Monthly Archive for September, 2006

whispers from new orleans

the blog is over. i can’t believe how many people have written and asked me to write. this post, number 301, doesn’t mean the blog is back. the blog is over.

it doesn’t matter right now tho, this week is remarkable and i have to hit the release valve a little, produce some content…

i started this week on a crazy trip in canada, at hollyhock, on this island i’ve dubbed heaven. while there i gave a keynote, went sailing, talked to all these geek organizers about combatting net neutrality and danced one night for six hours before collapsing in song in a hot tub with a south african whose name means peace to contemplate the stars and the sunrise. i saw a whale.

i got home monday morning, after the mid-journey beauty of vancouver and visiting my favorite tree in the slightly north, and just generally loving canada…i came home to my beloved ruckutistas working hard. i love those people, seriously. and we had good news this week – we are doing better than ever.

on monday i worked hard, on tuesday afternoon it was decided that tuesday night was the best time to go to new orleans for my third organizational development trip for the new orleans network. the anniversary is past. going a bit too fast meant i packed the wrong things and went to the wrong airport, but i’ve been learning how to respond calmly to stressful situations. i stayed cool, got to the right airport (painfully closer to my house), and hopped on the three leg red-eye to new orleans. i couldn’t wait to get there, i couldn’t wait to see where this team of the most uber-people i’ve ever facilitated had gotten to. and it’s good news too…the directory is up, the calendar is used by tons of people in the community, and in the midst of chaos they seem to have mastered the most evolved community organizing online tool i’ve seen.

i have said, often, recently, that my theory of change is this: contually developing leadership such that impacted communities lead the way. new orleans network, new orleans, is the great proof positive. i love this city, these people. shana and abram, my hosts and dear friends, are perhaps the most Good people i know. they always do the Right thing, not for show and not for attention, but just cause it’s Right. when given the choice between easy and Right they choose Right.  it’s a good match, they have naughty mouths, they have the best hearts. it’s humbling to be around. it reminds me i could be a better person yet.

all that has happened down here – the frustration of having worked for a year and seen things move forward and backward and sideways, residual misogyny, racism and a general lack of funding and creativity – it builds up. but i am a visitor, everyone i meet is one of the most amazing people i’ve met, people who aren’t victims in anyway i can see, though everything about their situation is unfair.

i met a lawyer today named rania thompson. she’s working with FEMA fund individuals who are now receiving letters from FEMA asking for money back – 10K, 20K or more. Turns out they didn’t ‘qualify’ for the insufficient funds they received, which they weren’t told was a loan, and now they are supposed to repay it. it’s disgusting, it’s unfair. who will help?

i met a woman named greta who is doing food access work, and helps support students at the center, who are sitting on hours of documentary footage of new orleanians directly after that first hurricane. they should charge people to use it, but people down here are too generous with what they have. they need 100k to survive. but who will help?

and now we are sitting in the house – around the corner is a situation. the rumors are – an ak-47, a hostage…the energy is taut and strange and we can’t go to sleep. there are cops on every corner and neighbors poking their heads around the corner. we’re contemplating what the hostage-taker is experiencing, now that his choices are death or prison. and is someone actually held hostage, more than one person, are they going to be ok? why haven’t the infamous new orleans police shot the guy yet. someone noted that the cops were nice tonight, that they are all a bit on edge, pumped up, any of the cops could die in this situation. the block is locked off and we got shuffled in.

we were coming home from jordan flaherty’s second birthday party. all the names i’ve heard, this is who to speak to in new orleans about direct action, organizing, media justice, etc, they were all there and the vibe was tipsy, light, naughty, funny. a gorgeous place new orleans, they know how to party proper.

the dark side of new orleans is always, still, a bit more than anyone should have to handle. the best humor i hear, the best hearts i experience, the most tender honesty. there are all these iconic figures who are floating about feeling guilty and like they haven’t done enough. there are all these people who need resources now more than ever. i was going to ask everyone i came across this month to give money to ruckus, and then i came down to new orleans.

on a side note, i’ve been getting the best text messages of my life. naughty and direct, hallelujah!

i don’t know when i’ll write again i just…it occurred to me i’m going full speed, and i wanted to tell someone about abran and shana and rania and greta. and ashley, and corlita, and jordan, and aesha. and this amazing visionary named joel in canada, and all these amazing geeks up there changing how we are able to communicate to each other. each day, it’s a blessing, life should always be this engaging.

but as usual when it gets to be late night and i’m thinking…who will hear the call – we’re all in need.

happy birthday to me

this is it, this it is!

i am 28 now :) in japan, if you believe in time difference, it’s september 6…apologies in advance for the broad and sweeping notions, the sentimentality that is about to flow out of me. but y’all know how i am.

i am having a moment in life where, if i had to write a step-by-step guide to happiness, i would say: relinquish control, be observant, free yourself up to nature and your own desires, notice the desires of those around you and suddenly, life starts going your way, without manipulation or struggle. not luck, i feel intentional…not blessings, but the treasures of faith. hallelujah! faith trumps all religion in my book. its the one.

the faith i feel right now cuts me loose from the past and the future. it cuts me loose from the trappings of ego. i have always approached achievement as personal, instead of as releasing control to be a perfect tool for use in divine work.

i have gone from pleasure activist to now-ist…the pleasure is still omni-present, but right now i am just amazed to be alive. it is my 28th birthday, but in some ways it is only my third, i came that close to checking out of this zha-zha in 2003. leaning in, i feel the curiousity and hunger for life that a child feels. the worst that can happen is not failure. it is emptiness. i have been there, and i have no wish to return. the fullness is as big, and it’s inside, and it’s all around…i know i’ve said it but, we’re all holy to me.

so i plan differently…when you are deeply immersed in the present, there’s only one path forward and it’s the one you are taking. i’m not on any drugs, nothing but what i am sure of: you can’t be tied to victory, loss, dreams, even a place. everything we know in this world is transient except the way. you literally ARE the way you live in this word, or any other, including your dreams (i.e. do you have integrity in your dreams…are you at least honest?)

a break from thoughts, here’re some things i think i owe you:

- conclusions on the heartbreaker. really it was me all along, if you get down to it. the man himself was the unlucky person i bumped up against with all my longing out like a great exposed nerve ending; he got to know who i thought i was, sandpapered down by rejection to who i couldn’t possibly be. i have protected his privacy this long, it’s the last gift i’ll give him. and because i know you are all aware of how hard that journey was, i can honestly say: the place in my heart where he sits is healed. listen to dinah washington’s "i don’t hurt anymore" and feel me. 

- why stop now? i thought i had been writing so much on here that the reasons i had to stop blogging this way were clear, plus i still hold to my belief that a handful of people read it and it’s just a blog…but so many of you have asked why, people i didn’t even know were reading…so…

1. it’s gotten bizarre to show up for dinner with someone who knows everything about me cause they read the blog, while i know nothing about them, and my shoddy memory ensures that i can’t even retain what they told me last time. i am going to stop this blog in order to level the playing field a bit; my next act of discipline is honing my listening skills.

2. i am developing a sense of privacy, what is for me to know and what is for others to know. i would like to try and see how that could work for me.

3. i run an organization now! it feels more like grown up stuff than anything i’ve done before, and as a grown up i sense that i don’t need y’all all reading about my latest adventures in love, sex, partying, etc. even as i write this, there is a story burning up my fingers which would just make my staff blush. i have to end this paragraph immediately!

- and now what…i am writing a few things. a column here, a blog there. we’re going to do a blog for ruckus, i’ll be writing for colorlines, for wiretap, and for the women in media and news blog. i’ll cover stuff like my feelings on the segregation of "survivor", and other issues of race, class, culture. i will post it all here, along with occasional musings, nothing daily or weekly or even monthly, just, when its right. i am going to write longer pieces to loved ones who are far away. if you want to correspond, dialogue, just holla.

and…i guess some last words:

given a choice, i want to know as much as possible and try everything. the goal here is no avoidable regrets. i am going as deep and as wide as possible, and i am grateful to all of you who went there with me for this little window of time. keep it up, and let me know how it goes.

moving forward, i want to learn from ancient paths, i want to feel it when i am forging new ones. i am not scared. i know, because i used to be, and this feels so different.

i believe that what i want in life is within my reach, is possible, is fundamentally good. i am beyond surviving – i know, better than ever before, how to reach for what i need and love and clasp it to my heart, to let it in, my feelings are closer to real than ever before. everything is deeper, love too.

i see people who don’t reach, who don’t demand more from the world around them, from their loved ones…they seem tired to me already, no matter how old. they seem underwhelmed. they are already near the end of their life force…i think you have to cultivate your awe, it keeps you younger, it makes life worth living. ask yourself: what is keeping you from greatness? what is the most useful way you could use your life and your gifts, knowing you have so many more than you realize…and why would you not go that route?

you have to have a line in the sand, remembering that it is sand, and sand is always shifting. a standard for your celebration. be honest, especially when it surprises you. contain multitudes, even as you settle into who you are. life, at its most painful, tedious and mundane, is nothing short of miraculous, incomprehensible, and complete.

when i went deep into myself, what i saw was that i was great at critiquing, but not allowing myself to create. i think change only happens when fearlessness, self assessment and compassion collide in your heart and it flows out from there. then everything you do is a creation, a prayer, a worship, a dance…its one huge moment of gratefulness.

i have usually written sad poems, love songs, and political essays. need want need want. i am in a place of enough, enough, enough and it feels good. this blog, which began as a private documentation of my learning the discipline of quick writing, has become instead a documentation of me learning to fuse my three styles of output, and learning the discipline of joy.

i absolutely adore you for reading. i can’t go any deeper. i have fallen in love before your very eyes, with myself, and with the world around me. i hope you feel it.

basta.

adrienne maree

frenzy

quick post from tokyo:

i just found a kimono sale! i literally had a moment of frenzy, trying to identify the ones i was taking home with me. my heart was beating faster, i think i love kimonos more than any other item of clothing i have ever come across. i am coming down off kimono high. exhilerating, truly.

this is my last day as a 27-year-old. i watched high plains drifter this morning with my parents, with my oldest crush, clint eastwood. we’re about to leave our hotel and go into tokyo, maybe to the imperial palace, i have a thing for gardens and this is the place to have that thing. i don’t have the patience it would require to create and maintain the gardens i most love, yet. but i am storing it away, for when i retire.

i am also on the search for strawberry mochi, my favorite japanese snack.

tomorrow is my last blog posting day, in this daily format. i am a bit excited, like a certain relief is around the corner. and a bit nervous, that i may cease to exist in a way. but resolved…

do y’all document your dreams? my dream life here is amazing, finally far enough from work in distance and time that i am not dreaming about it, so all these other topics are floating up. old memories too, coming through the dreams, wanting to be relived, resolved. i don’t know if it works that way but, clearly some part of me believes it does.

i found a gray hair. i think it’s my first, unless my memory is worse than i thought. my mother said, ‘is it the gold one?’ – apparently i have a golden hair i can’t see on my head. but i found a silver one, gorgeous, and not very long. it made me smile, it’s about time. haven’t i earned at least that?

i haven’t smoked since i got here. haven’t felt the need. my strange relationship with cigarettes. i want to get an elegant cigarette holder and have nat sherman flavored cigarettes, one for a party, pure style, not even light it. something new.

yesterday i rode horses, did more archery – consistently placing my arrows in the red :) – and even went to the driving range to see about golf. then at the hotel they have a sauna and a hot tub and a pool so you know where i spent the afternoon. my back still hurts some, but i loved having such a purely physical day. i may see about setting up an archery practice area in my backyard at home. but it also means a gym membership may be in my future again, cause y’all know how much i was loving the gym before i moved. rumor has it the ymca near my work has a pool.

my parents are telling me stories about the kind of child i was – how i was born alert against all conventional wisdom, with a head full of straight black hair that made drs tease me wondering if i’d stuck my finger in a socket. the curls didn’t come till my first trip to south carolina. i found baby pictures, it’s so strange to try and associate them with myself. to think of my parents, a good 5 years younger than i am now, sitting up nights with me and negotiating work, classes and childraising.

my father realized that he is now older than his mother was when she died. my mother is noticing the changes in her skin that can only be time. i can see them both aging, as i can now see the changes in my sisters which make me pause…but each one of us seems happier now than ever. my parents are like high schoolers.

so my little prayer, to close off an amazing year, is that life is consistent in it’s surprises and changes, and that i never forget that i’ve already survived so much. 

a moment for fashion

may this blog be forever remembered as a shallow confession, a blip in an otherwise consistent quest for some depth in life. it’s appropriate that this outburst comes before the blog ends, because otherwise i would have been holding out on you.

i just saw ‘the devil wears prada’ and walked away, i fear, with the wrong message.

anyone who is close to me knows about my little penchant for drawing. not just anything but women in a variety of stages of dress and undress, the female form and futuristic clothing on it. i mostly am able to pretend that these drawings are mere doodles, even while it has been impossible for me to throw them away in the many cleansings and clearings of stuff. over the years some of the drawings have been horrible and some have been inspired, in my opinion. occasionally, i veered away from the pure clothing drawings and tried to tackle other subjects, or at least genders…but i always come back to a long leg, tight waist, impossible breasted figure wrapped in lines that i knew were leather or chiffon, the shade of a morning-after sunrise.

my favorite famous women are those who always always look prepared to be themselves in the world.

my own sense of style has been the insignificant combination of what i could afford and what i could fit into, ten sizes beyond high fashion, tending towards comfort and an adoration of items no one else has. girls who feel fat/ugly/not enough often do wacky instead of wow. i’ve made all the mistakes: big prints, african mumus, baggy everything, broom skirts, two seasons of ripped and reconstructed t-shirts…which i must admit i still favor. i have never known the confidence i am now experiencing in who i am, so it is with no small joy that i look forward to the next phase of my fashion life.

but up until now, i have experienced my love of fashion by surrounding myself with people who know how to bring sophistication to their daily grind. my friend sofia, who has forbidden me to write about her, has the flawless ability to see the right choice…when she chooses to, we are all in a bistro in paris during fashion week just by her deigning it. shane dresses so well it’s almost possible to forget his beauty. i have watched jen blossom into the kind of style that makes you catch your breath when you see her. both of my sisters know themselves deeply and dress the part. evans: waist up or waist down, never disappoints me. janine throws a pashmina and a skirt on and the day job disappears. dear little sarah’s style makes me giggle with joy and anticipate seeing her, just to see what she has thrown together – my new friend renna is able to do the same. dani mcclain always makes me wish i had thought to dress up, but she just can’t help her impenetrable style.

when i miss new york, part of it is missing the feeling of having my hair up, a good bag on my arm and sexy shoes on my feet (rare, but it has happened) and popping my tail down a new york street so hard i should have dislocated my beyonce.

someone recently implied that i had done such a good job with not caring about how i looked that she was shocked to see i had a closet full of nice things. i had to wince, and resist the urge not to lecture on the laziness of perfecting the look everyone else has, how important it is to have your own style. i couldn’t say that, because i have been so blase about developing and enforcing mine. in the world i live in, it shouldn’t matter, and some of us act like we don’t care. still, a perfect fabric, a perfect cut, a perfect pair of jeans or a gorgeous gorgeous shoe and the mask falls for a second, the pretense suspended, "that’s just right".

my friend davey d has said many times that it is crucial to understand how far good fashion can take an organizer who understands it. some things are universal, even if people don’t understand why. a woman who knows how to present herself is hard to dismiss, and who in the work we do can afford to be dismissed right now. is it a stretch to say understanding your fashion sense could change the world? yes…lol…yes it is. but so what!

this movie, which i’m sure was meant to be about integrity and a work ethic, had the effect of making me hungry for the world of my drawings, the long lines and impossible curves and quiet, breathtaking elegance of women warriors who are changing the world and being sexy and know how to laugh…these have been the women i admire but have never actually aspired to for myself. i have cleaned out my closet according to comfort, and i think the time has come to go through it again and rid myself of anything that doesn’t make me feel, at minimum, remarkable and together.

i know i know. i am not a drawing, and my drawings will likely never be sewn into the couture line of figures constantly marching through my head to songs i have written before hopping into cars i’ve imagined to head to homes i’ve decorated with art i made. still, it takes less than that to express the goddess. fashion at it’s best is a presentation of the dream, i commit to being more dreamy in the coming year.

and for the haters, hate on – it’s not about the money, it’s not about the cost of a thing. that’s sort of a tacky, ugly sidebar unsurprising in this world. but the time and effort and imagination of presentation, of thinking of the perfect cover for the book, even if it’s only sometimes…that, i must admit, is exhilerating to me.

so. whew. that’s my confession. i fucking love love love fashion. now. back to your normal programming.

we are relaxing!

checking in from vacation, this morning my mom and i watched dave chapelle’s block party for my first time. i cried. this seems to happen more easily when i am relaxed. i love hip-hop, i love dave, it made me miss brooklyn so much. explaining to my mom what dead prez, talib, mos and all them were saying, and why it was a big deal for the fugees to perform together, it just made me think about what a mass of talent is out there right now. as in all wartime, entertainment has blossomed and elevated.

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then we watched the emmys. for someone with no cable or ability to watch television, i really enjoyed the show. i sneak a lot more than i realized, i really wanted sandra oh to win. the haegl girl from grey’s anatomy and julia louis dreyfuss tied in my book for best dress. conan hosted brilliantly and i ended up being moved to tears over the dick clark part, and when my sweet colbert lost to freaky manilow.

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in other news, my dad and i went to dinner last night and i just love him so much. the men in my life who i cherish most have as much of a passion for privacy as i do for public validation of my existence, and because of that i won’t disclose the content. but the tone was one of respect, reconciliation, real listening and dialogue. on paper we couldn’t be further from each other, and so i think our relationship is proof of the difference breath and flesh and heart make in the quest for peace and poetry in life.

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and in further other news, my dream life here has lost all subtlety in its need to send me messages. in quick succession i have told myself to clear up any drama in my life and reach out to folks i need to reach out to and go back to the basics of how i approach…everything. to that end i am not going to stress about money for my organization, i am just going to start making it. and i have discontinued my moratorium on the heartbreaker, it’s time we were friends. all good things come to an end – worry, money, celibacy, my box of strawberry mochi. even heartbreak. how can something so tender last so long in the first place?

to my knowledge i am at peace with everyone i care about in this world. that is important, because it is almost my birthday, and i like to make a big deal of peace as it relates to the day i was born.

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i want to start a project for girls, a self-portrait project where girls have to just take shots of their face and body with a digital camera until the find all the things they like, until they know their face. i have been documenting myself for almost two years now and it has completely changed my ability to behold myself. i wish i had done this when i was 13, and 16, and 21. i hope i remember to continue as i move closer to 30, and beyond, in’shallah.

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i can’t remember if i spoke of how moved i was to read in the Stars and Stripes ARMY paper out here that the leader of Hezbollah apologized for the great violence that has taken place in response to their actions…he said if he’d known this would be the outcome he would have never acted. this ability to acknowledge a mistake, to take responsibility for a chain of events that can only be seen as devastating, this is what i would wish to see from American elected officials.

on this base where my parents live, the channels are all variations of the Armed Forces Network, AFN. I forget about this, that this is what the American military watches worldwide. there are no commercials, only public service announcements where i can feel my brain being manipulated. there are PSAs now to train soldiers not to speak out against their leaders. these messages didn’t exist during the clinton years. more and more soldiers are realizing that they are following the orders of an administration that sees them as dispensable, that doesn’t know how to earn respect but instead tries to bully for it. now is the time, if you have soldiers in your reach, to make sure they feel your love and know they are safe to demand reasons.

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i did not speak here yet about the anniversary of katrina, and i suppose that is because i am too disappointed in roughly everything that has happened there to say much. it’s still devastating. nothing has changed, and there are a bunch of good people down there who i love and respect who are still struggling from sun-up to sun-down.

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i have been offered three different blogging opportunities! i will keep you posted, maybe this will become the central space where i keep all of them? how much can a girl write?

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my mother and i are about to return to our hard core relaxing. dances with wolves is on tv. oh did i tell you about my mom’s obsession with kokeshi dolls? they’re like $10 at shrine sales, lovely wooden painted dolls that are given as gifts usually amongst children here…my mom has started collecting sets of three that resemble each other, in three heights, recreating her three daughters again and again. if i weren’t so relaxed i would write a country song about it, seriously, "she was a mama through and through, it was all that she could do, not to find her dauthers faces in all of god’s good places" and so on. there are sets of us all over the house. last night her first full class of students graduated and they presented her with gifts, photos and thanks, they adore her. everyone adores her. my mother is remarkable.

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did i mention i am now breezing through the ‘beware, very challenging’ level of sudoku puzzles? go brain, it’s yo birfday! seriously, this makes me feel smarter than any other endeavor.

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and i am taking daily baths, which makes me feel softer and more pampered than any other endeavor. all out baths: with candles, music, stacks of magazines, hot tea, smelly bath products from lush.

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i have written 15 poems/songs this vacation. a reminder that when i grow up, i am going to just write songs, and y’all won’t even be ready. i LOVE vacation! and i hope you get in the mood with me just by reading a bit – next on the schedule, a moment of silence for my hardworking normal self. may i never forget how much i love the balance of unhurried time.

photos: hiroshima, kyoto, fuji

ok as promised this is primarily a photo blog. these photos speak for themselves, except where i interrupt. i have discovered strawberry mochi and pocky and today we went to a shrine sale where i bought all the presents i plan to give out for the next year, plus picked up a silly amount of kimonos for myself.

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here’s my mom and i, relaxing:

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now i have to go continue to relax, so enjoy:

hiroshima (atomic dome {the bomb exploded just over this dome, but the angle of the heat and blast somehow preserved the structure, flattening everything around it}, museum, peace park and memorial…ask me sometime to see the rest, i took a lot of devastating photos there that just aren’t for this type of space)

Atomic_dome_before_and_after

Atomic_dome_then_and_now

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castles, palaces, shrines and temples (one of my favorite colors, vermillion {red-orange}, turns out to be a holy color to ward off evil spirits. there’s a golden palace which, in the sunlight, is nearly impossible to look upon. i was not allowed to take photos inside the famous shogun castle fortress called nijo-jo, due to the age of the wall paintings. the floor in there is called a nightingale floor because it makes a singing nightingale noise when anyone walks through, making it impossible for an enemy to arrive unannounced. somewhere in these i am drinking holy water from karamizu-dara. i tried to capture both the grandiose size of this stuff and the intricate details):

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Main_entrance_imperial_palace

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Me_with_kinkukanji_golden_temple

Where_the_emperor_chilled

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Coming_clean

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the geisha of gion (these women are literally running down the street in shoes i could only call impossible. i did not want to run after them, as some of the photographers were doing there, so these are shots in motion from a slight distance, as well as shots of the street itself, full of very discreet windowless restaurants with red lanterns that come on around 6pm. we dodged many upscale cabs with businessmen looking down and away from us.):

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gardens, my favorite part {a candid shot of my grasshopper god is in here}:

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Adriennestrip806_079 The_lotus_pond

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Feeding_the_geese

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fuji (on the trip home from kyoto. i took lots of photos of her but this is the clearest…she is in the distance and the sky is thick with moisture, if the sun weren’t behind her you couldn’t have seen her at all. there’s no mistaking her once you get your eyes on her. this is the best i could do from the bullet train…)

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bathrooms, me, and me in bathrooms:

(alongside the toilets you can choose where you want a spritz of water, front or back, or do you want the seat heated?)

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(in the subway, stores, restaurants you can literally cop a sqaut – surprisingly convenient and clean cause you don’t have to touch anything.)

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and somehow the mirrors, when you shower, have a part that doesn’t steam over! i tried to capture this in a post-shower photo-shoot – peep the kimono:

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so cool. there’s a lot more pictures, still going through them all, i took around 300, thank god for digital :) but this last one is the type of thing that just makes me love japan:

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yes, that’s a giant plastic cat.