Backstage at the Nutcracker

Oh hey guys, what’s up. It’s been a while. The good news is . . . I have been doing all the things! And more importantly documenting all those things! And then storing all of those things on memory cards and then responsibly external harddrives and then extra responsibly backing up those things! And then . . . doing more things without looking at any of the previous things! VROOM GO GO GO!

So January has been a whirlwind of processing catch-up, but now I finally have something to show for it. First, here’s a slideshow of photos from backstage at the Hopkins Youth Ballet’s performance of Nutcracker.

Sad Mouse

Gingerbread Boy

I always forget that kids live in a different universe than adults do. I had been backstage for maybe five minutes when suddenly a pair of arms were wrapped around my waist; the East Coast instincts I’ve been struggling to cultivate almost let out an alarmed shriek. I looked down to see a tiny blonde head. “ADRIANNE!!!! I love you.” Who the hell is this, I wondered in a panic, before her mother turned the corner and waved. Oh! Right, the neighbor’s little girl.

She took my hand. “We’re best friends now!” she said. “Want to come with me?”

“Absolutely,” I said. “I’ll follow you anywhere. What are you up to?”

Full album: here.

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Outtake From September

Maggie and Newspaper

From a shoot Maggie and I did for her Mafia Trivia night at Pizza Lucé. We’d both gotten up early to be there before they opened for the brunch crowd, and the manager was lovely enough to bring us a whole pot of coffee (not to mention later, gluten-free eggs benedicts) while we clambered all over his restaurant.

Once we’d finished balancing poor Maggie on towers of canned tomatoes and dangling her off the booth — some legitimately dangerous poses that she managed to make look totally comfortable, in heels — we noticed the lipstick on her diner cup. “That is the classiest thing I have ever seen,” I said. “All you need is a newspaper.”

Miss you, Maggie.

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Postcards From a Road Trip

A lot of people I love have a lot of opinions on what I’m doing next, but thankfully, the minute I stopped asking for advice and just started doing, was the minute most of them simply wished me well.

Friday night I had a going-away dance party at the favorite Chinese restaurant, and we stomped around until two in the morning — I fell asleep in lipstick and fake eyelashes, rolled out of bed Saturday morning like a sack of rotting potatoes. I packed the meager remnants of my possessions into my grandma’s ’95 Ford Taurus, hooked the cat’s harness into a seatbelt, and drove to meet Ben in St. Paul; he was going to join me for the road trip, and fly back to the Twin Cities on Wednesday, because he is an enlightened sort of fellow who doesn’t mind Sisyphean tasks. “You ready for this?” one of us probably said.

“Let’s do it.”

So we drove to Brooklyn: stopping in Janesville, Chicago, and Cleveland along the way, stretching the drive over three days. Sashimi had despised those first twenty minutes of the journey, throwing her body around the passenger seat and howling desperate pleas for death as I made my way to him in St. Paul, but shortly after that she curled up in the back and went to sleep, seemingly content for the rest of the trip. Wisconsin was all hills and golden leaves, a disproportionate moon bobbing along the horizon as if we could learn its song. Ohio was endless, Illinois was in disrepair. Indiana, Pennsylvania were lovely again, hills of tattered orange and manifest destiny, old barns and grazing horses. The sun rose, the sun set, we stopped for coffees and cut up blocks of cheese. We listened to music and radio shows, we stayed in an Econolodge and with old friends, we ate blueberry frozen waffles and watched a four-year-old squeeze the bejesus out of her portly black cat. “Looooove youuuuuu,” she said.

There was a moment, near the end, when we reached the top of a hill in New Jersey balancing like tentative little surfers on a wave, to see the crash of the New York’s massive glittering skyline suddenly revealed in the distance. I wasn’t ready for it, I thought. Can’t we just keep driving? Take the detour. Tell me another story.

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Northern Spark

It was 2 in the morning and I had been shooting the festival for four hours.

It was all lovely and exactly what I wanted to be doing, what I couldn’t believe I’d had the dumb luck to be paid to be doing — but I couldn’t help but compare this experience to last year’s. I’d shot that one just for fun, following my own whims and that of my friends, all of us drunk on free will, late hours, strangers and discovery, strange interactive art and glowing lights along the Mississippi. This year I had been hired. My shifts were scheduled for quieter areas; taking pictures of children catching insects near glowing lights, the families laying on the floor of the Weisman under a tent projecting constellations. I was incredibly happy to be doing it for work, but it was, by nature, work. Somewhere, I knew, there was also revelry; the people I loved reaching out with glass jars and catching their own curiosities, marveling at the strange and beautiful. Christ, I thought, they were probably dancing somewhere. Always with the incredibly enthusiastic dancing!

Every now and then I got a text message. “We’ve decided to start a boy band! It will be called Major Movement. Your friend Joanna is here too by the way.”

Things were slowing down further. One of the booths I’d been told to shoot had shut down early; I tried to grab some hasty pictures as they disassembled, but nothing I was doing seemed to quite capture much of anything. Some people standing around, some cinderblocks, all shadows. Get in the light, won’t you, I thought. Somebody, won’t somebody gravitate toward that lamp. My Keds were scraping the skin off my heels. I was hungry, maybe, thirsty, maybe. Bodily needs become mysterious at 2 in the morning.

I decided I needed to take a break, regroup my own scattered thoughts. I took the elevator to my car in the parking lot and I just sat in there alone. I chugged warm water from a Nalgene, blandly gnawed on a block of cheddar I’d packed in a cooler. I slumped forward and let my head fall onto the steering wheel.

“Get it together, Mathiowetz!” I told the dashboard.

I remembered my new mantra.

If it’s not working, move until it is.

And my old:

Get closer.

Never fails to improve most things. Most of the time it will make them entirely exciting and worthwhile.

Okay, I repeated, okay.

When I reentered the Weisman, everything had changed.

A crowd — a massive crowd, my age and younger, all lace tights and thick framed glasses — had gathered and filled the hallway and galleries, and they continued to flow in, spilling from the elevator in bursts of laughter and squeaking sneakers. A garbled “what the . . .?” had just begun to pass my lips when the first note suddenly rang out from an electric guitar. I turned the corner.

After the first set I pushed myself up from the floor, where I’d taken pictures of tamborines being thrown, college kids flinging their arms around in pure joy, the guitarist playing from the window ledge, etc etc. I had been lost in the whole thing, completely immersed, it was everywhere I wanted to be pointing that camera. I was happy. More than happy; I was revived, competent, necessary. This is where I would have chosen to be, of anywhere, I thought. I pushed through the crowd, passed the donut stand, and leaned against the wall for a regrouping of an entirely different nature; it was time to step back, lose a little focus, see the forest again. Right! Settle down! What next, for now? Where to?

And that’s the moment I first saw you across the room, eagerly pushing through the crowd to reach me.

The camera in my head exchanged its wide-angle for a fisheye. Everyone else was abstracted, pushed to the side, and all that existed in the crowd was your giant grin. It’s a particular one, that always disarms me. It seems to exclaim, you! You you you you!

I would take pictures all night, and these few minutes, undocumented, is how I remember it. Your hands landed on my shoulders. People scattered around us like bowling pins. “Hey!” you said.

We stood there in the middle of it all. Your hands on my shoulders, that grin on your face, eager eyes searching uncertainly into mine. (You, right? You.) “Oh!” I finally remembered to say. “Hello! Hi.”

Somewhere, the band picked back up. I had to go to finish this up, and I did, somehow, I turned and left you with little fanfare. As if it had been any other greeting, any other person I knew. As if I didn’t always know exactly when you entered a room.

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I’m With The Press

I should have thought to bring rice crackers. At one point I held out my palms in front of a double cream brie like some bougie orphan. “Could I just . . . get a hunk of that in my hands?”

Above: rows of butter tubs, with flavors like jalapeno, chocolate, cinnamon honey. Full album from the 2012 MN Cheese Festival: here.

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