Sunday, September 8, 2013

California


Marina del Rey
I spent the last week in August in Southern California. I also drove out to Phoenix and Santa Fe. It was a trip filled with not only project shoots but family time and a wee bit of friend time.

The project shoots all went wonderfully and I had the opportunity to hang out with some really amazing and wonderfully kind butches and femmes. I spent the first weekend in San Diego and Los Angeles. I grew up in Northern San Diego County and spent some time as a Marine stationed at Camp Pendleton so driving through that area brought back so many memories. I spent many summers on the beach in Carlsbad and Oceanside, my grandparents lived in a mobile home park in Oceanside for as long as I could remember, and my son was born at the Naval Hospital on Camp Pendleton. I learned how to windsurf in Alamitos Bay,  how to body surf in the ocean and how to play volleyball in the sand on the peninsula in Long Beach. I was a total California kid.
Original home of the Youth Center

Being in San Diego brought up other memories for me, as well. It was where I came out and where I became involved with the GLBTQI community. With my then girlfriend and partner I helped open the San Diego Gay and Lesbian Youth Center. My surf board used to hang on the fence on the back porch. While I was down there I learned that the Center moved from it's original building. I hope they found a good space to be in. The house where they started is now a halfway house, I believe. It still holds lots of good memories.

Being in Los Angeles brought up a few memories, as well. Not quite as many because I only spent my senior year of high school there but there were still memories. Working at Howard & Phil's Western Wear in the Del Amo Mall after high school, driving the very recognizable 1960's Jeep that belonged to my step-Father, and playing softball. I also went through my religious phase there when I first started college. Way before I ever realized I was gay. I was looking for a sense of community and the church groups were there and willing to take me into their fold. That lasted a bit until I started asking questions they really couldn't answer.

Santa Monica Pier
I spent a bit of time in Santa Monica and met some friends there for dinner on the pier. Unfortunately, our time was cut short by a call from my Mom. My Grandmother had been in hospice care and the hospice nurse told Mom that Grandma may only be around for another few hours and that we should get down there to say our goodbyes. My friends were incredibly understanding and had my dinner boxed up so I could take off. After rushing back to my parents house to pick up my Mom, we drove down to Oceanside to say goodbye. We were met by my Uncle, Aunt and two of my cousins. I hadn't seen any of them for years. I think the last time we saw each other it was in the late 1990's.
Mom holding Grandma's hand.

Mom and I stayed the night at the care facility not wanting to leave Grandma alone. The next morning, after sleeping very little, we decided it would be best if we headed home since both of us were exhausted. Grandma was still with us in the morning and I think as we left we both wondered how long she'd fight. Turns out, Grandma fought for another 7 days. Death and dying is fascinating. The human body is capable of many things, including that last "hurrah". I missed my Grandfather's death because of distance and finances. I'm glad I was there for my Grandmother's death. Not just for me but for my Mom. 

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I spent traveling to Phoenix, Arizona and Santa Fe, New Mexico. I didn't spend much time in Phoenix. Just enough time to get a shoot in at the Zoo, wonder around a bit then grab lunch. The couple I was photographing was very sweet and took me out to lunch. It was nice to be able to have more time to chat with them before moving on to New Mexico. I made it to Albuquerque that night by about 8pm.

New Mexico Museum of Art
The next day I drove to Santa Fe and had the opportunity to meet up with one of my biggest supporters of the photo project. We had a great afternoon chat and some delicious iced tea at an adorable cafe'. Also, I asked her if she would like to participate in the project and she said she would be honored! I'm very excited to include her!

Santa Fe is beautiful, by the way. I can see why all of the creative types flock to the area. There are tons of galleries there. I stumbled upon the Chuck Jones Gallery while in search of the cafe' where my shoot was happening and had the best time reliving childhood memories of Bugs Bunny and all of the Looney Toons characters. After my afternoon photo shoot and chat, I wondered around the city in search of more galleries. On my way to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum I found the Andrew Smith Gallery of Classic and Historic Masterpieces of Photography where I found original photographs from Annie Leibovitz, Edward Curtis, Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Alfred Stieglitz (among others!). To say that I was in awe would be a gross understatement. So many amazing photographs by so many amazing photographers in one place! I really just wanted to move in and live there. Looking at their work was so inspiring. I'm not one to be star struck, but this was the one exception.

After spending the night in Albuquerque, I made the long drive back to California on Friday. I spent 12 hours doing this:



It's been mentioned to me a few times that I should be taking video documentation of this project while I'm doing it because it would be really interesting. Well, I can't afford to bring someone on my trips to video tape me so I tried taking a few videos on my own on this trip, even though I'm on my last few trips at this point. Honestly, though, I'm just not all that good at it.





See what I mean? Also, yes. I talk with my hands. A lot.

Anyway, after getting some time Friday night with my birthmother, sister, niece and nephews I headed back to Los Angeles Saturday morning for a few more shoots. Two in Los Angeles and one in Lancaster. Needless to say, it was a long day. Sundays shoots were all in the Los Angeles area and included a shoot with a butch elder of our community, Jeanne Cordova. It was truly an honor to be welcomed into her and her partner, Lynn's, home and to be able to include her in this project.

After resting a bit with my Mom Sunday evening I did my last project shoot Monday morning in the Hollywood area on a rooftop, which was awesome. It was beautiful. A great way to end my work there in California. I spent the rest of the day sleeping off a migraine and comforting my Mom after we received word that my Grandmother had finally passed that afternoon.

Early Tuesday morning I headed back to LAX to catch my flight home. By the time I turned in the rental car I had logged just over 2600 miles on the car.

Thank goodness for unlimited mileage.

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