The Blogitects Do America

by | Jan 11, 2023 | Arts and Culture, USA | 15 comments

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.

The Blogitects do Washington DC
The tired but happy Blogitects (one architect, one blogger) at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., on a mercifully warm day just after New Years.

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.

Thorsten and Mom
A very large Thorsten and my very tiny mom, Jeanie, on a day trip in Savannah, Georgia.

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.)

A chilly walk through Rockwood Hall, New York, with my dad, Tenney, my sister, Susanna, my nephew, Jack, my aunt, Jinx, my dad’s partner, Debbie, and Jinx’s dogs, Ranger and Jack. I was really lucky to spend the first week of the trip relaxing at Jinx’s house in Sleepy Hollow, New York (Dad, Debbie, Susanna, and Jack came to visit for the weekend while I was there); it was a great way to ease into a month of crazy travel.
Heather and Sunday
Selfie with my aunt’s elderly love bird, Sunday.
Snow in New York
It briefly snowed in New York! Sadly this happened before Thorsten arrived.
Dad in his African vest
Dad wearing his spectacular African-wax-print vest, which Debbie special-ordered from Joburg tailor Pape Sidebè. Pape, you may remember, recently made Thorsten’s “Real Disco Super Java” tuxedo, which was the inspiration behind Dad’s vest.
Thorsten’s sketch of TwoStep, Dad and Debbie’s dog. (As always, see more of Thorsten’s sketches at @theThinking_Hand.)

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.

Martha Cooper and Lego
Martha and Lego.
Thorsten sketching in New York
Thorsten sketching furiously on the window seat in Martha’s apartment, which is on Riverside Drive overlooking the Hudson River.
Riverside Drive, Manhattan
Martha’s beautiful building, where she’s lived since the 1980s.
View from Martha Cooper's building
View of chilly Manhattan from an upper floor of Martha’s building.

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.

Subway sketch
Subway sketch.
Inside the Guggenhein
Inside the Guggenheim, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Guggenheim sketch
Guggenheim sketch.
Thorsten at the Oculus
A slightly awed, slightly freezing Thorsten outside the Oculus, next to the World Trade Center and the 9/11 Memorial.

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.

Thorsten sketch of the road
Sketched somewhere in southern Virginia.
Weird beach in Hilton Head
Susanna, Jack, and Thorsten on “the Weird Beach” in Hilton Head, so named by Susanna and Jack because of the strange, tube-like organisms that stick up out of the sand when the tide goes out.
Thorsten with Bob and Tim in Charlottesville
I’m including this picture of Thorsten with Tim and Bob at their house in Charlottesville as a placeholder. I have to save the Charlottesville visit for a post of its own. I’ve never properly blogged about Charlottesville before and there’s too much to say.

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.

Gallery Place at the DC Metro
Thorsten was entranced by the D.C. Metro system — the design, the lighting, the shapes of the benches and info maps. I have never seen him so excited by a piece of architecture (and that’s really saying something), which is funny because I commuted on the Metro every day for ten years and never gave it a second thought. He’s right, though — it’s stunning.
Metro sketch
The parts of the Metro that Thorsten loved most.
Thorsten at the Hirshhorn Museum
Thorsten at the Hirshhorn, the Smithsonian’s modern and contemporary art museum, where we had a fantastic visit.
Heather with the Yayoi Kusama pumpkin
We caught a fascinating exhibition of Yayoi Kusama‘s work at the Hirshhorn. Here I am with Kusama’s giant pumpkin.
Vietnam War Memorial in DC
Thorsten really wanted to visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which was designed by acclaimed architect Maya Lin. I hadn’t been there for years and loved photographing the memorial, which lists the names of every American soldier who died in the Vietnam War.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial reflections
More reflections on the memorial. Later that evening, when wrapping up our day with a quick walk through the National Portrait Gallery, we stumbled upon an exhibition about Maya Lin and learned that she was a 20-year-old college student when she designed this memorial. Her story is really incredible.
Thorsten sketch of the Vietnam War Memorial
Sketch of the Vietnam Veterans memorial with the Washington Monument in the background.
Vietnam Veterans Memorial sketch
Sketch of the memorial looking in the other direction, toward the Lincoln Memorial.
Martin Luther King Memorial
It was a really long walk to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, but I had never been and was determined to get there. I’m glad we went.
Jefferson Memorial
We’d come so far already so we decided we may as well push on to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, most far-flung of D.C. memorials. We wound up walking 15 kilometers that day.
Inside the TJ Memorial
I’m ashamed to admit I had never been inside the TJ Memorial before.
TJ Memorial sketch
Thorsten’s TJ sketch.

Thus ends a very long but incomplete account of the Blogitects’ epic American tour. We’ll be recovering for the next several weeks.

Heather and Thorsten in a sea of phalluses
The Blogitects in a sea of mushrooming, red-polka-dotted phalluses. (Thanks Yayoi Kusama.)

Sorry to all of the incredible people and places I left out! We love you and we’ll definitely be back.


  1. Thorsten

    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

  2. Craig Lotter

    I absolutely loved Washington DC when I visited there. Such stately architecture everywhere you look!

    • 2summers

      Yes, it’s very beautiful!

  3. timmee

    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.

    • 2summers

      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.

  4. AutumnAshbough

    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!

    • 2summers

      I did notice after leaving DC with Thorsten that the NYC subway pales in comparison (and also often smells like pee, and even poop!)

  5. Nancy McDaniel

    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!!!!!

    • 2summers

      Thanks Nancy – from both of us 🙂

  6. Dean Mahlstedt

    Nice stuff Heather! Looks like alot of fun was had!

    • 2summers

      Thanks Dean. Happy new year.

  7. dizzylexa

    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.

  8. Lani

    Sounds and looks epic and wonderful, and I’m so happy for you Heather! <3


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