June 08, 2017 – All Souls

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There really isn’t much that I have to say about All Souls. For anybody who has lived in Southern Arizona, you already know about it. For everybody else, the All Souls Procession is a Tucson tradition that culminates in a community-wide procession through the downtown area, ending with a grand finale of pyrotechnic theater, live music, and acrobatics. The event first began in 1990 by a local artist, Susan Kay Johnson, who wished to express her sadness over the loss of her father; she wanted to ritualize her grief and create an event, much like Dia de los Muertos, to honor the dead.

Tens of thousands participate every year. People start to gather along 4th and 6th avenues before sun-down, arriving in costume, tailgating and helping paint each other’s faces in a fashion reminiscent of Day of the Dead. Jugglers and street performers, musicians and stilt-walkers weave through the throngs of people. Participants are encouraged to write notes to the dead on pieces of paper and deposit them into a giant urn that leads the procession – once the urn reaches the end of the procession, it is elevated above the crowd and set ablaze.

I have never seen a not-for-profit, grass-roots community event like this anywhere else. It’s an amazing thing to see.

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January 24, 2017 – Coffee Break

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This is a photograph that I made while hiking around Bisbee, Arizona back in 2011. I was in the company of several friends, all journalists, and we had traveled to Bisbee to take a few days off after covering the horrible shooting incident involving Representative Gabby Giffords. We were working around the clock during that news cycle, attending press briefings and funerals, and submitting our photographs and our reports. It was a much-needed getaway after absorbing the tumult of that incident and its aftermath.

Interestingly, coffee is what brought me to Bisbee the following year. I managed to secure a job roasting coffee for a local Bisbee coffee roaster. It was a good few years, living in the bosom of the Mule Mountains. And I will never think about coffee the same way again, after learning the origins, the history, and the processes involved in harvesting, hulling, and roasting America’s number one beverage.

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January 21 – The Drifter

01-21 The Drifter post

“I will never lose the love for the arriving, but I’m born to leave.”
~Charlotte Eriksson

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I couldn’t leave it with just one. Yesterday’s image led to me pouring through several folders of photographs that I hadn’t looked at in a good long while, most of them from Tucson and other areas scattered throughout the southwest. I could probably put a photograph of a vintage sign out every day for a year without having to entertain another theme.

Old motor lodges are about as classic as Americana can get. We are a car-loving people, and cars have taken us up and down the country, from east coast to west. We’ve carved paths through this territory, and all we have to do is fill the tank and push the pedal down. Because we are a car-loving people, we are also an adventurous people – or at least we used to be. Today, the world is at our fingertips; with technological innovations we couldn’t have imagined a generation ago, there is less of a need or desire to step out into the sun and get lost in a foreign land. Comfort is a hell of a drug, and our culture has become much more homogenized.

Americans abroad look for familiar fast food like McDonald’s because we’ve forgotten how marvelous newness can be. We’d prefer guaranteed mediocrity than uncomfortable novelty. We drive hundred of miles to lock ourselves in a room and watch the same television shows we could watch at home, nibbling on Pizza Hut pizza, emerging occasionally to grab a soda from the vending machine down the hall. This kind of “travel” has been lampooned, it’s a new discussion topic in university classrooms, and it’s written about in novels.

I wouldn’t necessarily frame all of this negatively. It’s just an observation. I’ve done the same thing myself. I’ve driven in a car for six hours, wanting nothing more than delivery pizza and the passive, lazy novelty of cable television after checking into the hotel room. Perpetually worried about utilities, rent, food, and car maintenance, I find myself taking that extra-long hot shower and cranking the air-conditioner to absurd temperatures that I would never indulge in were I at home. I get it. Comfort is a thing we all have a weird and twisted relationship with, and I guess my only point would be that we should at least acknowledge this.

If we can just accept that we’ve kinda turned into wimps, maybe we can change it a little. Maybe we’ll take a walk down that dark alley that’s always sacred us, take a risk, cross that busy street, brave the noise and discomfort. Maybe, if we do, we’ll be a little less timid, a little more self-assured, and maybe we’ll be reminded again how big and beautiful this world really is, despite all of the treachery and violence and uncertainty.

Be a drifter. I dare you.

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