With a Little Help from my Friends.

I’ll admit it, I know nothing, nor have I ever spent much time working to up my photoshop game. If you’re a photoshop fixer-upper, I applaud you. Leave your contact information and rates in the comment section. Sooner or later, I’ll be contacting you. I never had the time, patience, or skill s to master the art of retouching. Instead, I try to get it right the first time and make any needed adjustments in Lightroom later.

While unearthing images from my earlier days, I surprisingly still find pictures I love. The image below is a long time favorite. Shot in NYC on Pier 84 just blocks from my apartment on W48th st. Over the years, the tag on Charo’s bra became more and more of an eyesore. So much so that I put in a call for a photoshop minded editor on one of my social media pages. Luckily, a long time friend, one who’s friendship predates this ’97 photo. Stepped in and remedied a twenty-plus year issue in a matter of minutes. In the end, I wanted to thank that friend while sharing the before and after. If I ever find myself in a bind with a photograph or anything in general, I won’t hesitate to reach out.

Before
After

Adding Shadow

Back when I was giving my studio photography an overhaul. A mentor and close friend who was going over some of my old sessions. Adding, “What did a shadow ever do to you?” It was something I had heard at an International Center of Photography workshop but wasn’t sure how to correct it. However, once I learned, it was as if an entirely new world of depth and creativity opened up. Just aa I began adding what I learned to my studio photography, I found myself adding shadow to my landscape photos. To add definition to my landscapes and interiors, partly and considerately more to put shade and add anonymity to the people, often strangers in my photos. It’s helped me in a lot of ways, including sales.
It’s also made me think of myself growing increasingly introverted and wary of close contact with others. Below are a couple of images I took before exiting Gas Works Park this afternoon.

Routines and Rituals

With a move just a day away and an exhausting week of packing almost done, I hope to move forward with my energy and purpose. Our new home offers many windows of opportunity to put forth. Or, at the very least, supplement the ideas and plans I’ve been looking to add, subtract, or continue as we’ve made it a habit to visit the condo since our closing day regularly, sometimes to bring essentials, others to measure or plan. It never goes without notice how an empty room allows for boundless thoughts, ideas, and creativity. Below is a shortlist of actions and undertakings I plan on implementing or continuing.


Tai-chi – What a great way to start the day? In with the good and our with the bad.

Minimalism – This has been an obsession of mine for some time. Packing for the move has been a revelation—a back-breaking reminder of everything I had to have.

Meditation – Since I was in grammar school, I’ve relied on meditation for long periods, often interrupted by being too busy with complete nonsense. Considering how beneficial the results have always been, I often find myself scratching my head as to why I ever stop. Whether it be stress, anxiety, overthinking, breathing, or just clearing the mind, five minutes to a half-hour of meditation does more than any pill or time with a therapist has ever done for me.

Smoke

When we went out early Friday night, we couldn’t help but notice the lack of quality and somewhat toxic smell in the air. Even with our corona-masks, our breathing became so compromised that we decided to head back indoors and cut our night short. When tuning into the weather broadcast on the news, I heard a never before description of the forecast. The next few days called for “smoke” and an unhealthy air quality that came with a warning to “stay home.”

The following day was terrible, but waking up Sunday morning was downright scary, being engulfed with this thick smoke. Luckily, there was no smell of fire. But I couldn’t help but think of the John Carpenter film ‘The Fog.’ Having never seen anything like it. I raced for my camera to document the site. And what a frightening site it was.

I love you, Dad.

Recently, my father and I have engaged in numerous conversations regarding drinking and his alcohol consumption over the years. This morning’s call to him had no intention other than to tell him how proud I was of the man he’s become. As of late, I’ve become somewhat reluctant to write about him within a specified period, as not to paint him as a one-dimensional character. You see, the stories and the time frame in which I’ve chosen to write, come from a time, though not forgotten, happened long, long ago. If I can take away anything from both our conversations and the many experiences we’ve shared over the years is that A; We’re lucky he’s alive, and B; Grateful for the changes he made.

Though we often clash on things such as politics, religion, music, and even sports, they all feel pretty small when I think of how far we’ve come in creating an environment of mutual respect and admiration. So, in short, I just wanted to write a few words for a man I always looked up to, but could never dream of coming even close to being.

United By… Name that Band… Christie Front Drive?

Unknown (1 of 1)Having gone to so many shows in the ’90s and perhaps not having a way to file all the negatives and prints I had adequately. I would sometimes lose track of what band was featured in some of the images I had. And though I’m convinced the picture posted is of Christie Front Drive frontman Eric Richter. Though I exhausted numerous channels to confirm that, yes, it was indeed the band you mentioned, my inquiries were often answered with, “I don’t know. I never saw them live.” or “I don’t know. We never played a show with them.” Still, I always loved this image and the ones I had taken that day at ABC No Rio. So until someone says otherwise, denies or confirms, I will continue to believe this is none other than Christie Front Drive.

Laying low while dusting off some old favorites.

The recent fears of a pandemic and warnings that suggest social distancing have got us trying to stay sane as we continue to spend more and more time in lockdown. As shaking hands and sharing germs with strangers has come to a screaming halt, I’ve found more and more time to read books, listen to records, and rekindle my interest in old hobbies. When I went downtown to Pike street to pick up some refilled medication. I got a real chill, seeing what a ghost town the often lively area has become. I’ll tell you, shit doesn’t get more real than this.

F*ck (1 of 1)

Driving Lessons

Every teenager dreams of the day they get their driver’s license. It’s a right of passage that ranks up there with ones’ losing their virginity and the first time you got drunk. For me, getting my license and buying my first car with the money I had earned working at the Willowbrook Mall’s Bowery Lighting was like crossing the finishing line of a race while carrying a monkey on your back.

At the time, my most recent experience driving had included taking my mother’s car out while she and my stepdad vacationed in Puerto Rico and being told by my driving instructor to “Slow the fuck down.”

My first car cost me four hundred dollars. A two-tone blue 77′ Ford Maverick with an Eight-Track player. It wasn’t the Mustang I had my eyes on, the one that was eventually wrecked when an errant tire coming off Route-23 landed on its hood and went through its windshield, but it was mine.

154015-1977-mercury-comet-srcset-retina-xl
Please note that this image was taken from the internet.

I was so excited about pulling into the school’s parking lot while some rock anthem blasted over the speakers. Then my overprotective mother stepped in like a cop with an ax to grind and told me that, partly due to the distance of my high school and my lack of experience driving, I’d be taking the school bus or hitching a ride with a more experienced driver.

Though there was nothing, I could do or say to right this blockade to my inherent right of passage. I would find a way to get around this carnage of justice during the weekends. Having made many friends in a short time, I lived in Jersey. I had a few who lived within my mom’s imagined loop of territories I could travel.

Being that I had already spent much of my free time at a nearby friend’s home, we made an agreement that he would cover me if she’d ever call. Being that this was before the invention of cell phones and pagers, I kind of wonder how that would work if she ever did choose to call. “Oh, James said he had to drop a deuce. I’ll tell him to call you after, well, you know.”
Or “Oh, he just left to pick up some beer.” Luckily, she never did call.

On the weekends that I did manage to take that Ford for a spin, I often found myself racing down Route 3 South towards the Lincoln Tunnel and straight into Manhattan. The 9th avenue and Canal street traffic was, at least for me, the best education a young driver could ever get. The lanes seemed slimmer, the congestion multiplied, and the yellow taxies that darted in and out as if they were in a pinball machine. It’s a wonder I lived, let alone avoided any significant pileups.

Nine months later, upon graduation from high school, I would use that same car and the driving skills I had learned, to move back to Queens, where I would continue to drive that two-tone blue tank for another two or three years. Looking back, I might have wanted fully to declare my independence, if not chosen a safer outlet for my need for speed. Yet, my teen years were the best time to fight for my freedom.

Living Just Enough for the City.

As someone who grew up, lived, worked and went to school in the boroughs of New York City, I thought I’d seen it all. From the dark days of a crime-ridden city, the crack epidemic, and two terrorist attacks, one that shook the towers in 1993 and another that brought them down in 2011. Skulls (1 of 1)However, moving to Seattle has reintroduced me to some of those somewhat dark times. On the day this picture was taken, we had witnessed much of what Seattle has succumbed to. The homeless camps and tent cities on the sides of the highway, the mentally ill clashing with random passerby’s, and people are shooting up on the sidewalks, allies, and in public bathrooms. While I can’t help but feel for these people and their suffering. I can’t help but feel the atmosphere created by the politicians and appointed authorities foster it. Ax much as I’ve loved and appreciated my almost three years here. I can’t help but wonder when the powers that be will get off their duffs and find real solutions that can be put to work to help these people while saving their own city and state. Only time will tell.

The Road Ahead

Somewhere between awareness of my symptoms and diagnosing them came knowledge and acceptance that things might get a lot worse before they ever or never get better. While a pretty hard pill to swallow, (No pun intended.) I feel lucky that I have such a fantastic support system in my wife, family, friends, and doctors. However, there is one thing in particular that has become harder and Road Ahead (1 of 1)harder to accept as time goes by. That is, people always checking in on me and asking how I’m doing. Arguing with and fighting over her being too helpful or over-attentive. As time goes by, I feel myself becoming more resistant to help, while closing myself off to others. I also notice that it doesn’t take much to light my fuse or lose my temper. Whether it be snap reactions or just getting angry over things I can’t control, I’ve come to fear of becoming a cranky old son of a bitch than an optimistic one. As I move towards a new year and a new decade, I hope to move forward by taking somewhat of a step back to the practices I approached and learned from in the past. Simple things, such as meditation, breathing techniques, eating, and exercise, could all help while bringing improvements to my attitude, as well as my life. Hopefully, these little things can help in bringing me the peace of mind and mindfulness I so desperately seek.