Tag Archives: Everyone is Photogenic

The Residency Road Trip Leg Three: Soaring Gardens to Philly

In my last update from Soaring Gardens, it was Day 28 and I was trying to both enjoy my last bit of time there and get on the road. I’d planned on being in Philadelphia by about 3 and I didn’t leave the house till after 3! I was running so late. There was so much to do and I ended up talking with Joanne when she arrived to work on the alle. Here’s a picture I took after locking up the house, just as I was about to get in the car and take off.

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I stopped to take some pictures on my way out, leaving by a different way than I’d come home from tango the night before, so I could say goodbye to all the sights. Swung by the post office to drop off some last postcards and then I was officially on my way.

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My drive through Meshoppen was enjoyable, but just as I was arriving on the outskirts of Tunkhannock, there was a long line of eighteen wheelers that were forced to go less than 20 mph because we were going down a steep incline. The rest of the trip went downhill from there, emotionally as well as geographically. After the logjam outside Tunkhannock, I was funneled through the wrong lane in a toll passage and many miles later, when I exited the interstate outside Philadelphia, I was asked for my ticket at a toll stand. But, I didn’t have one, so I had to pay the flat rate. I’m mostly over it by now, but I was pretty pissed at the time. All told, it definitely could’ve gone worse, but it wasn’t how I wanted my exit from idyllic, peaceful Soaring Gardens to go. It wasn’t an easy transition back to the real world.

However, I had a safe and welcoming place to land in Philadelphia. Returning to Anne’s house after our weeks together in creative isolation felt very comfortable and I enjoyed catching up with her husband Hiro, seeing how his month had gone since I’d last passed through town. We had a great dinner together, polished off a bottle of Malbec and then Anne and I decided to have a bake off. 🙂 Sort of. We’d meant to make apple pies while at Soaring Gardens, since we had all those apples, but there was never enough time. I make a mean apple pie and Anne has a killer family recipe, so we had a collaborative think tank night of apple pie making. Anne taught me how to make spectacular homemade pie crust, as well as a butter crumble top (ah-mayyy-zing) and I shared my secret apple pie ingredient. We both signed nondisclosure agreements first, of course.

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While the pies were baking there was, naturally, a cutthroat game of rummy. Which Anne won, of course. But I couldn’t be too sad because then there was pie.

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The next day, I had an early morning coffee meeting with photographer JJ Tiziou. Last year, around this time, JJ’s Kickstarter campaign, Everyone is Photogenic, was winding down. I heard about it via Upworthy and for me, JJ’s project was a perfect storm, distilling many of the personal and universal issues that were coming up as I began work on the dance memoir. I responded as both a writer working on a parallel project and as a human being who needed to hear this philosophy. I pledged support to the project and received backer updates from JJ that would drag feelings and thoughts straight out of my soul (any single one of these feelings and thoughts could’ve sparked a full-out essay). I started emails to JJ several times, but never sent them, feeling too shy. Unfortunately, the project didn’t get fully funded, but it was a game changer for me (and you can read on JJ’s blog all the things he’s learned and what’s happened since the project “failed”). I couldn’t stop talking about it and I would get occasional backer updates from JJ about his work.

Another project of his called How Philly Moves is about showcasing dancers in Philadelphia. A while back, I started to plot a tango-inspired road trip and one of the cities I had on my list was Philadelphia. If it all panned out, I thought I should visit with Damian Lobato and JJ. The road trip as I envisioned it didn’t work out, but the Residency Road Trip did and, coincidentally enough, I was going to spend time in Philly. So when Anne asked me if there was anything I wanted to do or see there, I said, “Dance tango, of course, and you know, there’s this photographer who lives there named JJ T–” She laughed and said, “I know JJ. You should definitely reach out.” There just wasn’t enough time on the way up and there was too many unknowns (I was driving for 12+ hours to get there). But knowing I’d come through Philly again and stay for a few days, Anne encouraged me to stop being shy. So, I did.

We met at an awesome spot called Milk & Honey Market where we had coffee and talked, about my time at Soaring Gardens with Anne, photography and writing, my dance memoir, tango and the gaze (in photography and dance). After all those unsent messages, I got to tell him, finally, how awesome I think Everyone is Photogenic is, both the project and the philosophy. JJ had a gift for me, some swag from the How Philly Moves project, which he’s doing a new iteration of (in case any of you live in Philly). And before he left for another appointment, JJ and I took a selfie together (technically, two):

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Later, JJ shared the second photo with the backers of the Everybody is Photogenic campaign and when we talked about the picture, I told him: “In the past, I might’ve cringed at it being made public, because my eyes are shut or any other reason I’d find to hate it. But, now…this is what I saw instead: I used to laugh just like that in photos when I was a kid all the time. That kind of laugh, for me, translates to being completely relaxed and in the moment and *not* thinking about how I look or how I should look, etc. So, I love the photo.”

I stayed behind at Milk & Honey to do some work for a few hours. And, enchanted with this vending machine, I bought a chapbook (“The Art of Destruction” by M. Elias Keller):

Book vending machine + self portrait

Book vending machine + self portrait

Day 29 late lunch

Day 29 late lunch

Back at the house, Anne and I made another meal together before we dispersed for the evening, one that’s become a favorite of mine. I’d decided to check out a class and practica with Lesley Mitchell and Kelly Ray. It was a serendipitous choice, made initially because Damian Lobato (who has taught several times in New Orleans) didn’t have a class on the night I was in town. I’d heard good things about Lesley and Kelly and I wanted to dance in the city, so I went for it. I couldn’t initially find the studio and was walked to the door by a woman I passed on the street and then I arrived at the same time as a tanguero, who led me upstairs and back into the studio. Like Blanche Dubois I, too, depend on the kindness of strangers. And I’ve always found that they are, generally, kind. Once I arrived in the class with the stranger who would soon be no stranger, but a dancer partner, I realized that the lady assisting Lesley was a friend of mine named Kristin, who I hadn’t realized had moved to Philadelphia. Small world, this global tango community. When the class was over, we squealed and hugged and it was wonderful to find a friendly face in a new place. She, Lesley and Kelly, as well as all the dancers at the class and practica, made me feel so very welcome. My dance stamina has been *ruined* by the last few weeks away from regular dancing, but they wouldn’t let me sit down! And they were such wonderful dancers that I just had to keep going. It was one of those lovely, satisfying tango evenings dancers live for.

I made my way back to Anne’s, thoroughly exhausted. And even though we were both tired and I had a long drive ahead the next day, we stayed up talking about our respective nights and played one last game of rummy (do I even need to tell you who won?). It was so nice and also a little sad. For the time being at least, our late night chats over a nightcap and rummy have come to an end. It was a nice ritual while it lasted and helped make the residency at Soaring Gardens everything that it was.

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Who’s got the brag?

I think this may end up being my most massive brag ever.

As usual, Tad has done a fabulous job of keeping track of Peauxdunquian achievements in real time. For instance that Cassie Pruyn is second runner up in the Faulkner-Wisdom’s poetry category, that J.Ed Marston and Tad Bartlett are both finalists, that Maurice Ruffin’s upcoming reading October 3rd, plus much, much more. So I hope you have the Peauxdunque blog bookmarked.

Jeff Roedel was one of 30 writers asked to write a story responding to a photograph by William Greiner for the book Show & Tell.

The Spring 2013 issue of The Eudora Welty Review features Alison Graham-Bertolini’s “Searching for the Garnet Pin.”

The Devil In Her Way by Bill Loehfelm was a “best new local book” on the Best of New Orleans list, picked by Gambit readers.

Ava Leavell Haymon is now Louisiana’s Poet Laureate! Her official induction will be October 24th. Also, her new book of poetry Eldest Daughter was published recently. I attended two events this week where she read from the book, including at a Women’s Week event yesterday at the Baton Rouge Art Gallery, along with Jamey Hatley and several amazing women writers.

Dispensations by Randolph Thomas won the New Rivers Press MVP Prize and will be published soon!

Jenn Nunes has three short fiction pieces at Fiction Southeast.

Blood a Cold Blue by James Claffey is now available. The official launch is this Friday! I love this blog post from his wife Maureen Foley, about being a couple who both write and both of their books being published at the same time.

Che Yeun’s story “One in Ten Fish Are Afraid of Water” has been selected as the winner of Philadelphia Stories‘ Marguerite McGlinn National Prize for Fiction.

Jewel Bush has written several articles for The Uptown Messenger, including a recent one celebrating the 30th anniversary of Community Book Center.

The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans by Susan Larson has been published!

Cam Terwilliger will be writing an ongoing “field notes” series about his year in Montreal on a Fulbright Scholarship.

L. Kasimu Harris was featured on WDSU‘s pregame show tonight and was photographed by Daymon Gardner for the December issue of Travel + Leisure, which will be available in Nov. Check out this picture that Giancarlo Dagostaro took of the session.

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NOVAC’s Web Weekend has three more days to raise the last $200 of their $5,000 Kickstarter campaign goal. Go check out what they have planned for the Weekend, next month, and see the swag they’re offering their backers. Eritria Pitts of She is Alex will be part of the Web Weekend and you can check out her short “Blind Date” to whet your appetite.

Speaking of Kickstarter campaigns… I don’t technically know JJ Tiziou, but I kinda feel like I do since his project “Everyone Is Photogenic” is changing my life. Ever since I saw the video for the campaign, I can’t tell you how many many times I’ve heard someone I care about respond badly to a photograph of themselves. Whenever they do this lately, I bring up this project and we have a great conversation about confidence and photography and beauty.

The t.v. show I spent part of last year and the first half of this year working on has released an incredible trailer. I get chills every time I watch it. The show, True Detective. will air on HBO early next year. Makes me very proud to have been part of it.

Speaking of being proud of a project, 12 Years a Slave opens on the 18th and I’m eager to see it. Hearing the Oscar talk now reminds me of the conversations we had while working on it last year – we knew it was special and we knew it was important. It’s going to be incredibly emotional to watch and I’m so glad it got made.

Since I promised that I will self-brag when appropriate, here’s some news about me and my work. Since my last brag, my reviews of Bill Loehfelm’s The Devil in Her Way and Suzanne Johnson’s Elysian Fields were published in 225. Karin C. Davidson interviewed me for Hothouse Magazine. It was a great experience and I’m honored to be a part of this series, which includes great interviews with Brad Richard and Andrew Lam, among others.

Next month, on the 26th, I will read “Tango Face” at a special event at Cafe Istanbul. Orquesta Fleur will play live tango music, there will be dancing and readings about tango and its history. Should be very cool. At the Louisiana Book Festival (Nov 2nd), I will be conducting a live interview with Josh Hanagarne, author The World’s Strongest Librarian, and presenting a panel with fellow Peauxdunque members Tad Bartlett, Susan Kagan and Maurice Ruffin, which is pretty exciting. And shortly after that, “Tango Face” will be published in the Double Dealer, coinciding with this year’s Words and Music Festival (Dec 4-8). The last quarter of 2013 is looking to be very productive.

Speaking of quarters…I owe y’all my 3rd Quarter Review soon. I hope you enjoy all of this bragging for now – these people and these projects are amazing, so go spend some time with them.

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