For much longer than I am willing to admit I have been obsessed with flags. My trusty yellow legal pad was covered with tiny drawings of real and imagined flags, and I talked extensively about the tackiness of specific flags to anyone who would listen, and, perhaps most embarrassingly, I referred to my study of flags as vexillology. I love the way the perfect geometry of a good flag looks when it is billowing freely in the wind, and a flag at half mast brings my world down with it. A flag is noble and monolithic and is ideally the distillation of a place, but there is also massive weight in the symbolism of a flag. Flags can tell the story of oppression, and they can symbolize a history fraught with complications. I love Los Angeles, but I hate its flag (it is just undeniably ugly). For centuries, a black flag with a skull and crossbones made grown men quiver, and now it is reserved for children’s games. The black, red, green, and white of the Arab flags unite those ancient, bickering states, and the stars and stripes tear through the wind on diesel pickups as they roar down highway 33.
The American flag is also the focus of the first section of Arthur Grace’s America 101. The photobook describes the way Grace sees this glorious and hypocritical paradise of oddity. I spent so much time reading this book that it changed the way I take photos. But it has also changed the way I see the American flag in general. Grace juxtaposes the immense pride Americans have for the flag with the mundane usage that it receives in advertising or on smokestacks. These two parts of Arthur Grace’s America, one, comically capitalistic, and the other, powerfully patriotic, have become the lens through which I look at my own nation.
When flying, a flag can be seen on two sides. From the perspective of my Latino heritage, I see those stars and stripes representing employment and the opportunity to support a big family. With entirely different circumstances, my Jewish point of view is focused on the underpinnings of the American beliefs in freedom and expression. The symbolism of the flag is different for everyone who views it, and that is one of its strongest powers: being something everyone can relate to.
As much as I love the American flag for personal reasons, from a design perspective, it is flawed in one way: it cannot be drawn by a child with a box of crayons. This one simple test is the true mark of a perfect flag, and the American flag falls short. There are simply too many stars for it to be crayon-able. But many great flags are similarly afflicted. The Union Jack, for example, is almost stellar, but what child knows that it is not horizontally symmetrical. Or the Mexican flag—beautiful, bold, and impossible to scribble. There are, in fact, perfect flags, unmistakable even in chicken scratch like the elegant Swiss flag and the simple beauty of the Japanese hinomaru.
To me a flag is a poem. At first it presents as simply beautiful, but with time and knowledge of its history, a flag unfurls the silky layers of its meaning, its true power. A flag can be glossed over, or it can be analyzed and decoded and still maintain its original beauty. Flags tell a story, a history of a place, and that is why I am still fascinated by them.
The morning is the inhale – the first air that is taken in, and held there –
Some days are more deceptive than others like a warm Thursday afternoon that manages to convince you there is nothing left to do;
It leaves you anticipating the rest. The first breath that is fully taken in and fully released in a few easy seconds. Knowing everything else may be paused for a while.
But then you remember: the light is not orange because it is summertime, when the days are so hot they seem to melt into one another, but rather because it is 4pm on a Thursday afternoon, and you are wearing sunglasses because the days are only shorter now.
And because it is a Thursday and not a Friday, you can only breathe partially.
And so the evening is the exhale – the same morning air that never really escaped finally does, though it won’t return until the sun comes up again tomorrow –
And we grow used to that feeling. Or at least I do.
Sometimes I feel really young when I look at the experiences I have compared to the experiences I have not been through. I might seem like I am naive by saying this but I love where I am at with my relationships currently. This is an evaluation of all my current relationships as a seventeen-year-old:
When I am with you,
You take me out of my fixed headspace
That can sometimes be crippling
You talk with purpose, even if it is to yourself, it means something.
You make me feel like Stevie Wonder when he talks about the people he loves,
unconditionally and without limitations.
you give me relief and let me express myself without shame
which is something that i have lacked in my past relationships
i look at the little things like your laugh
and the way you smile at the things that make you happy,
i look at the things that make you mad or irritated
i look at the touch from your hands and your tenderness
it’s weird that i feel this way cause i have lost so much in the last couple of months. But, i can always control how i feel. that’s something that my mother taught me.
To conclude: You make me happy, in a giddy, platonic way.