Despite my medical issues getting worse and struggling with the challenges of having a progressive neurological disorder. I still, very much, think and see like a photographer. What I lack in balance, I more than compensate with my drive and passion to, for a lack of a better term, “find the light.” and while the day and the light still have a place in my art. I’ve become much more fixated on finding light in the darkness. No matter the subject or the struggle it might present. I’ve learned that obstacles will never curb my enthusiasm to create or disable my drive to learn and grow. Here’s to experimentation and the results that may come. (I shot the on a tripod at 100 ISO at a ’30 second delay. The F stop was 22. The photographer was full with the joys of Thanksgiving Happy Holidays.
My Mom once (Okay, more than once.) told me to watch what I said in public and especially to be mindful of what I write. While being free to express ones self. We must also be mindful of what we say and share with others. A lesson I’ve tried to apply, and suffered from when not practicing. Yet there I was trying to write my Father a letter or email that will potentially mend fences in regards to a recent blowout between us.
And while I’ve spent a lifetime looking and often finding closure to many early traumas. I can’t help but open new wounds every now and then. In the days and weeks that followed. I searched and replayed the moments before the blow out. Could I have instigated the argument, said anything to bring on his storm of anger and hate. Or brought on his ire by perhaps seeming uninterested in his reasoning that Trump was a great president and world leader. “No”, “No”, and “No” I was assured by my step mother and wife.
Considering he read it (I confirmed this with my step mom.) and he never bothered to return or acknowledge my olive branch. I’m guessing we’re done. After a lifetime of trauma, anxiety, stress, panic attacks, and a whole lot of fun. I’m ready to move on. As bad as that night was, I did my best to reach out with no hate, anger, or blame. I’m sharing the email i sent because I wanted to prove to myself and anyone reading this, that I tried. I tried and I did it by taking the high road. Over and Out.
“Dad, how are you. More than a week has gone by since Kay and Me visited and we had our blowout. The arguments only show our beliefs have grown stronger with showing how different we are politically and socially. We always have been. However, the times have changed and I guess we have to. I just wanted to reach out and say, our beliefs should never overcome the fact that you’re my father and I’m your son. After a week of unpacking I’m finally enjoying going to the gym every day and enjoying the deck and the common areas. Also, after all this time, it feels good to sleep in our own bed.”
Through recent conversations with family and grade school friends. (yes, I still have those.) I was reassured that many, if not all, of my early childhood memories, happened. My doubts surfaced a few years ago during a neighbor’s daughter paid a visit. After examining the six-year-olds hands and soft knuckles, I began to think some of my memories and tales were something of folklore. For better or worse, those stories remained in the memories of those who were there to bear them.
Whereas many of my memories remain detailed and almost sharp, the most formidable ones start around the age of four.
While kindergarten was a great introduction to socializing and learning to communicate, it was also an education on dealing with bullies. To state it boldly, it’s when I first learned to fight.
I remember it clearly, and with detail. During that morning, there was what was, without any doubt, most kids’ favorite event of the week, ‘Show and Tell.’ At the same time, I may not have been the most popular kid in the class. Bringing my G.I. Joe with Kung Fu grip and authentic (Fuzzy) hair was both a hit and the envy of some male classmates.
As the half-day came to an end, I found myself waiting in the nose bleed seats of the school auditorium. Suddenly, the Cruz brothers, Carlos and Eddi, intended to take my G.I. Joe and give my ass a proper beating. Their plan to attack from both sides was a good strategy. However, they surely underestimated my intent to hold on to my prized possession. Despite their two-prong attacks of kicking and punching, I stood my ground and did enough damage to hold on to said action figure.
When I got home, my Father noticed the scratches and red eyes and asked what had happened. I remember telling my Dad about the incident and commenting they used karate on me. (At the time, I considered any form of kicking to be karate or kung fu.) He told me to never back down to bullies and began to teach me how to fight.
A day later, I found myself in the garage with my Dad learning the ropes to not only fight back but win and even disable my opponent.
A year later, I was in the first grade, despite how handsome and charming I might have been. There were even more cruel kids looking to target and bully me. And just as I was learning how to defend myself properly, my Father was slowly but surely gravitating towards loansharking and numbers to make a living.
By the early school year of the second grade, my parents headed for a messy divorce, and I was processing my anger and newfound anxiety. A lesson, for better or worse, was taught that would set me on a course.
My Father got down on his knees and asked me, “Do you want to win a fight?’ I nodded, “yes.” “Do you want to win a fight quickly and be sure he never comes back at you?” I agreed again. Nodding, “Yes.” That’s when he took my hand gently yet firmly and taught me a lesson I’d never forget.
The first thing he taught me was pressure points and how to throw a punch properly. “Hit somebody directly in the chest, and they can’t breathe. If someone can’t breathe, they can’t fight.” Punch someone in their throat, and they can’t breathe.” “They can’t breathe. They can’t fight.” “There are two ways to punch someone effectively in the nose.”
“While an uppercut can cause a nosebleed, but if you come down on the nose hard enough, you can break the bone. Either will take your opponent out of the game. That was gouging one’s eye out with my finger—a tactic best saved for mortal combat or some soldier of fortune adventure in Uganda. Now luckily, the last and most gruesome lessons I learned, that day would never be called on, let alone thought.
Now, bear with me. I’ve gone over the inappropriate nature of a father or any parental guardian teaching their six or seven-year-old son how to disable their opponent both physically and mentally. For me, and perhaps in my Father’s eyes, learning pressure points was like learning how to play chess. The streets and schoolyards were often battlegrounds, and bullies came in all shapes and sizes. One day I might be fighting for more than an action figure or my lunch money.
In the week, months, and years that followed, I stood my ground in countless altercations in the schoolyards and on the streets. The lessons my Father taught helped me navigate and win fights with people older and bigger than me. I quickly learned that school administrators and police officers rarely judged who started the fight—often seeing the more damaged or bloodied person as the victim. Looking back, I take great pride in the fact that I was never a bully. In contrast, I was quick to throw a punch. Yet, I never once started a fight. Often leaving one teary-eyed, asking why they made me hurt them. Except for one that sent my friend to the hospital, and the exception of my first school. I never fought a classmate.
Earlier this weekend, we took a short drive to a fairly local Virginia market where we enjoyed the food, cool weather, and even got to talking to some of the locals. I took this image while waiting in an alley while my wife visited a nearby bakery. With the mid day sky at it’s brightest, I made sure to lower my iso and kick up my aperture. When I got home I played around with the contrast, amongst other tools, to get what I wanted. Below are the results.
Though I’ve missed my photo gear, I can honestly say that the last months I’ve spent living out of a suitcase have been educational. This time has reminded me how happy my trips abroad have been, mainly since I was traveling with the bare essentials. With the weeks closing on our condo in the rear mirror, the impending move is just days away. I find myself feeling grateful for getting to know my 50mm better lens and capture the many things that catch my eye and capture my imagination. As one who’s long been intrigued with light and shadow, there have been countless opportunities to be creative and work towards bringing my vision to life. From the day we arrived at our hotel, I became fixated on the lights above the bar on the hotel’s ground floor. Something about it reminded me of the Death Star depicted throughout the Star Wars saga. Just like the movies. I needed to find the right angle or spot to fire. Once I did that, I was able to go into manual and take my shot. Though I’ll be going back to work on my manual focus. I thought the images below were pretty cool, with only a short time left before moving day. I’ll be sure to be roaming the halls, looking for light and looming in the shadows.
Coming back to Jersey before the closing on our Virginia condo has allowed us to indulge in some of our favorite things we missed while living in Seattle. Though far from our years in Hoboken and Jersey City. Asbury Park was a beloved and often weekend destination. Whether it was on the beach or the boardwalk. Our experience was always a good one. After a nourishing breakfast at Frank’s Diner where we we wisely decided to sit at the counter. We headed to the boardwalk where we spent a fun day relaxing and enjoying the sights, which included but were hardly limited to weddings, an official zombie walk and enough sun and cool breeze to carry away whatever might worry the mind.
I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve wanted to pull the over to spend an hour or two taking pictures. Knowing what my wife’s reaction will be, I keep my mouth shut and my enthusiasm in check. That said, there are moments and opportunities that I can’t pass on. Knowing how protective my wife has become and my not wanting to be made fun of, due to my obsession. I’ve been forced to try new things.
The other night was a perfect example as we were on the final leg of our trip back to the hotel. The colors and shapes in the sky caused by the setting sun were off the charts. (My favorite time of the day to photograph landscapes.) With no filters or flash and no intention of asking her to pull over. I adjusted my camera settings, leaned forward and took a few images to take home with me. I was somewhat surprised how well the images came out. With no reflection from our dirty windshield. I guess I found a temporary filter without actually looking of paying for one. Not bad. Not bad at all.
When thinking of photography and whatever approach I might decide to take in the near future. Much like life itself, I can’t help but think of minimalism. What that actually means? I’m not sure, but living out of a suitcase over the past months with a single camera body and a 50 millimeter lens has been difficult yet educating. Moving to Arlington, I’ve found a renewed interest in photography and documenting my new surroundings. With my newfound interest has come a desire to approach each picture with a new sense of purpose and focus. Asking myself, what attracted me to this image and what message, if any, do I wish to convey? As much as I’ve alway been to telephone lines and cell phone towers. I can’t help but think, with all these connections and gigabytes, we seem to be communicating less. Sure, we talk a lot. But, are we listening?
Every weekend my wife and me try to get out of the everyday stress of the work environment and whatever stress the work week and it’s related trappings. No matter the city we called home, there was always an outlet or a route worth taking. One that would allow us to expand our minds and realign our focus. Having grown up and lived in the boroughs of New York City and lived much of my married life in New Jersey, there was always somewhere to go and something to do. Moving to, and living in Seattle for four years provided more than its share of exploration and mind expanding experiences. With only a few months back east in Virginia. There’s still so much to do. Lucky for us, that desire to explore and experience new things still burns. As many days of exploring Virginia and Washington, DC lie ahead. The several trips to Maryland have been rewarding. I took this image of the Patapasco River in the midday sun with the only equipment I have with me now, my Canon body and 50 mm lens. While I’m looking forward to being reunited with all my lenses, filters and flash, shooting with the bare minimum has been a fulfilling challenge. Here’s to more weekend challenges, exploration and of course, documentation.
Truth be told, I was never close with my Mom’s Mom. Though she lived just a few blocks away from us, a few steps from where some good friends of mine. Not a thought would occur as I walked past her residence almost daily. The only time I had been in her building or apartment was when I was 7 years old and a night long altercation between my Mom and my future Schlep Dad got loud and violent enough to summon the police. That morning would be the first and one of two times I ever stepped over that threshold. And though we would see one another on holidays (One of my favorite memories being her giving my Schlep Dad two cartons of cigarettes for Christmas. As if to say, “Here, this and the drugs your on, should speed up your death, you piece of shit.” There were attempts later in life to get closer, which included two trips to her new home in New Mexico. But, aside from that, nothing. Still, there was always something badass about her. She drank, smoked, cursed and played guitar. (pictured here.) Basically, she did whatever the fuck she wanted to. And for that, I admire her.
By all means, the day should have and was a very rewarding day. One that started with a good breakfast and the assurance that I would have enough toilet paper to carry me through my final days rewards here in Arlington. The inspection of our new condo furthered our day of rewards and promise that we were one step closer to fulfilling another dream of ours. It wasn’t until arriving home and chatting with my Mom, that the feel good day took a hit. “Your grandmother is dying.” While this came as no shock (She was in her mid nineties and had been in declining physical and mental health for years.) there’s always a sadness that comes with the passing of a family member. Again, there was no shock when, on the next day, my Mother informed me that she passed away in her sleep the night before.