1. 8/8. Few companies remain loyal to their identity over the progression of their business. One hundred sixty one years on, and Levi’s maintains the same brand identity it created out of the 90 Sacramento Street address in San Francisco in 1853. We wore Levi’s as kids because they were inexpensive, and wore-well and long - an advantage for our parent’s pockets. Wranglers and Rustlers made their way into the laundry line-up, but it was reading S. E. Hinton’s  The Outsiders and the film that cemented the red tab logo into my own identity. I remember not being able to find a Levi’s jacket in my size or that dark indigo color I could afford, so I purchased a Rustler from a Salvation Army in Spencer, Massachusetts. It was washer-faded blue and stiff. I grew up, and away from the association of Johnny and Pony Boy, the jacket wore itself out,  but I always liked that aesthetic. Denim style went through a strange phase of whiskered, pre-washed, faded, or ripped styles, and I followed it through like a good-hearted consumer. College brought me back to Levi’s and the sound comfort in knowing a quality product. I received this classic Levi’s jacket in their rigid indigo for my birthday in September. I wasn’t expecting anything for that day in general, certainly not this. Six weeks in, and the sleeves are beginning to show their first creases, the back smoother now, less of that stiff scratch when pulling it on. I put on that jacket before I head out to teach 7th Grade English each morning, and I’m reminded of that 12 year old. Long hair, Black Sabbath, tight jeans, Judas Priest, Jaime Thomas, Thrill of it All.  I’ll never be cooler than I was in Middle School, but I’ll always be loyal to Levi’s and skateboarding.  

    @levisusa

     
  2. 7/8. Conservative. Conservation. Consumer. Consummation. Each one takes something. Two of the terms keep it hidden, well guarded, or protected. The other two terms take, and leave nothing in return. Frederick Law Olmstead was commissioned to design the Arnold Arboretum between 1878 and 1892. The 281 acres that make up the Arboretum are meant to be taken, and to be given. Dana walks the foot-worn path through grass up to Peter’s Hill where she will take in Boston’s skyline three miles north. Outside the gates, it is easy to become consumed with work, life, obligations, any number of things. Inside, and on the hill, looking at the city from the long view, it’s easier to remind oneself of the things that should be conserved. Without Olmstead’s influence, it might not be easy to see or experience either. 

     
  3. 6/8. Dana walked the fences of this horse ranch as a child. In the long, dark, center-lit barn, equestrians keep their horses. The stables are clean, with fresh hay, combs hanging on the walls, and signs above their heads. On a hill, the area looks down onto the village of Fairport. Horses walk the fenced in areas on their own, their heads and eyes covered with a soft, mesh blind to help keep the flies out. Behind the Easy Pass and the Lioness sticky-tacked to the dashboard, the barn is dark. One man comes out, no horse, no saddle. He nods in acknowledgement, and continues. Owners, riders, and passersby seem to all mix in silent agreement at this stable, there is little sense of the “Who are you, and why are you here?” tone that can come with people who refer to themselves as an equestrian. Removing those stigmas, the horses speak for themselves and the owners stay silent here. 

     
  4. 5/8. The first pair of boots I ever had were construction boots. I think I was three or four years old when I got them. I didn’t talk much at that age, certainly not as much as I do now. I don’t know how excited I was about having them, but my mother does. She remembers me wearing them home from the store, outside all afternoon, we probably went to Old Sturbridge Village, or Paoletti’s Fruit Store then home. My mother told me I was so happy to have those boots that I wore them to bed. She asked me if I could take them off, and I said something about needing them to be ready. For what, who knows? I called them my “instruction boots.” It made sense to my brain, that’s what guys who wore them did, they gave instructions. I never had another pair of boots after that for close to twenty years, plenty of snowboard boots, but nothing rugged or honorable. My father, he had boots, still has them. The kind of boots that have seen more sawdust, leaves raked, logs cut, and driveways plowed outside of his working hours than most men do in a year. I envied those boots, and the grit he worked into them. He had another pair, still has those, too. They are a pair of L.L. Bean boots, had them so long that when the soles wore out, the company replaced the rubber and kept the leather because he’d worked them in so well. I finally picked up a pair of Bean Boots a few years back, then some hiking boots, and finally picked up a pair of Clark’s Desert Boots. I learned about Bruce Chatwin, became entrenched in the places he exposed himself to, read most of his work - he often referenced his Desert Boots. Worn while poring over 12th century pieces of the Qur’an, discovering the history of Patagonia alongside gauchos, and questioning the urge of mankind to be nomadic, Chatwin found something made well, and wore it better. Like my father, I try to take care of them, give them a cleaning once a month, re-oil them, take pride in where they’ve taken me, weary-eyed, and half-asleep. I teach 7th Grade English in a small town outside of Boston now, wearing those boots almost every day. My instruction boots.  

    levisusa clarksshoesusa

     
  5. 4/8. In a swatch of conservation land bordered by a set of train tracks and the Hudson River, Dana trades roles from muse to photographer. The wetland flora has already begun to turn the first shades of fall. Built over the trail, a wooden walkway passes through honeybees, wild lavender, and cat-tails. A pagoda that vines have yet to take to branches into the center of the wetland. Token graffiti is written between the boards, on the widest sections, and with the worst penmanship. Classic tags claiming “420 4 lyfe” and “Smoke Pot” are up there, alongside poorly spelt cuss words and defamatory remarks about some kid from the town. Somewhere, in some basement in Fairport that kid is bragging about his new tag, “Smelt.” Cool, man. That’s next level. In Levi’s and boots I climb up for a better look at the wetlands. Not much. In fact, it’s a pretty sad crop of conservation land, considering all the conservatives in the area, it would seem like there’d be more land conserved, but that doesn’t make a profit. 

     
  6. 3/8. There was a photograph in a retrospective issue of National Geographic that featured the magazine’s photographers in the 1990’s. At the time William L. Allen or Bill Allen, as it was in most of the Editor’s Notes and article by-lines, was the Editor-in-Chief for the publication. I read the magazines on the brown, sun-stained and faded shag carpet of my meme and pepe’s home on 25 Orne Street in Worcester, Ma. There were maybe four windows facing the street and two windows on either side. The room couldn’t have been more than 4’ x 8’. It retained heat throughout the winter and felt like crawling into a radiator. There were plastic toy trucks and bookshelves with items from Egypt, Nepal, and South America that I didn’t really understand. On that carpet, I learned about people and cultures I would probably never meet or interact with. I’m sure I thought the images were just different, or new, sometimes funny, and often like I got away with something when I’d pass a section with a group of topless Maasi warrior women or a tribe from Borneo. I would lay belly down on that carpet for hours flipping through all those issues, sometimes reading the articles, other times just looking at the images and captions. None of it ever truly made sense to me, but they were captivating. Twenty years later, I found the same series of National Geographic Magazines in the Mapaki village library in Sierra Leone, West Africa. I began recognizing articles from full year catalogues that spanned 1986 - 2002, with one or two issues missing - exactly the period I would have spent in that sun room. In one of those issues was the retrospective from staff and contributing photographers. There was an image of a cowboy from Montana photographed through the screen door of his ranch. It was dark behind him, maybe a light over his left shoulder or a candle’s flame in the background. I can’t remember it entirely, but I found the soft lighting, the effect of the mesh screen door on his face, and the composition of the door frame to say something profound about the simple image and the rancher inside it. On Dana’s veranda in the middle of August, I had a flash of both those memories, the image in the magazine, and myself on the floor of the room that jutted out of the house as if it were placed there as an after thought. Dana and her father demonstrate who they truly are, with no words, and only expressions. 

    * Bill Allen, National Geographic, Meme and Pepe, thank you for keeping me curious and startling me with new images and foreign perspectives. 

    nationalgeographicmagazine

     
  7. 2/8. Summer in Rochester, NY exchanges an early wave with Autumn. On the veranda of Dana’s childhood home, she and her sisters reconnect. Living eight hours east of the town she spent 18 years growing up in it’s not alway easy to get behind the wheel and drive west. Out of the frame, Kelly talks about the job offer she’s accepted for the spring - after graduation. The afternoon is nearly over, and dinner plans are being set. Flickering moments of clouds and light warn of the possible rain to come. Despite the threat of poor weather, the air remains warm. The girls continue to listen, sharing in the joy of their youngest sister’s newfound success, absorbing the time they can steal together in the way the house behind them has absorbed their memories and dreams beneath its floral papered walls. 

     
  8. 1/8. The humidity spiked in the final weeks of July. For three days the rain and clouds diffused the harsh light of summer afternoons. Upstairs, in the off-white and cobweb caked corners of a farmhouse bedroom, a spider descended from the center of the ceiling. It dropped halfway to the floor. Backlit from the lowering sun, the spider raised up, then down again. Wind blew through the window. The spider wavered, paused in its descent, then down again. 

     
  9. 16/16. Lonely at the top. The expression has become a little tired, especially when applied to the business of making money, not impressions. Split over the course of two days, with a late-start the first afternoon and a pitch in the woods. Evan looks over the Presidential Range, taking in his first impressions for the last time. The Rayleigh Scattering continues to washout the otherwise crystalline sky. Only two other hikers have passed through, two French Canadian or European peak baggers who replaced their shirts with hydration packs. They cruise by, snap several pictures, and head up to the summit. Who knows if this is another check on their list, or if they truly appreciate what they’ve elevated themselves to see. Evan sits for a few minutes longer, snacking on beef jerky, absorbing the view. 

     
  10. 15/16. Clouds blow over the rusty pipe that extends from the Mt. Washington Observatory. The pipe appears for a moment as a reassurance. Another tuft of clouds block the view. If it were not for other hikers and the last few inukshuks, the trail to the top would not be discernible. It would seem as though the best route is straight up. Physics and logic outweigh weary legs in this debate, and traversing continues to remain the best method. Where the clouds obstruct the relief of the exhaust pipe, there is warm chili, cold water, and a stinky toilet to relieve any trail-side buildup. Over the final pitch.