Monthly Archives: February 2015

Who Knows How Long This Will Last?

People love to talk about gratitude – it’s positive. Sometimes my gratitude must be framed in loss for me to really understand it. Does life have to be full of so many things to be grateful? Maybe I just need a few.

We always want more – money, experience, love. I know I do. I read an article today reminding me that even if I worked at McDonalds I’d be in the top 8% of richest people in the world. Even $40,000 a year, long since surpassed, would put me in the top 2% of richest people. Of course, this doesn’t account for different economies and markets (my rental market at the moment has me in tears), but I digress.

I remember poignantly the struggle of my youth. I’m still young, but when I was younger, I felt desperately that I might never achieve what I wanted or even get that career-making job that would launch me towards finally making money that I needed badly. I gambled on dreams and plastic in hope that one day my financial life would match what I thought I was worth. Never mind the fact that I always believed I was destined for artistic greatness and some level of fame – my income didn’t start a steady increase until I was 28. It took another huge jump and began consistently growing when I was 33.

I’m now 37 and finally able to functionally achieve a dream of my youth, to travel internationally again. Something I couldn’t have done when I made $14,000 a year living in a maid’s quarters with no kitchen in Los Angeles. (Or maybe I could have, if I’d been more disciplined?) I was lucky then too, despite how difficult things were at times and how spare my living was. It may be laughable in fact to describe my living as spare, when my occupation was a freelance production assistant, getting fed all my meals at work and driving around to deliver scripts to A-listers all day.

At this point in my life I still feel the burning need to achieve something artistically, especially before other obligations weigh me down. And, I sometimes wonder if I’m already doing what I was meant to do – that twenty three year old’s goals don’t seem quite as important anymore. Not because they were unrealistic, but because she didn’t know how life ultimately takes shape around you and your decisions. And while you have control, you control things differently than you thought you would as you learn what it all takes and how the world’s relationships and economies work, and find happiness in your own.

I am finally in a position to not only travel, but live comfortably and get rid of some debt. I feel an urgent need to do this because I don’t know when things will end. I may be on top of some things in my career at the moment, but one never knows when the bottom will drop out. Suddenly you aren’t the popular girl anymore. Suddenly people aren’t trying to hire you and pay you more money. And you have this closet full of expensive clothes, a classic car that needs a paint job, and a mountain of credit card debt.

It’s so easy to take things for granted, from the money in our pockets to the love in our life. A rule I’ve read about in “Essentialism” is to assess what you would pay for something if you didn’t own it before you get rid of it. (This is actually a tip for discarding unneeded possessions, but works for a lot of dilemmas.) What would I do to get the job I have now? The interviews I endured, the months of waiting and hoping, the earnest anxiety to do everything right that I experienced years ago for the chair I comfortably sit in now? I’d likely do that again, from the more powerful and experienced position I now hold. On a more personal note, how vulnerable, giving, and accepting am I willing to be to sustain a relationship of ease and affection – the type I admired for years?

It all takes more work than a beautifully arranged life would have you believe. But I’d like to keep working. I believe it’s worth it, and we never know how long it all will last. How lucky I am for what I have today.


Marfa Part II: “It’s Inside You” or “Beyonce Went There”

I had a transformational experience in Marfa, Texas last summer. The combined elements of strong geographical energy (Marfa Lights), minimalist art, a film festival attracting interesting people from all over the world if not just Texas, the remote location, intensely beautiful scenery, and one of the best parties I ever attended, culminating in an emotional cry fest (with Lone Stars) before the flashing unexplained phenomena after a best friend squabble in Big Bend National Park, showed me things I had been sorely missing. I’ve already written about this, but it sent me down a minimalist life path that so far has made me much happier and brought more love into my life, and I hope in 2015 will help me dig myself out of my embarrassingly immature credit card debt. Despite my arrogant resolution blog post this time last year, I made ZERO PROGRESS financially in 2014.

But a shit ton emotionally.


Digital zoom on a Marfa light last summer.

In addition to the trajectory I started when I left Marfa, begun as experiences that were reflected upon on the day’s drive home, I developed an immediate obsession to go back. I couldn’t imagine not feeling so good there as I had in the heat of summer sleeping in a safari tent and eating burritos or hamburgers for almost every meal. I needed to tour Donald Judd’s home, I needed to go in the art galleries I hadn’t seen, and damn it, I needed to go to Mexico and get some Mexican shit.

I emptied my home of extra possessions when I got back from Marfa in an attempt to copy the aesthetic of the artist Donald Judd (who started the Chinati Foundation and an art/minimalist legacy in Marfa), and, possibly to a greater extent, El Cosmico. As my space got cleaner and felt bigger, I realized I wanted more people in it. It seemed too big for me. I wanted to use things and I wanted to monetize what could be used. I started thinking about Air BnB and ended up with a temporary roommate. This temporary roommate basically financed my trip back to Marfa to celebrate my 37th birthday. (I know. 37.)

I couldn’t do another birthday, in Denver, when I worked that day and the next day and no one will go to karaoke with me and the only people trying to take me out to dinner are my parents. I deserved something more energetically appropriate for all I’ve done this year.

I became a lot braver in 2014. I mean, I’ve always been stupid brave, like, move every two years to a different city to avoid seeing ex boyfriends brave, or like, bad decisions of the late night partying kind of brave, running alone at night in Detroit brave, and, in my mid to um, late thirties, “I don’t care what anyone thinks and I will date a 23 year old if I want to” brave. But this year I became real brave, like, professional brave and confrontation brave and you can’t be friends with everyone all the time anymore brave. I needed to celebrate this dedication to being me.

I drove to Marfa from Roswell (my in between spot) three days after Thanksgiving. The scenery changed to Texas style, I got excited, and I kept wondering why I was getting so close to El Paso. Once the sign read 30 miles away and I had gone through a border checkpoint I was sure something was wrong. Some help from the border patrol as I crossed back through, a stop to use the bathroom and buy water at one of those odd little cafes in no place where some men were dressing a deer outdoors, and confirmation that I was 50 miles from Sierra Blanca (i.e., GAS, but still over an hour from Marfa) and I was off on a ranch road rushing towards a refill and cursing that I was missing two hours of a seventy degree day, as well as having forgotten the time difference (add an hour once you get there anyway). I was very aware that if my car broke down death was a potential outcome.

It just felt wrong. The magical arrival I’d hoped for was tarnished by the time I’d added to the easy and beautiful drive from Roswell. That night my host and I went to the closing night of Planet Marfa, were tortured by a Russian border guard with a million pictures of the Himalayas, and, though the bar was full of other interesting and attractive people (well, not full… but containing), I still lay in bed that night doubting my decision to come to Far West Texas alone in December.

The feeling stuck with me as I felt a cold coming on and the following day was blustery and cool. It was the day before my birthday and I felt awkward and lonely at karaoke, realizing I knew just enough people to feel kind of stupid, but not enough to belong. It was a horrible feeling. I remembered my massage therapist’s advice of “run into your fears” and decided to sing a song to break the ice for myself. It worked, and suddenly everyone in the bar remembered me from the summer and wondered where my sidekick was, and I began to make friends with some of the other travelers who were passing through that night. It ended, as other nights in Marfa did, at the Marfa Lights viewing platform. A guy from Oakland had asked me for a ride there, I told him my awkward dilemma in the car, at the lights two other guys wished me a happy birthday, and one gave me a quartz from Arkansas that had been gifted to him. It was starting to seem like Marfa again.

I dropped off my passenger who gave me a zine and a sticker with a drawing of pears that said “Grow a Pear”. “I don’t know what to give you,” I said. “All I have is this coyote bone we picked up off the road this summer.” He actually wanted it.

And the next day I was going to Mexico. A friend I’d kept in touch with since the summer graciously followed through on his promise to be my guide. I added a country on my birthday to start a trend for the year.

photo 2

Ojinaga, Mexico, my 37th birthday.

So once I had decided to go back to Marfa for my birthday, at some point not long after I decided to spread some of my Dad’s ashes there. My sister and I both kept small parts of my Dad’s physical body… and I’d begun to think I didn’t need them forever. There was a time I needed them very much. And now I thought I’d like a piece of him to live at the Marfa lights with the Apache spirits and where I was sure I’d visit many times for the rest of my life, and maybe even live someday.

Amongst things I decided to finally deal with and that I didn’t need anymore were my Dad’s drug box. It was living in a lockbox that originally housed the four jars of very strong Oregon weed his death bequeathed to me. That lockbox had been inside a cooler in his apartment in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The weed was long gone to different recipients/customers, but the jars were finally scrubbed and repurposed as drinking glasses, and the box, a rusted tin I remember from my childhood (it had playing card kings and jacks on it) seemed better removed ceremonially. So, it was the perfect vehicle for getting the ashes to Texas once I dumped out the roach it was holding.

The drive to Presidio with my native Marfan friend was beautiful, and as we discussed the border I realized the cargo I had in the trunk. There was no way there weren’t some pot remnants in there that would hit on the way back from Mexico. “Well, they’ll just search your car and won’t find anything,” he said. But then I’d have to explain the ashes… I mean that box looked like a drug box. It just wasn’t going to be cool. We were meeting a friend of his for lunch, and I decided, I should just stash the box somewhere or even just toss it out the window before we crossed. My Dad would have loved it. Because he was bad too.

I didn’t have to throw him out the window though, because our lunch date offered to hold the tin until we came back from Ojinaga, and that she did. I got my poncho and my Mexican blanket, and on the way back to Marfa, after a secondary search at the border (Colorado plates, smart ass Mexican-American passenger – his words!) we stopped and picked up my Dad’s drug tin. It was memorable like all my trips should be.

My cold got worse over the next few days, so I didn’t party the way I had over the summer, but did see the galleries I’d missed, run on ranch roads, take pictures of my dog with tumbleweeds, and enjoy brief post jogging naps in hammocks in the warm winter sun. I ate at the restaurants I’d missed, became obsessed with Topo Chico, and toured “The Block”, Donald Judd’s city home in Marfa. This ended at sunset on a Friday night in the sparse and symmetrical world of that space, and I remembered why I’d come back. I am just very inspired by this place physically, and this aesthetic. Whatever one may think about Judd or his art, he is the reason I went to Marfa in the first place. I’m grateful for that. And the sunsets are unforgettable.


My dog posing and my own camera timer self portrait.    

I visited the lights again and left my Dad there on a fence post, and a bracelet for my nephew Andrew, who passed away almost a year ago. A few lights flashed for me, and I went out for a bit to see some friends on my last night.

Leaving the “bubble” of Marfa the next day, I was amazed by how freaking good the public radio station was on my car radio. The scenery seems gorgeous for miles around, but it’s still not that specific town. The Davis Mountains were boring compared to Big Bend, and I ended up regretting that I’d left precious Marfa a couple hours early to hike there.

I’d achieved my goal of seeing a bit of what it might be like to live in Marfa all the time. It was much colder, of course, even with the very warm days, and it was demystifying to experience it in the winter. The light was still beautiful. I still met remarkable people every day. And I realized, especially that first night when I’d rescued myself at karaoke, that my life had just been different ever since the first time I’d been there. I’d been different, and had been living life more as me than I ever had. Marfa was inside me – that’s what I have to call it because that’s what is true for me. I was headed home only to leave for a week long business trip and couldn’t wait to really be home because there was someone I was actually excited to see there.

When I’m explaining it to people, I usually start by telling them, “Beyonce went there.” The rest of it, not everyone will understand. Which is fine.

IMG_3067 tumblr_m8m3fijcMT1rqgjz2o1_1280

Who did Marfa better, me or Beyonce?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,