Thorsten and I just returned to Joburg after a long trip to the U.S. — I was there for a month and Thorsten joined me for three weeks. We had a fun, emotional, hilarious, exciting, and utterly exhausting time.
I slept in nine different beds on this trip, and switched beds on 11 occasions. We traveled across the ocean and up and down the East Coast on multiple planes, trains, and automobiles. Not only did I see my American loved ones for the first time in 18 months, but I introduced them to my South African partner of two years, which was exciting for everyone involved.
It was Christmas — my first time home for the holidays since 2009. It was winter and we survived one of the worst Christmas cold fronts in decades. Thorsten and I were both sick (#NotCovid) for a good portion of the trip, which was no surprise. I get sick every time I go home.
I had so many wild and wonderful experiences in America, both before Thorsten arrived and once he got there. It would be impossible to summarize or even list them all in a single blog post, and I didn’t do the best job of capturing all the magical moments in photos. (At the same time I took far too many photos to include, as illustrated below.)
But even if I can’t recount the whole story, I want to document at least some of the trip so I can look back and remember how amazing it was. I loved seeing my version of America through Thorsten’s eyes. His architecture work had brought him to the U.S. a few times already — New York, L.A., and a few other big cities — but I’m pretty sure he’d never experienced America quite like this before. So pardon me while I ramble a bit, focusing on just a few of our adventures.
The Blogitects in New York
Thorsten and I started off with a few days visiting my friend Martha Cooper in her apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Martha has been asking me to visit her for years and I’m so glad I finally did.
I already knew Martha was a legendary photographer — I’ve been following her work since spotting an exhibition of hers in Joburg in 2012 — but my respect turned to awe during this visit. (For a taste of how awe-inspiring Martha is, watch this short film about her work in Berlin with one of the world’s most notorious graffiti crews. To check out more of her current work. follow her on Instagram.) Martha is also incredibly nice, down-to-earth, and so much fun to hang out with. Basically I’m obsessed with Martha, and also with her cat, Lego.
Thorsten and I spent three action-packed days in Manhattan, which coincided with Thorsten’s birthday. We went to a famous street artist’s holiday party in a Brooklyn studio (where I experienced my greatest moment of blogger fame ever, when a hip photographer spotted me, asked if I live in South Africa, and said: “I follow you!”), caught up with old friends, ate pizza and bagels and udon noodles, visited the Guggenheim, walked the High Line, and ogled the crazy architecture at the Oculus.
On the Road
Thorsten and I spent a lot of time on the open road during this trip, driving a borrowed pickup truck through the American South between Sykesville, Maryland, where Dad and Debbie live, Hilton Head, South Carolina, where Mom lives, and Charlottesville, Virginia, where my friends Bob and Tim live. We stayed off the big highways and cruised along back roads, listening to “Outlaw Country” on satellite radio, driving over rivers and swamps, crossing the Appalachians, and gazing at mobile homes, ice-coated pine trees, country churches, falling-down barns, Confederate flags, and Jesus Saves billboards.
I took virtually no pictures on the road, as I was driving most of the time. But Thorsten made some great charcoal sketches from the passenger seat.
The Blogitects in Washington, D.C.
Thorsten had never been to D.C., and I had thought we would miss it this trip due to time constraints. But ultimately we found ourselves in the nation’s capital for two nights and one fabulous day. We took a whirlwind tour of two Smithsonian museums and all the big monuments, visiting several places that I hadn’t seen myself in 35 years of living in the area. I think D.C. deserves some extra attention in this post.
Thus ends a very long but incomplete account of the Blogitects’ epic American tour. We’ll be recovering for the next several weeks.
Sorry to all of the incredible people and places I left out! We love you and we’ll definitely be back.
Thank you Heather for an incredible trip! It was amazing to explore your home country and meet your friends and family with you. xxx T
I absolutely loved Washington DC when I visited there. Such stately architecture everywhere you look!
Yes, it’s very beautiful!
Nice to see Marty! Trip looks incredible! Thanks for sharing – looking forward to the Charlottesville post.
Can Thorsten explain the process of transposing his sketches to digital? And for the colour ones, are the “watercolours” added digitally. I really love them and think they add immensely to your stories.
Aw, thanks Timmee. I wish you had been there! Thorsten does the colors by hand with water colors (usually a bit later after making the drawings) and then scans them using his copier.
I’m exhausted just reading about your trip! Totally with Thorsten on the Metro–I grew up riding on it and every subway system since has been a huge disappointment. Glad you got to see some big dogs, too!
I did notice after leaving DC with Thorsten that the NYC subway pales in comparison (and also often smells like pee, and even poop!)
I’m so glad you both had such a wonderful trip…and could share some new things together! And I continue to love and adore Thorsten’s sketches…ALL of them!!!!!
Thanks Nancy – from both of us 🙂
Nice stuff Heather! Looks like alot of fun was had!
Thanks Dean. Happy new year.
So happy you both had an awesome trip. I just love, love that photo of the DC Metro and the one of you and Thorsten in a sea of Yayoi Kusama phalluses.
Sounds and looks epic and wonderful, and I’m so happy for you Heather! <3