Drew had been weaving his way through the country on his motorcycle for nearly two months when he arrived in Oakland. He texted me the day before from Oregon looking for a place to crash. I told him I had a couch for him and he stayed three nights. We floated around the Uptown bars on Friday and took the ferry to the city on Saturday where we had brunch at Mama’s in North Beach and walked the Embarcadero. It had been a year since we last saw each other, just a few days before I had moved to California in August ‘13. It was outside of Hardware on Allen St in Buffalo. I remember it was raining and it was the day he had bought his new motorcycle. I had no idea at the time that it would be the same motorcycle I would follow down the Cabrillo Hwy on the final leg of his cross-country, one-way trip to Los Angeles. Having his luggage in the car freed him up to fully encounter the winding, cliff-cut roads of the CA-1 and I was able to finish the full tour of the scenic highway that I’d halfway completed in 2011 before a rock-slide in Big Sur detoured my friend and me to the 101 via Nacimiento-Fergusson Road which is the only car route that crosses the Santa Lucia Range to Salinas Valley.
Along the way we camped at Andrew Morales SP in Big Sur and on the beach at Point Mugu SP. We pulled off the road once to watch a group of whales silently swim by and another time to watch a group of kite surfers. Drew took pictures with a Hasselblad that he had recently acquired through a moment of happenstance with someone in Buffalo. Before we left Oakland he opened his backpack, removed a ziplock bag containing a few dozen rolls of 120 film that he shot and held it up like a trophy. He hopes to put on an exhibit displaying his trip photos somewhere in LA soon.
Above is a photo I took of Drew in Big Sur. You can see others I have shared on Flickr.
Last fall, I was inspired to make a music video for the track “Ache” by Pharmakon after listening to her album Abandon many, many times over the summer.
The video was filmed in Syracuse, NY and Northern Nevada and contains various HD shots of classic cars, clouds, landscape, flora, and people, among other things. In an attempt to capture the nature of Margaret Chardiet’s pseudonym which means “both poison and remedy, at the same time,” the footage is assembled as a quilt-like hallucination, unveiling the benevolent and poisonous consequences of a device that has revolutionized urbanism, ecology, industry, and exploration in the United States and the world: the automobile.
In late July I attended the Nationals, a classic car show which takes place in Upstate New York. While I have no concrete enthusiasm in the world of classic cars, these events are interesting to me. People drive from all over the country, in a car, to park it, show it off, and walk around and look at the gallery of others. Most on display are over 30 years old, and yet they look newer than the day they were bought. On the surface, these events enshrine, if not fetishize autos—an invention that has shaped American lifestyles to enhance transportation and industry ten-fold. And while we’ve reshaped the course of history through the automobile, we’ve since become greedy and unnecessarily competitive, as we have shifted our philosophy in manufacturing, bringing many dependent towns and cities to their knees, while contributing to the detriment of our precious ecosystems, and henceforth bringing our entire planet to its knees.
Close your eyes in a silent room with the window open, what do you hear? Cars. They are miniature shelters; you engage a pedal, and it puts you in high-speed motion faster than any living creature can journey on its own, to any place you want to go, and when you get there, the car sits. A car is forever either in one single place (a garage/driveway/lot) or any place you take it. It has no will, it’s a slave to velocity, and it’s a slave to sloth.
In the video, I want to show every possible experience of the automobile. In some shots, they are opened up as corpses, shown off to Kevorkian-lilted smiles that profess a certain joy in the cut of the ignition and opening of the hood. In the same instance we have the car as modern porn actor—stripped-down, enlarged, fully-loaded, waxed, perfumed, humming to perform. The reflection in the paint mirrors only the likeness of a natural world, and while we make no hesitation to blow smoke in its face, we seem to forget the foundation of innovation that the invention had in the first place. Like a painting, sculpture, or any piece of work, we have moved beyond the broad brushstrokes of the Cadillac Series 62, clipped its gaudy wings, and have returned to the drawing board to make a better product.
The classic car is all at once an act of nostalgia, rebellion, masturbation, worship, and resurrection. Most importantly, the automobile reminds us that, we too, are empty, waiting for a passenger—someone to make us go. Cars are a catalyst for love and homesickness, but they also represent a perpetual state of being in limbo. The act of traveling long distances in a car has a strange way of exciting us like no other form of transportation. It’s a DIY affair as we make beelines that imbue feelings of hope and expectation. Cars provide a certain window to the future, but they also fool us into counting on this particular future to be better than the past, and in some way, this makes cars haunted by their future pilots. Finally, and paradoxically, like cars, we suffer from neglect, and eventually the delayed chemical reactions take their course and if we stay in one place too long (especially if that place is dark and cloudy) we tend to break down even faster, and being empty, we give up our hope of future travel and a beeline of inertia takes its course.
Soundtracking all of these images, and setting the tone for the entire experience is Pharmakon’s “Ache”. From the sinister bass lines at the beginning of the video, which bubbles over footage of an abandoned 50s-era auto in the hazy Nevada desert, to the haunting chorus of vocal layering culminating over a kaleidoscope of shots, the video takes a seemingly ordinary summer event and upends it, eventually leaving the audience lost on a dark, rainy road without foresight or fuel.