Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Gen X Chronicles: Part Three - The East Side of The Berlin Wall

I had thought that the entire Berlin wall was in a million tiny pieces.  I'd seen fragments of the wall that could fit in your hand that friends had bought or received as gifts - gray cement with remnants of graffiti on one side - like too many puzzle pieces to ever be put back together.  Watching the news as the people broke those pieces away with pick axes, hammers, chisels, and even bare human hands  was one of the most important historical memories in my Generation X youth.  Until recently, I didn't realize there are enormous slabs of the Berlin Wall in different parts of the world as monuments to history.  One of these places is in Simi Valley, CA. 

When I look at the east side of this wall in all of its bleakness, I cannot help but think of how this is just one of a billion different walls that humans have created for each other over time.  Throughout history, people and institutions have spent a lot of time trying to hold things in, or keep things out.  These walls are created when you feel that any move you make will be judged unfairly.   They are created when someone does something to make everyone else live in fear.  They  are created when someone tells you that you cannot do something or that you are not good enough, or that or that your perceptions are not credible or that you are not allowed to believe what you believe.

Irina Ratushinska, a Russian Orthodox Christian writer, found herself in a Soviet labor camp for her ideas and beliefs.  As a prisoner, Irina carved her poetry into bars of soap, and memorized the words until she washed them away.  These words became books that were published later when she gained her freedom. 

So, reader, have you truly found your voice?

Does some wall hold you back?  If some bar of soap or scrap of paper is near you, you can start writing now, you can start planning now.  If some laptop or stack of books is near you, you can start researching now.  Get ready now to speak the truth - when the walls come crumbling down, your story will be told - nothing, and no one will stop you.

"Gray is the color of hope."  

                                                                                         -Irina Ratushinska

(c) 2012 photography and writing by Chloe Koffas - all rights reserved

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Gen X Chronicles: Part Two - Gen X Christmas Trees

At the Reagan Museum in Simi Valley, CA, I got a chance to photograph a seasonal exhibit of Christmas trees - each one a representation of events and pop culture through each decade over the past century.  I took pictures of the trees representing the decades that have had the most relevance to Generation X....

The 1970s tree: includes references to Sesame Street, disco, attempts at peace, Star Wars, Jaws....

The 1980s tree includes: E.T., Pac Man, a new presidential administration, the Cabbage Patch Kid, Nintendo, MTV....  

The 1990s tree includes: AOL, the Simpsons, cordless phones, globalization, Furby, Cheers' 200th episode?

The 2000s tree: YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, energy issues/hybrid cars, raising the flag at Ground Zero...

A lot has happened these past few decades....

Merry Christmas, X. 

(c) 2012 photography and writing by Chloe Koffas (Christmas trees by Reagan Museum volunteers) 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Gen X Chronicles: Part One - The World We Grew Up In

I recently had a chance to visit the Reagan Museum in Simi Valley, CA.  Another name this museum could go by is "The Gen X Chronicles."  There was so much to photograph and write about here, I decided to turn it into a series.  For the better part of a decade during the formative years of Gen X, Reagan was the U.S. president, and this museum documents the things that happened during those years.  These are the events that had a huge impact on the collective psyche of Gen X.   

There is an area of the museum that has a collage of photos of the era when Reagan came into office as President, along with words that described the issues of the time: shortages, gas lines, job issues, unfair taxes, frustration....

For us, there were no golden years.

The Olympics are so important to kids - all our hopes and dreams became manifest in the amazing abilities of athletes we looked up to.  Except for when it got cancelled.  This might have been when the Cold War became more painfully real to kids who could not yet understand it. 

Stagflation: when the inflation rate is high, economics are slow and jobs are few.  An image of an empty factory with the windows busted out.  The purpose of the "Morning in America"  campaign was to address all these troubling issues, but honestly, I don't really remember it ever feeling like a new day. 

This has been a tough existence.

These are just a few images of what was happening in the news in the formative years of Gen X.  As we grew up and became more aware of the world in which we live in, all of this was weighing on our minds along with many other things. 

Unemployment, layoffs, plant closures, double digit inflation.  This is all part of what caused Gen X to become a nomadic generation from childhood.  I remember one year of elementary school when I watched most of my friends move away one by one because their parents had lost their jobs.  Then it was time for me to move away, too, and be the new kid yet again at another school. 

Watching these and other news images as the world distentegrated caused much of the anti-establishment and hypervigilance that became part of us.  The hardest thing about looking at these images is that many of these issues are still a reality.  The recessions we witnessed in our childhoods is now the Great Recession we must deal with as adults.  I saw the Gen X kids on the news picketing and holding up poster board signs demanding their parents' jobs back.  Now I watch them on the news standing in unemployment lines, worrying about how to feed their own kids. 

Got a Gen Xer in your life who tries not to be negative, but often assumes the worst will happen?

Cut them some slack. 

People become who they are for a reason.


(c) 2012 Photos and writing by Chloe/original images from the Reagan Museum.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Battle Born

The Killers often get compared to U2 or to Springsteen.  Both of these influences surface in their music, along with other 80s sounds that even sometimes sound a bit like an old Atari game.   Bono said he thinks The Killers will be the next biggest/best band in the world. He also said he would give a copy of the Hot Fuss album to the Pope to demonstrate that rock music is not evil.   A lot of the band's lyrics are wrought with true struggle, biblical imagery, a candidness about the broken down state of ourselves and the world, and a very intelligent sense of humor - all lyrics that I feel only a Gen Xer could write. 

Brandon Flowers, the lead singer, is a Mormon and was born at the tail end of the Gen X window.  All the other members are Gen X as well.  At one point when Brandon saw Oasis play at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas where he lives, he realized his calling was to be in a band. 

We saw the Killers live in Portland on Dec 5th for the Battle Born Tour for an incredible show. 

A shower of metallic confetti rains down on Portlanders at the Rose Garden Arena.

Up agains the wall
There's something dying on the street
When they knock you down
You're gonna get back on your feet
No you can't stop now


Come on show your face
Come on give us one more spark
So we'll start a fire
Unless we fall into the dark
And you can't stop now - no you can't stop now

- From "Battle Born"

(c) 2012 photography and writing by Chloe Koffas- all rights reserved

Friday, November 9, 2012

Dive Deep and Swim Far

"Be not a slave of your own past.  Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep, and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old."



Ralph Waldo Emerson was from the last Lost Generation.  Generation X is also considered a Lost Generation....

(c) 2012 photography by Chloe - all rights reserved

Thursday, November 8, 2012

This Hurt Will Hurt No More

It is said that Joey Ramone was listening to U2's "In a Little While" when he died in 2001. Although the lyrics are clearly about being in love, I got to thinking about how parts of this song would resonate with me if I was in a place where I was about to cross over to the other side.  My eyes were drawn to these lyrics as I dusted off my All That You Can't Leave Behind album: 

...In a little while
This hurt will hurt no more
I'll be home...

When the night takes a deep breath and the daylight has no air
If I crawl, if I come crawling home
Will you be there? 

After hearing about the death of Joey Ramone, Bono said that the song was initially about a lovestruck hangover, but that Joey turned it into a gospel song.  It's kind of amazing the way things come full circle - back in the days of  U2 as a garage band, their initial influences included a lot of punk, including the Ramones. 

And now here we are approaching a time of year that is hard for many Xers: the holidays.  While we try to keep up our spirits with new traditions that we have made with our own families, and while we are intentional about bringing back good things we remember - like the TV specials we held dear or good food we ate, there is the undertow of the memories of growing up among a lot of fracture in society - fractures that usually became even wider when the holidays came. 

As the holidays approach, I'm thinking a lot this year about the brevity of life - it helps me to keep things in perspective when it all starts to get overwhelming.  I'm thinking a lot these days about how, in a little while, this hurt will hurt no more. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Days Go Rushing By

Today I went online to find a person from my very distant past, only to find that they had passed away.   Unfortunately, the older we get, the more this happens.   Life is so incredibly short, and when you are a kid, or a teenager, or even a twenty-something, you hear older people say that and you don't believe it.  You're not sure what they're talking about.  When you are young, time goes by so slow, the minutes and the hours drag on relentlessly.  The days and the weeks are endless.  It feel like ages just to get from fall to winter.   As an adult, time just keeps going by faster. 

In the autumn days of my younger years, time was slow and my mind was always drifting.  I would get in trouble for not paying attention in class.  My punishment was to stay in at recess....

While winds were blowing out on the playground, I was toasty warm inside. The room was peaceful and I would catch up on my work while listening to the comforting sound of staples being pushed into corkboard as my teacher attached orange and yellow construction paper leaves to the bulletin board. One day of time then is like one month of time now.

When long months stretched out in front of me, I feared that I would be small forever.  When seasons seemed to last for years, I hoped that the leaves would stay gold forever.  It felt like those days might go on forever. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Vintage Travel Pennants and Memories of Magic-Glo'

I remember these old-school travel pennants on the walls of Gen Xers while I was growing up.  I don't remember kids my own age having these (second wave Xers) but I have vague memories of seeing these on the bedroom walls of their older brothers or sisters (first wave Gen Xers).    

Hanging these up on the wall could really impress your friends - you would have visual proof of how well-traveled you were and these could also lead to conversations where you could brag about all the cool places you went the previous maybe Skagway?

I saw these at a quirky Portland store that sells all kinds of very random things (notice the bowl of candy in the background and also the bowl of scissors).

This time of year my mind is illumintated with cartoon characters and vintage fonts and the Magic-Glo of the costumes of the late Octobers of my early childhood.  These images can be hard to explain to someone who doesn't know what I'm talking about.  It is sort of Hanna Barbara-ish.  It is sort of Ben Cooper-ish.... 

Halloween is considered the most important holiday to Generation X.  It would be hard to have a Gen X blog and not write about Halloween....while other holidays can be full of family conflict, Halloween is simple - there aren't expectations of you and by putting on a costume you can escape reality even if for just one night. 

Happy Halloween, Xers. 


Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Party Kitchen!

Remember the Party Kitchen?  

If you are a first wave Gen Xer (those now most likely in their 40s) you might remember your younger sibling having one of these, and if you are a second wave Xer like myself (those most likely in their 30s) you may remember playing with one.  Nothing was better than going to play at a friend's house and discovering they owned one of these...this toy made for a very fun afternoon.
A friend of mine has this in her kids' play room and she let me take some photos....

Watch out!! These burners look like they're ready to cook anything!  The stove top dials can be turned to three different settings in popular early 1980s colors. 

The smoky glass (or maybe just plastic) oven front and cutting edge digital timer - so very 80s.  

A phone that you can talk on while you cook helps with multitasking - 
you can fry eggs while you rotary dial a friend!  


The folding side table is waiting for you  to come have a seat - there s a delicious chicken leg ready 
to be eaten with a spork.  Appetizing?  No?  

Maybe you'd like some waffles instead?  They've been on this plate waiting for you since 1983.

Bon Appetit!

(For KB - my wonderful Gen X friend who appreciates rotary phones and plastic waffles a much as I do!!) 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Room for the Outcasts

Back in 2008, when asked in an interview by Vanity Fair magazine who his hero is, John Cusack answered this:

"Let's go with Jesus. Not the gay-hating, war-making political tool of the right, but the outcast, subversive, supreme adept who preferred the freaks and lepers and despised and doomed to the rich and powerful..."

Back in 2008, it was the last American presidential election year. Four year laters, here we are again with less than a month away from voting.   I'm a registered independent who usually doesn't get offended when statements are made about either the right or the left, unless maybe when it is a completely unfair statement. The statement Cusack made is fair at least in the sense that this is how many from the right are viewed either because of media or bad choices of individuals.  Often times the right seems like it has become a sort of caricature.

I have known plenty of compassionate Republicans who live the kind of life that would make it impossible to associate with any kind of bigotry. I've known Democrats who don't agree with all the Democratic Party's beliefs, but there is far too much about the Republican party that they cannot support.

When I have, at moments, felt embarrassed of being a Christian in my life, it is not because I am embarrassed of Christ. I have felt embarrassed to be associated with the caricature of those who become much more concerned by the letter of the law than the spirit of the law. Those who would hold up signs with hateful language on it, but have never once helped to feed the hungry are no representation of Christ, and they are an embarrassment to the Christianity I try to live. 

As I'm writing this, I'm watching the VP debate between a Catholic Xer and a Catholic Boomer.  When an election is on the horizon, it is always a struggle for me.  Sometimes I feel exhausted and almost apathetic toward the political world.  I struggle with the too-white smiles and the spin and the soundbites and I wonder what the point of politics even is.  Other times, when I am able to get past the frustration and engage more, I struggle with who to vote for as I wrestle internally with all the issues on the table because of all the morality that is at stake.  Either way it is a struggle.  And it should be. 

I do not regret the times in my life I have been subversive.  We can all make more room in our minds for being subversive against the too powerful.  I do not regret the times in my life that I've surrounded myself with the outcast.  We can all make more room in our hearts for the outcasts. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Red Leaves and Sunlight

When the leaves are only just beginning to fall and the warmth of the sun is still in your bones, that might just be your moment.

It might be your moment when there is a delicate balance of enough youth still within you along with a wisdom that comes from a certain number of years on this earth.  All of this together - all of this happening at the perfect time and place can mean one thing...

...this might be your moment.  Don't let it pass.   

  (c) 2012 photography by Chloe Koffas

Thursday, September 27, 2012

X and the Cross

Everything that describes Generation X, or defines Gen X, or is listed as the traits of Gen X is part of the fabric of my being.  And the price of that has been a very long, hard road, full of many stones and empty wells.  The price of being truly Generation X has been many dark nights of the soul. 

And this is X: angst-filled, exhausted, burnt-out, lost, neglected, and displaced.  And this is not some bullet-point list to describe a demographic.  This is a reality, a day and night struggle for a generation of real people.  While there are word lists that can be used to describe us by those writing a sociology thesis, or articles written by those who don't know who we really are, there is something here that needs to be said: these words have been people's lives, and our lives have been full of real and honest struggle. 

Here is a Gen X word list for you: wounded, empty, misunderstood.


A life described by these kinds of words can quickly be led to reality and honesty and a very dark night of the soul.  Enough dark nights of the soul can begin to create a certain friction within your being.  This friction can carve out parts of you so deep that the emptiness echoes to an almost unbearable loudness, so that the loneliness penetrates your soul with an almost unbearable sting.  Enough of this emptiness, enough of this pain and it all begins to get pulled down into a black hole of hopelessness, even to the point of despondency.  And that is is why it is surprising, even stunning when you find that this same friction can sometimes ignite a spark. 

It is this spark that has brought about a flame just bright enough through the darkest of tunnels within my heart and mind to search and when I give up, to try again, to keep searching. 

That searching has always led me back to one place: the Cross.

I cannot get over the Cross.

I cannot get over Someone who was willing to be covered in wounds deep enough to know intimately what my own scars feel like.  And I have plenty.  If you are Generation X, the statistics, and the documented history, and the inarguable reality shows that you prabably do, too.

If I will have a god, it will be a God who not only knows about, but has intrinsically understood what my generation has gone through - why we have been angry, and tired, and alienated, and nihilistic, and alone, and forgotten.

It is the completely broken that knows the pain of the completely broken. 

If I will have a god, it will be a God who has intimately known betrayal, and heartache, and abuse, and fear, and neglect of every kind. 

I cannot get over Christ.

Our generation came along in the driest desert where the wells were shallow or even already dry.  This has meant that we have had to search elsewhere for sustenance, for survival, for a source from which to give others who have relied upon us.  And this is why I believe we will, when it is said and done, be the next great generation.  We have had that friction within us, and that friction - those dark nights of our souls - can lead us, if we chose it, to take us to the most luminous place we could have imagined: a place where we become everything we were meant to be, both individually and collectively.

Because of our circumstances, we will be, if we chose to be, the generation that draws from the deepest water - the water that sustains and fills so greatly that we will be able to take the wasteland we inherited, and build upon it the most stunningly beautiful urban landscape ever seen for the world we leave behind. 

I will use the spark of my dark nights that has created a flame, and I will hold it down into the infinite well to see how endlessly deep the water is, because the water in the shallow well that was given to me, to my generation, evaporated before I could ever take a drink.

When I cannot give any more because my well is empty - because there was hardly any water in it to begin with, that is when I can draw from the deepest well of all: God.  It is those days that I am having the hardest time forgiving, the hardest time loving, that I must draw from that well.  It is the nights when I realize how finite I am, how fragile I am, and how shallow my well is that I need that water to sustain me.  It is the dark nights of the soul that I need that water - nights like tonight.

(c) 2012 Chloe Koffas

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rain and the Places of Resonance

Today I woke up to the sound of raindrops dotting themselves on leaves and ground and stone.  I felt a certain peace, a certain clarity, a true stillness.  

Where is that place of resonance for you?

Sometimes, for me, it is intentionally staying inside my house, away from the rush, and the craziness, and the expectation.  Sometimes it's going onto a blog that always has wisdom and beauty to impart.   Sometimes it is taking some photos of something beautiful, or light-filled.

Sometimes that place of resonance is a moment on an overcast, chilly, fall Sunday morning, when we open the doors to the narthex and we are hit with a cloud of incense and a gust of warmth and the sound of the harmonizing choir.

And sometimes it is refusing to be confined by four walls, being near rushing water and filling my lungs with clean forest air.

Where is that place of resonance for you?  That place where rain covers over the worries of life or sun warms your back to help you keep on going....

Go there this weekend.

"Let the rain kiss you.  Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops." 

                                                                                                                               -Langston Hughes


Langston Hughes was from the last Lost Generation.  Generation X is considered the current Lost Generation....

(c) 2012 photography and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Atari Rules.

I recently had the opportunity to do a guest post on the blog, Are You There God? It's Me Generation X.  This is an amazing field guide to Gen X and has been featured in national media.  The writer of the blog, Jennifer James, is an incredible person, writer, and photographer...


Here is the post I wrote...

The Atari Rules.

In the early 80s, when I was in early elementary school, I often went to the babysitter's with a group of kids all roughly my age.  She also had a toddler and two kids of her own.   The Toddler kept busy with tantrums and snacks of cheese and crackers.  The Older Kids were teenagers and I was pretty sure they knew any given fact in the universe.  Mornings before school at their house consisted of watching Scooby Doo. 

Word on the street was that The Older Kids were going to get an Atari.  It was decided immediately that The Toddler, known for breaking things, would go nowhere near it.  I knew I was going to have to do some serious convincing or they might not let me near it, either.  After weeks of intense back-porch negotiations, it was decided that once the Atari showed up, I could go watch The Older Kids play, and that I might be allowed to playfor a minute if I followed the ATARI RULES LIST.

The ATARI RULES LIST went something like this:

1) Do not touch the console.

2) Do not hit the reset button on the console while The Older Kids are playing.

3) Do not stare at the console for too long, because you might become tempted to touch it.

4) Do not complain, make unreasonable demands, or even talk, while in the presence of the Atari.

The anticipated day finally came.  I arrived at the house as the morning sun spilled through the window illuminating harvest gold and avocado green items in the kitchen.  I wanted to sprint down the hallway to the room where the Atari was, but I needed to be nonchalant as I entered the presence of The Older Kids as they played the game.

And behold...of my Gen X childhood memories, this is one of the most monumental: walking across the shag carpet of a hallway to see Atari for the first time as it was being played on a black-and-white TV.  The asteroids floated by and a spunky little spaceship was shooting at them like crazy.  My eyes had been introduced to the pixels.  My ears had been introduced to the digital sounds.

I hovered in the doorway.

They hesitated.

I made it clear that their beloved Atari was safe, because I was abiding by the ATARI RULES LIST.  They let me play although I proved to be an amateur asteroid blaster.  When my time was up they asked me to hand the joystick back.  Weeks of negotiations only led to a few fleeting moments with the game, but Iknew that they saw how much I loved it and that they'd eventually let me play some more.  I also knew that morning I had been introduced to something amazing.  I walked back to the living room to watch Scooby Doo with The Younger Kids and brag about my morning galactic encounter. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The New School Year Begins!

My little one is starting preschool this week and the required supply list for the school includes a lunch box.  I found this vintage style Peanuts lunch box online.  I remember a couple of kids in my 1st grade class having blue Peanuts lunch boxes...



Photos by Chloe, Lunchbox: © 2011 Peanuts Worldwide LLC, original illustrations by Charles Schulz

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Light From a Pixel is now on Facebook!

If you'd like to follow Light From a Pixel on Facebook to get regular updates on new blog entries in your news feed (as well as bonus stuff like pics and vintage Gen X pop culture info that I'll be posting on FB only) then go ahead and like the page!  Here is is:

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Last Days of Summer

If I had to make a list of the symbols of Gen X 's formative years, this giant slide would definitely make the list.  I remember being at a carnival as a six years old - climbing the colossal staircase and racing down on a rectangle of burlap. 

I call these kinds of slides "Gen X slides"!

I remember standing at the top of the slide like I was on top of the world.  I refused let fear take over as I stood looking at all the faraway people below.  Instead, I chose to embrace the rush.  I think I'm in that place in life again now...

This week my family and I went to Oaks Park in Portland and it was my little one's first time to go to an amusement park.  She loved it more than I would have even expected.  Whether it was the mini roller coaster, or the kid-sized hot air balloons, she was fearless. 

There is a certain joy that comes when we don't dwell on the days of the season that have already passed us by, but when live fully in this day.  These are the last days of summer, which is a chance to drink up every last bit of it.  And there is a certain joy in those up-high places, where we can choose not to be afraid. We can choose to let the fear wash away as we embrace the rush.