Lessons Learned, or Completely Missed

IMG_3701As I recall. We were standing in the back yard of the home he and my Mother purchased when they were first married. At the time, my Dad had gone from having a steady city job driving a bus to a re-invented, self employed business man.

I recall being somewhat angry and showing some aggression towards my Father. Suddenly, perhaps understanding and wanting to quell my anger. My Father took my rather small hand in his, opened my clinched fist and placed a hollow point bullet (the same one you see pictured on the right.) without speaking a single word. While I didn’t quite understand its true meaning at the time and it’s come to mean a lot of things to me over the years. These days, I realize that he was trying to teach me that our anger, if not managed, can lead us down dark and dangerous paths.

While a short time in retrospect.,(maybe five or six years.) my Father may or may not have bent the rules of what some might consider legal. During that time, my experiences and the people I met along the way enabled me to see the world much differently from what I was being taught in Catholic school. It taught me that things are seldom black & white and that most situations contain a lot of grey areas. The things I experiences and exchanges I was given access to, taught me more than I would have ever expected. Til’ this day, more than thirty five years later, I still keep that hollow point on the end table by my side of the bed. It has never since see the chamber of a gun and surely never will. When I do pick it up and let it roll around in my palm, I often think of my Dad and that important part of our lives. The stories, the characters and the many things life taught me.

Hidden Treasure

Since I was a young boy, I’ve always been intrigued by old cars and trucks. Unlike some, many of my earliest memories don’t involve trips to Disney Land or rides on the merry-go-round with a parent looking on proudly documenting the moment on super 8 film. Not me, my most cherished memories involve my dad taking me to the junkyards just beyond Shea Stadium by Willets Point to find a part for his latest clunker or to exact a debt from someone who couldn’t cover the split on the recent prize fight or that week’s Football game. Those early trips to the unpaved roads and auto part graveyard, along with our treks to the train yards in Woodside, Queens would help shape my love of art, antiques, crate digging for records, antiques and finding the beauty in things others often leave behind. Here’s to seeking out, searching and finding those hidden treasures.

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Last Words and their Indelible Impact.

I was living in Midtown Manhattan when my grandmother was hospitalized. The smart as whip, quick witted person I had known my whole life was quickly fading. and though I could not accept it at the time., was not returning home or even graduating to one of those old age homes that, at the time, had only seen in movies and on TV. With trips from the Broadway office where I worked quickly becoming a challenge. I decided to stay with my Dad in Staten Island, just blocks away from the hospital she had been admitted to.

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One weekend morning.as I held her fragile hand in mine. She turned to me and in a weakened voice inquiring about an incident I hadn’t thought of in close to twenty years. Referring to a second grade incident that I took the blame for but never played any part in or even witness. “Why did you throw that girl’s snow boots out the window?” Those words, the last she would utter before passing away served as a heavy burden I still carry today. Of all the things I did. The bloody noses and black eyes I gave out to those who came to me looking for a fight. The times I mouthed off to teachers or questioned the religious dogma we were being force fed. The one she took to the grave was the crime I never committed.

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While I still look back, dream and write about my childhood and growing up. Rarely do my dreams include the angel who played a pivotal role in my growing up and becoming a man. The few times she’s showed up in my dreams, her role mirrors that of her real life presence. Through thick and thin, my grandmother was always that of a care giver and a peace maker. Whereas she always comes up in conversation with my Dad and Step Mom. I often feel that I never had a chance to thank her for her infinite kindness, hard work and guidance. I promise to always be grateful and appreciative. Oh, and just a reminder. I never touched her boots.

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Independent Bookstore Day

In support of Independent Bookstore Day, a celebration of books and the independent spirit that comes with owning, operating, working or choosing to shop in one. We headed to Tacoma to join in all the fun. Everything from the old school printing presses set up in the adjacent parking lot to the record, book and comic shop was so much fun. Though we missed the opportunity to take home the tacoccentric Tacoma shirt. We stayed in a line long enough to make one our own take home prints on one of the Wayzgoose! Letterpress machines. After that, it was off to Wooden City Bar for Pizza , Foss Waterway Seaport and a long look at the Tacoma Bridge before heading home. And though the rain the weather girl promised did come. It was hardly enough to put a damper on our plans.

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My First Full Out Record Store Day Participation.

About a year prior to my moving to a neighborhood just a few blocks from Times Square. A friend of mine convinced me to spend New Years eve freezing my ass off in a spot secured hours before the mercurial ball fell, welcoming the new year with new hope, a clean slate and number of resolutions that would surely broken within a matter of days, if not hours. Though I never would repeat the act and seldomly go near that tourist trap in my eight or so years as a Hell’s Kitchen. I had earned the right to say. “I did that.”  Bone shivering cold and tinging extremities aside. It was somewhat of a right of passage from adolescence to adulthood.

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As 2019′ Record Store Day quickly approached and the weeks turned to days. I did everything in my power to convince my loving, supportive and determined wife that I did not want or need to partake in such shenanigans. . Still, in the end. It felt as though she was, not only interested, but determined to go through with a plan. Regardless of proper and scientific research. In the days that led up to the event, she sent me the RSD release list and even sat down to go over my picks.

Friday night came and after arriving home from dinner. We set our alarms for 6:00am. In the back of my head I imagined either sleeping through the alarms droning or my wife flat out inability to get up that early on a weekend morning. Surprisingly enough, neither occurred and we were on the road in time to arrive just two minutes after the store’s scheduled 7:00 am opening.

As we approached the store, drove past the awaiting crowd and noticed that the line to get in stretched around two corners. An admitted sufferer of agoraphobia and one who lacks the needed patience to stand in line. I quickly remarked, “Fuck this, let’s go get breakfast. Without much debate,  we turned the car around and headed back to our home base where we experienced a first, in that we were the first customers to enter our favorite breakfast spot. After copious plates of french toast, eggs and bacon. I was convinced to give it another try.

Upon returning to the scene of the crime. The store had opened and the line was now half the original size. As we inched closer to the corner and our opportunity to enter. We began to see customers emerge from the store with bags spilling over with records. My wife teasing me about the store  being empty by the time we finally gained entry. Still feeling anxious about our choice to join the crowd. I couldn’t help but imagine the line that awaited inside.

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When we finally did make it inside. There was indeed a line wrapped around the first floor leading to the stairs that bring you to all of the gleaming, shiny records. As I tried to navigate my way to the end of the line. I not only lost my wife but felt myself being swallowed by the limited pressing horde of vinyl junkies. However, after a few calls and texts, we found ourselves navigating our stairway to nerdville. Once there, we quickly split up, quickly grabbing copies of things on our list. IMG_5019While I was quick to scoop up the last copy of the Devo Box Set. My wife did an exceptional job scooping up most of what remained on the list. From there, we headed downstairs to join the checkout line and sped off to nearby Georgetown where we ended our record shopping day by indulging in Japanese styled hamburgers. And while I promised to never get swept up in Record Store Day mania. I can pound my chest while proclaiming “I did that.” And while I promised myself to lay off buying anymore records for a while. I’ve already planned to return on Monday to pick up the remainders from that original list. Until then.

 

Industrial Tacoma

While it’s seldom discussed outside the photographers circle. I am pretty sure there is something equivalent to a photographers boner. Though not thoroughly researched. I can assure you that there are a number of subjects that bring tingles to my lower parts.  One of them is industrial photography and the kind that just might include a little trespassing. As someone who, at the age of seven considered construction sites part of his urban playground. I have a long history of being both physically and creatively drawn to industrial types of art, architecture and style.

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Deciding to turn down a different street, take a different route and cross that bridge yesterday in Tacoma paid endless dividends. While we had already been having a stellar day of beautiful weather, good food, record shopping and coffee. The tail end of our visit, was by far the most rewarding. My eyes lit up as I spotted a collection of out of commission train cars just outside one of the industrial parks businesses.  loudly urged “Stop.” “Stop.” “Stop the car.” As I jumped out of my seat toretrieve my camera from the trunk. Though I can’t wait to go back and further explore that particular area. I feel lucky to have a few worthwhile images to go home with.

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A Movie Scene Triggers a Memory

Trip-1.jpgBack in 2016 I went to the theater to see “Snowden”. The true story of an NSA agent who reveals illegal surveillance techniques used by our government to spy on its own citizens. There are a couple of scenes in the movie where the character suffers from seizures that had

him writhing uncontrollably on the floor. As someone who suffered from a serious seizure disorder from the age of eighteen to about twenty four. Those scenes freaked me the fuck out. So much so, that I could feel myself unexpectedly welling up with tears and feeling overwhelmed. You see, though I have experienced having seizures myself, countless times over. I had never seen one from the eye of the beholder. During the times people like my Father described the frightening scene that would unfold before them. My unresponsiveness and the sheer sense of helplessness that accompanies it. I completely roll up into a metaphorical ball of guilt and shame. Recalling how often I joked or made lite of my disorder and the challenges that came with them. Know what I put others through makes me want to take it all back.

Now, having a seizure disorder is nothing to joke about. Over the years I woke up many times with  the taste of concrete or soil in my mouth. I had my share of trips to the emergency room and I can remember the crazy hallucinations that often accompanied them. Yet, over time I got to know the warning signs as well as the triggers. I learned enough to consistently question my doctors upon visits and do enough research of my own to learn that the medication/medications they were prescribing and insisted I’d have to take the rest of my life were not curtailing the frequency of my seizures while giving me a pack of side effects to add to my misery. Add to that the horror stories I reading in the medical journals my Father just happened to have lying around. Through quick browsing I learned that the long term affects of the drugs were going to do more damage than good.

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Upon informing my family and doctors I would be ending the endless cycle of medication and doctors visits. I was met with closed minds, disbelief and a couple of dozen cases of “But, James.” Still, I went forward with my plans to take a more holistic approach. Seizures followed, but for once, I was taking responsibility for what was happening to me. I made changes to my diet and every day habits and before you knew it. I went from having up to three seizures a day to going years without them. No more Epilepsy Society, no more medication, no more visits to the doctor or even worse, the ER.

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I’d feel remiss and somewhat irresponsible for not adding that my decisions and choices were mine and mine alone. Everyone’s case is different and no one in their right mind should refuse treatment. My story and road to recovery is mine alone. As painful as it might have been for me. I feel as if seeing something so jarring from a different viewpoint was an education, of sorts. I think it’s somewhat universal that seeing or experiencing both sides of the coin gives you better insight into the situation. I know it did for me.