Update: trying to get back into the habit


A certain kind of Southern fall is upon us with slightly cold mornings and nights. The days are often still too hot for a sweater. Over this past weekend, I was out playing pool with some friends at night, and it felt nice wearing my hat and sweater. I was hopelessly giddy. “I’m in my fall mode,” I said, knowing the temperature would probably go back to being hot the next day. Also, I don’t always play pool but when I do, I swear I’m not terrible.



A girl like me searching for a quiet moment in Astoria Park.

Ever since I got back from NYC, it’s been harder to get back into writing regularly on here. Although, I started editing my poems and looking for places to pitch my articles, I still feel distracted. My mind seems a little more cluttered, since I got back. The constant flow of people, and the need to go out and do something left me feeling empty. This feeling is also attributed to the constant news updates regarding our collective national drama. I mean you want to be informed, but not so preoccupied.

With so many things going on when I visited, there was hardly any time for sitting down and contemplating. Sometimes you really have to isolate yourself if you want to get any work done. I’ve realized, it’s harder to get back into the habit of writing when you’ve abandoned it. You often go days without jotting your thoughts, and they start piling up and you don’t know what you’ve done, or your thoughts in that particular moment. Things fade when they were never reflected upon in the first place.

Stumbled upon this cool alleyway in the lower east side.

When I landed into LaGuardia Airport and walked off to take the local bus to my house, I was immediately met with an onslaught of confused people, who didn’t know how buy Metrocards for the M60 bus. Sadly, I was one them. I was suddenly a tourist coming to visit. “You mean you can’t buy a Metrocard from the machines?” I asked a guy. “Yea, you have to go back inside the airport to get one if you don’t all ready have one.” I remembered then that you had to insert your Metrocard to get a ticket in order to board the bus, and I also remembered how stupid this was.

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I decided to sit down in Union Square Park for a bit and look at the landscape of people passing by.

My neighborhood isn’t the noisiest, though on some nights walking by the N train in Astoria, it was suddenly livelier than usual. I noticed some new bars and restaurants, and there was even a lounge, a place for casual dancing on Ditmars Blvd with its name written in neon pink letters. Had I been a freshman in college, perhaps I would have welcomed a site like this. One night walking back home I noticed, smoke encircling customers sitting by the bar with neon pink lights. It was clear the establishment was going for a club atmosphere even within the small confines. It was a bit outlandish, and not remotely associated with the quaintness of Ditmars. I found comfort in my family, the cats and a quiet garden to sooth the busyness of the outside world. It also didn’t help that on my first night back I found myself in Hell’s Kitchen for a friend’s birthday party. It was a chaotic welcome to my old city. Granted, I was happy to see my friend, and the view of the rooftop lounge made up for the commute.

I stopped by to see this lady on a sunny day, and discovered how extensive the creative process was to sculpt and build her.

I had some wonderful days in NYC, visiting the MET and getting lost with my sister, hanging out at a bar in Woodside with my favorite couple, seeing One World Trade Center for the first time, including the Oculus (transportation hub) which was probably dreamed up after a Sci-fi movie, visiting the east village with friends, and thinking I was too old for this place, sitting by the staircase in Grand Central, wandering around my favorite bookstore—Strand, taking the ferry to see Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty with my family (I know it’s touristy, but all this time living in New York, I never visited), a surprise stop in the Queens Museum with a friend from college, hanging out by Prospect Park, getting a tour of a Red Hook brewery from an old friend, and showing my partner around my city. On one of those nights, I also went to a poetry reading at the New School.

Surprise visit to the Queens Museum exhibition on my last day, brought the trip full circle.

I miss the array of activities one can find in NYC. There’s a wider possibility of outcomes, but the same can be said for New Orleans, although here, the land stretches out farther.


Observing the life of a Peacock

​I found a peacock last year, as I walked around Hacienda Collpa near Cajamarca, Peru. He was wandering around the garden outside a small chapel, which seemed mostly for decoration. The tour guide, who walked us around the Hacienda or ranch the entire afternoon, eventually let us roam free after leading us to a chapel. There were two rows of manicured lawns with cactus, small statues and plants bordering the edges as if to restrict them from anyone ruining the garden.

We were surrounded by mountains, forested areas, and an artificial lake decorated by small bridges and tiny houses.

At the ranch they mostly raised cows for the production of milk, cheese, condescend milk and other derivatives. They are also famous for its named cows that are able to answer to their names. (There was a demonstration where the ranchers were calling the cows by name, one by one, as they walked to their stables, but I was sad to see that if they did not respond they were whipped.) There was one named Esperanza who was my sister’s favorite. It looked the saddest out of the bunch. “She is much older and has seen a lot,” my sister said. I was angered that one of the ranchers was wearing a “Red Skin” jacket. He himself was indigenous, which I found paradoxical. It’s possible that no one told him that Red Skin is considered a racial slur often used to show contempt for Native Americans.

People always get excited about old churches and chapels, but that day I decided not to peek inside. There was a clock a top the door, which seemed painted on, but upon close inspection, I realized it was a real clock with numbers, though it appeared not to be telling the time, since the hands weren’t moving. Below there was an inscription: “ORA ET LABORA,” which is Latin for “pray and work.” The tour guide had mentioned that many of the workers were Christians. By now, I could hear comments from people exiting the chapel about what they had seen inside.

On the side of the chapel there was a shaggy, neglected area near a dry fountain where a peacock pranced around without much direction until I saw it. He seemed to be ignoring the commotion around until he realized he was being watched. He became anxious and walked a little quicker. It didn’t help that some lady said, “It’s a pavo real,” meaning peacock.

I was waiting for the peacock’s tail to spring up, but it never did. I figured with no peahens or females around he wouldn’t want to. The tail wasn’t lengthy enough to drag on the floor, so I assumed it was hidden under the outer wings. It’s normal for younger peacocks not to have fully developed ornamental tails. It’s elongated neck was a vibrant blue, fading into a sea green, whereas the females have neutral, subtle colors, and don’t have the ornamental feathers that spreads out like a fan.

Peacocks don’t have to be killed for their feathers. They shed them regularly and they can be used to make earrings.

Indian Peafowl, which this peacock closely resembled, are native to South Asia, but over the centuries humans have introduced these birds to different parts of the world, including South American where it seems they can easily adjust to the conditions of the Peruvian countryside. While peafowl exist in the wild, it’s an old custom to keep peacocks in gardens as ornaments, as it was usually done in castles and large estates.

I always wonder how peacocks manage to survive. Carrying a giant tail makes them an easy target for larger predators, but I also think it’s unlikely anyone is tempted to eat a bird mostly made up of 60% feathers. Peahens on the other hand can easily become pray. But it helps that they hang out in groups more frequently than the males who are loners; there’s usually one male with a harem of peahens.

Surprisingly, peahens and peacocks can fly to the safety of low branches. They may not be able to fly far, but at least they can escape. They also mostly eat ground animals and some crops. In older societies peacocks sometimes served the functional purpose of keeping gardens free of snakes.

Peacocks evolved in such a way that males use their ornate trains in courtship display, raising the feathers into a fan and making them quiver to catch a female’s attention. A well maintained tail is an indicator of a suitable body condition, which points to mating success. Scientists argue that this trait can be accurately explained through natural selection and not simply sexual selection, since females don’t just select males based on their plumage. The selection may also be influenced by other factors. The peacock’s feisty behavior, loud call and its ornamental train have been formed by natural selection. Its plumage serves as a warning coloration to intimidate predators and rivals. This characteristic is often seen in frogs and snakes.

There is a magic quality to peacocks with their vibrant plumage and ornamental fan display, like rare gems with emerald greens, dark blues and shimmery browns. It’s no surprise peacocks are symbolic to many cultures. As the national bird of India, it has been depicted in art, poetry, mythology, and folk music. It’s also a symbol of royalty, often found in throne engravings. The Buddha Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light has peacocks adorning his throne. Peacocks have also been used in early Christian paintings and mosaics. In Buddhism the peacock represents wisdom, and the feathers are used in many rituals and ornamentations. When I was little, I remember hearing that peacocks drank poison so others wouldn’t have to get sick, and as a result had such magical and vibrant plumage.

A reading of Burma Chronicles


Burma Chronicles reads off like a journal with various entries to encapsulate singular episodes that developed during Guy Delisle’s visit to this small nation in Southeast Asia. In one of his previous non-fiction graphic novels, he wrote about his travels to the sheltered North Korea. In comparison, Burma had a not so gloomy quality where he goes around pushing his baby in a stroller down the street and interacting with Burmese neighbors, learning about their customs, and finding a group of young animators eager to learn from him. Delisle reveals his curiosity and humor when dealing with elements that are outside his comfort zone or when things stray from the normalcy of western democracies. He travels with a sense of curiosity and inquiry that lead him to peculiar, but enlightening places.

In Pyongyang –A Journey in North Korea, we see that a severely strict society makes it hard for the common people to interact with tourists unless they have official roles, and for the tourists there is always a sense of being under surveillance, especially since the government orchestrates travel itineraries, so workers fear saying anything that might get them in trouble. Still, Delisle always seems to find subtle ways of resisting. Albeit, when Burma Chronicles was published, the country was under strict military rule that clamped down on the press and locked the opposition. (It’s not so different today, even though Aung San Suu Kyi is a government official. She’s a winner of the novel peace prize and a former political prison) The Burmese are aware of the political fights between the generals in government, and they’re not afraid to express their feelings about military rule, of course with the right people, since they still cannot freely march on the streets. Despite poverty in many areas, the common people have a variety of jobs and roles. There are street vendors, plenty of markets, music emanating in different corners, black market goods like American movies, celebrations, funeral parades, and the strong presence of Buddhism and international NGOs.

Powerful panels in Pyongyang –A Journey in North Korea, by Guy Delisle.

Delisle’s wife is on Doctor’s Without Borders mission (MSF) and mostly spends time in a secluded village, so Delisle stays home to take care of their son with the help of a Burmese nanny. When Delisle takes the baby out for a stroll, the ladies of the neighborhood are enthralled with some wanting to carry him, leaving Delisle on the side, as people call out the baby’s name from far away. In another section, after walking around the neighborhood and seeing all the barbed wires and security guards, Guy begins asking himself: why military officers and other rich Burmese need so much protection in a country almost devoid of thieves? The generals are fearful of opposition and squash any rebellion even from other military generals. They fear a coup. Upon speaking to Maung Aye, the friendly guard of the house, he learns that Burmese have started to lose hope; when a dictator dies and everyone thinks the country will change, it simply falls in the hands of another ruthless general.

There are quiet and sometimes melancholy moments like when Delisle meets an old woman who tells him about the 1988 government shut down of the universities. She tells Guy how horrible the country has become. “In my state I got no one to fear, I can speak my mind,” she says. When he visits a Buddhist monastery, he is left alone with his thoughts as he follows the routine of the day of getting up at 3am, taking notice of his steps as he lines up before the last meal of the day at 11 am, and goes to meditate and quiet his thoughts once again. After three days, he feels like he has been there for a month. In the appropriately titled, “The rainy season began suddenly,” there’s a quiet scene of him drawing as he notices rain coming down outside his window. “It looks…like it’s… going to…” The last panel has a drawing of a downpour.

In the “First field visit,” he travels to a secluded zone that lacks medical care with his girlfriend on behalf of MSF. After traveling for hours from the city on different buses, they finally arrive in Mudon, a small village. While his girlfriend is on duty, he goes on bike to explore and finds small cottages with gardens. He notices the system the Burmese have for rain proofing their roofs by attaching dry leaves to the wooden frames. Some of my favorite panels include observations and dialogue that give you a sense of substance and meaning as he makes these small discoveries. In another one, Delisle and his friend get stranded in the rain, and a Burmese family offers them shelter. “We’re served tea and, after some polite chitchat, silence settles in. We all listen to the rain fall.” In another scene, his students take him to an old animator’s house, one who inspired them to draw when they were younger, and he realizes how far away he is, but so close to people who share his passion for drawing.

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Today, Burma is now referred to as Myanmar; the name was previously changed by a military-led government, which was not recognized by international countries. Recently, Burma has been seeing an uptake in democratic reforms since 2008, and switched to a more liberal democracy after Aung San Suu Kyi was released. Though her party won the majority of seats in parliament in 2015, people have expressed disappointment with the lack of transformative reforms. The government, despite having a democratically elected president, still has strong ties to the military, and has not changed its old ways. Reporting laws have relaxed, but it still remains restrictive. The new laws are an attempt for Journalists to follow a set of guidelines and practice “self-censorship.” In 2014, five journalists were given a 10-year sentence after reporting on a new chemical weapons plant. Political prisoners have not been freed and human rights abuses continue, for example, against ethic minorities like the Rohingya Muslim people, who the Burmese government refuses to recognize as citizens even though they have lived there for generations.

I should be staying way from graphic novels about dictatorships in Asia, but I can’t help spot the familiar tactics (the lies!) that are present in this white house administration. Albeit, right now it seems foolish to compare the two, seeing as how we are still a democracy; we vote for our elected officials and there are checks and balances, but even within these bounds there is plenty of “democratic sliding,” meaning there are elected official who are undermining democratic institutions either in speech or action. Some of it might go unnoticed such as small legal changes, while other ones are blatantly deteriorating longstanding democratic values of the free press and rule of law. As of late we have been seeing a rampant criminalizing of immigrants. The scapegoating of one particular group allows the government to conduct unjust raids and on minors and families living in this country. Most recent the white house administration has demanded the voting records of the 50 states as a ploy to fix “voter fraud.” This information is private and should not be shared with the white house. Many experts fear this is being done to purge records or to intimidate and suppress voters. While we wait for the big one, these seemingly benign, yet not so benign actions, will add up.

Dictatorships have always sought to control the message in order to suppress negative stories from the press, which undoubtedly spreads if government policies hurt the public. It’s not that these corrupt governments have a communication problem of relaying what their goals and successes are, but they have political and policy issues, which the media must portray accurately.

Burma Chronicles, by Guy Delisle.

Vanishing Isle de Jean Charles

 Isle de Jean Charles, located in the southern Louisiana Bayou, is home to the Band of Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indians. The island is quickly vanishing due to environmental problems from coastal erosion to canals dredged in the nearby marshland by oil and gas companies. These problems are further exasperated by a rising sea level. In 2016, the state used 48 million in grants to resettle 100 members of the island’s Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw tribe. Many residents say that after a heavy storm surge or hurricane, few are able to leave the island for safety. 


Isle de Jean Charles, Louisiana

After the ongoing curves we arrived on Island road. It was a thin strip, a two-way road, on the same level as the water. It became pertinent that I stayed glued to the left. If I glided too much to the right I would be driving over the gulf of Mexico, and sinking slowly. The two-way road was still somewhat spacious, though there were often large puddles of water. I drove on the opposite lane for fear of getting into a deep puddle or splashing the people fishing on the sides of the road. In front of me, I saw that half the road was covered in the water, but I figured the jeep could handle it, so I passed along carefully.

The sky was its truest blue with only a few white clouds hanging lazily in the background. On both sides of the road endless water and the land was protected by rocks and gravel. This was no time to drive fast, since it meant heading directly into water. We drove down, wondering where we could park. We passed a submarine and a sign that read “We’re not moving off this Island. If some people want to move, they can go. But leave us alone. The people have the right to live where they want, not where people tell them to go and live…”

Here the roads were wider and there was little flooding. There was a faded light pink house on high stilts with a long staircase on the side. “The water must get that high,” my partner said. I wondered if anyone lived in these houses, if  they just came on weekends or, if they abandoned them to the gulf.

There wasn’t anyone walking in the street. We stopped where it said Dead End, since up ahead the road had been thoroughly covered by water. It did not appear deep, but I did not see any land after that point. It could be the road was only just below the water, but I didn’t want to risk it. Other cars stopped at that point too, thinking they would cross, but then they weren’t sure so they headed back. Later on I saw two bicyclists without backpacks or water bottles, which meant they had come from nearby. “These people came by bike all the way from New Orleans,” I told my partner laughing.

We walked around for a short while over a small hill on the right, which left us by an open body of water. I used my binoculars to spot birds. All I could see were Red-winged Blackbirds flying above us. Two men were revving up their small motorboat. I stared at them through my binoculars then waved and they waved back. We walked to a blue house with a sign in the front that had a fish. I couldn’t see much else from where I was standing. We passed the parking lot, and made out something about fishing hooks on the sign. We decided to check it out. For the most part everyone on the road and around here had been friendly. We went up the stairs, hoping to find food or at least directions.

At the top of the staircase, we saw some long tables and chairs. No one was around except two or three men. One of them came toward us, said hello and shook our hands. He had a calming and honest quality about him, and his eyes told me he meant what he said. He introduced himself as Theo. He was bald and wore a white shirt. “I was wondering if y’all were going to continue driving.” I told him we left our car just past the parking lot. Storm Cindy had passed a couple of days ago so we wondered if they had any major flooding. Theo said that there was two feet of water by Island road and down the road after the Dead End sign. “How long have you been living here?” I asked. He said he had been in the island for 80 years, but lived in Houma now, and only came back to take care of his father’s house. Theo looked younger than 80.

Thoughts on womanhood

Yesterday it was women’s international day and #daywithoutawoman, and I chose to celebrate the women in my family on Facebook. Earlier in the year I travelled to Peru, and I was fortunate enough to see my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Much of the time I spent surrounded by women, since the majority of my family is made up of women whom I admire and feel close to. It was nice being surrounded by my aunts and cousins, hearing their stories, ambitions, where they are in life, their worries, as well as their triumphs. While traveling, I observed the role that Peruvian women play at home, at work, in society. I would walk, and see the women vendors, mothers taking their kids to school, or shopping in the market, well-dressed women going to work with their heels and handbags over their shoulder, teenage girls at a punk concert throwing their hands up. They seemed to have found a place that was truly their own. As an observer I don’t know the burdens they carry everyday, the people they have to deal with, the men who shut them down, the laws that don’t defend their rights, or if they feel a sense of guilt for not being the “ideal woman” carved out by society. Gathered below are some photos of the women I saw during my time in the city of Lima and Cajamarca. There is no one definition for femininity or beauty; there is just the search for a life that is truly yours, one where you are respected and not taken for granted.

Punk rock, cumbia concert in Lima. It was super loud; I’m not sure how anyone had their hearing left.


I captured a mom and her daughters as they were leaving the spot where they sold accessories in Barranco, Lima.


A girl selling ice-cream in Cajamarca, while she walked through traffic pushing the cart.


A group of women making wool purses and earrings out of fallen bird feathers in Cajamarca.


Her job is to care for the bulls. She took this one out to greet the visitors entering the Granja Porcon in Cajamarca.



Atlanta: Sweet Auburn

Last month, I visited Atlanta for several days for a conference with AmeriCorps and Hunger Free America, which focuses on highlighting economic inequalities in the nation, and works to find solutions to end hunger and poverty through local programs. Visiting Atlanta was poignant especially after knowing the facts: it’s economy earnings rank 68th among 100 American cities, the unemployment rate is higher than the national unemployment rate, and the state minimum wage is $5.15 an hour, lower than the federal standard. Atlanta is a lovely city and deserves more attention.

On my first night there I walked to the Skyview Ferris Wheel with a couple of the AmeriCorps members, as white and red lights illuminated the blocks from far away. We entered the nearby park and saw kids, families, couples walking or sitting on benches. It was by no means deserted, but it also wasn’t a loud boisterous space. Instead people were out and about on a Wednesday night. There was a water fountain with lights, where water would shoot up from the floor, during intervals, while kids ran around tempting the water to splash them.

Later we saw a group filming a protest video for the BET awards.They filmed five women dressed in 70s inspired outfits with flair jeans, Afros and wavy hats, walking back and forth with a cool attitude like they owned the block (snaps). They looked beautiful gliding down the street, strutting their stuff.

BET awards filming
Image: Cynthia Via


The next morning I woke up early to visit MLK’s birth home. While walking I came upon a mural that read, No More Hunger. The sun rose up over it, giving significance to my walk. Next stop was a small park with a large sculpture of John Wesley Dobbs, an African-American civic and political leader who once said, “Bucks, ballots and books are the key to African-American freedom.” Visitors can look through his eyes and see Auburn Avenue, which was once the most active business area. Inside the park some homeless people were sleeping on the side benches. Farther ahead was a large burgundy church. In front the sign read: The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Site. Across the street was the original Ebenezer Baptist Church.

John Wesley Dobbs looking down Auburn Avenue.
Image: Cynthia Via

I kept walking until I reached the resting place of Coretta Scott King and MLK. The entrance was filled with flowers and bushes. The birds were bright and chipper as I walked towards the rectangular pool with a gravesite sitting above. It was large gray tombstone with delicate script lettering. The pool gave off a sky blue color, and it seemed to go on forever. The two were floating above a blue sea. Over by the shrubs there was a fire pit with a sign that read: “The light that never dies.”  I kept walking and saw a security guard at the end of the pool. I wanted to take a photo of his meditative stance but I told myself it was a private moment that belonged to him. I bade the old man farewell and I went to find MLK’s birth home. One of the plaques near the small historic homes, painted in soft blues and gray, across the Ebenezer Baptist Church, said when King was little he would be seen dribbling a basketball in front of his house.

Martin Luther King Jr. birth home
Image: Cynthia Via

I noticed a sign attached to fence that read, “Martin Luther King Jr.’s  birth home is closed for renovations,” blocking the path leading to a yellow house with black trimmings. It was a soft yellow that contrasted against the clear sky. I was content with taking photos and walking around MLK’s old stomping grounds. He was here once, and now I was here in the Auburn neighborhood, known as “Sweet Auburn.” By now the sun was fully out and I could feel the humidity on my skin.


The next day while walking in a nearby neighborhood, I began sweating and my book bag was getting sticky. I saw an ice cream shop not far from me. It was called Jake’s Ice Cream. It was a cute little, white and blue establishment with bikes stuck to the store sign.  To the left I saw a bike path extending down a corridor with bikes coming in and out. I walked on the path for a few minute noticing the small shops with inconspicuous names. The building itself looked old and it was constructed mostly of dark brown and red bricks, but the verandas and the signs were new. I’m not sure how far the bike or hiking path extended. I may have seen a sign that read, Atlanta Beltline.  I concluded that this neighborhood was be gentrified. I supposed it had once been a manufacturing area. Most of the buildings heading down the streets to the tunnel were factories.

Image: Cynthia Via
Image: Cynthia Via

I walked towards King Rd. and I saw a bridge and underneath was a tunnel where cars drove through. There was a girl filming a guy bouncing, rapping and dancing, a few steps outside the entrance of the Krog Tunnel. “I would film my video here too,” I thought. The tunnel had a walkway on each side. I was on the right side, and below cars passed quickly. Two tube rails on the edge prevented people from easily jumping to the cars below. The inside walls were fully covered in drawings, graffiti of purples, pinks and greens; statements and faces mixed together. You could not find an area that was bare unlike the outside where the graffiti was spread out. I took some photos, trying to find a drawing of a face under the light. It wasn’t completely dark. There was a lot of light from the sun that kept both sides lit but the in the middle, it grew darker.

At the end of the tunnel, the street continued, diverging into two streets with suburban-looking houses.  I crossed to the other side of the tunnel. I saw an image of dumpy and hill pasted the outside of the tunnel. They were dressed as rodonald mcdonald. The fast food candidates of America. In one of the columns it read, “Why don’t you dance?” The painting below had dripped off and you couldn’t make out the rest of the words.

There was,  “I write because no one listens!” in big circular pink letters. I though if I left the tunnel, I would walk into another world. Reaching the light on either side meant time traveling. I eventually had to say goodbye to Atlanta. I walked at a quicker pace, passing a blue cat painted on the side of a warehouse. I was back on familiar grounds. I entered the ice cream shop and bought a scoop of limoncello. I wanted to take the bus back to my hotel. The store had enticing small tables, chairs and decoration on the wall; the kind that would be proper for a dollhouse. I decided to walk instead of hide from the sun. They had a dusty couch outside where I could sit, but I decided to keep moving since my flight was not far off. I walked faster trying to my eat my white, yellowish ice cream, while the sun threatened to melt it as I tried to hurry so I could catch the bus. I remember someone posing a question to me during the week: “Would you rather have ice cream in the summer or in the winter?”



Alabama: there and back

Image: Cynthia Via
Image: Cynthia Via

Some weekends ago I took a bus to Alabama to visit a friend. It was an eventful weekend of driving to the beach, hiking, and exploring what is left of downtown Mobile. I say what is left because the downtown area appeared mostly empty. People are not lying when they say there’s nothing to do out here. I don’t know much about Mobile’s history. I think of it as a mini New Orleans that the founders wanted to turn into a busting place, but left undone and adopted New Orleans instead. Mobile shares some of Nola’s streets, the oak trees and architecture. Walking around, I realized downtown could be a community for artists and families, but from the looks of it, a lot of shops have shut down—also it was Monday when I visited, but still, it appeared desolate.

We met a family who was equally puzzled trying to find something to do. The main museum was closed. The family of three: a mother, dad and their daughter were passing by for the day, and they used some of their afternoon hours to sit under the shade in Bienville Square Park and complain about the heat. “We’re from up North.” They were from Massachusetts and they were sweating. “I could use a drink right about now,” said the dad, chuckling. When I told them, I moved from NYC to live in New Orleans, he said, “Oh I know about those New York folks.” “Be careful, they can destroy you with their thumbs,” he said looking at my friend.

Image: Cynthia Via

I laughed innocently, as if agreeing but not really. I hardly think of myself as a tough New Yorker. My friend and I sat down to rest then walked around quickly to get ice-cold water. We passed a bank that had a large thermometer on the outside; it measured 93 F. We passed an old bookstore that seemed to have only hardcover books about baseball and old white men. There wasn’t much shade and I was getting a headache from being in the heat, so we settled on eating pizza, which was surprisingly good. I took some quick photos, so as not to stay outside for too long. There was a mural painted over the bottom part of an abandoned building and a small peanut shop where I bought Spanish peanuts. The walls inside were decorated with memorabilia, plaques, and newspaper articles recounting their glory days.

The day before we drove to the Gulf Shores beaches where we hid from the sun under a small umbrella. When that didn’t work we ran to the beach and stayed there for a long time, floating with the waves. We dove down to the bottom to see the fish. My friend saw gray and blue fish. I couldn’t believe they were right below me and I refused to participate, but after many tries I finally saw one. I didn’t take many photos that day, but I do remember loosing an earing after taking off my goggles. It fell right by the shore, and it was tiny and black, resembling many of the broken shell pieces on the sand. It was gone forever.

The next day we headed to the Historic Blakeley State Park, which has nature trails, cabins, and historic sites. In the 1820s the Town of Blakeley had a population of 4,000, more than Mobile at the time. But with the yellow fever epidemic and land speculation, people starting flocking to Mobile. During the Civil War it became a fort housing soldiers and weapons. The last battle after the Confederate general surrendered took place here in 1865.  Now it’s considered the “loveliest ghost town.” The town’s center was part of the trail with only one structure remaining (most likely reconstructed) but plenty of witchery trees, crooked and dark.

Image: Cynthia Via

We could hear the birds, but we couldn’t see them. We hiked about 7 miles but it was only in the second half that we saw the beautiful bulbous trees and the Tensaw River where we stopped to rest on a bench. Yellow black butterflies passed our vision and flew behind the trees. We walked along a boardwalk and that headed back to hiking path. The walk wasn’t all that rigorous but the heat made it hard at times. For lunch we went to a Cajun restaurant that had an outdoor balcony facing a long expanse of swampy terrain and skinny trees (which was only temporarily ruined by the highway in the distance). Lunch included a mysterious waitress from Minnesota with black eyeliner and a singer with purple hair streaks, who had a nice voice but was singing kitsch songs. It was contrary to an otherwise swampy afternoon in the south. At least two twin boys with matching pink shirts had their eyes glued to the stage.

Upon returning to New Orleans, I asked my uber driver, how the weather had been for the past few days. “Mostly hot; we haven’t received much rain lately,” she said. I thought about my plants, and their probable deaths. I doubt anyone in my house had remembered to water the garden.

Image: Cynthia Via



Notes: California Daydream

Twisted tree in the Sentinel Dome (Yosemite National Park), and the “watch-tower” views. Image: Cynthia Via


This trip was a calm realization—soft rain on a summer morning in San Francisco, pine trees outlining the distance, a foggy road near the coast, tumultuous waves on the last day.

To know yourself when met with the unlikely strangeness of the world, long roads, conversations with strangers, and new adventures with old friends.

To close yourself is to say I can only learn this much; I can only live within the structures I’ve imposed. Reaction to new circumstances allows you to grow. Whether good or bad you take it in, understanding that it’s not the end, the road continues.

The changing landscape of California makes spirituality rise from nature, and not from the small corners of ideological belief.

Trust your eyes to see it present— that it’s nature and billions of years to arrive here by chaotic pieces of the universe, that allows a life of proportions, between the extremes.