Somewhere Else To Be

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INT. STARBUCKS – SEBASTOPOL, CA – EARLY AFTERNOON

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.

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Full of Fire and Mystery

It's only when I lose myself

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.

MB - Faded Memories II
MB - Faded Memories II

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.

JM - Faded Memories
JM - Faded Memories

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
To understand

Far, The Wind It Will Take Me

Coming Home
I'm Here

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.

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Watching Past The Day [Updated]

Magnetic North
Magnetic North

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.

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Cross This River

Flower
Cross this river.

I’m sitting on so many drafts of posts it’s getting kind of silly. My phone is full of voice notes, my notebook full of scribbles and sketches, my brain full of ideas.

The truth is, I started writing this post exactly a week ago. I forget where I was at the time, all I know is that right now I’m laying in a bed in Hudson, MA, typing this out on my Kindle Fire (which I had to root and side-load the WordPress app onto, among other things), while eating a tiny sandwich. In the time between, I flew to Las Vegas, photographed an amazing model, drove to Los Angeles, photographed the same amazing model (and a bunch of other stuff), hung out with my brother, got invited to Palm Springs for New Years, and flew the redeye back into Boston.

The Darkened Skies V
The Darkened Skies V

I should probably be filling this post with all kinds of insights onto the valuable lessons I learned on this foray. Things like being amazed at how sometimes age has nothing to do with maturity (in both directions), that my brother and I continue to discover things in common (we both continually push ourselves, trying to find our own breaking points [neither of us have]), and that I might actually like Santa Monica despite it’s association with Los Angeles. Really though, I not in much of a recapping mood.


The quickest way to get over a woman is to climb on top of another. – Marc Mercury
Some things we don’t agree on.


My Tumblr pages have been keeping up lot of the regular day to day stuff. My current host hasn’t upgraded the PHP or MySQL on this webserver, so I can’t upgrade to WordPress 3.3 yet, which is driving me crazy since it has Tumblr integration. That is actually something I’m really looking forward to and is one more step in aggregating all the outlets named in the last post back here to //dropslash.

Mercy
Mercy

I’m, of course, working on a 2011 recap post. It has been a hell of a year, so expect that to be full of all kind of fun lists and anecdotes and recaps. There is still some writing to finish in the meantime. I’m also working on multiple photo sets, including the aforementioned Vegas and LA shoots. I’ve also been trying to keep up with the December Bohemea Photo Challenge. I’m a little behind because of travel, but I’m working on getting caught up and filling in the gaps. That gallery is below.


Project: BoChallenge – December
[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157628242239117″]


Angel, angel, what have I done
I’ve faced the quakes, the wind, the fire
I’ve conquered country, crown and throne
Why can’t I cross this river?

Stopwatch Heart

Cambridge
Parks

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.

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The Eyes of Disarray: Pt. 1

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”

BTSOE 2011

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.

BTSOE 2011
BTSOE 2011

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.

BTSOE 2011
BTSOE 2011

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.

BTSOE 2011
BTSOE 2011

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.

BTSOE 2011
BTSOE 2011

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

Hollywood Sunset
Hollywood Sunset

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.

Marc
Marc

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

Fish(eye) in the desert.
Fish(eye) in the desert.

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…

Looking Back
Looking Back

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.

Side Trips

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

Decay
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.

Your smile is a thin disguise.

Fish(eye) in the desert.
Fish(eye) in the desert.

I’ve been sitting on a huge post draft that goes through all the crazy travel I’ve been doing recently. Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Santa Cruz, Albuquerque, and back again. I’m currently on the road back to Santa Cruz. I’ll recoup there for a few days and decide where to next.

Unexpected Places
Unexpected Places

Part of that post was devoted to my recent trek to Albuquerque, NM from Santa Cruz, CA via RV, to shoot photos for Rock The Ink 2011 and then back again. It’s been a trying experience on more than one level, far more so than any tour I’ve ever been on, regardless of duration or circumstance. I’ve been on some pretty bad tours too.

The Road
The Road

The biggest part of this whole experience has been further confirmation that my personal and professional values just do not align with the vast majority of people I interact with. I find myself constantly at odds with how people function and the choices they make. Their conduct. I’m not saying that they are right or wrong, just that they do not ever seem to agree with my own. I always do my best to maintain a strict sense of professionalism and respect. In any given scenario my tendency to overthink means that I constantly considering the consequences of my actions and behavior. I tend to err on the side of caution. I stay quiet and focused. I set parameters and do not stray outside of them for a given task (though I, of course, always remain adaptable to any situation). This usually results in people saying that I am “too serious” or “too intense” and that I should “lighten up” or “relax”. It is very rare that I am around people who work on the same level that I do, who will take things seriously. To me, that is professionalism (Note: It is possible to enjoy your work and still be serious about it. You can have fun while working. It’s a matter of retaining focus on the job at hand). On a personal level, it means that my default is to always consider the effects of my actions and choices. I typically will not cross boundaries that I feel could be potentially disrespectful, regardless of my personal preferences. As I said, I tend to always err on the side of caution.

The Road
The Road

I’ve found that a lot of people do not. The try to force attention to themselves, or are concerned only with their own personal preferences. I’ve also found that these same people nearly always feel that their “way” is the “best” or “how things should be” without consideration for others. It is especially bad when people aren’t even self aware enough to recognize that in themselves. This leads to the aforementioned “too serious” style comments. It’s easy to see where this is going. Given that my personal values hardly ever align with those of others and the fact that 95% of people I find myself around are focused solely on their own, it creating increasingly uncomfortable, difficult, and frustrating situations. It makes working difficult and that feeds into a vicious cycle of not being able to enjoy my work, so I have to focus more on the serious side in order to produce the results I want. This feeds back into me seeming like I am incapable of having fun or enjoying what I am doing.

The Road
The Road

I once read that you should always strive to team up with people who are your general equal. If the other person is more skilled than you, they don’t need you. If you are more skilled, you don’t need them. Granted, people possess different skill sets, so it’s really a sense of “equality” across the board. You’d never learn anything new otherwise. I’ve heard this same concept applied to relationships, but that’s a conversation for a different time.

The Road
The Road

This trip also highlighted that I just don’t get people sometimes. Well, when it comes to personal interactions anyway. Observationally, I am very skilled at deciphering people and their motivations. I generally understand people and how they work. As soon as the interactions turn personal though (beyond general formalities), I find myself not sure how to react. It’s not that I have expectations; I just can’t always correctly interpret people’s actions or intentions towards me. Since I always side with caution, I think people understand that as disinterest, which usually is not the case. I am constantly entertaining dozens and dozens of options/actions and their implications (this was previously outlined in a post about my natural ability to see “avenues of possible outcomes”, the ability to easily anticipate people’s reactions). Without a clear understanding of intention though, I’m never sure what course of action to follow. I hate feeling like I am “overstepping boundaries”. I’ve been told that this is a somewhat unfair strategy, since my actions/reactions are required to confirm intention. The idea of misreading someone’s intention stops me in my tracks though. I’d rather politely do nothing. Something to work on I suppose.

The Road
The Road

Another trend I’ve noticed recently is people abruptly ending conversations. This is especially true lately in digital communications. Email, text, IM, etc. A conversation will start, questions, answers, general talking and then it’s like the person at the other end just walks in the middle of it without any kind of warning. Now, I of course understand that people are busy, and have lives, get distracted, have things come up, but it’s been unusually prevalent lately. People dodging questions has been common lately too.

So anyway, travel recap on the way.

So pseudo…

Los Angeles

The surrealism of this journey never ceases to amaze me. When I toured for a living, and for a few years afterwards, it was a seemingly endless journey across the American frontier. I experienced more in those years, traveled and adventured more, saw and did more, heard, worked, played, and lived more, than most people will in a lifetime. I know what it means to be a nomad, a wanderer. To wake up in a different city every day. To adapt and learn and live completely different kinds of lifestyles. That vast array of experience has helped to forge me into the person I am today. It is why I can manage and function anywhere, despite never really being comfortable anywhere. I never mind anywhere. I can make do with almost nothing. I know how to just make things work. Very little bothers me, even less can actually stop me. I can go on for a while here, and I have lots of other notes to include, but I am exhausted. I’ll follow up later.

This morning I woke up in Santa Monica, CA after spending the previous evening on the beach, at the end of a stunningly beautiful day. The weather was gorgeous, I finally was able to take a long, hot, shower and get myself cleaned up, and I got laundry done. I slept in a bed. When you live on the road, days like that are few and far between. They are like pocket days, 24 hours of stepping outside of the reality you’re existing to recollect and recover. Personal days. Recharge days.

Santa Monica

Tonight I am laying on a couch, in a home at the top of a mountain, hidden away somewhere in a forest outside of Santa Cruz, CA. Another unfamiliar ceiling. It was a very long, dark, winding, road to get here. I have no cell reception. I’m writing this offline before I hijack some bandwidth. I can see every star in the sky here, but there are no fireflies like where I grew up. Bluegrass music is coming out of the TV. In 8 hours I will be awake, collect the few things I unpacked, and climb aboard a motor home that is very similar to the tour buses I spent most of my 20’s on. This will become three days of driving across the desert with two men I have known collectively for less than five days until I am in Albuquerque, NM. They are both chain smokers, but I fear for the well being of my camera, clothes, and computer more than I do my own lungs.

And once again...

That’s all for now. Just wanted to get it down here. Side note: Today’s photos were brought to you by my phone, not my camera.