I was having a conversation with my physical therapist when the topic of camping came up. She was utterly shocked by the fact that I had never spent a weekend or even a night in a tent with the glow of a warm fire just a few feet away. Growing up in Queens, New York. There were always adventures to be had. Playing inside and on construction sites, fumbling through cemeteries at night and trespassing in general. Not to mention the bus trips to the Bronx Zoo where we could catch a glimpse of the burnt out buildings and the areas crack heads and window washers. who begged for money outside of the tunnels or where the bridges dispatched cars, trucks and buses throughout Manhattan.
It wasn’t until my early twenties that I began traveling extensively, skydiving, white water rafting and cliff diving. Still, there was always the opportunity to return home to a hotel or hostel at the end of the day. No disrespect to campers, tents, sleeping bags and roasting marshmallows by the campfire. Each and every one of those mentioned would be super cool. But I slept off a night of heaving drinking and hardcore in Central Park in my teens and I think my fear of being murdered by an axe or machete wielding maniac trumps that of a mugger in the park. Years, no decades later. I have a hard enough time getting my wife to join me game of Wiffle ball or Frisbee. I don’t think my chances of getting her to go camping with me are much better. People change, so who knows. Maybe my time will come.
While there’s never been a day that I haven’t regretted leaving my camera at home. The practice of bringing one with me everywhere I go has undoubtedly kept me from living in the moment and learning to appreciate something without documenting it for whatever reasons I deem fit. Knowing full well the perils of cluttering your hard drive, computer or phone device with countless unwanted images. Old habits die hard and trying to capture images that inspire you in on way or another is nothing to fault someone over. Still, capturing images with my phone allows me to instantly edit and feel less compelled to keep what I don’t want. Being that I still find inspiration in things others often overlook or discard. I’m thankful for having more than one option to capture and share the things I love.
For as long as I can remember and probably before. I’ve always been drawn to gas stations and junk yards. From a very young age I could often be found snooping around the gas station on my corner of 83rd street and Astoria Blvd. or tagging along with my Dad to collect from many of the gamblers who worked at the junk yards outside of Shea Stadium. Drawn perhaps, by the smell of gasoline, barb wired fences, guard dogs and random car parts. These places served as the keys to some of my earliest adventures.
So when my wife pulled in to the parking space across from Central District Ice Cream. My excitement regarding a sweet weekend treat was doubled by the site of an abandoned / out of business gas station. Between the antique cars parked in the lot to the hose-less gas pumps. It was all goosebumps and fist pumps. Once again, I was reduced to using my cellphone. I snapped a few shots before joining my wife for ice cream across the street.
As for the ice cream. My wife had a cup of Peanut Butter & Plum Jam. While I indulged in a waffle cone of Coconut Cantaloupe. Great stuff and highly recommended on our part. As I get older, I take a lot of satisfaction knowing that the smell of old gas stations and the taste of freshly scooped ice cream still bring a smile to my face.
When leaving the house this morning. I left with no intentions of checking my camera’s battery or making sure the card inside had been cleared, or for a better word, “formatted” the last time I uploaded a session to my laptop. As of late, my newer camera bag. The one I bought to house a rather large 70-200 lens. Seems to be getting heavier and heavier.
Truth be told, I’ve gotten lazy and though not seeing nearly as many as many photographers and more phones being used to capture the moment makes me cranky. I can’t help think that maybe I should be changing with the times. However, with my stumbling, fumbling, shutting off and often having to remove my thumb from the picture i’m trying to compose. Chances are I’ll be holding on to my film and DSLR’s for years to come. And while there’s no doubting my regret of not taking my camera long with me for such a picturesque trip. I was pretty satisfied with some of the images I managed to capture with my phone.
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.
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.
For close to a year now, my doctors, therapists and my wife have urged me to open up about my health issues and the issues that accompany them. Knowing full well that trying to protect myself and loved ones from worrying about me and or thwarting their insistence on helping me, has only hurt me. Hasn’t helped in any way, form or matter. My attempts to hide symptoms and an overall fucked up long term outlook have only made me angrier and wasted much of the time I could have better invested elsewhere.
The hardest part by far has been trying to keep my parents at a safe distance. When I first arrived in Seattle. I had already been experiencing symptoms that my primary doctor of close to ten years had pretty much reduced my mounting issues as post brain tumor, post stroke relate issues. While numerous blood tests were ordered and performed over the years. Little more was ever suggested or done. It wasn’t until I went out on my own and booked an appointment with a nearby neurologist that my issues were properly addressed and tested, that I found out I had a meninigioma brain tumor. Not a threat to my life, but something else to worry about and keep track of.I was angry at my doctor for his lack of action and insight, but I also couldn’t help but blame myself for trusting him for so long.
Fast forward a few months, my symptoms worsened. I made connections with the right doctors and hoped that removing the new brain tumor would right the course. Further tests were including an MRI and CAT-Scan followed. The results were nothing I ever expected or be prepared for. I was told that alarming amounts of calcium had massed on my brain and I had a rare neurological syndrome/disease I had never heard of. One that had no cure and no known treatment. One that was progressively erodes your motor skills while wrecking havoc on your speech.
I was given a referrals to speech, a physical therapist and a social worker, My requests for a drano cocktail and a handgun were turned down and taken as a sign that I might be a suicide risk. (Note. New York humor and Washington State humor are very different.)
Since that October meeting. I found a great physical therapist just a few blocks from me. My social worker (One I really appreciated having.) moved back to her home town of Minnesota. I’m on my second walker, one which I need to get around with and one that keeps me from falling down and injuring myself. And while I’m being mentally prepared for a future in a wheel chair. I am doing everything in my power to remain active and positive. I’m boxing, lifting weights, going to the gym, writing and traveling as much as possible.
In the end, the hardest part has been opening up and struggling not to internalize my feelings or blame myself. I know what my friends and family went through during other life threatening episodes in my life. Because of that, I’ve tried to do everything in my power to shield and protect them from any pain, worry or complicate things any more than possible. I’m already feeling an immense pressure trying to keep my family at bay, while keeping them as informed and updated as possible. Opening up gives me the chance to breath again and say “I’m alright.” “Just give me the space and time I need to deal with things. I’m not writing this to worry anyone or look for sympathy. I won’t be starting any “Go fund me” bullshit. I’m just hoping for some acceptance and understanding. Below are some links that I thought would be helpful.
Web MD Brain Tumors
Virginia Mason Hospital
Renew Physical Therapy