What You’ve Always Done

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.

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

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.

Continue reading

The Eyes Of Disarray: Pt.2

Brooklyn Sunset
Brooklyn Sunset

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
Monument Valley

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.

Monument Valley
Monument Valley

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.

Right Size
Right Size

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 away...
And away...

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

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).

Not The Banana Pudding
Not Banana Pudding (P)

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.

Cards
Cards (P)

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!).

Miss Rock The Ink 2011
Miss Rock The Ink 2011

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.

Barry
Barry

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.

Santa Cruz Sunset
Santa Cruz Sunset

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?

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.

And the worst part is…

This update is really just a collection of half-written posts and notes from the past week or so. It happens from time to time. I just get too busy to put together anything of significant length, add photos, etc.

BTSOE 2011: Heather Conlin

10/03/11:
And now.

It’s been a hell of a weekend. Well, it’s been more than that. It’s been surreal, strange, heartbreaking, exhilarating, disappointing, and everything in between. I’m standing on a precipice that represents a great many things. My professional career is headed to a place I didn’t anticipate. Ok, that’s not totally true. I’m well aware of my skillset. I know how to use the tools I have and I certainly know how to adapt and pick up more. There is very little that is beyond me, or that escapes me. When I made the decision to alter my career path I knew that it would just take hard work to get to where I wanted it to be. I knew what I had to do, the pieces that were in play. It’s really just a matter of motivation. As a good friend told me recently “I don’t know what it is about you, it’s like you’re a weird nexus of opportunity. It comes looking for you, it finds you and it’s like you don’t even have to try.” I’ve been thinking about that a lot recently. I suppose in a way it is true, but it is also because I leave myself open to those possibilities. I don’t always capitalize on them. I don’t grind everyone down, tooth and nail, to wring every possible outcome out of them, I kind of just make myself available and see what happens.

Paris

In the six months or so though, I stopped doing that a bit. Especially with people. I stopped making myself so available. I stopped just “seeing what happens” and devoted myself to going after what it is I really wanted. It was a huge shift in how I approach people. I let my guard down, gave up my armor, and showed someone who I really was underneath all that. Unfortunately, I now stand alone without that armor. I’ve been told I’m not allowed to put it back on. That I can’t live life like that. I’m not so sure. It’s devastation and reform, but every time you have to rebuild, you just become more and more of a shell of what you had when you started. It’s extra-ordinarily demotivating.

10/04/11:

Friends

The truth of the matter is, I’ve been a photographer for as long as I can remember. My grandfather, and his daughter, my mother, were and are passionate about photography and it’s role in our lives. I grew up around cameras. As I got older, I was always the person in my circle of friends with a camera. I used to keep Kodak disposables everywhere, always ready to capture our antics. I took photography courses in high school and learned the basics of not just photography, but also how to use a dark room to process film.

The first time things really changed though, was in 2001. I bought my first digital camera, an Olympus Camedia C-700. Though archaic by today’s standards, it opened up a whole new world for me. A couple years earlier, I’d started using Adobe Photoshop 5.5 to create graphics for my websites and to mess around with scanned photos. This new ability to have an all digital workflow drastically changed how I approached photography and the artistry photographic manipulation. From that point on, I was never without a digital camera.

This convergence of passions; photography, computers, technology, and creativity started to lead me into totally new directions. The power of these combined things enabled me to truly immerse myself in the mediums and really explore possibilities.

Los Angeles

10/05/11:

It’s a cold night in Hollywood, for the second night in a row. I can see my own breath, but then again that may be due in no small part to the hot grande Pike w/ vanilla I’m drinking right now. I’m sitting outside in the West Hollywood Gateway Plaza. There is a waterfall behind me and it reminds me of Mexico so many months ago. My netbook clock says it’s 9 hours ahead of the correct time, which makes me realize I haven’t opened it since Paris. This city, Los Angeles, seems to never change. Neither do the people in it. I was discussing with my brother how New York City is always changing and if you can’t keep pace, it will mercilessly chew you up and spit you out. NYC will not wait for you, ever. Los Angeles never seems to change. It’s like a byproduct of the insincerity that underscores the people who live here. Millions of people forced to cling to fake lives, just to survive. No wonder it, or they, will never change.

I was standing outside Angels & Kings a few nights ago and I witnessed the following scene.

A guy grabs a girl by the shoulders and looks right at her. “No, really, I think you are great.” He then turned to his friend standing next to him and said “Psstt, not really, I fucking hate her.” He then looked back to the girl and said “That is LA. Here’s what New York is like’” Same motions, grabbing her by the shoulders, looking into her eyes, and saying “I really fucking hate you.”

I laughed.

Steve Jobs. That is a post for another time. His death has affected me much more than I thought it would.

There is lots more going on, but that’s all I have time for at the moment.

This isn’t the last…

I’ve been thinking all morning about where to start this. I can’t really decide on an appropriate starting point. How about…

9 years ago I trekked to Los Angeles on a personal adventure and found myself waking up on Sycamore St. in Hollywood. I was in the apartment of my new friend and upcoming professional photographer, Michelle Star. I woke up, kept quiet, got dressed, and walked to Starbucks to start my day. Opportunities abound…

Yesterday I arrived in Los Angeles on a continuation of a personal adventure. Today, I found myself waking up on Sycamore St. in Hollywood. I was in the apartment of my old friend and well known professional photographer, Michelle Star. I woke up, kept quiet, got dressed, and walked to Starbucks to start my day. Opportunities abound…

Too “history repeating”? Hmmm, how about…

I’m sitting in a Starbucks on the corner La Brea & Santa Monica in LA. I’ve sat in this Starbucks before, 2 years ago, while on a break/materials gathering mission while working on a job at Paramount Studios. I can see, from where I am sitting now, the GameStop and Target I went to, looking for a Mad Catz Rock Band Drum Cymbal Extension Kit for the stage I was building for the “Get Schooled” media event (see “Résumé” above).

Funny where you end up sometimes.

Not quite what I was looking for. Just the act of being here is changing how this is progressing, adding new potential to the mental mix.

I’m sitting in a Starbucks in LA, a city I’m on record for not being a huge fan of after living here 9 years ago. I’ve warmed to it a bit in the time since, but it still doesn’t sit right with me. “New York State of Mind” is playing on the radio. I loved living in NYC when I did. It’s not the city for me anymore really, sadly, but I wouldn’t trade the time I spent there for anything, good or bad. As I’m thinking of all those old times, feeling nostalgic, I look out the window to my left. A girl on a fixie just got hammered by a car on the corner of La Brea and Santa Monica Blvd. The car takes off. She is banged up, but ok. Her bike is rough shape. I rush outside to help.

The same thing happened to me 13 years ago on 8th & Broadway in NYC. I’ve told the story a thousand times. I start to wonder if it’s some kind of cosmic sign. My old life and my new life colliding? My past catching up to me? A chance to pay back some karma? I hold the belief that there really is no such thing as coincidence, you just need to be aware and recognize events as they happen, then try and decipher their significance. So now I’m sitting here thinking about what that might be.

A bit esoteric. How about just some recap action?

If you’ve been following this website, blog, journal, experiment, whatever it is, for any length of time, you’ll know that I have a history of being a bit all over the place… in more than just one regard. That wanderlust is seemingly baked in to my DNA/soul/consciousness/whatever. It’s driven by my perpetual feeling of a lack of purpose, or sense of really belonging anywhere. I move around a lot, try new things, and generally try and fill my life with skills and experience.

So now I’m sitting in a familiar Starbucks on La Brea and Santa Monica Blvd in Los Angeles, CA. This morning I woke up on the couch of an old friend, a friend I met here 9 years ago. Yesterday I was walking through the fog in Santa Cruz.  So, just how did I end up in this seat?

Approx 2 years ago: I move from my apartment in Las Vegas, NV to Boston, MA for a shot at a fulltime job at Harmonix Music Systems, Inc. It’s a longshot, but the culmination of a lifetime of freelance work in the videogame event industry. Long story short, I get the job and become the Event Specialist for Harmonix. I go on to help produce events like E3, PAX (East & Prime), and Gamescom. I also slide into a kind of defacto photographer role for the team I’m on.

Approx 6 months ago: I quit my job at Harmonix Music Systems, Inc after the company is sold by MTV/Viacom and internal event production is scaled way down as the studio shifts it’s focus and new partners exert influence. I make the decision to move to Paris, FR for as long as a travel visa will allow. While there, I also travel to places like Cannes, Brussels, Antwerp, NYC, Bierves, Le Mans, etc. While in Paris I work on not just my photography and writing, but on myself. I try and sort out all my personal short-comings, my flaws, my weaknesses… the things I don’t particularly like about myself. I attempt to reconcile the two sides of myself that I feel are constantly at odds with each other. To find some kind of balance. In the process I end up boiling myself down a lot. I discover a lot of things about myself and for the first time in a long time I feel like I have priorities. I solidify some goals, make plans, and feel not only a sense of purpose, but also of belonging and comfort. I start to consolidate and focus on what I want in my life. A new me starts to emerge.

Seattle
Seattle

Approx 1 month ago: I leave Paris bound for Seattle, WA. I’ve spent as much time as I could in Paris without risking deportation. For the first time in a long time though, I don’t want to leave where I am. I actually like Paris and the life that was starting there. Duty calls. I’m headed to see Suki Valentine, a friend from way back, from the old New York days. She’s building and opening a new store in Seattle and I agreed to help out with the opening. She’s offered me a place to stay while I do. Though I’m sad to leave Paris, I am excited at this opportunity. After nearly 5 months of creative and emotional focus, I’m going to see if my practical skills are still sharp. I find that not only are they, but I am able to find some the balance I had been working towards. I start shooting photos for the store after it opens. I build massive playlists and DJ sets as well. I work on social media. I meet a lot of great people and even get a chance to shoot some photography on the set of a film in Olympia. I kind of like Seattle and the potential it presents. I seem to have started down the path I was working towards, but something is missing.

Approx 1 week ago: I leave Seattle, bound for Santa Cruz, CA. The housing thing didn’t quite pan out as expected in Seattle. I slept on the floor of the store a lot. I slept on the couches of new friends. It was fine, I’m adaptable and experienced. I’m good at making due with what is available. The hospitality and kindness shown to me by new friends was amazing. I’m not really comfortable with that for too long though. I don’t like intruding on people’s lives, no matter how much they insist that I’m not.

Patton
Patton

So it was off to Santa Cruz, CA, the home of my best friend, Stephen, his lovely fiancé Heather, and their hilarious Welsh Corgi, Patton. You can read more about that in the post right below this one. There will be another incoming shortly, a follow up on my time spent in Santa Cruz.

Yesterday: It’s an intensely foggy evening in Santa Cruz. Stephen drops me off at San Jose airport and I board a little prop plane bound for Los Angeles, CA. It’s a more introspective flight than usual. Since the plane never clears 25,000ft during the whole flight, I can watch the sun set below the California coastline and the lights of cities twinkle on. The two stewardesses are hilarious. They dole out complimentary drinks with wild abandon. The front cabin stewardess talks like she’s smoked two packs of Camel Light Wides a day since she was born. It was entertaining.

Sunset
San Jose Sunset

The fog is just as intense in LA when we land as it was in Santa Cruz when I left. It lends a kind of quiet to the arrival as we slowly descend though it. You still deplane to the tarmac on flights like this, and we’re all standing in the fog waiting for our luggage to emerge. It’s surreal and still kind of quiet. I get my bag and all that quiet goes away the second I emerge from the other side of LAX. It’s like the car version of white water rapids if it was a race and you were allowed to jump into the rafts from the sidelines. Cacophonous madness, but that’s LA. I knew what I was getting into.

Arrival
Arrival

Michelle and I chat on the drive. We catch up a little bit. I see her new place, drop my stuff. She’s been awake for 25 hours and is out pretty quickly. I drop onto the couch in her living room, putting pretty much everything aside for the evening. Stephen had let me borrow “Do Travel Writers Go To Hell” by Thomas Kohnstamm, so I start in just to see how it is. 3 hours later, I finish it. I start it over again, book marking passages with, appropriately, old boarding passes, airport receipts, and TSA inspection notices. Some of the paragraphs read like I wrote them, or at least like I thought them. Paragraphs like:

I am rarely lonely or depressed when I travel alone – except when I first wake up in the morning. My eyes adjust to the surroundings and I try to figure out where I am and what I’m doing there. One white ceiling with cracked paint is the same as the next. It is also a point in the day when I have too much space to reflect on the events that have led me to where I am, and to think about what else I could be doing with my life.

By the time I was though the second read, it was about 5:00AM. So much for sleep. I hadn’t really eaten all that much in the past day or so either. Sleep was in order. I’d figure out food tomorrow. Dreams were strange. I was up by 10:00AM. And now… here I sit, tip-tapping away, trying to get all this in order. LA is going to be a bit crazy (more on that later).

So yeah, something like that. Not the most detailed of recaps, but you can always just go read the individual posts if you’re interested.

And now we’re caught up a bit. For those that really know me, they know that I am omitting parts of this story, including one of the most important parts, actually, but that’s the way it is for now. The time isn’t quite right for that.

So that’s where I sit, literally. Dinner with my brother tonight and a shoot that starts first thing in the morning.

The afterglow of pure resplendence…

There is a story here.
There is a story here.

Santa Cruz, California. A city of particular significance for me for more than one reason and a unique place unto itself, not really like any other I know. That became even more apparent when I went to name the Flickr Set “Santa Cruz: Street” and realized that there isn’t really any actual… street. It might be time to overhaul those sets into more all encompassing titles. Nearly all my shooting here has been on the beaches, although I plan on heading over to the boardwalk before I leave. I’ve only been here about a week, but I’ll be gone before the weekend. There’s only a short time to finish up what I want to do here. But, the people here are great. I’ve had a lot of interesting conversations with strangers about all sorts of things. People always seem quick with a smile, a wave, or a hello. Reminds me a bit of Hawaii, but I think that’s just surf/beach culture in general. It’s been nice.

Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz

The one thing that won’t include though is what I originally came here to shoot, which were engagement photos for my best friend. Yes, he’s still engaged, and to a marvelous woman at that. The timing just isn’t right. They have a TON of stuff going on and since they weren’t really planning on engagement photos to begin with, they’re not exactly high priority at the moment. No worries though, the wedding is still a year out and that is the far more important matter. Besides, I won’t be anywhere far enough away to not make it back here whenever I’m needed… well, as far as I know. I still have my eyes on Everest.

It's a big ocean.
It's a big ocean.

I’ve had a couple of interesting conversations recently with folks I didn’t really expect to have them with. I’ve been feeling distanced from people recently just due to personal growth, unfortunate circumstances, and a couple other random things, so it’s always a unique change of pace to talk with people outside my usual circles. One of the topics of conversation that came up was the act of holding on to other people’s secrets, people who keep secrets in general, and general levels of trust. Everyone hides something (that’s no secret, ha!), but it’s always interesting to see who entrusts who with what, and why. I am the bearer of many secrets for my friends and I take that responsibility very seriously. As do I also know the same of those I have entrusted with mine. Later on, I proposed the idea of a relationship where-in no secrets are kept, but that idea was shot down pretty quickly. I maintain that it is possible, but there has to be a level of trust that a lot of people are not capable of. There was a brief discussion about the semantics of “keeping a secret” and “selectively omitting information”. Things can get convoluted pretty quickly, which is why I think most people avoid talking about it in the first place. The elements of risk and danger involved can be overwhelming sometimes.

Everyone has a little secret he keeps… – MC 900ft. Jesus

What is a man but a miserable little pile of secrets! – Vlad Tepes Dracula

I will say, though, that I am exceptionally lucky to have someone I do not have to, and don’t, keep secrets from and can trust with mine. That is extra-ordinarily rare to find in a person.

Waiting for the right moment.
Waiting for the right moment.

I haven’t been sleeping well recently and am still finding myself distracted and generally uneasy. The sleep thing doesn’t really bother me, since I’ve always fought with insomnia and am perfectly capable of running on very little sleep.

Another unfamiliar ceiling – Shinji Ikari

Well, that’s all for Part 1 of Santa Cruz. I’ve been up all night and I should really try and get a little sleep. It’s been productive insomnia though, so that’s good news.

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What forever means…

At this time last week I was preparing to leave Paris, FR, after 3.5 amazing months there.

At this time this week I am in Seattle, WA preparing to spin after having spun my final set at BedlamBedlam, a new store opened by one of my close friends, Suki Valentine and her husband, Shea.

Shea and Suki
Shea and Suki

I flew in to not just DJ the premiere weekend events, but also to assist with the actual store production in it’s final days leading up to the grand opening. It was a mad rush right up to the very last second, but that kind of executional environment happens to be a specialty of mine. I operate very well under pressure and the diversity of my experience means that there wasn’t a single task I couldn’t take on. Everything from electrical work, vinyl cutting and application, construction/carpentry, A/V, merchandising, social media roll-out, etc, the works, you name it. It was nice to put all those skills to use again and to know I’m as sharp and well versed as ever. Helping my friends is the best possible cause so I was glad I was able to put my skillset to use for that purpose.

Vinyl Cutting
Vinyl Cutting

On top of the production work, I’ve also spun a series of live sets for in-store events, created epic playlists for the store, and photographed the goings on (simultaneously DJing and photographic events is not easy, heh). It’s been a strange amalgamation of my past and my present. When I was originally asked to DJ for the store events, including a fashion show, I thought it might be a joke. It had been nearly decade since I was behind decks, during a time in my life that was a million miles from where I am now. The technology has changed dramatically (I used to record my sets on long-play cassettes) so it was a bit of a challenge to do everything digitally from scratch (no pun intended), but I pulled it all off in a pretty spectacular fashion and added a lot of new tools and techniques to my audio arsenal in the process. My musical taste has certainly changed since that time too, well, “expanded” I should say. That proved to be a bit of a double-edged sword.

Taking it all in.
Taking it all in.

It is unfortunately, painfully, obvious that I am just not part of this subculture any more (something I also experienced with the hardcore videogame culture in my last job). I’ve evolved as a person and while I still retain aspects of the subculture as part of myself, I’m certainly much broader in scope as an individual than can be associated with any one particular group. Yes, I’m of course connected through the music, in a way, but I’ve found that as I have changed, and that which I introduce those changes, it’s not often met with a sense of acceptance, especially when applied to something as rigid as a specific subculture. The image is rooted in tradition, no matter how “anti-traditional” the image is. People want what they are familiar with and straying from that, even into a space that is more authentic or situationally suited for the environment, tends to incite conflict. I’m not saying I’m some progressive or creative genius or anything like that, just that I try to encourage the evolution of all things. To be open to the possibilities that something unknown can work within the context of what you are familiar with. As an example, here’s a small sampling of the tracks I used for the BedlamBedlam reception set I mixed.

Satan (Live from Irvine) – Orbital
Still – Neotropic
Radio Babylon – Meat Beat Manifesto
Moya (7″) – Southern Death Cult
Ostia (The Death of Pasolini) – Coil
Papua New Guinea – The Future Sound of London
Destroy Everything You Touch – Ladytron
Ballad of a Paralyzed Citizen – The Faint
Chainsaw (Josh Wink Remix) – Skinny Puppy
Stopwatch Hearts – Delerium
You Can’t Go Home Again – DJ Shadow

I was asked to keep it generally down-tempo and low-key. This was a reception, not a dance party. I was billed as spinning Trip-Hop, Ambient, and Darkwave, and while I am familiar with all those styles of music, I am not really devoted to any one of them. Now, a lot of those tracks above are not any of those three styles of music, but when well sampled and mixed, they work into a marvelous dark electro-ambient landscape. More-so, each track was explicitly, deliberately, chosen for personal significance to the people in attendance. The opening sample in the live version of “Satan” is something Suki and I still reference to this day. “Assimilate” is an industrial classic and a staple of my old sets, the remix I used for this set fit the event but still was able to call back to those days. “Destroy Everything You Touch” is one of Suki’s favorite tracks. “You Can’t Go Home Again“, well, I’m sure by now you can guess why I put that in there. I can go on and on, but you get the idea. The entire experience was designed to have significance, even if it didn’t fit exactly into the genre scope I was assigned. To me, that is the essence of producing a meaningful set/event/photo/etc. A personal connection trumps guideline/genre confinement, especially when you can still operate within the boundaries of the theme. That is what having passion about something is. Well, to me anyway.

Stopwatch Heart.
Stopwatch Heart.

My in-store sets have been much different. Crazy uptempo, epic, sprawling, sets full of old and new. Although the store’s theme is “Goth” (which also usually bends backwards into 80’s, New Wave, and Post-Punk) I’ve been straying far more into Industrial, EBM, Synth, Electro, and even a bit of Metal. As it is, I’ve been banned from mixing The Misfits into my sets and that is extra-ordinarily disheartening to me. I’ve caught some flack for some of my choices (Southern Death Cult is ok, The Cult is not.) and some I’ve been able to sneak under the radar because they fit so well (Devils Never Cry, Bloody Tears) and I know how to mix them. Pushing boundaries like that was one of the reasons I was originally noticed and picked up by Nintendo (mixing classic Nintendo tracks into my cool-down sets). Pushing those limitations is progress and imagination.

BedlamBedlam promo
BedlamBedlam promo

In any case, it’s been an experience. Originally I was going to make Seattle my base of operations for a while. The start-up scene, tech industry, and creative environment are very strong here and there is a lot of great job potential. Unfortunately, the housing situation that was proposed to me did not manifest as planned and, well, I kind of need one of two things to get the ball rolling in most places. A place to live or a well paying gig. With one, the other can usually be secured very quickly. Without either, being particularly effective at anything becomes a challenge. So, with that, it’s time to move on. I definitely still feel that there is potential here though. I’ve made some amazing contacts across all different kinds of industries and I could probably integrate very quickly here, but now is just not the time. It’s been a good lesson in saying “No.” and understanding what I don’t want. Both of those being kind of opposite scenarios for me. The former in that I’m not going to just be ambivalent about things and the latter in the way that I do have such a better idea about what I want in my life, especially after Paris.

Lights Out
Lights Out

During the reception one of Suki’s closest friends asked me if I live in my own “Kyle World”. I asked her what she meant (I’m not fond of that phrase) and she clarified. She said that it seemed like I didn’t quite fit into any of the traditional group dynamics around me, especially for the store. That I seem to live outside of my given environment, observing or affecting it externally via my photography, music, work ethic, etc, but never becoming an actual part of it.

It was an interesting observation. In a way it’s true, given my natural adaptability and ability to play a role that is needed while still holding on to some base element of myself. Maybe I’m out of practice after Paris, where I was just able to be myself 95% of the time.