All posts tagged: featured

“To be or not to be in Death Valley” outfit

My longstanding quest for Cheep has been to capture the look of a disinterested bohemian model in an Anthropologie catalog. She side eyes you in her cotton patchwork gown against a distressed backdrop—fingering strange, decayed objets d’art—like an end-of-times queen of leisure. At long last, a solid decade into thick of Cheep, I finally reached my goal in a ghost town in Death Valley called Panamit City. Here’s a step by step guide to achieving this rare look: STEP 1: Get stupid lost and stranded in the desert. Idiotically go to the entirely wrong side of the mountain to the rockiest road in Death Valley. Foolishly drive straight up it and viciously slash your tire to bits. Fail to locate a jack. Contemplate your slow, lonely demise for at least one night and one morning. STEP 2: Get jacked. Somehow get cell service for just the tense five minutes it takes to call your dad and get him to Google where Honda painstakingly hid the jack in 2001. STEP 3: Stress shop in Pahrump, NV. …

“Electric Kool-Aid acid test site” outfit

Two camo jet planes flew in between the Panamit Dunes of Death Valley directly behind me as I stood for the shot. I didn’t notice until the first one passed my line of sight. Then the second came through sideways beside me before horizontally sweeping below me through the desert floor. I’ve encountered this once before in the dead silence of the deadest of desert. Because military test sites and the bleakest of wilderness get paired up side-by-side in the US, like toxic outdoor survival buddies. You spot the stealth jet first, nearly at eye level, alarming you with its massive size and strength and speed that comes from out of nowhere. Like a whale suddenly undulating beside you. Then the sonic boom knocks you flat. The aftershock sound terror somehow more power-packed than the sight surrealism. I imagine the pilots this day….wondering *squawk* “what the hell’s this pale woman doing here” *over*. Done up in an acid-colored muumuu in the middle of godforsaken nowhere. Giving off eccentric 80s aunt vibes. She’s lit by your …

“Military fatigued” outfit

I was into dystopias before dystopias were de rigueur. Among the things I carried on a spur-of-the-moment exchange trip to Russia in 1998: worn-out copies of A Clockwork Orange and The Gulag Archipelago. Dumb American style, I unwittingly landed into political and economic turmoil. The ruble was in freefall. Yeltsin’s rule…spiraling too. Putin, then head of the ruthless FSB, would soon take his place. Never to leave. Masha Gessen best explains the crushing impact of the iron fist of Putin in The Man Without a Face. Here is the little I know: Russians love a strongman. Every town in Russia had multiple busts of Lenin. (By then the lingering Stalin statues had been exhiled.) I wandered through the streets of Moscow wondering which ordinary buildings hid the secret prisons of the Gulag. I wondered how ordinary people could accept the state-sponsored disappearing and the society-wide gaslighting. But no matter how bitter and cold it was outside, inside their homes, Russian hearts and minds were brilliantly warm and open. Now I understand, just as Russians were …

“Quitting cherry bomb” outfit

My first real quit: DirecTV call center, February 2002. Crippling social anxiety and a lifelong phone phobia had my number, so I excelled at awkward pauses, nervous laughter, and average call times. Even if custom designed by the damned to torture me singularly, no greater corporate hellscape could exist. With its fluorescent lighting. Forced cheery attitude. And “this call will be recorded for quality assurance”s. This “O Fortuna” doomed workplace realization hit hard on September 11th, 2001. I squirmed in a vaguely ergonomic desk chair, staring up at the reality show terror on the big screen surrounds, while numbly guiding shell-shocked midwesterners through common billing question. This, I’ve come to learn time after time, is what we do during a disaster in America. Put on our capitalist blinders. Pretend everything’s normal. Vainly attempt to blandly exist. Blessedly, in the back of my mind, I had a plan. An Edward Abbey-style monkey-wrench one to wander in the wilderness for months on end. Every needling workaday torture concealed the tiny gem of my freedom. I put in …

“Soy el amor de mi vida” outfit

I wondered as I wandered solo down the boardwalk on Isla Mujeres in Mexico… in a wave-like refrain while staring into the “where is my mind” Caribbean… who will be the love of my life? On the next turn, in a splash of spray paint and Spanish, the concrete answer: “Soy el amor de mi vida.” I wasted many years steeped in a bitter hate of myself. No matter which way I looked at me: I did not fit in. Anywhere. Too little. Too much. (Somehow simultaneously.) Too weird. Too black sheep. I spent many years vainly attempting to escape myself. Thus, a little wonderer becomes a little wanderer. “Wherever you go, there you are,” my uncle (a ceramics artist-now gone from this world) warned before I left on my first wild hare of a trip to Russia at age 18. He was right. There I am. Wherever I go. And I have been to hell and back. Routinely. Like a sick commute. But I found that I can turn the worst of times into …

“Joan of Goat (Jeanne d’Chevré)” outfit

“To believe yourself brave is to be brave; it is the only essential thing.” – Mark Twain, Joan of Arc Sometimes, I feel the undying urge to stoically 1000-yard stare into the distance. I’ve learned that this is a sign to go into The Wilderness. Because if you don’t stare awestruck at nature, you end up staring at the back of your skull—into the abyss and whatnot. Insane, misguided wilderness adventures are sort of my specialty. I excel in: Late starts. Night hiking. Specious navigational skills. Getting way, way lost. Strange encounters with wild animals. Going solo everywhere because…I fucking can…and my plan is…very last minute. This September, the 1000-yard stare urge was breathing down my neck, and so was the end of backpacking season. The where did your summer go again?#$%! I took off every Friday that month, and sojourned alone into the wilderness every long weekend. Did I completely nail every single one of the idiotic things I excel at? I’m a perfectionist, I guess. Always crossing off those lists. I hiked miles …

“Bloom (in the desert) where you were planted” outfit

My pale flesh and potatoey filling were genetically designed for perpetually overcast and infinitely melancholy Irish scapes. Yet here I am, planted in the unblinking desert. I had two (2) semi-disastrous / semi-humorous Sunday desert sojourns in just the past two (2) weekends. Desert misadventures…ill advised. But for me, constantly attempted. As if I am doomed to be spectacle for scavengers someday. One misadventure ended up with me fetal-positioned beneath a sliver of sagebrush shade beneath a noontime unrelenting sun, with just 0.7 of an impossible mile to reach the Bonneville Point trailhead, once a wagon-rutted route on the Oregon Trail. This is the place where, according to legend, the relieved French fur trappers declared “Les bois! Les bois!” pointing at the trees along the Boise River, a sight for sore just-slogged-through-the-most-hopeless-of-Utah eyes. This is the place where, according to that 99 degree day, I would perish of sunstroke. A member of the Oregon Trail video game generation dying alongside the Oregon Trail IRL. Irony lives…at the very least. My translucent white skin flushed bright …

“Ice scream” outfit

I scream. You scream. We all scream. (Dead stop.) This would be the tagline for my nihilistic ice cream store called Waiting for Fro-Yo. (With tortured irony, we would not serve frozen yogurt. But will perpetually imply it’s coming soon.) The sweet shop’s staff would posit in a monotone Werner Herzog droll: “Yes, we all scream for ice cream. Yet, do we also not all scream for the existential horror of our fleeting, insignificant lives?” And: “Would you like sprinkles on that?” For a cherry on top feel, I brought this vintage yellow sunbrella all the way up Squaw Creek (groans: racist nomenclature) for this fashion shoot at the waterfall dead end. (“No exit,” Sarte would say.) I hiked here in the early spring. The creek was ice cold and the trail upstream and underwater. No extremities had to be amputated due to frostbite however. Licked it. vintage yellow sunbrella with cane handle with the name Candi Miller handwritten on the band, $7 – Antique World Mall | screen-printed polka dot, acid-colored lips ice cream …

“Stewardess for the Galactic Federation” outfit

Put your tray tables in an upright position, and prepare for departure from 2020. On your right, a once-in-a-millennium scene of cosmic proportions and galactic significance. Though a rather shoddy photo of it (as I took it myself, handheld, shaking in the subzero temps of the Utah high desert). In a spontaneous gambit to witness the Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, I rented a magically-available yurt in the dark sky preserve of Dead Horse State Park near Moab, Utah. We could all use a little escape hatch from the universe. A shift into a new alignment. A different perspective entirely. Tho I imagine on the earth-bound Galactic Federation spaceship, the on-flight entertainment is exclusively limited to 1985’s “Cocoon.” Because we all know that when the aliens land—instead of delving into the timeless secrets of the universe—Boomers will just try to mine them for their next-level Botox and anti-aging secrets. Victoria’s Secret blue satin jumpsuit, $15 – Antique World Mall | Smithline Exclusive brown knit coat with fur trim, $55 – Antique World Mall | …

“Out of Africa” outfit

“Perhaps he knew, as I did not, that the Earth was made round so that we would not see too far down the road,” – Karen Blixen, Out of Africa Before I left for Kenya, I read Karen Blixen’s (nom de plume: Isak Dinesen) book, Out of Africa. Taking place at about this time 100 years ago, the Baroness owned a coffee plantation just outside of Nairobi. Her book is ripe with the soul of the country and its people, with less of the entitled colonialism than I expected. Karen wanted nothing more than for her bones to lie in rest in Africa. She did not get her wish. Her coffee plantation suffered locusts and other acts of God, and she was forced to leave the land she loved, later dying of malnutrition in her Dutch estate. A minor tragedy of dislocation. On the day I took this picture, I wanted nothing more than to make it out of Africa. I’ll likely process the full scope of traveling during the outbreak of a worldwide pandemic over time—peeling off …