2014 New Year’s Resolution… Failed Already

I guess it’s good to get these things out of the way early.  Heh!

I had a plan.  It was a good plan.  A great plan even.  If I do say so myself.  And I do.  Because if I don’t…  who will?

As demanded by my nephew, age 2 1/2.
As demanded by my nephew, age 2 1/2. My sister has a strict rule against pictures of her children appearing on the internet, but I’m pretty sure a photo of the indistinguishable knees of her only male child would be considered harmless enough to not cause offense, if she even knew this website existed.

You see, it’s like this.  Back in April, after I was offered the short-lived disaster of a job I had this year, and negotiated a start date that would allow me to take a much over-due trip to visit my sister and her family, including four children (my nieces and nephew), two of whom I had never seen in person, I decided that it was the opportunity and excuse I needed to invest in a fancy new 35 mm digital camera.  I’ve always been interested in photography and wanted to learn more about it and with a digital camera I’d be able to see the immediate results of my attempts to improve on technique and composition.  I bought the camera and took it with me on the trip, and of course, as soon as I took the camera out on the first day, the children started being children and wanted to take pictures themselves, and tell me what pictures I should take (my nephew kept saying, “take a picture of mine’s knees”), and insisted on seeing the pictures the instant they were taken.  Very few pictures were actually taken on that trip because the camera posed such a distraction and any hope of getting some candid, true life photos was dashed on the first day.

Over the summer, I decided to take a photography class at the local community college.  I knew from other’s experiences that this class would teach me not only how to compose a good quality, artistic photograph, but also, how to use editing software to make the picture look even better.  A few days after I registered for the photography class, I decided to register for the first level, beginning swimming class and soon after decided that both classes were too much to do all at once, at the time.  Ultimately, I decided that the swimming class was a higher priority because I wanted to be able to find a place to go to swim for exercise and once I had that covered I could be swimming for exercise while I learned to take and edit good quality photographs in a later semester.  That is still the plan, although when classes start up again in a couple of weeks, I’ll be taking the next swimming class with the hope of getting more effective and confident in that skill.  Photography will wait until Summer or Fall Semesters.  The camera sits in its case for weeks or months at a time without getting used and I’ve never finished reading the owner’s manual, or the “Photography for Dummies” book that I purchased and lugged all the way to New York and back with me, without ever cracking the spine.

During my most recent previous stint of unemployment, I began participating in a “photo-a-day” program run by the author of another blog, using just my iPhone and an Instagram account I haven’t even looked at in months.  When I started working, I found myself far too busy and far to pre-occupied to keep up with it and I let it drop.

Recently, my urge to learn to properly use my camera has returned, as has my desire to practice and build my skill.  I have also wanted to get back to more regular posting here on this site, and not have everything be all gloom and doom and woe is me as the last several months have been.

And then it hit me!  The great idea!  The perfect “solution”!  “Photo-A-Day” meets “posting 365” (or whatever the hell they called it) meets new inspiration for both more and better photography AND more and more cheerful writing…  I decided I would pull out the photography books and read a little bit of them each day, and I would combine that with the photo-a-day prompts from Fat Mum Slim and everyday, I would take a picture that is prompted by the Photo-A-Day prompt and post it on this here bloggy thingy.  I would write a post about the photo if the spirit moved me, or I would just post the picture with a minimal explanation/caption and let it stand on its own.  Every day.  For 365 days.

I’ve already failed.

I wasn’t going to get too bogged down in the details of actually starting the plan on January 1st.  It’s already 2:00 in the morning on January 2nd, so you see how well that worked out.  But I was going to do a post for every picture and a picture for every day…

I worked last night.  For the first time in more years than I can remember, I worked on New Year’s Eve.  I would far rather have been out celebrating somewhere, preferably somewhere far away, like Las Vegas, or Sidney Harbor, but I need the money, and New Year’s Eve seemed like a good opportunity to earn a lot of tips.  (It could have been a lot better than it was, but the whole experience is a separate story for another post.)  I didn’t get off work until 1:45 AM.  One of the other bar tenders who happens to live right down the street from me and I rode BART home from the city together and I gave her a ride from the station to her house.  She invited me in and we had a two plus hours over-due celebratory glass of champagne and chatted for a little while before I went home.  I arrived at home around 4:00 AM at which time I took a shower.  I’ve never been able to go straight to bed after either arriving home, or taking a shower.  I need time to settle in first.  Plus, I had “nerd things” to do with my tip money.  I briefly entertained the idea that I just wouldn’t sleep until bedtime on January 1st, because I knew that what happened, would happen…  By 6:00 AM I was exhausted, could barely keep my eyes open and had no idea what I was seeing on the Netflix DVD I was watching.  I gave up and went to bed, slept until noon and have not had the slightest inclination to sleep again.  This is a scenario I do not want to make into a habit

When I woke up I was hungry and didn’t have time for “what should I cook for lunch”.  I needed to eat immediately, so failing all other options (or rational consideration thereof) I ended up eating a couple of Eggo toaster waffles.  Once the waffles were gone and the dish was washed off and in the sink (the dishwasher is full of clean dishes and I haven’t put forth the effort to put them away yet) I went to the living room and sat down.  It was only then that I pulled up the schedule of prompts for the photo-a-day program and saw today’s prompt:  lunch.  I couldn’t even think of a viable and reasonable way to cheat.

Sometimes it’s good to set the bar low right up front so you only have one way to go from there…

CPT, Part 2

Eighteen years ago, today, I walked across the stage at the Mabee Center, at Oral Roberts University, in Tulsa, OK, shook the hand of some random old man, had a picture snapped which somehow managed to make my nose and chin look 18 inches larger (each) than their already gargantuan proportions and walked down the steps on the other side with a diploma in my hand.  I could tell you more about the evening, but, well, I really don’t remember anything else about that day.  It was much too stressful and busy and overwhelming.

Fourteen hours ago, today, Laura walked across a stage somewhere, and shook hands with some old person (probably) and walked back off the stage with a diploma in her hands.  My graduation was from high school; her’s was from college.  I’m very proud of her and her achievement, even if I don’t really know her all that well.

A couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail invitation from Laura’s mother inviting me to an open house at her home in celebration of Laura’s graduation and I confirmed my attendance.  My assumptions about tonight’s event were slightly off, but only slightly.  This was not a party of Laura’s peers.  Maybe I should have realized that her peers would all have their own family gatherings to attend on this important day and that it wouldn’t be a bunch of 22 year-olds hanging out with the “old guy”.  Instead it was a bunch of Laura’s extended family and friends and former teachers and coaches.  I was still the odd man out, but I wasn’t the oldest person there, by far.  It’s OK.  I anticipated it and didn’t expect anything different.  Laura actually apologized to me– well, Me and Micah and Judy, for not spending more time with us.  I told her, “Don’t be sorry.  This is your day and all these people were here for you.  Most of them have known you longer than I have.  No one could expect you to spend very much time with them.  You have nothing to feel bad about.”

When I decided, I was ready to leave, Micah decided he was ready to leave too.  Apparently that thing about him understanding he had to find his own way home was not so much with the correct.  I asked him where he expected me to take him.  I didn’t really plan on taking him home since it was out of my way.  He mumbled something about friends in The City and I told him, “I’M NOT TAKING YOU TO SAN FRANCISCO!”  He laughed and told me he had said he needed to find out if they were there and I could just drop him at a BART station or something.

I told him I could drop him at the Fruitvale BART station which is right by my house and he said that would be fine. On the ride toward Oakland, he made some phone calls and found out what he needed to know and just as I was about to take the interchange from Highway 24 to Highway 13, toward my home, Micah said, “Um, you can just stay in this lane” in a tone that suggested he was innocently giving me directions how to get somewhere I hadn’t been before.

“I can?” I asked as I turned my blinker off.  “Where am I taking you now?”  Micah kind of hemmed and hawed before telling me he guessed I could just take him home.  “I can?” I asked again.  “Is that what would be most convenient for you?”  We both laughed.  It was sort of an inside joke, as he and I had discussed my issue with Judy earlier in the day.  I decided to go ahead and take him all the way home because we were in the middle of a conversation that I deemed worth finishing.

Judy, apparently, had some issues in her attempt to take public transportation and she ended up choosing to go ahead and drive herself to the party.  She arrived, under her own steam, shortly before 7:00 and immediately launched into her “Woe is me” story of trials and tribulations trying to get there.  I acknowledge that is fairly normal human behavior given what she’d been through.  I also acknowledge that I was already on edge with her and that I may have been predisposed to not like what she had to say.

I noticed something tonight, that I’ve never noticed before, though how I could miss it I do not know.  Judy has to make everything about her.  Every conversation, every story, every interaction, everything, Has.  To be.  About.  Her.  I would start to talk to Micah about something and she’d turn it around to be about her.  I talked briefly to Laura about her day and Judy turned it around to be about her.  Somehow I managed to walk through the house and into the back yard without noticing the photo gallery inside.  As I was ready to leave I noticed some striking photographs of the San Francisco sky line, asked Laura’s mother who the photographer was, and found out that her mother is a professional photographer.  Judy managed to make it about her.

As I pulled away from Laura’s mother’s house with Micah in my passenger seat, he ruminated about whether “we all” would really hang out together now that we are approaching the final week of the EMT class.  I confided in Micah, “I know this is a terrible thing for me to say, but I’m going to say it anyway, because I’m a terrible person.  I really like you and would like to keep hanging out with you.  And I really like Laura and would like to get to know her better.  But I don’t really enjoy hanging out with Judy all that much and I’m kind of afraid it’s an all or nothing kind of package deal.”  I would hate to have my feelings about Judy get in the way of friendships with other people; on the other hand, I could see Judy getting in the way of being able to develop those friendships in the first place.  I don’t know what’s going to come of that.

Toward the end of that conversation I told Micah that there was something specific that Judy had said in the past that gave me great concern about being friends with her.  Judy has a tattoo on her leg of a rainbow-colored ichthus which one night before class Laura asked her about.  Judy told her that it was an ichthus because it’s a symbol of God, and she wanted it rainbow-colored because it represented God’s covenant with Noah and his promise never to flood the earth again.  Laura, just as innocently and endearingly as can be asked, “Is that why it’s used for gay pride?

Judy, rather indignantly in my opinion, said, “No!  They stole it.”  Her tone and demeanor actually reminded me of my mother and I was not impressed.

I told Micah this story… And I told him that I am gay.  And in spite of my best intentions of not caring what other people think or whether they approve, I was nervous; cold and shaking.  Micah, for his part said, “OK,” and moved on with the conversation.  He still wants to hang out and be friends.

I’ve thought of telling him, all three of them, more than once, but I didn’t.  First because I’m just not comfortable talking about it face to face with people, and I don’t know if I ever will be.

But the thing is, as dumb as it is, I kind of don’t want Laura to find out.  I’m still kind of crushin’ on her.  I know it’ll pass.  I know it’s all in my head.  I  know nothing can come of it, but in the back of my mind, the thought keeps coming up that maybe it could and maybe her finding out that “I thought I was gay” will send her away before we get a chance.

I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just enjoying the fantasy.  Lord knows that’s all it is.  Maybe it’s just the idea of being in love and being loved AND being in an “acceptable relationship” (acceptable to society, but even more, acceptable to my mother) that’s so bewitching, but I can’t help feeling like Laura finding out will destroy that fantasy and I’m just not ready for that to happen, yet.

It felt good to be open and honest with yet another person though.

A Thousand Words

I have never been a fan of paintings.  I’m not sure why.  My Paternal Grandmother was a painter and most of my family, including my mother (who has been divorced from my father for 33 years) has at least one of my Grandmother’s paintings in their home.  I do not.  I never cared and I never felt like sentimentality was a reason to possess or hang something that I don’t like.

I love photographs.  I desperately want to purchase a good 35mm digital camera and take a photography class.  I really enjoy a well thought out, unique photograph of a beautiful, or even just personally meaningful, vista.  I have photographs all around my house, mostly images of San Francisco.  I have no photographs of people… at all.  I’ve never had an interest in hanging pictures of people in my house.

I have a few pictures of my nieces and nephew pinned to a bulletin board in my office, but that’s it.  I’m not sure why there’s a difference, but there is.

When I take photographs, I almost never take pictures of people.  Some of my favorite photography subjects have been the beach, famous (and not so famous) San Francisco architecture, Sculpture, the fountains in Lake Bellagio (I still need to get that roll of film developed) and of course, Mischa.

I don’t take pictures of people.  Not strangers, not family, nobody.  And I sure don’t display them.  I’ve never understood why people do.

I’m sure this mentality lead to my feelings expressed in my recent blog posts, but what led to these feelings?  I remembered something at the end of my session with Deb; something I didn’t actually forget, just hadn’t thought about in a very long time.

When I was a kid, my father and step-monster used to take my Brother and Sister and me to get a portrait taken every year.  Every. Year.  Sometimes more than once.  Back in the day there was a portrait studio in Cincinnati, maybe still is, called Olan Mills.  Olan Mills offered free sessions to shoot your portraits and they made their money on the prints (at least that’s how I remember it.)

These experiences were always painful, drawn out and horrible.  They always resulted in tears.  I hated having my picture taken (some things never change) and I never wanted to do it.  If, however, I was going to have to have my picture taken, I wanted to at least be able to be comfortable doing it.  I wanted to wear clothes that I liked and I felt like I looked good in.  My father and step-monster had different opinions.

“Don’t you want the picture to look nice?” the step-monster would ask.  She always has a demeaning and over-bearing tone, even if/when she doesn’t mean to.  She would stand over and lean toward me and look at me with eyes that were probably uncomprehending, but looked angry to my seven-year-old self.

“I think I do look nice,” I would answer, meekly.  I meant what I said, but already knew I was going to lose this so-called battle.

“But don’t you want to look dressed up?” she would say, thinking this would clarify things.

“No!” I answered angrily.  I didn’t want to look “dressed up”.  I wasn’t comfortable “dressed up”.  And I didn’t have any “dressed up” clothes at my father’s house.

My father’s house was always dirty, and drafty and messy.  My mother says I always came home from my father’s house with a cold and with some sort of wound; a splinter or a cut or bruise.  The clothes I wore would be stained and ruined with motor oil or grease from a wood shop tool that wasn’t properly shielded.  So she stopped sending clothes with me, telling him instead to buy me clothes to have at his house.  So I had garage sale finds and TJ Maxx Bargain Bin finds that the Step-Monster bought for me, without my presence or input.  And she didn’t buy “dressed up” clothes because what would I need them for?

Their idea of “dressed up” was for me to wear hand me downs from my older brother, or worse, from one of the Step-Monster’s children who were eons older than I was.  A button-down collared, Oxford cloth shirt with the shoulder seams hanging low and a large gap in the collar, and a tie, with a double windsor from my father’s collection; that was their idea of dressed up.  And that was her idea of what our portrait should be.

I wanted to wear my corduroys and a modern t-shirt that I believed was stylish and trendy and would make me look better that I did on my own.  It wasn’t “dressed up” but that didn’t mean I didn’t look good.

Some parents have a bad habit of attempting to reason with a child, using logic that makes sense to them, but perhaps not to a seven year old, and when that attempt fails then resort to yelling and issuing commands.  And that is where we always found ourselves.

“Kevin, we don’t have time for this, go change your clothes,” my father would intone, loudly.

There was no point in arguing further and I would turn away, slowly, sullenly and drag my toes as I slunk off to put on the shirt and tie and pants that had been selected for me to wear.

And I would sob.

I didn’t want to have my picture taken.  I was ugly and I didn’t want to have to see it, or have other people see it for eternity.  I didn’t need a reminder of this life I was living and I didn’t want to take the fucking picture.

I didn’t want to take the picture, and I didn’t want to be forced to do something I didn’t want to do.  I didn’t want to have the power and the choice stripped away from me, compelled to violate my own free will.

And let’s face it.  I was seven.  I believed that if I made it a miserable enough experience, they would give in and not make us do it.  At the very least they would decide it wasn’t worth the trouble and never do it again…  Right?  Right?  Hello?  Is this thing on?

But don’t get me wrong.  My tears were real.  My anguish and desperation were real.  I would sob from the moment I shuffled off to dress as my master had commanded, until the moment we got into the studio and…  Well, I have to hand it to photographers who take those kinds of pictures.  Despite my genuine suffering and despair, they always managed to get me to smile and laugh and dare I say it, look happy.  The pictures would actually turn out as well as can be expected for a self-perceived to be ugly, genuinely UNphotogenic seven-year-old boy.

And my father and step-monster?

They never bought a single portrait.  Ever.