58 degrees and scattered thunderstorms


 (written on my phone because I’m trying out the blog app whatever ish thing)


It’s amazing how dark it can get in the middle of a day when the weather calls for thunderstorms. I usually respond to it by immediately becoming depressed. My natural state of function relies on the appearances of the sun throughout the day. Dusty will sometimes say that he “has a solar-powered girlfriend”. this is mostly quite true. Though today, I don’t really mind the dark. I’m remembering that the sun is still there - literally has to be there above me in the sky - but there’s just a curtain, another layer over it at the moment. It’s similar to my relationship with the midwestern winter this year. I’ve done a much better job of coping with it, reminding myself that it is only a season and the sun will be back to get into my pores and tingle my skin. It’s allowed me to relax a little more into the season. Enjoy it for what it is. 

sometimes. Until I I forget all these things again in 5 minutes and tempt myself to watch chopped jr episodes until the day is over. 

i walked to the library just now to pick up the book “outline” by Rachel Cusk I had on hold. I’m not really sure what it’s all about, but some people I follow in cyberspace really like her writing, so I thought I’d give it a shot.  

While I was checking out and paying my overdue fine, I picked this scab on the side of my nose that has been there for the past couple of months. I think it was an unfortunate placement of a small zit I had popped and happened to be on top of poorly placed blood vessel because every time i scratch it off again, it bleeds profusely for about 5 minutes. So while I was checking out, i scratched it accidentally and then it just started gushing blood and I tried hiding my face from the clerk and speed up the process because I could see the blood all over my hands now and the pool forming rapidly below my left eye about to make a huge splash all over my white shirt and the library carpet. I was mortified and hurried to the bathroom where I went through reams of toilet paper filled with blood one after the next. Then families came in and I’m standing there with all this bloody tissue and I’m at the mercy of this stupid blood vessel. how can so much blood come from one pore??fucking game of thrones on my nostril. maybe they’ll think it’s a bloody nose and not a bleedy zit. But why do I even care? It dried up eventually with just lovely tissue residue on my nose I can’t get off  




currently at a coffee shop with really great coffee but it’s always so fucking busy and claustrophobic but it’s raining and I just got these books I’m excited to read (but now obviously not reading). I’m in between two, what I’m inferring to be, male theology students. Very clean cut, clean vapid jokes exchanged between the two of them. And I wonder - what do you REALLY think? Or do you really enjoy jokes about the rain? They enter back into their respective temples of pcs and type their clean cut thesis (theses?) in this clean cut coffee shop next to each other’s clean selves. 


new exciting updates for the pages project


you've probably been wondering why there hasn't been much handwritten goodness splashed on coat[e]rak in a while. 

well, as i'm always trying to figure out the best way to recruit people and get their pages out and into your palms in a time-efficient and ever expanding way, i realized that i needed to purposefully enlist some "guest curators" to help me with this endeavor. so, i have chosen a couple of people who have already done some of their own pages to nominate and recruit awesome people in their life, therefore multiplying the amount of goodness coming our way. 

doing this helps me have a lineup of pages already in queue to be able to really be consistent and actually release weekly, so i'm very excited about it and SO excited to see who we get to meet. so look for new pages coming the end of may 2017.

all this said, though i have dubbed some "guest curators" already, i'm ALWAYS looking for more references from all of you and would love to be introduced to someone you'd love to peek in on the innerworkings of. just connect us and we'll get going!

thank you all always for your support and interest in this project.

much love,


the architecture of a professional nomadic life : a chat with design thinking consultant koheun lee

"No matter where you are in the world, everyone’s living as complex and as intricate of a life as anyone else. At the end of the day, people are just people, and we’re all trying to get through each day in the best way we can"

@koheunlee instagram

Koheun Lee is a free-lance design thinking consultant who travels the globe consulting on design practice for microfinance and other organizations. Previously based out of Nairobi, Kenya, she is now hopping around the world living out of her travel bags and sense of open-eyed opportunity and adventure. She took some time out of her month long stint in New Zealand to answer some questions for us about good design, travel photos and home.


CoatRak: So you're in New Zealand currently, correct? What brought you there? How long will you be there?

Koheun Lee: Justin and I are coming off a three month contract with my former company. They had to fly us back somewhere, so we figured why not New Zealand?Justin has some childhood friends here. We visited them last November and loved it here so we decided to come back for Christmas and New Year's this year. We're here for another 10 days. We'll have been here for a month by the time we leave.

CR: Contract doing what? Do you two often work on projects together?

KL: This was the first project we’ve worked on together professionally. The larger project was a learning event to to teach upper management at microfinance institutions how to innovate within their organizations. Justin and I got to travel together to create a video to show as a teaser at the event.

CR: From what I see on social media and from Justin is that you bounce around quite a bit around the world, just a couple of months ago I think you were in Colombia, and then I think back in Kenya, and the pages you wrote were written in Myanmar, correct? What were you doing there? It's very hard to keep up with your globetrotting self. Have you always done this much traveling?

KL: I first boarded a plane before age two and have been "on the go" since. As for my travels this past year, they've been a combination of play and work. I quit my latest job a year ago now and have been contracting since. It's opened up more opportunities and made it easier to travel. I made a trip out to the states over the summer to visit Justin and meet his family, watch my sister graduate from college, and to attend a good friend's wedding in Colombia while I was on that side of the world. I was back in Kenya for a hot second before flying out to the Philippines, then back in Kenya before a 7-country work trip from October through December of the past year. I was on a couple projects, but the bigger one was for an event my company hosted in Singapore in December to bring innovation and design thinking to different microfinance organizations across Asia.

@koheunlee instagram

CR: Innovation and design thinking in microfinance organizations...now that is a world I am completely unfamiliar with. What does working with these organizations mean in your line of work?

KL: A lot of times, organizations like these don’t have access to the same resources as companies in the private sector because they serve the poor. I guess at the end of the day, to me, it means providing those working to improve the lives of the poor with methods and skills to support their work.

CR: You list your city of origin as Nairobi, Kenya. Have you lived there your whole life?

KL: I grew up in Kenya for most of my childhood through when i graduated from high school, minus three years in Ethiopia and a year here and there in the states.

CR: What's your favorite thing about Nairobi?

KL; Nairobi's a really neat city. Kenyans are total hustlers and there are so many cool things that are up and coming in the creative scene. I love the mix of people in the city.

@koheunlee instagram #kohonthego

CR: What are some “up and coming” creative things you’ve seen there you’re excited about?

KL: There’s a lot going on terms of promoting local designers and fashion. One of my best friends from childhood was part of creating the first urban african lifestyle retail store called The Urban Lifestyle Company, so that’s exciting for me.

CR: What was your least favorite thing living there?

KL: This is a total cop out answer, but I'd say "traffic."

CR: I think that’s a pretty universal sentiment. Haha. But I hear it’s exceptionally crazy there. Any pictures you can paint for us about what the traffic is like?

KL: Well on the one hand, there’s the whole “no rules” thing with driving, but mostly it’s just parts of the city turning into a parking lot during rush hour.

CR: Dipping in and out of languages and different customs gives you a pretty unique outlook on humanity. This may be a broad and difficult question to distill, but what seems to be a theme that keeps coming back to you (if there is one)?

KL: I think the easy answer is that no matter where you are in the world, everyone's living as complex and as intricate of a life as anyone else. At the end of the day, people are just people, and we're all trying to get through each day in the best way we can.

CR: Agreed. That’s basically why I have this project going - to show the essential sameness of trying to get through the day and live a good (but often hectic) life. So...I've noticed your "Koh on the Go" where you take a picture of yourself and photoshop it into another scene - almost like a paper cut-out doll of yourself. I love it! How did that start?

@koheunlee instagram

KL: #kohonthego started soon after I joined Instagram. I took a photography class during college and one of the topics for discussion was travel photography and why people feel the need to go to well-known places and sites and take their own photograph, when it's likely that a million (better) photos of the same place exist somewhere on the internet. Koh is my equivalent of a ceramic gnome. The idea came to me on a bus ride a couple years ago and since then, I've been creating a #kohonthego post (close to) every time I change locations.

CR: You’re so right - I’m a fan of anything that spins the quintissential “travel photo” trope. I think you do such a great and fun job of it. You label yourself as a "Design Thinking Consultant". What does this mean to you? How did you get into that field?

KL: Design thinking is essentially solution-focused thinking. It allows you to be creative in exploring solutions to problems. I was introduced to it at my former company - a social innovation company based out of Cambodia. They use design thinking, among other methods and techniques to help improve international development projects around the world. It's brought me to 10 or so countries in the past three years - working in the field with low-literacy rural populations to facilitating regional workshops with upper management of different organizations.

CR: Wow, what a wide range of demographics. And such a great opportunity to see the world in a unique way. Being a design-thinker, what do you think is inherently valuable about good design?

KL: I think what's valuable about good design is that it improves experiences. For example, a well designed service is intuitive - it doesn't take much effort on the user's end to figure it out. It's the difference between being greeted by someone from the airline and being ushered to the next gate when your flight's been delayed and arriving at an airport you've never been to, walking around looking for some signs, having the trek to the other side of the airport, running to your gate, all while the thought that you might miss your flight is on the back of your mind.

@koheunlee instagram #kohonthego

CR: True. Making a product or website or interface user-friendly cuts out more than half of the problems that people have in communicating or connecting their customers or constituents. Who are some design thinkers or artists (or just thinkers) that you admire currently or who have influenced you in general?

KL: I don't know if there are individuals I could call out by name, but I definitely admire people who have and are willing to approach life with open minds. I'm into people who innovate to make the world a better place. fastcompany.com is a great place to come across a bunch of folks like this.

CR: I don’t think I’ve ever spent any time on fastcompany.com. I’ll have to check it out. Where is a place you haven't gone that's on the top of your list right now?

KL: There's a countless number of places that I still want to go to. Tajikistan would be at the top of the list though because it's a big part of who Justin is that I have no reference for besides some stories here and there.

CR: That makes sense. It always seems to help to contextual people when you see where they grew up. When you’re globe-trotting, what are your go-to travel companions?

KL: My backpack. I did a ton of research before switching backpacks a few months ago. On the topic of good design - this backpack is spot on in terms of product design (for me). It comes with all the compartments I need, easy to access compartments, and fits under the seat in front of me. If i'm on a flight, I always travel with earphones, a neck pillow, and a scarf (because all airplanes are freezing).

CR: Sounds well thought out. And what backpack is that?

KL: The AER Fit Pack. It’s actually a city/gym bag, but I think it works great for travel.

@koheunlee instagram

CR: Do you ever have a hard time feeling grounded moving around a lot?

KL: There's no real place I call home and the places I do are different every time I return. I can't seem to stay put in one place for more than a few years at a time and I have to admit, I spend a lot of time wishing all the people and places I love were here, not there. I'm okay with not being grounded or based anywhere. I guess it feels like the world is getting smaller every day and I know that if I were ever to feel like I really need to be somewhere else to feel like I belong, it's just a plane ride away. I think it's also helpful to have friends planted all over the world and being able to access them online.

CR: That’s very true - going to see people far away is not as impossible as before. It’s interesting when you note that the places you return to are different every time you go back to them. I think about that often - about the dynamics of place and what composes the fabric of a place. It seems to be an elusive thing, contingent upon what people you know who are still there, or what their life status is, or if a landmark was renovated or torn down, or if that gypsy band plays in that bar still or not. All the little things that make up our memories and architecture of a place. Ok, finally, what does a "good" day look like to you? At the end of the day, what would be required to transpire for it to qualify as a good and deeply satisfying day?

KL: I think any day I'm tired and excited to go to bed is a good day. there's a lot of days that go wasted and I still feel stress-y or have a hard time falling asleep. I find it hard to go to bed when there is unfinished work or unresolved feelings. Take those out of the equation and I'm a happy camper.

CR: Completion equates peace of mind. Well, Koheun, thank you so much for taking the time out of your New Zealand adventures to talk with me. I hope we get to meet in person soon!

the road to poetic justice : an interview with community advocate nicolassa galvez

"To envision art is probably the most powerful tool to envision a new future. Artists can imagine a new future that we can't even fathom"

Niko Galvez collaborated with Andre Irv, who's currently serving a 15 year sentence in a California State Prison, for her pages featured in the "that's [not] all s/he wrote..." series. It would do you well to take some time to read their correspondence here. Niko is a community and social justice advocate in Long Beach, and Andre is an artist and thinker also from Long Beach. Below is the chat I had with Niko about prison reform, tequila and vitamins, and the road to the American woman.


Coat[e]rak: Hey Niko, how’s it been?

Niko Galvez: Good. Figuring out health stuff lately, which is good and also overwhelming.

CR: I bet.

NG: Yeah, but one thing is that the two alcohols I can have with all my complications is tequila and gin. Which is great because I hate vodka. If it was just vodka and gin I’d be done.

CR: I also hear there’s a lot of healing properties in tequila.

NG: Yeah, so now I take my vitamins with a shot of tequila. I used to take it with IPA because my ex drank beer. There’s just something about taking vitamins with beer versus water that made me so much better at it.

CR: That’s certainly a motivator.

NG: Yeah. And last week I saw an article on the healing properties of tequila and I was like, there’s my new beer. Because I’m not supposed to do IPAs because of the wheat.

CR: Makes sense. So you told me that you wanted to share a new project that you were working on currently.

NG: Yes! My friend Alyssandra, who’s a musician, and I are going to drive across country to the Million Women March on DC in January on the day when Trump’s inaugurated.

CR: Oh yeah.

NG: There’s an effort to gather a million women on Capitol Hill. So we’re going to drive - we’re leaving on January 8 and going across the lower states and stopping with people we know and also where there are people we don’t know. We’ll be doing gigs, free performances, and interviewing women.

CR: Awesome.

NG: Informally, like on a phone camera. Neither of us are “filmmakers”. But she’s a really really good musician. So we’re going to do an IndieGoGo campaign with a kick-off concert, and then a sayonara concert. So we have to raise about $4,000. Depending on if she gets a radio show, we might stop in Chicago around January 24. We’re going to list all the dates. So if you know any community centers for women or places where she can do a gig.

CR: Yeah, I’ll keep my eyes and ears open. I could definitely try to hook you up somewhere.

NG: We’re looking for a mixture of women-owned businesses, traditional music venues, community spaces.

CR: You’re still working the construction job, right?

NG: Yeah, when I can. I’ll do more once my health is up. I’ve been sleeping a lot. Going out and sleeping a lot. Those are my two priorities.

CR: Do you have your eye on anything other than the construction job?

NG: Yeah. I just met with this person who’s a part of the Molina family [an influential philanthropic family in Long Beach], and they have this foundation that’s for art and music and they fund artists and musicians to visit local schools. It’s been a board operated foundation up until now and they’re considered hiring a part time staff person to be that liason between schools and artists. So I’m going to contact a family friend who does that kind of thing to figure out logistics because they contacted me because they wanted to know how to go about it.

CR: What’s something else you’ve been thinking about lately?

NG: Well, one thing, and it has to do with the project, which we’re calling “The Road to the American Woman”, is how to not make it just “white women tears”. It’s something I’ve been thinking about and care about and I’ve read articles about “being an ally”, but they all just seem so ethereal and abstract like - “Don’t make it up about you” and “stand up in the face of oppression”. But it’s like - What does that look like? You know? And what does that look like in light of this project?

CR: It is a really sticky question. Because a lot of the time, well-intentioned people end up making the situation about themselves anyways and emotions take over and it becomes not helpful. But I also have come to accept my own vulnerability in that and be like, well, sometimes my voice will be helpful, and sometimes it will be just noise. It’s good to always be aware of the question, but also to not be obsessed with it, because that’s another problem in itself.

NG: True. Oh, I’m supposed to brain storm an art project as well to do on the trip. Alyssandra’s going to write music along the way and we’re going to interview women along the way. I don’t want to make a quilt, but something like a quilt that everyone who wants to can contribute to along the way.

CR: I like that idea. So, I want to rewind a bit and start from how you got to this place - taking community art roadtrips and writing letters with an inmate. How you became passionate about social justice and art. What is the “title” you would put on yourself? If you were to self-label.

NG: Like a job title?

CR: Yeah, well, kind of your “vocation” in the world, if you will.

NG: Well Something I’ve planned around with is a creativity curator and advocate. Or, I don’t know, I’m still struggling to figure out what that is. But that’s kind of what I’ve been using, but it still doesn’t resonate as the answer. Currently, my mission statement, which is still a work in progress, but it’s: “Joy manifesting...With authenticity...Rooted in diversity...My mission is to curate shared spaces for counter-cultures to creatively address our community's most pressing issues.” It’s kind of lofty, so I still have to hone it down.

CR: What did you get your undergrad in?

NG: Latin American History and Politics. When I say I have an interest in crime, it’s because as a small child I was a victim of crime. A repetitive victim. There was no where for me to go. It always involved villifying the perpetrator. Which, being the victim of sexual abuse with someone that you care about is complicated. If it’s a stranger, you can be angry and want them locked up forever. When it’s someone who’s a caretaker, it makes it really complicated. And so, I never saw prison or incarceration as a solution. I would get really frustrated because, I think as a victim, especially of molestation when you’re little, you don’t have the skill set to process what happened. So I think I just internalized being a victim and then just had this red beacon that would attract people that would somehow say, “She’ll take it”, or “She’ll keep a secret”. I just wore that so consciously. Where were these prosecutors, where were these judges, where were these police officers  who we all spend all this money on locking up people but that had no prevention in my life. Nothing the government did spending all those millions of dollars on the “justice system” did anything to prevent me from being a victim of these crimes. So I think I was always, ever since elementary school, trying to figure it out. My first research paper was on the death penalty.

CR: How old were you?

NG: I would have to say that was in third grade.

CR: Wow.

NG: I still have it somewhere. It’s somewhere written in pencil and comparing and contrasting the different forms of the death penalty and how they don’t exactly work. So I think that was always my interest in crime, mostly coming from being really frustrated with our criminal justice system. I thought I wanted to be a judge. I wanted to be the first female Supreme Court Chief Justice. I wanted to be a lawyer, I wanted to be in politics. But then I realized those people have to - by the nature of the way society has designed those roles - once you become a politician or judge or Supreme Court justice - you have to play the “game”. And not that I criticize them for that, necessarily. I guess that’s a different conversation, but I personally am not good at the bullshit part of it, or the “charming” thing. I think i wear my emotions on my face. I just wouldn’t be able to hush up during a meeting. I would just get all riled up. So I thought, I got to figure out something else. And I’m still trying to figure that out, what my role is or what my role could be. But I’ve always been drawn to those issues.

CR: So you got your undergrad in Latin American History and Politics, and then…

NG: I wrote my thesis on Afro-Brazilian street kids. So it was looking at race and crime and the historical aspects. The street kid problem in Brazil is crazy. That was my undergrad. And then my graduate program had a weird name but it’s basically Social Justice and Education. So there are people that see education in the classroom and there’s those of us that see education in the community. And I was one of those community people. That program is clear about that - you don’t have to be a classroom educator to study education. So my research there was on graffiti not as a crime but as a tool for communication and the development of agency and identity in youth, especially youth of color. And the prison industrial complex and art as a tool for social change.

CR: Throughout all this time are you still focused on prison reform? Is that what you’re concerned about?

NG: Yeah, so graffiti was asking the question of why are we criminalizing our youth when there’s no public spaces for expression? That was the angle there. I spend a heavy amount of research looking at the racism behind incarceration rates in the United States and comparing them to other countries. I ended with “What’s the solution?”. I looked at the problems for most of my research. What’s something, in theory, I can do now to address the problem? So that was the artistic aspect. Art in the community facilitated by artists in the community. You know, my research wasn’t focused on art after-school programs. It was focused on how we can support artists of color so they could draw sustenance from their heritage and their lineage and contend their current status. And also to envision art as probably the most powerful tool to envision a new future. Artists can imagine a new future that we can’t even fathom. So that was where I ended my graduate experience, which was - in theory, what can I do right now to address prison reform and community activism. I haven’t necessarily found out how to fully do that. I’ve done things here and there. But I have the paper to prove that it’s possible.

CR: And it seems to be on your mind a lot, obviously.

NG: Because of the way prisons are structured, they do have art and music classes, but it’s really hard to get in and you can drive two hours to the prisons that are in the middle of nowhere, and all of a sudden it will be on lockdown and you can’t teach class. You have to go through all these things to get in. So I wanted to do a mail-order type of art exchange. When you were younger, did you ever see those drawing classes where they send you a lesson and you draw it and send it back?

CR: No, I can’t say I have.

NG: Maybe that was more of an 80s child thing…So I wanted to do some type of mail-order art education program that helped them stay connected to the community and also develop their skills and eliminate the barriers. Like maybe their warden isn’t ok with outside artists coming to the prison or maybe there’s a lot of lockdowns or maybe they’re in solitary confinement. So doing the mail-order art education program, it would remove those barriers and give them a connection to the community and also access to their other skills. A lot of prisons focus on vocational skills, which isn’t a bad thing, but they also need to have that other kind of expression.

CR: Well yeah, it’s something that makes you feel more human - self-expression, not just being a tool for the labor force. So, how did you first meet Andre?

NG: …An online dating site.

CR: No way. That is the best answer you could have given.

NG: I wish I would have saved our first couple of messages because I didn’t realize they deleted them after 30 days. So when we were doing this project I was like, oh let’s go back to the first couple messages…

CR: When did you meet each other?

NG: It was July. So he had messaged me on [name of dating site not mentioned because as Niko puts it “it is the worst site to meet guys”] I usually never respond on there. I usually look because it’s interesting and they got some characters on there. But in Andre’s profile, he was very upfront and very intelligent. The message he sent me, you could tell he was reaching out for a genuine connection. Of course, his approach was a dating connection, but it wasn’t just that. So I messaged him back - and I don’t usually message people back - but he was so genuine in his profile and his initial message to me. So I told him, you know, it’s funny you should write me, and I told him about my research and how we couldn’t date because it would compromise my research and what I do, it’s not something I want to consider. But as far as friends or colleagues, I’m all for it. And in his profile, he mentioned he was from Long Beach. So after I sent him that, we came offline pretty quick to be like, just so we’re really clear about the not dating part, we shouldn’t only communicate through a dating site. I gave him my cellphone number and we’ve been texting here and there, not that much. We had planned to talk on the phone, but it wasn’t a huge priority. And then when you had reached out to me about this project, I was thinking about how I’m really public on Facebook and I always post about random stuff and meanderings or deep thoughts. I mean, I’m super public. So i thought - what am I going to say in this two day project that I don’t already talk about all day? I did some practice days and i was like, this is no different than what I usually post. So Andre came to my mind. We had been talking about how to try to collaborate creatively. So I message him and he was down. The first time we talked was the night before the two days started. There were some things we couldn’t figure out in text and we had to talk.

CR: So he has a phone in prison. But you’re not allowed to, right?

NG: I guess that’s a new thing. You’re not allowed to but it’s fairly common nowadays. It’s still hidden, but as he says, there’s a price for everything. So a couple people have it, and he lets other people use it. He calls his mom everyday. He buys data, so he doesn’t have unlimited data. He has that Instagram account [@sc_stimui] and he’s trying to figure out how he can use that time in there wisely. He’s gone through the self-reflection and working on himself and now he wants to start preparing. He told me, when you’re in there, you work the program. You get wrapped up in being in prison because you need to survive. He told me the project he’s trying to work on is preparing him for being out. Two years to you may seem like a long time, but to us in here, we’re here 15, 25, 25 years, two years is like nothing. So he wants to start preparing.

CR: He’s been in there how long now?

NG: Thirteen. He took a plea deal on an armed robbery where no one was shot, the gun didn’t even go off. He was 26 and he got 15 years.

CR: Wow.

NG: Yeah. In Long Beach, he was on his way to be a professional skateboarder. He just sent me some pages from a book his friend published and included him in the story. It’s crazy because I didn’t even know, I mean we’re just getting to know each other. So he had hurt his knee, which ended a lot of his sponsorships. So he had just started selling drugs and the person he was selling drugs with got arrested and was incarcerated. So he started doing low level robberies and got caught.

CR: Well, I’m so grateful that you both used your creative minds to include him in this project. Because you took my project and made it 2.0 version. Which is great. That’s how art and ideas are supposed to work. It was so cool to see your pages side by side. At first, it was kind of confusing in the order you sent them to me, but then I realized what you were doing and it really was the way to read them - like letters to each other. And as you were reading you could figure out who was who, sometimes just due to lighting and background because sometimes it seemed like you both could have just been in the same place. I like leaving that for other readers, as well. How did you communicate with Andre what the project was and what you were doing?

NG: So I copy and pasted your instructions from your email that you sent me to him. The ones that said, everything is handwritten, include details in your day to day as well as meandering thoughts. I also sent him the link to your website. I told him to look at it, but not study it, because it’s not about replicating what people have done, it’s just to give a context for what has been done. As we were talking and brainstorming, I had said that I wanted to show that we’re both from Long Beach and how are our lives, or our days parallel. How can we write to each other? So we set those three checkpoint times where we ask the same questions. We included random checkins and then a free write. Because it was only two days, in the original design, we were not going to send each other our pages until right before we did the free write. So we had our 8 o’clock check in…

CR: Because you were texting each other, right?

NG: Yeah, but our checkins would just be on the paper. Like, at 7 am I would wake up and answer those questions on paper. And then throughout the day, if I had wanted to tell him something, as if we were sitting in the car together or whatever, I would write that down. In my mind I tried treating it as if he was there in person.

CR: What were the 6 questions you had for the check ins?

NG: It was…1) What are you doing right now? 2) What are you feeling right now?…there’s always one I forget…

CR: What’s challenging you seemed to be one.

NG: Yeah, 3) What is challenging you?, 4) How do you overcome those challenges? and 5) What are you savoring? But there’s one more…there’s six questions…

CR: We can figure it out.  To send the pages, did you text them to each other?

NG: We took pictures of the pages and texted them, yeah. We ended up texting the pages to each other throughout the day just to make sure we could figure it out.

CR: That’s why sometimes you’re responding to what the other is saying and sometimes you haven’t read it yet. But I like that.

NG: So then at the end of the day, sometimes for him the next day at 5 am, we’d do a “free-write”. A combination of responding to the other person’s day and talking about our day.

CR: I thought that was really great.

NG: Yeah, so we’d just text back and forth. It was a part of the process of us getting to know each other, which is cool.

CR: You were talking in the pages about wanting to continue in some way. What have you thought of?

NG: Not anything just yet. He wants to get into the production end of filmmaking and sharing voices that aren’t heard. Now that he has a phone, he’s trying to do a little bit in there. But we haven’t thought of the next thing yet. But he’s shared this project with a couple of the guys in there. He has this one friend who’s getting out soon in the next couple of months and he lives in Orange County. They want to do a kind of reality show with what their life is like in there and leading up to getting out and then what their life is once they get out. That’s something he’s working on that I’ll try to support him in whatever way I can. He really wants us to document our trip to DC - our “Road to the American Woman” - so he can experiment with that. But I do want to keep him connected to the Long Beach art community. He had invited me to a friend’s art opening who had taken the pictures he had taken and posted on Instagram, it was an underground art show. But he didn’t tell me about it until that night and then I didn’t get the address until the show was already over.

CR: Well, that’s cool, exchanging art communities already.

NG: He’s a super smart guy. He told me he’s finishing up Michelle Alexander [author of The New Jim Crow] and I’m like  - they let you read that in there? Isn’t that not allowed for you to read that in there?

CR: Yeah, don’t they want to keep that kind of reading away from them? You’d think they’d burn those books. Keep people in the dark.

NG: I guess, in a sense, they may not have it in the prison library, but there’s ways to get contraband in there.

CR: Well Andre’s super reflective and seems like a really cool person.

NG: The funny thing is, the last couple of months, well - the last year has been tough for me. But the last couple of months I’ve known him has also been tough, but he always checks in on me and asks me how I’m doing. Like if I’m complaining about some stupid thing in my day, which when I compare it to what he’s going through I’m like, this is really stupid, he has no judgment or comparison. That’s been interesting me to receive that and I’m not used to receiving that. And it seems more genuine coming from him because he has all this shit to deal with, but he can listen and check in with me. It takes a lot of consciousness on his part. I can tell if someone’s sleazy, I mean, I’m pretty good...But he’s never like “What are you wearing tonight?” or anything like that. You know how guys can be. It’s just a genuine appreciation of another person.

CR: That’s refreshing. Well, I’m so glad to have talked with you, and I know we both would have like Andre to be a part of this interview as well, but from what I understand he’s lost the hiding space for his phone. So hopefully when he gets out I can meet him and we’ll be able to revisit this.

NG: That would be great. Thank you.


the philosophical fly on the wall : a conversation about photography, solo travel and cheesy smiles with madeline northway

"It's really important to enjoy your own company."

courtesy @madelinnorthway instagram

To catch up on Madeline's pages, click here.

CoateRak: Ok, so I’m just gonna start recording and see what happens. I know it gets weird once you know you’re being recorded but let’s just try to go with it.

Madeline Northway: Yeah, once you know you just sort of freeze up. Ha.

CR: Yeah...Oh. So along those lines, were you ever that kid who gave this hugely cheesy smile once you knew the camera was on them? You know, like those kids that almost look like they’re in pain because they’re told to “smile” and they don’t really know what that means.

MN: Totally! And I see it all the time when I’m taking pictures, too. You have to make them genuinely laugh in order to get a good picture. It’s kind of how I felt, too, when I was doing that podcast thing which has kind of come to an end, but when we were recording the first couple of episodes it seemed so unnatural and I was like “This is my new voice”.

CR: [awkward sensual voice] “Hello…”

MN: Yes.

CR: So as a photographer, I feel like good photographers, as they’re shooting people, they make people forget they’re taking pictures.

MN: Really funny, actually, I just photographed this Indian couple last night for their engagement. I’d never met them before, I was shooting it for someone else who hired me to do it for them, and I met up with them and could just tell they were very uncomfortable with the situation. I put them in a couple poses and they would be in the pose for a couple shots and then look at me like, “Ok. Are we done yet?” That’s just one of those things were I kind of tell jokes and make an ass out of myself. Because the reality of the situation is that this is a really awkward thing that we’re doing. Making you look like you’re in a natural setting, embracing each other while it’s totally fabricated and we’re in a crowd of people and I’m taking pictures of you. And I somehow have to make this look natural.

CR: That is a huge feat.

MN: Yeah. So I actually texted the person who hired me afterwards and she asked if they were awkward, because she could sense from her communications with them that they might be. And I was like, yep, basically. But towards the end they finally loosened up. And it’s funny because whenever I put on my telephoto lens and I had them stand far away on this overlook over the water and I was maybe ten/fifteen feet away and that’s whenever they would just be talking, laughing, doing their normal thing and from that point on it was totally normal. I could put them in a pose and say “Just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s amazing. Just interact with each other. Tell jokes. Whatever you have to do to cope with this current situation”.

CR: Ha. As if it’s a traumatic experience. Which it can be sometimes.

MN: Yeah. Looking back at film, you can always see the first few shots are the most awkward, terrible photos but then it gets better as it progresses. Actually whenever I edit, I like to start at the end and work my way back because I know those are going to be the better ones.

courtesy @madelinenorthway instagram

CR: So I don’t know how much you theorize or think existentially about your position as a photographer, meaning your relationship between people who are hiring you to take pictures of them and you don’t know them. Do you ever step back and think, in all reality, this is absurd?

MN: Probably. All the time. I overthink a lot. I’m think very existentially to begin with. I have to make myself stop sometimes. Especially because during those kind of situations, I feel like an outsider. I honestly feel like a fly on the wall in these places. I feel like I’m spying on people. I feel like I’m looking into people’s lives where no one else has a chance to. That’s the crazy thing about my job. Even that rehearsal dinner I shot the other night. I’m there photographing people, watching people interact, seeing the dynamics of these relationships and standing there listening to all these speeches about the couple by their loved ones. And I feel like I know these people so well right now. But they have no idea who I am. I’m just this person in the corner taking pictures and probably don’t think twice about me. It’s such a weird feeling. But that’s why I love it. I’m a natural observer. I’ve always been that way. I’ve never been the center of attention. I’ve always been hanging back and watching things happen. That’s why it’s the perfect job for me.

CR: So are you for sure going to go to Southeast Asia in the winter? Have you developed a plan or anything?

MN: Yeah. So I’ve actually really delved into the world of frequent flyer miles the other day. Literally researching for an entire day. So basically I need to rack up some points on this credit card I got.

CR: What credit card is that?

MN: Chase Sapphire Reserve. It’s apparently the best credit card for travel in existence right now. So I’m gonna wait to rack up all the points I need and then book it. I want to fly into Vietnam, then do Phuket, Bangkok and then fly back. And I want to go to Cambodia while I’m there, too.

CR: Awesome. When did you start thinking about wanting to go?

MN: I had the idea to go to Thailand about four months ago. My sister and her husband went for their honeymoon for a month and one of my really good friends had his artist residency in Shanghai and had the most amazing experience and took super good photos. Another friend of mine, who I swear I just follow him around the world. He went to Japan, then I went to Japan. He’s the one who told me about the cheap ticket. He just got back from Thailand and now I want to go there now.

courtesy @madelinenorthway instagram

CR: Your last trip to Japan you went by yourself. This trip you want to go by yourself, as well. Do you often feel like you travel alone?

MN: Yeah. It’s kind of something that just started happening on accident. I’m trying to think when my first true traveling alone experience was...I have friends all over the country and I think that’s just how it started. If there was no one to go with me, I would just say, Ok, I’m just gonna by myself. I think that’s how it started. And then I had this moment where I was working this job outside of Sacramento. I was there for a week doing headshots for this airplane company. Super random. I had one day left and I had booked my flight to fly out of San Francisco and it was between Sacramento and San Francisco, kind of in the middle of nowhere. I wanted to go to San Francisco and I just kind of found my way there. I had to take an Uber to a bus to a ferry to San Francisco. It all just kind of happened. And I think after that experience I was addicted. It was the challenge and the thrill of it all. Can I do this? Can I figure my way there with no one to help me? I show up to this bus station. It looks like it’s not even open. I need to ask people if this is the right place, I’m looking at google maps. I don’t have any service. I ask the bus driver and they say, You can take this to this and get on this bus here. I get there and they say you can take this ferry and I’m like, Ok I’ll take this ferry.

CR: Must’ve been a very big fairy to carry you all the way there.

MN: The biggest. The biggest wings. Super magical.

CR: You braided her hair as you went. Well, that’s awesome. I love that.

MN: I think that in it’s essence is what solo travel is about for me. The wingin’ it aspect and being total reliant on yourself. I was just sharing stories with a friend who just got back from Amsterdam, which has me rethinking my decision about Asia because it sounds like the most perfect place on the planet. But she’s like, I get it now. Traveling alone is so amazing. And I’ve had so many conversations about the ups and downs. There are definitely advantages and disadvantages of solo travel and having a travel companion. I think finding a travel companion that you’re compatible with is the most important thing. She was like, Yeah I’d make a plan for the day, what museums I’d want to go to. But she was in Amsterdam so she’d just be smoking a J in the park, laying there and just decide to stay there for an hour or two and not have anyone to check in with.

CR: My youngest sister, who’s 19, she just saved up and did a solo trip around Northern Europe and she traveled all around and she’s never done that on her own before, she’s always been with us, so she said she was really able to decipher that what she decided to do was what she wanted to do. Like, going on a 14 mile hike and a 4 hour kayak ride in Norway - which she doesn’t really do back home, but she knew that she wasn’t doing it because of any influence from anyone else. Which is super awesome and informative about it, it’s a companionship with yourself.

MN: It’s really important to enjoy your own company.

CR: Which is a really hard thing to do. Enjoying yourself.

MN: Yeah, that’s why I’m really grateful I’ve found that from these experiences.

CR: So there’s a part in your pages you write “I love my city. I love being here”. Did you feel like you had to remind yourself of that?

MN: Yeah because sometimes I’m here and I’m like, This is amazing. I would not want to be anywhere else. And I felt like I needed to write that down because, well, winter in Chicago. It always gets hard then. I’m sure you go through that, too.

CR: Who doesn’t?

MN: But it’s one of those things that I think I can take for granted a lot. I think, Where else can I go? Where else can I live? That’s just in my nature, I think. But that’s what was cool about having the pages to force me to reflect on things. I liked that. And I wanted to say - No. I love it here.

CR: What do you like about Chicago?

MN: I love living in my neighborhood. I love that there’s all these different things at my fingertips. But it also can be very quiet at times. It’s a really good balance. That’s why I had that moment when I was walking home in Logan Square. This is so cool to walk down the street and go to the movie theater, and have brunch, and go to a music store. There’s all these things. In literally a city block everything can happen. But then I had a peaceful walk home on a quiet street. It was an amazing balance to have. I love that about Chicago. It’s a big city with a smaller town vibe, I guess. It was not how New York felt to me, which was so chaotic all the time. Chicago has Midwest vibes still. People are generally friendly. And there’s just a lot of cool shit here. Which is exactly how I want it.

CR: So you went to New York for Fashion Week. How was that? What did you shoot?

courtesy @madelinenorthway instagram

MN: Shooting the runway shows were all over the city. Years in the past, Fashion Week used to be all under one roof - it was at Lincoln Center. And now the dynamic has totally changed and they have the shows spread out all throughout the city. Which was cool and frustrating. I was literally running all over the city all day. It was super exhausting, but it was also a cool way to get a view of the city and all the different neighborhoods. Kind of figuring out how the geography works there. I would be completely wrong about my sense of direction every time. It was definitely some bucket list stuff. Things I had dreamed of doing growing up. Literally dreams coming true. It was insane. Insane and amazing.

CR: What were some of your favorite things you did or saw?

MN: Shooting backstage was really fun for me. Shooting the shows was cool, but there isn’t any creativity that goes into it. You’re all taking the same picture, pretty much. So I really liked shooting backstage, that’s when I felt I fell back into my groove. The whole fly on the wall thing. Being back stage at the Marchesa show was probably my favorite. Bobbi brown was there doing makeup. I walk back there and immediately I’m like, Shit, that’s Bobbi brown. People are trying to interview her and I’m taking pictures of her. It was really exciting. The quality was better. The hair and makeup are amazing.

courtesy @madelinenorthway instagram

CR: Do you have a “goal” or specific industry you want to specialize in? Like focus on food or fashion or travel? Or just all of it.

MN: At the current moment, all of them. It’s been a lifelong struggle, I guess. Trying to figure out my place with all that. Growing up and getting into photography, fashion is what got me into photography. I love shooting people and fashion was the way to do that in a super creative way and a collaborative way. So that’s why I like that. I went to LA and worked in fashion in that environment. It kind of put me off for a bit. I came back to Chicago and didn’t know if I was ok with that industry. It was weird. I was working in the modeling industry and was hearing 13 year old girls being told what size they needed to be. And hearing them turned down by agencies. Just seeing that was super eye-opening. Is this something I’m morally ok with? I questioned that a lot. I had a big “quarter life crisis”, if that’ what you want to call it where I moved back to Chicago because something I wanted to do my entire life, I’m having all these doubts about. That’s when I started taking whatever jobs I had here - food, weddings, family. Just whatever. Taking that time to ground myself. But now I’m circling back and going to Fashion Week reminded me I’m still really interesting in this. Why? So I’m trying to figure it out. And of course, the travel thing will always be in my life.

courtesy @madelinenorthway instagram

CR: You didn’t need to have a straight answer, obviously. I was just curious.

MN: Yeah, it’s all circling in my inner dialogue.

CR: But doing many things is also a strength, you’re not being narrow minded, you’re open to different things informing your practice and that’s great.

MN: And that’s another thing I wrote in my pages - I love my job because I never know where it’s going to take me. I learn so much assisting on jobs that are documenting other people’s jobs, things I never would have insight on.

CR: Well, thank you for letting me stalk your brain. I’m very excited to see where you continue to go.

To see more of Madeline's photography, visit MadelineNorthway.com. And give her a follow on Instagram: @MadelineNorthway.

new kickoff series : "that's [not] all she wrote..."

the rak has been gathering cobwebs the past couple of months due to the frustrating and time-consuming process of compiling and formatting a book that does justice to the pages and lives of those who have contributed.

but i'm getting my engine started again (and as with all idle engines) it's been sputtering a bit and i appreciate your patience, but the old girl is in fact hitting the road once again.

i would like to start this second session of page collecting to operate around certain themes and series - starting with "that's [not] all she wrote...": a featured selection of some compassionate and badass women i know and admire that will last through october.

we will be starting off this week in cincinnati, ohio with elese daniel - poet, polo player and practicioner of the good.

the line-up includes (but is not limited to):

nicolassa galvez : long beach, ca : community art organizer

madeline northway : chicago, il : photographer, traveler, writer

khan hoang : long beach, ca : nurse and pop-up dinner chef extraordinaire

sarah chae : hong kong : traveler, wife, goodness explorer

jena nixon : chicago, il : dj and expert social commentator

michelle hoffman : portsmouth, oh : med school student, writer

jasmine sabrina young : new york, new york : fashion expert and advocate

koheun lee : nairobi, kenya : design thinker

maya trujillo : chicago, il : urban explorer, aerialist, admirer of the deceased

....and more lovely and badass women.

stay tuned folks...not just for these pages, but for the impact these ladies will continue to have on the world around them.

lessons in propogation: an interview with cheyenne serene

Cheyenne texted me earlier today saying she just finished some homemade bacon-infused vodka and asked if I would like to have some Bloody Marys with her on the porch on a gorgeous Chicago afternoon. Obviously this was the perfect setting to interview one of my very best friends who is an avid biker, bar-keep and recent bee-keepers apprentice. To see her pages, click back here.

Cheyenne Serene: I just got some jade pieces that I propagated. It’s like a woody branch with succulent type leaves on it. I guess you can just put the fallen leaves in dirt and it grows another plant.

CoateRak: Cool.

CS: Yeah, Jana [Kinsman, founder of Bike-a-Bee] had a bunch of these old seeds that she didn’t know what to do with and these 5 gallon buckets of dirt so she was like, let’s just plant these and see what happens. So we did. And then they started to grow! So we have a ton of sunflowers and squash and collards and mint. Lots of mint. Oh, and milkweed.

CR: What is milkweed?

CS: It’s like a type of flower plant. It’s good for monarch butterflies.

CR: That’s lovely. How many miles did you bike yesterday for work?

CS: Um, about 25. Also a lot of walking and carrying things. It was good, it was nice out and hot. So hot. But the bees like it, so.

CR: The bees like heat?

CS: Yeah. I guess there’s about to be a nectar flow. Because all the black locust’s are about to bloom.

CR: What’s a nectar flow?

CS: A nectar flow just means when a bunch of things bloom at once. Or one particular species just blooms all at once and there’s just a shit ton of nectar out. So they just make a lot of honey all at once. So the black locusts are about to bloom so there’s gonna be a huge nectar flow. We have to give all the bees more boxes so they have more space for the honey.

CR: That’s so cool. And how long have you been doing this for now?

CS: Just since March. So like, two months.

CR: Yeah, like a couple months and you’re a fucking bee queen. I’m so impressed by how much you’re retaining and learning.

CS: Well it’s so fascinating. And it makes it easier that I’m actually doing it. It’s how I learn better anyways - just doing it. Hands on.

CR: When did you start thinking about bees? Specifically?

CS: I think - remember when I was talking about wanting to buy property in Detroit?

CR: Oh yes. That was it.

CS: And then I was thinking New Orleans property. And then I found that weird article that was like - guess what? Celebrities get around property taxes by keeping bees on their property….

CR: Oh yeah! And registering as a farm. Sneaky.

CS: And I was like wow. That could be an easy way to get out of property taxes. And I was like - I should keep bees. But now, I mostly just really like keeping bees. I mean, I’ll probably get some property at some point, too.

CR: I have a feeling you will.

CS: Yeah, I wanna buy property and have a little garden space and bees. Perfect.

CR: Are you still excited about moving to New Orleans?

CS: Yeeesss…..

CR: Hm, you don’t sound super excited….

CS: Ok, well. Yes and no. I’m very excited, but I also am super nervous. Because I don’t really know a lot of people down there. And beekeeping is way different in the north than it is in the south.

CR: Oh…Have you been researching that? Or talking to Jana about it?

CS: It’s just that, in the north, in the midwest, you have to worry about hives over-wintering. Because most hives can’t survive the winters. it’s pretty common that they die because it’s too cold. But in the south you don’t have to deal with that problem so it’s beekeeping all year round. And there’s probably, not constantly, but for most of the year, there’s more nectar sources and pollen sources so there’s a lot more work.

CR: Because they’re producing so much more?

CS: They’re producing way more. Like, in San Diego, I follow this beekeeper named Hillary who does this thing called “Girl Next Door Honey” and she is constantly catching swarms, and, that’s another big thing, swarming…

CR: What’s that?

CS: Well when hives get too big for them to maintain themselves as one giant colony, they realize that and so they create a new queen. They raise a new queen in the colony and the old queen leaves with about 200-300 of her worker bees and they just leave the hive and post up in a tree or on a wall or on somebody’s porch and they just hang out there for a while. And a few worker bees, maybe a dozen, scout out places nearby for them to find a new home and settle into. So they constantly split off. So because it’s constantly warm and you don’t have to worry about hives dying, there are just constant swarms and they’re constantly splitting off into new hives. And swarms aren’t actually dangerous but there’s a lot of them and beekeepers usually have to deal with them. There’s that and then in the south there’s “africanized bees”. You know that thing when you’re a kid and they would talk about “killer bees”? It was like a big deal. That’s basically what africanized bees are. And they’re just way more aggressive or defensive. There’s laws in place. I was reading up on the laws for beekeeping in New Orleans and one of the laws is if you discover that the hive you have is africanized you have to immediately re-queen it. So it’s just all these other little practices and things that I probably won’t learn about as much up here because it’s not as relevant. And finding beekeepers in New Orleans isn’t super easy, actually. And I’d have to get there by car, but I don’t have a car. I’m thinking about getting a truck once I get down there.

CR: Oh yeah. A good dirty pickup truck. I can totally see you in that.

CS: Ha. Yeah. I want that so bad. So if I got a truck it’d be easier. I need to do more research. There’s a horticulture association down there and they have a little beekeeping department, so I’ll email them about that. Because I want to start with someone who’s already established down there and learn from them for at least a year. But on the other hand, Jana did a beekeeping apprenticeship in Seattle for 5 weeks, then moved to Chicago and started Bike-a-Bee by herself.

CR: I have full confidence that you’d be able to do that, but it would be nice to have some type of mentor.

CS: Yeah, and that’s another thing with Jana. Yeah she did that and that’s super cool, but Chicago has so many beekeepers. There’s the Chicago Honey Co-op, Westside Bee Boys, there’s just so many beekeepers here. And they all help each other and exchange information and stuff. So, it’s easier to do here, than going to New Orleans and figuring it out for myself. It’ll work out though. I’m not too worried about it. But it’d be nice to know people who also do beekeeping down there.

CR: This is just a whole different world I never really thought to think about.

CS: And the more I learn about agriculture in Chicago and the amount of urban farming and urban beekeeping that goes on here., the more I’m like - maybe I should just stay here for another year, learn more and meet more people. But then….I don’t really want to. I’d rather just go to New Orleans and figure it out. I know I can do it.

CR: Also, New Orleans.

CS: Ah, New Orleans. And Chicago winters suck.

CR: Yes.

CS: I would much rather just go down there and do everything I can and just work really hard for it. But the thought of doing it by myself is a little intimidating. I feel like there are community gardens, and the potential for some. Some that could be really perfect for bees. And if they have a horticulture association I have to image they’d be able to point me in the right direction. I’ll just pay them in honey.

CR: Exactly. That’s pretty good payment. And what’s awesome is you’re going to be able to trade your honey for other awesome shit. Like fresh veggies and whatever.

CS: Oh, yes. Like, so much cool shit. Jana just does bartering with her honey all day. We’ll be at the Plant and there’s so many people there who do so many different things and she’ll be like, “Oh, I need this piece of wood cut and plexiglass and have no way of doing it. Can you do it?” And they do it and she’ll pay them in honey. We have these massive wooden beams that go up to the roof and we needed someone to cut it for us and this guy there just cut if for us and it was perfect. And we gave him honey.

CR: Ah. So good.

CS: Jana’s also looking to work with this super fancy bar and sell them her honey and they’ll make drinks exclusively with her honey. Which is what I want to do. I wanna be like - hey, here’s a partnership with a really high end bar in New Orleans and say- hey, use this honey for your cocktails and they’ll pay me for it.

CR: Girl, so many opportunities.

CS: So many. I’m excited.

CR: I'm excited for you.

grueling momentum: an interview with jessie taylor

"It’s interesting the power hard, grueling work has. I was the girl who stayed at college over Christmas, Spring break, and all my weekends painting and painting. My friends used to get frustrated that all I did was paint, but when you fall in love with something you can’t stop."

Jessie Taylor is the feature this week. As a single mother and artist living in Florence, Italy, I was curious as to how she came to be where she is now and how she balances her time between motherhood and artistry. She was gracious enough to answer a couple questions from across the ocean:

CR: What brought you to the program in Italy?

JT: It was a choice between studying in Florence, Italy or Baltimore, so no offense to people living in Baltimore, but my choice wasn’t a hard one. But besides that I was attracted to this program because it was brand new. I am in the second graduating class for their MFA program. It is a big risk to join something so new, but there is always a certain kind of momentum in new things and I wanted that. Momentum is exciting.

CR: How did you decide you wanted to pursue an MFA? What was a driving force?

JT: My painting professor and mentor back in college, Joel Sheesley, really encouraged me to pursue an MFA. It was never on my radar before (in college I told him that after I graduate I don’t care if I ever make art again), but he really believed in me. With him I couldn’t get away with anything less than 110 % effort and it was all the extreme hard work that made me fall in love with painting and pursue it as a career. It’s interesting the power hard, grueling work has. I was the girl who stayed at college over Christmas, Spring break, and all my weekends painting and painting. My friends used to get frustrated that all I did was paint, but when you fall in love with something you can’t stop. Now I find that I am the most happy when I am painting. It is where I make sense of the world and I feel anxious when I go more than a couple days without being in my studio. Sure I could have skipped the MFA degree, but I am a big proponent of education and learning. It is extremely difficult to practice art when you are not in an art community. The mental and artistic challenge just isn’t there. And honestly, with the risk of being offensive, most current successful artists have an MFA degree or at least some manner of intellectual engagement. People tend to put art in this whole other category, where it doesn’t take as long to be an artist as it does to be a businessman or lawyer or doctor, or whatever other career. Being an artist is damn hard work and it requires just as much education and time as so many other professions. I hear the phrase “Everyone is an artist” all the time. I couldn’t disagree more. I think it is more accurate to say everyone can be creative. I am not saying you have to have an MFA to be an artist (certainly not), but you have to be willing to put yourself through critique and evaluation all the time. I have been painting now for 6 years (which is nothing) and I imagine it will take another 30 years before I really master what I am doing. But that’s the beauty of being an artist - you never really retire. Maybe the best painting I will ever make will be my last.

CR: What has been the biggest surprise living in a foreign country? What about living in a foreign country as a new single mother?

JT: I have traveled and lived in new places all my life. Living in Italy feels more normal and more “home” to me than living in the States. My biggest surprises and adjustments are always when I return to America. As a single mother living in Italy, that is something else. I stand out here. Italians love babies, so there is no end of attention and help from strangers. But I am also unusually young in this culture to have a baby, so in that sense it can feel isolating as there are not many people my own age to relate to.

CR: What are some thoughts/inspirations you've been dwelling on lately?

JT: My current work is centered around painting adults from when they were babies. It is interesting to put someone in the past and see where they began and how far they have come. It levels the playing field. As a baby everyone is equal. Now when I look at someone I think, “What did they look like as a baby?”, “Did they cry a lot?” “When did they first begin to walk?” . It might sound strange, but it is interesting to think of our parents as babies, Obama, Donald Trump, your local Starbucks barista, Martin Luther King, your ex, yourself, etc.

CR: What's one of the more surprising things you've discovered about motherhood?

JT: For me motherhood has been a process of falling in love. I hear so many mothers say that when they saw their child for the first time they thought their hearts would explode. It wasn’t like that for me. My first thought was, “Oh my God, finally! That took for ever!” and then I just wanted to rest and I gave my daughter to my own mom while the doctor stitched me up. I had this protective instinct for my daughter, Aria, but I didn’t feel an overwhelming sense of love. Now? Yeah, every day my heart swells bigger and bigger, and I love her more than I have loved anyone else. But it’s taken time and I didn’t realize that it would be like that.

CR: Finally, what does a "good day" look like to you?

JT: First I wake up to my daughter squealing with delight as she finds herself excited by a color on a wall, or the light on the ceiling, or her mamma lying next to hear. Next I fix myself a cup of Ditta Artigianale coffee - the best coffee in Italy and roasted two blocks from my apartment. In between feeding and playing with Aria, I work on my internship with a Forex trading company. I am learning to trade foreign currency in order to fund my art practice and stay at home with my daughter. Working with numbers gives me the mental space to spend hours painting later in the day and I love it. Next I spend an hour every day learning a little Italian, French, and Swedish (one day I want to live in Stockholm). The rest of the day is usually filled up by painting and more painting (til 1am) and a long hour walk along the river Arno. I try to go out for coffee at least every other day with Aria to spend more intentional time with her. It may not mean a lot to her now, but in the future it will. That’s pretty much the perfect day for me!

sound and video experimentation with newborns by jessie taylor

jessie taylor is the newest feature on the playing by the hours project. she is a new mother and artist living in florence italy. she recently made an experimental sound/video piece i'd like to share:

"when aria was 1 month old we were lying on my bed one afternoon and she was screaming hysterically. she noticed a light pattern on the ceiling and instantly calmed down. i made this video for her. for the sound I composed and recorded a piano a piece and layered it with the sound of her breastfeeding. the goal was to create a feeling of being inside the womb, and to keep it raw. it's my fist video, so I am still learning! in utero, film, 2016."

ready, set, make : days four thru fifteen : catching up

catching up

because i have to rush off to my next thing, i'm going to post this with just the content and no little preamble because i'd rather put it up then put it off. which i'd been doing this past week, regrettably. so, enjoy the next bits of makings from fellow creators below:


Progress on an experimental painting, crepe paper roses for a friend turning 21 and small drawings of fruit from Katie Joy Nellis:

Various "art in the in between" studies, sketchings and doodles and art curating by Erin Terry Padilla:

Citrus painting studies and challah bread makings by Claire Maillefer:

Re-wiring antique lamps certainly counts as making by Niko Galvez:

And I've done little pieces of drawings and writings, but i'll share two videos i've strung together as well as a song i'm starting to write (skip to 1:20 to actually hear the "song"):

neon magic


Keep sending me your makings!!!!

ready, set, make : days two and three : submission


i don't often like or use the word "submit" or "submission" unless it means i'm handing in an application to some dream job or something. "submission" brings up all these negative stereotypes i have of being told that "women submit to men" and "wives submit to their husbands" and all that patriarchal, often-turned-abusive and manipulative nonsense.

so i'm trying to redeem this word of "submission" in this context for a moment because it seems to be the best word to describe what happened to me yesterday.

as we all know, super tuesday happened just a couple of days ago. we saw who swept these first preliminary states. i'm trying to step away for a moment from being so wrapped up politically, because it's weighing on me nearly every day. but the truth of the matter is, i can't. not really. and i shouldn't. not really. i work in an environment where when trump scooped up all those states as easily as his hair blows off in the wind, the wealthy white men i was shaking martinis for breathed sighs of relief and clinked glasses, some even cheered. not all of them felt this way, thank god. and none are wholly trump "supporters" but "would rather have him, a businessman, than that murderer Killary". this is normalized celebration and talk, and to be expected in the wealthy area where my restaurant is. i overheard one of my customers say, trump's a great businessman, though he is borderline racist. i turned to him whip-quick and corrected him, "I'm not going to comment on anything you've said before, but i must correct you, because this is important. he is racist. 100%." i was relieved that the man with him agreed. there is a little hope. but little is the emphasis that i've been feeling this election cycle at my bar (and around most of my family).

i know that the world will not be changed in one election cycle. i'm not naive. we have a black president and things are still shit. i just want to be moving forward, and not backward. i want every human treated with dignity and not as less-thans, criminals, terrorists, thugs, a menace to society, a problem to be dealt with.

so last night, as i somberly went home, i knew so desperately that i needed to cry. in my bar are the people with wealth and power. they're are not the only people with wealth and power and they are not all bad. they're all human. they're all looking out for their own best interests. it just saddens me, so very deeply, to know that their own best interests don't include seeing others outside of their networks and circle. that they don't equate the flourishing of others and other communities as their flourishing. that their voice is most important, and loudest. and they've "worked hard" so they deserve all they have, and those who haven't "risen above" like they have are just "lazy".

so i was facetiming dusty (my boyfriend) and he was telling me about his encounter with a woman at home depot he had who claimed she'd been abused and robbed and needed money to get home and we talked about our empathy and simultaneous skepticism because we're jaded and selfish and don't want to be uncomfortable. and then i was able to cry. because i'm sad and tired and angry at all of us. and i submitted to my tears. and i submitted to the grief of years and years of genocide and enslavement and the perpetuation of modern enslavement and mistreatment and discrimination. and then i kept crying when i realized that i have the privellege of forgetting these things. i don't have to face the burden of feeling, even in subtle ways, an "otherness" everyday.

and there are no answers to that. there are no comforting words. and i don't want comforting words. and i don't need comforting words. it's not about me. it's not about me. it's not about me.

it's about submission.

submission to my position in life, in the privelege and power and grief and frustration. and that's it. there isn't meant to be comfort. it's not "all ok". it's been bad. terrible. and we as americans are the WORST at admitting mistakes. and we want to "keep moving forward", but we can't until we've recognized, altogether and officially. and grieved. altogether and officially.

i know i am saying nothing new.

i know there are those of you who have carried this on for your whole life.

but what i'm saying is that last night i submitted to my feelings, my emotions i often stuff deep down for hope of a better tomorrow and a better future. and i submitted to feeling anguish.

and that was what i count as my "making" for the day. i drew some things (bad alien twin babies for a card for my friend who's a new mom), but for me today wasn't about "making art". because life isn't about "making art" - it's about learning to be more and more human, and hopefully the process of making things helps us come closer to experiencing that. but sometimes it's just submitting to all the crap and grief of being human that's accumulated in your emotional pipeline and let it roar.

that said, here are some makings you all have so courageously submitted to, in your own little ways, these past two days:


Erin Terry Padilla did some sketches and quick line drawings:

Niko Glavez has been working on her final exam for her graduate program and outlined/brainstormed her process:

Katie Joy Nellis did a quick copy of a polaroid on a gesso rag and a flower chain study for a project:

send me your makings (or stories of "submission") to me and i'll add them!

ready, set, make: day one : (momentum)


it's all about momentum. laws of inertia apply to our human endeavors as well. it's an idea i've been spinning in my head forawhile. things in motion stay in motion, objects at rest stay at rest. there's a fine balance here, though. because we're not meant to constantly be creating. rest is an essential part of the human cycle. doing absolutely nothing is a part of the good and human creative cycle. but that is for another post. and another day.

because today it's about momentum.

funny how one little dumb act of creativity spurs on another, and then another, and then another. yesterday after my little still life compilation, throughout the day i wrote a mediocre poem and did an ok drawing. but they felt so good. oh, and i filmed something else which i'll probably do something with in these coming days. go figure. the things in and of themselves were not genius, but my contentedness to sit and film the apartment complex across the way and just listen to the sounds for 20 minutes astounds me when i look back. 

so i hope that this is an excuse - a push - for momentum for you all as well.

claire maillefer has jumped into the challenge and shared this piece today:

niko galvez asked if finally refinishing her bed frame that's been sitting in her garage counts. most definitely. and according to her, "there's nothing power tools and some loud music won't cure":

i did a couple things, but i'll share a song i've been wanting to learn to play. it's super easy but i kept putting it off and today i finally got started on it. it's called "if i were a carpenter" by tim hardin:

it's not too late to send me your makings!


ready, set, make.

hey fam!

first of all, thanks so much for all of your great feedback about coat[e]rak and the playing by the hours project. it's really helped me keep my sanity in this limbo stage of life (isn't it all like that though? another discussion for another post...) - connecting up with friends and spurring each other on to a more mindful, meaningful and creative life. you all are brilliant. absolutely brilliant and i'm so glad to be witness to your mundanity and magic.

i haven't really been consistent on the blog portion of the site. but now that i have your attention - i can explain briefly my vision for this little corner of the web. the whole idea of coat[e]rak is essentially a "place to hang funny ideas". the first of those funny ideas has been the playing by the hours project, which i hope to continue for as long as my days are long. and i already have a second project i'm very excited about starting maybe later on this year.

this blog portion is meant to be a place a little less structured than the main projects and is meant to be a sifter and catcher for extra interviews i may have with featured people, as well as a place to hopefully drop some of my own learnings and insights about the posture of living a creative life - in all its pitfalls and glories. i'm also hoping to use it as a place to stack some of my own little efforts at creating and hopefully spur you all on to create alongside me.

the first of these is going to be a part of my effort to continue living mindfully and creatively during my last month in beautiful long beach before returning to the great land of chicago. i have a list of things that i've wanted to do before i leave and i hope to check them off here, with y'all as my witnesses.

i spend most of my daytimes alone (because i work nighttimes) unless i schedule a meetup with a friend, though this is few and far between since i'm often on the opposite schedule of most of my friends and fam here. because of this i've succumbed to a LOT of netflix and chill. like - a LOT.  i've recently switched my intake to web series and this is actually a lot more refreshing and creatively stimulating because the majority of people who are creating web series are often talented but marginalized folk who use the free resources of youtube to sprout their vision. this recent switch from consumerism to creative inspiration has me reminded to be mindful of my own days - as i've challenged all of you to do.

phew. ok. hopefully you're still reading this. if not, godspeed on whatever other light has caught your eye. but if you are, join me in this: i woke up this morning tired of just consuming, but blank and overwhelmed on what to create. i'm primarily a collaborator so solo art making is a challenge, but one i want to step up to. what's first in my day? coffee. duh. so i put on the coffee. and instead of scrolling through the news, i picked up my phone and filmed the items and compositions around my house while waiting for the water to heat up. i forgot how much i love still life, it's so informative and meditative. i downloaded a free video editing app called splice (it's pretty good) and strung them together. watching the images again and listening to the natural sound was so calming and stimulating. and then...coffee time :).

so here's what i'm suggesting: this next month i'm planning on reporting on one creative output a day. i'm not going to have a lot of stipulations, and i'm not going to give you any for your own creating this time around (though art is chosen limitations - chose your own this cycle). i'll be reporting mine here daily (if i can) and feel free to send me yours and i'll feature it here as well. or don't and just create. my friend torunn (her blog is Toto's Day) inspired me in this by writing so aptly at the beginning of her new blog: "I’m jumping back into the fray because for some reason writing blog posts comes easier than journaling - the idea that I might be writing to someone, or several someones, fuels my ego juuuuuuuust enough to come back to it." same, girl. and i'm pretty sure that's universal.

so here goes. we'll call this one day "-1" since it's still technically february:

still lives waiting for coffee

i'll end with a poem i scribbled on my first community art journal in college:




whittle a while

wait for it




it comes.




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Saying Yes: A Conversation with Ben Kinsinger

"I think the greatest change that I’ve adopted and that I try to hold to is to always be inclusive in play. Humor in acute form, in easy form, is, you know, you can despair someone. The roasts are funny. It’s easy to make fun of someone else. But it’s more gratifying to include an idea outside yourself. So, that’s my sermon. That I’ll preach to people. You know, be funny. But be funny with people."

[e]: So, I have this recording thing on my phone so I can record you, but I don’t have to put everything on the record.


BK: Nice.


[e]: Just so I don’t forget anything - so I can properly transcribe your transgressions.


BK: Yeah, and you can use it for training later.


[e]: Yeah…Exactly.


BK: Yeah. No, I’ve been here before.


[e]: Oh. Good. What have you been up to lately? What’s new?


BK: Um, working at Bar Pastoral with Jerome [best friend, roommate], wine and cheese bar. Dudes are chill. It’s a good environment, that’s new. Doing music things. Yeah. I have my first KickStarter show on Saturday.


[e]: Ones people got from donating?


BK: Yeah.


[e]: How many of those do you have to do?


BK: Six.


[e]: Wow. That’s a lot.


BK: Yeah…It’s a lot of times to go down to Peoria. I mean, I didn’t really make that much on that. But I’ll get some more fans, probably.


[e]: Have you finished recording now? What’s the update on that?


BK: We haven’t really started yet. I mean the studio’s almost done, we’ve been building the studio.


[e]: Oh. You’re actually building the studio first before you record. This is like, super DIY, from the ground up.


BK: Exactly. Start from scratch-ish. So Adam [Weisz, producer, friend] can start tracking there. It’s really whenever I have free time. So we’ve been practicing for the show now and once that’s done we can start tracking stuff.


[e]: That’s exciting. Are you doing all older ones? Are there any new ones you’re going to put on it?


BK: It’s mostly older songs that you would’ve heard and then a couple new ones. 


[e]: What’s the date?


BK: I’m thinking September.


[e]: Oh, ok, that’s soon.


BK: I don’t think it’s gonna take that long to record. Then I’m gonna pick out album art things and get it mastered and whatever else. 


[e]: So Adam’s not gonna master it?


Bk: He knows a guy who worked with Liza Day [band Adam is in] and with their album. He does stuff for She and Him and some other people. So I think we might go through him. I’m not sure what it takes to master. How have you been?


[e]: Good. Just been putzing around in Long Beach. Trying to recruit some friends. You know, for my team. Hopefully just to go out drinking with. Ya know. It’s hard because I feel like in Chicago I had such a great group to just be creative with and play around with. But I’ve been spending a lot of time with my sisters is good, and they’re good at being that as well. I think doing this online series is helpful as well, for me. To still be connected to people and really just catching up with people and garnering different friends and people’s philosophies for their day to day creativity. And for me, for anyone really, it’s nice to be reminded of that when you’re not so surrounded by that really. I’m trying to work on some more music myself hopefully, so I’m trying to work less but I’m working five to seven days a week now so I’m trying to cut that down a bit.


BK: At the old people bar?


[e]: Yeah….Oh my word! This guy, yesterday, he’s like, the most, I feel so bad for him. He’s this old man. I think he doesn’t have very many people in his life, I think he has cancer and comes in at like, 10, every night and he tells the longest stories. But he does it very forcefully, like if I try to walk away or do something else while I’m listening to him he’s like, “NO! Don’t walk away from me! As soon and you break eye contact I stop”. And I’m like, “Don, you’re my friend, I’m going to listen to you. You have my ears, but I need to do my job.” And he’ll talk about how he’s going to die, so I feel so bad for him, but also I want to punch him in the face. And yesterday, he took my hand…I don’t even know what he was saying, but some other guy bought him a drink and he took my hand and I don’t remember what they were talking about, but he said “The best things are slow, like good sex”. I pulled, I jerked my hand away and pointed a strong finger in his face and was like, “NO. Don. You do NOT violate my hand like that and talk about sex while you’re holding my hand like that. NEVER AGAIN, Don.” He just started cracking up. He thought it was so funny. And I just thought in my head, you little bastard. Don’t you dare. So I get a lot of that.


BK: At least it’s not boring.


[e]: No. It’s not. It’s not entirely boring. I take kind of a removed stand point and view how absurd our lives are, especially people with a lot of money.  But I meet some cool people there too. So…I just want to ask you a couple questions to get down to it. Whatever “it” is. I liked your pages, especially your imagination of Gridley, and how it was maybe full of photographers who just take pictures of themselves. 


BK: Yeah, it’s really weird. So small. And yet, there are photographers. That’s a real thing. They’re not all photographers. But there’s at least one, so there must be more. 


[e]: A town that takes pictures of each other, but I guess we do that anyways. 


BK: Yeah. Instagrams.


[e]: How’s improv going?


BK: Good. Every Friday night in Wheaton [IL]. I usually make it to every other. Let’s see, you came to one show and we had that two person show from Chicago open up for us? Pistol and Stamen. 


[e]: Yeah, they were amazing. They’re two person show was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. 


BK: Yeah, well they joined our troupe and it’s awesome.


[e]: Oh, cool. How’s that dynamic?


BK: It’s awesome. They blend in really well.


[e]: Ok, so one of the main things I wanted to make sure I asked you is to touch on why I see you as a successful songwriter and performer, which is because of your philosophy on play. And I feel like I was able to learn a lot more about that from living with you and being friends with you. And I’m wondering where that came from and where that stemmed from and whether or not you knew it was “play” or “saying yes”. Were you aware of that before college or what?


BK: Yeah, I think that was there before college. A lot of it was because I was able to play longer than other people, because you know, I was homeschooled.


[e]: Ah…yes. I forget that.


BK: I think my play time was extended through middle school and I didn’t have to deal with any drama or anything like that. This is the first time I’ve thought of that, that might be a thing. In high school, I was really shy and I found most of my interactions were with soccer and I would be playing with ideas there. I don’t know, re-association has always been a part of my life. Like, my dad will say, this is how he justifies puns, that re-association is the highest form of intelligence. Somebody said that. I think they were famous. My dad quotes them. 


[e]: You can just say Mr. Kinsinger said it.


BK: He’s famous enough. I think it really sparked though, in high school I did speech class and that’s when I found out I was funny.


[e]: Was it just a moment, you say it in people’s eyes? Had this internal feeling?


BK: Yeah. It was the first time I was acknowledged as funny. Because I was super shy. And that was a means of breaking out of my shell. And I felt free to be funny and play with funny things. There was never a moment when play came about, it’s just always been there. I’ve always loved it.


[e]: So I know that you were in a creative and improv community in college and were around some people who approached the philosophy of play maybe in a more cerebral way, and I know because I’ve heard you use it before, that there was a learned language to it. Like, there’s a language you’ve adapted that makes sense with how you’ve always viscerally understood play. What is some of that vocabulary to you?


BK: I think the greatest change that I’ve adopted and that I try to hold to is to always be inclusive in play. Humor in acute form, in easy form, is, you know, you can despair someone. The roasts are funny. It’s easy to make fun of someone else. But it’s more gratifying to include an idea outside yourself. So, that’s my sermon. That I’ll preach to people. You know, be funny. But be funny with people.


[e]: Yeah, and just from my own interest in the philosophy of improv and play as it translates to life and creativity, if I take just looking at you and your troupe in college and how you all played and then watching you in your troupe in the city, I can see a definite difference in play. Your college group mostly all adapted that inclusive mentality, you especially. And that created an overall better narrative, better story, better experience. And I think that’s your strongest suit, and one that’s often subtle but such a unifying factor and often makes a show successful. But then when I watched your city troupe, it seemed like a conglomeration of people who were talented in their own rights, and witty people, but desired their own spotlight more than the success of the whole. 


BK: Definitely. 


[e]: So, since you’ve been out of that community where everyone around you is pretty much on the same page in regards to play and inclusivity, but you’ve stayed in improv things and different forms of play, but what is something for you that you realized after being out of that community? 


BK: I try to, it’s harder, I have to invite people to play now, and it’s harder. I’ve kind of adopted Jerome’s strategy of questions. I think that’s more him than me. Questions that invite people into weird ideas and see how they react. 


[e]: Like what?


BK: I don’t know. Like, here we go…what was one? Shit. Had it then….If you had to live one year of your life, without autonomy, you just have to be present in it, all the decisions are already made, you just have to relive it - what year would you relive?


[e]: Oh wow. Huh. That would be kind of painful and exhilarating, I guess.


BK: Yeah, it’s gonna be good and bad times. 


[e]: For sure. Ok, another question: Who are some of the people you look up to, creatively or just as a human being or, whatever?


BK: My dad. Is one. Because, he wouldn’t call himself an artist, but he is. He’s always dabbled in different mediums. Drawing and painting and things and music. He wrote songs. But he always wrote songs kind of as a gift. Which is something I like to think of. He wrote a song for each of us kids when we were born. He’d write songs for my mom. He never wrote songs about himself. It was always outside himself. He’s also not afraid to try new things. I think it was this last Christmas, I don’t think he’s ever painted, but he painted this picture of this outlook where he proposed to my mom. And so, he just takes, he doesn’t have that much free time but he’ll steal away and do these projects. It’s always for someone. He’s generous with his art. And I like that a lot.


[e]: That’s so cool. It’s your dad and you can list him as an inspiration, not everyone can do that.


BK: Yeah. Also probably Kanye West. Mostly because, well he’s got some things that I don’t. That I wish I had. 


[e]: Like Kim Kardashian?


BK: Yeah, that’s #1. And this idea that everything he makes is brilliant. Like, anything that he makes, he’s like, “I’m a genius. This is awesome”. Like, there’s no doubt in his mind about his work and is like, everyone should just be giving me money to make art. Duh. But I feel like I want more of that. That confidence in my craft. Where when I make something, I’m like, yeah. This is fucking brilliant. 


[e]: So, you’re balancing between your dad, who is not making art for himself at all and is pretty ego-less in his art to…Kanye West, who’s pretty convinced he’s God. 


BK: Yeah, somewhere in between those two.


[e]: A pretty good scale to balance on.


BK: I’m hoping so.


[e]: My last question to you is: What does a good day look like to you? At the end of the day, what makes you satisfied?


BK: I one thing is make something. That’s always a constant need I feel. It’s less satisfied than it needs to be. If there’s a day where I just play piano, get ideas out, hang out, see people I love and talk. Those are good days. Or if I step outside of myself and it’s rewarded in some way. Like if I do something risky.


[e]: Risky business.


BK: You know, start a brothel in my apartment. That’s always a good day.


[e]: Oh, that’s good. Ok, so I'm gonna get to work to listening to this conversation again, so I can publish it. We'll see if anyone reads it.


BK: If you can think of anything cooler I could've said, you can write that down, too. 


[e]: I'll definitely insert the cooler things you could've said*.


BK: Nice. 


*(I have changed all of Ben's responses in this interview in order to make him appear cooler than he actually is. There is much inflection so you can think of this as interview with what would be a better Ben Kinsinger. Former Ben Kinsinger, you are now obsolete. You may leave the planet now).