Copious Variety

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The ride to the bus was quick but lonesome despite the NPR I was listening to. Stories of people all across the world were mentioned. How many different people there are in this world. Looking out the front windshield, I couldn’t help thinking of the lives of the people around me, all on their own way, following their own path, living their own separate lives. Early in the morning as it was, the gentle golden glow was only slowly beginning to crest over the mountains in opposition to the gray dawn and the roads were very lightly trafficked by both vehicles and pedestrians. For the cars that were out on the road, I couldn’t help but create narratives for each of the assumed occupants.

For the dirty, blue Toyota truck, rusting along all edges, I imagined a workman, going off to some construction site. He was mid-forties in age and somewhere well below mid-forties in income. But he was a good man, making an honest living for the family he loved so dearly.

For the spotless white Mercedes, I visualized a narrative of a woman in her late thirties. With striking red hair, perfected nails, a tight pencil skirt, a royal blue blouse, a black blazer, and a pair of empowered, peach-colored pumps, she cut quite a figure. I imagined her to be intelligent, hard-working, almost detrimentally so, and above all, in control of all aspects of her life. But with this pristine façade, I associated a much deeper story, one of loss, regret, and loneliness. I imagined that when she was young, she had envisioned herself wealthy, powerful, and happily-committed by age thirty-five. Most of her vision had come to fruition, but one crucial piece was still missing. And so, she spent many nights alone, her apartment feeling open and cavernous, the walls seeming to mock her lack of romantic intimacy. But she was alive.

I arrived at the bus, late as usual, gliding in a blur past the driver and the hordes of watching eyes. I wondered what lay behind those eyes— contempt, judgment, emptiness, or perhaps even depth of thought. The back of the bus, the last frontier in terms of seats, and the prime location for observation is where I landed. As they sat in the darkness within the bus, so did I­— observing and contemplating their lives.

I created scenarios for each of their lives too. I thought about the sorrowful-faced man. I pitied him; he seemed compassionate. But underlying his sunken countenance was a morose back- story, one of heartbreak and loss. I thought of him as average though; we all had loss. I just wondered why he seemed to take his loss so deeply, hanging on to his depression for so long.

The boy who sat next to me seemed pleasant enough with his youthful, humorous attire and attractive face, but his affliction was cigarettes. From his breath and that nervous, energetic twitchiness, it was clear to me that he was addicted, tragically and absolutely. I wondered what tormented him so that he was driven to the so-called cancer sticks. Perhaps a father that was nonexistent or a single mother who was working two jobs was the source of the anxiety that plagued him so. Still, deep within his brown eyes was a boyish hope in tandem with that childlike fear that is rooted in abandonment.

I cogitated on the young skiers in the seats just ahead of me. They poked fun at each other and chatted loudly and immaturely. I wondered exactly why they felt it necessary to converse in such a way. Had they just left home and never grown up. They seemed middle-aged in the physical sense, but in terms of psychological development, they seemed naïve, uneducated, even somewhat stunted.

My day continued on with these scenes in my head and soon, the bus ride was over. Walking along the street mall, a very different group of people surrounded me. Looking haughty and disconnected in their rich fur coats, they seemed altogether disinterested with the pedestrian world around them. A woman of considerable stature as well as apparently considerable wealth pranced past me, walking elegantly, almost levitating in her pretension. She was chattering into her phone, seemingly unaware of the entire world around her own particular realm, no doubt unaware of me as well. I wondered if she felt ashamed of her narcissism, but I already knew in my mind that she had neither interest in the outside world nor any anxiety for her lack of outward compassion.

Over the course of the day, my sense that everyone was separate and unique evolved and I became aware that my life and other’s lives are more similar than different. I began to feel that my motivations and drives were the same as everyone else’s. While I knew that my life was not without pain, suffering, and heartbreak, I realized that other’s lives were not either. Joy and love were most important in life, I soon recognized. My life is not unique; while variety exists, experience is universal for all of us.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Skyline Destiny

Flying in, I could feel the electricity in the air, the constant state of unrest, and the love of productivity balanced with longing for the life of the party. Outside the small plane window, buildings so tall that they could scrape the underbelly of the plane were lit up, bright and perpetually awake. Everyone was out on the town from the paupers, to the wealthy, to the college kids, to the happy families from Brooklyn and Queens. New York City looked alive, as it did almost every night. From the moment we disembarked, the air was muggy and warm, even at that late hour.

The city of love welcomed us with open arms. That night, I too fell in love, not with a person, but rather, with New York City itself. It was that night when I finally felt everything that I had worked for truly come to fruition. All my work and long hours had led up to this trip, to this city.

You know how people say that they saw this one person, they locked eyes, and it was love at first sight? That’s exactly what I experienced that night. The moment I laid eyes on New York City, I fell instantly, completely, and hopelessly in love. I felt like I belonged there- like it was meant to be- like I was already at home in that beautifully-foreign oasis.

One of the best things about New York City is the incredible diversity of people, lives, landscapes, and personalities. Each street is a new neighborhood, each area full of a very different set of people. Every street is more glamourous and lovely than the last. But it is also as historic as any museum and as modern as the empire it represents. Everyone is so unique in New York, but many of them remind me of myself- dreaming always, working constantly, staying up late every single night, bitchy as ever on a regular basis, and opinionated about everything.

Maybe one day I’ll call New York home. And maybe one day I’ll get tired of all the hustle and bustle. But for today, that’s all still in the future. Today, all I can do is dream, work, and wait to see what my future holds. For now, I hope it’s a skyline destiny, and I think it will be. The city is as diverse as I am, and love is love. I made a promise to myself and the city that night that one day I would make it there and I will find it hard to renege on that. I belong in New York and I always have. One day at a time, one little step at a time, one day closer to my skyline destiny.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Dead, Hopefully

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It was late January and as I drove my Honda along the long, dark highway, all I could think about was the all-encompassing death I was heading towards faster and faster every day. My career was in the toilet, my love-life was on its way to its death, my hope was dead, and worst of all, my ambitions were dead-and-gone. Death had swallowed my life whole, and now it was simply spitting out the bones one by one, leading me into the dark alleyways of despair. I breathed- in…out…in…out- the simple task of breathing seeming somehow more difficult than living another day on this earth.

Lost, desperate, lonely, and hopeless, I drove on through the night, a lone pair of headlights illuminating the suffocating darkness.

What was it that they used to say back in Catholic school?

“When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

What a load of bullshit. When God closes a door, he fucking slams it as hard as he can in your fucking face.

Career: unemployed; spouse: none, twice divorced; kids: none; life: DEAD. The only thing I had to show for twenty-seven long fucking years of life was my old shitty-ass Civic, Marge, as I called her. Marge was my one true companion; she seemed to love me no matter what.

I was driving on the highway towards… well… towards the end, wherever that was. I was finding my new life at the other end of a long, winding highway- how fucking euphemistically cliché. Bitter, that’s how Aunt Lois used to describe me, bitter, resentful, nasty, and her favorite one, fucked-up. I was as far removed from the fucking bitch as I could get; I moved across the country just to finally evade her grasp. Lois was a poised, elegant woman when she wanted to be, but Lois didn’t often want that.

Marge purred along as my mind wandered aimlessly through the dark.

Back in Illinois, I had always believed that it would work out, that I would make it big and never come back to this God-forsaken hellhole. My whole life had been like that, always running away from something. First it was my family, primarily Aunt Lois, and then it was my first marriage, and now, it was my entire God-damned life. Running…

Cities appeared and then flashed by, my destination was unknown, but I was sure that none of this was it. I was ready for death now, nothing could stop me. Happiness had left me. You know what they say; when life gives you lemons- fucking give up. Well, life gave me a whole fucking lemon grove, and guess what, I fucking gave up.

I hated Lois for who she had become, a crotchety, selfish, old cunt who did nothing but bitch all day long. Thank God her poor husband Lester had died so at least he was in a better place now- hopefully a very quiet, peaceful one. I had spent enough years of my life with Lois to realize that death was better than having to put up with that old bat.

I was close now, the road was about to end, one more path ending abruptly in death. Mine was just one life, would it really matter? I longed for death, for only in death was the pain gone, were the voices silenced, was the anguish extinguished.

But death was too fair, suffering was much more realistic. And so I suffered. And I still suffer, and I’m alive. I guess that’s good, being alive. I wouldn’t know if death is any better since I’ve never reached it.

I guess it’s safe to say that the road never ended that night- who knows when it will end. Life’s a bitch as they say, and you know what, so am I. I’m a fucking bitch, and that’s ok, there are lots of us out there.

I hope death is a little less unfortunate, that’s what I fucking hope. Oh well…

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

A Perceived Reality

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Sitting, watching, rolling along in the world, people go by, places disappear, and we never wake up.

Lounging, observing, living life to its fullest, people go by, places disappear, and we will always remember.

A tree can be many things. A tree can be a botanical oasis, a deciduous wonder, or a sculpture of nature. A tree can be a companion, a goldenrod firework, or simply just that which it is, eternally a tree.

Driving along a highway, one’s eyes dart from the roadway sporadically, leering at a passerby, observing a provocation of mild interest. But do we really reminisce or even simply ponder what we are actually observing?

Being an artist, a musician, a designer, or a writer, one learns early on that perception is paramount to one’s own art in addition to one’s reception and comprehension of others’ art. For an artist, it eclipses purely the art world and so perception and observation become the rawest essence of daily life.

Perception is fundamentally applicable for all though, not simply the artist. From the way we perceive sounds and lights and noises and colors, to the way we observe the more subtle and inconspicuous world of emotions, personalities, ideals, and aspirations, the observations we collect and the assessed perceptions we feed off of fuel our minds and our lives more than we can begin to cognize.

And so for some the tree may be just a tree, a biological organism complete with cells, molecules, and a carbon-based composite we call wood. But to the lucky few among us, that tree is something more, something existentially greater than originally assumed. That tree is a manifestation of beauty, courage, joy, transcendentality, and most of all, vivacious, unabashed life. That tree may be gold or green or even red, but that tree is a pictorialization of life and death, pain and resilience, and most importantly, love and loss.

So perceive life how you will, but comprehend and discourse with it each day. For each day is uniquely divergent from the last; lessons are learned, people go by, places disappear, and we will always remember.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Urban Decay: Lonesome Beauty

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A Light Shining out over the glassy water can somehow be the most radiantly alluring corporeality when we are alone in the city. That light encompasses the longing feeling we experience sitting alone, the city living and breathing and pondering just as we do. There is something unbelievably exquisite about the cars whizzing wildly by on the freeway. In each car is another person, another story waiting to be observed. The connection everything seems to possess in the city is jarringly palpable. The magnetizing beauty of the city isn’t in the lights, or the cars, or the architecture though. The beauty is in how glamorously lonesome the city persists to be. The city lets us be alone; it lets us be together. But what the city accomplishes eminently is that it guides us to our inimitable selves and steers us to the lovely lonesome facets that make life unimaginably amiable.

All loneliness is forgotten in the lonesome beauty of the city. We become one with our feelings and we realize in the city that the times we are truly alone are the most productive and introspective that we experience. We remember most the times we are alone with nothing but our thoughts. These are the best times not only because we are alone with our thoughts, but because in the end, all of us must find salvation in no one else but ourselves. When we live and breathe and eat and touch the city, only then do we know the reality of the lonesome beauty it possesses. The cogent beauty speaks to us in a way that little else can.

The beauty of urban life is not in the extraordinary or the fame or the wealth though. The pulchritude of urbanity is in the ordinary, simple life. Meaning and inspiration are found only when living in the world of never-ending busyness. Alive all the time, the city divulges values of hard work, independence, respect and love.

I find solace and serenity in the lonesome beauty of the decaying urbanity because it is more real than most things in life these days and more transcendental than most things we call normalcy. Urban beauty is existentially relatable and yet also entirely consummate to everyday life.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

The Greater Impact

The places we’ve gone just once sometimes make the greatest impact on our memories. When I dream about the future, I also look back into the past. I remember the people I’ve loved, the people that I will never forget. I dream about the boy I’ll wind up with, how perfect we’ll be, how I’ll never let him go for anything. I think about my dream job and my dream house. My dream unfolds swiftly before my eyes.

About a year ago, I was fortunate enough to stay at a beautiful resort in Vail, Colorado, elegantly named, The Montaneros. What made The Montaneros undeniably unique was, I think, that it was like living in a dream, living in my dream. Strangely, I had stepped into some kind of dream world, so real, yet so far away.

As I looked around the room, there was a sense of place, a character that seemed very normal to me. I imagined myself entertaining at that ornately decorated table, at home among a group of close friends. I watched myself, as if behind glass. I watched myself cuddling on the couch, a nameless but familiar boy at my side. I imagined myself standing in that kitchen. What a masterpiece the entire space was. But most of all, I could see myself as happy, worry-free, loved. I could see that without a doubt, my life had turned out how I had always envisioned it to be. But the visions faded. The room became nothing more than an elegantly decorated reality. The hopes and dreams sank back into the future.

What that trip really defined for me was a sense of self and an individualism that was suddenly more present. I could feel just a hint of what adult life would be like throughout that trip. I could feel the hardships, the prosperities, the responsibilities, and everything else that comes with being an adult.

Looking back on that trip, I realize how much of me has changed. I can see just how much I’ve changed in a short couple of years. When I look back on the past now, there is suddenly an indiscernibly larger amount of people that I miss, places I have almost forgotten, and dreams that have died off long ago.

In the course of life, one experiences many losses, but no loss is as great as that, the loss of innocence.

Looking back on that trip, I can tell you with complete clarity that it was a turning point in my life. It was, in its purest form, a rebirth of a personality and a growth of self. Since that time I have grown into what I am today. But as I always say, you cannot be who you are today without whom you were in the past and the person you are only yet to be. Our lives are shaped by people, by events, by places;  but they are shaped most extensively by the past, the future, and who we are right now, this very minute.

And that is the greater impact, realizing that all of your life has made you what you are today, and that the future is yours to create. Life’s greater impact is figuring out how to utilize your past to define yourself, while not making your past a roadmap for the future you can write today. Today is your day, will you spend it dwelling and what was or what could be, or are you going to make today the first day of the rest of your life?

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Scotland, The Cutest Place on Earth

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When I arrived two days ago in Edinburgh, Scotland, cute was not the original word I would have used to describe it. Dirty, loud, foreign, these are closer to what I said when I first started walking around the foggy streets. But my thoughts on this place have changed. Scotland is actually pretty adorable. Between the incredible cathedrals and museums, the gorgeous gardens and parks, and the cute Scottish boys, Scotland is cute in the best way possible.

Since the reason that I’m on this trip is that my dad is leading it as a Study Abroad program for the University of Colorado, yesterday we went off in pairs to explore, discover, and get lost in (literally) Edinburgh and Scottish culture. And what I found was that each part of the city was different, incredible and full of beauty in its own unique way. The people were different, the food was different, even the building were very different. And it’s all pretty much gorgeous.

Toady we went off to explore again, this time with specific aims to find out more about a certain piece of Scottish culture. My group went off first to the Scott Monument, a statue and surrounding tower paying tribute to the great author, Sir Walter Scott. Next, we went to the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland, which houses all the portraits of the Scottish Royalty, as well as paintings and photographs of Scottish history, sports, authors, and artists. And last, we went off to the National Gallery of Scotland, which has a collection of other Scottish artwork, landscapes, portraits, and even impressionist paintings. All were beautiful, although one can only look at some many royal portraits before they want to run away screaming. Through the art, we learned not only about the people within the art, but also the painters, the history, and the countless stories told through each and every piece. The thing about being here in Scotland is that every piece of this place, every building and every street has meaning. Every person in each of the paintings was important in Scottish history and helped to make it the country it is today.

But to me at least, the real value of Scotland is that it’s not only historically and culturally relevant, but it also houses a level of beauty and aesthetic importance that brings in the many thousands each year. Scotland’s “cuteness” lies in its ability to captivate and inspire people. It lies in the mountains and glens of the highlands, and in each and every churchyard. Each park that I walk through every day houses a new beauty and “cuteness.” Each person (especially the boys) that I meet here is adorably cute in there own inevitable and very Scottish way.

As I was walking through one of the courtyards of a church today, I saw an adorable boy, apparently on holiday to Scotland. The churchyard was quiet and solemn, so was I, so was the boy. But there were was a hidden exuberance and lovely peacefulness between all of us. There was a shared charm , a living existence, and it was beautiful. That’s why I love Scotland, because its real, because its honest, because it’s cute!

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Destination: Scotland

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As I blog to you today, I sit, looking out the window of my hostel, at the quiet streets of Edinburgh. The past few days and even the past few hours have been anything but quiet. I awoke only a little over a day ago, and began frantically cleaning and packing, preparing any last minute things the I could for the upcoming trip. By noon, we were almost ready, and by 12:20, we were off leaving my beautiful dog Sophie behind. First came the easy part, the car ride down to the bus and then the hour-long bus ride to the airport. Next came the irritating piece, security and boarding. And then the mundane segment, the first flight from Denver to Minneapolis.

Soon, but not soon enough, we were on the ground in Minneapolis, running from one plane to the next, just in time. Here’s where it got fun! The flight was on one of the huge international jets with fancy bathrooms, comfy seats, blankets and pillows, and of course, great food. I was actually starting to get excited and lose the worry at this point. I snuggled in, and after eight hours, two meals, and little sleep, we were finally on the ground in Amsterdam. The airport was beautiful, with fresh smoothy shops, cheese, a museum, a lounge, and even a library. Because of the lack of sleep and the comfy surroundings, the library served as a perfect place for us to rest up and recuperate.

By the time we got on the next flight, we were too tired to even think. I just slumped down in my seat and listened to music while dozing for the entire flight. And then we were there, in Edinburgh! When we exited the airport I almost was a little disappointed by the surroundings, bare grass fields and small buildings. But as soon as the bus hit the edge of town, that all changed.

There were cute little houses arranged with rose gardens and cobblestone driveways out front. And then we saw the castles and the churches and the enormous towering old apartment buildings. When we got off the bus, it was just a short walk up to the hotel. Inside we found the modest, but homey apartment we would be staying in for the next three weeks. The bedrooms were simple, with some artwork and fairly large closets. The living room, dining room, and kitchen were nicer with couches, more art, a couple of tables, a sink, an oven, and even a clothes washer. Overall, the apartment was livable, if in somewhat disrepair. Going out to dinner, we decided to go to a pub, but when we arrived, it turns out that the over-18 rule was strictly enforced, so we headed on to a pizza, burger, and kebab place and got lamb kebab and chips, and felafel. The food was good, and the view of the rain-soaked evening streets was even better. After dinner we walked around for a while, wandering through block after block of restaurants, bars, and apartments.

By the end of the day, we were incredibly tired, and I feel asleep blogging and writing. First impressions: wow, beautiful buildings, beautiful setting, sexy-ass boys. Life is good.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Wide Open Spaces

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I have felt many things in my life: heartbreak, love, passion, desire, sadness, depression, inspiration. But never have I felt stronger about anything in my life than the incredible love,  inspiration, and heartbreak of the last couple of weeks. I have felt such strong feelings, and isn’t that what living is really about, embracing every single feeling equally, not just the good or the bad. I embrace all that comes my way, but because of it, I feel so lost sometimes that I don’t know what to do. But what I have found, is that the more lost I feel, the more I want to get lost. I just want to walk off to someplace very far away, with nothing but the wind and the golden sun to keep me company. I want to leave everything behind, everything but my mind and my soul. I want to cry just to let out all that I have held in, and laugh and sing and yell. I want to leave behind all the pain and the sorrow, and feel nothing but clarity and love and heartbreak. I almost want to never be found. I want to just let everything go and walk away from it all.

In my moments of desperation, I realize that love will always prevail, that life will always go on, that I am me and always will be, and others will always be themselves too.  I will always be the person I am  today. I will always remember my past and dream about the future. I will always live in  another time than my own. But maybe, just maybe I can learn to live in the now by losing everything but my mind and the world around me.

I live for the wide open spaces in this world, the never-ending meadows of green and blue and gold, the wispy orange-peel sky spreading out beyond the horizon for as far as the eye can see. I live for the beautiful rolling ocean stretching out into my endless dreams. I live life for the endless views from my windows, admiring the minute details of every inch of earth, the glistening waters, the shining lights and all-encasing darkness. I love the quiet seclusion of someplace lost and far away, but also the bustling city and the stone pillars of buildings soaring ever upward. Life is too short to not admire the beauty in everything around you.

Living for the wide open spaces for me is about loving the quiet simplicity of a far away place. It’s about loving just thinking about life and being alone with your thoughts. Wide open spaces are the places you can dream, the places you can love and lose, the places you can make the big mistake, and the places that you can cry for the sake of letting go. I design to let go, I write to remember, I play to express, I make art to live my life. I like to be the person who lives for every minute of their life, the ups and the downs. I live everyday the way I want to, not the way any one else wants me too. That’s my life, my way, wide open spaces galore.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones

Safety and Expression

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As I write to you now I am on my way to the aforementioned memorial of Thomas and Eve Brown, my grandparents. As I look out the window, I see nothing but open grass rolling ever onward around me. No love, no beauty, nothing but solitary loneliness. I slowly roll on through the close-minded world of Wyoming. This place feels so different from the world I live in, so uncomfortable and prejudiced. In the last few days, I have already grown more and more uncomfortable and stressed about this memorial as family gatherings rarely go well. For me, being a gay fashionista is a large piece of who I am. And as my family and a large part of Wyoming and Idaho are rather conservative and close-minded, this often makes for uncomfortable situations.

We stopped at a truck stop. Outside was an extremely masculine and dangerous looking biker, masked in black leather and anger. I looked away from him, a sudden fear crossing my mind. This world felt so foreign to me. It was so unforgiving and upsetting in every way. The people felt so opinionated. Their eyes bored into me. I stood there in my short-shorts and mustard green V-neck and vest, trying to stare directly ahead, wanting so badly to get out of there.

Many times before we left I had been advised to bring what my parents had referred to as “appropriate clothing.” But what does that really mean, “appropriate?” When I stepped out of the bathroom this morning, my father had said, “You did bring appropriate clothing, right?” I of course defended my outfit and my packing, feeling hurt. They had said “Tone it down for this trip.” I followed this rule to what I thought of as an “appropriate extent.” Although to my parents, anything but pants and a simple shirt seems to evoke the response of “Really?” I am not a person who “tones it down” easily. Over-the-top fabulous is more me.

Walking through this unknown world, I can feel the eyes boring into me, the stares following my every move. Everything about this place feels wrong. It’s so close to home and yet so unnatural and far away. I feel so scared and yet squelched being an obviously gay fashionista boy in this old western world. Wyoming- Forever West. That’s the slogan that haunts me so much. So much of this place feels like a creativity hell, too old world and prejudiced.

On the one hand, as a designer, I love this place. It feels so wide open and secluded, full of unseen beauty. But on the other hand, as a very liberal, very gay teen, I feel out of place and hated by the people here.

I understand on some logical level that by restricting my expression my parents are just trying to protect themselves and me. But on an emotional and mental level, I’m mad and rebellious against what I feel is a restriction on my expression and myself. As a designer, I am all about expression and being myself; and this world makes me feel so uncomfortable and lonely. I don’t want to squelch myself just because I am in a place of prejudiced bigots. I would rather be me and feel expressive than feel a sense of safety, comfort, and yet restriction.

When they had said “tone it down,” I felt like I did that on a big level already. I brought no makeup, no lip gloss, no scarves, and my nails are bare of nail polish. When I left today in gray shorts, a mustard green tee, a red belt, and simple gray vest, I felt toned down in a big way for me. There is an obvious reason that these trips make me somewhat nervous, not being out to the conservative side of my family and going through largely conservative states and places. But I didn’t feel like I stuck out as gay any more than usual, and probably less than normal if anything. I can’t turn me into something else just because I’m around my family. I am me in every sense of the word.  I am a very gay fashion designer, and I always will be.

Love, Ethan Brown Jones