The question at the end of the headline

“…They don’t believe that they are able to tell the truth without a question mark.” – Jon Lovett

I started my liberal indoctrination listening to Pod Save America a few months ago.

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Rubatosis

I have always enjoyed visiting new places and, more or less, living life by the seat of my pants, but I’m happy to to stop, breathe and take in the sights… for once.

I drove through Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California last month, enroute to Washington after three years in Baton Rouge.

Sometimes when I’m driving, I can feel my heartbeat coming through my t shirt. It is soft and rhythmic. The feeling is unsettling. My own mortality is gently beating under a thin piece of cloth, wrapped in a couple layers of flesh, cruising across state lines at 80 mph as semi trucks and other death mobiles weave in and out of traffic for 3,000 miles.

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Zydeco music: How I learned to love it

Louisiana is maybe one of the few places where the accordion is taken seriously, not merely as some kitsch novelty in a hipster band.

There was a comic from a while ago:

“Welcome to heaven,” an angel says to newly arrived souls. “Here’s your harp.” The panel below, “Welcome to hell, here’s your accordion.”

I really like the accordion, actually. It’s such a bizarre instrument. But like it or not, it’s hard to take seriously, unless you’re a big fan of traditional European polkas. It looks and sounds so goofy.

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Odds and Ends: My photos that didn’t quite make Instagram in 2016

I tried to do more photography than ever in 2016, and for the most part I think I succeeded.

I made a resolution to take more photographs of people that year. To be bolder. More in your face. To tell better stories with my photos. To be more concrete and less abstract.

Looking back I made good on that resolution. Many of my photos in 2016 are filled with people. Continue reading

Patriarchs and equestrians

IMG_2334This summer I had the opportunity to follow a trail ride in Louisiana. Being a native-born Washingtonian who’s only lived in the South for a little more than a year, the experience was one of the most uniquely Southern things I’ve ever done.

I pitched this story to the editor of Country Roads Magazine earlier this fall and had my piece published, alongside the images of a local photographer who has also been documenting the trail riders, Jeremiah Ariaz. 

There is so much to say about the trail riders, especially from my own personal perspective, but alas, there is only so much room to write in a magazine. My piece details the history and culture of the trail ride, how it has modernized over time, and how it is, at its core, a family tradition.

Traveling in the dead of July in South Louisiana (easily 110 fahrenheit or higher), I rode in between convoy of horses, golf carts and pickups, taking photos and chatting up some of the riders. The thing that got me about the event was how paternal the tradition was. As I saw fathers, young and old, riding alongside their sons, I was reminded me of going to “fish camp” with my dad back in Washington state.

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Reviewing HST and the 2016 and 1972 campaign trails

Freak power, or something.
Freak power, or something.

For years Hunter S. Thompson fans have told me how great “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72” is. With the presidential campaign in full swing I figured it would be a great read, but after finally finishing it, I am totally disappointed.

I’ve never been “heavily” into politics, but I assumed by picking up the book maybe I’d get a better sense for the topic. Maybe I’d get a better sense of HST himself. Maybe I got both. But in any case, the book was a total snooze, which sucks because I love HST.

I actually bought the book in 2010 while in Iraq. When I wasn’t bumping down a dirt road in Salah al-Din province I was reading packages of books that I purchased on Amazon. Since then I had been pulling “Campaign Trail” off the shelf, reading the opening chapter’s description of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and thumbing through Ralph Steadman’s erratic illustrations, only to tuck the book back on the shelf again.

This is a frequent issue for books I’m told I need to read, but have no serious interest in. (It took me years before I had the guts to finish “Lord Jim.”)

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So this is what the crossroads looks like

The blues and writing about the genre; filling the hole in my life; my early musical ambitions; revelations in Louisiana; acceptance and understanding

A personal break through for me as a journalist (I think) came after recently speaking with blues musician Chris Thomas King, the Louisiana native and so-called King of New Orleans Blues.

ChrisThomasKingKohSamuiFest2005
Chris Thomas King

I’ve known of King since he starred in “O Brother Where Art Thou” as Tommy Johnson, an early blues musician from the Mississippi Delta. His eerie and reflective rendition of “Hard Time Killing Floor Blues” always intrigued me as a kid. When I was learning how to play the guitar, and when I was acquainting myself with the blues, I often did my best to imitate King’s sound. I never thought that one day I’d speak to the man.
Then again, I never thought I’d live in Louisiana, the heartland of the blues.

My interview with King comes at an interesting point in my life: I am 26; trying to establish myself as a writer; managing a newspaper in West Baton Rouge, Louisiana; displaced from my home state (Washington); in a committed relationship with someone for the first time; and yet I am still somehow lacking in some aspect. What it is, I can’t say.

I have a good life, but the things I once found fulfilling – even just a few years ago – seem forgotten to me. My “lust for life” seems like a forlorn quest, or just another unremarkable path to self-acceptance. Perhaps that’s not such a terrible ending, but I have a hard time imaging how I will ever reach that ending happily and at peace.

As a kid, the answer to happiness – or at least self-respect – was an easy one: music.

Since taking up the guitar at 12, I took the phrase “play till your fingers bleed” to heart. Although I never actually cut my fingers on the strings I damn sure tried. I loved my guitar. It was actually my dad’s guitar that he owned since he was about 19; an ember-colored Applause, similar in design to the Ovation guitars. I wasn’t very sentimental at the time, but I enjoyed the fact that my father was passing down the skill to his son with the very guitar that he learned on.

The guitar was huge for my size, but it was a point of pride for me. My friends’ parents bought them nylon-stringed guitars and cheap-o electric ones, but not me. I was determined to learn the hard way. As my friends quit after just a few months of playing, I stuck with it and I got better.

Music, and certainly the blues, taught me so many things about myself when I was growing up. My guitar was my therapist, my friend, and – as corny as it sounds – my first love. I could consult it when I was angry, lonely, happy, etc. I was constantly pushing myself to experiment with it.

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