Peter, Berkeley, CA

I met Peter E. in his studio in Berkeley, California, where he builds metal percussion instruments. We spoke about what it means to be American and about what he would tell a young person growing up in our country today.

     "It’s a double-edged sword, because we have this kind of image of ourselves [in America] of being number one. From baseball players, football players, everybody’s always number one, and we’re number one. And i grew up with that feeling, because I grew up in the second World War, and it was almost like when the Americans entered the European conflict that we were number one. We won the war, so to speak. And as you’ve seen we have a long history of wars. 
    And I don’t have that anymore, but it’s ingrown. It’s just sort of that feeling, and I don’t like it. 
I’m mixed up about it. I’m not a flag waver, but it is certainly an amazing place that we live in."
      "How we were guided as kids, it’s how you give the reins of the horse free... Free rein. And that’s what I would try to get across to a young person. Though young people need guidance—you need to guide them, tell them what’s right and wrong, or try to keep them from getting killed—the other things they can find out."
 Peter in his studio, Berkeley, CA

Peter in his studio, Berkeley, CA

     "I was very fortunate to have the experience of having quite a bit of free rein to make decisions for myself. And I think one of the things I learned—and it’s an intellectual thing which I don’t really understand that well—is that there is a system, a definite system that makes us the way we are in America. The school system, and I think there’s certainly racist white protestant ethic in this country. So if I was going to tell somebody, I’d want to say, ‘Be careful of that, follow your dreams.’ That’s very corny, but that’s what I think.
My life had to do with goals. ‘I’m gonna be a lawyer or a musician and I’m gonna go through my life this way.’ Well, musicians are quite a bit different because it’s something they dearly love. But lawyers or business people, they went from one office to another office, these stairs. But that doesn’t happen anymore.” -Peter E.

Jamie, Centralia, WA

I met with Jamie in her home in Centralia, WA. We spent the evening talking about raising her kids and finding work. Here is a bit of her story. 

     “I had four kids and I went back to school and earned three college degrees. Working my way through. Sophia, my youngest, was six months old when I started. She was 6 years old when I graduated with my masters. They were amazing side kicks. I think that is the most interesting part in my life."

Jamie in her living room with her two dogs in Centralia, WA

     "I was absolutely broke… but that wasn't actually what propelled me. I had gotten a job in a doctor's office. I was so excited because I was making $7.50/hr. Minimum wage was $5.15/hr at that point. So I really felt like I had arrived. I was working 40hrs/week. I probably worked there four months or so. I never quite fit in. One of the doctors' wives didn't like me. I was always friendly, and the patients liked me.
     They ultimately let me go. On my unemployment papers they said I was ‘overly friendly and helpful and it interfered with me getting my job done.’ I saved it because I couldn't believe you could fire someone for something like that.
     But I was so worried and so honest that I always put that I was fired when I applied for jobs. So I carried that paper with me around for years. I’m sure it is still in a box somewhere. I wanted to be able to prove that I hadn't done anything that egregious. When I was boohooing about it... my stepdad sat me down and he said, ‘Kid, I only see you having a couple of choices… you are either going to do something like sell used cars, or you are going to become something like a social worker. But if you sit around and cry about it, it probably isn't going to help.’”    - Jamie M.                                                                 

Andy, Olympia, WA

I had worked with Andy for about two years while in school at The Evergreen State College. He also was my roommate for some of that time, camping out in my living room. If I came home and was spinning out from working too much, he was quick to make a spiked hot chocolate and dish it out with me. I went to his new apartment where he finally had his own room, and we talked about growing up and the importance of family. Andy identifies as a queer, mixed-race Irish, Cherokee, Lakota from near Big Fork, Montana. Here is a bit of his story. 

“I told my mom I was gay when I was in 8th grade. I was really nervous about it. I asked my youth pastor to be there with me... and I didn't actually say it, my youth pastor said it for me. My mom got really quiet. We were in a Starbucks... how Washington! Midwest gay kid, moves out to Washington with family, came out to mother in a Starbucks with a youth pastor. How fucking Washington!
    My mother just got really beat red, kind of glazed over, and didn't say anything. She continued to not say anything until I was a sophomore in college. Not that we didn't talk… I am not the most bold homosexual I guess? and I am pretty prudish when it comes to my sex and my relationships. Which doesn't mean I didn't experience things in my teenage years. Or that I wasn't active in the queer community at school and so forth." - Andy G. 

Andy, in his bedroom, in Olympia, WA

     "We knew I was gay when I was in Kindergarten in Montana. I think it was pretty hushed. There was this incident at daycare when I was in Kindergarten, with another kid… and there was play doctor. I vaguely remember what happened… but it was pretty homo-erotic... As a kindergartener, which is so weird. There was a tool and it involved the other kids butt and we got caught by the daycare lady. My parents were called, and there was a long conversation. I'm like 4 or 5, I don't remember... I do remember my step-dads response at the time… He was so pissed. My punishment was that we didn't get to go see the monster trucks and the fair that year. Which was a huge thing... So I knew they were mad at me. 
     I wouldn't say it was obvious that I was gay. What ever obvious looks like. I mean growing up in a pretty farmer cowboy community, I did what every other kid did. Which was ride bikes, play in the woods, get dirty… I don't know. We don't talk about it in my family that much." - Andy G. 
     "I have moved more times than I am old. I think I have moved about 28 times in my life. So home to me is family. That’s when I feel like I’m home. If we don't talk about place based home. I just always grew up in a house that had people in it. Now that I am kind of out on my own in the world, it’s not necessarily home, it’s just me... it’s kind of weird. I think about people that move away from their families and get careers and go on and get married, or whatever. I am just kind of like, ‘God, I'm the first person to go to college’ and I’m also kind of the first person to graduate high school really.
     I am trying to get a higher education so that I can have a career that maybe I love, but also makes enough money so that I can support myself and also my family. I think about moving on with my life and I think that looks like me buying a house for my mother.... making sure that my siblings are well cared for. Because, God... growing up sucked.” - Andy G. 

Leah and Ryan, Raymond, WA

I met with Leah and Ryan at their home in Raymond, WA, in late January. We spoke about American politics, moving to new phases in life, and being drawn to the work you're meant to do.

"In the climate we’re in presently, we talk about all kinds of things. The representation of America, it isn’t what the individuals living it think it is. We have a friend here in Raymond who just recently was laid off from his job… he said something about him being middle class, and nobody's watching out for the middle class. I was just taken aback, because he has been brainwashed or fed certain media to believe that he is middle class... and he is not middle class, he’s very far from middle class. I feel like the government has portrayed this image that the working class is the middle class so that the working class protects the rights of the actual middle class. And that's not very American." - Leah

Leah and Ryan on their porch, Raymond, WA

"So I’m in my 40s now. I started having kids when I was 18. I had three right together in my late teens, early 20s, and then I went to school, got a job and had to support all of them. I had another kid and I had a really good job in my 30s. I worked a lot of hours—50-60 hours a week. I was married to an alcoholic. I had kind of decided that was the way my life was, that was the way it was going to be, and just kind of had made peace with that. One day I got off work early, I came home and my ex-husband had passed out and had set an alarm clock to wake himself up so he could stumble to school to get my daughter, who was in first grade. Not that he hadn’t done 100 other things that were like that or even worse. But for some reason that day... That was enough. So I tossed him and his stuff out. He kept trying to come back, and I had always let him before, 18 years of back and forth. But I had just turned 40, and I just had a change in my mindset and I let him go. I decided that I was going to think about and do some of the things that I really wanted to do ... I wanted to be Me." -Leah
"I don’t like borders, I don’t like nationalism, I don’t like governments. It's fucked, and it's keeping us back as humanity. And this applies to everybody, this applies to a Canadian living in Canada, and this applies to an Argentinian living in Argentina and this applies to a Ghanaian living in Ghana. Everybody’s struggle is the same. I’ve been to 44 states and 28 countries. In the course of my travels, I always met the arrogant European who is like, 'Oh, you’re a fuckin' American,' and I’m like, 'I guess I’m an American, because I have an American passport.' ... Sometimes I'll play into it. One time I was talking with somebody who was like, 'Yeah, America is the best, we're the greatest, we're No. 1,' so I started talking to him about all these great things about America, like 'Yeah, America's got the most obese people, we’ve got the most gun murders.' And half the people started saying 'OK, he’s trolling us.' And this one dude was just not getting it. I was laying the bait out in front of him on a silver platter. And he was getting more and more infuriated. everyone started saying, 'You’ve gotta stop, he doesn’t get that you’re joking.' It was hilarious, though. Yeah I have a fucking passport that says United States of America, I live in Raymond, Washington, I was born here. Sure! But I don’t know, I don’t feel any less of a connection with other people than I do with anybody here. I don't need to be under a flag, I don’t need to be united under a language." - Ryan
"I worked at an OB-GYN in Spokane, and I ended up being terminated from that job because they said I wasn't a good fit. But the trouble for me started after I questioned the doctor I worked for’s unwillingness to prescribe Plan B for one of his patients, who was crying and begging him for it. She could have gone into a pharmacy and purchased it over the counter if she had the $35 in her pocket. Unfortunately she doesn’t have enough money to feed the kids she already has, so she was begging for Plan B and he wouldn’t prescribe it to her. So I provided her with the emergency Planned Parenthood number where you can get services 24 hours a day ... In all of those instances I’ve always been able to find a way around it that I was comfortable with, where I never overstepped." - Leah

Shiloh, Olympia, WA

I spoke with Shiloh in her small trailer home in Olympia, WA. We spent the early winter afternoon talking about growing up and the story of her father. Listen below. 

“I had just turned 18 in August. I get back home and my dad had been gone for almost 24 hours. Out on a run or a binge. My grandmother at this point couldn't even walk to the bedroom, she had to use a commode to use the bathroom. I got her taken care of, got her put to bed. Tried to relax... the mail comes. One of the letters is stacked big from Wells Fargo Bank. My dad had been stealing my grandmothers checks and had been writing them in $25 and $50 increments… he had stolen over $2000 from her. I called the bank and let them know that the checks had been stolen. The only way for her to get her money back, which would have been the only way to pay any of her bills in the house or buy food, was to call the police on my father. " - Shiloh D. (excerpt from interview, listen above for entire story)

Shiloh on her street, Olympia, WA

A Farm in Ojai, CA

I went through Ojai, CA about a month ago and met up with my talented friend Ben Bishop. We met almost 5 years ago during a class at The Maine Media Workshops, somehow we have managed to keep in touch. He showed me around town and at 8 in the morning we went to meet Steve Sprinkles at his farm called Rancho Del Pueblo just above the Ventura River. 
When we arrived there was a group of volunteers picking vegetables for their CSA program. Most of the produce goes towards filling out CSAs as well as to the restaurant The Farmer and the Cook. I took these photos with my 4x5 field camera as they continued to work. 

All of the above photos were shot with my 4x5 camera. 

Chris, Olympia, WA

Chris and I met in his house in Olympia the day after the election in November, 2016. We talked about how todays politics differ from the past. 

     "About 10 years ago, you started to see people walking around with these blue tooth things in their ears. You would think they were talking to you, but then you would see that they were talking into this device. It always reminded me of Startrek. I would travel a lot for work, and 80% of the people I would see out traveling were just staring at their phones. I'm afraid it has reduced our ability to interact and problem solve in a positive way. People are so disenfranchised and separated even with social media and connectivity. It's an oxymoron almost. I mean here you have the ability to connect to all these people, many of whom you won't meet in person and you don't really know who they are." 
 Chris in his living room, Olympia, WA

Chris in his living room, Olympia, WA

     "The difference from the Reagan era to now, is me. I don't think so apocalyptically anymore. It's really easy to have that mind set with Trump, that there is going to be this totalitarian government… and that is certainly a possibility, but I don't know if it is a probability. I am terrified for my friends who are people of color, and my gay friends and any body who is not clean cut. But that has been true for most of my life. I have always seen people who are outliers having a hard time... not being accepted and that kind of thing. But the stakes are higher now with Trump. I'm scared! We need to be able to think outside of our own country. Just the number of refugees that are out there, wandering with no where to go. It really hurts me to think of that. And a lot of them are there because of our policies and the constant war machine. So it's scary to me, but when I was 17, on a Peace Walk, I was completely convinced that there was going to be a nuclear war within a couple of years. So I am less afraid of that. I guess it's a different fear now. But two months from now, who knows what it's going to be. It's so fresh right now, and emotional. Most of my friends are just horrified, I am too, we are all just gob-smacked." - Chris H. 

Isabella, Olympia, WA

Isabella welcomed me into her home in Olympia, WA where we talked about growing up and being a teenager.

     "I took dance as a kid. My mom, my sister, and I. Every other weekend we cleaned the dance center so we could afford to dance, me and my sister, 'cause my mom couldn't pay for it, but she wanted to put us in those classes. My sister and I, we did the Nutcracker each year, we did spring recital, and we did this thing called school tours where we went to elementary schools and danced for them. 
    We started cleaning the dance center when I was 13. We did that for a number of years. I remember my mom would wake us up really early on a Sunday, or we would stay late after rehearsal on a Saturday, and we would clean up the whole entire center. It was two floors. We had to clean all the glass, mop and sweep all the floors, do the dishes, clean the play center, clean the sitting rooms, dust everything. People were so messy! They didn't care. So I would find myself picking up people's garbage during the day because I knew I was going to have to clean it later. My mom loves us so much. She would go to the ends of the world to give us things like that."
 Isabella, in her living room, Olympia, WA

Isabella, in her living room, Olympia, WA

     “I never really went through teenage rebellion. I was always really close to my mom. Until I turned 18, that was when I started to distance myself and not tell her things that I was doing. I was always close to her before that. I think it was because I was never really cool in school. No boys ever really liked me. It felt horrible! I never had male attention and stuff.      

     When I was 17 years old I got to this point where I started to feel like an adult. Of course, I knew everything. This guy took interest in me. I was on cloud nine. I was so excited. There was a lot happening. I was graduating and I was getting ready to go on this trip to Cambodia. So I was going to be this worldly girl. But I started distancing my mom because I didn't really know how to talk to her about relationships. You know, I felt like an adult. I could do this myself. Which was wrong. I couldn't do this myself.
    I started getting semi-intimate with a boy. We weren't having sex or anything, but I was trying things out! I was kissing boys. I thought I was cool. That went on for awhile, like 6, 7 months. We never officially said we were dating or anything but our friends kind of knew that there was something happening. He was older than me. He was more experienced. He was 21, I was 17. Not that much older. But I was like ‘yeah, older guy takes interest in me, I’m hot!’ It was really great at first. He was really nice to me, and then it started to go really down hill, really quick."

     He would call me bad names in front of our friends. I didn't really know how to deal with it. When growing up, my mom always said, ‘don’t let a guy treat you badly. Don't get in an abusive relationship’... and then I did. I got into an abusive relationship and I didn't know how to leave. I think what I thought at the time was that I was smart. You know. I can figure it out myself. If I was in that situation, I would leave immediately... And then I didn't. 

     I think your parents can tell you so much. Like, don't touch the burner on the stove. But you do it anyways. It’s a cycle. And all I can think about it is if I have kids, especially daughters, is that I am going to drill this in their brains.  ‘Don't put up with that from men, be respected.’ But my mom did that to me growing up, always telling us these things. ‘Don't ever get in an abusive relationship' When I talk to her about it, she gets so upset because she couldn't prevent it. But it’s not her fault."    -Isabella M.                                                 

One month on the road, and a little about me.

      I am writing this from The Bestway Inn, a tiny motel in Paso Robles, CA. This is my first night out of the RV since I moved in on April 3rd. I left Seattle exactly one month ago today on April 21st. To say that I have been entirely stoic and relaxed through all of it, would be a total alternative fact. Truth be told, I have had trouble with leaking seams, leaking windows, figuring out how to sleep/where to sleep, heat, rain, wind, darkroom/developing film problems, engine noises, air pressure, gas tanks, steep grades up and down, overheating, loneliness, engine belts, oil levels, propane levels, brake fluid levels and of course actually remembering to have fun. Oh and a constant sense of What the hell am I doing?! I think Lucy is dealing with similar emotions and takes any opportunity to make me feel guilty for not giving her a king sized bed with silk sheets. 
      So far I have met and interviewed 26 people. I have taken 17 rolls of film. I have cried… a lot. I have run out of gas. I have dumped my tanks 2 times. I have gotten lost more times then I can remember. I have stared at my atlas, confused as to where to go. I have slid to a stop on a gravel road even though I was only going 5 mph. I have spilled gas due to my tank over flowing. I broke a glass. I keep losing things in my house, even though it is the size of most peoples walk-in closets. I watched the most incredible sunrise while listening to cows in the valley below me. I made Lucy swim. Did I mention I cried?
     I think that I took off on this trip, thinking OK, this will be hard, this will be strange, but I'm prepared! There is literally nothing that could have prepared me for this trip. Only being on the road for one month, I feel like it has been a year of mental exploration. I am learning a lot about my limits and my fears, and possibly a bit too fast. There is literally nothing I would trade this for, and it's only been a month. 
     Here is a selection of random iPhone photographs that I have taken over the month. 

Amy, Seattle, WA

Amy L. Harris is a recreational therapist and watercolor painter in Seattle, WA. We spoke about how she found art and her job in her studio in Building C in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle, WA. 

     "When I am painting it is kind of a slow process. When I discover something is done, I have to be patient and calm and maybe sleep on it, and then come back the next day and really decide if it is done. I still have paintings here that are not done...but I have more painting that are overdone...because I wasn't able to relax and look at the images coming through. When I started painting I was traveling a lot, so I have always used watercolors. It is a very easy medium to be able to use. All you need is a little bit of water. Now that I have worked with water color for so behaves so differently from other paints, so I have just stuck with it." 
      "Since I was a kid I have always been the class clown. When I was in high school, my first job was being Chuckie Cheese... I wore the costume. It was so much fun. I couldn't believe that I was getting a job where I had to wear a costume! I mean you know, whose gonna get paid for that!? It was so much fun. I vaguely remember sitting in for the interview, and it was almost like, ‘Yeah of course you're hired if you are willing to wear this!’ And they were paying me $3.62 an hour or something like that. It was super fun."
     "After that I was working at a nursing home. I think incorporating that sense of play into my work, was important to me because it helped me enjoy my life, but also, working with seniors at the nursing home just a few blocks up from my house...I think somehow the two are related. I ended up being a nurses aide with people suffering from dementia and you know… they say the funniest things! That sense of play and joking around came way before my painting. Now I think the two worlds are colliding… Not necessarily because I am doing painting with my patients, but because of the creative aspect. I think that in our society we don't have enough creativity. It doesn't seem to be the go to, to have a creative outlet in our lives. You know… people say… ‘ok, do you have a job, are you married, do you have a place to live, do you excercise?’ People do not say ‘do you have a creative outlet?’ It's not something that is seen as necessary... but to me it is. And I feel that is a message that needs to be held through to people who deal with dementia."
     "You know I do a lot of things in my life, so there is an inclination to feel like I am doing too much... maybeI should give-up this or that. I have another job that I am working at that is not primarily dementia, I am an athlete and I have all these other things in my life. I feel really dedicated to continue to have these experiences with people. Especially because I know there are so many people that live with dementia who have gotten to a point where they are not verbal any more. I feel like I carry around a key to connect with them. I feel driven to continue to make those connections.
     Currently I have a patient that comes to mind, that I feel is very attuned to her auditory sense. When I am making animal sounds with her, or playing an old song, I can begin to massage that sense for her. She seems to relax, and will have moments of hysterically laughing, or even crying. I go to her house once a week. I hope that I am tapping into something with her that doesn't maybe happen for her regularly. I feel very fortunate to be able to be a person that can connect with them in this way. I frequently work with them when there is a family member around or a friend, and at the end of the session, quite often people will say ‘oh my gosh, that was so amazing’. Sometimes I feel like I am sort of a horse whisperer...but more like the dementia whisperer. I have been doing it for a long time and I feel very fulfilled in making these connections with these people." - Amy H. 

Reham, Boise, ID

Reham met with me in Boise, ID where she lives and works as a mosaic artist. We talked about where she grew up and how she found herself in Idaho. 

Reham near her project at the Watershed Treatment Plant, Boise, ID. 

     "My mom was raised in Hailey, ID and my dad was Arabic and was in America for college at Berkeley. He was a huge road tripper and had an old Mustang from the 60s. He would drive all over the US. He was driving to New York during a school holiday to go see friends. He stopped in Idaho and grabbed a burger and ended up sitting next to the dean of admissions at what is now BSU. The guy was saying it was a great place you should go to school here... blah blah blah. My dad was like 'yeah, I'm going to school in Berkeley in the 60s… are you in insane?' So he was walking through the park and saw this smoking hottie in a white bikini... my mom.... They ended up getting married. My mom went back to Kuwait, back when it was a dirt runway... airplanes landing in the dirt. I mean back when it was nothing. I mean Kuwait had only been a country for 50 some odd years... So she ended up over there and had me!
     When the war started, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, we ended up being sent here because technically I am a dual citizen. They were threatening to kill American citizens... so we had to leave. That's how we ended up in Boise. I had no intention of staying in Boise, it was a temporary thing… But then I started going to college… and got married and had kids and now I'm like… 'Oh wow, I'm still in Boise!' It's been 26 years." 
 "I was 17 years old when we left Kuwait. I was practically an adult but acting like a complete moron. Of course me and all my friends were in the resistance... we were all doing stupid stuff because of the war, including my dad. My poor mother… now as a mom, I just wanna apologize to her all the time for scaring her at the time. 
     I remember getting shot at and all that stuff, and now, I think back on that and think 'what the hell were you thinking!?' I don't think I was aware of my mortality back then. I never had an awakening where I was like 'Oh yeah, life is short, I have to live my life.' I have always been free, much to the sadness of my family... I have always run off and done things without ever thinking things through. So even going through the war didn't make me think about the length of my life. It was only when I finally had kids. Oh my god, I could die. I never had that fear of anything until 'Oh dear GOD! Who will raise my children if I die??' So it was my first child that made something in me change and even that doesn't slow me down much… just now, no fast motorcycles or bungee jumping!" 
     “I am not married. But I find epic true love. Like the love you only read in books. Then it usually bombs just as epically... so awesome to have known it. Because I know many people that have no idea what I am talking about when I talk about that… I think love can be permanent. But I think I have been able to stay close with everyone I have ever been with because when you look at it without the whole ego thing… or thinking ‘why don't they want to be with Me’ you can look at it in this way, ‘OK so something didn’t work out the way I expected it… Move on’. What was the lesson, where do you move from there? I mean not saying there aren’t moments where you wanna smack someone with a folding chair. But you can get to that point… If you really believe that the Universe is benevolent and that everything is working in your favor… but sometimes, you mess it up. Part of my problem is I am a bull dozer. When I want something I will do whatever takes to get that something. Even when you are in it and there are all these obstacles. But you see them as things that you work through, that prove you want it bad enough. But in hindsight, you can look at it and be like ‘Maybe that was a warning!’ Take the warning!
     It’s all perspective. In my less cranky moments when I have eaten, I can look at it as an experience. I can listen to a love song and be like, 'yeah I get that'. I joke about being cursed, but I don't think I am cursed. I just had a whole lot of lessons I had to get out of the way. So now that I think I have gotten all those lessons, I'm like ‘OK, when I'm ready, bring it on.’ I have faith. I am a total eternal love optimist." - Reham A.

Jim, Seattle, WA. 2016

Jim Stoccardo is a painter in Seattle, WA. We talked for a bit about growing up and how he learned he was a bit of an introvert. 

 Jim in Capital Hill, Seattle, WA

Jim in Capital Hill, Seattle, WA

     "I have 7 siblings who I mainly saw at home. The house was always crowded, so usually the minute I left I was happy to be off doing my own thing. Growing up in a crowded house, especially our first house in Miami, which was very very small, I had a strong need and urge to be off by myself... to get away from the chaos… we had a pretty chaotic, argumentative home when I was growing up. There were at least 3 kids per bedroom. I always found that annoying. Not everyone would go to sleep at the same time. I mean you're sharing a bed room with a bunch of kids, it's gonna be stupid. I was 16 when I finally got my own room." 


      "I think growing up in a large family, in a chaotic family, is one of the reasons I became a little bit of an introvert as an adult. I really cherish my downtime. I think on a gut level I knew at an early age that I was introverted. There was one moment as a child that always comes back to me... I had this stick that I was fond of as a child and I kept it out back. It was always out in the backyard. I had kind of created this fantasy world around this stick. I would plant it in the ground, it was about 6 feet high, a pretty big stick! It had lots of little broken off branches sticking out of it and what not. I created this fantasy world around it, where it was this vertical city. There were millions of little people living in that stick. It was miles and miles high. I found that fascinating. I used to imagine objects as places where millions of little people used to live. Even my bicycle was a traveling space ship. I had one spaceship... I mean bicycle... that I used to call the Dreadnought, cause it had a really cool looking handlebar.
     I used to do that quite a bit as a kid. It was all in my head. To everyone else it was just a stick, sticking out of the ground... but not to me. I think when I would make those worlds around these objects, is when I really started to appreciate being alone within my own mind, and my own creative perspective on the world. And learned how to allow that to run free. So at an early age I enjoyed going off by myself, I could spend an entire day by myself pretty well entertained." - Jim S. 

Black Lab Gallery, Everett, WA

The Black Lab Gallery is a space in Everett, WA. I set my RV up outside of an art opening and spoke with a few people walking around. Here is a small selection from that evening. 

Carole, outside Black Lab Gallery, Everett, WA

     "I am 60, so I have a lot of years behind me, and I expect to live to be 100. I think one of the biggest things that has lasted me is that my mom instilled a lot of self esteem into me. If I think of one thing that has kind of carried me throughout my life, I think it is having really good self esteem. And everything is just one small step at a time. You are never gonna get from A to Z just over night. But as long as you are patient and open, things will happen. I think this year, just being my age, I find that the things that I enjoyed when I was young, keep coming back." - Carole W.
     "I was working in the service industry. And it was torture. I love people but when you are working on that side of things you are more of a servant. Granted, however, I think throughout your whole life you are a servant to humanity... and your purpose in life is to serve people. Whether or not it is to give to charity or donating your time or working in the arts... but that field felt very shallow to me, and driven by different motives, there was no expression involved. So I made a decision after my dad passed away that I was gonna be a full time artist. It was really hard, because I still don't have a car. I have an apartment that I share with several roommates. However the ability to make it with my own means and with my own brain power is really empowering. I feel like you can start to realize the power of your subconscious mind and how you can create the world around you. Especially when you take that jump. " - Alex V.

Alex V, outside Black Lab Gallery, Everett, WA

Mary Ann and Susan, outside Black Lab Gallery, Everett, WA

I spoke with Mary Ann and Susan about the 2016 presidential election results:
     “I think what scares me the most about the election results is that people suddenly think they have permission to bully, or behave badly. To take any kind of action they like because you may be something ‘different’ from whatever the program is. I think it's dangerous. I actually took a book out from the library called ‘The Rise of Hitler', and I really think that we are kind of going in that direction... I want to know what that background is and I want to make parallels to it. It scares me that people are sort of suspending their thinking. And I think thats the most frightening thing of all.
I wasn't shocked when he won... I was surprised at how many people went along with the program, without really thinking about it." - Mary Ann

Susan: "I grew up in the 60s and did a lot of marching. I started doing pro civil rights actions when I was in high school. Different from Mary Ann, I was very active at a young age. I think it was because I grew up in the DC area and every morning I would wake up and read the newspaper and have to prepare for another march. Schools were tuned into this. I did ashrams and all those kinds of thing. I think some of that kind of action has to take place again. It's not just talking.... You have to mobilize. You have to have some of the marches."
MaryAnn: "I think if you don't protest, you get what you deserve. You really do."

     "I think of being a young kid and going and seeing a Vincent Van Gogh exhibit in Saint Louis. Walking through all these canvases and looking at all the paintings and thinking they were originally paint by number kits that somebody had done, like something the neighbors would do. So I didn't really think these things were done the way they were done. I just kind of went 'well you’ve seen one, you've seen them all' and I kind of blew them off. Then I went outside and… I was about 8 or so, we went outside and there was a Mark di Suvero steel sculpture that was made out of eye beams and these logs and things It was just massive! I thought it was part of a construction site for the museum.... I thought they were building something. My dad started taking pictures of us in front of it. I looked at him and was like, “why  are you taking pictures of us in front of This?”. And he said “Well its Art”. Man it blew my mind! I couldn't believe it. I was dumbfounded. I couldn't wrap my head around that idea that that was art. But I tried. I really tried. It started to mess with my brain to think about it that way." - David F.

David, outside Black Lab Gallery, Everett, WA

Tatum and Jordan, outside Black Lab Gallery, Everett, WA


I talked with Jordan and Tatum about what it's like to be twins and fight. 
Monica: Why do you fight? 
Jordan: "Like this morning, Tatum said I could read her book when she was done. And I was pretty upset when she finished she technically lied. 'Cause then she said she wasn't gonna let me read it. So I threw a huge fit about that and we started fighting."
Tatum: "We didn't fight, she started yelling at me." 
J: "Yeah I started yelling at her." 
T: "But I didn't do anything."
M: What happens when you start yelling at each other? 
T: "I start yelling and then dad tells us to stop."
M: What do you feel when that happens?
J: "I feel mad when that happens and Tatum feels kind of happy and sad at the same time." 
T: "Like when I win a fight.."
J: "She's pretty mad and sad when she's fighting."
T: "I like when I win."

Jennifer, Porter, WA. 2016

Jennifer lives in Porter, WA where she works as a mosaic artist. We spoke together just after the election of Donald Trump. 

   “It gets very depressing. When people are shutting each other down because they do not have the same political views. Even people that I 90% agree with get offended if I question the news source that they sited. I am just trying to be helpful and figure out if it's real. And they think I am criticizing them... they take it personally.      
     That has been a tough thing. That dividing of the left. My friends have become divided along those lines, Bernie vs. Clinton. It seems like it is happening on Facebook and not happening in person, when you meet face to face.
     I remember even with my very good friend who was super on the Bernie band wagon... and I was like, OK. brace yourself, I am going to have to divert the conversation, cause I don't want to have to break up a fight. But the conversation didn't even come up. We were talking about other stuff. Some how Facebook, amplifies those differences. That’s my problem with Facebook. Where you want to be able to connect with people…. But it is actually creating fissures, because it is a whole different way of interacting, than when you are with someone and you can hear each other. If you have a difference you can talk about it. Respectfully. And I think, when we are on Facebook it’s really easy to react and then move on immediately. You don't have to be responsible for reactions or offense. More like ‘Send!’ Thats it!” - Jennifer K. 

Marshall, Olympia, WA. 2016

Marshall and I met in Olympia and we had a conversation about what it means to grow up and what he wants from his life. 


     "My goal ever since leaving my parents house has been to live in a real house. I still haven't done that. My goals are to have hot water. To be able to poop successfully. I think I will feel old when I have a wife… or something. 
      I don't feel old.... But I have a tremendous fear of death, because I haven't really experienced it yet. I have a fear that I am dying. I fucked up a lot when I was a kid. I got in a lot of trouble, I stressed out my parents. With all good intentions, my mom was like ‘Ok Marshall, the only thing you can't do is die before me’.  Now that is all I am worried about doing! So I am worried I am going to die in the next 20 years and it's gonna ruin my moms life. It's not about feeling old. I think I have a feeling that I am going to die in the next 20 years... and it's not because I smoke cigarettes, it's because I think a lot of people are going to die. I think the bubble is just about to pop. My life is completely unrealistic and unsustainable... selfish, consumptive and fucked up. Even if I buy everything second hand, and whatever." - Marshall A. 

Marshall on his front porch in Olympia, WA

     "So I was talking to my buddy Fred... we go downtown every Wednesday to see amateur comedy night and get drunk. He was telling me about this scientist who is like ‘yeah our gut bacteria, all our million of little microbes that live inside are gonna go instinct.... Because we are just drinking beer and eating pizza and even organic vegetable nutrition is declining by 30% in the last 20 years because they are being produced for commercial reasons.' We are fucked! It's not something where science can save us... because all of a sudden we just won't be able to digest this or that. You are not gonna be able to process anything you eat and you are going to die. I don't know if that is necessarily going to happen... but I think something like that is a very probable response to how we have been treating our habitat since America was colonized. I have been reading some history books. Our whole culture is based on this idea of extraction and consumption, and there is no reciprocity. It is just taking... all this great technology that we have is founded on this really exploitative sort of mentality that we have.... That is running out because there is no more North America to conquer. It is over.
     For awhile it was cool... like OK, the earth is going to end in 150 years, I'm not gonna have any kids it's gonna be fine. But 15 years… I almost hope it happens sooner 'cause I want to be closer to the prime of my life when it happens. When Fred told me about that gut bacteria thing on a Wednesday night. He was playing pinball at the Brotherhood. He was just telling me about it. I was asking him all these questions. He told a good story about it and I believed him. I believe him! I really do! I think it's possible that something no one expects is going to happen very soon. Just because it has never happened before, doesn't mean it can't happen. People are always like ‘humans cant go extinct’, but why not!?"

     "When I was in middle school. I was fascinated by prison and the holocaust. I don't know why. I just knew death was there. I can feel it inside of me, and I can see it everywhere. It actually is a relief... to think about things changing dramatically and very soon. Because it takes the pressure off of me…. Like... I didn't fail my mom if I die in 15 years because she's dying too! So hey! It's fine.... It's great. So I think sometimes, this is going to inspire me to do all the things that I wanna do…. But not really. I have a backlog of emotions and thoughts that I haven't dealt with… That I am not getting any closer to dealing with." 

Monica: Why do you think that is?

     "It is just easier not to! I don't have to. You can just… It's like doing carpentry. People say ‘man that looks great!’ and I'm like ‘yeah… its great’ everything looks great. Every year my family sends out a Christmas card. It's not only a photograph but you write like a paragraph or two of what you have been up to… Every year, I can make it sound really good. Like ‘yeah I built things! Im farming! Im traveling!' But you're not like, ‘Im depressed, I'm lonely, and I think I'm dying’… that just doesn't make it onto the Christmas card." - Marshall A.  

Matt, Olympia, WA

Matt and I talked on his front porch in Olympia, WA about school, memories, and oddly Scientology came up. 

 Matt on his front porch in Olympia, WA. 

Matt on his front porch in Olympia, WA. 

     "I stepped on a hornets nest when I was 3 years old. I have little snap shots of it... like little photos. I don't have a continuous narative of that event in my mind. I was on a hill and someone was passing me a frisbee... and then I get this flash of pain, or something like that. Something that I translate into the color red. The next image is me in the back seat of a car. After that is me in the emergency room. I think that memory has gone through some transformations, that I don't know if I can track. I might have, when the experience was more immediate. When I was 5 or 6, I may have remembered it a bit differently than I do right now. But maybe at a certain age, it solidified differently. " -Matt T. 

     "This is reminding me of a book I am reading called 'Going Clear'. I think Scientology is insane and evil. One of L.Ron Hubbards initial insights into human trauma and pain is that he believes that the foundation of human pain is from traumatic experiences that have occurred when you were in the womb, or when you were very young. I don't know if there is anything to that…. I mean Freud had a similar theory to that. Where he was like, a lot of things that happen in child hood can form sedimentary layers in our psychology and will take an extraordinarily high amount of effort and time to uncover and excavate. L. Ron Hubbard was trying to establish Scientology as an alternative to psychiatry and psychological methodologies at the time. 
     He claimed he could get rid of all your child hood trouble and trauma in like 20 hours of work. Where as everyone else was like, thats impossible, you are crazy! And he was crazy. but a lot of people bought it at the time."  -Matt T. 

Matt was working selling posters around the US in the summer leading up to the 2016 election. He found himself in Lynchburg, VA selling posters at Liberty College, a very conservative college, we talked a little bit about the devisions in this country. 

     "I have read a lot of articles about how we got to this point with Donald Trump. There is just a whole new industry of writing about Donald Trump. Who is Donald Trump? What are his scandals? How did we get here? Who are the people that are supporting him? How are they suffering and how are they making us suffer? And it's non stop! You can read about Donald Trump for the rest of your life now. Literally. There are so many articles about him now. There are so many. I see dozens of them on my Facebook feed every single day. It's insane. But I think there is such a barrier to liberals and conservatives feeling compassion for one another right now. It is so polarized on both sides. It's like 'How could you be so stupid as to vote for for someone like this?' And the only thing that is different is what the 'this' is. Like how could you possibly be so stupid to vote for Hillary Clinton? How could you possibly be so stupid to vote for Donald Trump? And the only difference was for about a week I was on the other side. I was among people that were saying 'how could you be so stupid to vote for someone like Hillary Clinton?' That was interesting." - Matt T. 

Samantha, Olympia, WA. 2016

Samantha and I talked for a little while about growing up in Chicago, IL and her family. She is now a student at The Evergreen State College and lives in Olympia, WA. 

"I went to catholic school growing up, so that was kind of crazy. It was weird. I think I didn't really understand what was happening. Because it just felt like school to me. But I knew that it was a private school because we had to wear uniforms and there were a lot of rules and stuff. But I think once I got older, like 5th grade and middle school, I started to realize, oh this is Catholic school. This is like the bible and church and all that stuff." 
"My mom is the youngest of 9 kids. And half of those kids are really conservative republican, whatever. And then the other half are very liberal, total hippies. Total junkies. My grandparents are very conservative. And they are the ones that put me into catholic school and stuff. And then my mom is definitely not conservative. So it was this kind of weird power struggle. In like having to pretend that I agree with the conservative agenda, because thats my family.  But then at home with my mom, we would be totally the opposite."  

Monica: Do you think that gave you a good perspective then? Or able to tolerate differences a little more? 

"Yeah, kind of. I think that has definitely helped me to tolerate people more. Especially at Evergreen. We have so many different personalities, and people come from all over the world. And, people have a lot of different view points. So I think growing up in that, helped me to kind of be neutral, in some situations. And also, most of the time, I didn't care enough to really listen. Because a lot of the conservative stuff, I definitely don't agree with, but they are my family and they are paying for my schooling, and letting me live with them. So I kind of had to keep my mouth shut." - Samantha T.

Samantha in her apartment in Olympia, WA

"My mom and I are very close to my half sister and her mom. When my mom and and my dad had me in ’97, my mom realized that my dad had another daughter in Missouri. So my sisters mom and my mom became really close. Because they were both dealing with the same crazy person. And both had daughters. My mom and I would drive down to St. Louis a couple times a year, to visit my sister and her mom. It was cool, we didn't need to deal with a man's bullshit... We can just be sisters all together, hang out and spend time together. I think that was really helpful to me growing up. Because it showed me that my mom and I weren't the only ones going through it. They went through it too." 

Monica: How old were you when you found out about your sister? 

"She was always around. Like when I was a baby, there are pictures of us. But I didn't remember. My first memory of her is probably when I was 5 or 6. And she would write me letters. She was my pen pal. She's 9 years older than me. She would have these cool stickers, and pink pens. And I would cry every time she would have to leave. Because I was like 'you are my best friend!' But her and I talk every day now. And there is no way, I would have been able to get through it all without her. Because we shared the same experience. Just having someone there, who is also going through that... I didn't feel so alone in it." - Samantha T.

Laura, Portland, OR. 2016

I met with Laura Veirs at her home in Portland, OR. Being a song-writer and musician, we talked a lot about what it means to keep working, and how important it is to take the time to create. 

     "I think, at some times in my life I have taken things too seriously. That's just it. Too serious. And too worried about what other people think. I think I am in a pretty good creative place right now. Writing songs. The thing that I have done is just schedule the time... and guard it. I work from home and always have. My last house I had an outside studio in the back yard that I could go to, which was nice. 'Cause there are a million things in the house that can pull my attention. Like the dishes or the floor or the dinner or the kids. I really try to stop doing those things and get up to my work space. I have found, for me, the mornings are way better than any other time. And then, usually 4 hours is enough. After that, I am just spinning my wheels. Just the consistency of working day by day has been the trick for me, and not waiting for inspiration, and just going out there, even if I am not feeling like it and seeing what happens." 

     "For me, it's joy of discovery and mystery of artistry and craft that keep me coming back to [music]. The way that I find music intriguing is the combination of word and melody and rhythm and dissonance and harmony and playing with space and crowdedness, and all those dichotomies. Happy lyrics, with super sad melody... So all of those things, the contrasts, those are really intriguing. There are times when I just cannot uncover anything interesting. I am so sick of myself and I am so tired of this. My ideas are the same. I am not surprising myself. But then I realize! There is so much richness there, you just have to figure out how to access it." - Laura V.  

Laura on her front porch in Portland, OR. 

Laura and her two sons, Oz and Tennessee on their porch in Portland, OR. 

     "The way that women are raised, to be more of a support role, not to necessarily be the star... You don't see as many woman up on the huge stages at those huge festivals and stuff. There is a reason why. Someone probably wrote a huge feminist manifesto about it. We are raised to care what people think, which is nice, to a certain point. But too far, and you are not going to do anything. You are not going to take a risk. So just step up, just step up and take your risk. What's the worst that can happen? And I did think... Well maybe I will end up in a mental institution... Well then what? I could have a really nice vacation. Someone else will do your laundry. And someone else will deal with the business… Maybe I should go crazy. The ultimate Mom-Cation.... Had to go to the loony bin for two years." - Laura V.

Tucker, Portland, OR. 2016

Tucker is a sound engineer and music producer living and working in Portland, OR at his recording studio Flora Recording and Playback. We met and talked about his travels and how that has informed the way he lives and works now. 

"There are a million different ways to live. And whatever works for you, works. Because so many of the places I went, were some of the poorer parts of the world. And I felt like I met more happy, like genuinely happy people than here. You know? Where it's such a wealthy country. And we have everything but it is never enough. So that's huge, and just a priceless lesson to have just hammered into you." - Tucker M. 

Tucker in his backyard in Portland, OR. 

"Anything that we can do that snaps us out of our routine and kind of wakes us up. And puts us in the moment is important. There was just never a moment on those trips where I was like 'gah, I guess I will wander over to my computer and look at some emails...' It was like, 'how am I gonna eat today? And who am I gonna run into?'" - Tucker M. 

Damien, Portland, OR. 2016

Damien and I met in Portland, OR and spoke briefly about growing up around Los Angeles, CA and his travels. 

"My father is Mexican-American and my mother is Chinese-American. Although both of them are kind of assimilated into white culture. So it was kind of weird... Being not white, but being encouraged to act white and being surrounded by a bunch of white friends. And even as a kid, I didn't like the normal standard of what white people were. So even though I mostly had white friends, they were all the weird-os. I was always attracted to the weird-os." - Damien C.  

On growing up in areas around LA and his perception of race. 

     "We always lived in very mixed neighborhoods. Like I never really knew what racism was. My school was perhaps half white, and then from there on, Mexican-American and then many Black and Asian kids. Sprinkled all through. And because my mom was Chinese, there was a wide variety of kids I went to school with. The neighborhood was mostly white and Mexican-American. 
     Growing up like this, I just know that when I travel, I always get really scared if I am in a place and I see that everyone around me is white. It's just a weird thing. But as I have grown older, my pigmentation has gotten a lot lighter, like when I was 18, I was a lot darker. Especially when you are in California. People give you the automatic assumption that ‘Oh that person is Mexican’. But since I was a freak people were like ‘Oh he's not one of those Mexicans.’ But when I started to do a lot of traveling, especially through the South, there was always that fear. Even though, I guess I was pretty fortunate, because I never really got any real harassment." - Damien C.