PRAY FOR OUR NATION: Notes from Route 66

Springfield, Missouri.

Truck stop in Glen Rio, New Mexico.

I do not pray, I do not practice any religion, but I do meditate daily. I’ve found the notion of a ‘higher power’ to be helpful in staying sober (today is day 203). So I guess it makes sense that when I got my film back from the lab last week, I found a lot of religious and spiritual symbols in my photos.

Somewhere in southern New Mexico.

Somewhere in southern New Mexico.

Brian and Disco outside of Effingham, Illinois.

Abandoned motel in east New Mexico.

I don’t know a lot about Christianity, but the symbols scattered across I-40 lead me to think it’s something that feels compelled to assert itself.  I plan to photograph and understand organized religion - which I think I was already doing here, subconsciously - when we make it through this pandemic.

On the Texas/New Mexico border.

Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Flagstaff, Arizona.

Given COVID, I didn’t feel comfortable approaching strangers and having faith-based conversations, and yet, some interactions on the road were inevitable. 

The front-desk person at the Springfield motel was a Q-Anon conspiracy theorist, and after he took my ID for check-in, he asked how I felt about Tom Hanks running a pedophile ring out of Hollywood. Then he said we should kill all pedophiles and showed me the tattoo he’d gotten that day on his forearm: the archangel Gabriel.

A woman at the Motel 6 in Flagstaff nursing a 40 introduced me to her German Shepherd which was allegedly trained by the FBI (I believe her). A motel manager let me pay in cash and was absolutely shocked into silence upon discovering that she and I drive the same car.

The Grand Canyon 1.

The Grand Canyon 2.

Perhaps the most difficult part of the trip was experiencing the tension surrounding wearing a face mask in America right now. I look forward to reading some think-piece years from now that explores the complexities of American behavior during a pandemic. The polarity is difficult for me to process. Wearing a mask upset a lot of people in gas stations and rest stops. People’s choice to forgo wearing a mask, in turn, upset me.

Barstow, California.

Leather-smelling air freshener.

Somewhere in Texas.

Bathroom in Catoosa, Oklahoma.

This trip was irritating and unconventional, however, I still came back to California feeling renewed. Maybe I felt a little bit happy? This nation is wild, colorful, unfair, funny, beautiful, ugly, and home. Nothing is all good or all bad, and this realization brings me great relief. 


Alamogordo, New Mexico.

Me and Disco at a stop in Arizona.

Re-entering the world

From the *It Takes a Village* motherhood support group’s photo shoot, Aug. 2020.

I’ve spent the month of August either on the road or in Danville.  After strictly adhering to the quarantine from March-July, I had to leave Los Angeles for a while. Quarantine was actually becoming too comfortable. I love dreaming up fantasy worlds, reading Tarot, practicing yoga, writing, and solitude. Everything was great until I found it difficult to leave the house, even to walk to the mailbox at the end of my block. Full-on effects of isolation paired with reactive anger stemming from the ongoing crisis state of our nation is a destructive combo.

It was time to get out for a minute. Brian and I drove from LA to Danville. I’ll write a separate post about road tripping through a politically-divided country during a global pandemic.

We left Los Angeles to relax. But when my friend and fifth-grade classmate, Tae’tianna, reached out about donating a photo shoot to her motherhood support group, I figured I’d struck a good balance between work and play. She produced everything and I just had to show up and photograph strong women at Lincoln Park, a favorite spot of mine in town.

It’d been more than four months since I’d photographed humans. Portraiture photography is a muscle, and four months is the longest I’ve gone without exercising said muscle since I was 22 years old. But again, this shoot was some sort of middle ground; I didn’t have to find people to photograph, I didn’t have to approach strangers on the street, I didn’t feel compelled to have have a soul-deep conversation with each participant. This shoot was low commitment and low-key. Two words that I don’t usually identify with. 

This shoot and this 3-week trip have been a step in the direction of *balance* and I’m grateful. 2020 has been transformative.

Tae’tianna (center) photographed with her mother and grandmother.

Photographing home

I’ve been living in Historic Filipinotown neighborhood with Brian for more than two years, but I’ve never tried to photograph it. I have learned that trying to document every aspect of your life can be overwhelming (“how do I turn off my urge to photograph the world and actually relax?”), and it’s good to have some boundaries. But this global pandemic has me throwing all my old ways to the wind and and daily walks have become central to my life.

My favorite strip in the neighborhood. I get my clothes altered at Armando’s.

Fact or fiction?

My dog and I have been venturing down streets we never bothered to explore, looking at lawn ornaments with a whole new perspective, appreciating the belated Christmas lights, and waving at people we see on a daily basis. We take our morning walk route in the evening, and our evening walk route in the morning. 

Filipinotown is full of life, of chutzpah, character, resistance. The energy here is fast, loud, chaotic, funny. Frankly, I’ve never really wanted to stop, slow down, and take photographs. 

Next door.

I’m using a digital camera again, something that’s been collecting dust in my closet for nearly three years. It’s allowed me to play around a lot more and save a ton of money. I’ve been able to photograph all my walks for the past ten days, something I wouldn’t have done with film.

Take out.

Filipinotown, how I’ll remember it.

Suited up to go out. For the first time, the outside world is stranger than my inner world.

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