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.
Over the last week, I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know the features on my camera. Experimenting with long exposures and mapping out areas where I’d like to put my ideas to work. Being that the symptoms of my sorta/kinda diagnosis have consistently worsened in recent weeks and months. My wife has become warier of my jetting off in the wee hours of the night without her.
So one night, just before dusk. We drove down to Seattle’s International District, where I immediately realized why, when it comes to photography, it’s almost always better to go it alone. After passing up a half a dozen spots that she deemed unsafe. We settled for Dr. Jose Rizal Park. A nice place, but one I had taken pictures from at least a dozen times. From her continually telling me to move to spare people from having to simply sidestep me. To telling me where to focus and complaining about why I had chosen to take long exposures and her getting cold on a brisk June night. Needless to say, I did not have the opportunity to take many images or follow through with any ideas I might have had. Instead, I spent the ride home explaining camera settings to a woman who, more than not, refuses to take any pictures. Overall, Dr. Jose Rizal Park and the overpass that leads you there are great spots to capture the city of Seattle, I-9, the sunset and T-Mobil park, I highly recommend visiting.
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.
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.
There are few things I love doing as much as spending endless hours in a good book store or a library. Aside from loving to read all sides of history and true crime, I often find myself drawn to biographies and any author known for his knack for gritty storytelling. Like with most things I tend to love, I have this habit of taking on more than I can handle, or in this case, read. Add to it a touch of ADHD, and I can now count seven
books that I’ve yet to complete reading. Only time and the continually shrinking space I keep compromising will have me using my library card or my kindle more often. Until then. And most likely long after, I’ll remain a book nerd.
Though I’ve never been one to make new year’s resolutions, this year I decided to set some goals for myself. While I feel that some of these goals are quite ambitious, I think that they’re both realistic and attainable. One of those goals will be to focus more time on my writing, with a focus on non-fiction and, in particular, highlighting my early life and experiences. In recent weeks, I’ve focused much of my free time writing and trying to relearn the essential grammar skills I learned in school. Though my editor at Jersey Beat and my half-brother both teach at different levels and both volunteered to edit my work, I don’t feel it’s right to burden them with more work than they already have. Aside from my books and lessons I’ve learned, I’m considering hiring a writing coach, or at least utilizing some of the services available online.
In the end, it might be worth noting that my interest in creative writing preceded my passion for photography. For one who thrived on creativity, yet somehow suffered when not nourished by such. Writing and photography served as balance, allowing me to lean towards one while the other stagnated mentally. Short story long, I feel that some, if not many of my own stories need to be written and told while memory still serves.
I spend a lot of time thinking about the kind of pictures I’d like to take. As someone who became interested in taking pictures in his teens, but didn’t own an SLR until his mid twenties. While debatable, I’d say photography has become the greatest passion in my life. As someone who made his name as a music photographer, built a strong portfolio as a studio photographer and worked continuously on a project called “Left Behind”. I feel that I’m always dedicating whatever spare time I have to learning, testing and putting new projects to work. It wouldn’t be overstating if I said it was. While my time on the East Coast offered an abundance of beautiful sunsets. Living in Seattle, an area with many lakes, bays and waterways at every turn. I have long imagined myself waking up in the early hours and driving to a spot where I can watch the sun rise.
As far as good intentions go, Friday morning’s eary trip to the docks on Harbor Avenue to watch the sunrise were as good as they come. It can’t go without saying that waking up and standing by Elliot Bay waiting for the first signs of the sun in freezing weather kind of wrecked us for the rest of day. Still, crossing something off your list definitely has it benefits and rewards. Energized by a day of napping and sampling a wide array of Thanksgiving leftovers. We were recharged enough to endure a two hour trip for hearty plates of pancakes, eggs and delicious biscuits. Fairhaven, Washington seemed the perfect destination. Though we didn’t pick a place the night before. Finding a parking spot right in front of a local eatery worked perfectly for two hungry souls who had driven two hours on empty stomachs. Though Fairhaven’s downtown is quite small. There’s enough shops and goings on to keep people entertained and making frequent returns. By the time we finished eating and walking it off, it was time to hit the road again. As usual, the sun began to set and we pulled over a few times to enjoy what is for me, a perfect time to breath and reflect on just how good things can be if you let them. Aside from almost falling in a ditch and running into oncoming traffic, I’d say I did pretty damn good.
Through the years, my wife has become a second set of eyes. There have been countless times when she’s requested I take shots from her minds eye and even removed my camera from my neck strap and literally taken things into her own hands. Only to frustratingly hand the camera back to me when here shot doesn’t live up to her vision. Today just happened to be one of those days. When she stopped me to show me the buds of a certain plant. She removed the camera from my neck and attempted to take her best shot. For whatever reason, she seemed befuddled as to why the auto focus wasn’t working. As I began to explain macro photo to her and suggested she try manual focus, she grew frustrated, handed the camera back to me and mumbled “Im not a photographer. You do it.” So, I did. Not bad considering I only had a 28-105 lens handy.
Having grown up in Queens, New York and living just a few blocks from Times Square and the then gritty 42nd st. for close to ten years as an adult. Moving out west allowed me to explore places I’d never been. Though growing up with urban surroundings might not be for everyone’s thing. I wouldn’t trade my experiences for anything. Still, any trip outside of the city and outside of my element brings out a child like excitement and sense of wonderment that cannot be measured or contained. If it weren’t for my wife refusing to drive into a ditch or pull over every time I exhale an “Ooh” or an “Ahh”. We would never reach our intended destination. Here’s to those who wholeheartedly embrace the phrase “it’s the journey, not the destination.”
If you let it, life can teach you a lot of things. Some of the most important things I learned were about empathy and how much of the happiness we enjoy comes from helping others. No one is perfect and we all carry scars we often wear for all to see. There’s nothing wrong with making mistakes, as long as you learn and grow from them. I’ve yet to meet anyone who hasn’t made a few. Even the strongest take a beating every now and then. I know this from my own experience.
I learned to defend myself and fight at a very young age and with all the broken noses and black eyes I delivered as a kid, It was the first beating I took, that stands out the most. I’ve had my share of battles outside of the schoolyards and streets. We all have. What’s most important is that we never give up or settle. In the end, it’s how we treated others. If there ever comes a time when we’ll be judged or remembered. It will most likely hinge on how we overcame life’s obstacles and how we treated others. In the end, I hope to leave a positive footprint on those I have encountered.