For those of you who visit my website often, I apologize for not having updated it over the past week or so; my husband and I took a trip to Atlantic City for some sun-fun. It's been a rainy summer here in Johnstown, after all.
Anyway, here are some photos from our trip (the least I can do to make up for my lack of posts is by sharing with you some of my photographs, right?):
This is the Absecon Lighthouse. Tallest lighthouse in the state of New Jersey. First lit in January 1857. Takes 228 to reach the top. And the view is so worth it:
By "worth it," I also mean "such a good work out."
Later that day, I ordered a drink at Starbucks and my name was translated as:
Keile. Interesting. Makes me wonder why my mom didn't go with that version.
So I apparently can't visit a beach without feeding the seagulls. I think they are so fun and deserving of all my leftover oyster crackers.
I also feel compelled to share a photo I took of an enormous sand sculpture located near the boardwalk. How these artists make these daring sculptures baffles me--I mean, look at the detail!
Two things I need to say about Harrah's:
1. Their "Do Not Disturb" signs are the best.
2. Their pool is heavenly.
Check it out:
Yeah. Awesome freaking pool.
So that's where I've been: hanging out in Atlantic City, winning money and losing money, feeding seagulls and relaxing on the beach, eating lots of good food and cold treats, and walking the seemingly endless boardwalk that never seems to get old to me.
Glad to be back--stay tuned for new posts and, as always, thanks for reading! :)
P.S. While away, I had two stories accepted by two excellent literary magazines: Crack the Spine and Oblong. I'll post the stories when they are published!
He makes people uncomfortable, but it's so worth it:
Today is Day 274 in my 365 Days of Bubbles bubble project. Here is a recent bubble photo that is one of my favorites so far:
It's called "Day 259" and was taken by my boyfriend in Pittsburgh. Hooray for cool murals!
Fellow mammals rejoice: one of our own is no longer suffering from a terrible case of mistaken identity.
How would you feel if someone always thought that you were, well, someone else? Poor olinguito; that's exactly what has happened to this species. And now a whole bunch of humans are suffering from embarrassment--or at least I am on their behalf because this animal is so.darn.cute. How can we humans redeem ourselves?
See? So.darn.cute. How did we not know that it was an olinguito? Based on its cuteness alone, we should have known for years. Seriously, I don't know how we are going to apologize to these guys. Should we track down all of 'em and give 'em a lifetime supply of fruit? Should we phone Bob Barker and tell him that we got our pets spayed and neutered, thank you very much, but what about the olinguito?!
If I could, I'd adopt an olinguito, and I would put a sign on my front porch. A big sign. A big, big sign that would read: An OLINGUITO named QUITO lives here! Say it with me now: OLINGUITO!
As for now, I see no adoption options for this furry creature, no matter how much I Google "super cute olinguito adoptions, pretty please!" And hey, you've got to admit that Quito would be a great name for my pet olinguito (just had to bold, underline and italicize the correct name in case any of them are reading!).
8/08/12: The day I purchased my first car. Here's a photo of me geeking out on this day last year:
8/08/13: Approximately 16,500 miles later and my Pontiac Vibe and I are doing well:
So, hey, if you see me Vibin', you know what to do:
Hey there, firework,
fireworking your way
through the dark alleyways
of the night sky, where
stars gallop around the
moon, where wishes that
I made in fifth grade found
its way near you upon the
string of a balloon. Oh, if only
that moon could keep your blazing
shhhhhsecrets, share the coloring-book
colors of your wavy hair, make me
feel as alive as the pops and crackles
and the intensity of his craned neck and stare.
Lucky duck that I am, I got to spend Memorial Day weekend at Touchstone Center for Crafts in Farmington, PA. I enrolled in the “Creating Pottery for Everyday Use” extended weekend workshop with Amanda Wolf (view her work at http://wolfsdenpottery.com/) and arrived to campus Friday evening.
I was assigned to Cabin #1. This cabin became my humble abode for the next three nights and four days:
The first thing I noticed about my cabin’s interior was the smell. To my delight, it smelled exactly like the clubhouse in my parents’ backyard that my dad built for my sister and me when we were little! It was practically an adult-sized, squarer version of our triangular clubhouse; for that reason alone, I felt quite comfortable . . .
. . . but maybe not so comfortable at night. The first night was the worst. I slept cocoon-like in a sleeping bag. And when I say cocoon-like, I mean it. I was wrapped up as tight as possible in that thing, trying my best to retain all my body heat so I could get some sleep. Night number two was probably the warmest, and night number three was slightly colder than I had anticipated. Alas, staying in the cabin made me appreciate my own warm bed at home. And even though I had the option to upgrade to a dorm, I’m glad I didn’t. It was a true summer camp-esque experience (I even decided to forego the meal plan so I could eat canned foods and packaged snacks!).
When I walked to the pottery studio (conveniently located about 30 steps away from my cabin) on Friday evening, I was introduced to Amanda and my two fellow students, Cindy and her daughter, Taylor. We spent the evening making clay stamps and sprigs for our pottery. Then back to my little cabin I retreated. The next morning would be my first full day at the wheel.
Our day started at 9 a.m. We learned how to wedge the porcelain clay with which we were working. The next step was to center it on the wheel. I experienced problems with centering when I took my first pottery class at my workplace back in March. Fortunately, centering came quite easy to me at Touchstone. “Pulling,” however, didn’t.
Pulling the clay basically involves lifting it up and allowing it to take shape. Silly me didn’t think to cut her crazy-long fingernails, so I couldn’t grab the clay the way I needed to in order to master the technique.
“Your nails are beautiful, but they gotta go,” Amanda said.
A few minutes later, she emerged from the glaze room with a pair of scissors. I refused. I mean, I can “go grunge,” but not that grunge. Haha. So I learned to deal with my long fingernails getting in the way (I did cut them as soon as I got home, though!) and stayed focused on the wet clay circling around in my hands.
Pottery, my friends, isn’t easy. You have to wedge the clay, center it, pull it, shape it, trim it, bisque it, decorate it, glaze it, and fire it again. It takes dedication, patience, and skill. The process itself is a long one, and it’s risky, too. You can’t get attached to a piece because it might not survive one of the many stages (I lost three mugs during the trimming stage . . . sigh). When I encountered a hiccup in the process (there were many, many times when I pulled too hard and completely ruined the piece), I wedged a new piece of clay and started over again. Despite being the kind of person who gets frustrated and discouraged quite easily, I was determined to master the pottery wheel. Luckily, our awesome studio assistant (shout out to Eric!) and two talented potters (hey, Lee and Bridget!) were kind enough to let me continue to work after our allotted open studio hours. On Saturday evening, I stayed in the studio until about 10:30 p.m., throwing and throwing and throwing until I emerged with a little jar that, I decided, I would give to my boyfriend. Amanda was also kind enough to stay with me for awhile, offering me advice and telling me what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong.
Cursive, by the way, got it right: "Art is Hard."
It was dark by the time I left the studio, and I was happy to know that the next morning I would wake up and get to do it all over again.
Here’s a photo of me late Saturday night--sticky clay hands and all!
I admired our schedule: working for a few hours, taking a small lunch break, working a few more hours, taking a supper break, and then working again until almost dark. I imagined myself hanging out with Henry David Thoreau (okay, so I should also admit that my cabin made me think of “Walden”), enjoying that type of technology-less, connected-to-nature, working-hard-all-day way of life.
Aside from making some bowls from molds that Amanda provided for us, I spent a majority of my Sunday on the wheel. I was comfortable there. Eager to learn more. Appreciative of the opportunity to have a teacher who kindly pointed out the progress I was making. So, by Sunday afternoon, I finally understood how to pull the clay. To get my clay to take shape. Gracefully.
Sunday was also the perfect day for a walk on Meditation Trail. With my notebook in hand, I walked into the woods, crossed over the creek, and sat on a rock and wrote. Here’s a photo of me enjoying that alone time:
The entire Touchstone campus is gorgeous. It’s nestled in the boondocks, where cell phone service is limited and artists gather to create art with like-minded artists. Even though I was only there for four days, it felt as if I became part of an artist’s colony. The people there talked art, made art, celebrated art. I loved it.
We spent Monday morning and afternoon decorating our pottery, adding handles to our mugs, and letting our work dry so that we could take it home. By the time check-out time rolled around, I didn't want to leave. I made some new friends. I wanted to jump back on the pottery wheel. I discovered that not only could I use my hands to write, but also to bring a lump of clay to life.
I ended up leaving Touchstone with 12 finished pieces (all of which have yet to be bisque fired, glazed, and then fired again). I created mostly mugs, as you can see:
I have a long way to go when it comes to reaching Amanda’s skill level . . . a longggggggggg way . . . but I’m grateful that she was gracious enough to teach us what she knows. She offered me the perfect mix of constructive criticism and praise; now I have the confidence to keep learning, to keep creating. This means I need to get my own pottery wheel!
From my cabin to Meditation Trail to the clay studio, my first experience at Touchstone certainly won’t be my last!
For more info: http://touchstonecrafts.org/
One of my favorite perks of being a correspondent for two local newspapers is the opportunity to receive press passes when bands and celebrities come to town.
One of my first press passes was for a Lynyrd Skynyrd show, and that press pass gave me the best seats in the house for the first two or three songs (typically, press passes only give you so much time to make other fans super jealous). I felt like a million bucks as I took photo upon photo of a band that my dad listened to throughout my childhood. I like them too, of course, so that press pass was more than just an "I'm on the job" sticker; it was a golden ticket for a fifteen-minute thrill.
Tonight was no different. When I was little, I remember my mom and aunts watching The Cosby Show on a regular basis. And there I was this evening, watching Bill Cosby--albeit an older Bill Cosby--cracking jokes in front of a nearly sold-out audience. It took me back to the living rooms in which I played with my sister and cousins. I can still see those TV screens and hear his voice coming through them. It was like he never went away.
And he really didn't. Not at all. You can bet that Bill Cosby still makes everyone sitting in their seats touch their heads to their knees in laughter.
Again, what a thrill.
Here are two photos that I took tonight; the first was taken from the side of the stage and the second from front row (one of my favorite shots):
Here's to Bill Cosby: a legendary comedian who has charmed America for decades.
I once read a newspaper article about a couple who hiked the entire Appalachian trail (the article can be accessed below) and became intrigued by the thought of completing it myself.
I could picture myself quitting my job, finding a hiking partner, and taking on that very challenge. But this challenge? This challenge? No way, Jose.
Did you look at that link? If you didn’t, you should stop messin’ around and give your eyeballs a little thrill. Besides, you kinda have to look at it before reading the rest of this post.
(I’ll pause for a moment, just in case you need to look at it for really real reals or if you want to look at it again.)
Okay. So. You looked at the link. Good. Thank you.
Apparently this trek is considered the most dangerous in the world. You have to climb steep trails, stairs, ladders . . . and if you fall, you’re dead. The reward—if indeed you survive the journey—is a magnificent view of the five peaks of Mount Hua.
Awesome, right? Hence the reason I turned my computer screen toward my co-worker’s desk this morning and told her to have a look at some of the photos.
“That’s all fine and dandy,” she said, “but what the hell happens when you get there? How do you get back? Helicopter?”
Crap. I hadn’t thought about that. I just thought that if you made it, well, hooray for you! But if you go up, you’ve gotta come back down . . . oh man!
Oh man, oh man, oh man. God bless those who have made it. What an incredible feat. What reliable feet.
Vitaly is an excellent photographer who has traveled the world and plans to do more traveling. To learn more about him and his work, visit www.virvit.ru. Even though the entire blog is in his native language (Russian), you can hit the "Translate" button and read it in English. I support him just as much as he supports me! :)
Fiction, poetry, and all that good stuff . . .