Post from Paradise

New Orleans. I shot a wedding. Got lost in the bayou, encountered a wild boar, did not feed the gators, drank coffee, ate shrimp and grits, saw music, drank more coffee, ate beignets, stayed in a magic house, sought out a spiritual healer, bought some florida water and candles from her and had her tell me things I knew and did not know about myself. I drove myself to City Park and walked around with my mouth open at all these beautiful oaks: 

But, more on all of this later. Back to the airport, to the freezing rain, to that crabby town I call home. 

El Paso : Shadows and Sun

I didn't get to take many pictures in El Paso. We were too busy working. They had a freak cold snap and in all my efforts to get out of the lingering New York winter I ended up missing the mild heat wave we had in late April in order to experience some rare chilly weather on the Mexico-Texas border. 

The landscape in El Paso is barren and flat. There is no vegetation to speak of, not even a cactus in sight as we drove our mini van packed with camera gear up and down the long flat highway that runs parallel to a twenty foot tall fence surrounded by little white patrol vehicles. There is no vegetation, there are no high buildings, and it's close enough to the equator that the sun reigns supreme and resulting in some of the most intense shadows I've ever seen. Everything is stark. Fat cats slept in tiny round shadows under cars on driveways. One of the cops we followed for the show asked me about rent in New York...I estimated that a one-bedroom could cost $2,000 a month. He was blown away by that, said that for $2,000 in El Paso you could rent a whole house, the nicest house in the county. I think about that now and realize I was underestimating by a lot. I think about that now and realize: but then you'd have to live in El Paso.

El Paso has tacos in vast supply, all-female mariachi bands, parks and even a few Vietnamese pho places. I spent most of my time driving a goofy mini-van full of camera equipment and coaching Paula, our PA, on how to ace an interview and who she should and should not date. But what do I know anyway? I was a PA that week too. It's hard work they have to do and I feel bad for them. I spent most of my time examining how the sun fell across buildings and reading Speedboat again and again in an empty van.

You Will Climb a Mountain in the Fog

We were looking for Muir Woods. But at the fork where you choose to go, quite literally, UP the mountain or DOWN, Mr. Penson and I made the last minute decision to go UP. Up we went. The road curled up and around and up and around and I was for certain we were lost, or at least on the way to a very narrow peak, with a slim expensive observation tower, and a dozen families of tourists with screaming babies. Instead we found ourselves on top of a mountain, surrounded by steep, rolling hills and a fog so dense that I thought we were on the edge of the universe. I walked up the hill slowly, because it seemed there was nothing else around us. It was "I Who Have Arrived in Heaven" but the real-life edition-- not an endless reflecting pool of tiny, twinkling lights, but the inside of a cloud, as seen from the top of a gigantic, round and startlingly green mountain. "They filmed Teletubbies here," Filipp said, helpfully.

The other-worldliness of the West coast is itself a phenomenon. It has inspired every kind of artist. I went there because you cannot possibly feel so bad about things when you are standing on the edge of the universe, looking into the Pacific that goes on forever and ever, dreaming of all the exotic inhabitants that have once been in your place. I met a man who was locked outside his pretty pink house on Oak Street with his bag of groceries. At Golden Gate Park my friend Alan spotted a coyote from across a lake, and it stared at us while we watched its every move, and got closer to it until it disappeared like a ghost. I went to Tartine and ate the most delicious lemon tart for breakfast that gave me a tummy ache. Filipp and I got lost again in the mountains, my boots got brown and muddy.

Summer Light

I know we're well into fall by now, but that film hasn't been developed yet. And once upon a time we drove a couple hundred miles to the lighthouse at the very tip of Long Island, stopping in Amagansett to visit the famous Jack's coffee. I got a Teddy Boy, because the name reminded me of my dad, and also because it was both highly caffeinated and full of cream. It gave me a tummy ache but it was worth it. Then Mr. Penson and I found ourselves driving along this road at the end of the world, knowing full well the beach was just beyond it, seeing it for short stretches before the road dipped back down below the dunes. We couldn't find a parking lot, everything was private, and for a few minutes we felt utterly shut out of the paradise that we'd set out to find. We briefly considered parking illegally and throwing ourselves over a couple fences just to bask in that immaculate sunshine for a few short minutes. Finally, after rounding another curve, we saw a small, hand painted sign that said "Free Parking" with an arrow. We quickly found a spot and also found the Montauk Italian Ice truck, which is by far the best Italian ice on the island. I don't even like Italian ice. Filipp got two of them. Later, we drove out to the lighthouse and made little circles of snails on rocks in the water. When we got back to town, we were the last customer's at Pete's Lobster Shack, and slurped down lobster rolls and corn on the cob in the coming dark.