These are ribbons and scraps of saris I collected while traveling through North India. In Jaipur I visited an upscale sari shop, and one of the salesmen allowed me to take home scraps of fabric for “research.” This involved a fun trek through a back-alley workshop where wedding saris were being made. There were piles of fabric scraps to choose from, and unfortunately I didn’t have enough room in my luggage to bring home all of them. I bought some of the ribbons in Delhi from a street-front store that exclusively sold decorative ribbon.
This week I took time to sort through and document my travel drawings from the last 10 years. Here are a few:
(Done in Madrid, May 2002)
Jaisalmer, India, 2009
Rishikesh, India, 2009
Delhi, India, 2009
Green Bay, Wisconsin
This is a deceptive photo: Its December in Green Bay, and there isn’t any snow. Everything else in the photo is authentic Green Bay—the farmhouse style home, the enthusiasm for the holidays, the affinity for creatures of the north woods, and the sheer spectacle. When I describe Green Bay to New Yorkers, it fits a similar picture—a place that is at once modest, cozy, humble, and completely absurd. It is a mill-worker’s town with a wildly celebrated professional football team. And yet like the absence of snow in this photo, there is something missing in my description of Green Bay.
These photos were taken when I was home two weeks ago. This house is 2 blocks from where my parents live, on the West side of Green Bay, about 2 miles from Lambeau Field. However, when I lived there, this house never had Christmas lights, which is where the “place” of the present, and the “place” of memory begin to paint two different Green Bays.
The hometown I often describe is a pastiche of cliches and fond memories. There are stories of snow-days when we didn’t have to go to school because we could barely shovel our way out of the house—my parents pulling me to church on a sled (allegedly). Then there are stories about the Packers and weird food: there are fans who scatter relatives ashes on Lambeau Field, men who go bare-chested at football games in below-zero temperatures, and you can get cheese in a million varieties—fried in a ball, as a spread in a plastic jar, or in the shape of pretty much any star of the Packers.
Two weeks ago when I was home, I thought I’d try to photograph the things that are most uniquely “Green Bay,” but as my Dad drove me around past all the Packer sites, over the old Dousman Street bridge and past Old Town Brewery, it felt foreign. No, those sites are the Green Bay of Sunday afternoon television—the view from the blimp over the game. The Green Bay I know is the one of childhood, and it exists mostly in my imagination.
My Green Bay consists of bookshelves at the Brown County Library, the diving boards at Fisk Pool, and the ping-pong table in my family’s basement. Even now I could locate the books on gymnastics at the library, know which blankets to use to build a fort under the table, and I’d know how high I’d go by jumping off the low-dive, except they don’t have diving boards at the pool anymore.
I was only home for a few days. I ate a grilled ham and cheese sandwich at Kroll’s West, I played in a cribbage tournament with my Dad (we won half our games), shared an entire pot of drip-coffee over breakfast with my Mom at Perkins, and accompanied my Mom to the local mall where they were selling green and gold painted Christmas trees. However, the moment when I felt most at home was from the window seat of the airplane as we lifted up and over the city. From the air I looked out over a city dusted in late autumn reds and purples, and traced my way up to the west-side: there is the track from my high school; there is the empty local swimming pool; there is the street that goes to my house.
(this is a photo taken by my Mom or Dad in 2000, in the driveway of the house my parents have lived in for more than 40 years. I was on my way back to Chicago).
A few of my favorite places.