Exposure

Years ago when I was starting out, I was approached by an editor who wanted to include a poster series I created in an upcoming publication he was overseeing. At the time, I was ecstatic. Getting to see my work in print for a potential world-wide audience was (and still is) a big deal and the book itself—a higher end coffee table tome featuring artwork by several well-known figures in the industry—seemed a prestige piece that could only enhance my portfolio and professional reputation. High on the possibility of exposure it could entail, I naively agreed to remuneration of just one copy of the book.

I never received a copy of the book.

After attempting to contact the editor numerous times, I instead shelled out sixty dollars (plus shipping and handling) to add it to my library myself. It led to virtually no further work. No art directors were ringing me up. Its milestone in my career was instead a two-fold lesson learned:

1) compared to the other pieces included, there was no doubt I was still a junior in the industry. I needed to cultivate my style and personal brand.

2) exposure means shit. My work, and time, were still deserving of being compensated fairly.

I recently came across a very similar situation to mine after reading reviews for a book I wanted to order:

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The review continues with more evidence that the book was put together by someone who did not value (or properly acknowledge and compensate) the contributions of the people who actually created the content. Needless to say, I immediately took it off my WishList.


I think about this practice often in the new era of “content creation” and how creative professionals have ever more enticing carrots dangled in front of them, all for the possibility of something which may not be defined and often doesn’t come into fruition anyway. It’s a situation ripe for exploitation. People are being conditioned to work for less and to settle for it. The promise of exposure and all it entails, such as new followers, is certainly a form of clout … but the best clout to receive in business is still financial.

Writers, photographers, designers and other artists deserve to be shown the money.

Back to Nature, Part V

As a holiday winds down, the sadness of its impending end can temper the joy of the remaining days. Not having anything to look forward to can rob one of living in the moment of the experience. For this road trip, I wanted something to anticipate. I wanted to end on a "bang".

And I found it. 

The Black Swan Inn in Pocatello, Idaho is one of the most amazing hotels I've ever stayed at. It is themed and the attention to detail in each unique suite is truly impressive. For our penultimate stay, we booked the Mayan Rainforest Room which included a walk-in shower in the base of a "tree trunk", the branches of which hid the second floor jacuzzi tub. Next to the leopard-print bed was a 15-ft waterfall with a live koi pond. Even the bathroom was painted in murals that made it seem like one was deep in the jungle. I cannot recommend this place enough and am definitely going to plan future roadtrips to navigate through the area so I can return. Whether one's stay is for a romantic evening or honeymoon, it is a gem. 


Fun fact: Pocatello, Idaho, is also home to the Museum of Clean


Our final night was spent getting back to nature again - comfortably - in a deluxe cabin at another KOA campground in Great Falls, Montana, where we used our fleeting holiday time to wine and dine on a barbecue feast while watching the golden tones of sunset pour over the vista of prairie and mountain laid before us. I felt contentment in the moment. I felt renewed from the journey, despite its brevity. I was born to explore. To learn. To live. I am so thankful my father instilled this curiosity and love of travel within me. I thought of him often on this trip; in solitude I've shared the details with him, hoping my whisper carries on the air to wherever his spirit resides. 

As the evening came to a close, I tried to enjoy the ambient noise of the whirring overhead fan while fighting the urge to turn on the television to catch up on world events. While my partner showered, I figured sneaking in ten minutes of numbing my brain wouldn't do too much damage and searched for the remote. The only channel with reception was showing a wrestling match but it wasn't WWE; in fact, I didn't recognize any of the characters on screen ... until I did. 

"Holy shit", I said to myself. 

Years (and years) ago, when I was a teenager, a colleague had taken me to watch her boyfriend wrestle in a local Winnipeg league called Top Rope Championship Wrestling (TRCW). Growing up with Hulk Hogan and the like on Saturday afternoons, I immediately got into it. The skill, the theatrics, the swagger all appealed to this shy girl who was looking to break free from her high school rep of being a wallflower. So when I was asked to valet their tag team, I took up the offer. It might not be a Toastmaster event, but the experience definitely instilled a confidence in me to command a crowd and not be so self-conscious. Anyway, there was one person who always stood out at TRCW. A curly-haired teenager armed with a steely resolve (and an apparent closet full of Hawaiian shirts) who could maneuver around the ring with technique that was lightyears beyond his older, more seasoned opponents. I recall even mentioning to others that if anyone could make it in the big leagues, it would be him. 

So to my surprise and delight, there he was—on the tiny television in my cabin in Montana— Kenny Omega, Heavyweight Champion for New Japan Pro Wrestling and Sports Illustrated's tap for next big thing in sports entertainment. 

One never knows where the journey in life will lead. 

 The awesome Mayan Rainforest suite at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

The awesome Mayan Rainforest suite at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Mayan Rainforest Suite at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Mayan Rainforest Suite at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 15ft waterfall with koi pond at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

15ft waterfall with koi pond at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Treehouse jacuzzi at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Treehouse jacuzzi at the Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Shower in a tree trunk, Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©2018, Deborah Clague).

Shower in a tree trunk, Black Swan Inn, Pocatello, Idaho (©2018, Deborah Clague).

 Tesla-charging stations in the middle of nowhere, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Tesla-charging stations in the middle of nowhere, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 "Roughing" it in Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

"Roughing" it in Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Firing up the grill, Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Firing up the grill, Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 BBQ, Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

BBQ, Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 View from cabin in Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

View from cabin in Great Falls, Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Top Rope Championship Wrestling, circa 2000 (©Deborah Clague).

Top Rope Championship Wrestling, circa 2000 (©Deborah Clague).

 Top Rope Championship Wrestling, circa 2000 (©Deborah Clague)

Top Rope Championship Wrestling, circa 2000 (©Deborah Clague)

Sin City, Part IV

Bright light city gonna set my soul
Gonna set my soul on fire
Got a whole lot of money that's ready to burn
So get those stakes up higher


Las Vegas, Nevada, is an unremarkable four-hour drive from the Grand Canyon. Remaining in one's air conditioned vehicle is a comfortable way to pass the time, although it gives a false sense of just how excruciating it is outside. Sure, I saw the external temperature listed as 44 degrees celsius but it's easy to remain oblivious to what that actually feels like until you step outside and have it bearing down on your person. It feels like being smothered in an invisible weighted blanket that just came out of Hell's dryer.

This would be my third trek to Sin City, a place I normally would avoid as I am definitely not a Vegas-type person, but I thought it would be interesting for my partner who is from a communist state in India to see the trappings of capitalism at its grandest form. The bougie in Las Vegas is incomparable to anything he grew up with (although he has experienced Dubai which is absolutely the Vegas of the Middle East). This would also mark the first time I had a vehicle while visiting, previously only exploring a limited tourist area on foot. Driving down the glittering Strip at night, next to Lamborghinis and other pricy Italian sports cars, owned and rented, was a truly memorable moment. But it was also fascinating to see the side of Vegas beyond the glitz and glamour - it's nondescript suburbia. 

Our hotel room wasn't ready when we arrived, so we spent a few hours shopping at a few stores along Tropicana Avenue including a grocery store that had slot machines within it. It was around 2:00pm and people were playing them. Naturally. We then hit up a Wal-Mart to pick up some essentials. Perusing American big box stores is a fun experience for me. I like seeing all the stuff they don't sell up in Canada (and there is a lot of it). I've always been the type to want to try everything, although with my recent evolution in eating habits I've become a bit more discerning. Nonetheless, the candy and chip aisle had me twitching like a junkie needing a fix. I permitted myself a bag of Doritos in a flavour I'd never encountered before as well as an Almond Joy. The following day we shopped like the wild rock stars we are at both Whole Foods and Trader Joes where I bought a number of healthier groceries including different types of flour and spices that I've been incorporating into my cooking since returning. Sidenote: dark moscavado sugar from the island of Mauritius is legit changing my life. 

Our hotel room at the Luxor still wasn't ready when we returned, leaving us to loiter around the casino and adjacent properties where I became so parched after a ten-minute walk outside that I didn't bat an eye at spending $6.50 U.S. on a small bottle of water. During our excursion, my partner could not believe that all of these giant hotels had giant casinos operating twenty-four hours a day. He didn't see a point to it. Admittedly, neither do I. But one of the pillars of the American business model is the belief that a fool and their money are soon parted. Nowhere has this belief gained more efficiency than Vegas. 

It was July fourth and crowds were to be expected but our hotel appeared to be a disorganized mess. It took an additional three hours before we could check in. I was relieved when we finally got the key, only to be disappointed upon entering the room. The upgraded suite that I assumed would have a decent view overlooked a roof, while the only recognizable landmark visible was the Mandalay Bay tower looming in the background in which the deadliest mass shooting in United States history occurred less than a year ago. 


There's a thousand pretty women waiting out there
They're all living devil may care
And I'm just the devil with love to spare
Viva Las Vegas

 


We didn't gamble. We didn't see any shows. We did, however, have an enjoyable history lesson one evening at Vegas' Neon Museum. Yes, I'm a nerd who would rather be feeding my mind than drinking it into oblivion at a nightclub. No shame in that. I've always been fascinated with the art of neon signage. I feel it is a legit form of advertising that is lost in modern society, at least in the Western world where it is unfairly considered kitsch. In parts of Asia I have traveled it is as much a part of urban identity as, say, a park with entire blocks (even neighbourhoods) bathing in their glow. I personally akin it to an illuminated garden that magically comes alive as the sun sets. I admit, it might not be for everyone, but in an era of branded homogenization, imagine how much more interesting the world would be with less golden arches and more unique visual design morphing our streetscapes into public galleries. 

 Atrium of Luxor hotel, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Atrium of Luxor hotel, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 The iconic Las Vegas sign designed by graphic designer Betty Willis (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

The iconic Las Vegas sign designed by graphic designer Betty Willis (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

The Neon Museum, Las Vegas (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

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Northern Idiocy, Part III

I woke up in the middle of the night absolutely frozen and in a tug-of-war over blankets. I'm from Canada. I believe I am an expert in cold. I don't need to make up stories for my grandkids, I actually do walk to work when it's below -40 degrees celcius. So it's simply naivety that I, of course, knew it got cold in the desert at night but I didn't realize exactly HOW cold it got. It is downright bone-chilling! Having said that, I'm from Winnipeg so naturally I won the battle for the comforter. 


If you've never been to the Grand Canyon, let me describe the experience: if visiting the South Rim—the most popular location to view this natural wonder—you will start your day, preferably early, driving in from either Flagstaff or Williams. The journey will take just over an hour on a single lane highway in which not a single vehicle will pay heed to the posted speed limit. There are few places to stop. You will, however, pass a Flintstones campground that looks like it was constructed in 2018 B.C. (it might be enjoyable to visit for nostalgic purposes if it weren't so damn depressing). As you near the national park entrance, the landscape will change from desert to thick forest. Afterwards, you will be met with several supersized parking lots. Even if you arrive early, like we did, they will all be near capacity. 

I managed to park in the last row of the last lot which was near some trees that I hoped would provide a bit of respite from the blazing sun. HA! Northern idiocy redux. Both my car and myself would feel like they were set on fire at the end of the day, the non-covered parts of my skin turning a hue comparable to Pantone 186. What you might not realize is how few amenities there are next to these giant parking lots at the Grand Canyon, just a visitor centre and a scenic overlook. To get to the township and other points of interest, one must get on one of several bus lines that takes visitors around the park proper. Of course, during the summer these have longer line-ups than Disneyland. It makes for a long, sweltering day of mostly just standing around. I did about an hour's worth of hiking, took a few selfies to prove I was there and then left with a souvenir bottle of Canyon Cutter white wine

The Grand Canyon is, undoubtably, spectacular. But I did not feel relaxed there or in touch with nature. I felt hurried. I felt stressed. At the end of it, I didn't feel any deep connection. For me, it paled in comparison to the isolated, howl-at-the-moon wild of highway 89A from the previous day. That was very much the highlight of my trip. 

The evening was spent back in Williams, Arizona, only this time at a hotel rather than a teepee.  Williams is a small town located on historic U.S. Route 66., also known as the "Main Street of America". It is, perhaps, the most iconic highway in all of the United States, previously acting as the main thoroughfare for people who migrated from the midwest to southern California during the Great Depression. The town of just over 3,000 citizens definitely caters to tourists with a nod to Americana; there are more classic fifties-style diners within its boundaries than any major city I've visited before. As well, the imagery of James Dean and Marilyn Monroe appear to still resonate, symbolizing a feeling (or idea) we collectively aim to capture. 

We walked the streets as sunlight transitioned to dusk, conversing about what America was and what it's become. We later returned to our hotel room to drink. 

 Me at the entrance to the Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Me at the entrance to the Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

South Rim, Grand Canyon (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Route 66, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Interstate 15, Part II

I like Montana. I like the mountains and crisp air and postcard panoramas. The first night of our road trip we stayed in its capital, Helena, which has less than 32,000 citizens. This statistic nicely details just how sparse the population is within the state. It's very ... breathable. Outside the natural scenery, the capital is somewhat nondescript in appearance; being two hours delayed from the unexpected detour, we made our way to a wood-fired pizza place and then just retired to our hotel room for the night not feeling like we missed anything. For future trips, I feel Butte would have been a better overnight destination. With snow-capped peaks framing it in the distance and historic architecture steeped in legend, the word "majestic" seems well-suited to describe its beauty. 

One can take Interstate 15 all the way from the Canadian border to the Mexican one. It's a nice drive with lots of rest stops, fuel stations and, within Utah at least, numerous billboards reminding people that God is watching and you should atone for your sins. 

Outside of having an ultra-conservative religious base that practices polygamy, I didn't really know anything about Utah. Ignoring the influence of creed and instead seeking enlightenment from mother nature, I was completely in awe of the rock formations in the southern portion of the state which includes a number of protected areas, national and state parks such as the breathtaking Grand Staircase National Monument. Eventually turning east off of Interstate 15, we were in the thick of it while enroute to our next stop: the biggest tourist destination of them all – the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  

Highway 89A in particular, a scenic route that runs through a Navaho reservation in Arizona, was the highlight of my entire trip. Driving through it was a showcase of some of America's most iconic landscape; landscape which has featured in many a Hollywood western to represent our storied, brutal history. I half-expected the ghost of John Wayne to manifest on the horizon as we drove this isolated stretch of roadway. Or perhaps hear the distant call of the roadrunner. Meep Meep.

Our adventure-filled day ended on a magical note as we slept in a teepee under a galaxy of visible stars. Living in a city with constant light pollution, this reminder of the scale of the universe (and my place within it) was a cathartic ending to a long, tiring, immensely memorable day. 

 Start of Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Start of Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Hiking off Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Hiking off Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Highway 89A, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Our accommodation for the night, a teepee in Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Our accommodation for the night, a teepee in Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Interior of teepee, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Interior of teepee, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Teepee selfie, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Teepee selfie, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

 Also the first BBQ of the season, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Also the first BBQ of the season, Williams, Arizona (©Deborah Clague, 2018). 

Roadtrippin' Part I

I took a few weeks off this summer to do something I haven't done in a really, really long time:  road trip! As with all my vacations, if wasn't entirely spontaneous – I methodically did my research and planned my route ahead of time (only going the wrong way once), setting forth from my home base in the heartland of Canada to explore the American Southwest over the course of a much-too-brief ten days. With all that has happened since I've last been in the United States, I wasn't sure what to expect; this was, after all, my first real visit into Trump's America. 

This trip marked a test for me to get over some of the anxiety I've had behind the wheel. As previously written, last year I was driving behind a semi-truck when it fatally collided with a car overtaking the oncoming lane. The first day we hit the open road on this excursion was also marked by tragedy as another major vehicle accident with six deceased, including an entire family, occurred on one of the same highways we were traveling. As we drove through the small prairie town where it occurred, we happened upon the aftermath as a tow-truck transported one of the nearly unrecognizable SUVs. It was another poignant reminder that life is fragile and precious. 

The trip was also a time to reflect on my dad and the times we shared in my youth taking road trips with our family's wood-panelled station wagon—an 80s kid staple—and Bonair trailer. It seemed like such a simpler time. One where the realities of adulthood, stress and loss had not yet been introduced. But as I am now the age my father was back then, I realize that sense of wonder can always be recaptured if your spirit is open to it. Despite our current era, which shows an increasing lack of empathy, regard and shame, the world remains a magical place. You might have to squint at times to see it, but once you catch a glimpse, faith can be restored. 


I can't drive more than nine hours a day. That is my limit. Being the sole driver on this excursion took a lot out of me, as this was the distance we tried to span almost every day from prairie to mountains to moonscape-mirrored desert. Even though one is just sitting, glancing at scenery and singing along to Elvis, it does become fatiguing after awhile. I don't know how my father managed to do this all the time with no complaints (especially when I was acting a right shit in the backseat). I tried to emulate this zen-like state while watching the terrain evolve. In Montana, this was easy; there is hardly any traffic at all. In other parts of the country, though, becoming one with my inner Clark Griswold was more satisfying. 


After crossing the border into Montana, we turned off our phones to escape unnecessary roaming and data charges, relying instead on a Garmin GPS. I also relied on my natural sense of direction which was only overruled once. 

"Are you sure we're supposed to turn east?"

"The GPS shows we go east for a bit and then south."

"...But the time to reach our destination has increased by two hours compared to what the phones stated before we turned them off. We're heading in the direction of North Dakota ...."

"The GPS is correct. Just follow it."

And so I did. Adding two hours to our trip through the backwoods of Montana. It is beautiful country, this big sky country. 

But there's no fucking gas stations. 

 Wind farm somewhere on the back roads of Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Wind farm somewhere on the back roads of Montana (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

 Big Sky Country (©Deborah Clague, 2018).

Big Sky Country (©Deborah Clague, 2018).