Category Archives: photography

I ONLY USE FILM! from my 50mm nikon to my Holga to my Pinhole Polaroid to my 1972 SX70 Polaroid. i just need to find a darkroom these days, it’s getting harder and harder to do just that.

my Year (of the Pig) in China, Pt. 1

After having lived the past year in the pulse of San Francisco’s Chinatown, I feel as if I have just participated in either a dare or an experiment.

It’s a long story as to how I ended up at this residency hotel that I called home for the past year. It is disguised by name as the Grand Pacific Hotel. It is neither grand nor located on Pacific Street and I am still uneasy considering it a hotel since the place seems only to house people in a long-term-permanent-home manner, there’s nothing temporary or fleeting about its occupants.

Before I continue, please cast aside any preconceived notions that you may have about hotels or residences as they may fool you into thinking I had my own toilet, shower, or kitchen or that a maid service turned down my bed each night and left small squares of chocolate on my pillows.

Grand Pacific (exterior)

This indiscernible building, located on Stockton Street between Broadway & Vallejo Streets, is located in arguably one of the most active hubs of Chinatown. The entry is nestled between Yee Cheong Hardware and Asia Mall and directly across the street from Chinatown’s Walgreens. The exterior is a terra-cotta-colored brick spotted with small windows and lined with fire escapes. Homemade clotheslines are stitched into this façade and garments can be seen hanging to dry from nearly every window, in constant rotation as the dry are retrieved and the wet immerge.

The entrance consists of a set of heavy-duty doors that lock between the hours of 8:00pm and 8:00am. Once inside, you can opt for the stairs on the left or the yellowing fluorescent filled old brown elevator that climbs floors so slowly you’d be better off taking the stairs. There is a sign next to the elevator that claims the building was seismically retrofitted in 1992 per California State Law in the event of another large earthquake (the last big one to hit was in 1989).

hallway

You’ll notice the wall color first, best described as an asylum green from the waist down, where the molding is. The top half is white including the ceilings, which are higher than one might expect. The second floor is the site of the building manager’s office, which has a barred window facing a landing. Inside, you will usually see a very old Chinese woman who speaks no English sitting on an old fold-up chair in the corner, surrounded by filing cabinets and piles of paperwork. On occasion, you will see Karen, a younger Chinese lady who is infinitely friendly and enthusiastic and speaks more English than her older counterpart. You will sometimes see Mr. Wong, the kind Building Manager who speaks less English than Karen but more English than his elder.

sinkdoor

My little unit, #405 (pronounced suh-ling-woo), was on the fourth out of five floors, half the size of the ‘biggest’ units they offer. It was a ‘cozy’ ten by ten foot box that included a small sink in one corner, a hardly larger closet in another corner, and a small sliding window that overlooked the gap in the middle of the building: a concrete pit. Another resident once asked me whether I lived “on the perimeter or in the vortex?” When I told him “the vortex” he made an expression with his face that could only be mistaken for somewhere between a grimace and a look of pity.

window

I, however, didn’t mind living on the inside circle of this structure. There was something safe and anonymous about it. It felt more private, too, since I didn’t have a window facing the bustling streets below. My room was well insulated from the sounds of the city and though I had expected the air to be more stagnant and warm since it faced a cement hole, it wasn’t. I received many a good breeze and gust of wind through my narrow window. Moreover, the four concrete walls of the pit served as an acoustic playground and I could hear the sounds of my fellow vortex dwellers. At the time, those sounds regularly served as a much-needed reminder that I wasn’t alone. A neighbor’s television, children’s chatter, and the resident who played Led Zeppelin covers on his guitar: they all became part of my Chinatown orchestra. There were bodies swarming around at all times of the day. Only four thin walls and 100 square feet of space separated me from the continual ebb and flow of that energy; it swirled like a perpetual dust storm in the halls, kitchens, and bathrooms.

My room was just two doors down from one of the two kitchens on my floor, a space filled with eight dirty electric burners, an industrial sink, and small cockroaches. The sounds of chopping on blocks drifted into my room regularly, as did the smells, which would range from an-almost-pleasant fresh steamed rice to a potent gag-worthy fishiness. The various odors would change directions with the wind in every hallway you walked down and every floor you visited. It felt like an olfactory adventure twenty-four hours a day, though I rarely enjoyed any of it.

kitchen

The kitchen was usually crowded and so filthy that I never once made a meal in it. I limited my time in the kitchen to the mornings, when I would use one of the eight burners to heat a tin full of hot water for my instant coffee. I do not care for instant coffee, but for someone who had no fridge and feared dirtying more than was necessary (cockroach phobia), it felt like my best option. The single worst experience I had in that kitchen happened around eight o’clock in the morning one weekday.

I’d been stirred awake before my alarm had sounded for work by a scream so shrill I actually worried there was a child in danger. With some hesitation, I immerged from my room with tin in hand to heat my water. I entered the kitchen to find four or five residents crowded by the sink, chatting feverishly in Chinese. I thought little of this spectacle as my neighbors often used the kitchen as their common area for socializing and conversation. When I returned five minutes later to retrieve my now boiling water, I was witness to the beheading of the live chicken in the sink they had all apparently been gathered around. Blood sprayed the walls by the sink and I quickly realized that the sound I had heard earlier belonged to that of a squawking panicked chicken. I padded quickly away back to my room, trying not to appear ruffled (pun intended) and tossed my hot water down the sink, fearing that some blood may have landed in it during the commotion. From that day forward, like when crossing a street, I always looked both ways before entering the kitchen.

to be continued…

jessi

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a tangent

it’s been four months (four too [f*cking] many) and two days since i last posted on here. i have written entries during this radio silence, but upon later inspection, those entries were mediocre at best. writing an entry from the confines of another home or a coffee shop just, well, it sucks. my creative juices tend to evaporate and i am usually left listening to those around me sip overpriced lattes whilst one-hit-wonder hipster songs play over head (it’s even hard to avoid if you wear a set of headphones which i tend to not wear because i feel antisocial enough and somewhat rude as it were trapped in my world of keyboard-ness). oh and happy new year and merry holidays, by the way! i’ve been so damn neglectful of my dear readers. apologies all around!

YOTPS4

i have not had my own personal desktop computer (i do not own a laptop) online since July. the hiatus was fine and at times quite pleasant (it’s a stellar excuse for missing emails, online bill payments, and the like – though i would never encourage that sort of behavior!). but it has also been a giant pain in the ass a bit frustrating because i realized just how dependent i (let’s face it, we) have become on this interweb luxury that we all take for granted. i have a smart phone, too. so it’s not as if i’ve been living in a remote part of the world without any electronics or ways to “reach” the inter-land. and for the record, i do find it quite pathetic just how exuberant i became yesterday when i realized that my own said smart phone (which i have had well before july) can, with a simple slide of a button on it’s delicate interface, become a “hotspot.” i.e. forget calling your local internet providers for service, just scour your phone for the hotspot option and slide the grey “no” to the blue “yes” and poof! you can get your computers, kindles, ipads, itampons (those exist now, right?) online anywhere, anytime ! hello 2013. my name is jessi and i am a complete dumbf*ck when it comes to technology. it doesn’t matter if i can operate photoshop with my eyes closed, that’s about as far as it gets for me and my competence of computers or really anything that has an extension cord, not to mention an operating system (or OS as you nerds technologically competent folks like to say).

there was a point in my life (as i am sure many people in my generation have encountered as well when computers and cell phones became what we now know them as) wherein i truly thought i was smarter than my parents merely because they appeared to have no clue about how to operate said smart phones, computers, or other new electronic gadgets. coming from a family with a father who worked at microsoft for upwards of 20 years, you’d think some tech-y gene would have landed inside my frontal lobe or where ever things like that land. au contraire, mon frère. my father has little to no understanding of technology and how it actually works, he doesn’t even own a cell phone and i’ve witnessed him, on many occasions, get so fed up with his collection of remote controls i fear they could, without warning, become the victim of his wrath by being thrown across a room or simply yelled at rather ferociously for being so stupid, those poor verbally abused inanimate objects. my mother, however, has a smart phone, an ipad, and a laptop and it’s reached the point where i truly believe she knows more about these gadgets than i do. in fact, when i was home in seattle last june for a best friend’s baby shower, i really wanted to watch a dvd at my mom’s house and we ended up watching television instead because neither us could figure out how to make the damn tv and dvd player align with one another. it was at this point i really had to reevaluate my own understanding of anything electronic. i could blame it on the fact that i haven’t had the luxury of a dvd and tv for over two years(therefore “out of practice”?, but let’s face it. i am a self proclaimed idiot when it comes to this new age of technology where a minimum of three remote controls seem to be a requirement for any television and computers and phones are getting “smarter” and “smarter” by the day. either my understanding for this stuff has plateaued or i’ve grown some seriously dumb cells in the recesses of my brain, which at this point, probably more closely resemble scrambled eggs.

YOTPS1

i remember my father had one of those giant grey cell phones when i was a kid that not only resembled, but also weighed as much as, a brick with a thick black antennae coming out of it (that stayed out at all times, there was nothing collapsible, convenient, ergonomic, or even functional about this big grey eyesore of a cell phone (particularly compared to today’s standards)). i’m not sure how often (if at all?) it was ever used. i remember it collecting a lot of dust. i also remember those beige-ish grey apple computers (that looked more like square plastic loaves of bread) we used in grade school to learn our typing skills on. i really only had an iota of interest in those machines because i would frequent my best friend Heather’s house most days after school to enjoy hours of playing both The Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? i can think of no other reason for those machines now. they were not computers to my generation, they were toys. they were machines that informed me of having died from cholera or that Heather was lost and that cut three days off our trip. i always thought it a bit peculiar that someone who got “lost” in that game could shave anywhere from 1 to 5 days off your travels, but the death of a family member was just a drop in the bucket. no days lost, no apparent grieving or mourning took place, no tears shed. and no proper burial/funeral never once occurred. and i’m speaking from experience. i’ve Oregon-Trail-killed plenty of friends and family members. a death was akin to an announcement like, “it’s 56 degrees and sunny.” all of sudden ‘and then there were two!’

YOTPS3

Carved // Self Portrait // December 2012
however, i have to admit, flat out, that i think my understanding of technologically peaked at that age, hovering obsessively over The Oregon Trail waiting to see just how many people died, got lost, or sick. though my sister and best friend Heather seemed far more skilled at this game (sister, yes. Heather, debatable. (sorry Heather!))(ok, skilled at hunting, that is, because this game has little to do with skill, logic perhaps, but skill – not so much). i can’t tell you, nor would i even want to admit to, how horrible i was at hunting in that game. and an irritating fun-fact :: for any animal you shoot for food doesn’t really matter since you’re only allowed to bring 100 lbs back to the wagon at a time, even if you were to shoot ten 536 LB buffaloes, you would only get to keep 100 of those LBs.  i always thought that was incredibly lame, couldn’t the rest of my family (assuming any were still alive and not suffering from the measles) help you carry back some of your fresh meat? was it necessary to leave all of that fresh buffalo meat behind? wasteful. damn wasteful, especially considering how hungry those people on the wagon always were (it took them about two, maybe three days to consume the freshly killed meat).  and i absolutely loved the gamble you’d have to take when reaching a river crossing. do we “ford the river” or “caulk the wagon and float it across”? taking a ferry was also an option, but i don’t think we once opted for the ferry ride since it cost money. instead, we’d pick our poison, cross our fingers, and sincerely hope that one of our oxen wouldn’t perish in the process. i’ll speak for myself on this matter, but i remember feeling a great deal of responsibility over this ford versus float decision and i really took it quite seriously, as if i actually knew what any of it meant, though i did love to nod in agreement or shake my head in disdain if i felt someone (including myself) had made the wrong choice.
Screen shot 2013-01-15 at 3.11.11 PM
a good present day example to the anxiety that the “ford or float” decision causes :: being placed in the sticky position of being “the one” to choose a bottle of wine for a fancy dinner table and having a penguin-tuxedo dressed server pour just a splash into your glass, looking at you with rather bulbous eyes. positively staring at you with the expectation of your “highly trained palette” to make the call on some wine you’ve never tasted or heard of before and know nothing about (since my only “knowledge” of wine rests heavily on whether or not i thought the wine label was well designed). even when i never much cared for the taste of the splash of wine,  i never once (if memory serves) declared the wine to be “no good,” nor do i have a memory of sending food back (unless a meat dish was visibly expelling blood and/or undercooked).  i prefer my steaks to not actively “moo” while i eat them. under or over cooked veggies and/or sides will never fall into the realm of “send it back” because my standards when it comes to “fine dining” are so low, regardless of how many fancy restaurants i’ve eaten at. i am, after all, the girl who’s known for eating progresso soup at room temperature, directly out of the can, with a plastic spoon, in bed. perhaps my standards are extremely low or maybe i’m just a simpleton who considers food as fuel (though, when given the opportunity, i really do love to cook fancy meals, combining unexpected flavors and colors in my dishes. give me a full spread of food and a great kitchen, food is no longer food. it is cooking :: an art form, after all. however, in my current living situation, i’ve nowhere to properly prepare such a meal, nor do i have anyone to share it with, nor do i have anywhere to properly enjoy it as i lack any sort of dining space. my “dining room” is the side of my bed on the floor. so, now you must understand why i’ve fallen in love with my “Progresso Soup Diet” ?! plus, when you’ve no fridge, where does one store leftovers?
YOKO1

this ramble is so hither and thither. i’d apologize but i have so much to catch you up on. i lost my job at the art supply store i worked at for just over 2 years on November 28th of 2012. just in time for the holidays, as “luck” would have it. i will not go into detail about things because it’ll only lull you to sleep, my dear readers. i’ve made the transition from full time job to unemployed, but i have since managed to keep my head more than just afloat not only financially (by means of selling my work and also handling some commissioned illustration jobs), but also in spirit as well. i strongly believe everything happens for a reason and though i have remained a customer at that fine art supply store, i am relieved to have those days behind me. there were copious amounts of dysfunctional activities and behaviors that took place there that had made it more and more difficult to get to work in the mornings. i’d reached a point of absolute lethargy and also unhappiness which even verged on irritability (which is completely out of character for me) towards different aspects of the job and some of the people i worked with. i miss the customers. i miss the building. i miss some, but not all, of my co-workers. but since having left the place, my mood’s improved ten fold. my energy and spunk has returned. my irritability seems to have evaporated like steam from a kettle. and i can’t tell you how many friends, family, and most flatteringly, former customers of mine have wrangled around me in support (if any of you are reading this, thank you! couldn’t have picked myself up so fast or so gracefully without you! I LOVE YOU!)

nowadays? i am living life happy and free spirited and optimistic. grateful to be alive. skating upon each and every damn silver lining that seems to exist around every corner these days because when one is so dedicated to their 40+ hour a week job, one loses sight of everything else. silver linings become distant memories at best. the two days you spend off are usually a bust since you spend them catching up on both errands and sleep. i had such an incredibly wonky schedule at my last job (my arrival and departure times varied just about every day) and turned my sleeping schedule on its head. in the past few months i’d become increasingly lethargic to the point where i requested to get my blood drawn, assuming i was most certainly suffering from anemia due to how tired i’d become. i took supplements, i went out of my way to eat better and more often. when my doctor told me the only issue i had was a Vitamin D deficiency (big whoop), i was stunned. i was almost disappointed that i wasn’t anemic, because it’s easy to pump yourself full of iron and foods that contain iron. i began taking huge doses of Vit D immediately and felt no huge change in my energy levels, even after a few weeks of taking them. but then i was laid off and it was as if a spell had been lifted. my energy began to return within only a few days and i had to wonder, was all of the negative energy i had been subjected to at work causing my lethargy? honestly? yes, i think that’s exactly what happened. i’ve continued the vitamins and all that good stuff, but i am almost like a firecracker these days with my energy and motivation to work for myself. and thus far, it’s been paying off in a massive way.

YOTPS2

welcome to Year of the Pig Studio!

so, i am signing off here. you will be kept up to date far more frequently of my adventure(s) now that i’ve gotten internet access again ! until then, don’t forget about the silver linings. once you start looking for them, you’ll be surprised just how many there are.

xxx

jessi

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Filed under design, illustration & painting (both acrylics and oils), illustration (both acrylic and oilt), photography, Year of the Pig Studio // San Francisco, CA

pink and purple.

pink and purple were my least favorite colors growing up. in fact, i actually recall saying how much i hated those two colors as a kid. the plain and simple reason for hating those colors was because of their “girlie” status. anything “girlie,” from trying on lipstick to admitting you had a crush on a boy, was completely out of the question for me. i would play with the boys during recess, proud to emerge from the playground covered in dirt, with messy hair, and sometimes a fat lip (which i learned to hide under my hand so my teachers and mom would never figure out how much of a trouble maker i really wanted to be). after art class, my next favorite class was always gym. a time when girls will be girls and boys will be boys and when tomboys like myself get to show off just how fast they think they are during their favorite game of all, Capture the Flag.

in the third grade, there was a brief period of time, lasting around two weeks, when i decided that black was my new favorite color (it had previously been blue, naturally). everything from my wardrobe to my bed sheets turned black almost overnight. little known fact :: when i was in third grade, my family decided to move back to Europe, to the UK. my sister and i were pulled out of our elementary school mid spring semester (if memory serves). i even have a memory of a farewell party being thrown, but i think the farewell party i am remembering was for my very first crush on a boy named Pat, who moved to California the same year we were planning on moving to England. my crush on Pat was also happening while i was busy being anti-girl, so extreme secrecy was of utmost importance.

i’ll never forget this one moment my sister and i shared in a hallway at school. she was in the fifth grade and i was in the third grade. we were both at our lockers, with a block of fourth grade lockers between us. i don’t remember if it was the middle of the day or the end of the day, but the hallway was close to empty. for whatever reason, she and i had been bickering about something (just normal sister bickers) and this somehow turned into her yelling down the hallway at me that i had a crush on Pat _ _ _ _ _ _ (i will not disclose his last name so he may remain anonymous, although he is a friend of mine on facebook and the only Pat in the class, so he may figure this out if he ever reads this, gasp!). i don’t know if she actually yelled this. i was going to use the word scream to describe the volume of her voice, but i am certain my child memory is blowing this whole thing out of proportion, just as most child memories do. regardless, i remember feeling intense embarrassment, humiliation, and anger. how could she disclose my most protected secret to (what felt like) the world (a next to empty elementary school hallway) ? if anyone heard this, my reputation on the Capture the Flag field would be blown and people would expect me to start wearing pink and purple headbands to school (headbands of the elastic spandex variety, thank you very much early nineties) and the girls would think i was just like them, a girl – ew. little did my sister know that i would have the guts to throw a stone at her glass house and scream (yes, i do remember screaming this) back at her that she had a crush on probably the most popular boy in the fifth grade, Beau _ _ _ _ _ _. and i do believe this was also her most highly protected secret at the time. man, i miss elementary school. it was the best time of childhood life because you’re not yet old enough to be entirely too self conscious, but just old enough to be taking things around you more seriously (even if those things are just crushes on boys and wondering which girl got her period first).

so, back to the moving-to-England story. my family packed up shop entirely. we had our dogs (if i remember correctly :: two great danes, a lab, and a golden retriever) shipped over and placed in quarantine, we packed up our entire house and placed our boxes on a truck that would cross america and then be transferred to a boat on the east coast that would cross the atlantic. we put said house up for sale and my sister and i were going to enroll in a school that we had already visited and we were all going to move into a beautiful house in England that my parents had already purchased. it was at this point, when moving into our new space, that i requested black bed sheets, pillow cases, and a duvet cover. i was granted my wish and remember feeling somewhat regretful of my decision when i lay in bed at night. it was fine during the day, but by nightfall, the black hole that was my bed felt so dark and gloomy that it made it difficult to sleep. i never complained though because i figured, if you make your own bed, you’d best lie in it. i never thought that expression would ever turn literal on me, but so be it. after about two weeks, i remember stirring in the middle of the night. it must have been around two or three in the morning. i still hadn’t adjusted to the jet lag and waking up in the middle of the night was not entirely unexpected. i saw that the lights in the kitchen, which were usually off at night, were on. i heard low voices speaking to each other so i got up to see who was awake. my mother, father, and sister were all huddled in the kitchen together discussing our relocation. to the best of my memory, i recall my mother saying that she felt she was adapting well to the change and looking forward to living in England again. that is the country in which she was born and raised in, so her feeling “at home” on her home turf was completely logical. i know that my sister was having a hard time adapting, as was my father, but both for different reasons. i recall being somewhat neutral about the whole situation. i was happy there (as long as i got some new covers for my bed), but i was happy in Washington as well. i was two years younger than my sister, so my roots in friendship and school and socializing and sports had not yet developed like my older sister’s had. in hindsight, i know it was easier for me to relocate because i was too young to probably understand the significance of any of the friends or choices i had made prior to moving, unlike my sister, who was in the thick of it. in the thick of all things growing up, adolescence, and coming of age.

[self portrait in u-haul somewhere between the east and west coasts, june 2007]

that night an executive decision was made for the family. we were going to stop that truck on the freeway in the middle of america and turn it around. we were going to get our dogs out of quarantine and back on a one way flight to seattle. were going to put our clothes and black bed sheets back in our over-sized suitcases and book tickets back to washington. we would take our previous house off the market and put our brand new house up for sale. we’d call our new school to inform them, regretfully, of our decision not to attend and call our old school, with fingers crossed, to ask if we would be welcome back into their classrooms.

so, for two weeks, i still feel as if i lived in England. i still wonder to this day what would have come of me and my family if we’d stayed. it’s hard not to ponder such questions when it was so close to becoming a reality. would i have developed an english accent? would i have been divorced by now? would my sister have had kids by now? would my parents still be together? would i have fallen in love with horses like i did in seattle just two years after this “move”? would i have gone to art school in new york city? would i be living in san francisco now? i guess the only answer to those questions is :: “maybe.”

all i know is that when we moved back from England into our original house in washington, my new favorite color was brown.

these days, my favorite colors tend to be pink and all shades/versions of turquoise or teal. but, that said, since my move back to the states, i still believe that the only color that matches and will never clash with another color is the color brown. and as for black? i use black only for line drawings or graphic illustrations. when it comes to oil painting, you will never see a tube of black paint in my tool box. black will only create a black hole in your painting, much like the black hole it created in my bedroom when i lived in England. and i think we’ve all got enough to worry about without painting black holes into our lives.

[nikon 35mm, color film]

jessi

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i live in chinatown. and it is the year of the dragon.

back in the middle of february, i had the opportunity to take pictures of the chinese new year’s parade in chinatown. since i live all of two blocks away from the epicenter of the parade’s festivities, i would have felt foolish not to run down there with my camera. i was out of town last year when this happened, so i am thrilled i was around to document it, on film, this year. it’s the largest chinese new year’s parade in the nation (sorry, new york) and one of the only parades in the nation that still takes place at night. after eight rolls of film, these are my favorite pictures (all shot on film using ‘Eloise,’ my nikon 50mm, my beloved manual camera from the 70’s)(in no particular order) ::

the crowd’s feet

red’s place

the dragon parade

police line do not cross, in the middle of grant avenue

a composition with two sheets of paper and some paint on the road

sparklers for the year of the dragon

sparklers sparkling for the year of the dragon

saw, + an abandoned cigarette bum on jack kerouac alley

the books.

an installation of weatherproof books suspended over the sidewalk on the corner of broadway and columbus

dismantled and flattened chairs. the aftermath of the parade

socks by the millions in chinatown

peking duck. chinatown’s idea of a “window display”

city lights by night during the raging parade

city lights + cop car by night during the raging parade

my sweater, pants, and shoes. taken inside a tiny vietnamese joint (best food ever) whilst testing the light meter on my camera

my shoes. taking a break whilst ducking and diving through and under the parade shenanigans

the day after the parade. lots of people. even a blue dog, Chase Bank’s mascot. it was only *slightly* crowded

the stools you sit in to race things and win over-sized stuffed animals. + a girl eager for the bouncy castle (can you blame her?)

this man. well, i think he’s my hero. he was so happy to stop for photographs. a beautiful soul, just outside Buddha Bar on Grant Avenue

i’m sorry. i don’t think you could pay me enough money to wear an animal suit under these conditions

a man who holds a giant load of helium balloons has my vote

chinatown parade cables

chinese card game, closely followed by a round (or six) of chinese checkers. in a park off kearny

singing his heart out

little old lady, just another bench ornament amidst the chinese new year chaos

walker

kearny street diaries

pigeons doing what pigeons do best

chinatown parade aftermath explosion. i think it was ranch.

now for the following three self portraits ::

mysterious purple indicates the end of a roll of a film

off kearny

the ultimate chinatown self portrait :: surrounded by stuffed goods and bright signage whilst standing on grant avenue

welcome to chinatown, folks.

and by the way, Happy Easter!

[nikon 50mm]

jessi

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ode to Mr. Bigs, the long version.

[the day he arrived, ten years ago]

i may have felt it coming. or maybe not. there was no calm before it, the storm that is, that hit my life last saturday night while i was riding the train to the airport. in fact, i’d been in an uncomfortably anxious state since the tuesday just three days prior. an inexplicable state of anxiety had enveloped me for reasons i could (and still cannot) hardly begin to decipher. maybe it was my instincts brewing, as if i knew something horrible was on my horizon. impending doom, if you will.

it was one week ago yesterday that my core, that intangible space that resides within us all, gave in, or out, however you prefer to look at it.

i had, just days prior, booked a trip to southern california. palm springs, to be exact. there’s only one reason (that i can think of) that a girl like myself would ever fly to palm springs for a “sunday visit.” that reason would be to spend a day at a horse show hanging out with a very special horse named Corvester and with a group of very special people who ride at a barn called Legacy. i first began riding at Legacy at age ten and to say that horses have been an enormous part of my life ever since (eighteen long years) is a major understatement. anyone who knows me knows my love of horses and riding is extreme. if you’re a horse lover yourself, you’ll be familiar with the concept of having caught “the bug” when you started riding horses. it’s like a disorder, a bad habit, and an addiction all rolled into one :: and it’s the best disorder, bad habit, and addiction i’ve ever had. in so many ways, i truly believe that horses have saved my life (regardless of the fact they’ve been “responsible” for breaking at least six of my bones). 

let me tell you a little something about this very special horse named Corvester. he is tall (17.2 hands in horse terms), he is dark brown (dark bay in horse terms), has a tiny white star on his big beautiful face, and loves to eat bananas (peel and all). he is extremely charismatic. he is affectionate. he is smart (smarter than a lot of people i’ve met, actually). he is strong, tough, wise, and silly. he will stand there waiting for you to saddle him up and wiggle his nose enthusiastically left, right, up, and down. the first time people witness this nose wiggle they usually wonder if something is “wrong” with him. no, there is nothing wrong here, trust me (there’d be something wrong if he weren’t doing his nose wiggle). he’s been doing this since my family purchased him ten years ago and he first walked into my life as a spry, wild eyed, and at times devilish ten year old. there was a time (about the first five years we owned him) that he was affectionately nicknamed “killer.” he has thrown many well known, well established, and extremely talented professionals on the ground just because he can and he probably just “felt like it.” he has a wild side to him that cannot be easily predicted, denied, or avoided. he will be turning twenty years old on May 18th and i am proud to say that in the last two weeks he has successfully thrown two different people on the ground at the horse show (one of whom he tossed off twice in the same day – sorry, Diane!). 

it’s not that he’s a bad horse with a bad heart, quite the opposite. he’s the f*cking best horse with the biggest heart i’ve ever known. it’s just that, sometimes, i think he feels it necessary to remind everyone around him who’s really in charge. it’s easy to take Corvester for granted because he’s such a good boy. beginners and professionals alike can ride him around without trouble. he’s ready, willing, and able. he’s the perfect teacher to any beginner (because he’s both calm and patient) and the perfect challenge to any professional (because he’s so well schooled). but, but, he’s got this tremendous fire in him that still, ten years later, has yet to fade. and i love him more for that and expected nothing less from him.

we imported Corvester from Portugal in April of 2002. i had spent two short days in the south of Spain “trying” horses, in an attempt to find a horse suitable for me to buy. after sitting on fifteen (if not more) some odd horses in two days, Corvester was the last horse i sat on. i had tried many great horses, many of which i thought would be suitable for me. but, none of them felt quite right. none of them were “the one.” trying horses is like dating men, forever in search of the perfect match. you may kiss and date many that are wonderful, but until you feel you’ve found “the one,” your instincts will tell you to keep looking.

[the nose wiggle + banana]

i’ll never forget that day, in the south of Spain, ten years ago, when i first rode Corvester, who is now known around the barn as Mr. Bigs, due to his stature and personality. the man we purchased him from was a 6’6″ portugese man. that is a very tall man, very tall indeed, and he fit Bigs perfectly. at 5’8″, i am not considered to be a short female, but i felt very much like a fly on Corvester’s back when i first sat on him. my first impression of Bigs? this has got to be the most uncomfortable horse i’ve ever ridden. it’s true, it’s a fact. he’s a bumpy guy. when i rode him around that large grass field of a warm up ring under a beautiful spanish sun, i was impressed by his energy, build, and power, but for the love of god – he was so f*cking uncomfortable i was damn near ready to cry and throw in the towel. my back, legs, neck, everything were hurting so badly. his trot was absurdly bouncy and his canter was downright painful. it took all of my muscle mass to sit on his back quietly, so much so that i spent the majority of this first ride standing in my stirrups to avoid, as best i could, his poor suspension. it felt as if i were riding an unstable locomotive that had just been derailed. and he was wild as all h*ll. his ears were perked up and he was chomping on the bit, eager to gallop and run a muck. of all of the horses i’d sat on, knowing he was the last one i had the time left to try, i was sure he was not going to be “the one.”

and then, and then, we started jumping. we began jumping low (around 3′) and in less than five minutes, i was sailing over 4’6″ oxers with Corvester below me. over the fences, he was more than just comfortable, he was like butter. the higher the fences, the smoother he felt. the ride between those fences were of absolutely no concern to me. that intense discomfort that i’d previously felt (and the oh my god this horse’s stride is literally going to snap my spine) completely dissolved. i had the opportunity to take him around a course of 12 or so 4’6″-5′ fences in a large grass field and all i can really remember is emerging from that grass ring beaming. the smile on my face could not be erased. and then i knew it, i just did. he was “the one.” the trainer who was with me sensed my euphoric state and said, “ok. that’s it. pack it, ship it, and deliver it.”

however, when “trying” horses, it’s not that easy. a horse must be put through “the vet” test. x-rays, blood work, flexion tests, and the like need to take place so that the buyer can feel rest assured that this horse is sound and in good health. i stood there while the vet performed his various tests. they were all speaking Spanish and Portugese, i had no idea what was going on. i was terrified that he wouldn’t pass the vet inspection, that some ailment would crop up (as it does in many cases during a vet test), and we’d be told he was no good, not worth buying.

what happened next i will never forget for the rest of my life. i was standing there, with my trainer, the vet, Corvester’s then owner, and Corvester’s personal handler. his personal handler was an old (well over sixty), wrinkled, and weathered man who was no taller than my shoulders. he had been Corvester’s handler since Corvester was around two years old. this old man loved this horse. i could see in his eyes this deep deep sadness at the prospect of Corvester no longer being in his care. while the vet ran his tests and did his thing, this man stood there solemnly holding Corvester’s lead rope. his eyes were filled was tears, though i never saw a single one roll down his cheek. i felt this horrible sense of guilt, like there was no way i could take this horse away from this man. but at the same time, i felt that i was there to receive Corvester. that it was my time to put him into my care and that i would be the next chapter in Corvester’s life. i wanted this man to know that if Corvester passed the vet check, he would be in the very best hands. this man did not speak a lick of english, nor i portugese, but i shook his hand. i embraced him tightly, and i cried. he put his hand on my arm as if to thank me and i do believe, at this point, he understood that if Corvester was going to go home with me, he would be well taken care of for the rest of his life. actions speak louder than words, do they ever.

so, now that you’ve “met” Corvester, i will tell you the tale from last saturday night. i was riding the subway (the BART) headed towards SFO to catch my plane south. during this train ride, i received a call from Shelly. Shelly is the gal who i have been riding with for eighteen years. she and i keep in fairly good contact, but we have not regularly called each other since i moved to san francisco. i knew that she knew that i was headed south, so i figured she was calling me about staying at her rented house or what have you. i was completely unprepared for what fell from her lips.

“Corvester is very very sick. he has a really bad case of colic. the vet will wait until the morning to see how he is, but the vet’s given him a 15% chance of survival at this time.” rational jessi kicked in immediately and merely replied, “oh my god. i’ll take a taxi directly to the show grounds – see you in a few hours.” Shelly was going to be spending the night there and i was going to join her, no question about it. the ride on the BART to SFO is about 45 minutes. those were possibly the worst 45 minutes of my life. i broke down in tears. i clutched my duffel bag. i rocked back and forth in the train seats, plenty of people staring at me. i willed the train to move faster so i could get to the airport faster so i could get to the plane faster so i could get to Corvester faster. my whole world blew up in my face. i couldn’t call anyone, i didn’t want to plant such a seed with anyone. i didn’t want anyone to know what was happening. that Corvester was likely going to be put down come morning, according to the vet. i wanted this to all pass like a bad bad dream.

i forced myself to call my mother from the airport. i needed to cry to someone. i sat there, at my gate, clutching my carry on bag, rocking back and forth, tears streaming down my face. i was in shock, panic, disbelief. losing Bigs would be like losing my own child. losing Bigs isn’t as option. it can’t happen. not like this. and then it all sort of hit me in a strange way. why had i so suddenly booked my tickets south? why had i just a week prior started painting his portrait on a huge 5’x5′ canvas? on any other saturday night i would have very likely been sitting in my apartment and hearing this terrible news with no way to get to palm springs quickly. this sequence of events was all so visceral. it is at a time like this that i thought and said to myself, “i was supposed to book those tickets. i am supposed to be with him. this is not a coincidence, this is something larger.” along side that train of thought, i kept repeating to myself, “please wait for me, Bigs. please, please wait for me. please, don’t go anywhere without me. i’m coming, i’m coming, just as fast as i can. please hold on until i get there.

[my tack trunk “bed”]

i finally arrived at the show grounds around 11:30pm. Shelly greeted me with an intense hug and i visited Bigs. there was an IV in his stall for him, but his state had improved a considerable amount from the time that Shelly first called me three hours prior. she was in a state of disbelief over how much better he suddenly seemed to be feeling. i just kept thinking, “we’re not out of the woods yet.” colic in horses is vicious, it can begin slowly and turn fatal without much warning – and vice versa. it’s a hell of an ailment that many horses suffer from. hearing your horse has a bad case of colic is more or less like hearing your horse is likely on their death bed.

Shelly wandered off to a heated room off the main aisle in the barn to catch some rest. i grabbed a dirty saddle pad (to act as a pillow) and two wool horse blankets and curled up on the tack trunk outside of Corvester’s stall. it was under 40 degrees and my whole body was hurting, but i was exactly where i wanted to be. Bigs watched me and i watched him. i think i got around 2 or so hours of sleep that night (interrupted). every sound i heard stirred me alert, fearing that Bigs was feeling worse. he munched on his hay and drank his water. i got up about every hour, just to hug him and hold him tight. i was a mess of tears, but next to him i felt stronger. i felt that we, together, would be able to make it through the night. he knew i was there and i do believe my being there gave him strength to recover. at 3:15am i heard a bang, bang, bang on his stall door. i awoke suddenly, bolting to my feet, to see what was going on. his head hung out of his stall and he just stood there staring at me with a twinkle in his eye, a twinkle i hadn’t seen when i’d first arrived. i raised up my arms and looked at him and said rather sarcastically, “what do you want?” he just stared at me and went back to munching on his hay.

but that’s Corvester. he would do that. he’d bang on his gate to rile me up, just to make sure i was still there, and then go about his business. i cried when he did this. i cried because i saw that sparkle in his eye and i knew he’d be okay. i knew he was back. not 100%, but i knew the worst was over. he’d just gone out of his way to bang on his door to wake me up only to ignore me and eat his hay. that is the kind of thing he would do, being the character that he is. he woke me up just to tell me he was going to be okay, i’m sure of this.

that’s when i rose from the trunk i’d been trying to sleep on, found a bike, and took a ride around the show grounds. horse shows are my old stomping grounds. i’d never actually been to Thermal before. years prior it was at another show grounds, called Indio – somewhere i had been. so, in the pitch black, i rode this stolen temporarily borrowed bike to the grand prix ring. i parked the bike and walked the next day’s course, in the dark. i took a handful of the sand footing in my hands and gripped at it, allowing it to fall through my fingers. i walked the entire course and counted all the strides. then i rode back and continued to lie on the trunk outside his stall, keeping one ear open at all times.

4:30 rolled around and Shelly woke up. the grooms came in around 5:00am. and by 7:00am the vet came around. he checked Bigs over and was in disbelief. he looked at me with a completely straight face and said, “your horse is a miracle. i really really didn’t think he’d make it to see the morning.”

euphoria swept over me like, well, like nothing i can describe. Corvester is my miracle horse, my miracle man. he is my world. the vet said he should be walked every two to three hours, just to make sure his tummy kept things moving to insure a full recovery. so, every few hours, i put a helmet on my head, a bridle on his, and took him for a thirty minute stroll (saddle free) around the show grounds on both sunday and monday. being the great horse he is, he still got frisky with me. he perked up and pranced with me on his back. i took him to the grand prix field on sunday afternoon to watch the grand prix (the big event of every week – the event that he and i used to compete in together). he got so amped up he damn near dragged me into the grand prix ring while the big class was going on. can we say best horse ever?

[mr. bigs, in all his glory. the love of my life. the day after surviving a near fatal case of colic.]

this horse is my life. he is me. he is my love. without him, i am not me. he and i are like one united force when placed together. as many stunts as he has been known to pull with other people, he hasn’t pulled them with me. we have an understanding. we have an unrivaled love for each other. he’s my Mr. Bigs. there’s nothing that will ever get in the way of a girl and her horse, i assure you of that.

jessi

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hip hip horr-appy new year (of the pig studio) !

prepare yourself for an unforeseen rant ::

i cannot stand those who choose to use a single letter over an actual word when typing text messages.

you is not u. are is not r. be is not b. and before is most certainly not b4. lol is one that i have come to tolerate only because even people who don’t use the r, u, and b letters to act as entire words still tend to use the oh so well loved lol. personally, i do not use it. i have used it, but felt filled with shame on each and every fleeting occasion that i have. but you will never see me using possibly the worst combination of letters in recent history: rotflmao. there never has been, never is, and never will be an appropriate time to type that. if it’s so f*cking funny, simply write hahahahaha. this now brings me to haha and hehe and teehehe and every other god forsaken spin off that “we” use. i use haha when i find something particularly funny because i refuse to use lol. at least haha is phonetic. i use hehe fleetingly. hehe and teehehe are reserved for making cute remarks and flirting. i never seldom do either so it hasn’t become part of my textcabulary (i just made that word up and feel particularly brilliant having done so, so please don’t burst my bubble by saying this term has already been included in the latest edition of webster’s dictionary).

and then there are the smiley faces, the emoticons. first of all, i completely despise the word emoticon because it makes me angry for reasons i cannot properly explain. that said, i will admit to using and possibly even abusing smiley faces. my only defense being that because it is incredibly hard to gauge sarcasm through just a text message, i insert :) these to inform the receiver that no harm was intended and that my snide remark was most likely not to be taken seriously. the smiley face :) is also a nice way to end a conversation. the smiley indicates that your discussion has left you happy and satisfied and, well, f*cking smiling, so there’s no need to say anymore. i suppose what i’m really trying to say is that inserting a single smiley face and nothing else is a great way to cut a text conversation short if you either aren’t in the mood to text, haven’t got the time to text, or if you just didn’t want to text in the first place.

there are many variations of the smiley face. i prefer nose-less smileys not because i am too lazy to type a – dash or the letter o or the number zero, but because i think they look f*cking stupid with noses. exhibit a: :-), :o), :0). a traditional smiley face (you know, that yellow guy we all know so well) never had a nose, so why should i add one now? when it comes to smileys, i say don’t fix what ain’t broken. he never had a nose in the first place and i see no reason for him to have one now. some people choose to use the = equals sign for the eyes instead of the : colon. as long as there is no nose involved, i guess i am not going to judge.

speaking of smiley faces. i’ll never forget the story of a girl who went to her pediatrician with her mother. she was there to receive a shot of some kind. she was fairly terrified of needles and had to be calmed before the needle appeared. the doctor, in an effort to soften the blow, thought she’d draw a smiley face on the girl’s arm prior to the shot. the girl was a bit dumbfounded by this new development at the doctor’s office and was then able to relax a little. the doctor then asked the girl, “so, what’s missing from this smiling face?” the girl replied with a look of confusion on her face, “..a …nose?” to which the doctor replied, “exactly” and proceeded to stab the girl in the arm (between the sharpie eyes and smile) with the shot to complete said smiley face on the girl’s arm.

i find this story to be both gruesome and hilarious simultaneously, which explains why i love it so so much.

i forgot to wish you a very happy new year!, christmas!, hanukkah! and so forth and so on!

the holidays flew by like a hurricane. after having my foot broken at the end of november (on an otherwise glorious monday morning), the chaos ensued. work was busy and then it became extra super duper crazy busy. everyone and their mother was shopping for presents and stocking stuffers, leaving me and my fellow employees little to no down time and a few hours of overtime.

i spent christmas eve moving into a new bedroom. i am in the same apartment, but i am now in a larger room. the upgrade was a long time coming and i am exponentially happier in my larger space. my room is no longer a place that i am embarrassed to say that i live in. i no longer reside in a 10’x10′ shoebox nor do i sleep on a crumpled unevenly spring filled single mattress on the floor. my room is far larger and now contains a lofted double mattress, allowing me ample space to spread out all of my art supplies and desks. 

i spent christmas day alone in my new room in san francisco. this is the first year that i’ve spent the holiday without my family and for that reason it was significant. but to honest? i was fine. i was ok. moving into my new space was incredibly therapeutic and i spoke to all of my important people on christmas day via telephone. a dear friend here in the city took me out to dinner somewhat last minute on christmas day, which made the whole christmas-by-myself experience pretty great. it’s not that i despise trees in houses or boxes wrapped in paper or family members mashing potatoes for dinner, but the holidays tend to represent a stressful time for me. and in an effort to be selfish and remain free of unneeded stress, i opted for a holiday season alone in san francisco.

and then the new year hit. although i did not do much to celebrate the occasion, i was surrounded by a handful of choice friends who made the night (and wee morning hours) perfect. i spent the day before and after the new year cleaning my apartment’s kitchen and back storage area. which was great because those areas badly needed cleaning, but come the tuesday morning after the start of the new year i awoke with some insane allergies. i believe my cleaning kicked up some serious mold and bacteria. i arrived at work about three hours after i was supposed to and was completely useless for the hours that i was there. come the next day i was in bed drugged up on a wicked cocktail of anti-histamines, decongestants, and the like. by wednesday the 4th of january i had a fever of 101 degrees and felt not unlike a limp wet rag – oh, how i hate the flu. by friday i was able to open my eyes, by saturday i was able to walk, by sunday i was able to think, and by monday i was able to leave my apartment feeling less like a zombie and more like an actual human being. 

all this means is that i’ve already used up five sick days and it’s only the twelfth of january. it’s a major bummer, but maybe if i get this sort of thing out of my system now, it’ll mean it won’t hit me later. 

i do not believe in new year’s resolutions, but this year i have decided that i will propose at least a small goal for myself, that is: “no assholes, injuries, or illness.”

may that be my mantra for two thousand and twelve.

good night, good riddance, and a very happy new year to each and every one of you!

xxx

jessi

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a napkin. some skymall. (& yes, i’d love some cheese with my whine.)

this is going to be a painfully scattered post, i apologize in advance. after breaking my left foot two and a half weeks ago, my life turned into chaos.

i participated in three different group shows (i’ll post pictures of the work when i can, but i don’t have the means to get good pictures as it were at the moment) that all opened on the same weekend (thursday, friday, & saturday). i had a total of five pieces that i had to start and complete in about three weeks time which is no easy task to begin with, much less when you have a full time job (where you seem to be working overtime somewhat regularly (without even meaning to) thank you, holiday season), and when you’re foot is broken which means getting from A to B takes an extra 15 minutes at least (and let’s not forget the pain involved, which, i am happy to report has almost completely subsided at this point).

in addition to that madness, one of my roommates is moving out. which is both good and bad. selfishly, i am happy because this means i get to take over his room. my 10′ x 10′ palace of a bedroom has reduced me to tears more than four times in the last three weeks. between the paintings (one of which was 4′ x 4′), the broken foot, my having a cat, my having the tiniest excuse for a closet, and possibly the world’s most uncomfortable single mattress on the floor – i have finally had it up to here (where ever ‘here’ is). however, i am sadder than sad to see him leave. he is one of my very best friends here in this city and i am going to miss him like a fool. i’ve already cried about his departure even though he’s still living in the room next to me. this also means we may or may not to have to post a listing on craigslist, which is just a nightmare in and of itself. fortunately, i already have two (maybe three) people interested in the space, so if i can dodge the craigslist bullet i will be one happy camper, believe you me.

i spent this past sunday and monday spring cleaning in december. bags of trash for the dump and bags of clothes for good will. my room was a complete catastrophe until i spent the better part of yesterday and will spend the better part of today (and i felt forced to ask for two days off from work just to get everything done) cleaning up the walls, giving it a fresh paint job, and the like. by december 23rd i will be in my new room and i can’t wait for the extra space. as it is right now, those eight days can’t come soon enough. and did i forget to mention the fact that christmas is only ten short days away? my worlds are colliding and i feel like i’m about to spin out of control.

i’m exhausted, my sleeping schedule is in ruins. i’ve been crashing at around 8:45pm only to rise around 3:00am unable to fall back to sleep despite my best efforts.

i haven’t returned voicemails, missed calls, or texts in weeks. shambles, i say! and don’t even get me started on the impending holiday season. cards and gifts will just simply not happen this year, apologies. i will be spending christmas by myself, likely curled in the fetal position clutching onto my cat. and to be honest? that’s all i want this year, even if i didn’t have my two front teeth.

so, now for the fun part. as hectic as the past few weeks have been, i have some things to share that are anything but stressful. in fact, they are down right awesome-sauce:

one of the single best napkins i could have ever received. thank you, allen.

THE FOLLOWING ARE BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE SINGLE BEST MAGAZINE EVER, SKYMALL:

i could think of a more flattering picture to be used, but that’s just one man’s opinion.

“a must-have for interfaith marriages”

possibly the coolest sweatshirts ever

i have nothing to say about this

just in time for the holidays

i like penguins

words cannot describe the brilliant placement of the these two images next to each other, my hat is off to SkyMall’s design team.

i do not remember computer games being so lifelike

it’s true, there is absolutely nothing ordinary about this.

that is all for now, it’s time to attempt some shut eye.

[napkin. skymall clippings.]

jessi

 

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