Somewhere Else To Be

Start

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.

data

Normally, at the end of the year I do a huge “human metrics” post. Last year I broke down tons of data about the previous year, everything from total text messages sent to minutes of music listened to. This year has been a little crazy, so I’m going to switch things up a bit. Some old numbers, some new numbers, some recap, so on and so forth. Along the way, hopefully, it will become clear how I ended up in a tiny highway town in California writing this.


Music:

TRON: Legacy

I’m going to start with music this year since it played (as always) a huge role in my life. At the end of last year I reset my iTunes play-count numbers and started fresh for 2013. Here are the Top 5 songs I listened to in 2013 based on number of total plays in my iTunes/iPod and Google Music.

  1. Setting Sail, Coming Home – Darren Korb
    • Total Plays: 647
    • Song Length: 2:55m
    • Total Time: 1887m / 31.5h / 1.3d

The End Theme from Bastion stands as my top track this year. It was my theme for the beginning of the year and stuck with me through most of it. Ethereal and haunting, with lyrics that resonated exactly how I felt at the start of 2012. Note: The version above clocks in at 3:36m even though the album version is 2:55m.


  1. Iron – Woodkid
    • Total Plays: 604
    • Song Length: 3:10m
    • Total Time: 1912.6m / 31.8h / 1.3d

My #1 from last year moves to #2. It’s here for the same reasons: brooding, powerful, and a brilliant lyrical journey.


<a href=”http://music.biggiantcircles.com/album/max-effect” data-mce-href=”http://music.biggiantcircles.com/album/max-effect”>Max Effect by Big Giant Circles</a>

  1. ArmageddoN7 – Big Giant Circles
    • Total Plays: 563
    • Song Length: 4:26m
    • Total Time: 2871.3m / 47.8h / 1.9d

Jimmy Hinson’s incredible tribute to Mass Effect comes in at #3 this year. This track is astoundingly inspiring, a nostalgia driven love letter to everything that is the experience of ME. It tears me in half though, since on one hand it inspires me to be be creative and productive and on the other, it makes me want to just play Mass Effect.


  1. Melting Sun – Pyro Paper Planes
    • Total Plays: 522
    • Song Length: 5:12m
    • Total Time: 2714.4m / 45.2h / 1.8d

This track came out of nowhere. It’s originally “Rundas Theme” from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, rearranged and performed on solo piano by Christopher Foss for the Metroid tribute album “Harmony of a Hunter”. It’s both deeply haunting and serene at the same time. I’d never heard it prior to this arrangement, but it is now easily one of my favorites.


  1. Too Close – Alex Clare
    • Total Plays: 463
    • Song Length: 4:17m
    • Total Time: 1983.2m / 33.1h / 1.4d

Pretty obvious that this track would be on this list given that the current version of my website is themed after the song. It’s here because the lyrics resonate so closely with my life, though not because I have said them, but because they have been said to me.


Once again, “Faded Memories – Promyvion” by Naoshi Mizuta get’s a free pass because I fall asleep to it.

In the Album department, the Assassin’s Creed 2 Original Soundtrack by Jesper Kyd stands far and away the most listened to. In fact, the 2012 playtime for the entire album clocks in around 25 full days. Runner up goes to the Assassin’s Creed: Revelations Original Soundtrack by Jesper Kyd and Lorne Bafle. If it’s not obvious, I really love the music of Jesper Kyd and Assassin’s Creed. They are masterpieces of modern composition that resonate with me and have a unique ability to just take me somewhere else entirely, no matter where I am.

Other tracks of note this year include:

  • You Know My Name – Chris Cornell
  • Stopwatch Hearts – Delerium
  • Derezzed – Daft Punk
  • Blood On My Name – The Brothers Bright
  • Heartlines – Florence and The Machine

I also wrote about music this year for a website other than my own. Dig That Radio was a look into the amazingly diverse world of video game music, it’s impact on a generation, and a little of it’s modern evolution. Even just since it’s publishing, my library has dramatically increased in size. There were a lot of incredible video game releases this year and the music that accompanied them was just as amazing. Some stand-outs I added to my collection this year were:


Movies:

TRON: Legacy

Like last year, I didn’t keep a running tally of all the movies I watched. 2012 is notable though since it is the year that my default, go-to, movie changed.  For nearly 20 years, the film I can watch over and over without it getting old, or will watch when I can’t decide what to watch, has been Hackers. Last year though it officially changed to TRON: Legacy. Others in my regular rotation still include Casino Royale,  Sucker Punch, Scott Pilgrim, and Transformers: The Movie (1986). Beyond that tidbit, I didn’t actually see a lot of movies in theaters this year and there are still have some big ones I need to get around to.

Some of the movies I saw this year include:

Some of the movies I didn’t see, but still plan on seeing include:

Special Mention: Uncharted 1/2/3 [The Movie]. Andy Gilleand will forever have my undying respect for his film treatments of the Uncharted Series. I’ve never played any of these games (no PS3), but I watched these movies over and over all year. They are worth your time.


Travel:

TRON: Legacy

Unsurprisingly, I traveled a lot this year. I started the year in Dennis, MA watching the first sunrise and ended it in Oakland, CA at a Erykah Badu concert. Between those two events I criss-crossed the United States no less than 5 times. Highlights along the way included:

Running a café in Maynard, MA, photographing surfers in St. Augustine, FL, riding trains to Charleston, SC, photographing PAX East in Boston, MA, attending a graduation in Albuquerque, NM, partying with Cirque du Soleil performers in Las Vegas, NV, climbing the side of a hotel in Reno, NV, watching the solar eclipse from Independence, CA, finding a creepy old abandoned town in Goldfield, NV, camping under the stars in Yosemite National Park, riding bikes on the beach in Santa Monica, CA, breaking into a crazy old abandoned race track in Goodyear, AZ, getting to the top of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO, wandering all over Pittsburgh, PA, catching up with all the amazing folks from TG in Brooklyn, NY, riding the Cape Cod Rail Trail, spending by birthday in a basement in Omaha, NE (not exactly a highlight), photographing an amazing wedding and driving through the mountains of Seattle, WA and Port Angeles, WA, whale watching in Newburyport, MA, attending my best friend’s wedding in Santa Cruz, CA, meditating on top of  a mountain with a yogi in Cazadero, CA, photographing artists in San Francisco, CA, and helping a friend move into a new house in Sebastopol, CA.

So here I am. This is just a handful (maybe 2) of the places I ended up this past year. In total? 37 States and about 32,000 miles of road, rail, and sky.


Can’t Go Home Again:

Can't Go Home Again

So, this isn’t nearly as much data as last year, but without context it’s still just data. As I mentioned, I began the year in my home state of Massachusetts. It’s not where I had intended to end up, but, well, it’s par for the course at this point. I’ve detailed before that I’m not really a fan of the state, especially in winter, so I won’t get into it here. It was a carry over from the year before… a crazy year. My café “job” was mediocre, more of a way to pass the time and help out a friend who really needed it. When the chance came to head to St. Augustine, FL to help out another friend, I took it without much hesitation. My time in Florida really opened the door to an opportunity to travel across the country again. The only real obligations I had on my plate were my wedding gig in Washington in July and my best friends wedding in Santa Cruz, CA in in Sept. As long as I ended up in those places at those times, the road was wide open. After Sept. I really didn’t have any kind of direction in mind and found myself, once again, back in Massachusetts to help out with the funeral of a close family friend. Beyond that, I didn’t have much of anything. My resources were dwindling and I knew I had to make some kind of move. Anything was better than wasting away in another New England winter. In November I decided to get on a flight and just head west. I knew myself well enough that I could pretty much drop into anything and be ok, and I had to do something to get some momentum building.

All of this gave me the chance to continue the journey I had started in 2010 after returning to the states from Paris; To travel around, visit my friends, make new ones, and really study how other people live compared to how I feel I should be living. The past 18 months or so have really been an exploration of values.

I so often found myself asking “Are my personal values really so different?” when experiencing how other people live, so I decided to start a list of everything I encountered that just seemed way off the mark to me. I lived through other people’s priorities and value systems, I studied them, and compared them to my own. I’ll have to admit though, aside from a few core values, my list was not very long. I knew more about what I didn’t like than what I did. Along the way I had dozens of conversations about why people live the way they do. I’ve experienced all ends of the spectrum along the way, from people in my life who are just as diverse. From ardent firearm’s rights supporters to pacifist yogis, starving artists to super-wealthy CEOs, devoted collectors to lifestyle minimalists, astoundingly humble to insanely egotistical, people secure and sincere about who they are and people who live the most duplicitous of lives, and everything in between. It turned into a study of not just the “how” they live, but also the “why”.

It’s been an interesting trip. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, lost friends, learned a lot of lessons, gained new friends, and, most of all, ended up with a much greater insight about who exactly I am and what I’m supposed to be doing with my life.


Recognizer:

Recognizer

So now that I find myself close to the end of that journey, the real decision is what to do next. I have a much clearer vision of how I want to live and why I want to live that way. Even though I started 2013 making a lot of the same mistakes I always have, I did so on purpose, with a clear understanding of exactly what I was doing. Six days in and I’m already starting to turn that around though. They were my final burn down to zero. Now it’s time to really get the ball rolling back in the correct direction. To get things lined up and start living how I want really to, with clear values, purpose, and goals. San Francisco is the start of that, but who really knows where I’ll end up. This new journey is just starting.


Is there somewhere else to be?
Is there somewhere else to be?
Take me in
I want out
That’s all I need


Addendum: This whole personal mission would have been impossible without some of the truly extra ordinary people in my life, for good or bad. So “Thank You” to Troy, Marc, Peter, Jean, Brea, Kerith, Rachael, Kira, Paul, Caitlin, Constanza, Stephen, Nina, Josh, and everyone else who has made this an insane and enlightening 2 years.

Somewhere Else To Be

Start

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.

Continue reading

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

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.

Continue reading

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.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?

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.