. He is an up and coming photographer, experimenting with the concept of portraiture, and I (usually behind the camera) decided to step outside my comfort zone and attempt to pose. When we first came up with the idea, Josh asked me what type of photography would I like to explore. Usually if I'm working with photographers, I like to have them capture me in everyday moments. I like to focus on my quirkiness and the fact that I'm a creative person. I have not (at least since college) participated in a themed photographic adventure.
So when he asked me what I'm drawn to, I had to go with vintage 1940's style. I grew up on films such as Casablanca, It's A Wonderful Life, and The Philadelphia Story. Women like Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, and Rita Hayworth were all role models to me. I admired their gumption, style, and wit. Especially Katherine, mostly because she reminded me of my Grandma - a woman who never backed down from anything and spoke her mind freely. Also, both of them had their own unique style and wore it with the greatest of confidence that you couldn't help but be slightly intimidated by them when they walked into the room. Have I never mentioned that my Grandma bought matching silver shoes and a silver purse to go with her silver mustang at the prime age of 75? Yeah, she was a bad ass.
In the end, it was a culmination of 1940's to 1960's style. We visited the Observatory, the Merry-Go-Round, and the Train Museum throughout Griffith Park. While sitting side saddle on one of the ponies around on the Merry-Go-Round, I couldn't help but feel like Mary Poppins with my large hat, diamond earrings, and cotton candy wrapped around my black silk gloves. It reminded me how much I love to play pretend. To step out of reality and into a different character - one of the reasons I was always drawn to acting, and continue to write about people in their various lives. This day was escapism at it's finest.
There were so many ideas we had originally discussed that we never got around to, but we aim at working collectively on several more photographic projects together. I couldn't be happier with how these select images turned out though. With the amazing help of my best friend, I don't know if I would look as confident as I do in these. God knows I can't take myself seriously as a "model" because the whole idea is just ridiculous to me. I am so much more comfortable hanging out in the background (as a photographer and writer, it just makes sense to me), but I am pushing myself to try new things and experience various creative aspects that I don't usually partake in. Needless to say though, there were many inappropriate jokes and fart noises that occurred during the day to lighten the mood. Oh, and there were several rules we broke along the way at each location. I would share those details, but I don't want to leave a paper trail.
Unfortunately, Josh does not have a website to which I can direct you to, but he will have one soon - I promise. Until then, you can admire his work here and on Instagram (if you have one) @joshyadon.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a train to catch. (Horribly cliche, but necessary with the photo)
It was midnight when I left her apartment. A tin box of keys under one arm, and a thirty-six pack of ramen noodles under the other. I couldn’t help but feel like Diane Lane from Under the Tuscan Sun in that moment. Not in the sense that I’m a forty something divorcee who bought a house in Tuscany on a whim; but I did move across the country into a studio apartment, and as life would have it, I became the manager of the building (hence why I was bestowed a giant box of keys… I can’t really explain the ramen). The building is located somewhere in Hollywood, which is truly nothing like Tuscany. There is a homeless man that hangs out across the street, and a couple that lives by our building with their dog. I hear the helicopters fly overhead almost every hour, and my fridge makes gurgling noises which wakes me up in the middle of the night. Sometimes I can hear the sound of crickets though, if my windows are open and the sirens aren’t drowning them out.
At the end of that visit which left me in my Diane Lane state of mind, I walked down the hall, back to my own apartment after bidding the owner sweet dreams. The door shut behind me, and I stared at the boxes piled on top of each other. Several of my books were scattered across the floor, along with tote bags, hats, paint supplies, and camera equipment. The blank walls stared back at me and I felt anxious. I needed to hurry up and hang some art and photos around the place before I lost my mind.
The box of keys and ramen remained attached to me. I couldn’t wrap my head around everything that had taken place over the past few weeks. I had moved to Los Angeles at the beginning of October, when my dad and I drove down from Northern California in hopes of securing an apartment for myself. After several days, nothing had turned up. My dad had to return home, and I (without a home) ended up crashing at my friend's apartment, where I stayed for the remainder of the month. During that time I had already begun my new job, and the commute to and from the office would sometimes take a couple hours. I was able to find joy in that back to back traffic though. It allowed me time to listen to all the NPR I wanted, or to rock out to some Pat Benatar if I was so inclined.
Solitude has actually became a large aspect of my life upon moving to Los Angeles. It became increasingly apparent to me when I settled into my own place, away from my friends and the life that I had started to lead. Prior to moving, I even deactivated my Facebook account, as a way to allow more time to acclimate to all the changes and not be distracted by external factors. My focus drifted internally, and I centered my life around simple things that would bring genuine happiness into my life. I felt this to be necessary since everything outside of my shell was more chaotic than I had originally anticipated.
During the first couple months, I have practiced yoga on the beach, wandered around farmer’s markets and flea markets, spent evenings editing photos and videos, made some delicious meals with a stove that doesn’t even have the pilot lit (and without even owning a microwave), signed up for an organic food distribution program offered at work, enjoyed IPA fests and movie nights, had dinner parties with friends, and even began writing a novel (shout out to NaNoWriMo). I was able to drive up north, spend a weekend with my parents, and take in the I-5 scenery. I took time to read books I had been aiming to read for years (and sought out to buy some new ones). I drafted a few new plays, started a couple screen plays, and laughed at episodes of Parks and Recreation. Then, being the grown woman that I am, I slept with the lights on because I was fearful there was a ghost in my apartment (still am, to be completely honest) - so I burned a lot of sage.
Living by yourself can be scary sometimes, even without the thought of a ghost being in your midst. It can be lonely without two dogs or a cat to greet you upon your arrive. It can be nerve-wracking when you're unsure if those gurgling noises are coming from the bathroom or under your bed. Despite that, and despite those occasional twelve hour work days, it's a nice feeling to come home to an apartment, that's only half furnished, where I can turn on The Temptations and dance around like nobody’s watching (except for my neighbors, who can in fact see me across the alley). I don't mind. There's something so freeing about this independence and starting a new life. It's the idea that anything is possible and that there's an exorbitant amount of new things to try- even though some of them might make you want to poop your pants. They're still worth trying.
Well, this definitely has ended on a less poetic note than I originally set out for when I began writing this piece. I'm sure Diane Lane's character (Frances Mayes, who wrote the original book, by the way) wasn't always eloquent at times either. But I sure don't remember her talking about poop. What I do remember (from when I would watch this film in high school) is Sandra Oh's character asking "Can you star-69 Italy?" and the woman in the large hat that would quote all the Fellini films. That character was always pretty awesome to me, and the type of woman I would love to embody someday. Until that point comes though, when I'm able to walk around Italy with a large cone full of gelato in my hand (instead of a pack of ramen under my arm), I'm beyond happy to be where I am today: nestled in my own part of the world, living the life I've only begun to imagine.
“You have to live spherically - in many directions. Never lose your childish enthusiasm- and things will come your way.” - Federico Fellini