Remembering John

John was good, very talented soul. A tall red-headed gentleman with a gifted voice that could carry you to the moon and quick sense of humor and that would send even the most cynical asshole into uncontrollable tears of laughter. Like many good souls. John had his demons. One’s he would keep to himself throughout his life. His way of dealing or not dealing with these unresolved issues was drinking. On the occasions where he did hit the bottle. He would often drink to excess and to the point of no return. In the end, it was his addiction and love for guns that would lead to his suicide.

While on many occasions John’s drinking and gun play would end with a few gunshots and random bullet holes in his family’s home. His wife always seemed to perfectly time her departures and calls to the local police. During what would turn out to be John’s last implosion. Instead of firing some shots into the home’s interior. He pointed the gun at his head. Threatening, “You don’t think I’ll do it.” “You don’t think I could.” Pleading for him to put the gun down while gripping their young, screaming child. She reached out to him as he pulled the trigger.

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Hearing the news, even years later in a conversation about my Father’s history of drinking sent shock waves, though never intended on my Father’s part through me that would echo for years to come. Less than a year later, I would be hospitalized for panic attacks and anxiety related issues. John was more than a friend to my Father, Mother and myself. He was part of our extended family. I still have the pictures from me and my Dad’s first visit. The pictures of him and Stallone on the movie set. As well as visual memories of the Queens garden apartment he shared with his soon to be wife. Though recalling his suicide was painful. Thinking of him brought back memories, many good ones, I had either buried or forgotten. Little adventures and excursions to the local parks and fields with our dogs. His great big smile, barreling laugh and infectious sense of humor. My fondest memories of John will always go back to when I was a very young child and both he and my Dad had city jobs as bus drivers with Tri-Borough Coach. As a kid growing up in an imperfect world with it’s own problems and imperfections. He was somewhat of a super hero to me. Someone I loved and looked up to. He never revealed that dark side to me. Which, for better or worse. May have been a reason why I took the news of his suicide and underlying issues so hard. News that brought on some pretty intense panic and anxiety attacks. Looking back , I’ve learned from experience, to remember people for all the good they did and the many positive impressions they left on you. Focusing on one negative incident or action will never impact you in a positive way. Though it’s taken me years to fully realize that. I’m happy to recall so many of the good things John and many others added to my life. Acceptance and forgiveness go a long way when it comes to finding peace of mind and closure.

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Escape to Tarzan Island

1970 Plymouth Valiant 2After my Father wrecked or sold ever car he owned. He began using his Mother Veronica’s decade old, beat up car to get from A to B and not much further. The trunk was so dirty that your hands would instantly turn black once you unlocked it. The seats were torn and tattered and the floorboards were often covered with debris and weeks worth of empty fast food containers. Regardless, we were able to fit my Father’s 6’4 frame, our dog, myself and up to eight kids piled up in the backseat. The Hawkins brothers Keith, Petey and M.J., Glen, Tommy and whoever else would risk the trip on that day. (Aside from those named. The cast would always change depending on the day and who was willing to brave the back seat.

Once there, we would often disperse into two separate tribes or war parties as my Dad would set up camp and build a fire to roast hot dogs, marsh mellows or whatever supplies we manged to gather before our voyage. In the few hours we’d stay we’d play war, burn tires and grab whatever we could from the abandoned cars and the nearby railroad tracks. In truth, there was no Tarzan or nearby water to be found. For the life of me, I may never learn how or why it came to be called “Tarzan Island.” But as I would come to learn at the time and many years later. It was what everybody called it. Year later, I’m talking decades. I returned to Sunnyside Queens to seek out the area. The train yard itself was still there, but it had been closed off and closely patrolled. Whoever said, “You can’t go back.” was probably speaking from countless heartbreaking  attempts.

As I’ve returned to many of my original stomping grounds, I find that most things are best left to memory and the mystique many things and places held when we were young impressionable and somewhat fearless. Things definitely felt a lot bigger back then. Something that helped us grow up and mature. And while there’s no diminishing the risks we took and the element of danger we were always drawn to. I feel very lucky to have taken chances and not letting those fears get the best of me. In the end, I’m happy to be able to recall so many adventures from younger years. Like my wife always says. “Maybe one day you’ll write that book.”

Conversations with my Dad

I’m lucky enough to have a Mom and a Dad who are both healthy and alive. And while I seldom give my Mother a break about her considerably bad taste in music. Both have played a major part in influencing and supporting my never ending obsession for so long. While I’ve learned to avoid conversations about religion, politics or any sociological topics. A good bull session about music is a great way to pass the time while helping to avoid any bloodletting during any visit or phone call. Though his love of the blues and New Orleans jazz can never be questioned. A conversation regarding Tom Waits, Frank Zappa or the Night Tripper, Dr. John (Gris-Gris) can go on for days. Some of my earliest memories revolve around sitting among my parents combined record collections. Strange how it remains one of the very few memories of my parents being together. Sitting within a pile of my parents record collection. 07d0e554e09b932edadfb0d22ea101ceNo more than four, maybe five years old. Completely freaked out by the cover art of records like Leon Russell’s “Stop All That Jazz” Frank Zappa’s “200 Motels” or Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”. Album covers that told stories I might not be quite ready to read. One’s that might have me checking the closet or under the bed that night.  A few years later, as my ear for music began to form. My Dad would sit me down and play Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton’s Blues Breakers, and for me, the most painful torture a nine year old can suffer, Frank Zappa’s 79′ release “Joe’s Garage.” Years later though, many of the records and artists my parents introduced me to reside in my own record collection. Artists such as Frank Zappa, Hendrix and especially Tom Waits get countless play on the turntable and all my other modes of music enjoyment. I pick up just about every Leon Russell and Frank Zappa I see and being drawn to record based on it’s cover art  remains crucial to many of my crate digging adventures. Still, I can recall sitting in my pajamas among those piles of records, How each cover either told a story or inspired me to create one,

 

No More Crying

NMCIIIt began with the best intentions. The days and weeks since my Neurology follow up had me feeling angry, lost and somewhat hopeless. I had mistakenly opened up to my doctor, therapist and wife that I had briefly thought of suicide, or commented on how I wished the original death notice I received when I was twelve would have ended me instead of prolonging my suffering through related issues. Falling down and not having the control you once had on your life it not easy to get used to. With that said and fully expressed, I had felt a positive shift in recent days that mad me feel as if I had turned a corner. I had all but stopped worrying about what I couldn’t do any more and started thinking about what I could. My intention was to share with my wife that the fear and negativity were behind me. That, whatever it took, I was going to be open minded and more constructive.

As I began to speak to her, I made a point to use the word “Positive”. This exchange was going to let her know that I was leaving behind the negativity and look at all the positives and embrace whatever changes might come. Before I even knew what was happening. Before she even had a chance to reply. She buried her head in my chest and began crying uncontrollably. I did my best to make her laugh and smile “Hey, there’s nothing to cry about. This is all about looking at things with a positive mindset.” “Come on, there’s no crying,” “I’m not crying.” She sniffled, as she reached for the nearby box of tissues. All I wanted to do was tell her how lucky I was to have two parents that loved me and a wife who, despite all my obvious faults, adored me. Still, she kept her head buried in my chest. Unconvincingly trying to conceal the fact that she had become overwhelmed with tears. “I have to pee.” She announced as she quickly made her way to the bathroom. Concerned for what she was feeling, I followed. More than anything, I wanted to comfort her. To let her know that it was okay to cry. Even with the door closed. I could hear her blowing her nose and washing the tears from her eyes. I entered and hugged her. Assuring her that, maybe for the first time since that hospital visit. That everything was going to be okay. That she could cry all she wanted to as long as she didn’t feel the need to hide it from me. “I was trying to tell you that I turned a corner and how I was feeling more positive about things.” “Why are you crying?” Still red in the face and filled with tears. She said something I never thought I’d ever hear. “Because it’s not your fault.” “You didn’t do anything wrong.” I have to say, it was humbling.

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Throughout our entire marriage and even when we were dating. She was always the strong one. The rock, the ying to my yang, or whatever you call it. Being on the other side of the coin. The one to say “Don’t worry. No matter what happens, everything is going to be alright.” It was hard, but I feel it was long overdue. Whatever may come, I hope I can always be there for her when she needs it. Considering how much she’s done for me in reinforcing my health and assuring my happiness. I’ve got my work cut out for me.

Below are a couple of helpful links.

Zen Habits

American Meditation Society

Sunday Sessions: Booking from mid August through the New Year

IMG_9039August is already here and the kids will soon be headed back to school. So what better  a time than now to start booking a family session close to home and far from the trappings of the local mall and all the blood, sweat and tears that seem to go along with every trip to the local photo studio retailer.

Your session begins the day you book it. As we begin to discuss who’s involved and the kind of environment you are your loved ones are best suited for. As someone familiar working with both children and adults, I’ve come to realize that we all have both our times of the day and our windows of opportunity to get things done. I’ll work around your schedule to make your time with me fun and as free from meltdowns as possible. Whether you prefer a laid back, post brunch session at my loft studio. Or a fun IMG_8903meet up in the park at dusk. I’ll be ready to capture the moment while giving you something to cherish for years to come. No coupons, unwanted packages or hard sell. Just the images you want. Fast turnaround and the personal service you’ve been missing all along.

Sessions are by appointment only. So book ahead. I’m located in Jersey City, but will consider traveling to Hoboken for Park sessions. I  book one session per Sunday. So my session with you will be exclusive to that day. Your image files will be delivered to you by the following Friday.

Studio Session: $150.

Park Session: $100.

Contact me here or send an email to damionphoto@gmail.com

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Day 16; Zushi and Kamakura

While today, our last full one in Japan,  was scheduled to be a laid back and get packed before family arrive for a parting dinner kind of day.The weather was just to good to pass up as It turned out to be anything but laid back. According to plan we were going to take the bus down to the Zushi train station to do a little exploring of the side streets and back areas we have bypassed since day 1 of our arrival. Some lunch, a stroll and back up the hill to the homestead. Last (1 of 1)

After a long walk through the area we headed back to a place called Aroyas that had advertised scorpion as one of the days specials. Though I had just a short glance of the venue while passing by. The thought of eating something completely new to my palette (Even at the risk of dying) overtook me. So with belly’s rumbling we sat down and doubled up on scorpions before moving on tour our main course of curry shrimp. We ate so much food that we decided to get on the train to Kamakura where we could really walk it off. With no evident signs of heading to our graves due to our dance with plates of predatory arachnids.

Earlier tonight the eight of us went out for a going away sushi dinner. It’s one of those places that the sushi travels on a conveyor belt. We ate so much that by the end of our stay there were, counted them, 66 single plates carefully stacked in three piles. I had my final  and sixteenth consecutive night of after dinner drinks with my Father-In-Law ( I know he’s going to miss me.) Refreshing after fifteen nights of vodka. We finally moved on to saki.

So we’ve finally come to the end of our trip. While I’m really going to miss everyone and just about everything Japan has to offer. I’m ready to go home. Our flight departs from Narita Airport tomorrow around five. I’m sure I’ll have some time to write tomorrow, but for the most part. This trip is history. I’m very appreciative of the incredible people in my life. Both those within arms reach and those around the globe who inspire me daily. I’d like to wish everyone a very happy and prosperous New Year. “Don’t take shit form anybody.”

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Day 14; Sailing the Pacific

When we unexpectedly stopped at the Marina the other day to stock Kenichi’s  boat for the upcoming trip. I wanted to kick myself for not bringing my camera. The sight of all the boats and yachts docked amongst the beautiful blue sky was breathtaking to say the very least. While I did regret not having my side arm on hand. I reminded myself that some moments are better left to memory. There was that and the fact that we would soon return to put that boat in the water and sail the Pacific with enough provisions to keep our bellies full for days. Well, that day came today and despite some initial concern on how I was going to get my unbalanced ass on to the boat. Boat (1 of 1)       It was, for lack of a better term “smooth sailing.” Kayuri’s Dad Kenichi has many passions in life, sailing being his greatest. Not only is he an excellent sailor. He’s won more than his share of trophy’s and ribbons in sailing competitions over the years. As a man who always seems to be in high spirits. Laughing and toasting for days on end. Seeing him at wheel of his boat is by far, the happiest he’s been. Over our last two visits and this one. He disappeared in to the ocean for days on end. Lucky for us, we got to go out with him today and will have a second chance before the weekend is over. I’m happy to say. The New Year started on the right foot. Be well. Be awesome.

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