Tuesday, December 16, 2008

And so it is...

I'm in Romania. I'm with Taylor. Nothing out of the ordinary there; some place no one would say, "Yeah! Let's go there!" with Taylor, go figure. We came to pursue a story for Taylor's graduate project on the street children, aka "urchins," that live on the streets of Bucharest following Nicolae Ceausescu's legacy, the Communist leader of Romania who banned contraception and abortion during his reign in hopes of creating a powerful labor force and world army. However, it backfired, leaving the country poor and the children homeless in a place that could not support the new population burst.

The story is sad. Following the Romanian revolution in 1989, the world began to focus on the current state of Romania (albeit for alternative reasons than altruism probably, but thus are international relations) and the horrible condition of these children's lives were thrust into the public eye. The children were living on the streets, or in sewers; they had no education, no family structure and no hope of pursuing a new life forcing many of them to resort to sniffing cheap solvents such as glue or paint thinner to make the days pass less painfully.

But, that's that. No more history lesson today, or probably, any other day, at least for a while. I'm at the point now where I'm ready to go home. In London, I dreaded the day I was leaving, and now, here, sitting in some guy's kitchen in the former Soviet Union, I'm counting down the seconds until I get the hell out of here. It's a strange and interesting feeling, especially in contrast with everything else going on in my life.

I haven't posted in a long, long time. Mostly because I felt it was pretentious. The writing was good, the photos were poor, and for the most part, it became a showcase of things I was forcing. Since then, I've taken my life into new directions - towards wanting to be a photojournalist. I found a story on a gay Muslim man, which my professor nixed due to the lack of Islam in his life (go figure, but finding an openly gay, practicing Muslim is like trying to find a shopping mall on the moon - they're just not out there). So, in a night, I found me a heroin/crack addict. Took some photos of him begging, went out and saw where he bought his drugs. Followd him to his rehab center and watched him sneak in his drugs. Saw him shoot up and smoke crack with the syringe still in his leg. Saw his prison tattoos. Shot horrible photos of it the whole time. No one will ever see them except those who already have.

But, the moral of the story is, I began to do serious work. I began to do things for me. I began to want to do this, not just have to do it. And that, let me tell you, was new to me. However, I was very disappointed in myself. There I had two stories, and I didn't do them right. There, I had something with real potential, and I let myself down. I'd always been a half-assed worker, aware completely of my potential so much so that I decided to never live up to it. Given the opportunity, I realized that maybe I overestimated myself. I continue to feel this way that my whole life I've thought more highly of myself than was actually realistic. That's a harsh blow to deal yourself, but necessary to my growth. I'll forever feel as if my ambition far outweighs my talent, my skills just one step behind my voice.

I've begun to think about the rest of my life, what is going on, where it's going. I've begun to take myself really seriously. Wearing nice clothes was an upgrade, carrying myself more professionally was a meager attempt, but to actually change the way I thought about myself was even more of a trip. I think that's what it all comes from. This trip. Ah, how my life has changed. The person who got on the plane to London in August has died, replaced by the one who will land in Newark on Thursday.

And so now, I find myself in more foreign places. Moldova, Transdnistria, Romania, airport lounges and taxi cabs where the writing is Cyrillic, where the money is small and the economies are bad. I am wandering beneath perpetual grayness in a land where the scowls are contagious. Where I feel unwelcome, unwanted, rejected. And now, I'm in some guy's kitchen smoking cigarettes, about to spend the day in Bucharest alone, trying to get deeper into this dirt; down into the sewers to see more of the street urchin community and doing what I can to soak up what's left of this place. It's as if I've gone out to eat and there's too much oil and vinegar on my plate and I've run out of bread to get it into me. I will leave this place with a feeling that I came at the wrong time, that I didn't give it my all, that I missed something essential.

I'm going to now, say a final sort of goodbye. To this blog, to this life, to the places I've been and the person I was. Goodbye London, you beautiful city of red buses and black cabs, goodbye great fun, goodbye flat 91. Goodbye Cafe Helen, goodbye Faraday House. Goodbye Oxford Street, Picadilly Circus, Hoxton, Soho, Camden and South Bank; goodbye Oyster Card, and my block phone that I paid by the minute for. Goodbye foreign terrritory, goodbye adventure. Goodbye strange feelings, goodbye whoever I was.

But also, I have to say thanks. Thanks for everything. Thanks for the memories, thanks for the growth, thanks for making me who I am, and thanks for putting my ass in gear. Thanks David Sutherland, thanks London staff, thanks London Photo Group, thanks to my friends, to William my landlord, thanks to my parents.

I don't know what I'll get out of these last moments in Eastern Europe when my heart is somewhere in Western Europe and drowning in the Atlantic, if anything. I'm too exhausted to really be enthusiastic about any of this. In the last throws of my passionate love affair with Europe, I find myself anxious and bitterly lonely, ready to endure the arduous journey back to New Jersey, back to my home, and to prepare to get up and get going again. I can't stop moving, I can't stop leaving, but I have to, I have to get my feet on the ground in some way, because despite the fact that I'm paralyzed, I'm ready to run.

Monday, October 27, 2008

I've just returned from Scotland

This morning, I pulled into Euston Station from Glasgow and a weekend in lovely Oban, shortly before 7 am. Given daylight savings time here in the U.K., it gave way to a beautiful sight of mist shone through sunlight against a billowing and broadcasting sky of gray. As the sun rose, I felt home again.

I've got a lot to say on that topic, and frankly, I'm one glass of wine too deep to write about it and post the photos (it's quite a laborious task, you understand).

I've done a bit of writing, a bit of growing, and a bit of exploring of both my self and this wide world over the past week. A week off was much needed, and I return to class anew, as if with new eyes. I am determined to make something of this experience that cannot be shared in anything but story. I am on a mission to find myself a story to tell that is neither my own nor public, I am trying to find something to latch onto.

For now, here is a bit of work I did for my writing class. The assignment was, and I quote: Assignment 3: Analysis of 1) some object related to traveling, 2) some traveling place, OR 3) some London cultural custom that needs explaining.
Writers on this assignment unearth the meaning of a generic object related to traveling (the suitcase or backpack, the souvenir, the guidebook, the map, the passport, etc.) OR they analyse the meaning of generic traveling spaces like airports, train stations, youth hostel rooms, etc. OR they observe and explain something from the perspective of a foreigner in London - some bizarre, or common, or vital part of British society or culture (see the list of Sample Topics below, in this syllabus). Each piece of writing will be evaluated on how insightful and clear the analysis is. Some topics qill require research.

Now, once you get through all that mindless garbage spat at us like chewing tobacco, you get a simple mission: write about something. I originally wrote about my travel journal, but it was very self-worthy, almost like masturbation. I remained very... pretentious, comparing myself to Hemingway and Picasso, both of which, I admire greatly but am by no means comparable to.

In the end, I wrote this:

David Mountain
The Passport

The origins of the passport date back to the Persian Empire, as noted in the Hebrew Bible. The King Artaxerxes I gave a piece of parchment to his servant Nehemiah to grant him safe passage as he traveled through Judea. Though not as we know today, this was perhaps the first piece of parchment that acted as a symbol of safe passage during travels to lands unknown. They have, of course, since changed both in form and manner and have become the handy companion of all those who seek out to witness new territories, albeit legally.

Exact origins of the name “passport” remain unknown, though scholars of language could derive its meaning to “pass” through the gates (Latin: “porte”), or borders by common speak, of foreign lands. The general premise has always remained the same: to legitimize travel and to document the places the holder has gone, and will go.

Before photography existed, these passports were simple sheets of paper, letters even, that included where and where not one was allowed to make a destination. The passport was the key to lands only previously locked in imagination, the document was a silent witness of one’s past, there only for the journey to make these explorations valid to whomever cared to mind the passport. To the holder, it could act as a testament of a life once lived, in another place, with other people, as if in another reality. And, for all it is worth, this has fortunately stayed the same.

Passports have become the necessity of all those seeking to get up and leave, to try out a new set of soil and to dust oneself with the earth of another’s home. The common passport, varying in color and design, varies from country to country. Spain and some of Europe bind theirs in maroon, the United States donning a royal blue fa├žade that has become markedly more elaborate through the years as to thwart counterfeiters. Strange, as it may seem; these passports that once granted passage and let all wanderlust adventurers’ dreams come true, now act as barriers to places on this earth, as the borders become more strict and the governments more exact as to who is allowed into their tracts.

When I was a child, I was given my first passport by my parents, though, I guess, technically it was by the government’s allowance. No more than a boy, I had my photo taken, and in weeks, I received a thick binding that has since, until its expiration, acted to remind me of the places I’d been. Though the picture, horrid, reflects a boy I once was, the places that stamped their seal announcing my arrival travel with me even to this day. Gone is the boyish grin or the curly cue at the front of my hair, but you’d be hard pressed to find a moment when these places have left me. I have since received two more passports. They each took their fair share of beating and their edges became worn, only to be replaced by something new and shiny. The pictures are in their places and they reflect someone I no longer am, though, upon further investigation they bring up memories I cannot shake. The Bermudan stamp marked in the summer of 2003 stings my back with sunburn attributed to shirtless snorkeling; the French mark tastes of cow brains and escargot; the fading Canadian pound fills me with fresh air and the ecstasy of a good trek through the woods.

My current passport, shiny and new, is far more sophisticated than that of my old one. Implanted with microchips and elaborate detail on each page, it bears no resemblance to my old one – except the photo is equally horrible. Dave Barry, a comic writer, said of passport photos: “To enter Europe, you must have a valid passport with a photograph of yourself in which you look like you are being booked on charges of soliciting sheep.” Though sheep herding is perhaps not my profession, I do look a bit appalling. Ugly and obtuse, this photo reflects nothing of me. The intense security blanketing the pages reflects little of my lifestyle; I am very carefree and walk down dark alleys with change in my pockets. However, the stamp is all me – Heathrow Airport / August 2008, says, as if admitting to the world and whoever’s face that is (certainly not mine) on the first page, that I had in fact made it there.

How glorious the days before passports must have been. Free, you were, to run amok across borders and into territories as far as the eye could see. No one to say “don’t do that” or “show me proof of your purpose” but only you against the elements across barren landscapes and pitted against or for foes or friends that you met in these places. Constricting, this passport is. Holding you in, asking you to check in with a faceless gatekeeper before exploring the globe how you see fit. It is sad that we now need permits, which is really what these passports are, to enter and leave.

You cannot travel without a passport any more. Though in older days it was entirely possible, today it is travelers taboo. It’s doubtful that Lewis and Clarke, on their infamous journey to map the West, took with them photographs or likenesses of themselves with a presidential seal allowing them to act as they pleased in Native American and French territories. However, today, it remains a necessity to both enter and leave a country. Even your own home you cannot return to were you to forget your passport. You would, of course, have it sorted out, but after much headache and brazen scolding by border police.

Strange, I often think, how much this little booklet of memories elicits fodder for fantasy as to where exactly I will go next. It is blank, new, and will not expire for some ten years. It holds no recollection of the passports past or the passports future, but it documents my travels for a ten year span. Oh, how it will fill with stamps that upon a second glance, will burst through the thick binding and rush through my eyes in the years to come, they will preserve those memories and forsake me for ever forgetting where I’d been, who I was, or what my life once resembled. The picture, too, a reflection of a life past, the blank pages pressing me further to fill them. Imploring me to explore. Daring me to leave it behind and see where I get.

Music I Like This Week:

If I Were You I'd Pay Attention To:
and the fact that we bombed Syria.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Rainy Day Mix #1 - Complacency

No photos. Man Week commences as Helen leaves Luke and I to our lonesome. Wonderfully rainy today, stayed in. Ahhhh.....

Because I'm bored, I've decided to make a playlist of songs for a rainy day. We shall call this, "Rainy Day Mix #1 - Complacency"

Music I Like This Week:

If I Were You I'd Pay Attention To:
That video above
Colin Powell Endorses Obama
Free bikes? Ballin...
Tijuana? Sweetest place ever? If you're into killing and drugs and other immoral activities.

Friday, October 17, 2008


Wow, what a week. Midterms are whores. Everything about school is ludicrous. I did however have an epiphany - I really like photojournalism as a career. Despite the fact that I don't really do much photojournalism, I think that the idea of it is simply fantastic. I like thinking about being a photojournalist a lot, maybe more than actually being one. This, is a little ditty I made in about three hours for class. I put Bach to it because it makes it more elegant, plus, the ladies love it.

With that said, news of my life- there are like 40 thousand people here. In reality, my parents, two friends, and one of Luke's high school buddies, are here. Liz went to Morocco. Graham and Ada were going, but they stayed. Let's view it as a math equation. L is Liz, Graham is G, Ada is A, Luke: Lu, Helen: H, and Me: D. Let's try and see if we can figure this out.

Originally, the house is LGALuHD. Now, when people go on vacation, we have one of those variables missing. We were expecting visitors in the house: N (Ned), E (Erica) and A (Amanda) as our new additions.

With the trip; LGALuHD - LGA = LuHD. LuHD + NEA = LuHDNEA. However due to the complications of GA staying, GALuHDNEA is the current solution. Now, we only have room in this house for six variables (and even then its cramped) but we have to equate that accordingly.

LuHDNEA = 8, AS (Available Space) = 6, so 6+8=14. 14*62 = 868. That is two 8's with a 6 in the middle of it. According to the commutative property of equality, I am not wearing underwear.

And now for something completely different.

The Alfred E. Smith Memorial Dinner was last night, and believe it or not... I laughed at jokes John McCain said. Obama was downright hilarious. I like him. Who do you think is funnier? Answer in my poll.

Nothing to pay attention to today, because I don't want to post much more. People want to do stuff, so, I'll post twice as much music tomorrow (and I've got some good ones to post).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I swear, later today, I will post photos.

Carrotmob Makes It Rain from carrotmob on Vimeo.

Until then, watch that video. It's a great fucking idea.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A President Who Is Human

Today's post will be a reprieve from the usual candor of photography and general awesomeness to bring you something I find pressing, the presidential elections:

According to Fox News (my favorite) Barack Obama bummed cigarettes on the campaign trail.


Not to mention, he did some serious work last night and, as hackers would say, pwned the noob McCain. I am proud to say that most places are saying the Obama won last night. I'm eagerly awaiting the final one, which should be either the nail in the coffin, or the hand reaching from the grave. We will see.

I took some notes last night during the debate, because I am a gentleman and a scholar, and this is basically what my analysis says:

McCain uses the term "America" to talk about the middle class. He uses "America" because he doesn't know anyone in the middle class.

McCain had a wonderful opportunity to tackle the energy crisis we're heading towards when asked whether he would support a Silicone Valley type of deal (funding lots of people trying different things) or a government regulated and funded project, like the Manhattan Project. He didn't answer the question.

Obama often ran too long and didn't fully answer the questions at hand, using his time rather to attack his opponent and then drawing relevance when Tom Brokaw waved his hand and told him to stop talking. It was kind of arrogant of him to later ask to respond, despite the agreements set before the debate.

McCain is 72 and should be living off of Social Security. However, he isn't because he's married to an heiress and is a wealthy Senator. He knows nothing of the problem. To quote Good Will Hunting, "You're an orphan, right? You think I know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist? Does that encapsulate you?"

Obama uses personal stories too much but has very few public speaking flaws. He sometimes belabored the points.

Obama clearly laid out three priorities (Alternative Energy, Health Care, and Education, in that order) and McCain claimed to be able to do everything at once. Obama leaned towards Keynesism and McCain leaned towards Friedmanism. Neither seem to be economists or too well read in the theories, like myself.

Obama is much better dressed and can lift his arms higher.

Teddy Roosevelt would have attacked Pakistan when he got information that terrorists were hiding there. He would have probably gone in himself, on horseback, and kicked at least three people in the face. Immediately after, he would have gotten drunk and shot skeet with Musharraf. I don't see McCain really emulating his "idol."

Obama constantly didn't answer questions, such as his last one.

McCain did answer the final question, he was asked what he doesn't know. He said what comes next remains a mystery to him. Which is to say, "I'm very experienced, look at how well prepared I've always been, I always see things ahead of time, I have no idea what being president will be like."

Tom Brokaw is awesome and I'd like to make him some sort of pastry.

Notes to look at:

Sunday, October 5, 2008


I went to Stamford Bridge today and saw Chelsea play some of the best football I've ever seen. Frank Lampard is a phenomenal player and I couldn't beat him in football even if I was playing xbox verse him in real life.

I am running out of money, and fast. The economy is tanking, the world is going to implode, and I have came up with a solution: I am including a wonderful new tool!


Linked to my account, you can now give me money because you love me. Or this blog. Or need to come up with things to write off in your taxes. Please, if you have StumbledUpon this website. Give me money. You owe me for being in the presence of my blog (hey, it works for religion...).

Also, we eat at Cafe Helen all of the time, which has the best shawarma on the PLANET, living in Marble Arch, you can hold a competition.

Brian Skiba, in his infinite glory, happened across this:

I love you. Think of me when you need to get rid of some money fast.