"The Best Friend. The Gay Man. The Homeless Man. The Wanderer."
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What's more important than the destination is who you're with, who you'll see, and who you just happen to meet along the road.
The Best Friend. The Gay Man. The Homeless Man. The Wanderer.
The Best Friend. I had the pleasure of being trapped in a moving vehicle, sharing the same air, getting butt cramps, and drowning in coffee and coca cola for three days with my best friend. My best friend of six years is a creative soul who is constantly seeking to feed his soul. This was perfect because that's exactly why I needed to just leave my home state for awhile. Besides the fact that we practically know each other's darkest secrets, we also know when we need our own space (and what our favorite bags of chips are). We drive each other insane while keeping each other's sanity in place. Being with someone constantly for three days can naturally be very challenging and there were times when, I swear, we weren't going to make it back home alive. And I'm not talking about road incidences, but the kind that results in fists. But this trip would not have been this memorable without my partner-in-crime, fellow fatass, and amazing photographer.
The Gay Man. While shooting on this fantastic street in Baltimore, Maryland, a lovely man walked out from one of these colorful soapbox homes. You can tell that this man had more color and personality than this street alone. I instantly began to tell him about our work to make him comfortable. Truth is, we were loitering around this beautiful neighborhood and the residences may easily mistaken our awe and creative shots for more ill-intentioned reasons. To our surprise, we found out way more about him than a generic conversation would lead to. In fact, he invited us in to see what the inner workings of these picture perfect homes would look like. This could have easily been the start of a sick thriller, maybe a new Hannibal. Plenty of things went through my mind after his offer. My imagination was, perhaps, too active. I looked at my best friend for some sort of confirmation. Were we going to play safe or were we going to just say, "carpe diem, fuckers." Even to our surprise, well not really, we picked the latter option. If we were going to die, why not die in a stranger's home with blue doors? Anyway, the only thing that caught us completely off guard was an S&M swing in his basement. Other than that, the home had even more character than we can try to piece together in our minds. He offered us wine, which we sipped generously. We talk politics, education, his efforts against homelessness, and his numerous occupations - flight attendant, researcher at NYU, non-profit, and currently a black jack dealer. This man had stories for days and he had the years and age to fuel it. You see, he doesn't know too many people since he moved to Baltimore. He only moved into this state just two months prior. We were now one wine bottle deep into a spontaneous house warming party with a room full of strangers. I'm just glad I had someone I knew next to me to tell me, "Hey, this is real life right now."
The Homeless Man. "You have someone at the door," my best friend noted pointing towards the front door which was wide open. The only thing that was preventing the chilly wind from entering his home was a glass door giving us a pleasurable view of his neighbors orange and red doors. The host peered towards the door and with the sweetest smile said, "That's my homeless friend." Funny he said that because we would've never came up with that conclusion upon meeting this gentleman. He was dressed casually but well and smelled pleasant. Our host gave the "homeless" man his own seat and grabbed an ottoman from another room to sit on. Two is a pair. Three is a company. Four is a party. This new guest changed my mind about every stereotype I had on homeless people. He was incredibly intelligent, absolutely relatable, and truly a lovely individual. He shared his own stories with us, from his alcoholic father to his own drug addiction. He told us how beautiful his kids are and the incredible things these young ones are accomplishing. Our host gave him the only meal he had in his fridge, an Indian frozen dinner. At one point in the evening, our fabulous gay host left us alone in his home for 15-20 minutes to grab some bread. So many things could have gone wrong. I couldn't fathom how much trust was placed in all of our hands, individually. It was mind opening. When he returned, he brought the bread, but he also came back with 5 different types of cheeses and another bottle of wine. Talk about amazing.
The Wanderer. When my best friend and I decided to go on this road trip, we only planned to meet up with one person along the way. This is significant for a couple reasons. I only met this individual once. He was my best friend's childhood friend but they have not been incredibly close in the past couple years. However, when I met him and while my best friend and him rekindled their friendship, he mentioned that he was staying in Baltimore. He was selling us the idea of coming to visit him in Baltimore. There weren't any concrete plans to meet up with him because this trip alone was very spontaneous. Life could have placed us in a very inconvenient time. Well, I'm glad it worked out perfectly. He became our Baltimore tour guide and we even kidnapped him along for our trip to Washington D.C.. I call him the Wanderer because he doesn't belong to one city, one town, or one country. He made traveling a priority and passion. He couldn't stay in one place for very long, but he always leaves a a beautiful trail. We talked endlessly. We disclosed things about ourselves that some of our closest friends didn't even know. We constantly probed each other with questions. We shared some of favorite books and drank plenty of craft beer. We talked about darkness and lightness and how affected our lives, metaphorically and physically. We shared our inner demons and our hopes to change the world. These were the kinds of conversations that happens once in awhile but we had them nonstop for about two days straight. When we said our goodbyes at the D.C. train stop, we all felt inspired and tremendously lighter. It was like we finally answered some questions and connected some dots that, left to our own accord, would take years to close. We also became equipped with not only more knowledge about one another but about ourselves as individuals.
The things that these individuals - the best friend, the gay man, the homeless man, and the wanderer - taught me have changed my outlook one way or another. It wasn't something that they were actively teaching but it was their own choices in action, the movement of their thoughts, and their open hearts that really left an impact. I wish I could keep these memories in a jar to revisit but this blog will do.