Dolled Up In St. Thomas

This year I wanted to have a creepy adventure on my birthday. The formerly-submerged-beneath-Lake-Mead ghost town of St. Thomas, Nevada was at the top of my list, and its close proximity to Las Vegas made it an ideal day trip destination for a costumed birthday girl and her nudist photographer friend.

St. Thomas was founded in 1865 and became home to about 500 residents, complete with farms and businesses. In 1938 the town was abandoned as Lake Mead rose following the construction of the Hoover Dam. In recent years the ruins of St. Thomas became visible as Lake Mead’s water level dropped, leaving sand, shells and broken buildings behind for us to explore.

The photos that follow were taken by myself (with my Galaxy S6) and my frequent adventure partner, Jon Miller. I hope you feel like you were there with us. Enjoy!

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We drove through the Valley of Fire and made a quick left down a gravel road. Eventually we ended up here, overlooking a 2.5 mile hiking loop that wove its way through the ruins of St. Thomas.

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The path was made up of sand and thousands (millions?) of white shells.

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A pop of color in a barren landscape.

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Critter fur caught in a huge, dead piece of wood.

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The tallest of the ruins.

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Jon on the prowl.

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Collection

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Time for school!

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Inside view of the school.

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Of course we brought props!

The following photos (minus the final three) were snapped by Jon. Enter the Creepy Doll!

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Play time!

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Then, as if my birthday hadn’t been action-packed enough, my thoughtful friend surprised me with this…

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Awwww!

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Jon had miraculously packed all of this AND cold Coke AND snacks in his backpack…and I had no idea!

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Jon in his natural state. (Not surprising in the least.)

Two Weeks Of Death Can Change A Life

The last week of February and the first week of March were intense.

We spent a week in Utah, visiting family and Petey’s grave. I don’t know what to say that I haven’t already said; only that acceptance is setting in, but if you confuse that with numbness or complacency, you’d be wrong.

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Grave Flowers, Moab, UT

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Mound and Cliffs, Moab, UT

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Roses, Moab, UT

As we made our way through Southern Utah we stopped at a few points of interest. Monument Valley did not disappoint.

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Sunrise at Mexican Hat, UT

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Spine, Monument Valley, UT

Then, back in Vegas, I was honored to spend the week with Lauren and Kerry from Lighthold Massage Therapy. They are massage therapists who teach courses about massage therapy for oncology patients (presently undergoing treatment as well as those who have been cancer-free for years). I took Oncology Massage 101 with them last summer and it heightened my awareness regarding client comfort and health issues in a big way.

When the weekend came around, Kerry flew home and Lauren stuck around to teach what I call “the deathy class” — Opening to the Mystery: Presence in Caregiving at the End of Life. To most, it probably sounds like a class about hospice massage…and that’s part of it. But it’s so much more.

Five other participants and myself followed Lauren’s lead through exercises in loss: loss of freedom, loss of faculties, loss of companionship, loss of touch. The course was three days long, and each day we could see more of each other as the space we created was tested and proven to be safe. We shared our doubts, fears, and plans; we shared our stories.

Friends asked me what the course was “about”. I told them I couldn’t sum it up in words but that I would try my best in a blog post. Opening to the Mystery was profound in that it provided a safe place, lead by a safe human, where the wisdom in truthfully admitting that we don’t know everything was embraced and celebrated. Centered around the impermanence of life, Lauren encouraged us to shift our perspectives from longing to loving, and from future to present.

If you think you’re up to it, I think you should enroll. Humility and vulnerability are prerequisites if you want to get the most out of the experience. Even if you’re mostly there, by day three you’ll be a changed person.

I’m not sure where my career as a massage therapist, esthetician and nail tech will take me in the years to come, but I can tell you my practice is deeper and more fulfilling because of journeys like these. Thank you.

 

Let’s Talk About Sad Things

I haven’t written about my husband’s brother’s suicide in a while. Sometimes I’m afraid that people may assume my silence means I no longer care — that I’m over it.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I think of Petey constantly. For two years, not a day has passed when I haven’t heard his voice or seen his face in my mind. His absence is still felt intensely and immensely, and sometimes the pain is so exquisite I have no idea what to do with the sorrow I feel.

On the home front, living with someone who’s lost someone this close to them is a situation I never appreciated before I found myself here. It is a serious responsibility, at times delicate, never without the desire to bear the entire weight of this grief.

I still despise the way he was treated by the person who was supposed to love him.

I have days when I think “Damn. Petey was the first of us to experience death. What is that even like?” I’ve become an activist for suicide awareness who’s constantly wondering what’s the point of living. The best answer I can come up with right now is that I’m determined to kick life’s ass until it kicks mine.

24 Photos From New York: An Analog Annal

This November I spent a week hanging out with family and friends in Rochester and Buffalo, New York. Photography-wise, I purposely left my DSLR at home so I would be forced to use the Polaroid Spectra and 600 I had packed.

This post includes shots from Holy Sepulchre Cemetery (Rochester), Mount Hope Cemetery (Rochester), Thomas E. Burger Funeral Home (Hilton), University of Rochester, Eastman Kodak (Rochester), Forest Lawn Cemetery (Buffalo), and the abandoned aqueduct and subway tunnels of Rochester. I’m really happy with how they turned out. Enjoy!

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Double Exposure Inside the Christ Our Light Mausoleum at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery

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Double Exposure of My Grandparents’ Marker at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery

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Mom at Grandma and Grandpa’s Grave in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery

Images from Mount Hope Cemetery:

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Doug Showing Dad the Horse Drawn Hearse at Thomas E. Burger Funeral Home

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Outside an Old U of R Tunnel, Expired Film, Photo by Deena Viviani

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Tunnel Window Figure, U of R Campus, Expired Film

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Inside the U of R Tunnel, Expired Film

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Tunnel Cat, U of R, Expired Film

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Double Exposure, George Eastman’s Monument, Kodak Park

Images from Forest Lawn Cemetery:

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Abandoned Subway Tour

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Abandoned Subway

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Double Exposure Abandoned Subway and Arch

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Precarious Walkway at the Aqueduct

Really Nice Book Reviews: Asking, Teaching & Sex Researching

Here are some audio books I’ve thoroughly enjoyed listening to on Audible.

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Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

Packed with stories from the early days of established sex research through modern laboratory adventures, Bonk keeps things moving at a well-lubricated clip.

I won’t give away too much, but if you want to find out exactly where a pig’s clitoris is located, or if you’re dying to find out if renowned sex researcher Alfred Kinsey really did insert a toothbrush into his urethra (bristles first), Bonk is the book for you.

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The Natty Professor: A Master Class on Mentoring, Motivating, and Making It Work! by Tim Gunn

My sister used to watch Project Runway religiously, so most of my PR viewing has occurred by her side. I may have seen as many as six complete episodes over the years — not for lack of appreciation, but more lack of the ability to sit still amidst distraction for any period of time. Anyway, watching Tim Gunn keep it real on PR was always the best thing about the show. He was honest, helpful, sensitive and kind. He didn’t kiss anyone’s ass, and when he gave criticism it was always with the best intentions. He wanted the designers to learn, and he knew he had to be honest with them if this was going to happen.

In this book, Tim explains why he takes the approach he takes. He talks about different teachers he’s known over the years, about teaching techniques that work best and about the ones that leave room for improvement. He discusses his own journey with candor and humor, and I just can’t help but love the guy.

I’m not a classroom teacher, but I write online massage therapy courses and I volunteer with a teen horror fiction writing club. I learned a lot from this book that I can easily apply in these settings. Tim’s tips on providing honest, kind feedback are top notch!

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The Art of Asking or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help by Amanda Palmer

I wrote a longer review of this audio book for The Young Thumbs, but I’ll highlight some key points here, too.

Amanda (best known for her music, her time in the Dresden Dolls, her marriage to author Neil Gaiman, and her hugely successful crowdfunding campaign with which she produced an album) talks about fear, connection, honesty, vulnerability, art, music, death, illness, depression, meanies, love and life. Her words are accessible and brought me to tears more than once. But you know what makes this audio book version even more kickass?

The narration and music.

To hear Amanda reading her own words is a pleasure, and the songs dispersed throughout her narration are perfectly chosen and span her career. If you sign up for Audible for 30 days just to get your free audio book, make it The Art of Asking.

The Clown Motel Meets Harold & Maude: An Analog Annal

A few months back I took a road trip through Nevada and up to California’s Bay Area. I spent the night in Tonopah, NV at the infamous Clown Motel, then went on an unofficial tour of some Harold and Maude filming locations once I made it up to Colma, CA and the surrounding area.

Although I’ve already posted a bunch of digital shots from this road trip, these instant film randoms have been collecting dust, just waiting to be scanned. I’m heading out of town tomorrow and figured I should post ’em before they’re buried under dozens of Rochester memories. Enjoy!

The Clown Motel in Tonopah, NV -- Impossible 600 color film that I left in my hot car after processing

The Clown Motel in Tonopah, NV — Impossible 600 color film that I left in my hot car after processing

Life-size clown in the Clown Motel's lobby.

Life-size clown in the Clown Motel’s lobby.

Clown Motel selfie.

Clown Motel selfie.

Clown Motel remnants.

Clown Motel remnants.

At Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, CA. The clearing used to be home to a large tree, featured prominently in Harold and Maude in the scene where Harold first sees Maude at the cemetery.

At Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, CA. The clearing used to be home to a large tree, featured prominently in Harold and Maude in the scene where Harold first sees Maude at the cemetery. — expired Impossible SX-70 film

Also from Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma. -- expired Impossible 600 film

Also from Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma. — expired Impossible SX-70 film

At Holy Cross Cemetery, standing where Harold was when he spotted Maude for the first time at the cemetery. -- expired Impossible film

At Holy Cross Cemetery, standing where Harold was when he spotted Maude for the first time at the cemetery. — expired Impossible SX-70 film

I figured I should take a shot with a camera that would've been in production around the time that Harold and Maude was being filmed. Enter the Polaroid Big Shot! Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, CA

I figured I should take a photo with a camera that would’ve been in production around the time that Harold and Maude was being filmed. Enter the Polaroid Big Shot! Holy Cross Cemetery, Colma, CA

The Silent Sleep in Colma

Cypress Lawn Memorial Park is located next to Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, CA. (I visited Holy Cross during my Harold and Maude tour; ending up at Cypress Lawn the same day was merely a happy accident.)

Wikipedia tells us this cemetery is also known as the “City of the Silent”, and that moniker pleases me greatly. The memorial statues here are massive and plentiful, with many figures adopting grief-stricken poses that make you feel it in here. *points to chest*

Here are some highlights from my brief but memorable visit to Cypress Lawn. Enjoy!

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On The Road to Find Out: A Love Letter to Harold and Maude

(Spoilers ahead. Duh.)

I was sixteen at the time and working at the local library. I must have spotted the Harold and Maude paperback while reshelving books and noticed “Paramount Pictures Presents” and “Songs by Cat Stevens” on the back cover. (I listened to a lot of Cat Stevens as a depressed, small town teenager. He seemed to have had it all figured out.)

My Cat fascination led me to locate the VHS copy of this particular Paramount Picture in our library’s AV department. I remember noticing it hadn’t been checked out in months. This was not 1994’s version of a smash library hit like Return of the Jedi or Fifty Shades of Grey; this was a bizarro 1971 cult film featuring mock suicides and age play that had mysteriously made its way into the catacombs of a library located in a quiet, one-stoplighted village in western New York. Were forest gnomes to blame? Or the high school janitor with the missing hard palate? We may never know.

Eventually the unpopular paperback made it to the library's discard pile, then into my hot little hands.

Eventually the equally unpopular paperback made it into the library’s discard pile, then into my hot little hands.

The day I met Harold and Maude was a day that changed my life. I had been spending my free time writing poetry about hating myself and being stuck inside the brain of an OCD sufferer who ofttimes wished she wouldn’t wake up, only to open my eyes each morning to begin the hellish cycle of Pure O all over again. Bud Cort’s Harold Chasen was stuck in a holding pattern of his own, hungry for hope, freedom and a new direction in life, but in his isolation he didn’t realize these things were possible — and without Maude to show him the way, he most definitely wouldn’t have known which steps to take. I could relate to this 20 year old kid dressed in Vietnam-era bell bottoms more than I could relate to pretty much all of the people I knew in real life. He was also cute and sweet and funny.

Ruth Gordon’s Maude was like Death of the Endless (from Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman graphic novels) if Death traded in her black buckle boots and tank for your grandma’s tweedy winter coat and wool tights, then aged six human decades. Maude is old and wise. She teaches Harold about the ways of the world and how one person has the power to make it a better place, but when she does this she’s really teaching us. Aside from her horrendous driving skills, I hope to be as Maude-like as possible when I’m her age. You want to see someone who truly has no fucks to give? That person is Dame Marjorie Chardin, but you can call her Maude.

I figure I’ve probably viewed Harold and Maude approximately one hundred times since 1994. It is, without a doubt, my favorite movie of all time. That being said, I became worried a few months back, having not watched my favorite movie for a few years and wanting to but fearing that the darker events involving death by suicide that had recently occurred in my own life would change my perspective on the film in a bad way. What if I now felt it trivialized suicide? Or mocked it? Or used it to get a cheap laugh? What if I felt the deep meanings I took away from the film in the past wouldn’t hold up to a viewing today? What if the world had become so fucking painful that my precious celluloid life raft would leave me to drown in my own disillusionment? There was only one way to find out.

Had I known that director Hal Ashby’s father had suicided when Hal was 12, maybe I wouldn’t have worried. Because I shouldn’t have. If anything, Harold and Maude is even more beautiful, profound and perfect now. Now I notice things I hadn’t noticed during a hundred previous viewings: stuff on the shelves in Maude’s train car; the expression on Glaucus’ face; the observation that everything Maude says to Harold in the greenhouse about “living things” applies to him. Now it consistently brings me to tears…as it should. It’s a phenomenal movie.

I drove up to the Bay Area a few weeks ago and made it my mission to visit as many Harold and Maude filming locations as possible. What follows is a rag tag compilation of photos taken with my DSLR and my phone (depending on what I had with me at the time), as well as a YouTube video! Some images have been edited, some are raw, and some require lengthy descriptions. At any rate, I hope you enjoy this project that’s been twenty years in the making.❤

At Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, CA. This is where Harold sees Maude for the first time. He's attending a service held in the vicinity of the Hanlon gravestone while Maude is hanging out by a (now missing) tree behind the Donovan gravestone. The red arrow shows you where Maude was chillin'.

At Holy Cross Cemetery in Colma, CA. This is where Harold sees Maude for the first time. He’s attending a service held in the vicinity of the Hanlon gravestone while Maude is hanging out by a (now missing) tree behind the Donovan gravestone. The red arrow shows you where Maude was chillin’.

The Hanlon grave at Holy Cross

The Hanlon grave at Holy Cross.

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Another view of the area where Harold was standing by the coffin.

Another view of the area where Harold was standing by the casket.

Another view of the filming site at Holy Cross

Another view of the filming site at Holy Cross. Maude was positioned behind this front row of gravestones. And no tree!

A close up of the top of the Donovan stone. You can actually see the yellowed etching for a split second in the movie.

A close up of the top of the Donovan stone. You can actually see the yellowed etching for a split second in the movie.

Also at Holy Cross Cemetery. For over an hour I tried to locate the exact row where Harold and Maude encounter each other again at another graveside service. Much like the missing tree, I think some changes have been made to the grave markers here over the last 45 years, so I have no idea if I captured the exact spot. Just know that I tried!

Also at Holy Cross Cemetery. For over an hour I tried to locate the exact row where Harold and Maude encounter each other again at another graveside service. Much like the missing tree, I think some changes have been made to the grave markers here over the last 45 years, so I have no idea if I captured the exact spot. Just know that I tried!

Maybe here?

Maybe here?

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This should look familiar! The shadowy area to the left is the spot where Maude pulls up to pick Harold up after the service, and the priest questions her about painting the saint after she drove off in his VW.

This should look familiar! The shadowy area to the left is the spot where Maude pulls up to pick Harold up after the service, then the priest questions her about painting the saint after she drove off in his VW.

That musty mausoleum smell was wafting across the cemetery, beckoning...

That musty mausoleum scent was wafting across the cemetery, beckoning…

Inside the mausoleum.

Inside the mausoleum.

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Work in progress. (Underneath? Curing concrete.)

Work in progress. (Underneath? Curing concrete.)

The whys and what fors.

The whys and what fors.

Ravens in flight at Holy Cross Cemetery.

Ravens in flight at Holy Cross Cemetery.

Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, CA

Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, CA.

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The trees are definitely bigger than they were in the 1970s.

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The Sutro Baths Ruins in San Francisco, CA. This is where Uncle Victor and Harold encounter Maude protesting for peace.

The Sutro Baths Ruins in San Francisco, CA. This is where Uncle Victor and Harold encounter Maude protesting for peace.

These are the stairs (now crumbling and probably not safe to walk on) that Harold chases Maude down after she grabs his shrunken head.

These are the stairs (now crumbling and probably not safe to walk on) that Harold chases Maude down after she grabs his shrunken head.

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Mori Point in Pacifica, CA where the final scene was filmed.

Mori Point in Pacifica, CA where the final scene was filmed. The goal? Follow the trail up to the top of that tall thing.

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Clowning around on the trail to Mori Point.

Clowning around on the trail to Mori Point.

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Ocean, you make me feel insignificant and I like it.

Stumbling up to the top of Mori Point (in flip flops -- not recommended), I was rewarded with bird parts.

Stumbling up to the top of Mori Point (in flip flops — not recommended), I was rewarded with bird parts.

The grass is worn away in tire track formation. I think this is it.

The grass is worn away in tire track formation. I think this is it.

AHHHHH!

AHHHHH!

“You see, Harold, I feel that much of the world’s sorrow comes from people who are *this*, yet allow themselves be treated as *that*.” — Flowers at Mori Point.

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Interlope At Antelope

While driving up to the Bay Area a few weeks back I made a brief, unplanned pit stop at a cemetery on the side of the road in picturesque Coleville, CA .

Antelope Valley Cemetery has a lot in common with many desert cemeteries, and I was struck by the haunting figures guarding some of the graves. Here are some quick unedited snaps of my new friends. Enjoy!

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Lizard!

Lizard!