I can't remember now if it was before or after the end of high school. Juliette and I went to the swimming hole at the end of my street with two friends. At first I just sat on the edge of the chalk shelf and let my feet dangle in the water, while the others went straight in. The water was always chilly there, and the trees and the hillside never let any sunlight down to warm us. The other boy—also named Mike—started talking about shrinkage. He was one of those rare few back then, back before "geek chic" was a thing, who could enthusiastically love obscure movies and made his own stop-motion videos and always had a pop culture reference at his lips, and yet he was still cool, authentically cool. Much cooler than I was.
"Shrinkage factor 15!" he exclaimed.
"You have a scale?" I asked. "Like, a measurement? What does 15 mean?"
"Dude, I just made it up right now because it was funny."
"Oh." Right. Duh.
Juliette's friend, a girl who lived around the corner from me, glided through the water scooping up clumps of algae in her hands and flicking it at us playfully. "Gross!" one of us shouted.
"It's just pond yuck," she said matter-of-factly. "It's fun to squish it."
I don't remember when I actually got in, but at some point I must have decided that hanging off to the side looked worse than taking my shirt off in front of two beautiful girls and a guy from the swim team. I imagine that other kids were just as insecure back then as I was, but I didn't know it then. Though, I guess they didn't know it about me, either.
Cold water, shrinkage, pond yuck, insecurity. That's what I remember. It was thirteen years before I came back to the swimming hole, but by then the river had moved and the rock was naked under the sky. Somewhere else along the river, kids are still flirting and playing and feeling weird, but not right there anymore.
I don't know if I ever feel more Japanese—and simultaneously less Japanese—than I do when I'm at my grandmother's house. More because almost everything I learned about being Japanese I learned from her, in her house. Less because it reminds me how little of my heritage I have in my own daily life.
I took this picture when we were visiting her for Christmas Eve. She didn't have this picture on her wall when I was a kid; I don't remember exactly when she got it. When we were young, my brother and cousins and I would take over her bedroom TV for our video game systems—at first an Atari, then a Nintendo, and so on—and the four of us would hole up in there until just before dinner while the adults did adult things out in the living room. Sometimes we'd watch movies: I remember once my dad's younger cousin came in while we were watching a VHS copy of The Neverending Story, only staying for the opening credits because he liked the song.
It seems smaller now, that room, and a lot quieter. But it makes me glad that my kids have gotten to see it and make some of their own memories there.
New Site Design
In case you were wondering about what motivated this latest layout change, it was about equal parts boredom and a desire to look more like a "real" photographer.
It's been interesting looking back at the various incarnations of this site over the years. It's been a lot of different things at different times as my interests and goals have changed. It's been a link dump, a community site, a collaborative writing system, an RPG tools repository, and a more standard blog. I don't know what it will be five years from now, or even two, but I'm looking forward to finding out.
Sunrise on El Caminito
I drove up the windy road to the top of the hill, my headlights not going far in the twists and turns. When I arrived and got out of my car the sky was just beginning to brighten with false dawn. My breath steamed in the cold air and I shoved my hands in my pockets to keep my fingers warm. I stood there for over an hour as the sun rose.
I knew I'd been at that spot some time before--long before--but I couldn't remember when. It's an odd thing to look out at a place and have it feel familiar and strange at the same time. Maybe it was the perspective--we always lived in the canyons, and the valley looks different from the heights.
I looked out at the little crossroads and the track winding off into the distance, and I wondered where it went. This place, it's in me in a way that nowhere else ever has been. When I was a child I knew a lot of the secret spots that only children do, but even still there are things I don't know about it. If I had stayed, how many more would I know? But then, I stopped exploring before I left. With a job and a family and not much time, would I have even thought to look?