A man in his early 30’s is sitting in the back corner of the café, staring at his computer screen while sipping coffee. He has headphones in and is fading between where the music takes him and where he is at the moment. It’s obvious he’s been there a while (banana peel, napkin, empty sandwich bag) and is struggling with what he’s trying to write. This is because he’s trying to write about where he is, and he’s not even sure how he got there.
Well, that’s kind of a lie. I know exactly how I got here, but to get into it is to recap the entirety of 2012. Fortunately, that’s what this post is for.
I have lived my life as best I could, not knowing its purpose, but drawn forward like a moth to a distant moon; and here at last, I discover a strange truth.
It’s time for me to step back again, my friends. The path of slow, steady, decline I’ve been on these past couple years is simply not sustainable. It’s not to say that all my decisions have been poor, or that good times were not had but, currently, I’m in a place I never, ever, wanted to find myself back in. The situation is not good for me, and it’s especially not for those close to me. My actions, and lack thereof, have lead me here and it’s now my responsibility to make things right. I am sincerely sorry for the hurt and heartache I know I’ve caused.
So with that, I’m getting on a plane (in fact, when this posts, I’ll already be on one) and falling off the grid for a few weeks, at least, starting today. I’ll pop up now and then, here and there, but for the most part I’ll be without my computer, the internet, and, most likely, my phone. My first step is to break my dependence on hyperconnectivity, re-inject some mystery, and rekindle my wanderlust. I have got to stop filling up who I am with the lives, hopes, and dreams of others. I have got to start doing something differently or the cycle I’m in is never going to end.
Maybe it won’t work and that’s just not who I am, but I have to try.
South Carolina. Not exciting, but occasionally beautiful.
Although I am finding myself not particularly fond of the South, the light does fall here a bit differently from the North. For the first time since Paris I’ve also noticed the clouds conspiring to compose stunning, brilliant, skyscapes. It’s hard to compare though, since Paris has a way of caressing your soul into such a state of bliss the way no other city I’ve ever experienced can. You become aware of each waking moment so much more intimately. It’s such a strange sensation of euphoric, aimless, wandering and intense attention to all the details occurring around you. Speaking of Paris, a photograph I took there was just featured in a CNN.com special report about the city. You can find that here (#4). I’m working on some more projects, which is proving interesting because I can actually observe my photography and associated skills improving, especially my proficiency with Lightroom 4. Last year I attempted some photographic pursuits that were a bit out of my league. I’m slowly setting into styles and techniques that are coming to define my work. Something I’m planning to continue into this year, but a bit buffered by the realization that to truly shoot in the style I find most compelling and beautiful, I really need to move to either full frame or medium format. I know the Canon 5D Mk.III/X is so close and I’m doing my best to wait patiently for it.
Fun fact: My natural reaction to overwhelming external oppression is to fight back and persevere no matter the cost. I do not concede easily, if ever, and typically face severe challenges with a determination unbound, if for no other reason than to see how much I can take. To find the breaking point that always seems to elude me.
Fun fact: My natural reaction to overwhelming internal depression is to escape. Not so much to run away from it, but to leave, to wander, and to isolate myself. I usually use this time to plummet into the depths of why I’m feeling that way. To immerse myself in all that is with the belief that by experiencing those things their most raw, most consuming form, I can decipher the “why” and climb back out stronger than before. It doesn’t impact my ability to function, but it does change my demeanor. These are the times when I am most focused on escaping and either being alone, or surrounded by people I do not know, and who do not know me. This has been one of the underlying motivations behind my endless wandering for a long time. It is a part of that search. That’s probably why my sense of “home” starts to develop when I’m generally feeling pretty good about things. Those two feelings are just tied together in me. That’s also why “home” isn’t any particular, physical, destination for me.
This creates an interesting conundrum in the modern, networked, world. Not so much in the way that it’s difficult to disconnect, but more that in doing so you risk falling so far behind the rest of the world. I suppose for a while that’s fine if the internet is not something you, and I hesitate to use this word, rely on, but for the contemporary wired world just a few days out of action can have far reaching consequences. So the question starts to become “How do you step out of the stream without surrendering the necessary momentum?” As someone with extensive social media connections, it’s become an important consideration. Then again, it could just be a skewed sense of connectivity, but at the pace our world moves now-a-days disappearing from social outlets is a quick way to obscurity. In my line of work, especially at the start of a new business venture, vanishing from social outlets is tantamount to a digital death sentence.
Ok, that’s a little dramatic, but you get the idea. It’s tough to justify dropping off The Grid when that same system provides so many vital resources for successful ventures. So this is the current crossroads. In the past few months I’ve felt that pull to “escape” more strongly than I ever have, but given the current trajectory I’m on I can’t really afford to back off if I want this whole thing to succeed. Well, at least as I see it. I mean, I could be totally wrong and vanishing from the world to wander the far east or criss-cross the country on a motorcycle, disconnected from everything, may prove to be exactly what I need. Who knows? Maybe I’ll go back to Paris.
In the meantime, there is plenty of external work to keep me busy, things are looking up in that regard. I wonder though if I keep sidelining and chipping at the internal rather than just “reset” it like I usually do, that it’s going to just build up. Of course, this is not taking into consideration the idea that it can all be defused by a totally different scenario, but that in an of itself it a totally different topic.
Did I need to sell my soul
For pleasure like this
Did I have to lose control
To treasure your kiss
Did I need to place my heart
In the palm of your hand
Before I could even start
The phrase, as it goes, is “No reason to stay is a good reason to go.” and, well, I’ve once again run out of reasons to stay. I had a handful goals in mind when I got back to Massachusetts, my reasons for being here, and while I didn’t quite get them all in order, they’re in decent enough shape for me to move on for the time being. Shadows from the last year are still drawn a bit too long and as much as I’d like to just be through with them, I’m not. So, I’ll do what I always do and keep searching for some place new.
2011 fades away, and what a year it was. I’m going to be breaking this into multiple posts. A couple that are my year mostly in numbers, like books, movies, travel, etc. The other mostly made up of intangibles, life, love, lessons, and the like. This will be one of the former. I tend to document and record lots of data as kind of a side function of my everyday goings on. It’s not that I’m particularly stat focused or live life by numbers, but I like to keep track of where I go, how I got there, how much I did. It’s pretty easy to do now-a-days, especially since a lot of record keeping is automated. All you have to do is know where to look for the data. For example, I can look at my Verizon Wireless account and see that I spent 3289 minutes [52.4 hours / 2.18 days] talking on my phone this year. That doesn’t include Google Voice, GMail, or Skype calls, so the total is probably a bit higher. A more impressive number is texts. 20,608 from my phone and another 15,223 from Google Voice, for a total of 35,831 text messages. So, all the info is out there, it just needs to be added up.
It’s 2:00AM on Saturday morning as I started writing this. I’m sitting on a few drafts of posts; Part 2 of Playing With Power (Part 1), Part 3 of The Eyes Of Disarray, (Part 1,Part 2) along with one of my infamous compilation posts covering a huge range of topics. Per usual, I’m writing and creating faster than I can draft so instead of firing out updates here on a regular, almost daily, basis, I tend to just collect them until I can sit down and get them all ready for posting. Ideas usually come to me hard and fast, followed by short stretches of intense inspiration, and if I don’t capitalize on the moment they all just get backlogged until I get that next wind.
So, where were we? I’m more of a “spur of the moment” or “stream of consciousness” writer, so there’s a lot to keep track of in recap style posts. When I first started writing this (Pt. 1), I was on my way to Syracuse, NY from Santa Cruz, CA to visit a dear friend. It was going to be some quiet time to get some work done, relax, and get organized a bit. I’m picking this post back up at Pt. 2, sitting 17 stories above Atlantic Center in Brooklyn, NY, after a snowstorm caused power outages that are preventing me from heading to Boston, MA sitting in a Starbucks in Atlantic Center in Brooklyn, NY. I’ve been talking to people about heading to LA. Work may be taking me back to Seattle. I have some plans for this upcoming New Year… but I’m getting ahead of myself.
Monument Valley, Utah
This was an unexpected side strip. It was 10:30AM, I had just finished breakfast, and I was getting ready to settle in and knock out some writing and photography work. I had a lot to get done, a lot in my notorious backlog, and was looking forward to a down day after the drive from Yermo, CA to Holbrook, AZ. I had just opened my laptop when I got a cuff on the arm followed by “Grab your gear, you’re already holding us up.” I had no idea what was going on and that frustrated me a bit. I don’t hold people up, I don’t waste time. Anyway. I wasn’t even in clean clothes, but I figured we couldn’t be going too far. I grabbed my basic photo gear; my 10-22mm, 28mm, 50mm, 70-200mm (I knew Barry would have his 24-70mm and 14mm fisheye, among others), tripod, remote trigger, etc. I suppose at any point I could have asked where we were going, but by this point frustration had begun to creep in and I started not to really care.
If you’ve never driven to Monument Valley, UT from Holbrook, AZ, it’s about a three and half hour drive across the desert and wastelands. Now, that’s totally fine under normal circumstances, but these weren’t quite. As far as I knew, we had no supplies (I’ve been stuck in the desert before with no water. It is not fun.) and no plans to get any. That is an easily fixable situation though, so long as there are places to stop along the way (there were). What was not fixable, was being in the confines of a pickup truck cab (the truck is actually really comfortable) with no escape from the endless onslaught of cigarette smoke. If you’ve read the first part of this story, you know my stance on the whole thing. No need to rehash it here. I probably breathed in more carbon monoxide than oxygen on that ride. I didn’t do much to alleviate my mood. Luckily though, I was about to get a chance to purge that with more fresh air than any person could ever breathe.
Now, as I’ve said before, I’m not really a landscape guy. I can appreciate the majesty of nature, beautiful sweeping vistas, the glory of nature, etc. but there have been very few times in my life when I’ve been truly awestruck by the beauty of nature. One was the first time I drove clear across the state of Texas. I didn’t understand the meaning of “Big Sky Country” until that moment. Another was much more recent, but it’s the fishtail end of this story, so remember these few sentences, I’m going to reference them later. Anyway, we got to Monument Valley and were immediately met with a view of “The Mittens”. If you’ve ever seen the classic John Wayne western, Stagecoach, then you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, and were born around the same time I was, then you’d probably recognize the view from Airwolf (although in the show it was called “Valley of the Gods”), since that’s where Hawke and Dom’s secret base was.
Random Aside: Airwolf.
Anyway. The view didn’t really blow me away but then again, I’m not big on the average views of things. I don’t like taking photos of things anyone else can take a photograph of (this is why I like photographing people), static things. I prefer to find a different view, a different perspective, if possible. Fortunately this is exactly what Barry had in mind. Twenty minutes later I would find myself in the back of an off-road rigged Jeep Wrangler, firm grip in the “oh shit” handles, bouncing across the valley floor.
This is where it all started to become worth the trip out there. The views from the valley floor, the far outlaying corners, the vast open expanses of nothingness; this was truly breathtaking. I’ve mentioned in the past that I love the desert. It’s clean to me. It’s dry and barren and simple. It burns away everything except the core of a being and even then, if you can’t adapt, it will burn that away too. I jumped out of the Jeep deep into the valley and just walked alone for a while. I explored by myself, able to see the valley how I wanted, able to experience the vast nothingness alone, and able to photograph what I wanted to. There is beauty, to me, in that kind of desolation. Being able to see into infinity in every direction and not see another living soul. I’m sure there is a metaphor in here for how I was feeling at the time (and, to a point, still do), but it doesn’t really matter. I didn’t really want to leave. I could have wandered into that desolation without any care for being found. Then I remembered that I’m still planning to visit Mt. Everest, so no disappearing into the wilds until that is off my list.
ANYWAY. It was a pretty amazing experience. I took a lot of deep breathes, did my best to purge my poor lungs, knowing that there was still the ride home ahead of me. That went about as well as the trip there, though I was in a slightly better mood. Back in Holbrook meant dinner and attempted sleep before pushing through to Albuquerque, NM the next morning.
And that concludes the side trips. Remember, I’m still on the road at this point. Living out of the same suitcase that carried me through Paris.
Albuquerque, NM. I’d been here plenty of times in the past, on tour, but nothing particularly memorable stuck out. We arrived on Thursday; Stephen would be arriving from Santa Cruz and meeting up with us on Friday. We took a look at the convention space, got parking settled for the RV, and finally got checked into a hotel, which was a simple luxury at this point (the last hotel I’d stayed in was all the way back in Seattle, the night before I left for Olympia, and it was terrible). I was able to unpack a little, air out my clothes, take a hot shower, and get caught up a little on photos, which by this point had been stacking up considerably. Apparently the place to eat in ABQ is Rudy’s BBQ, so that was the next stop (we would visit more than once on this trip, thus would begin the Banana Pudding Saga).
This would also begin my early morning Friday quest to get my new business cards from the USPS, who are probably the most infuriatingly inept organization run by actual nice people. The short story is that they decided to not deliver my cards to the hotel because… I dunno. It’s a hotel? That doesn’t make sense to me. All I know was that I was tracking the delivery status like Prince Humperdinck following a falcon on a cloudy day and one minute it was “Out for delivery” and the next it was “Undeliverable: Return to sender”. Not even an option to redeliver, I mean, seriously? I was 25 yards from the hotel front desk. By that time it was close to 5:00PM, which means I was SoL. I called, got run around, and decided that the best way to get my cards (which I needed for the show the next day) was to go to the post office first thing in the morning and try and intercept them before they got shipped back. This would lead to a 6 mile walk across Albuquerque, 2 different post offices, some incredibly helpful USPS personnel, and eventually getting my cards. They were printed by MOO.com and they are beautiful. Not how I was hoping to spend what would have otherwise my first morning to sleep late in weeks, but it had to be done. Mission: Complete.
Rock The Ink 2011
My next goal for that Friday was to build as much of the Anatometal booth as possible before Stephen arrived. This was old hat for me and building a single booth was pretty low key compared to some of the elaborate events I’ve produced in the past. I had a basic grasp of the booth from the tear-down in Vegas, so I managed to get about 75% of the structures up before Stephen waltzed in (Hi Steve!).
The show itself was… a show. This was much more of an “everybody knows each other” style show than Las Vegas, more of a family and/or community feel. I was introduced to lots of great folks, all very “friends of the family” style. I became a sort of unofficial official photographer (something to note for later) which was interesting to me because I was still a sort of “outsider” in this whole thing. It was also interesting to observe because even though this event has happened for a few years now, it did not seem particularly well organized.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not saying that to be mean, it’s just an observation from someone (hint: me) who has professionally produced special events for a long time.
The people I talked to did mention some issues that had arisen just before the event started, like a major venue change, but there were some location independent aspects, like social media and photography coordination, that could have been handled better than they were. It’s not the fault of any single person, but general production planning and event execution. On the upside of that is it’s easy for me to see where those gaps are and with a little planning assistance, the next show can be off the charts. So yeah, shot a lot of photos, met a lot of amazing people. I certainly look forward to being involved with Rock The Ink in the future. I suppose we’ll see.
The Road Back
So, with RtI 2011 behind us, it was back to Santa Cruz. The ride back was pretty much the ride there in reverse, with less side trips. We were on a schedule, so there wasn’t a lot of dilly-dallying to be had.
All The Damn Vampires
During my time in ABQ I’d made plans to head to Syracuse, NY via Boston, MA depending on how travel back to SC panned out. I ended up driving back to SC with Barry in the RV, which was a similar enough to the trip down that it doesn’t require great explanation, so I’d be flying straight to Syracuse through NYC. Before that though, I was going to have another one of those breathtaking landscape moments.
I really only had a handful of hours in Santa Cruz before heading to San Jose Airport to catch the red eye to Syracuse, via NYC. Luckily we arrived just before Golden Hour so, aside from a few errands, I was able to head directly to the coast to shoot the sunset. Barry knew a couple of spots that were just spectacular.
I watched a beautiful sunset on the coast, then to dinner with the Santa Cruz folks. It was a beautiful way to wrap up my time on the west coast. After dinner I was off to San Jose airport to catch the red eye to Syracuse, NY after a layover in New York City. I’ve been hesitant to return to the east coast given the time of year. The weather in the north east has a way of trapping people here and that was the last thing I wanted. I boarded my flight and tried to get some sleep.
And I feel that time’s a wasted go
So where ya going to tomorrow?
And I see that these are lies to come
Would you even care?
I need to preface this with a quick note. While I do sincerely respect and understand “The 99%”, I am at odds with some of their messaging. On one hand, many of the truths they stand for are supposed to be the unalienable rights granted to citizens of this great nation. Equally, the many of the crimes perpetrated against the citizens of this nation by major financial institutions and corporations are tantamount to crimes against humanity. All this under the watch of a government who’s responsibility is to protect and defend its people. On the other hand, I do not feel connected to The 99% in a truly meaningful way. This is especially true after perusing the Occupy Movement Tumblr page and reading some of the signs/notes contained on those pages. “The 1%”, “Wall St.”, “The Fed”, whatever, has seemingly become an excuse for people’s own bad decision making. Wall St. didn’t make you have a 3rd kid when you can’t even afford to support one (If you are aware of my stance on overpopulation then you know why this is especially infuriating to me. Story for another time). This dichotomy, this split between progressives looking for meaningful change and bottom feeders looking to not take responsibility for their own lives, is what I fear will kill the OWS movement faster than anything else. It will never be taken seriously from the outside until it is made up solely of people who take it seriously from the inside.
So yesterday I went down to Zuccotti Park, here in New York City (I’ve been here for a week now, thanks to the weather/power situation in Boston) to photograph the Occupy Wall St. movement. I returned to the states right as the movement started and I’ve been travelling all over the country recently, so the Occupy presence has been pretty constant. There was no way I could be in the origination city (and a city I’m so familiar with) and not go down to see what was going on.
What I discovered though, after being there for about an hour, was that it just wasn’t all that interesting. It’s certainly smaller than I expected. The people are, of course, great, the level of self sustainability is impressive, and the general peacefulness of the whole thing is pretty amazing… but it’s nothing we all haven’t seen before (through “non-traditional” media, of course). It became quickly obvious to me that the story isn’t in the park. I’m not sure it ever even was. I made the decision that for the day, I’d stay within the barriers that surround the park and instead photograph the people walking past on the outside, specifically the people who stopped to take photos of the “inside”. It was kind of amazing how immediately self-conscious everyday people got when they found themselves on the other end of a camera lens. I wasn’t hiding either, I made it very obvious that I was photographing them (not that it’s really easy to hide with my DSLR, a 24-70mm lens, and my event backpack), that they were equally as on display.
Side Note: It’s interesting, as a photographer, to be aware of things like light. The park literally sits in the shadow of the MRF Securities building. It’s pretty ominous.
It didn’t take long before people inside the park noticed what I was doing. Nearly everyone who spoke to me about it thought it was hilarious. I would just remark that I was photographing the 99%, and I started saying that “Unlike Wall St., photography is a two way street.” This made me pretty popular, especially on the west side of the park. Typically I would just smile after taking a photo. Most people just smiled back and nodded. There were, of course, people who shot me dirty looks, yelled at/asked me to stop, quickly darted off, etc. Just to be clear, I didn’t raise my camera until someone else had raised theirs. My goal was to photograph people photographing. A lot of people noticed me through their own viewfinders, which was pretty entertaining. I wonder how many photos of me photographing are out there.
Then I started talking with the people I was actually photographing. It was interesting, the vast majority of people I talked to, probably about 500 or so over the course of the day, supported the OWS movement, but would never consider actually becoming a standing part of it. Many people identified themselves as part of The 99%, or agreed with the messages of OWS, wanted things to change, etc, but would never consider stepping across that barrier and join the folks in the park. There were reasons and excuses across the board, and that’s fine. People have lives, it’s completely understandable. I am, for the most part, one of those people myself. I was not there to judge anyone, just take pictures and maybe listen to some stories. One thing I did end up doing though, the message I ended up delivering, was asking people that if they really, sincerely, did support the OWS movement, to not treat it like a tourist attraction. To use their cameras to show what is going on with respect to what OWS is standing for. To bring those photos and videos and messages back with them to wherever they lived and share them. That they could support OWS and the fights against injustice without having to be in the park just by sharing what they had seen. What they believed.
When people on the “outside” asked me why I was photographing them photographing the occupiers, I would either reply “I’m just photographing the 99%.” (if they were nice about it) or “Because your camera is facing the wrong direction, the real spectacle is not in here, it’s all around us, out there.” (if they weren’t particularly nice about it).
It’s was an interesting experience. I would most definitely recommend everyone take at least a day to go and hang out with their local Occupy movement, if they have one. There is a lot more going on that just people sitting in drum circles and waving signs in the air. If you really believe in any of the messages The 99% stand for, even if you don’t immediately identify with it on a personal level, it will be worth your while. It’s a different perspective from the inside looking out, everyone should see it from that angle at least once. I’ll be headed back today or tomorrow to put in another round at the generator charging station. I’m a pretty decent endurance rider and I know the importance of a good outlet.
Below you’ll find my two Flickr galleries for this story. The first is shots of the Occupiers and the park. The second is all the aforementioned shots of people photographing from the outside in. There are lots more coming. In the spirit of Occupy Wall Street, I am licensing them for use via Creative Commons, so feel free to share (per the rules of the license!)
Travel: New York City – Occupy Wall St.
[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157628042039388″]
Project: Occupy Wall St. – The Looking Glass
[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157627920831663″]
This is going to be a long one. I’m really far behind on a lot of things simply due to the craziness of my recent travel and shooting schedule. So, if you’re content to read it all in one go, grab a cup of coffee, a snack, and let’s get caught up. I’ll wait.
Good to go? Alrighty then.
Mario Barth’s “Biggest Tattoo Show on Earth”
AKA: Amazing People, Terrible Lighting.
This actually happened about three weeks ago, which is crazy to think about since it seems like I was just there. I was invited down to the Mario Barth’s Biggest Tattoo Show On Earth by my best friend, Stephen, who was working at the show with the company he works for, Anatometal. His boss, and owner of Anatometal, Barry Blanchard, is a bit of a photog, so the offer was extended to come down and shoot for the show. It wasn’t an actual paid gig beyond what I can license out, but it was worth it for the people I met and the shooting I was able to do. I had a lot of exclusive access to show happenings, so that was a good time. I shot thousands of photos and I’m still trying to process the backlog of them all. The odds of anything significant coming out of them are low, but it did lead to some other opportunities and potential work.
I’ve been disconnected from the body modification scene for a while. I first got pierced when I was 16 (ears/tongue/nipples) and tattooed when I was 18 (my 2nd day after moving to NYC). It’s been part of my life for a long time, but my involvement in the community fell off drastically when I started touring for a living and especially now that BME‘s “IAM” (an amazing social network that existed before social networks were even a thing) has seen its last days. There just isn’t the time to devote to it. My arms remain unfinished and I’ve removed a lot of my facial piercings and while I don’t really see the need to get any more piercings, I do want to finish my tattoos, and get a few more.
Being in Vegas, though, made me realize not just how disconnected I’d become, but also how much the entire industry has not particularly changed that much. The events are still kind of gimmicky and a lot of the industry still deals with a lot of cliché and stereotype. Granted, you kind of have to be when so much of the business is based on the general public. While I do not doubt the creativity, talent, and artistry involved, the whole industry could still use an injection of professionalism and organization. Administrative bodies like the APP have gone a long way with that, but given how old the trade is, I’m surprised it’s still as slap-dash as it is. I do love the people though. The unique expressionism, attitude, and overall acceptance of the community is amazing.
I got to meet Bill Tinney and his wife at BTSOE, which was a huge highlight. He is an incredible photographer and old hat to a lot of these events. I got some great advice from his wife over the weekend and I’ve taken it all to heart. It offered me a bit of an unexpected perspective change and I am certainly grateful for it.
The Monday after the show, I had a long talk with my dad about life and business and travel while I waited for the bus back to LA. It was right on time. I jumped on and headed back to Los Angeles without incident. Not bad for $25.
So yeah. A long, introspective bus ride both ways, through the desert. It provided further affirmation for me though that my personal values seem to exist in a space that is just not aligned with the majority of people I know. It doesn’t affect the work that I am able to produce on a technical level, but the longer I’m around people in a “professional” setting, the more I find I have to just isolate myself and work on my own level. I was kind of hoping it was just the result of working around people I’d never worked with before (aside from Stephen) and who are from a completely different industry. It’s not that there is no common ground, just highly different values and operational procedure. I end up hearing the same thing I’ve heard my entire life… “Why are you so serious all the time?” The post right before this one expands on this concept. Little did I know this would come up again, in a much more exaggerated fashion, a couple weeks later.
So, like I mentioned, it was a long bus ride through the desert back to LA from Vegas. I’ve made that drive many times in my life. On the way back, they showed “Despicable Me“, which I’d never seen and thought was pretty funny, “500 Days of Summer“, which I’d also never seen and didn’t particularly enjoy for personal reasons, and “When In Rome“, which I have, amazingly, seen before but cannot remember where. I listened to my usual podcasts and did a lot of staring out the window.
Back to the City of Angels
The bus actually got back to LA early, but then the LA Metro (if you can even call it that) was having all kinds of delays, so that pretty much canceled out any progress that had been made. I hoofed it back to Michelle’s place in Hollywood and got ready to jump over to my brother’s condo in Santa Monica for my last few days in LA. One of the last things I did in Hollywood was do some light wardrobe shopping in an attempt to reconnect with myself. It sounds silly, but reshuffling my clothes a little has gone a ways towards making me feel more comfortable with myself.
My brother is an interesting guy. I have no idea how he affords to live the lifestyle he does, or how no woman has yet managed to kill him for some of the relationship decisions he’s made. We haven’t always seen eye to eye, but as we’ve grown older, the bond that is brotherhood and family has pushed aside our differences. All in all he’s a great guy and I really enjoyed my time hanging out with him. His new condo is incredible and I’ve never explored Santa Monica all that much. I spent some time on the beach, staring at the ocean, shooting some photos, and spent the rest getting packed up and ready to fly back to Santa Cruz. I culled a lot out of my suitcase and considerably lightened my load. I would have to hit the ground running in SC, since I was immediately departing on a 3 day drive to Albuquerque, NM for “Rock The Ink: 2011“.
The Road There
Originally I was going to fly to Albuquerque, NM and meet up with Stephen and the Anatometal crew for Rock The Ink: 2011, a convention that Anatometal is heavily involved in. The offer was extended after my initial introduction in Las Vegas. When I mentioned flying down, Barry (the Anatometal owner) instead suggested that I drive down with him in his massive “house on wheels” RV. All I had to do was get to back to Santa Cruz. Well, it sounded like an adventure so I grabbed my camera, booked my ticket back to SC, and was on my way. It was going to be three days through the desert, not even a blip on the radar compared to my touring days, in a completely ridiculous vehicle. What’s the worst that could happen?
Now, don’t get me wrong, Barry and his 2nd in command, Tod, are two of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Great senses of humor, hospitable, generous, and fun to hang out with, Barry and I can wax photographica endlessly. The two of them represent a wealth of life experience I only hope I can one day achieve. There is one massive caveat though…
The two of them smoke more cigarettes than I have ever witnessed any human beings smoke in my life. I had an ex-girlfriend who smoked a lot, but these two put her to shame. Driving down the road, it’s no big deal. Just pop the windows open and it’s fine. I’m not a complainer and smoking in general doesn’t really bother me that much. My extensive touring experience has given me a pretty thick skin. I know how the road works. Where it killed me though, was at night when the RV is parked and closed up. I know now what it must be like to try and asphyxiate yourself in a garage. I’m not about to ask or tell a man to not smoke in his own house though.
I was willing to overlook the catastrophic effects on my health, but the damage that cigarette smoke can do to my equipment had me really worried. The gear I travel with, my camera, my laptop, my clothes… are all I have (yes, the same argument exists for my health). While I do hold the philosophical opinion that everything in my life is ultimately replaceable (with one, critical, exception), the practical reality is that I am not in a position to just be willy-nilly buying new things if they get damaged or destroyed. I understand that everyone’s situation is not the same, I only ask that they respect mine. Yeah, not so much. I did my best to keep my gear sealed up tight, but it was akin to fighting the tide.
On the way down to Albuquerque, we made two real side trips and one minor one. The first was a scant ride over to an abandoned water park outside of Yermo, CA. The second, a three and a half hour drive from AZ to Utah, up to Monument Valley that would push my tolerance to its limits. It would be the first of two times it would happen on this trip.
Yermo, CA – Abandoned Water Park
Barry and Tod had been talking about this place since Vegas. It’s just off The 15 near Yermo, CA. I was hoping for a bit more urban decay than I got, but it is still an amazing site for shooting photos. I would love to get some people and models together and go back and do a proper shoot. This trip was mostly exploratory for me, but I did manage to get some fun shots in. I have a much better idea about the site now and will definitely be returning.
Ok, that is enough TL:DR for now. Part 2 will be inbound shortly.