Jax Manhoff (2/2)

(2/2) In Brooklyn, Jax indulged in less than finer things, she burned her nostrils and her liver. But no amount of cocaine or booze could prepare Jax for a traditional Bhang Lassi. A lassi is a traditional drink the consistency of a smoothie. Bhang is a type of cannabis extract typically stronger than anything you can buy at an American dispensary. Jax split the lassi with one of the German guys and soon started hallucinating at the restaurant, she suspects the drink contained opium. Jax made the decision to cleanse her body of toxins. “India is an incredible place because there’s such immense beauty and such suffering.” Jax tugs her bottom lip with her teeth, she looks down at her hot chai gone cold. “There will be a wedding down the street and then two minutes later, a funeral and they’re carrying a dead body up the road. It’s such a juxtaposition of heaven and hell.” She thinks about the afterlife and tells me about the city of Banaras (or Varanasi), the holiest place for Hindu’s. If you’re Hindu and you die and you live outside of Banaras, typically, you’ll have your body flown to be cremated in the burning ghats. Cremation at this specific site means ending the cycle of life and death. “Banaras is a very sacred and holy place, but I was 21, I didn’t realize that. We went upstairs and looked down at it from a rooftop and I photographed it, and then in our boat and the police seized our boat because you’re not allowed to take photographs.” Jax and her friends claimed they didn’t take a photo while she concealed her camera under her coat. “So, that is, like, my war photograph. I have this incredible photograph of all of these bodies on stretchers ready to be burned.” Jax brings her adventure to a halt, she tells me she needed it to be who she is now.India changed her life, she grew up privileged and a lot luckier than most. She travels to gain perspective about life. Jax sees that suffering is everywhere and she’s lucky to be where she is. “I do my laundry at the laundromat, I actually enjoy it. It makes me feel very human, doing that. It’s like a photograph or going to India.” #classassignment #india #travel #nonfiction #journalism

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Jax Manhoff (1/2)

(1/2) She sits in front of a red brick wall, kitty corner to a map covering the back wall. Jax sips her organic chai and wrings her tattooed hands. “I think I learned more from traveling than my education.” She sits under a white spotlight, the bill of her hat casts a shadow on the right side of her face, her left cheekbone twitches as she recounts her spontaneous trip to India in 1984. She was living in a brownstone apartment in Brooklyn, her friend Sue had applied for a grant to go to India, which she did not get. “One night we were sitting on the floor in my apartment and we just decided we were gonna go anyway.” Jax packed up her things and moved to Queens to live with her grandmother, rent free. She and Sue waited tables all summer, they saved their money and dreamed of their adventure but lacked an itinerary. They arrived in Delhi and winged it. Jax rode in a rickshaw to a restaurant while Sue held onto a stranger on a motorcycle. She cringes at the thought of a 20 year old woman today in India. “The world was different, I don’t think it would be as safe now to do what we did then.” She tells me about the time she hiked into the Himalaya’s accompanied by sherpa’s, they slept in tents and took kodachrome slides of Mt. Everest, they’d met a group of six guys and met them in Jaisalmer to ride camels and camp on sand dunes.Jax danced on dunes in the dead of night, she swayed to Bob Marley cooing out of her walkman. They smoked beedi’s and drank raksi, they slept under familiar constellations though they had become accustomed to unfamiliarity. #nonfiction #journalism #classassignment #person #interview #travel #india #journalism

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Anachronism

My hands shake violently, from the cocaine or the cold, I can’t tell. I fumble with my camera, trying to figure the flash but fail with flailing fingers. "I like coke," I lie, grit my teeth and grind them down to thin, enamel-less nubs. For the first time in awhile, I feel nothing. Only the feeling in my lungs of a slow chemical drip trailing down my viscous esophagus. We sit at the water tower for another minute or hour. I count the streetlights, notice how they line the city that isn’t mine anymore. Orange hues and white lights laterally cover identical housing tracts, strip malls, corporations and fast-food joints. Inside beige houses, with fancy courtyards and double staircases, houses with clones of families I’ve known over and over. In strip malls, the counters barricade shifty-eyed clerks smacking gum and smoking cigarettes in the back office, one after another I’ve found myself glared at by every adult around me. I remind myself I am one, I’m not fifteen anymore. But I look in the mirror and see dark circles under red rims, a clenched jaw and a soul-less burn behind my eyes that could make my mother cry. Suddenly I don’t know who I am anymore, and I wonder if I ever did. Or if I’ve adapted each facade and mask from every place I’ve been, every school I’ve been forced to attend; trying to uphold a life of acceptance and “fitting in.” For what? For what! I know where I belong. I know I belong breathing the cleanest air in the damn country, climbing aspen plenty mountainsides in the winters, springs, summers, falls. I know I fit into the corners of my bed, curled up against the blankets, surrounded by my roomsoulmates— the only people who understand me, the only people who care to understand me. Riverside isn’t my home anymore, no matter how small and suburban I feel. I make a mental note that I’m an anachronism and accept it. My legs shake violently, because I can’t seem to catch a still moment in bed. The hours pass from two to three to four to five to six to the sunrise pulling me from my last thirty minute interval. A night of disappointment, or a night of realization, I can’t tell. #creativenonfiction #cnf #classassignment #writing #place #watertower

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Where we sat

This is where we sat, amidst our early days, when the morning breeze filtered through the threads of my sweater. I shivered at the cold tendrils of the wind caressing my piloerect skin and you offered me your worn leather jacket, you endured 40/30/20/15 degrees for me. We met here every night and most mornings, we sat ten feet from a sign that forbid us to smoke within twenty-five, and I thought cigarettes made me feel alive. I was wrong. I was wrong every time I convinced myself you were a cigarette fiend and not a friend, someone to bum off of, someone to burn with. I was wrong because I didn't have the slightest clue what I was getting myself into when I called you in the middle of the night every night until I decided I loved you. When I called you and needed a lighter, though I had four in my purse alone. When I called you and needed a cigarette, though I promised myself I would quit. I didn't know that our beginning and our end would be the twin peaks of our relationship. I didn't know our binding and unraveling would be the most romantic thing to happen to me. But what about the in between? What about the empty spaces void of passion, communication, love and honesty? All there was to see was a nimiety of unkept promises and irrefutable deceit. This is where we sat, amidst our early days, before we became bookends supporting a collection of empty stories. #creativenonfiction #cnf #writing #classassignment #writer #vignette

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