wisconsin trip oct 2014

it was decided at some point that some of my photos would be part of a 3-person photography show at dean jensen gallery in milwaukee. i got the idea in my head to drive there from nevada, and bring my brother back with me, camping and skating the whole way. so you know, i did the one thing that would ensure this happening and bought a shitty car on craigslist. it mostly worked. i had like 6 months to get it all good for a 2000 mile drive. lots of help from friends and many hundreds of dollars later, the odds did not look in my favor to even make it to utah [according to the guy who smogged it]. i would have loved to take that gamble, but once you costanza that hard you dont want to double up on it. plus missing the art show would have been outta the question. i didnt battle dust and doubt for months on end to not get to actually SEE the prints on the wall. my brother was down for a much less glamorous and idyllic plan b, which im grateful for. so i parked the car [eventually resold it] and purchased a ticket for amtrak - yes, the long and slow way home.

on october 13th i walked out of my apartment and hoofed it the 6 or 8 blocks to the station...

[from this point on most of the text is transcribed directly from my journal. i would have scanned them but its difficult to write smoothly on a moving train and im already askin a lot of anyone by writing more than a twittersworth of characters]

walked to the train pit, fast paced. a woman was sittin pretty on the top edge of the cal-neva parking garage, her feet on the top of the big neon and metal A. cops and medics kept a distance. she was sitting upright, facing the sun, not moving and as far as i could tell not talking at all with the officer who was on the top level.

orange truck
orange mountain
great big all around

in the pit we pulled forward - smoother the ride in town compared to out here past lovelock. bottles of cheap booze littered the tracks. i think about drinking and what it signifies in mankind and how it will steal you. into the wilderness the bottles give way to the occasional rusty bucket. high desert liquid transport vessels, done and done.

into the night, maybe winnemucca? flip on some classic green day and my eyeballs find something good out there. glowing in the twilight under huge bulb grids are 4 baseball fields. set up with the home plates all pointing in, like shane rawley's. rolling past a small stadium lit in the night is never not going to feel magic, special, significant. hope that never wears of. the vibes from field of dreams run deep.

people are out for smokes while we wait. a girl in yoga pants does stretches while she puffs on a cigarette. black lung ballerina, do the body mod shuffle.

through small towns of utah with visual access to peoples yards - homes right along the tracks - i realize how universal car trouble is. probably half of these properties have a car in the weeds, behind the fence, up on jacks, without tires or under tarps that have also begun to deteriorate. maybe if you got the room for it, out here in the middle of nothing, it just makes sense to hang onto it. where else would it go? and how would it get there? towtrucks in the weeds too. car trouble and financial trouble are probably synonymous in most cases.

"isaiah siddawn!!"
"im gonna get the belt"
 -a mom in the seat immediately behind me

cant help but think of graffin's line from the bad religion song 'individual'
"procreation without gain or purpose"

2 families of 4 young kids EACH are behind me and i am hanging onto my sanity by just a thin bit of hope and persistence. was not easy to sleep in this chair. i think i am part of some cruel social experiment - like the stewardess stuck me here on purpose to watch me suffer. fuck this. oh what do you know, theres an 'aiden' in the pack.

snuck into a much quieter car in front, settle in for a relaxing day of mountain creeping along the colorado river. i keep missing shots. its us, the river, and 2 opposing levels of I70 across the way. things keep lining up but i cant anticipate the filtered light and the quickly changing scenarios. in and out of dark tunnels blown into rock all day, finally winding down towards denver. first a crawl along suburbia, where the houses are built impossibly in the image of the rockies - each could house 20 people but probably max out at 5. these are homes like ive never seen - how is something so enormous kept so artificially pristine? many have roofs of solar panels, and the neighborhoods run at least a few miles. i notice how closely packed they are, the opposing porches line up in a way that gives me a weird adolescent tingle.

its funny, they keep saying that stops are good chances to get out and get some air, but most people rush out to get a cigarette fix. fresh air my ass. break through a cloud of frantic puffing and have a look at that beauty of a train station in denver. arching wave of white steel goes over the tracks, snap snap.

if you think my sock choice is ...questionable... just remember the train was my plan b. plus they have a scientific vent on the toe.

going fetal on 2 chairs. wake up in iowa nebraska front tooth humming. body vibrating. farmland hues, lush and dying for november. iowa is a stumpy cheese block or chunk of pie seen sideways if wisconsin is a mitten. so much dried corn under moody sky, im back in the polaroid light.

get audio recordings of train sounds for super 8

message on hwy underpass

fugazi 'instrument' is the adequate soundtrack for passing by rail over the mississippi river - iowa into illinois in the beauty of a grey october day. from the rusty bridge the town of burlington iowa appeared as a tight mound of all red brick buildings. all but one - a big white one, probably a post office or police station. maybe its the tea talking but im glad to be here, feeling good in the familiar landscape and much like myself. you cant cross a river like this and not feel something.

on a van in warren county:
dane's heating and cooling

forbidden ode to the rust belt

whats ideal? reconsider it all. your fabled notions will always pale in comparison.

senior pictures should be done in settings and conditions that are relevant to the individual. if a kid works on a farm they should be sitting on the tractor, or among the tools. if a kid works in a library why not show them in the stacks? imagine the senior portrait of a dungeons'n'dragons enthusiast. we know where the skateboarders should be. if i was in the biz still id be pushing for these types of unique portraits that reveal more about the individual in more interesting and accurate ways.

from 1300 miles away the carburetor of a 1989 honda accord taunts me via locomotive

if youre ever in galva, il theres a front yard miniramp along the amtrak line, on the most eastern edge of town. its red and i bet its metal. [i drew a sketch of it]. probably 8 or 12 ft wide, half that length is 3 or 4 ft high, the other half possibly 6 ft high. the transitions are bigger so its pretty mellow on the low end.

looking at a skateboarding photograph taken by another person can be a lot like watching someone else play tetris. in your own eyes and mind the illogical oversights and lack of your particular brand of daring can be maddening.

across the great flat land, its hummus farts for all

due to delays i had to run like hell to make the connection in chicago going to milwaukee. unfortunately this meant my bag didnt get there with me. it came up on the next train later that night - kinda nerve racking since i had a super8 camera and a couple boards stuffed into a big military duffel bag, which isnt usually how i travel [two backpacks, the second strapped to me frontside]. gets me to thinking about what i learned about train travel, information you may one day benefit from:

-bring ALL your own food including bags of tea or other caffeine. there are cold water spigots in every car so instant cold cereals are easy. plus the snack bar will give you free hot water
-bring an extra jacket or blanket
-pick a seat far from young people and groups of old people, who battle for first place at making the most noise
-pick a seat that lines up with a big open window. it gets old having to look to either the front or rear of a hanging curtain divider
-bring tons of stuff to work on like tedious experimental sewing projects
-the observation car isnt really all that much better than the normal cars view-wise but they will temporarily relieve the claustrophobia of being on a train for 3 days
-the observation car has areas which allow you to stretch out more comfortably in the middle of the night than the passenger cars
-no matter how old i get, its still fun to pee on moving vehicles of any kind
-stare out the window and clear your head, its fucking glorious

 twin harbingers of second hand stoke on the morning commute

dropped dad at work in union grove, piggly wiggly. that place has to look funny on resumes. drove into downtown racine, got coffee. its wet outside, no DTP today. started taking photos. signs, markings the first 3 significant things of the day. MUSTARD TIGER may be the new 'pink cactus autumn gold' which i am so glad to have found. using it as a guide through aesthetic decision making. [note: i later discovered upon googling the term that it is some kind of meme joke or something. this detracts from its radness now because of course everything has to be a reference to some fuckin internet-bred inside joke of the week. but at the time it was a shining beacon].

one year we all got tickets for skateboarding down that 4 stair with the downhill runway. it was so cold out we all were wearing gloves. now they use the word 'extreme' to sell tickets to watch dudes punch each other in a cage. talk about desecrating landmarks.

 couldnt be more happy with this four cornered night

had dreams of these alleys near my middle school in the last year. had to return to compare the landscape vs the dreamscape. things got confusing.

an unanticipated flatness you cant wrap a brain around


dads rad for letting me have his car while im home so i can get around and take photos.

sometimes composition makes me sweat. lines, shapes, balance, surprise, a floating car. what do you claim to know about the world? what one element will make or break? how accurately can you figure the atomic weight of context?

back when this was a tree fort i went up there with a girl. we were in the middle of doing something that wasnt quite homework when a mouse ran by.

did people understand wide angle distortion when it first appeared? do you like my sewing project?

up shitts creek with a turd for a paddle

the aforementioned facility formerly known as shane rawley's, where many a sunflower shell lodged itself into my pre-teen gums as i squandered the hours waiting for a chance to prove myself.

had to handle some business at the library. after that i poked around. in a 1979 phonebook i saw the list of hamans. all males. ralph on green bay rd. uncle pete with his in-ground pool. and jeffrey d on erie st. there was something spooky and vital about seeing my dead grandpas name and the names of the other haman men in vintage print. proof in public. got me to thinking about records and how it matters or how it doesnt to make them. im still treating each trip home as an open vehicle to get out and push the buttons as much as possible, in spite of everything. today its been alleyways and cemeteries. at the last one i discovered the visual fruits of trashcans. the jewish cemetery where dad taught me how to ride my bike. haven ave.

ftw and not in the for-the-win way

nice to be in a place where the sun doesnt hurt and every plant isnt bloodthirsty

anyways like i said, i was getting into the graveyards...

the cemeteries of west racine are as much a part of my upbringing as the schoolyards, alleyways, backyards and sidewalks. they were there, in odd abundance. everyone in this part of town is dead! they were there, and we used them. mostly for skateboarding. also for escaping, or hiding out with a girlfriend. a quiet, reverent, ancient place for a wandering mind of any age, and now a place i gravitate back to curiously. not really looking for anything in particular so much as just looking.

i like to imagine how makers of all kinds of products justify their actions. the miniature flag factory says "we give people comfort, and fill them with pride and a sense of belonging. we help people express love in hard times, etc." nah, does the ceo at mini-flags and glitter stix corp really do daily affirmations? lots of cans of worms at work in this and the coming photos but at the moment im not taking a side or making a claim - just looking, and starting to think about garbage, again. mostly thinking about light, and circles.

that said

i worked at a coffee chain for 2.5 years. every monday i would haul into the store 2 towering pallets of what i affectionately began to call FUTURE GARBAGE, and i have not been able to ignore the truth of that matter ever since. scarred for life, in a good way. and hopefully on the track to make art about it, which hopefully will make some kind of difference, in some way, maybe.

as with any group of images you might refer to as a 'series' the big hangup is this: is it ok to make uninteresting singular photographs in the service of a greater body of work? this as well as the simpleton stunt-factor of the photo series is why i tread lightly. regardless, there they are - the trashcans of racine cemeteries, with a few milwaukees thrown in. cant say for certain whether this will continue or stop here, but it sure seemed like a good idea at the time.

a few other non-garbage graveyard images...

i cant speak for other art forms but photography is i think forever linked to it death [shit maybe its even all about it]. its heavy in a lot of ways. a cold and final indisputable truth. but its dynamic, it can just as easily seem like a lighthearted visual game. its 'where do i put this giant heavy pyramid shape?'

did a mute grab down those stairs once. did something else on that bench once. there used to be a huge iron gate running along those pillars, whole different feel down there now without it. we called this skate spot 'shits' but i cant for the life of me recall why.

one of the foulest things ive ever seen is behind that tree. in the homeland only a few days and already the intricacies of midwestern cuisine [pastries, sausage, cheese curds] already had my guts in a toxic death grip.

back into the graveyards of west racine. pulled up to a can where a sleeping cat lay. was barely moving, at first figured it had been let there to be taken out with the trash. i talked to it, and when it slowly turned over i saw it was a raccoon. something about its tail didnt look right and it could only sit up, was unable to get up on its hind legs. it was fat and fluffy, couldnt determine if it was injured, sick, or in labor. it showed no hostility towards me. i forced myself to get out and take the garbage can photo next to it. called information. phone dead. borrowed pharmacy phone book and called all the vets. none took raccoons. some even made special statements in their recordings that they do not help raccoons at all. left messages with 2 DNR workers. had to leave it there to recover or die on its own. that reality haunted me as i continued into other cemeteries, to look into other trashcans.


business as usual in dads fridge. i cant fuck with those things but the cream puff is a wisconsin state fair staple. some people wait hours in line to get one. you can rest assured the top shelf is not a true representation of the rest of the fridges contents.

on the way home from work one day i was telling dad about what i had been doing all day and he thought we should go see where my grandparents are buried. a big downside to living so far from home is you dont always make it back to say goodbye properly.

while we were there he also showed me where nancy's family is and eventually located the spot his bones are destined for

not even out of the place and already onto some other wildly descriptive tangent

what are parents? they are the nice old people who hang onto all your crap that you still want but not enough to take it with you when you go. drums, legos, life drawings...

the day of the show came and i went to milwaukee

got more rectangles to dissect and fill at every stop

when i worked with nolan at alterra we called iced lattes mike v's

got to sky high and saw aaron polansky out back sanding down a custom shape

it was finally dry so i went to my favorite place


grey light, wet leaves, and all kinds of fresh C-ment to party on. what a fuckin treat. that bonk block between the boobs and the parking block jammer is my favorite thing.

i still cant believe you guys got those library benches there

tim knoll, onto the next level of wheel-related experimentation. i worked with this dude at the burger spot in the uwm dorms over ten years ago, its rad to see him still doing his thing.

tims gnarly videos

giving tim a run for his money that day in the "i cant believe what im seeing" department...

count em - thats FOUR lady skaters.  my jaws never gonna not drop, my hearts never gonna not swell. all you can say is fuck yes. pretty sure thats elyse doing a boardslide off the end. i had the thought "this is like seeing a pack of unicorns" which i immediately regretted having. not only because its dumb but because then i saw there was a unicorn on her griptape...  ya, the ladies are always one step ahead.

took a hobo shower in the culvers bathroom and went to the art opening...


harrison kiehl helping c-ham with a boog situation

heres a handful of installation shots taken by jon horvath...

always been a big fan of this space. perfect photo viewing gallery.

the downstairs is like the bonus level

tom zust's work - a great marriage of clean and weird. the arm/cactus was my favorite in the show.

jon horvath kills it with a handheld 6x7. heavy wanderings.

i had a few color digitals mixed in with the darkroom prints.

a lot of the stuff curator john sobczak gravitated towards from the 600 photos i sent him was travel related. had it been up to me to choose 20 or so pictures i would probably still be struggling to make those decisions. love the silver frames. john knows how to clean up a scrappy print made in a dusty warehouse. the night of the show was a blur of nerves, people, diet coke, and a few choice hugs. 

after the show i drove north with cole and dad. this time was a more direct north than usual, with a few westward jaunts. our destination was sturgeon bay but we had a day or 2 to get there. first night was... man i forget where. woke up next to a decommissioned cricket van apparently.

breakfast first, road snacks second

we were close so it made sense to stop in at the old JFK prep where j-ham went to school. it has long since been boarded up. the gym and cafeteria have been turned into a thrift store.

before selling my soul to skateboarding i only lingered in the 'i might be kinda into skating' zone long enough for 2 pairs of airwalks. had a the 'one' in all black with a brown stripe and this weird lowtop hiker in pea green - had ring eyelets and a gumsole - super rad. always thought these looked good too - like a stripped down jason lee. this pair was a size too tight. woulda been sick.

we saw the hallowed ground where young j-ham was swallowed into the vortex of events that would lead to me writing on my wrist every morning with a sharpie, among other such demented/sacred superstitious practices.

we ran around. i figured out the secret to a perfect spiral. dad brett favre'd one at my neck.

noticed a lot of old buildings like this are boarded up all along the lakefront. i wonder how many film projectors are in there. i wonder the same about photography equipment and things to skate on.

cole and dad play disc golf a lot

feels good to just zing something as hard as you can. especially when it goes straight where you want it to.

weather permitting, they are out there every weekend. wish i could be there. used to be that if i called cole on a weekend the odds were pretty good that he was picking up clearance deals at target. disc golf is the new target. dad planned it out so his 1,000th hole of 2014 would be hole 13. this meant he had to skip a few holes. not sure how you even keep track of stuff like that but thats how his brain ticks - practical number master

one-time-use duct tape flag. had no idea but not a bit surprised.

we 'tee'd off' from the closer slab in most cases. check the bark carnage on those trees.

dad zinged it all the way up the hill, hit a tree, fell into a roll alllllll the way back down to where we stood. bad day for a yellow disk.


sturgeon bay seems an unlikely spot for a hot new cement park...

so new the grass isnt in yet.  everything so smooth and crisp... a bowled corner with fresh black steel pipe i got an easy 20 feet on - has anyone even grinded this yet? the parks a very strange mix of plaza, transition, and weird blobs including a raised up snake tube with a raw terra cotta lip. overall a 9 out of 13. one things for sure, it kicks green bays park in the balls. cole beat me to the pop shove it fakie and 5-0 grind.

curious to see how the newer batch of homeland cement parks will hold up in the next ten years, especially given the 4 month long arctic blast this part of wisconsin gets, which you could feel in the air - wisconsin octobers are doomy like that. the highschool behind my rock'n'roll is abandoned. probably a fully stocked darkroom in there.

hard to believe this things up there. so glad the world is coming around to giving us what we need. im sure this town has found out by now they are on the 'destination skatepark' list for the midwest. cole on a brand new but very late birthday board/wheel setup. 

i think by now its safe to call it a chester grind

cole has a musical electric toothbrush

we scoped out a junk store in algoma. i bought a bright yellow hat.

monument to slapped wrists and abstinence 

more disc golf. there was so much disc golf, its hard to keep in order. heres a bunch of disc golf from at least 2 separate outings...

course was next to a junkyard, one of my new favorite kinds of places

offshores at 40 knots, basket on a lighthouse, surrounded by a lake - the eternal mulligan

this photo reminds me of looking at baseball cards. specifically photos of pitchers. i was always fascinated by the way certain photos were just weird or freaky. you could compare it side by side to ones that looked really cool. even at a young age it was clear that newer cards had better shots of pitchers [better shots in general i guess], and i thought 'why did they pick this weird shot of nolan ryans tiny blurry arm? maybe they ran out of film? maybe topps stadium club had a deadline to meet?' some guys had style and some guys you couldnt even look at. if a dudes got a bunk delivery im trading him, but if your arm and leg make a huge muscley S shape on the card thats a keeper. it would be fun to shoot mlb on film and try to make your own baseball cards. cant help but wonder how all of that fed into my love of examining and making skateboarding photos.

the nikon d70 came out in 2004

went up to new berlin to hang with mom

got there early, had been out skating so i got clean. charlie is the mellowest lab.


stopped to shoot some super8 that a 6 year old boy would be stoked on

time to bounce

into chicago. the train station was super crowded. people were playing music. there was a pigeon flying around in the waiting area, kept landing and hanging out between everyones feet. got on the westbound.

bro. its a looooong haaaaaaul.
slideshows, episodes of eastbound and down, and the dude in front of cole having a super loud and at times suspect phone conversation.


roundabout this time you dig out 6 fuji prints...

as a group i like them best, in spite of the fact they are all 'safe' which is the way you have to do it when you have just a 10 pack.

i love me a few days of solitude but it was much more fun to have this guys company on the ride back


yeah you gotta get rid of this car