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  2. Yesterday>Today
    Grand Saline, Tx.
    March 2014

    When i was a boy, about 5 or so, i remember having this white Mickey Mouse sweater for a short season. I also had a Grandmother who drove nothing but Cadillacs and in the period below, it happened to be real pristine white one. You know, not one you could eat or drink in. We used to take these long drives together and on one particular we were headed out to East Texas. Tyler, i think. She and Papa stopped by the roadside to do some business and my brother and cousin and i got out and were doin the mess around. There was a hill by the roadside with pines at the top and there was a nice shiny stream of red clay where the water from a recent rain was coming on down the hill. Looked like nature’s version of Wet N Wild so in a very short amount of time a plan was hatched, one that would land me in some good trouble and would lead to the ultimate demise of my white Mickey Mouse sweater that i just so happened to be wearing that day. I remember launching myself face first down the clay slide, i remember realizing that my sweater was now orangish red and i remember my Grandmother’s face once she saw it. Nothing else though. The memory just stops.

    And then the night before i turned 34 i had this dream. My Grandmother and i were speaking at a university together. She was leading the charge and she was telling everyone that she knew what they had done to their Mickey Mouse sweaters. And that many people have made similar mistakes, even her Grandson, and she turned to me and said, “Haven’t you Dylan? Tell them about what happened to you and your sweater.” I stood to talk and that’s the last thing i remember. Once i woke up i decided to go for a drive. I headed for Grand Saline.

    I called Aunt Roy to get reminded of some family history on the way. She said that Grandmother’s first job was as a soda jerk at a pharmacy and that she also worked at Kay Woolens. I headed for the buildings where those businesses once were and parked on Main Street. Just to be sure i was in the right place, i stepped into the local paper and met a woman named Ann, who runs the paper alongside her husband. She had these bright blue eyes and reminded me of my 2nd grade teacher, the one who yelled “SHUT UP DYLAN!!!!” when i wouldn’t stop talking. About like i type. Anyway, she let me know which building used to be which, we exchanged a few more pleasantries and then i tipped my hat and headed out to stand in front of what was once Kay Woolens and play make believe. I was looking at the sidewalk and thinking if my Grandmother’s foot steps had left footprints of pink paint, who many would i see going into that old store and around the town for that matter? Some of the sidewalks would probably be covered in paint. And on the outer edges they would be different sized feet from her younger years. I bet she even used to skip a long time ago before i was born and that would be a noticable pattern. Little sporadic painted footsteps with trajectory drops splattering forward. I thought about all this for a few and then looked down and saw that the sidewalk was sadly still grey, like most all the rest of them.

    Across the street is the pharmacy and it still has the sign out front. I walked in to find a couple of tables full of old timers playing dominoes and they offered me a cup and took turns talking to me while they chewed on cigars and watched their hand. Said since i was driving through and thinking about my folks and the way things were i could look around the drug store, which has become a shrine to the town’s history. Old photos, books, farm tools and an upper shelf filled with stetson and cowboy hats. Each one had a name tag on it in memory of it’s past owner, all of whom have departed from this life. When i got back around front they told me if i wanted to know about Grand Saline i might wanna talk to this fella who’d just walked on. He introduced himself as Ed Bailey and i shook hands and told him i was Dylan Hollingswrth. He squinted and said,” Then i bet you’re kin to Harold Dean arentcha?” My throat got tight and i said that he was my Grandfather.

    Turns out Ed runs the old schoolhouse mueum and next thing i know im in his old Ford driving across town with him to go and see what we can pull up. Ed’s been farming sweet potatoes his whole life and was blessed with the ability to learn and remember damn near everything about everyone so of course he knew my Grandmother and the Stough Sisters. En route i learned that the old schoolhouse had burned down but they rebuilt and i found it well put together with desks from the 1920’s, letter jackets from the 50’s and 60’s, old books and class photos. Enough to fill up a couple giant rooms and one of the more carefully curated collections i’ve seen. He disappeared into the back and i found my way to a wall of World War II Veterans from Van Zandt County. A whole grid of photos of many who fought and died and lived through the great war. My Papa had some really handsome black wavy hair pokin out of his naval cap and we stared at each other for a minute, both of us smirking about something or another. When Ed came back he was holding school rosters for my Grandmother and her sisters, some of which had black smudges from a fire a few years back. We made some photo copies for me to give to cousins and slowly made our way back to to the domino table across town.

    There, i sat in with the fellas for a few, drank another styrofoam cup of coffee and finally asked where i could get a good plate lunch. They sent me on to the Dairy Mart where a young gal with too much make up sized me up and wondered if i was her ticket out of this town. She served me up some chicken fried steak with bedroom eyes on the side, both of which left me feeling pretty good and helped me make it to my last stop- the empty grass lot where my Great Grandmother’s house once stood. Hadn’t been back there since 1985 but i still knew it just by the slope of the land alone. I picked up and pocketed a couple rocks from what was once the driveway, talked to the old man next door who was eating pineapple cake outside in the warmth of his old pick up truck and then slowly made my way out of town, driving past dead deer on the road, confederate flags and crosses in front yards, water towers with peeling Indians painted on them and reluctantly heading back towards what is now. I did make one last stop though, at an old resale shop in Terrell where i was just SURE i’d find a Mickey Mouse sweater or a GS letter jacket to complete the oddysey. My past, present and future was about to tangibly fuse and man, it would make a great story. I got up to the front though and the OPEN light was on but the door was locked. Now is rarely as good as yesterday was.

     
  3. It’s The End Of The Year But It’s Not Too Late… To Start Again.

     

  4. Electric Lizzyland 2013
    Hollywood Heights, Tx.
    December 2013

    Lizzy still doin’ it up in East Dino. Stopped in tonight and ate a couple cookies, checked out her new car and watched as people came and went-all enjoying this phenomena she spends the last 7 weeks of the year creating. Complete with dioramas filled with taxidermied rats, penguins skating on a makeshift frozen pond, thousands of lights and i dont know what else. If you get a chance, stop in tonight. She has a fire going in the front yard. And she does it all for you. 714 Newell Street.

     
  5. Being Found
    Mesquite, Tx.
    December 2013

    One day in 2013 i woke up and realized i’d been thrust into a sort of interfaith visual anthropology. Still learning as i go but at least now i understand what some of my work is to be. These questions of faith, human limitations, and what we are to do with our time here… i think about them most days and nights. In watching you guys i continue to find more answers.

    I took a few photographs at a friend’s Christmas party the other day. I had Ethan and Braeden with me and on the way home, they asked why people get so into praising and lifting their hands up and all that. I asked them if they’ve ever been running and gotten really thirsty and when they finally drank water, if it suddenly became so much more than water. When you can feel your body absorbing it. Needing it. And you know you couldn’t have survived much longer without it.

    That’s what i see when i see these friends with their hands raised. Taking in and and drinking from something they’ve needed for a long time. Reaching for something greater than themselves. And so grateful to be alive, to have been delivered from their difficulties and finding hope and continued guidance through the struggles of life here and beyond. Being found is a beautiful thing, but especially if you truly understand what it means to be lost. Dang, i love me some lost sheep.

    Happy Holidays to all and a special Merry Christmas to all my Christian friends who raise their hands and their lives to Jesus Christ. Hope this day is special for you all and that this year brings you closer to the most kind, loving Christ-like person you can be.

     
  6. Watching The Fire Together
    Dallas, Tx.
    December 2013

     
  7. Storytellers
    Dallas, Tx.
    December 2013

     
  8. Broken Cars And Dads
    Dallas, Tx.
    November 2013

     
  9. Slaughterhouse Jive
    Dallas, Tx.
    December 2013

     
  10. Broken Cars And Dads
    Dallas, Tx.
    November 2013

     
  11. Melvin Allen
    Detroit, MI.
    November 2013

    After finishing filming, i didn’t get to spend too much time in Detroit. Walked a few miles through the cold by myself, weaving my way through some overcast outskirts of downtown. The decay, old industrial architecture and negative space where there was once so much life was something else for sure. They made sure to tell me there’s more to the city and i believe it, but all yesterday’s parties were really what i came to see. Seems like every since my Grandmother passed a few years ago i can’t stop reading and thinking and preparing for everything i know and love to slip away. All that has come into physical existence has to at some point has to pass out of existence. All that transcience, you know, and i guess i think about it all the time. If i didn’t match my thoughts with a lot of different forms of doing, i might say i think too much.

    But the wind started whipping hard after a while so i ducked inside some old red brick empty house and warmed up a little. I ate an orange and read a page or two out of this book of poems i’ve been studying all year by Marie Howe. What The Living Do. An unforgettable look at life and death, balancing the common with the sacred. I hope one of you will read it if you find yourself in front of it. Goes well with cold weather and clementines and now that i think about it im pretty sure her stories take place in the Northeast.

    After that red house i went back out into the wind and wondered why i was there like i always do and that’s when i ran across Melvin walking across a dirt path in a grassy empty lot. Hard to believe when you look at him but Melvin is 70 years old. I showed him a few photographs i’d taken and once he saw Grandmother’s Final Portrait he gave me the go ahead. I shot a few and then i walked with him and found out he too was a recovered addict. He finally layed it down and got clean 5 years ago. Up until that point he was full tilt boogie, every dollar and burst of energy going towards the next hit. But despite all that time and all that struggle, Melvin said he didn’t regret a thing and that the plus side of him spending 65 years being a “bad man” was that he had that many years of people that he could now show that “a bad man had become a good man.” And that it was worth it. He says he’s gonna spend the rest of his life quietly showing people that change is possible. And you know, he also had these blue eyes that probably aren’t visible in this photograph but man, they were blue as mine.

    When we went to part i shook his hand and i walked about 5 or maybe even 8 steps away. And listen, i know a person can say anything and i know it’s in my blood to make a good story better sometimes. But i swear when i turned around to tell him thank you one more, the man i had been walking next to was no where to be seen. There was within reach a door, a manhole, an alley and an empty sky but it bothered the hell out of me that i couldn’t figure out which way he went. He was gone for sure though.

     

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  13. Camping With The Bros
    Fort Parker State Park, Tx.
    November 2013 

     
  14. Imam Khalid Latif and Alif Laam Meem
    Groesbeck, Tx.
    November 2013 

    I went on a camping retreat with my bros at ALM this weekend. We joined the Risala Foundation from Houston and one of the speakers they invited was Imam Khalid Latif. He is from New York and his method of teaching is very poetic, almost like spoken word, but much more direct, accessible and discernible than most poets. After getting home last night i did some research and learned that he is actually the chaplain at NYU, a past chaplain at Princeton University and also the youngest chaplain to ever serve on the NYPD. He has done a lot of interfaith work and seems to be the kind of religious leader that sees beyond one faith to who we are collectively. Man that moves me and i think we need more of that.

    He gave a few lectures and the one that hit me the most was about an email he had received from a young woman who was due to a marry a man, and yet as the day grew nearer he began to treat her poorly, being verbally abusive and even doing so in public. He broke the men into groups and asked them what responsibility they had to a woman in her situation, who was reaching out for help. He then asked if the abuse moved to a physical form what responsibility the men had to help her. In some other countries and more traditional sects, this kind of oppression has been a reality and from what i see, creating a new identity that can overcome problems like this and creating new perceptions is a hot issue in Muslim American culture.

    The answers were varied as far as what to do. Some considered interceding. Some considered approaching both the man and woman and ushering them into counseling. Some weren’t sure if it was appropriate to intervene outside of one’s own family. After all of it, Kalid said each of those potential solutions aloud and asked if that was really the best we could do. As a community, who has a responsibility to help and serve others, especially those in danger, “is that the best we can do?” From there he outlined that our real duty is to of course help remove someone who is in danger from that situation, regardless of tradition. But that the greater thing is to be that person, or that group of people, that create a larger solution. Like beyond helping one person, thinking big and opening a domestic abuse shelter. Being vulnerable enough to use our voice to share our personal dealings with these problems so we can educate the younger generation. And having the humility to admit that even in our communities, some overhauling needs to take place. We could all benefit from such admissions and subsequent forward thinking and action.

    To me, that’s what these young men i spend so much time with lately are charged with… creating this new identity. A new way of dealing with cultural flaws and ways from the past or old country that no longer work. Every generation and culture finds themselves in that place and if they are thoughtful and free thinking, they take action. I see these guys doing that. I see them learning from balanced Imams like Khalid. I see them marching with their signs in the link below. And i see a moderate American Islam becoming more visible.

    So grateful to be working on this film and to be witnessing small moments in a country’s, culture’s and religion’s history. These are my simple views thus far and anything above that can’t be reckoned with the beliefs of ALM or the Muslim faith, just chalk it up to me being an outsider.

     
  15. Docks
    Groesbeck, Tx.
    November 2013