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Yo Soy Perú

The toucan lifts its lobster-claw bill into the sky over and over, releasing its whooping, loonish phrase like a persistent question. It wears a penguin’s tuxedo plumage, yet with flair—a yellow band at the base of the bill, bright blue just around the eye, a flash of red beneath the black tail feathers. It sits alone and throws its two-note song into the sky. For over ... [Continue Reading]

Photo by Jorge Santiago

The Ism and the Alcohol

A year and a half ago, I published my first essay on addiction. You’d think having gotten sober at age seventeen would have been fodder for plenty of personal essays, but it took me twelve years to start writing about alcoholism and sobriety. Even then, that first piece did not show me drinking or using, or even considering drinking or using. Instead, the piece ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: Jorge Santiago

Our Own Ocean

During the longer days of our cross-country road trip I slept in the car in the early afternoon, dozing in the passenger seat as Cam’s Toyota ate up miles of American highway, the flickering sun through the windows casting all my dreams in a strange, mottled light. Cameron, for his part, was content to drive in relative quiet, one hand on the wheel and the other in ... [Continue Reading]

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Somewhere on a Disappearing Path: Photo Essay by Iveta Vaivode

“Come, child! Let’s listen to the bees singing,” my aunt would say every evening before we went to bed. Her white hair always reminded me of dandelion heads, so beautiful and delicate you almost fear to touch them. I remember her singing songs about the natural world while working in the garden. She would also spend long hours with me talking about the family I never ... [Continue Reading]

March Oaxaca

My Own Mexican Revolution

I was walking back from the grocery store, loaded down with bags, when a man came up the sidewalk. I looked down and away. He leaned towards me and whispered, “F**k me.” The insistent pressure exploded. I lost it. “F**k YOU!” I shouted, and then continued, calling him a dog, a monkey, an animal, a barbarian, and any other disagreeable creature I could think of ... [Continue Reading]

Photo: NASA

The Storm and the Beast

The morning before the typhoon hit, I sat down for a Skype date with my parents: my morning coffee and their evening wine, the usual football and grandchildren updates punctuated by the cut-outs of the faltering wifi connection. Until my dad said he had something to tell me: for the first time, he was struggling with depression. Or anxiety. He wasn’t sure, really. No ... [Continue Reading]

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A Return to Limantour

The sublet in Berkeley was our last resort. My father and I had been kicked out of the bottom floor of a house in Sausalito for breaking the unstable leaseholder’s plate, and we had traipsed the cold streets of San Francisco for days, looking for an affordable place. That futile mission had ultimately landed us here, just off of Telegraph Avenue, at the threshold of an ... [Continue Reading]

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In the Form of Birds

The summer my father died I bought a book on Southwestern birds. It was he who had given me my first feeder on my 8th birthday, back when we lived in New Orleans. He’d gotten the bird-feeding bug, I’m guessing, from his mother. At his parents’ house in Springfield, Pennsylvania, there was one of those open platforms—a plywood landing about six feet high. My ... [Continue Reading]

Photo by Luca Setti

A Story About Hanoi

This is a story about moving to Hanoi. This is not a story about moving to Hanoi as an American. This is not a story about eating phở cuốn by the lake where John McCain was shot down. This is not about learning to call the Vietnam War the American War. This is a story about moving to Hanoi, but this is not a story about moving to the capital of a communist country. ... [Continue Reading]

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Lives and Past Lives

1. I’ve always loved walking at night. I’ll go anywhere: through the neighborhoods of small towns, through a dozen identical suburbs, through seedy Pittsburgh neighborhoods and seedier Latin American cities. In any location, the impulse is the same: I walk at night to look into the lighted windows of strangers. At night, windows roll by like stills on a film reel, ... [Continue Reading]

Photo © Itzel Aguilera.

Documentary: If Images Could Fill Our Empty Spaces

Alice Driver, one of Vela's staff writers, recently completed her first documentary, If Images Could Fill Our Empty Spaces. The film explores the complicated relationship between violence and photography in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Watch it below, and then read an interview with Alice about making the film. Inhabiting the Lives of Others: An Interview with Alice ... [Continue Reading]