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

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.