Venice|Venezia

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And so, without further adieu, here are some photographs of a few days my beautiful mother and I spent meandering aimlessly around Venice|Venezia in May of 2010. We had a great time sipping coffees, eating sandwiches, admiring architecture, ducking into shops, and smelling that strange smell that haunts most of Venice. We encountered dogs that knew the city like the back of their hands (paws?), ate a lot of baked goods, had some Italian ladies make fun of my mum’s sneakers on the train (they didn’t know I could understand them, even with my bad 9 months of Italian classes), and I took a lot of naps (sorry Mum). We ate at a delicious pizza place whose name escapes me almost 7 years later.

I hadn’t looked at these photographs in years and today I realize how awesome it was for my mother, who had never left North America, to come spend a few weeks with me travelling. My mother is one of the most hardy, intelligent, and creative human beings I know, and as I get older I realize more and more how much I admire her. Mums are amazing creatures in general, but mums who travel across the world solo like a pro on their first go are pretty wicked.

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Let it wash over me- the Nostalgia post.

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How much of what I remember is real? How much of it is fantastical, invented by repetition of remembering? How much of Lugano that I possess in image won’t be there when I go next time?

I left Lugano in May of 2011, when I was 20 years old, sure of my return. I have not been back since. I ended up graduating from an in-state university instead of the prestigious, dual-degree giving small college in Switzerland I planned on.

I was surrounded by new things there, when at the age of 18 I embarked on the rare opportunity to learn somewhere entirely foreign to me. Ridiculous amounts of wealth stared me in the face- students in leased Porsches, BMW’s, and Mercedes-Benz vehicles lined the small student parking lot, bags worth my tuition gracefully hanging from fellow students arms, expectations of lavishness that had only entered my eyes previously through magazines. One classmate described growing up being shuffled around in armored vehicles in Colombia due to her father’s fear of being kidnapped. In Montana we keep a winter survival kit in the car in case something happens. In the cafeteria Arabic, Spanish, Russian, German, Czech, and English all mingled. Downtown Lugano was a space of tremendous, blatant wealth as well- I gazed at 800 franc shoes from Ermenegildo Zegna, gorgeously tailored suits, women wearing furs in the midst of May. Limited edition cars so rare that their worth almost couldn’t be ascertained- Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Jaguar- parked near 18th century Baroque churches. Versace, Bally, Hermes, Gucci, Missoni, Cartier boutiques lined the narrow, car-less streets weaving between quiet, elegant piazzas.

In the autumn, the piazzas were laced with the smell of roasted chestnuts. Sullen Gothic teenagers huddled outside Manor, sharing quiet comradery. Efficient buses hummed around and the funiculare which took you from downtown to the train station cost .10 francs and went to and fro full of passengers up the steep hill. Centuries old buildings with painted on windows, all shades of pastel, created a maze-like town of alleys and piazzas to stumble into. In the winter, one would hear the helicopters as large, regal Christmas trees were lowered into the piazzas. Old men played chess on the many painted large chess boards around the city. Swans, regal thieves, languidly floated near the edge of the lake, waiting to be fed. The sleek, small train station whisked people away to Milano Centrale or to the Zurich Bahnhof, wherever the rider wanted to go. I myself had the utter joy of having a train pass, being able to explore such cities as Lausanne, St. Gallen, Basel, and Zurich, easily and efficiently. Well-dressed older gentleman whose taxis were plush Jaguars asked if you needed their services. If you did indeed take a taxi, the inside was full of the sounds of bad 1990’s American rock and pop music that the drivers knew every word to. (I remember having one very patient Luganese gentleman try to shove my rather tattered bag into the back of his car at 5 am, probably much more used to dealing with more sleek creatures.)

Among all this newness and strangeness, I found my stride, my humble Montana-based stride, in the midst of all. Migros was the affordable grocery store that I regularly patronized. H&M clothed me. My friends and I splurged on warm Nutella crepes or nocciolo gelato, at 5 francs a welcome luxury, from the petite stands that emerged outside Manor and on corners. Churches full of relics, frescoes, and gorgeous, quiet details absorbed my spare time. Flowers in the Parco Civico, changed frequently, smiled at me, and in the early mornings, before most humans were awake, I could have the lakeside, and even the Italian mountains across the lake, to myself. On a few special occasions my dearest friends and I gathered at the Spaghetti Store by the lake to devour pizza with marscopone, arugula, and prosciutto with cheap table wine.

And yet, how much of this is personal mythology I coaxed from the threads of my mind? How many times was my identity as outsider made obvious?

I really hope, in the next few years, to go back and ascertain how much of what I think I know about this beautiful city is false. Human memory is so faulty, beautifully so, and if I find comfort in the ideas I’ve woven for myself,so be it. The curious part of me, however, is not always content with that answer- nor should it be. Lugano, I cannot wait to re-explore and analyze you with my veteran eyes.

One autumn

Can a person be an adventure?

I think so. I had a lovely, if short, adventure with a creature that was unlike any I’d ever met. I had quite a blast. I made some really good photographs that season, I think because finding out things about somebody else and being with them can be a really incredible experience and tinge other parts of your life. It was odd and sometimes sad and others completely euphoric.

I took a lot of my photographs on weekends when I wasn’t with the adventure, and others walking to go see the adventure. I would take my time and find weird ways to get to his house because to get there I had to pass by some really beautiful architecture and the lighting was always different. Montana in the fall can be the most beautiful place in the world.

You and me and the frog makes three




Dilapidated, slanted barns and old homesteads marked our distance. We went past Norris, past Harrison, and to Pony. The beautiful brick school house sat neatly on the hill, and as we went a small ways up a little muddy hill road, a graveyard stood there. Broken and and tilted gravestones sat grey and tan, some limestone, some sandstone, some granite.

We drove on through deep puddles and past large granite hills. The trees were green and dusted with snow. The creek below was swollen and clear, looking incredibly cold. Enormous boulders sat creating deep pools. Chris wondered aloud if they held fish, although most of the pools and eddies looked too shallow to hold any sort of sizable aquatic creature.

After driving right through the stream and parking in a small clearing, we found the trail buried under a little snow. I wore Chris’s flannel-lined Carhartt’s and some winter boots guaranteed to keep my feet warm to -20 Fahrenheit- standard issue Montana gear. Although it was mid-May we knew we’d most likely need it. We hiked through the damp snow and some mud, admiring the beautiful trees and lamenting the fact that once again we forgot the bear spray (a recurring theme in our adventures.)

Potosi Hot Springs was our destination. A warm, silty spring about 15 feet in each direction, it sits on a small hill after about a mile of easy hiking. After we encountered no bears, only a weasel and multiple pesky prairie dogs, we found the pool completely empty! Enthralled by our good luck we quickly undressed and got into the pool, which was a pleasant bathtub temperature. We found a lovely little grotto-like corner and squeezed into it. There were delicate spider webs and we saw a beautiful spider test the lines. Dew drops hung from every clover and leaf that surrounded the pool.

That’s when I spotted the frog.

A frog! A frog! My mind rushed excitedly, nostalgia washing over me, remembering how I caught frogs in upstate New York and in various rivers whenever we went camping and how the last time I saw a frog like this was on a hellish Father-Daughter backpacking trip through Yellowstone and the worst mosquitoes they’d seen in 40 years.

I didn’t catch it with my hands but rather with my lens- it seemed decent, because we were sharing this small warm pool with the frog, and I didn’t want to be rude. Actually, it was because I couldn’t catch him! He was very calm and I put my hands behind and around him gently and touched him- then he leaped into the silty water where I wouldn’t be able to find him. He made several more lovely cameos during our visit! I later found out that he was a Columbia Spotted Frog, a type of frog I’d never seen before! How neat!

Immediately after the frog-neighbor made an appearance  a mother and two blond children joined us with their very nervous dog. The dog mowed down grass more efficiently than any herbivore ungulate I’d seen and barked anxiously at nothing whatsoever. A couple joined us for about 20 minutes then left. Chris and I stayed in our warm section- we knew we had the best spot in the pool.

Chad, a Coors-drinking hotspringing veteran, showed up later. By then we had prune hands and were thoroughly relaxed. Chad told funny stories and we all admired our luck at being here in this little pool of warm water on such a nice day.

After almost five hours of intense soaking in the silty, mineral-rich water, we got out and headed back. The whole way I had the luxury of thinking how lucky we were to do this, and as Chris drove us back down the muddy and hole-filled dirt road I felt extremely balanced and happy.

Also, as a side note: the mineral water did something crazy to my  hair to the point that it ended up curling in perfect spirals instead of descending into it’s normal frizzy mess. I wish I could re-do the effects.

A day at the museum

I’m graduating in a little over a week from COLLEGE!

WHAT!

Anyway, today we went to the Museum of the Rockies here in Bozeman for a final art class. Although our purpose was more just to have something to do, for days on end I was bothering Chris telling him, “I get to see the geckos!” and getting overly excited.

You see, if I had really done it right, I would have gone to school for herpetology, or the study of reptiles and amphibians. I love frogs, salamanders, skinks, snakes, and lizards galore! So upon entering the museum I immediately raced to the glass enclosures. There were fat geckos, flying geckos, geckos that looked like leaves, and brightly colored little geckos. They were all wonderful to observe, and have such interesting body structures! I could talk about their feet all day.

The museum also has some wicked exhibits about Montana’s ancient shallow seas that used to cover modern day Missoula and other parts of Montana. I’ve been to the museum dozens of times in my life but every time I appreciate something more. I love the amazing skeletons of the dinosaurs and the petrified wood and fern impressions. I will always be a sucker for neat plaster exhibits of old school nautilus’s swimming around prehistoric seas.

Overall it was a great day to spend in a place I love. I’m going again tomorrow but tomorrow will most likely be the last time I go before graduating college!

Hot rollers and red lipstick: My foray into the 1940’s

I’m in a funk where I want to go dancing every night and drink gin and wear my hair in big curls. Unfortunately I am busy and so are all my favorite people and so the dancing and gin will have to wait.

In the mean time I have been learning how to get my hair in those big beautiful curls from the 1940’s, and with the gorgeous red lipstick Chris got me for Christmas I can at least pretend I’m always ready to go swing dancing (even though I can’t actually dance).

 

The final days

My dog was dead. My beautiful, black and white Springer, Maggie, was dead 3 days before I left Switzerland. Leaving would validate her death. Upon returning to my home, she wouldn’t be there to smell all my clothes and jump on me like she had 5 months earlier. If I returned she would really be dead. As long as I was 6,000 miles away, she wouldn’t really not be there.

Returning was necessary. It was financially unfeasible for me to remain there. My family didn’t have the money to keep me at the school, and I was unwilling to perch precariously on a mountain of debt. In late May, I got on a little plane with whirring propellers to Zurich and headed “home”.

“Home” at this point wasn’t real. I was leaving my new family- my beautiful, vivacious friends. I was leaving my new home- my messy studio apartment with lentils on the ceiling due to a bad canned lentils accident and a tiny shower in a black granite bathroom. I slept in my house with the door open to the balcony, hearing rain pound endlessly just outside my door, letting the cool air waft in. I wore rain boots and ate horribly and drank sugar-laced apfelsaft. I walked downtown to get Thai food with my beautiful friends, and Hannah and I shared gelato and meandered around, buying gummy candy for no reason. We walked through the park or made food at ridiculous hours.

To me, leaving was the worst. I was in mourning about 2 months before I had to leave. I desperately photographed everything- even playing Uno on the floor drinking heady wine and bier. I took videos on bad and good days. I tried to piece together what it was like, even though I knew I’d glaze it over to only the good moments.

Packing up my room was the weirdest. At that point I was numb. I simply got rid of things without understanding their significance. How proud I was to put together the Ikea shelf I bought, how much I loved my little duck-shaped laundry hamper meant for children. How heavy it was so get my books back to America and how I refused to leave almost any of them. How taking photographs off my walls made them echo more.

Taking the taxi to the airport was surreal. I’d done it quite a few times before. I knew the drill. The overdressed Switalian man would load my luggage in his trunk and not be able to fit both enormous suitcases in. He’d drive the same beautiful Jaguar and listen to bad ’90’s pop on the radio. He’d make minimal conversation and I’d go over in my mind if I had my passport and boarding pass. Getting to the airport I didn’t want to cry. Nobody I knew was on my flight. I felt so alone. I checked in, using some of the last Italian I’d use ever. I stumbled over the words, making a mess of the language I’d hated and loved and messed up for two years.

I got onto the plane, and looked out the window. It was clean and white. I saw classmates faces but they didn’t know who I was. No flicker of recognition. I sat silently, looking to see how long of a layover I had in Zurich. I looked around and saw the hills in green, covered in the lush trees.

Crying finally caught me as the plane took off. Planes out of the Lugano airport take off at a very steep angle because of the surrounding terrain and I remember loving how I knew that and how I would hopefully fly back in fast and hard in a year or two. I took pictures out the window and saw San Salvatore underneath me. I could spot the park and Gandria and all the places I’d marched all over that beautiful city.

I haven’t been back. I don’t know if I ever will be.

The “bad” frames

My Argus Argoflex E is about 70-75 years old. It’s sturdy and pretty light, but I wasn’t used to working without a light meter, and didn’t carry one with me.

This meant that many of my frames weren’t properly exposed, or I didn’t time them right. Or I was moving too quickly to focus accurately (bugger). Nonetheless, I don’t see these as wasted frames. They’re learning frames. There’s no way every frame in a roll will be a worthwhile one, or that it will be impeccably framed, focused, and composed. Sometimes they’ll be downright awful.

To me, these are still awesome. They have memories attached. I was fumbling around, dashing, trying to keep up, or having trouble figuring out the intricacies that every camera presents when getting to know it. Especially this one!

My first foray into medium format!!

Using a 70 year old camera, I brought a few rolls of 120 film and ventured with the red girls around Los Angeles with Ektar 100. It was my first time actually shooting with this camera and trying to correctly load 120 film (which was surprisingly easy)!

I loved imagining how they’d turn out! The square format is really lovely, a great change from the rectangular format of 35mm, and the negatives were awesome to look at!

I don’t have a photo scanner and the labs are only for photography students but Chris did a patient, lovely job of scanning my film in with me. (A lot of my frames were actually heinous. Like, really bad. I might make a bad photo post).

Now they’re here! I’m in love! I’m so excited to keep shooting with my old ancient camera and experiment more with 120mm film!

From ze phone: More Los Angeles

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Chris drove me to Butte to fly out of the tiniest, weirdest airport we’d ever seen. He actually went inside to check and see if it was a real airport before I went inside- “Yup, it’s real!”

We ate at Pork Chop John’s. It’s Butte, so I naturally wasn’t expecting anything nice, but when we got there Chris was highly questioning of the place. It was like a sad, weird, old MacDonald’s, but with better food that was cheap and good milkshakes! I think we ended up eating pretty well for a good price. Then we drove around the old part of town at night. It was beautiful and hilly and the city lights spanned farther than I thought.

The roads were icy enough that we went back to the hotel. The reviews online made it seem like a rat infested sinkhole that nobody would want to be near but all I wanted was a bed and a hot shower, which they had.

Free breakfast the next morning was pitiful at best, until we discovered the waffle maker. With a waffle each in our stomachs I made sure I was packed and we headed off to…the airport?

It was the size of a school gymnasium. After making sure it was real Chris bid me goodbye. I waved at him, grateful he had driven me all the way here, feeling bad he’d have to drive back alone. I had everything in one carry-on pack- four cameras, 15 rolls of film, and enough clothes to last a week. Security took 5 minutes, and I was ready to fly.

I slept through both of my flights, and landed in a definitely hotter Ontario, California. I was dressed head to toe in black, definitely looking out of place. Chelsea and Comrade Kate pulled in a zippy Dodge Stratus they called Lolita, both wearing sun dresses and heart shaped glasses. I wanted to change out of my pants and shirt immediately!

After doing so and putting my pack in their room, we walked to The Village to a wondrous place called Back Abbey, where we had beer and burgers and fries that seriously made me want to cry over their awesomeness. I love food and this burger was spectacular, unlike anything I’ve ever had. On our walk there, I saw succulents everywhere! And flowers! And GREEN THINGS!

I was in heaven.

The next day Chelsea and I walked to the train station. I ate a delicious croissant on the train and we sipped coffee. The train was quiet, clean, and efficient. We passed orange trees and parking lots and lots of buildings. At Union Station Chelsea showed me the interior- I was amazed at how beautiful it was! None of my photographs did it justice. We walked outside to meet towering palm trees that seemed impossibly tall and thin. I could hear Spanish everywhere. It was hot, enough so that I knew we would be wanting shade.

We went to MOCA to eat- we didn’t have enough time to go through it’s collection. Lunch was expensive (CITY FOOD) but delicious- I had a lemonade that quenched my thirst. We walked on, only to be brutally burned by the Disney concert hall with it’s horribly curved metal. I silently damned the architect to a level of hell suitable as the rays hit us. I imagined my skin being burned- of course it wasn’t but I was still displeased that such architectural style had been allowed- it was a public menace!

Chelsea took me all over town. We went to FIDM, the Biltmore Hotel, and Bottega Louis. We went to the Last Bookstore and I got lost in words and art pieces upstairs. We walked a lot that day, but every moment was awesome.

At the end of the day we got back on the train and quietly sat. Afterwards there was phenomenal sushi!

The next day Comrade Kate, Chelsea, and I got into Lolita. Chelsea drove us into Los Angeles, deftly turning the wheel and maneuvering through tight traffic. The LACMA awaited! We spent 5 hours in and out of every hall, our eyes eating up paintings and sculptures galore.

What a good weekend!

 

Almost 23 and exhausted: Growing up a girl/object.

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I’m about to turn 23. In one week! Blink-182 says nobody likes you when you’re 23. Damn.

Honestly growing up as a girl has been really, really fucking hard sometimes. I’m white, so there’s privilege there, but regardless, I’ve grown up as an object.

I remember the first time I had a car honk at me. It was in high school, and I was running. From that moment on I realized that my body was just that- disconnected from me as a person. To a lot of society I wasn’t Kate, I was a girl, a thing, a creature to be honked and whistled at from the car and a thing that didn’t have the agency to do anything about it.

I’m still honked at, touched in bars, winked at by men. This last week in Los Angeles at the LACMA a creepy man came by while my friends and I were lying on an exhibit bed, saying, “Oh look! They hired live models!” and lifted his camera. I felt disgusted. His behavior his whole life had been tolerated and thereby approved by people around him. It was seen as harmless, not invasive or uncomfortable.

“It’s not a big deal”/”Oh my gosh! It must be exhausting having men find you attractive!”/”You get free drinks and dudes do things for you, that’s awesome!”/”Oh boy, another feminist rant!”

I am sick of ALL of those responses when I talk to men around me about society seeing me and my fellow girls as things. Not people, not vessels with souls and goals and wants and needs, but as creatures to be objectified, hit on, harassed, and pawed at. I have had my ass squeezed in bars, I have had men get upset when I don’t want their attention, and society has always told me it’s a “compliment” to have all these things happen to me. FUCK. THAT.

I am made to feel bad when a guy gives me unwanted attention and when I turn it down. My right to say “no” makes me a bitch, a cold-hearted cunt, an ice-queen just waiting to get a bunch of cats and die alone. Girls are shallow, nasty creatures because we might reject men. Because we might not WANT their attention or their drinks or their hands on our bodies or their eyes on us.

“Don’t dress _____ and it won’t happen.” This is another exhausting, vile answer I get when I talk about going out. When I wear my favorite tight velvet dress or a low cut shirt out I am not inviting you in. I am dressing myself up for me and only me. I am saying to myself, “You deserve to look nice and pretty and you deserve to think you look good tonight.” I am not having thoughts of hoping some man will come swooning over.

I would like to put in here at this point that I don’t mind making conversation. I’m not against having a guy come up and talking to me. I will not immediately write off every man as a “creep” because he approaches me in a bar/concert/cafe/other place. I will engage in conversation and banter willingly. However, I am allowed to not be into you, I am allowed to not want a drink, and I am allowed to say “no” at any point to anything.

As a child growing up I was taught that as a girl my life is constantly under scrutiny and that just being a girl puts me in danger. I park under lights like my mother told me to. I look underneath my car before I get in. I look behind me when I walk, even in daylight. If somebody is walking too close to me I cross the street. I walk alone at night, apparently asking to be raped. I am actually scared of men.

When men I talk to hear this they get upset. They say “We’re not all like that”/”You’re being dramatic”/”You have to get over that” but every time a rapist shows up suddenly I am the one who has to stay inside and lock my door and watch my back. When a guy tried to attack a girl less than 1/2 mile behind my apartment a month ago Chris told me I shouldn’t go on my night walks anymore. He might be right but I want society to tell little boys, teenage men, and grown men, “Don’t rape. Women can say no. She’s not a bitch for not wanting your attention. You’re not complimenting her when you honk/whistle/leer/wink- you’re solidifying the idea that women are little more than objects. You’re adding to her fear.”

You know what the #1 thing you can say to a guy to get him to back off is? “I have a boyfriend.” This quote sums up why this is the most awful thing ever. Found from Tumblr somewhere, I am so sorry I don’t know the genius behind this quote! (If you do please let me know!)

“Male privilege is “I have a boyfriend” being the only thing that can actually stop someone from hitting on you because they respect another male-bodied person more than they respect your rejection/lack of interest.”

I do have a boyfriend. And he’s awesome. But just because he exists shouldn’t nullify the respect I deserve from a man if I say I’m simply not interested.

I have men in my life that I love and respect. I have been lucky to have some truly awesome male figures in my life that demonstrate the kind of values men should have towards women. I don’t hate men, I don’t loathe them. What I am is wary and cautious, because 1 in 4 college aged women either are raped or have experienced an attempt at rape.

I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I hate realizing that I forgot my pepper spray and hoping that it isn’t the night I get raped or assaulted or have to get myself out of a potentially scary situation. I hate having to be paranoid about almost every action I make, whether I’m inviting attention, etc.

I’m 23 next week and I can promise you I’m not the only one who is as young as I am and already completely worn out.

 

 

Flora

Going South to California I was astounded by all the green. 

Montana is essentially covered with mud, ice, or snow for 6 months of every year and the field of color around me seems to dim. It was almost shocking to feel warm green grass on my bare feet on a lawn in early March! My time there was spent marveling at all the growing things- orange trees, birds of paradise, succulents and cacti taller than me. Of course, I was allergic to it all, and quickly had to go on Benadryl but that didn’t matter.

Being around living things, whether they be flora or fauna, will always be my favorite. I love nature and all she has to offer, and it seems like every surface was teeming with something! There were dozens of bees swarming over the birds of paradise, having a feast, and there were wasps bothering you at breakfast.

Also side note: The squirrels at Scripps were enormous. About 3 times fatter than the Montana ones (which are downright scraggly creatures). They were sleek and bold and ate so well! As a result, there were some gorgeous and sneaky hawks perched in places you wouldn’t see right away that would quickly swoop over the bushes towards their well-fed prey. It was really neat to be sipping coffee outside the dining hall and see a bird of prey just come down so silently. I loved it.

Now I’m back in the land of ice, snow, and mud, dying of a cold in my bed. My car is dead from something (battery hopefully) and I might be medicated up to my non-existent gills but I don’t think I’ll forget my lovely foray into such a warm, lush place.

 

 

The red girls

I spent my amazing week in Los Angeles staying with these two girls. I slept in their room, invaded their space, and used their Ibuprofen, and they were very gracious about all of this.

We had a great week-I don’t really have words to describe how much I needed to be somewhere warm and sunny and sit in the grass outside. Montana winters are long, dark, and cold, and every March it seems I feel the need to escape in an almost violent way.

We ate like queens, drank beer like we were raised in breweries, and wore dresses without tights. I was amazed at 80 degree weather, and actually had to apply sunscreen! My freckles popped out, my hair was loose and I felt like a new person.

I’ll be posting more photographs from my trip soon but these are two of my favorite frames. Thanks Chelsea and Comrade Kate for everything!