Tag Archives: Travel

What I Learned from Five Years in Mini Storage

In 2002 I was a freshly minted graduate from Brooks Institute, and had just received the opportunity of a lifetime – a one year contract to move to India and teach at a newly opened photo college.  To facilitate a quick departure from the USA,  I took all my possessions and in a feat of amazing, Herculean and smart packing crammed everything into a 6’×10′ storage unit in Santa Barbara, California. In my mind, I envisioned living and teaching in India for a year, then returning to southern California with tales of adventure and glory and picking up where my life left off.   

This is not what happened.

Continue reading What I Learned from Five Years in Mini Storage


I struggled not to gag from the exhaust fumes in the gridlock of Ajmer.  Night was falling rapidly and the main street of the town in the heart of the Thar desert seemed like a narrow canyon leading to Hades filled with honking vehicles, smoke and dust.  I motioned to my rickshaw driver that I would get down here – as it didn’t make much sense to stay in the gridlock breathing fumes from the nearby bus exhaust pipe carefully positioned a foot from my face.  I was kicking myself for leaving my camera in the hotel, as I have never seen more air pollution in one place as had materialized in the last half hour before sunset – it was the kind of air pollution that makes for great stock.  The buses, rickshaws, two wheelers with gear and without, bicycles, camels, and cacophony of sound were all crammed so tightly into the narrow street that it was slow going by foot back to the hotel.  Apparently the Ajmer police department had decided to make Main Street a one-way road-leaving town, but hadn’t passed the memo along to the angry drivers trying to force their way the wrong way down the street. 

Back at the hotel, surrounded by fort like walls of concrete, the din of the evening died down and I watched the smoke and dust rise into the night in a glorious column of black.  To save a few rupees Paul and I were splitting a room, but not wanting to share a bed we asked the hotel housekeeper to supply another mode of sleeping.  Happy to oblige, the young man of no more than 20 dragged a heavy single bed into the room, its plywood base covered by thin dusty sheet-less cushions and its metal coasters making a horrible screeching sound over the marble floors as it moved.  The process of sheeting the bed disturbed a small mouse that had made its home in the mattress, causing it to leap off the bed.  “Mouse!”  I said, pointing to the now certainly doomed creature.  The housekeeper abandoned making the bed and began chasing the little mammal around the room. Continue reading Suzy

Mumbai to Jaipur

Even though I have never visited Jaipur before, it is the India I remember…  the wild merry go round of life. Full of friendly touts, and mad streets, blaring horns and sensory overload.  The India that makes one realize that India is not for everyone.  I have many more thoughts to verbalize from the day, but my eyes are heavy and the streets outside, unusually quiet.  A deadly combination when one is tired.  

Man walking in front of a large computerized billboard in Mumbai, India.
Man walking in front of a large computerized billboard in Mumbai, India.
A bicycle rickshaw passes a petrol rickshaw at night in Jaipur, India
A bicycle rickshaw passes a petrol rickshaw at night in Jaipur, India

The Greening of India

A taxi driver in Mumbai, India.
A taxi driver in Mumbai, India.

Four years ago, the smog in Mumbai was so bad that walking around burned my eyes and wiping my face with a white handkerchief harvested a black crop of ash and dust after a couple of passes across my brow. According to my former student, now professional advertising photographer Amogh Thakur, two years ago the city mandated that all public transport be run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Walking the city streets this morning, it feels like an entirely different city. Breathing the air is no longer a tactile experience, and my white handkerchief harvests only sweat and the occasional patch of dust that has settled on my skin. To see what this greening looked like in practice, I followed a line of cabs waiting to fill up on CNG. The stations footprint took up no more than any filling station in the USA, and the filling time itself was about as fast as filling a large tank of petroleum.  Long live the yellow top fiats that so define this city!

India bound

This morning, I got to visit with some old friends. The friends were images I had created in high school and are some of the first “good” pictures I made in my life. Printing them off for another old friend this morning reminded me of why I love photography — for the simple pure thought that this is my calling.

Now, years down the road from those first few frames, I’m on the road once again to India. I hope years from now I can look back on the images I produce over the next few weeks a friends…

Hawaii bound

Raindrops on the window of a plane.

There is rain on the window of this giant jet plane as we push back and roar into the sky.  My eyes close in sleep before the plane reaches cruising altitude.  Six hours later the wheels chirp as they hit the pavement.  The door opens onto the sticky sweet warm air that instantly forms a sheen of sweat on my forehead.  Luau sounds spill over the pa system in the terminal.  A few tourists walk around with sweet smelling lei’s around their necks.