Sunrise Over Grassfish at Mendocino Magic

July 11, 2019By Focal NomadPosts

Gravity.
Pulling my left then my right lids down.
I can’t vouch for my creativity when I can’t see the lines I’m writing between.
Feet out, lean back,
Wait.
The sun will crest over eventually. Let it be your alarm clock.
Nature had a different tone. When you get the call you have to go.
From bronze to gold to bright, bright green. It’s all relative and irrelevant.
When you plan to cheat,
Take the work, less healing
When the sun is further
In the sky.

These are extreme conditions.
Big love, four nights, one tent.
Seventy-five burners. I know no
One. Social stamina muscle
Is built, voice is broken.

It feels so good to listen,
Especially since everyone
Has had a wild ride
So far.

The Art of Not Giving a Fuck employed.
Grab that tambourine, feel the beat, or miss it, pick it back up again.
The point is to have fun trying.
To show people that you’re not afraid of your ego dying. Make a big mess of yourself now. No better time to let those fucks go. No one can do you like you can – and it’s needed here and hey – it’s needed everywhere.

The more you try to fit your gifts to what you think other people want, the further away you get from doing just that.
Yourself is what’s needed.
Sing a song and trail to a tangent then click away knowing that you can take the shifts and changes within and without you and it is always going to be needed, whatever your gifts so happen to be.

The Story of my Cat Gwen

April 23, 2019By Focal NomadPosts

When I was 20 I was entering into a major transition in my life: I was moving into my first apartment and going to be living alone. This also coincided with me deciding to go against my doctor’s orders and stop taking Zoloft. He told me that because I had recurrent depression it would come back; and I said that I knew this but I trusted in myself enough to know how to handle it. I hated how I felt bipolar if I missed one day of meds, hated the numbness I felt from it when it was “working” and hated the stigma I felt because I was on it.

Still… this was not a small deal. On top of this I was about to enter into my sophomore year of college where we would be studying Meisner. Which, for anyone who knows anything about acting training, you cannot be numb and be taking Meisner. It’s a technique that requires you to be vulnerable; where you are discovering more about yourself than you ever will in your entire life. After experiencing what it was like to live alone with depression while subletting for a summer and with Meisner about to start, I didn’t know how I was going to do it.

I then heard about the Dollar Adoption Days held by PAWS (Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society). For one dollar you could adopt a cat, have them fixed and get their shots, plus if you got one cat, you could get a second for free. I always knew I wanted two cats so they could keep each other company while I was in class. So in August of 2007 I headed to the west side of Philly to find my new cats. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, except I knew I wanted a cat who was cuddly. When I saw Gwen it was love at first sight. Gwen immediately rubbed his nose against my fingers as they poked through the cage and rubbed his body against the door to satisfy his need for affection. Then I found a 6-month old tuxedo cat who seemed to be the yang to Gwen’s Yin as he couldn’t care less whether you pet him or not but was still very friendly. So by the end of that day and a long bus ride home with my new kitties in a crate, I had now adopted my cats for $1.

The name “Gwen” came with the cat as given to him by his previous owners. Being that he was all ready three years old I didn’t want to change it at this point and confuse him. I assumed Gwen was a girl because of the name. Six months later, I took him to the vet for a follow-up to find that she was in fact a he. After a bit of name research I found that Gwen is a somewhat common guys name in Ireland, and with my last name being McHugh, I decided to give him the very Irish middle name of Gavin – making his full name Gwen Gavin McHugh.

Over the first year of having Gwen and Midnight as my cats I witnessed America’s Funniest Home Video level events lead by these cats. Gwen was a polydactyl cat, aka, a “Hemingway” cat. This means that he had more than the normal amount of toes: six toes on each front foot and seven toes on each back foot. They believed that all cats who had this many toes were descendants of Ernest Hemingway because he had so many cats that this was a mutation as a result of inbreeding. I was delighted by this because I got really into the Les Amis de Paris and thought Hemingway was a sassy, sassy man. The toes also lead to some Gwen shenanigans.


Gwen was a fat kitty and loved to eat. So I had to keep his food away from where he could get to it. If it was on top of the cupboards he would climb up there just to knock the bag over and get to it. So I put a plastic crate over the bag, and placed this crate underneath a shelving unit. Gwen used his mighty paws to reach through a hole in the crate, poke a hole in the bag, scoop up the food, pull the food out HOLDING IT IN HIS PAW, and eat it out of his paw, like a damn human being.


He could also see dead people, I kid you not. It was no secret that the Adelphia House, which used to be the Adelphia Hotel in the 20s, was (and I’m sure still is) straight-up haunted as fuck. Strange things were constantly happening in my apartment – and Gwen’s eyes would dart to random spots on the wall, were he would stare intently; and when I took a shower, he’d stand guard outside of it, even though water wasn’t exactly his thing. Both Midnight and Gwen protected me at night. Midnight would sleep at my head, and Gwen at my feet.

My cats followed me to my next two apartments in Philadelphia for the next two years, until they couldn’t follow me anymore. I had been accepted into the National Theater Institute at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center where there was a strict no pets policy. I was grateful that my parents were able to take them in, and the plan was always to take them back when I had settled into a pet-friendly apartment again. Afterwards, I moved to a sublet while I was doing a directing internship at an experimental theater company in Philly at another sublet and couldn’t take them with me again. Soon after that I moved to NYC where I was living a month or two at a time bouncing around place-to-place.

After five months of doing this, and a year and a half away from my cats, I was moving to Los Angeles. I wanted to take my cats with me but I learned something about Gwen that made it impossible. The vet told us that Gwen gets anxiety from change, and when that would happen his intestines would flare up. Even moving the furniture around could cause this. I learned this while he was still living with me and was recommended to rub fish oil on his food for a few months to help with the swelling. As a then-strict vegan, I did this, because I loved him.

I loved him so much that when the harsh reality of how me moving across the country could potentially have adverse affects on his health, I asked my parents if they would take him and Midnight in for me permanently, since I didn’t want to separate them. Gwen had more space to wander and play and would have stability. Every time I came home to visit it was like he remembered me. He would come into my room and cuddle with me, he’d want attention while I was doing yoga, and he was just always there – and there for my parents, and for Midnight, too. He just loved everyone.

When I found out Gwen died the night I was driving back from Palm Springs, I immediately started crying. The last time I was home I realized Gwen was getting older and it was possible it could be the last time I ever saw him, and I hate that I was right. I’ve always missed out on my chance to say goodbye to the ones I’ve loved who have passed on. Gwen loved people, and I hate that he was alone when he died. I hate that I couldn’t have been there to bury him myself. Gwen was more than just a pet to me, he was a friend who loved me and comforted me and helped get me through one of the toughest transitions of my life. He helped me grow up.

Sunrise Over the Tulum Ruins

April 4, 2019By Focal NomadPosts

Feels like there’s so little time left
Not enough in my bank account
Need to buy a flight, bus tickets
Need to edit photos for this client
While I’m in paradise and all I can
Think about is swimming with sea turtles
Seems like everyone here is romping,
Being like kids and exploring but
I guess they’ve done the work to forget
About life and just see things
I’m attempting to make seeing things the very
thing that gets me to these places but…
Be here now.
History is around me. A history I don’t 
Understand. A history I don’t think
I’m apart of: so why am I drawn to learning
So much about its mystical path?
A bird had been sitting next to me the entire
Time I’ve been writing, and sorting out
My last 4 days here. Which isn’t nearly enough,
I need to swim in the ocean more
The salt cleanses me and suddenly all
The garbage I’ve been putting in my head
Is cleared away. The waves pull out
All of the neon dreams that make me high
The feelings of inadequacy that I’ll never 
Finish what I started because here I’m
Persisting, with much work to be done
I don’t know why I bother sleeping
I don’t know why I remember what tired
Feels like. When the sun touches me like
This all I want to do is live in daytime and
Let the nightlife go. All I want to do is
Explore with strangers and drink Mezcal
With them and hear their stories
All I want to do is be a bounce board for 
Problems that need shaping because
A problem is an opportunity for facing down
The blackness of the unknown, the darkness
Of our strength. We can help each other
And not know each other.
We can care about an injured toe, celebrate
A finished project and encourage an early
Rise to carry each other to our next adventure
Adventure doesn’t have to be a solo path
It’s a collective path.
It’s moving towards that which we can see but in our minds know
We must go to.
I’m going to follow the coast, follow the sunrise and follow my gut.
Forgive the steep conversion rates and
Hefty tourists taxes and just smile
Forgive the forward hands and 
Ignored stories and just keep telling
Mine anyways. People will listen.
The right people will listen.

Sunrise at One Love Fest

February 9, 2019By Focal NomadPOETRY, SUNRISE SERIES

Shot/Written at One Love Fest, October 2017.

I wish I was a bird
Their mating rituals are so simple
And with my love song
I’d know damn well when
He was calling on another.

Love the people in these photos
But everyone wants a perfect time
Let’s stop teaching the myth of “ready”
And instead replace it,
With the reality of choice.

My necklace that contains
Sodalite for self-love
Rose quartz for unconditional love
And amethyst for healing
Went missing last night.
But my bet is my stones’ called on another
Cause for me they’d done all they could do.

I listened to myself.
My body, my need
For boundaries.
I’m not ready for a good time.
I’m ready for a real time, or a nap
Whichever comes first.
It’s been one real of a week.
I put sparkles on my cheeks and
Cat ears on my head.
To feel like my life
Was some time else.

Either in the past where
My trust was still
As low pressure
As my playa tires
Or the future where
I love myself so
Much, that I
Listen to myself
And give me what
I need against peace.

New York Diaries: Christmas at Home

December 30, 2018By Focal NomadBLOG

Christmas Eve. This was an intense day to travel. I got stopped 4 times between checking my bag and the gate because of my hard drives and camera equipment and every time had to pack and repack to that sections’ supervisors liking.

I got to my connecting flight in Charlotte, wondering if I would see someone there. He was supposed to be on this trip with me, but things had changed since those flights were booked. Despite all logic telling me that he hadn’t shown up before, why would he suddenly show up now, I was hoping he would surprise me. I was hoping for some kind of Christmas miracle. But my expectations were accurate to be low, because I got on that plane alone.

My mother greeted me in Buffalo at the bag check with a blinking lights necklace she put around my neck, as if I was in the Hawaii of the northeast. After my bags were loaded they surprised me with a gathering at my aunts house not too far from the airport.

My cousin Rachel was there with her son whom I hadn’t met yet. She was 5 days older than me. We grew up together making sea shell pacts and chasing trains on the tracks saying we would always be connected. I remembered this as my uncle dressed as Santa came out to surprise the kids. As the only first cousin left unmarried and without kids, I asked her what it was like to be a mother, and she said sometimes it’s hard, but she couldn’t imagine him not being in her life.

Shortly after getting home to Syracuse, and after church, I got a text I wasn’t sure I would ever receive. I set it aside, and asked my father to continue our tradition of reading The Night Before Christmas. I thought about my sister and the bun in her oven, and thought about how my dad is going to make such an epic grandfather. I imagined a child resting in the nest of my knees as they listened attentively to his story-telling. I imagined that the person who was missing might think this was weird. Maybe he wouldn’t get it.

The next morning we toasted to my first Christmas at home in years. It was good to be home for the holidays. I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. Maybe it’s because we couldn’t get Dan Duggan to play on the stereo. Maybe I just missed my sister in that moment. Maybe it was part of me. I don’t know that he was the part that was missing, but I was missing him.

My parents’ dog Dundee and my cats must have sensed this, because for most of the rest of my time in Syracuse they were snuggling me on the couch as I wrote, as I fixed my computer, as I organized my thoughts and plans; and as I cried. I was embarrassed to tell my mother as she tried to console me that I missed someone I knew I shouldn’t be missing. That I was sad over something ending I should be grateful to be free from. That against all my knowing better, my heart just couldn’t compute.

Sunrise at my Audition in the LES

October 26, 2018By Focal NomadPOETRY, SUNRISE SERIES

Written and shot on October 17th, 2017.

I didn’t get picked again.
He didn’t even touch my hair.
Doesn’t he know that it’s virgin hair??
Not picked, rejected, the idiots.
Idiots! Sounds familiar.

If he had only touched it he would have known.
I look at their choices and feel pity
for their stupidity that who they are
looking for is me. I am that girl.
I have that thick, luscious hair, with
High cheek bones, eyes that will
kill you with their stare; I am Medusa
Look at me and risk your life.
You don’t know what you want
You don’t know what you want
You don’t know what you want
Look at me: I will hold
you with my hair, I will encapsulate
Everything that thrills you and terrifies
you with one stare.

I’m every girl you ever wanted in one.
Why is it taking so long for someone
to figure this out? I can chill with you
on your couch, then fuck you in your car.
I look good on your arm and get your weird
humor. You can say weird shit like “I
want to chew up your eyeballs and spit them
out” and I will get it and love you for it.
Your desire for me scares you because it
has taken you over. You don’t know if there’s
room for anything else. You know I’m the
end. You know this is a mudslide.
You don’t want me to hold you because
you know once you succomb to me
your will is useless. It’s over. The rest
of your life is in my hands. Idiot!

I never gave myself that power only you.
You will hunt for the forbidden fruit
only to look back years from now, see that
I’ve hardly aged, I’m exceeding you in our
Careers and that I’m ridiculously happy
without you.
You will feel sorry; you will realize how stupid you
were. You were realize you were such a
goddamn idiot for not even trying,
not even touching my… hair. Not even
seeing what could be possible with this
beauty, this body, this mind, these eyes,
these arms, these hands, this heart, this smile.
Coward. Step out of your own way and stop looking.
I’m right here. Focus now, readjust that focal length.
You need a more shallow depth of field because I’m
RIGHT HERE. Stop looking. You’ve found it.
Don’t be an idiot.

Self-Destructive Heat

October 15, 2018By Focal NomadPOETRY, Posts


Bathing myself in this heat
I let the air pressure renew me
Off of Spring Street

Those ICEE’s look delicious
Been craving a frappucino
Both make me feel old and gross

I refrain from the sugar
Trying to find something sustainable
I chug water and cocao

I stare at an empty stage
My to-do list is long but all
I want to do is sit and sulk and drink

Too hot to get high, and the polarity
Might kill me. I’m so mixed up I’m
Broken. All pieces of myself scattered
Across the dead lawn of a place I once
Wrote many poems on.

I want to run away from typing
I sit with the discomfort of this heat
Hoping someone will text me back
Rescue me from having to sit with this

Tapping on dating apps, hoping to loose
Myself in another so I can offer a big
Middle finger to those who tell me I’m
Not for them. Not now, unavailable.

Perhaps they think I’ll always be around,
Waiting for that day when circumstance will
Align with desire. Life doesn’t give us perfect
Timing. All it gives us is choices and feelings
We don’t always have a say in.

If I had a say in my emotions, I would be
Robotic with steel walls as boundaries.
But I’m not, I’m as penetrable as the wind
But my gusts come with force, a fierce funnel
Of dust and my particles are fine, they get
Inside of people without them even realizing
That weeks after I’m gone they’re coughing
Me up. Choking on me, because I’m hard to
Get rid of. Pretty and powerful
Powerful wind, I’m an intense experience
That I’m always trying to transcend.

Imagine existing as the cyclone, where
Everything that you love gets blown
Away when near you. In awe of your
Force, but can’t stand strong with you
So maybe humans weren’t meant for me
Maybe humans are too weak
Maybe what I need is steel that I can’t
Damage, skin that won’t chap even on
A good day. Robots do their best to feel
But it takes a lot to get through to them
So maybe I’m what they need. Something
Strong to move them, even if it’s subtle –
Two opposing forces, not right on paper.
Two opposing forces, that need each other

Sunrise at Woodlawn Cemetery

October 9, 2018By Focal NomadBLOG, SUNRISE SERIES

Written and shot on October 12th, 2017.

I chickened out two mornings ago making the excuse about cloud coverage. I was really afraid of the legends that this place was haunted. Would my camera be blown away? Would I see a dark shadow that I could not erase from memory?

My grandmother always used to say “don’t be afraid of the dead, be afraid of the living.” So I pushed forward through the dark and deserted roads, that, I wasn’t even sure if I was supposed to be driving on. The office light was on but it was closed. I parked, and took my bridesmaid’s bouquet with me in case I stumbled upon her.

“Lucile?” I called out.

I walked up the east side, grateful that the nimbus had lifted just enough to see some orange. The wind blew me towards her; I knew I was close. My memory of what it was, was that it was flat, barren. I felt like she might like to be buried next to where the sun would rise. I thought about how maybe we were both looking at it together.

I moved on. I found Batman on top of one, “Live a little” on another: both too young to wonder whether it was worth it. I thought I heard bells ringing. I wondered who was buried that was waking from their slumber. Wind chimes. “Isn’t that a bit misleading?” I thought. I always believed that I wanted to be buried, not embalmed, with a bell – because I’m stubborn as hell and will always try to get the last word in.

The leaves lost their crunch in last nights rain. One was floating and I only assumed by an invisible web. I took in the autumn serenity as my toes began to freeze. The office would be open soon – and I could find her. Distracted in my thoughts I wandered in zigzags. With every hundred persons deceased I passed I learned something: everyone here was a hero to someone. Their tombstone gifts said it all. A firefighter, a coach, a mother, a solder. Some marked many generations after their existence. I could live with that reputation.

Two visitors, separate of each other, told me to go back to the east side because there was a whole family of foxes. I didn’t see a one. I saw some squirrels, and then I remembered that face that called me one, and that he was a fox, my fox. I then remembered my grandmother’s words again and realized I wasn’t afraid of dying. I was afraid of dying with out ever knowing true, lasting love.

Inside the office, I learned where she was buried – it was right where the wind was taking me, yet when I saw it, was completely different from last time. Bushes were planted, a mausoleum nearby, and a tall marker for her and now her husband, Edward. Once I saw her name I collapsed. “I love you.” I said. Memories of my mentor flooding through but mostly just her voice saying sweetly “Amanda, my Amanda.” I was angry with myself for not calling sooner, for not keeping up, for having the intention to organize her files as a gift to her but not having actually done so.

Six months before she passed she said she’d like me to call her anytime. She’d like to be a mentor to me. I was heartbroken then, too. “Find someone who loves you just a little more than you love him or her,” she would tell me. I have yet to find that. Lucille was my coach, she taught me how to feel fully. She made me realize how special I was when all the kids would just call me weird. I wanted for some words of wisdom to pass through the wind – in lieu of words I got heartache. Heartache at the loss, the loneliness and wishing someone could just tell me what to do.

Through the characters she helped me portray, advice, words I wrote, the bullies she helped me have compassion for, a word came to mind: resiliency. Do it. Don’t over think it. Love fully, love until your heart bursts. Follow-through. Life is too short to not try, to not feel, to not give, to not love. As I was pulling away I heard it. “I’ll always be here for you.” So maybe with that, I have found true love.

Imperfect Shapes

October 3, 2018By Focal NomadPOETRY, Posts

Don’t make decisions from your pain, love.
It may feel like you want to take the scissors
and cut up all the shapes to shreds.
It may feel like none of your circles were perfect,
like your hearts were all lopsided,
that your squares were only trapezoids
and your trapezoids were more like stars;
but don’t cut them into confetti.

The world needs the imperfect shapes that only
you can create. So take that glue stick and create
a mosaic because when you put it all together
what comes out of you will only fit together
if you cut it asymmetrical.

Confetti may be great for a party;
scattering your pain across a room in celebration
of our flaws. Flaunting our need to forget with
every blunt that we smoke and drink that we sip.
You can dance and sweat it out as much as you
feel it in the techno but the beat won’t make
your heart more even. It won’t make your
nose less deviated. It won’t take the air out
of your stomach and sharpen your hearing.

When the party ends, your need to destroy
what you are just becomes trash; moop
that gets in the way of everyone when
the high wears off. So cut it as perfectly
imperfect as you can. Your shapes can
create art that others can appreciate.

Some will approach from a distance to
understand it in totality from afar. Some
get in close to understand what materials
you used, the method upon which it was cut,
the binding material and the foundation it lays
on. Some will want to understand the whole
journey of how you created it. Some will
want to take it home. Understanding it’s worth of
having as someone’s own. Also understand that
Mosaics aren’t everyone’s thing. But just wait…

The right buyer will come along.

They will have a place for you that’s been
needing to be filled. They will be ready for
a large and heavy, colorful piece of art.
It will fit in with their colorful and large home.
They will see your art on the wall and know
that it belongs on their wall, right above the
couch, where everyone can see. Proud and happy
that they found the piece they’ve always been
looking for. Something they see everyday that
Makes them smile, that makes them think,
that challenges them on their own journey.
Someday this buyer will come, and they will
know it’s worth. They won’t hesitate, they won’t
Question the imperfect shapes. They will understand.
So don’t cut yourself into confetti. There is nothing
wrong with you.

Celebrate yourself by being yourself.

A City of Shifty Eyes

April 18, 2018By Focal NomadPOETRY

Where do I start

I’ve been afraid to write
For what I might uncover
From my time under another
I wonder if it will ever get better
Than it was with you
And I’m ashamed to admit
That I even miss a little bit
About what we were because
If I admit that, it means I
Still haven’t found any better
And how is it so difficult
To find someone who wants
To go there with you, who can
Listen to every little squirm of
Your big toe and push you to
Your limit with every little flick
Of your neck and other places
And why did you have to come at
It with all those false promises
I know you wanted to keep them
At the time but they mean nothing
If you don’t resolve to keep them
When it counts. So now every shifty
Eye, every second date, every second
Guess I take as a sign of poison
Not to drink from that cup but
Pour the elixir out, empty the glass
Completely and set it on fire to
Make sure no residue is left over.
I know alcohol is all ready poison
And im taking a risk there but it masks
The smell and taste of something much
More foul, especially when my go-to
Is a stiff scotch like a vampire trying
To reduce its urges to seduce, suck,
Bleed out and shred. I drink to keep
My demons at bay, to get to the point
Where I care just a little less about
The risks that I’m taking because
Every time I kiss another I’m afraid
That secretly they are you, or you,
Or maybe even him. Because I’m
In my thirties now and I don’t
Want to repeat any more mistakes
But I’m in my thirties now so a
Woman should be able to responsibly
Get her licks, right?