Monday, December 2, 2013

The Lights of Las Vegas

Las Vegas, Nevada: Architecture and Interior Design - A Mix of Retro and Modern Images
Photo set by Chloe

 Wherever you go, look up, and look for the light. 

(c) 2013 photography by Chloe Koffas  

Monday, November 11, 2013

Life is Beautiful

The inaugural Life is Beautiful Festival took place in Downtown Las Vegas throughout the weekend of October 26th-27th.  It was a celebration of  music, art, food, and learning.  Among all the inspiration we experienced, we got to see some of the best live music we've ever seen.... 

It is considered a "completely new generation festival" with urban aesthetics, a culinary element, and most importantly, an emphasis on social awareness.  With this as a starting point, this can only become bigger and more amazing each year.

There was a large Gen X presence among the people attending, and especially among the performers and speakers.  Below are some pictures and several highlights....


Workers and volunteers for some new, groundbreaking charities were there to spread awareness about their organizations.  The following ones were the ones that really caught my attention:

Stop the Pity  is a movement that tells a new story about poverty.  It is about the potential every person has regardless of circumstance, to create an amazing life for themselves and
their community.  Their belief: "It's time to start viewing people in the developing world for who they really are instead of the stereotypes we've been trained to accept."

To Write Love on Her Arms has a mission statement to present hope and find help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide.  It exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly in treatment and recovery.  Their vision and belief:
You were created to love and be loved.
You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known.
You need to know your story is important, and you're part of a bigger story.
You need to know your life matters.

A giant banner on the side of a building where people were
writing messages and signing their names....

ART: The festival featured several different forms of art - including the kind that is done with spray paint cans on walls....

Aware is the name of a San Francisco artist with roots in Las Vegas who has been known for unsanctioned large scale street murals with social and political images.  

MUSIC:  With two full days of music happening simultaneously on multiple stages, there were a lot of bands that performed.  We were fortunate enough to be on the front row for the final night.  Below are some photos of some of the bands that played on the main stage:

The Life is Beautiful heart at the top of the main stage

Kings of Leon


Imagine Dragons

The Killers

The final night during the close of the festival, The Killers did their final show of their Battleborn Tour, played their Shot at the Night single for the first time live. 

The crowd at the main stage surrounded by part of the Vegas skyline as confetti explodes above us at the closing of the festival. 


The learning section of the festival included a lineup of inspiring speakers who have experience in everything from business, writing, publishing, leadership, and even overcoming obstacles in life. 

"Happiness is the optimistic interpretation of that which happens to you."
- Sean Stephenson

"You can come to understand your purpose in life by slowing down and feeling your heart's desires."
 - Marcia Wieder 

A close up of part of the banner where people were leaving messages and signing their names. 
There was a message here for you...

(c) 2013 writing and photography by Chloe Koffas 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Gray Stairs

I've had this reoccurring dream that started right after I graduated from high school and has spanned over the past two decades.  In the dream, there is gray all around me - I am standing at the top of gray cement stairs, and I am even wearing gray.  I am consumed with this palpable feeling of evaporating joy being consumed by regret - not regret about what I've done, but what I haven't.  I'd never known whether that dream was based on something that happened to me in real life that I was reliving again and again, or whether is was some kind of metaphor.

Recently, when some old high school friends were planning to come visit, I had asked one them to bring any pictures she had from those days.  She said she would, and that she would pack her senior yearbook in her suitcase as well.  While I already had a copy of the same yearbook, I told her to go ahead and bring it  - partly because I was curious about what I had written to her all those years ago on some page in the back of the book - maybe wishes for a good life ahead and some reference to an inside joke....

One night during her visit, we took out some pictures she had taken, and in one of the pictures, I am wearing a very early 90s-looking, over-sized gray tee shirt. I am sitting on our high school campus outside with a group of friends.  I couldn't remember what we were doing that evening though I suddenly recalled temporary shafts of sunlight peeking through a gray overcast evening.  My friend told me it was our senior barbecue near the end of high school - that we were there to sign each others' yearbooks.  I realized that is where the reoccurring dream came from.  I remembered being incredibly happy to be surrounded by my friends during the end-of-the-school-year barbecue and then, as everyone was leaving, standing alone at the top of cement stairs on our high school campus.  I remembered so vividly the feeling of being scared that high school was over, of feeling alone in facing the world on my own, and most of all, feeling that some detail was left unfinished.     

Consumed with the same emotions that my reoccurring dream had always given me, I asked her if I could see her yearbook and I flipped through it only to discover I had never signed it.  Strangely, there was just one spot left in her yearbook - an empty space on a corner of a page in the back that had been waiting for me all these years.  And while it seemed silly for a moment to write something to her that I could just tell her over the phone or in an email or a card, it seemed necessary for me to write in that space to tell her how much she meant to me. 

I told her about the dream and told her of the memory that had just come flooding back - that I realized the unexplained regret I had felt in the dream was that I never got to write the words to her that I meant to in real life.  I think she had left early from the barbecue that evening all those years ago because she had another event to be at, and that was why I didn't get a chance to sign her yearbook.  As all the dots connected, it began to seem like I had been intentional about standing on those steps and letting those emotions, although somewhat painful, freely wash over me.  And it resonated with me intensely when she said it out loud and confirmed it - that maybe I had done that on purpose.  I intuitively knew to set into motion a lesson that I would need to learn many years later.  I was standing on those steps in 1995, creating some snapshot image in my mind to be filed away only in my dreams until, in real life, I was ready to learn that there is no longer a need to live in regret because of the unexpected second chances that can come our way. 

The rest of that recent night with my friend was filled with talk about quantum physics, and wormholes in the outer regions of the universe where people send themselves message through time, like:

Stop doubting.  Stop fearing.  Stop regretting. 
Our recent late summer visit came to an end, and after several weeks went by, there was some busy fall afternoon where I paused from the work of my day and suddenly realized that the reoccurring dream, after all these years, had finally gone away.  The lesson had been learned, the loose end had been tied up.  That same evening, I was looking in the mirror when something caught my attention - my first gray hairs were making an appearance on the top of my head.  I am learning the lessons in life I am supposed to,  just in time.

(c) 2013 writing and photography by Chloe Koffas

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Edge of the West Coast

We stood at the edge of the West Coast, and while night had fallen over all of the rest of America, we were the last ones to see the sun. 

I had gotten together with four friends from my growing up years, the first time we'd all been in the same place since all of us graduated from high school together.  Now eighteen years have passed since that day, and we had a chance to look at our lives collectively, knowing that we have lived as many years over again as we had lived when we were first setting foot out into the world.

The dwindling of summer. 

What I know is share a deep connection with those who are the same generation as you, and you share a deeper connection still if those people grew up in the same place you did. 

All the blessings, and disappointments, and struggles, the knowing that the there is still so much work to do.  All the things that don't work out in life the way you thought they would.  And all the things that did.  I love my friends even more now in our thirties than I did when we were in our twenties.   Our weathered hearts are wiser now.  We stood where the Columbia River flows into the Pacific Ocean and watched the sun descend.  Between the five of us, we have now lived in or seen all of America. 

"I the dividing line between the East of my youth and the West of my future."

And I know that friendships are not to be taken for granted, and I know that anytime you've been in a friendship for longer than a four hour Greyhound bus ride, eventually everyone has something to say "I'm sorry" for.  And everyone should say, if they can, "I forgive you".

And our time on this earth is so short.

"What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's goodbye.   But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies."

To left of where we were standing - Youngs Bay turns into the Lewis and Clark River. 

When my friends and I stood at this viewpoint, I thought about how much I had learned from each one of them. With some of them, our friendship goes back almost 25 years. I stood under this blue and yellow sky and realized that each one has taught me better how to love. I realized that all the soreness in my heart I was feeling the moment I took these pictures was the stretching and growing of it so it could become larger, more capable of believing anything is possible. 

To the right of where we stood - a bridge that is part of Highway 101- the route the connects all the states of the West Coast....

" America when the sun goes down and I sit on the broken-down river pier watching the long skies over New Jersey and sense all that raw land than rolls in one unbelievable bulge over to the West Coast, and all that road going, and all the people dreaming in the immensity of it...and tonight the stars'll be out...the evening star must be drooping and shedding her sparkler dims on the prairie, which is just before the coming of complete night that blesses the earth, darkens all the rivers...and folds the final shore in, and nobody, nobody knows what's going to happen to anybody besides...growing old..." 

All quotes in bold from On The Road by Jack Kerouac

View from Astoria Column - Astoria, Oregon
(c) 2013 writing and photography by Chloe Koffas - all rights reserved

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Goonies House - Astoria, Oregon

The Goonies is a movie well known to Gen X.  Many Xers saw it in theaters as kids or teenagers when it came out in the mid-80s, and it soon became a cult classic.  This summer I got together with four friends from my growing-up years and we all went to see the house from the movie together.  All five of us got together to catch up in Portland and to take a road trip out to Astoria on the Oregon Coast.  One of my friends lives in Astoria, so she gave us a tour of the town.  Seeing the Goonies house was at the top of the list of places we wanted to see. 

We parked the car on the street and headed up the private gravel drive that leads up to the house that is up on a hill. 

Visitors come by the thousands every year to see and photograph the house - here's the view of the water down below the hill from the gravel drive...

Filming started in 1984 and was starred in by well known Gen X actors who were teenagers or pre-teens at the time.   I remember there being a lot of talk about Goonies on my elementary school playground when it was in theaters.   I finally saw it on TV a few years afterwards.

The mayor of Astoria declared June 7th as the official Goonies Day for the city to commemorate the the day the film was released in 1985.

Shadows of my friend and me as I lift up my camera to take a picture....

The skylight to the attic was open - the attic where the kids in the movie find the treasure map leading to the hidden Oregon Coast pirate treasure.  The story line is full of all the Spielberg traits that made for great movies in the 80s.  Before the trip, I watched the movie for the first time in two decades.  It was interesting to see it as an adult - maybe a  little edgy at times for a kids' movie, but even the edgiest characters seemed to ultimately have good hearts. 

The sun was low in the sky on a late summer day - we were there on maybe one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful day of the year in Astoria. 

You can't go onto the property since someone lives there, but I zoomed in little bit with my camera to capture a closer image of the Goondocks sign....

The "Goondocks" was the fictional name of the neighborhood where the Goonies lived in the movie.  Astoria is a port city and just below the house are docks on the Columbia River, which connects with the Pacific Ocean. 

Another view of what you see looking out from the front of the Goonies house - the bridge that connects Oregon and Washington. 

Hyacinths, sunflowers and all kinds of other flowers were taking in the rays of the sun that day from the front yard.

My friends were standing with their backs to the sun which unexpectedly made for a great picture - the sign has shadow images of the characters in the film, and the shadow images of my friends are cast below the sign.  All the shadow images in the picture are people who were important to my childhood. 

Gen Xers who played characters in the film were: Martha Plimpton, Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jonathan Ke Quan, Jeff Cohen, Kerri Green, and Corey Feldman.  I'd have to say Martha was my favorite in the film.  I even got glasses that looked like the ones she wore in the film when I was a kid...she looked way better in them than I did! 

In the film, this was the house of the two characters who were brothers - Mikey (played by Sean Austin) and Brand (played by Josh Brolin).

Above is a snapshot of my friends walking up the drive to the house.  Seeing this house on my own would have already been great.  Seeing this  house -  an iconic piece of Generation X history - with four other Gen Xers that I grew up with, made the experience a hundred times better. 

Summer comes to and end.  Soon enough, all this wild grass will be green again, the bright sky will be overcast, and the Goondocks will quietly hold memories of all the feet who walked up to this house...Gen X actors who have long since grown up, and Gen Xers who have come to see a place from the imaginations of their youth. 

For panoramic photos of "The Goondocks" and the Oregon Coast landscape where a lot of the movie was filmed, make sure to click this link:

The Edge of the West Coast & A View of the Goondocks from Far Up Above

Artist's signature on the Goonies sign: Tony Barnes

(c) 2013 Writing and photos by Chlo Koffas- all rights reserved 

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Cobain Chronicles - Part Four: Kurt's Park

I recently drove from Portland to Seattle to go to the Kurt Cobain memorial.  It was originally named Viretta Park, though it is also known as Kurt's Park.  This city park is right next to the last house he ever lived in.  It was twenty years ago that I stood in front of Kurt at one of his last concerts.  I'd been meaning to come visit this memorial for several years...  

People come here from all over the world to leave flowers, mementos, and write messages on this bench - Kurt's bench - where he was seen sitting at different times before the end of his life.  Messages are written to him in chalk, nail polish, spray paint or anything else.  

When I walked up to the park, I was surprised to find myself so anxious - it was like I was going to meet someone face to face that I had not seen in decades.  My heart pounded as I walked up to Kurt's bench.

This is no Graceland.  No shag carpet here, just the sprawling grass.  No chandelier, though on clear nights you can see some stars.  No admission fee, only space for you to walk through and remember.

As an amazing act of love, someone took the time to knit this piece that was attached to the bench when I got there.   It looks like a remake of the red and black sweater Kurt was known to wear. 

I had found these dried yellow flowers in a store and they made me think of Kurt, so I took them with me to Seattle.  I wrapped them in paper and a blue ribbon to leave on his bench.  I did not see the word "Forgiven" carved into the bench initially.  I saw it the same night I came home and transferred these photos to my computer.  The whole journey of taking a look at Kurt's life and going to his memorial was profound and set me on a path of personal forgiveness.

I sat on the ground next to the bench for a while.  I felt waves of sorrow wash over me for all that went wrong.

There's something really beautiful about dried flowers...they don't have to worry about dying because they've have already crossed over to the other side.  Their beauty is delicately invincible.

The wooden slats in the bench get pulled out and replaced every so often and also painted over from time to time with brown paint by the park maintenance people.  That's why you can look at different pictures of this bench taken over time and it looks entirely different.  Under the brown paint you see here, there is a whole other layer of messages to Kurt from pilgrims who came in the weeks before.

People by the thousands fly here each year from faraway countries and drive here from faraway places to come and leave mementos and messages.  The pictures below show messages from people from Czech Republic, and from Iowa.

Pennies and a guitar pick were stuck onto the bench maybe with glue or wax, but then they were painted over....

The day I was there, I saw glasses, gloves, a bracelet, a tea bag, maybe some sort of mint in a silver package...maybe these were all left by the same person, or maybe by multiple people - all pieces that had symbolic importance to someone.

The strangest thing kept happening - multiple times I would put the flowers in the middle of the bench, and then I would see them on the ground behind the bench.  Any time I was walking around and not looking directly at then bench, this would happen - even when I was the only one at the park.  Every time I saw the flowers on the ground they looked like someone had carefully placed them there - facing up.  I got really spooked for a couple minutes until I realized that the soft breezes blowing through the park were probably just blowing it off the bench.  I wondered if the universe was making the point that I wasn't supposed to place the flowers in that exact spot because that's right where Kurt would sit....  The last time I picked them up from the ground, I placed them on the side of the bench and not in the middle.

There are two benches - one that is closer to his house, which is the main bench for leaving messages and mementos, and there is a second bench that is further away from his house with less graffiti on it...

Rest in peace, Kurt. 

The view from just behind Kurt's bench: Lake Washington, the skyline of Bellevue in the distance beyond the water, and blue mountains on the horizon that are part of the Cascade Range.

I hate when leaves start turning the color of Autumn when Summer is just barely beginning.  It makes feel anxious and regretful at the same time.

I pictured coming here for a long time, the way you imagine seeing an old friend for the first time in ages.  I always imagined I would come during cold, gray weather, not during early summer when everything is exploding in light and color.

Purple hollyhocks lean into a path at the top of the park.

The small window on the top floor of Kurt's old house was opened up to let in the afternoon breezes while I was walking around.  This house looks out over the park and is now lived in by someone else - they have it surrounded by walls for privacy.

Beyond Kurt's last house - the vapor trail of an ascending plane.  When our time comes, I wonder if we leave behind something like a vapor trail, however intangible it might be, in the moments when we ascend from this earth.

This white flower kept catching my eye - like it was trying to get my attention.   When I got close enough to take a picture of it, I could then see that right next to it was an enormous, astoundingly beautiful Evergreen with an opening in it like a doorway - you could go in and walk around inside it as it surrounded you with its boughs.

It was like some idyllic childhood storybook scene - some place where the main character would go to seek refuge or solitude.

When I walked inside this ancient looking tree, there were the hugest clovers I have ever seen at my feet - I've never seen clover this big anywhere.  

At times I've wondered why Kurt was chosen as the 'frontman' for my generation - considering all the people that could otherwise have taken that title.  Beyond his extraordinary talent and how he changed the history of music,  it seems it is because so many people felt a connection to him and to his pain through his music.  In living out the quintessential Gen X existence, he experienced and understood our pain. 

So if the frontman of our generation has left us what have we left? To recognize the mutual suffering in one another and to help each other move beyond that suffering.  To look for light when it seems there is only darkness.  To be conscious of what has happened to other Gen Xers individually and collectively and to not forget.

"The sun is gone but I have a light."
Kurt Cobain
1967 - 1994

Photographs of Kurt's Park and Kurt's last home - Seattle, Washington.

(c) 2013 photography and writing by Chloe Koffas - all rights reserved