Saturday, 5 June 2010


Fuck. Gone in a moment. I scream, terrifying these white bread swear-jar owning hikers who clearly think I am mad. They don't want to know the answer when they ask if I am ok.

I have said numerous times, in those repeated traveller engagements, that I'd rather lose my passport than my photos, my identification rather than my memories. Travelling alone, my camera is my companion, my little keeping box. In moments of solitude I take it out, to record a moment, to share a joke with myself, to make solid the beauty I've found in a little corner of the world just discovered, to fill my hands when they feel restless. It measures my learning, as I develop skills in the manipulation of the little dials, tactile as they click into place adjusting aperture, shutter speed, and other new words in my vocabulary. My camera is heavy around my neck, marks me tourist, makes me feel safe as an outside observer, excuses my gawking and wonderment.

Sitting on a little perch halfway into the Grand Canyon I clicked a button by accident and, in an instant, lost New York and Yosemite. Hiking out, sobbing, rapidly dehydrating, depleted and angry, where moments earlier I had been on top of the world. I was crying for the lost little rectangles, but also for the days to come when I knew I'd be characteristically self-critical, going over and over my mistaken fingers. And already, as I trudged uphill (faster than perhaps ever before), I was cataloguing the losses, imprinting them in my head, a different kind of memory card.

Memory is my obsession and losing it one of my great fears. In my mind, I quantify these little pieces of experience I am amassing; they are building something - someone - and the camera holds it all together.

I have given myself those well-practiced middle class children-dying-in-Africa, it-could-be-worse speeches. And of course I know it could bloody well be worse, I'm not an idiot. But sometimes always remembering "the less fortunate" can take away from one's right to just feel sad for a moment, or a day or two.

The camera allows me to share it all, my little forays out into the world, the ups, downs and footsteps. I don't go easy alone. I like telling stories. My photos type captions as I take them. They aren't just pretty scenery, but also punchlines, thoughts, quirks and tales. Some moments I feel alone don't feel real til they are shared. And while I know there is a lesson here in owning my alone adventures, I still feel sad - weeks later - about these lost stories, lost chances to make someone I love laugh or think or shake their head and roll their eyes at me.

So, if you're still with me, here are a few of my 700 lost moments:

In NYC...
Squirrels. So Many Squirrels.
Subway underpass slanting in Queens, sharp light hitting street art beneath the bridge and a man leaning out to look for the train.
Anna, old friend, living it large in NYC, in photos she deemed ugly and I deemed delightful (losses she may be pleased about actually...): in front of a shop named Anna; together, reflected in multitudes of tiny octagonal mirrors (or were they hexagons?) pulling practiced same-crazy faces; aiming her own camera on the Brooklyn Bridge; trudging through Central Park; pulling faces on the subway; pretty in candlelight at vegetarian Korean; looking up at theatre posters she may someday be written on; mouths agape over ice tea bottles - a little crazed after hours in the Met; faces squished together in Times Square.
The Brooklyn Bridge is crumbling sepia, rusted flakes on the suspension arching towards the pillars, Manhattan in the distance.
A series of ridiculous jackets in Williamsburg thrift stores, humoured by a new friend taking happy snaps of me in green corduroy.
A woman in a park with a hot pink bouncing ball that matched her shirt.
A field of bluebells in the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; I stood for sometime finding the right setting to recreate the exact shades of blue and green.
Chronicles of my romp through the West Village with a round and lovely man named James: Stonewall and statues for my people; borscht and blintz in a Jewish dairy; the Friends building, taken for my sister; Christopher St Pier in slanting afternoon sun; and my first glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.
Bani, my funny little host in Jackson Heights, napping on the subway home, zebra print tights against bright orange plastic, cap falling into eyes.
James Spader, looking sharp, moments before I squeaked my ridiculous confession.
Catherine Zeta Jones, caught smiling despite the influx of fans, one sobbing woman crying "I LOVE YOU CATHERINE" - glad she isn't me.
The Bill of Rights, posted on the back of a toilet door in the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
The Guggenheim shot at angles that make its white circular look like a take away cup against the bright blue sky.
Knish. Vegan pizza. Bagels.
Four boys, slouch-shorted surfer types, standing in a line, stock still, contemplating art: specifically, a large canvas (seemingly built for this moment) painted one shade of grey green.
The highline, industrial parklife with a view, and an old French companion; smiling bilingual fun over coffee and crazy flavoured felafel.
Polite American signage: with <3s for some letters; much please and thank you; a 'Voluntary Quiet Zone' on the Staten Island ferry.
So many artworks and objects shot for friends who love them: Georgia O'Keefe and Monet for my mothers; Mondrian for Emily; a statue of Sappho (large feet, sensible shoes) for, well, so many; more Rodin for Viv and other little pieces of famous I won't see again.
Paparazzi waiting for Sarah Jessica Parker, shot so I could mock Louise about her love of Sex and the City. A bakery that apparently features in same: see above for reasoning.
A bridal shop in Flushing, Queens.
Rollercoaster at Coney Island which I rode, fighting that day's melancholy with breathtaking falls.
Old men and young professionals playing boules together in the sun in Bryant Park.
The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago at the Brooklyn Museum: close up on figures that resonated and on two names on the historical panels that accompany it: Maeve and Grainne. Writ large in this epic feminist memory keeper.

And in Yosemite...
Squirrels. So many squirrels. A squirrel posing pretty next to a blue jay. A squirrel reaching for Hermann's hand, hoping for food we didn't have (clif bars already eaten).
Our First Meal, bean and tofu stew that looked like dog food but was delicious post-hike.
Me, thumbs up and smiling above an American flagged 'Marsden for congress, Marsden for you' sign (possibly the loss I feel the hardest)
Tumbling waterfalls, cascading wonder, sharp granite beauty and a little sign that warned against swimming or creeping too close with the simple "If you fall, you will die."
A series of me and Morgana, running leaping and escaping into empty fields and sunsets.
A pile of junkfood purchased just after we had been discussing what a healthy road trip we'd had thus far: guacamole flavoured chips, twix ice cream, butterfingers and Morgana's hideous 'artificially flavoured strawberry shortcake ice cream.'
The Mariposa Grove of towering sequoias (pronounced not as I thought), mammoth ancient trees in deep red and cute moments standing under them. Snow falling gently, captured only as little blurs on the lens.
Terrifying winding drive into night time, dirt road, wondering if we'll find a camp, blank fields and mining towns. Deliverance country, we say.
Wildflowers and windfarms.
The sunset through the windscreen, behind our driving faces, across the steering wheel and through the windows: big beautiful sky, shared with new friends.

And finally...
My feet hanging over the edge on a little perch halfway into the Grand Canyon where I pressed the wrong button on my camera.

Weird stuff I do when I'm alone.

I spent Wednesday night camping at a clothing optional Californian new age spa.

You see, when I am alone I like to do random shit I wouldn't normally do. It started in Norway when I stowed away on a cruise ship and sailed off into the midnight sun, sitting pretty in the jacuzzi. Note that 'stowed away' is code for paid a reduced fee and slept on the cafeteria floor. Anyway, this little solitary adventure went very well and began a series of little moments, some I share, some I don't, where I do things just for me. While I am away, I hike, I wear a bikini (sometimes), I stop drinking coffee, and - as of yesterday - I stay at clothing optional Californian new age spas.

Long story short, I picked up a flyer for Harbin Hot Springs at the Calistoga Visitors Centre, helped by two friendly plastic surgeryed women. I felt like a little rest and relaxation after my road trip and something needed to be done about my feet. Desert + walking = dry and icky.

Result: unexpected. The saronged lady with cracked lips at the gatehouse took my membership fee and camping costs. "We ask a fee because we are a clothing optional facility." Riiiight. I smiled sweetly and set off with my map.

Old and young, fat and thin, gay, straight, trans, families, hippies, hipsters and me. All naked or in varying degrees of undress. Plunging in and out of hot and cold spas, these tattoed, tan line free new age sorts debated psychology, their fellow spa goers tattoos and how the place had changed over the years. I roamed at first, not quite feeling like I belonged but not feeling like an outsider either.

I adjusted to the nudity. I relaxed into the walk from spa to towel, uncovered and anonymous. And I booked myself into a scrub and wrap - one of the most relaxing 90 minutes of my life. Oh Martine, you lovely German wonder. I sat and read, drank in the sun, made a little salad for one in the communal kitchen and trotted around the gardens.

The temptation was there to judge or laugh at these people - privileged lot - some reliving the 60s and some of that new age genre of pop-psych where being a hippy is about self-love not free...

But I didn't want to. I let myself enjoy this funny little departure from my day to day, my comfort zone. I sat in the spa and watched the stars. I don't do much alone, and travelling alone can be odd for me. But sometimes the alone is awesome.


The Blurb

For maevegobash: yeah, I just like thinking/writing/talking about myself. That's what blogs are for, right? For vegepalooza: I have been vegetarian for 25 years now - so that's always for me. My mothers cooked a storm up in the kitchen and I am carrying the torch filling my friends bellies at every opportunity. I love food and want to share my recipes, tips and tricks here to encourage creative vegetarian eating. There will also be a lot of vegan recipes for my friends with more willpower than me (sorry kids, I just love the cheese). Anyway enjoy, feel free to criticise and most of all Happy Eating!