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. 

Corbin and George, Portland, OR. 2016

Corbin and George live in a trailer in Portland, OR. Both being from Bainbridge Island, WA they never met each other until both of their best friends got married. You can listen below to part of their story about how they met. 

Corbin and George in front of their trailer in Portland, OR

 
“Coming from Bainbridge Island I see a lot of people that Quote un Quote “have their shit together”. They have those trappings of material wealth and stability and I know enough to know that that doesn't necessarily equate to quality of life.” - Corbin L. 

George told me a little about an old job she had:

“I was hired to be a store development manager, initially, after managing one of their stores. Which meant that I was kind of the go between, between architects and contractors and the owner. So any feedback the owner had that he wanted his stores to look like I was responsible for not only informing the architect but for making sure that it happened on site. So kind of being a construction manager as well. Which is funny for a person who literally has no experience with construction, especially as a woman, to go on site, where there are a bunch of brisally dudes doing stuff. And I'm like ‘what are you doing?’ and they are like ‘doing this stuff, what do you want?’. And I'm like, 'well I'm here to tell you how to do it'. And there response was often ‘well fuck off!’. It was very intimidating.” - George H. 

Graham, Rozina and Thurman with their Dog Maxell, Portland, OR. 2016

I met with Graham, Rozina and their son Thurman in Portland, OR. We first bonded over our mutual love for Toyota RVs. They had been traveling around the States for 5 months in a 1985 Toyota Escaper, (similar to my Seabreeze, but a slightly different layout and about 2ft shorter). After finding out their son had elevated blood lead levels, caused by paint in their Minneapolis home, they decided to pack up, sell most of their belongings and go travel around the US; in some ways to re-group and figure out their next step.
Graham spoke with me about what it has been like to be on the road with their son and what they hope to find in their future.  

 
     "Anyone who knows us would say we should have shut the fuck up a long time ago. Yeah our son... He had elevated blood lead levels at a young age. And we went through a lot of different programs and dealt with stuff in our house, it's just because we have an old house. Over the 15 years that Rozina has owned it, 30+ some people have lived in it. You know, not where you bring your infant son home to necessarily... Obviously we had done work for when he was born, but we hadn't thought about the impact of lead on him. So we have been kind of just dealing with, what are potentially long term psychological or neurological effects. He has a delayed speech development that we are dealing with... So it was easier, for us currently, to travel around in the RV, then to rent or buy another house."
"So the situation we are in now is we are just cruising... I have all my musical equipment packed up. Rozina has her sewing machine packed up. And we are just trying to go through creative endeavors. Sold almost everything else we own. To sort of fund this and to just be on a sort of vacation, while we figure out sort of what to do in a more permanent way." - Graham B. 

Graham, Rozina, their son Thurman and their dog Maxell in front of their Toyota Escaper in Portland, OR. 

Graham talked about the way him and his son see what they are doing differently. 

     "Sometimes, we are trying to be cool... About just parking outside a park in a city. We are gonna sleep here, we are gonna cook food here... And he's got the screen open and he's hanging out in the street yelling at people pointing at their dog. And I'm like; 'Stealth mode! Stealth mode!' We just assume something is a way, but to him it is all the same.
     He wanted to fly a kite, not so long ago... In Long Beach, Washington, we went to the kite museum. Built a kite, he got to fly it. It was totally amazing! Totally cool.
     We have been trying to find a place for the winter to sublet... So during the colder winter days we can have some space. Set up our stuff, leave it set up and be a little more creative. Not have to worry about being wet and cold and sad and dark.
     So what if we stayed out here and built kites all winter you know? So its that kind of thing, I had never heard of that town, or thought about the coast in southern Washington, in my life. I'm not from this part of the world. We were just driving and we saw it on the atlas. World Kite Museum. Well great, lets go there!" - Graham B. 

Rozina beside her RV in Portland, OR. 

Graham in the doorway of his RV, in Portland, OR.  

On what it is like living by choice in an RV, for the sake of their son. 

"What is chic and desirable? We play a game called 'camping or homeless?'. As you drive around and you look at other peoples vehicles. And you go to a campground and there is that one, that one, and that one, and then there's us. And we realize... Labor Day has passed. Every day passed Labor Day, the divide between camping or homeless… The needle is swinging way closer to homeless. It's weird to think about, looking back on this, if I was like 17 years old, I would think, 'Oh this is Awesome! This is great. This is perfect'. But Im 38 and she's 39 and we are just like, well this is the best idea we can come up with.  And it's a great idea and I am into it, but it points us away from being capable of living in a more mainstream method of living. I don't know. I guess we will have to see how it plays out.
     In retrospect, I can't answer any of these questions. There is no one way anymore of seeing what people are doing. And to see how they affect our lives, or our commonality. There are people that are willing to talk to us because we have this one Toyota RV. So they see nothing but the fact that we have this thing, either their dad had, or they have one broken in their backyard. But if we have anything else to talk about, you hate me. You know? I am very low on the social standing in their eyes. But it's a weird thing. We could have just stayed home and been at home and been fine... And been in a house that we had just done a ton of work on. But just mentally, we had to move on. 
     It's impossible to say all of the effects of having lead poisoning. They have never taken a kid and locked him in a cage, fed him a bunch of lead, and then taken their twin brother and have them grow up independently. I don't know... I guess we want to say he is better. He has just been in the woods, he has been outside. Poking slugs. We have been on the ocean, on rivers. He's just hanging out. If anything it's mentally kind of relieving. 'Cause we did something. Instead of just being in this one place." - Graham B. 

Jacob, Portland, OR. 2016

I met up with Jacob in Portland, OR. Being a recent graduate, he had been thinking a lot about what to do next and the idea of getting older. 

Jake, in a park in Portland, OR. 

 
"I started reading about the etymology of the word 'ennui' and I feel that's really what growing up must be. 'Ennui' was a term that was coined by the French. It was right after the revolution, and there were all these young people being like, 'everything is going to be cool and different and so much has changed.' And then post revolution realizing nothing is different and not being very satisfied... And it became in vogue to have it. All these young people would have 'ennui' and it was a way to distinguish yourself from the bourgeois. And you would do a lot of sighing and being dissatisfied in general.
I feel like that's what growing up must be. There is just a lot of sighing and disillusionment... The realization that everyone promised these things, but you realize, this isn't really that different... And you Sigh. Ennui." - Jacob H. 

William, Portland, OR. 2016

"I'm 42 years old I'm probably going to be alive for a significantly longer period of time. So what am I going to do for the next 30/40 years? I don't want to do dishes or whatever. I want to do something that is genuinely interesting to me. Stability lets me do that.  I can't do that just with a backpack and a couple of philosophy books, hopping trains and stuff. I can, but I cant." - William S. 

I met with William in Portland, OR. He just moved from Olympia where he had finished his BA degree at The Evergreen State College. He told me about how his perspective has shifted over the years. He spent much of his youth hopping trains and traveling around the United States, working random jobs and living wherever he found himself.


"I guess lately I have been thinking about transitioning to being an Adult... At a very late age. Because I never really did. You know when I was younger, I left home when I was 16. I lived on the streets and hopped trains. And just did all sorts of shit. So there was no real planning for getting old. It wasn't something anybody considered. And now I am slowly starting to do that. And it's interesting because I find that the habits that I have developed around being sort of a floating anarchist weirdo, don't make it really easy to just be a work a day person. Like this job! I would rather be poor than work for these assholes. So thats becoming a real thing. But I also don't have the skills to try to get like a “college people job”. All I know how to apply for is kitchen jobs and labor and shit like that. I don't know how to paint myself up to make that shift... And that has been weirding me out lately."

Sean in the RV in Portland, OR

"One of the best things [travel] did for me, is perspective. I have lived with literally nothing. Holes in my shoes, living under a bridge eating out of the dumpsters. No money ever. So now, its like, hardships don't seem that bad. Like “oh I gotta come up with rent this month” seems just not that big of a deal. I'm also better with money. I am not running up mad credit card debt, because I know how to live with out it. I have learned how to do that. And… Also just being older and more relaxed. I still stress the fuck out, but i just have a different perspective." - William S. 

Bill, Portland, OR. 2016

Being that Bill is my father, this is a strange post for me to publish. When we sat in my RV in Portland, OR, I didn't know how to go about starting the conversation... But I suppose the RV did its job, allowing us both to put our egos aside and open up. Both of us within our own work; me in my RV project, him outside of his recording session at Flora Recording and Playback. We spoke about the challenges he faced while being home for a long period of time, where his music comes from, and his work ethic. Being his daughter, I have always had a mixed relationship with his dedication to his work and his music, but as I have gotten older and more invested in my own work and my own passion, I have realized he has taught me some of the most important lessons in my life: Follow the work. Follow what you love. Keep going.
   I suppose this post is sort of a thank you to him. A grateful salute to the music he has raised me with, and to the person he has always been when being my good ol' Dad.  

 

Speaking about his last 6 months off the road and on "vacation":
   "I was looking forward to it. I thought it was going to be a break. But I realized that it wasn’t in any way, shape or form a break. It took me awhile to figure out that what I was looking for was space. I think I was expecting it to just be there because I decided I was gonna come home and not get on an airplane. I thought I was gonna suddenly have more space. Like I had imagined I would go for walks. I was thinking of all these things that I hadn't done... I have never read Moby Dick... I haven't memorized every song that Sonny Rollins wrote. I was imagining doing all these things. And I got home. and it didn't happen that way. Because life was going on.
    There were things with my family that I had to deal with. And at first, I was resisting it, really strong. It was really really difficult... Because I had wanted to have some of my own space. But it just kept coming at me in waves, just knocking me down. I could hardly stand up. And then I sort of came to terms with that... And the idea of just surrendering to it. Just let it come. Rather than pushing against something that you cant stop. Give it to me, I will take it." 

Bill outside of the RV on the street in Portland, OR. 

Speaking about how life effects his music:  
   "I think my music is independent from all this other stuff. Sometimes it feels like I am just trying to find the time and the strength to just [make music]. The music just goes on its own. And I guess what's frustrating is there is so much stuff that gets in the way of just doing it. But that is what's so amazing about [music]. Because I go into it and it takes over... And I am just in it. I think thats why I have done it for as long as I can remember. And I think it just keeps getting stronger and stronger. And then sometimes I get distracted, and I'm tired and it is a horrible feeling. Where it feels like I am losing touch with it or something.
   It is easy to blame that on something else, like maybe I am just lazy or something. But sometimes at the moment, when I think I am too tired, and I do go grab my guitar, it will give me energy and I have to remember to do that... Rather than just giving into thinking I have to rest... or email... or some other bullshit."

The story about how he told his mom about wanting to play guitar:
   "I was really into cars and engines. My friend and I... we sort of made our own little hot rod club. We were really into hot rods, and we would walk around the neighborhood looking at cool cars. And I remember this guy who lived around the corner had a corvette. We went up to him and asked him “Can we wash your car for you? We have a hot rod club." I mean, it was just the two of us. I think he let us wash his car. It was a 1962 corvette... But then, wanting to play guitar kind of took over. And I remember the exact moment when I saw my mom. She was taking the trash out in the alley behind our house. I said 'mom', or 'mommy' or whatever, 'I decided I don't want to be a race car driver, I want to play the guitar.' And she was so happy. I don't know if there was ever a moment like that with my father, but he was always into me playing music. 

His fathers influence on him:
   "I saw my dads report cards from when he was in school, in my grandfathers desk in Minnesota. All of it was A’s. Every single grade was an A... Totally A's... Nothing but A's. I mean everything he did was super neat and with incredible detail. Everything that I have done has felt nothing close to what he was. He sort of set an example of what someone could do if they were actually serious about what they did. But I haven't even come close to what he was doing... He just really worked hard. From when he was a little kid, he just did that. His father, my grandfather, came from Sweden on the boat. He worked on the railroad and then he worked in the grocery store. They were just hard working. They lived a way that you can't even do anymore I guess. Where you could have a job making a living and have a house." - Bill F. 

Hank, Portland, OR. 2016

Hank Roberts talked with me in what he called my "flying magical machine" in Portland, OR. We were outside of Flora Recording and Playback where he also was recording with my father Bill Frisell. 

Hank outside of the recording studio in Portland, OR. 

Hank has known me for most of my life, so I asked him about what he would say to his younger self, or to someone my age. As he drummed on the RV table, he told me a little bit about how to keep going, keep creating and keep being. 

   "If I could go back 30 years, I would have a lot less angst. I think that the sense of myself and my personality would be much broader. As a musician and as a father. I think I would have little broader sensibility...
   I wouldn't worry if I wasn't a great musician. I wouldn't worry about the need to be great... As much as I would focus more on what I like to do and what really made me happy… I would be more in search of that. Rather than dealing with this sort of work ethic thing. And trying to build myself up by being, in quotation marks, "successful", as apposed to finding a way for my self esteem to be higher! 
   I wasn't really focused on the money so much. But it was something I worried about a lot I think… because it was difficult for me to get, and difficult to deal with. So I think, again, just going to that place of doing what you love to do and continuing to build on that. And keeping your radar up, for what really stimulates you and pushes your buttons, is a healthier way to be." - Hank R. 

Jenny, Portland, OR. 2016

I caught up with Jenny Scheinman, while she was recording with my father, Bill Frisell, at Flora Recording and Playback in Portland, OR. She had lost her uncle Victor Scheinman about a week before and this is what she told me about him and her experience after losing him. 

 
"Victor Scheinman, was called the father of the modern robot. He was a famous engineer... He invented one of the first arms that moved and could work in factories and stuff.  He was a consultant for Stanford and did a lot of amazing stuff in that world. But he was also, totally and equally fascinated with really small mechanical things. Like lawn mowers and printers, copiers and thermostats. He was always sticking them together; like what do you get when you cross a thermostat with a lawn mower.
"So he died on Tuesday, and I was on stage when he died... in Knoxville, TN. But I got off stage, and I heard a message from my mother saying that Victor had died. He died in the car with my dad and they had just spent about 3 days together... They had driven from San Francisco to Petrolia, leisurely... Which is a rare thing, for either my dad or my uncle to do anything leisurely." 

Jenny in the RV outside of Flore Recording and Playback in Portland, OR. 

The night of her uncles death, Jenny was staying at her friends house in Knoxville. That night she found herself sleep walking, something she had not done in years. In her dream she was working on a puzzle, which was made up of two rings that were made up of light and different sizes. She worked all night trying to make the smaller ring fit into the larger ring. 

"But I had made a prayer before I went to sleep. I wanted to be visited by Victor, like 'Come please!'. I heard this sometimes happens, it has never happened to me, but come on, be a ghost and come to Knoxville and visit me! At least that's what it sort of felt like. At least it was sort of my puzzling out of his relationship with my dad. You know the older brother and the younger brother, these two sized rings. And also this mechanical puzzle, was sort of him. And the cyclic nature of life and new generations coming along, and my kids, also an older and a younger sibling. And it was a really beautiful dream, that when I awoke in the morning was still in my head. It felt like a continuing feeling of curiosity that he kind of left me with." - Jenny S. 

Georgia and Alexandra, Olympia, WA. 2016

I spent some time talking with Georgia and her daughter Alexandra in their kitchen nook in Olympia, WA. 

    "When I was younger and traveled around a lot things were very impermanent, I was always trying to figure out when to let things go, and when to hold on to them. I always felt that I could intuit, now this story is over... Now I can let it go. But now I don't try and control things like that anymore.
    I think being that way is too controlling. Maybe I am not the one who knows when to let go and when to hold on. I think intuition is a tricky thing, I think if you are really able to tap into your wisdom, then intuition can be a beam of truth, but it's challenging to distinguish... Is this an intuition from wisdom or is it a feeling that is coming from sentiment. So I think just as often it was just me trying to control a situation, or out of fear, or out of a selfish 'Oh I'm done here!' There were experiences that I had where I felt I had hurt people that I really cared about, and made me really question whether I really knew as much as I thought I did.
    Alexandra changed me a lot. In that, you’re not done with a child, kind of. At the time, I had started this practice and got married which I never thought I would do. And had a child. And had a job, you know, all these things I never thought I would do. And at first it was a great big adventure, in its own right. And then it was hard. Especially because it was a way I had not necessarily been, or wasn't naturally like. I think that is just a quality of getting older, if you want those things, you have to start to slow down. Having her, it is such a special relationship, a mother and a child, my sense of self is a very different experience... Because you're constantly focused on the other. Being married definitely helped me do that in a way, but with another adult you can always externalize, you can always put things on the other person, blame them for your problems. You can do it if you want! But it's not going to go that well for you.. but you can. But with a child, its a lot trickier. With her I was like, oh man, I am responsible for this being, and she has done nothing to me. She just needs me.” - Georgia H. 

Georgia with her daughter Alexandra in their backyard in Olympia, WA.

Alexandra on her back porch. 

 

Alexandra told me about a dream she had when she was 5 and living in the yellow house back in New York. She had lived there for most of her life until moving to Olympia, WA. 

"When I was young, I used to sometimes come into my moms room and she had this dresser in the corner of the room, and my dad... He had this job where he would wake up at like 3 or 4 in the morning and go to work... And that night, I was sleeping in my moms bed, and I am not really sure if I was awake or not... And a lion came out from the back of the dresser and started roaring at me. And my mom and dad woke up and said 'stand back'. So I stayed back. And then the lion walked out of the room, and my dad walked out of the room. I never saw the lion or my dad for the rest of the night." - Alexandra  

And on getting older. 

"I am technically ten. But they only call you ten, once your tenth year is over. Once you get older, you don't want to become older. But when you are so young, you are eager to become a grown up. It just seems like you have so much choice, and you can do a lot of things when you are older. Like start a family, and kind of decide what you want to do with your life, when you are 18 and a grown up person. But at the same time its hard, because you have to make your own money, you have to find your own job."- Alexandra 

Ballentine, Olympia, WA. 2016

Ballentine grew up in Las Vegas, NV. She now works as an activist in Olympia, WA.

 
"I think my first [march], was the 2003 protest against the Iraq war on the strip. And seeing how that went, and feeling kind of powerless about it... It was the largest sign carrying protest in world history, and it didn't do shit to stop that war."

"I think every time anything happens, in the immediate it can be tragic, but in the long term, it serves to inspire and motivate people. If for nothing else, when I started doing this, I felt not only alone in my personal life but I felt alone in activism. I didn't see a whole lot of other people doing it. And now, when you look out, its happening all the time. I guess my point is that there are more people doing shit now then there were in 2000. I can run into a protest that I didn't even know anything about, and in the old days it was sort of like, one a year." - Ballentine P.

Ballentine, in her room in Olympia, WA

Ballentine in her back yard in Olympia, WA

 
"When it comes to love and loss, I recently decided that I would avoid, as best as possible, falling in love again. Because I am easily overwhelmed, and I feel that it's too dangerous to put all my eggs in one basket anymore. I very much want love, but I don't want any of that to happen again. I have been in love before, and whats really sad... When I have fallen in love... And it has ended... It wasn't ever their choice." -Ballentine P. 

Dave, Auburn, WA. 2016

Dave lives in Auburn, WA where he works as a lead receiver in an auto body supply warehouse. "I get to take stuff off trucks and take them off the shelves, fix inventory problems, and sometimes tell the boss where to go. Sometimes he's angry about that. Sometimes, he says I'm right." 

   “I grew up in an abusive family. Which I have disowned, and have not seen in 30 years plus... and don't care. You know, the first one to knock on my door will be invited to leave... Because of that, I pretty much had to be on my own and figure my own life out, since I wasn't gonna do what my family was about... Not follow in their footsteps. If they go right, I go left, if they go up, I go down. Anything they are doing, I am assuming they are wrong to start with. And I can fix that assumption later if I am incorrect. 
   At one point, and not surprising considering what I grew up in, I considered suicide when I was younger... And the light bulb was realizing, these people aren't worth it. And ever since then, I basically have been self driven, rather than other driven. I wont go with the crowd to just go with a crowd... I'm just not into doing what the crowd is doing. I am singular." - Dave T. 
"I'm not particularly afraid of anything in my past that I have done... Stupid shit that I have done, I have learned from. You know, everybody has done stupid shit... And it is not important as long as you have learned from it. So basically, I do not hide my past, I do not care. People are stupid, including me, and you learn from experience more than anything." - Dave T.