It has been my displeasure to watch charming towns grow up, and as they do, “grow” economically, meaning that they get more businesses, and in turn get more infrastructure. Taos was once small and charming, but it now has a super Walmart, a sign that it has changed into an emotionally dead suburb. Santa Fe and Moab, Utah, have both died in my eyes in this way.
Poverty due to the virus
It was pretty clear looking at the number of closed, and even abandoned, businesses that towns that rely heavily, or even exclusively, on tourism and recreation fared worse than most because of the pandemic.
On at least two days in Taos, I saw a car legally parked in front of First Baptist Church, covered in blaze yellow signs criticizing Vacation Bible School as “brainwashing.” It’s a pretty strong statement, and many people I know would probably find it offensive, but however you feel about the statement, you have to admit that making it was free speech in its purest form.
Food and more food
We had several great meals on our trip, from an amazing pizza in Taos to a great veggie burger and sweet potato fries in Madrid, but honestly, I don’t understand people for whom the best part of travel is the food. The best meals in our lives are usually at home, and I can get a great meal anywhere. I drive to Utah or New Mexico to find things we don’t have in Oklahoma, like mountains, deserts, and canyons, not overpriced appetizers.
Early May was sunny and perfect for the baseball, softball and tennis playoffs I covered, but by the middle of the month, a consistent rainy pattern had set in.
I made several photo walks around the patch after walking the dogs.
At work, I’m shooting and writing well, and feel like I am succeeding in mentoring our intern, Mackenzee Crosby, well. I have a pretty versatile skill set, but I don’t do everything. I couldn’t tell you, for example, the first thing about covering a court case as a reporter.
At my suggestion, she called her column “Ellen in Grey.”
This was my column two Saturdays ago, but I rewrote it a bit for the blog.
I am pleased to welcome my long-time friend Mackenzee E. Crosby as the summer 2021 intern for The Ada News. I lobbied for her to get this position, and so far, she has delivered.
I believe I first met her when her eighth grade class at Ada Junior High won a bet to collectively give over 100 units of blood products at blood drive, and was rewarded by being allowed to shave Luke Penrod’s head.
As the years have gone by, our paths crossed at events like Open Mic Nyte, graduations, and, in early 2020, Mackenzee interviewed my wife Abby and me for a college class assignment.
Mac comes to us with a rich history of imaging, especially for someone so young. Her images are fresh and innovative, yet have a “shoot from the hip” rawness about them that I find intriguing.
Her work reminds me that I need to embrace that rawness in my own work, which can sometimes be too safe and habitual.
On a more personal note, which I didn’t include in my column, Mackenzee has endured some devastating tragedies, such as the debilitating traumatic brain injury to her good friend Avery Anderson in 2016, and the suicide of her father in 2018.
I told her recently that I find her a lot like I was when I was her age, especially when I read her personal writing; it is a lot like the things I wrote when I was 22.
I expect great things from Mac, and, in fact, have been very impressed with how quickly she caught on to the daily flow of news and newspaper. I think this summer is going to be a great learning experience for both of us.
A confluence of conversation this week got me thinking about aging.
“You never change,” someone told me as I was covering a playoff softball game earlier this week.
It’s true that I haven’t changed all that much in the nearly 33 years I’ve been at The Ada News. Some of that is by chance, and some is by choice.
“You kept your hair,” a friend told me recently. Yes I have, though I can’t take credit for that. Baldness is genetic, and I guess I got the lucky gene, because I have young-man’s hair. I have also been lucky so far that it has mostly kept its color, but those days are numbered. I already color my beard twice a week, and I am starting to notice my temples are greying.
Wait, Richard. You color your beard? Yes, I do. I got the idea from a years-ago co-worker whose beard turned grey in his 20s. It’s an easy 15 minute chore twice a week.
Is coloring my beard an indulgence? Vanity? Ego? Yes, all of those.
One thing by choice is that I have kept my weight very consistent over the years, through a combination of smart dietary choices, and remaining physically active. Also, I don’t smoke.
The eyes are the biggest tell when it comes to age. Older people’s eyes tend to wrinkle and sag, and look less bright and intelligent. That’s unfair, of course, since the cosmetic appearance of cognitive deficit is different from real loss of mental function.
As a photojournalist, eyes are, of course, my living. You may have seen me wearing glasses. Those are reading glasses, which as anyone my age will testify, need to be stronger and stronger as we get older.
These conversations culminated late this week when I was on the phone with a fellow photographer who lives in Tulsa. As we talked, he walked into a bright patch of light just as he came across a mirror, and was suddenly taken aback by his self-image.
“Wow. Richard, I am so grey!” he told me.
Maybe age is sneaky that way, creeping up on us until we are suddenly old.
So, Richard, how old are you? That 33 years in Ada I mentioned earlier kind of gives it away, but my age isn’t a secret. I’ll turn 58 in July.
A week after I originally wrote this, a friend who had moved away some years ago, and hadn’t seen my column, told me, “You never change.”
Thank you everyone who asked with concern about my wife Abby. She had a rough winter and spring, but seems to be very much back to her usual self lately. This morning, for example, she asked for grits and runny fried eggs, which is a long-time favorite or hers.
I was at a public gathering recently, and someone in the group said she’d lost 30 pounds recently, 30 pounds she said she’d gained during the lockdowns associated with coronavirus. She told us she lost the weight using the Optavia diet. I was impressed by her achievement, but that diet involves lots of cabbage and broccoli, and she said she had run out of ideas about how to cook them.
“Those are two of the most nutritious foods you can eat,” I said.
“Everything Richard eats is healthy,” she said to the group. I wish that were true. What is true is that I try to be aware of the nutritional content of everything I eat.
When my wife Abby wants a baked ziti from our favorite Italian place, for example, I usually get a veggie pizza while I am there. The fact that it’s a “veggie” pizza doesn’t change its nutritional content much. It’s an indulgence, but I always make sure not to overeat. Pizza keeps well and reheats easily, so I usually make three meals out of it.
Here are some additional thoughts about diet and health…
Refined sugar isn’t really a nutrient. How I feel when I eat sugar? Since I eat refined sugar so infrequently, its effect is very evident: rising heart rate, a subtle feeling of anxiety, marked mood elevation followed by a classic “sugar crash.”
I stopped drinking sugar drinks like soda decades ago, and if I have a sip of one now, it doesn’t taste appealing in any way.
Why do I like what I like? I never get tired of broccoli and cabbage, beans and rice, fresh fruit and whole grains. I admit that some of this is by choice, and some of it is how I am constituted genetically.
Counting carbs is off base; that’s how we got here in the first place. I believe the answer lies in a more fundamental behavior: eating less, eating real food, and moving more. The minute you look at a real food like a peach or a cantaloupe and assign a number to it, you’ve lost your way.
I ponder this one all the time: nobody wants to be obese or diabetic, so why is it so prevalent? Is it that the machinery of industry makes too much money too easily selling sugar and fat to us, or is it that we are too easily tempted by these things?
Stop thinking of food as a reward, and start thinking of food as a choice.
On weekends or other days off, the next thing I do after a meal is walk our dogs.
One trick that works for me: if I don’t think it should be in my diet, I won’t bring it into my house. When I have a desire for a mid-afternoon snack and look in the pantry, I find what I brought home from the grocery store. Is it apples and steel cut oats, or snack cakes and doughnuts?
I want to end this on a positive note: everyone and anyone can eat a healthier diet, it’s easier than you might imagine, and it has the potential to turn your health and your life completely around.
I got my second coronavirus vaccination this week. My arm is very sore and I have some muscle aches, but that tells me it’s working.
I posted on social media this week that my peach trees had gone straight to leaves this year, and did not appear to be making blossoms, which, according to my photos from previous years, almost always happened before the first day of spring. I was convinced that I wouldn’t have peaches, though I was encouraged to see that I did have plum blossoms.
Then today, as I walked Hawken, I caught sight of a few peach blossoms on a couple of my trees, and I felt encouraged, both because I might actually get peaches, but also that it seemed to me that nature, after years of cruelty to it by humans, seemed, in the last 15 months or so, to be fighting back.
My social media followers know that Abby was released from the hospital last week, and while she was sketchy for a day or two, it seems like she is fine now.
It was nice to return to work, and a normal life. The stress of missing Abby and not knowing the outcome of her illness was overwhelming.
From social media…
Also also, thank you technology! Abby lost her iPhone on her way to the hospital in the ambulance, which I didn’t know until today. I went to iCloud and the Find My iPhone feature, put it in lost mode, pinged it, found it at another hospital, the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center, where it was in lost and found. My guess is that she dropped it in the ambulance, and someone found it and turned it in on a later EMS run.
Abby and I are watching the Bourne film series. We think the sixth installment should be, “Bourne in the USA,” followed by “Bourne on the Fourth of July,” “Bourne Free,” and “Bourne to Run.” The final installment? “Natural Bourne Killers.”
Dream: we had a house full of teenagers, some of them drunk, when I discover a bloodhound has scattered hundreds of pounds of popcorn through the house over a period of weeks, and everyone was simply pushing paths through it like plowing snow. We decide to make pizza, then decide it would be easier to order pizza, but every time I lift my phone and look at it, it is a different brand or ever from a different era.
Good news: today I got my first coronavirus vaccination. I received it at a vaccination event sponsored by The Clinic and the Pontotoc Technology Center where I teach photography. It was the Moderna brand. So far, the only side effect has been the most common: soreness at the injection site.
Abby is still in the hospital, but fortunately got vaccinated with both doses of the Pfizer brand weeks ago, so hopefully she is protected in her situation. She sounded much better on the phone, and might be able to come home in a day or two.
In the meantime, her Chihuahua, Summer, is still moping.
Abby is in the hospital, and she and I are both very stressed by the fact that I can’t join her. Like people across the globe, including Abby’s daughter just two weeks ago, hospital stays are in isolation due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic (a phrase I have learned to type in my sleep.)
Abby is not in any immediate danger. It became necessary to call EMS this morning when, after several days of difficulty, she was unable to walk or even stand on her own. The initial diagnosis is hypercalcaemia (link)
The Wikipedia article says, “The neuromuscular symptoms of hypercalcaemia are caused by a negative bathmotropic effect due to the increased interaction of calcium with sodium channels. Since calcium blocks sodium channels and inhibits depolarization of nerve and muscle fibers, increased calcium raises the threshold for depolarization. This results in diminished deep tendon reflexes (hyporeflexia), and skeletal muscle weakness.”
She was tested for coronavirus and flu, and does not have them.
As she got sicker, she experienced some cognitive difficulty, but, as is often the case with her, intravenous fluids bring her right around, and on the phone just down she sounded clearer-headed, and aggravated with the situation, which I take as a good sign.
I’m not really eating or sleeping, which is what I do when I am stressed, though as I wrote this I made myself eat a bowl of soup.
She said a doctor said she might be there three days, so that tired clichéd Tom Petty song lyric, “the waiting is the hardest part,” is mine today.
I recently elected to add some fish to my diet in hopes of getting my wife Abby to eat healthier, or in some cases at all. Important caveats include the idea that the fish is noted as nutritious on its own merits, is caught in a sustainable fashion, and is prepared in a healthy manner (as in not deep fried.)
Note: there is no such thing as a vegetarian who eats fish. Therefore, I am no long a vegetarian. Need to call me something? How about dynamic healthitarian?
With the stress of the Rona on Abby, who is already somewhat isolated, she tends to turn down my offers of food, saying she’ll just eat some crackers or that she isn’t hungry at all, but if I prepare a big meal with something she loves – recently it was Alaskan salmon, saffron rice, and steamed Brussels sprouts – it makes her smile and appreciate it, and, of course, eat it.
A new social media friend of mine, who showed up in my feed by posting a picture I took of her as a first grader in December 1988, says she wants to lose 50 pounds, and, “has been making excuses and displacing the blame from myself this whole time. But this time is different.”
I wish I had some genius to share with her, but I think my success with diet and weight discipline is more about who I am than it is about any tricks up my sleeve. It’s easy, for example, for me to stop eating when I’m full. I seldom desire foods that are outright bad for me, like candy, doughnuts, or soft drinks. But I know plenty of people, maybe even most people, who pass by the fruit tray at the sports watch party and dig in to the Doritos.
I am also very, very lucky that my current level of health allows me to move, work on my feet, walk dogs miles a day, and feel like it energizes me. Part of it is luck that I don’t have arthritis or bad feet, but part of it is that my choices lead to better outcomes. I don’t have type II diabetes because I eat right and exercise, and I am able to eat right and exercise because I don’t have type II diabetes.
Film photographers might be familiar with a handy rule from the days without automation or exposure meters: the “sunny 16” rule. It gives a rough suggestion for exposure, f/16 at the reciprocal of the film speed, which with 100-ISO film would be 1/100th of a second.
I like the idea of “sunny sixteen” much better than the notion of “sweet sixteen” to describe our sixteenth wedding anniversary, as it seems much less of a cliché, and more positive. Sunny.
Abby and I were married on October 12, 2004 at Arches National Park. It was only one day, a beautiful, sunny one, that marked the start of this wonderful marriage.
The road rumbles around us. Brilliant New Mexico sun shines through the windshield. Brilliant October blue sky surrounds us.
In the seat next to me, she sleeps. On the truck’s MP3 player is this song, Piercing Quiet by Tritonal. It resonates in me. Listen here as you read…
“The world’s in constant motion And so are all of us. You love the glow of sunrise. My stars come out at night. Your quiet pierces through me, There’s freedom renewed. It takes me to a place where The solace drops right through…”
I reach over and push my fingers under her blanket to find her hand, her willowy, soft, pale hand. I take it, and as she sleeps, she takes my hand. In a second, she turns her head without opening her eyes.
“Where are we?” she asks, almost whispering.
“About an hour from Cuervo,” I say. She smiles, remembering in her half-sleep state a place we once visited, Cuervo, New Mexico.
She goes back to sleep. I find myself blinking back a tear. This moment together is so perfect in its intimacy, its simplicity, it’s identity. I cherish it, breathe it in, memorize it. I don’t know, after all, if it might be our last chance, our last dance. There is nothing I want more than her soft hand in mine, in a quiet moment in eastern New Mexico, with the wild road in front of us, and I don’t want it to end. Ever.
I see that she is asleep again. I look over my shoulder to see our Chihuahuas, Max and Sierra, are also asleep.
All morning long we chatted happily as home fell farther behind us. By noon we were in the Texas panhandle. By 2 p.m., we were in the mesalands of New Mexico. By sunset, we hoped to be in Santa Fe for the night.
I shift in my seat as another 400 miles of trucks and blowing sand and black coffee await. She shifts in response, and I watch as she pulls her newly-bought cowboy hat down to the bridge of her nose to keep out the sunlight streaming through the windshield. I lift my hand and place it on top of her blanket, and feel how warm the sun has made it.
45 minutes later, I hear her say, “Hi.” She stretches and yawns and looks back at the dogs.
“Are you hungry?” I ask.
“Yes, what do you want?” she asks back.
“A veggie burger sounds good,” I tell her. “Honey, do you remember your first veggie burger?”
She smiles. I knew she would. On our first vacation together, The High Road, we rode the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway to the landing on the crest of the mountain, then hiked for another mile to the restaurant at the very top. She only revealed to me very recently that by the time we got to the restaurant, she was famished. We both got veggie burgers, fries and iced tea.
Some memories never fade.
By the time we rolled into Santa Fe after dark, tired and dusty from the road, we stopped in the breezeway of our hotel and paused. We looked at each other. When everything else is busy and rough and noisy, she is quiet. She is the quiet at the end of every day. She is the quiet at the end of every road.
Our next door neighbor’s efforts to corner the chicken market seem to be coming along nicely. In addition to his 32 chickens, he recently added five guineas and a puppy that he says will grow up to guard the henhouse. They’re all fun and fun to photograph.
It’s not exactly a paradox, and it’s not exactly ironic, but it is frustrating.
How do I justify my love of exploration and photography in spectacular places like Antelope Canyon, Arches National Park, Yosemite, and White Sands, yet still feel contempt for the way these places have become desperately overcrowded?
Part of my problem with this issue is that I feel oddly outmatched by the crowds photographically, not because they have more talent, but because they have diluted the landscape so much with geotags and armchair photographers, squeezing professional photographers and naturalists into an empty corner.
On the third hand, shouldn’t Abby and I have special Delicate Arch creds, since, after all, we got married there?
Am I being whiney because I don’t want to share its specialness, or has it been made universally unspecial by its discovery and overpopulation by the Instagram crowd?
I’ve been sitting on this post for a month, yet can’t quite solidify it. Help me work this out.
I’m not pushing this one to social media for inobvious, murky reasons.
I read, and I blew.
My sister says she despises the phrase “these uncertain times” and the word “unprecedented.”
Newspapers struggle to survive, and soon we will get all our news from Snapchat. All reporters will look like puppies and baby deer.
A baby deer is called a deerling.
I despise the idea that corporate America is selling it back to me, and that our culture crashes when we can’t have the things I happen to think we don’t need at all, like indulgent entertainment and indulgent products, indulgent technology, indulgence.
Assuming you don’t have a real excuse (asthma, bronchitis, copd, ect.), you have no excuse for complaining about the mask. Can’t breathe? Look in the mirror. I’m surprised your lungs can lift all that fat off your heart.
Ouch. So cold and dismissive. Why can’t we all be perfect like Richard?
The racist name for the pandemic is “Kung Flu,” but I prefer, “Flung Pu.”
Fortunately, all covid news is fake, so we can go back to our gun shows.
If I could sneak headlines into newspaper? (Can I? Whoa. I guess I could.)…
Local dickhead steals Christmas
Oaklahoma changes name to Tinesee
Private parts now pubic (pube lick?)
Forecasters predict it will snow assholes all day
Sneeze guards added to pocket pullers
Deranged goat attacks two ex-presidents in one day
15 college girls killed in tickling accident
Renegade vegan farts on supreme court nominee
A personal look at author I. K. Malloveru
Anus management clinic to remain open
Maybe The Rona is Oxlong Penal Camp 2.0? (Now regretting letting that URL expire.) The grey jumpsuits and dusty sunglasses are just one executive order away.
I am amazed by how many people really like me, and how many people really hate me.
Explosive decompression of my colon.
A “fortice machete” if you will…
It was a mistake to trim her coochie with a fortice machete
Fortice Machete had been named in the fraud case just a month earlier
Fortice Machete was Nicarango’s fifth underground nuclear test
The wolfhound cornered a raccoon trying to steal his dog food; I chased it away with a fortice machete
Fortice. Not fartus. Although, fortis machette literally translates to “cut the fart.”
The fourth Matrix, the one that overheated all the time so they had to stop for water at every other Texaco, was coded with fortice machete
Fortice machete is a video game centered around making your opponents orgasm
The fortice integument was stronger than sea panels for bulge control
When did being monstrously racist and sexist go from funny to unacceptable? I know it did, but I never got the email announcing it.
I think most people thought the end of the world would be a lot quicker, like a nuclear war, or a lot more fun, like the zombie apocalypse.
In my travels as a photojournalist yesterday, I drove down to Tupelo, Oklahoma to cover a baseball game, but found that it had been suddenly rained out by a rather spectacular, and spooky, thunderstorm.
I turned around and head back toward Ada, thinking I would stop in Stonewall and photograph their softball game so the outing wouldn’t be a complete waste of time.
As I drove, the pop-up thunderstorms all around me got really interesting-looking. I saw a long shaft of rain to the south, and turned down a county road to get a better look. Just a few hundred yards down the road, I heard, “fsst, fsst, fsst, fsst…,” the tell-tale sound of a rapidly flattening tire. I turned around quickly and drove back to the intersection with the highway, and got out to find the left rear tire of our Nissan Frontier LE 4X4 Crew Cab pickup completely flat.
It turns out that I had never changed the wheel on our truck, so I actually had to consult the manual about a couple of things. By the time I had the spare ready and the jack set, the key for the anti-theft lug nut was nowhere to be found. This happened to me once before in 2010 in Utah, and on that occasion, a wrecker service actually chiseled it off. Fortunately, our friends at Ada Nissan drove out with a key, and I was then able to change the wheel. The tire was damaged beyond repair and will need to be replaced, and when they do, I will ask them to replace those stupid anti-theft lug nuts with standard ones.
I know everyone has some sob story about car trouble. I happen to think everyone should know how to change a wheel (not, as most people say, a tire, since it’s impossible to get a tire off a wheel by hand – so you don’t change a tire, you change a wheel), how to add coolant to the engine, how to jump start a car, and so on.
Hawken, our Irish wolfhound, cornered another opossum tonight, or possibly cornered the same opossum he encountered two weeks ago.
Hawken’s bark is unique to the situation: it is forceful, loud and urgent, and is meant to get the attention of the animal he is addressing as well as us.
I have no desire to kill animals like this, but I can’t have them stubbornly staking out Hawken’s food, and I am quite sure this animal or others like it are responsible for killing our next door neighbor Mike’s chickens recently.
I tried and tried to shoo it away, but it was too determined to dine on Hi-Point “Highly Active” 28/15 dog food, and would not retreat. I shot it with my M&P 15/22. Once it was down, I gave it one point-blank to the head so it wouldn’t suffer.
I was cleaning up some computer files and folders recently when I came across images from our most recent anniversary trip, The Winding Road. I must have been hungry, because I gravitated to an image of a dessert Abby and I shared at our favorite restaurant in the world, Madrid, New Mexico’s The Hollar.
“Honey,” I said to my wife, who was crocheting in her recliner, “the whiskey cake!”
“That was so good,” she said without hesitation.
That’s how really great memories work.
A day or two later, a photographer friend on social media posted a moody black-and-white image of an abandoned store with the title Lost in New Mexico 2019.
I thought about all those great times Abby and I would open a map and just go.
After a rather intense couple of days covering the news, I was able to pad my tension with a bit of good news: the garden center at Walmart had mature-ish tomato plants to I could replace some that I lost to cutworms or the weather. I was able to plant three Better Boy plants and two cherry tomato plants.
I was recently honored to once again help jury some East Central University Mass Communications students’ senior presentations, specifically those students who emphasized visuals like photography, graphic arts and design.
It got me thinking about my college days and earlier, and about what I imagined I wanted to be as an adult – “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
In 1974, I was absolutely sure I wanted to grow up to be a pilot. I had a beautiful model of a Pam Am Boeing 747-200, an aircraft known as “the queen of the skies,” that inspired a whole generation of young people. Although I never did it professionally, I became a pilot in 1993.
In sixth grade, a teacher we all liked and admired, Mrs. Gerber, asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. When no one volunteered an answer, Mrs. Gerber got out her roll call book and started calling our names in alphabetical order, so I was first. I blurted out, “Farmer,” and the class laughed and laughed. But the next kid didn’t have an answer either, and also said, “Farmer!”
Eventually we had a room full of 26 would-be farmers.
That summer, my mom got me a part-time job working for an oral surgeon for whom she worked as an office manager. My job mostly involved mopping and cleaning, but I also learned how to clean stainless steel dental instruments and sterilize them using an autoclave, so for a while I had dentistry in mind.
In 10th grade, I was fascinated with the weather, and even wrote down watches and warnings on my journal, so there was a short period when I wanted to be a meteorologist.
By 11th grade, I’d been keeping a journal for a while, and imagined I could one day be a novelist, albeit one without a plan for writing even my first novel.
As a senior in high school, I was taking pictures for yearbook, and got addicted to that. Around that same time, I started hanging out with guys who loved hi-fi stereo, so there was a period when I dreamed of working in a stereo store.
I asked my wife Abby what she wanted to be when she was young.
“I wanted to be a cowgirl when I was four,” she told me. “But not like Dale Evans. I wanted to be Roy Rogers.”
She wanted to be a mechanic, and actually did a fair amount of that kind of work as a hobby. She knows pretty much everything there is to know about internal combustion engines, even rebuilding one with her brother-in-law, Ralph Milligan, which she raced.
She played with being a math teacher, a child psychologist or a veterinarian. She worked in a veterinary clinic in the 1990s.
By my late college years, I had settled on being a photojournalist, in part because I was good at it, and in part because the equipment is pretty sexy.
“Everybody in this town knows you, and knows who you are and what you do.”
The 2020 coronavirus crisis has had a crippling impact on the entire world. Entire industries have collapsed. One that comes to mind is the airline industry. Travel has plummeted beyond crisis levels. Some airlines have parked 95% of their fleets, and laid off thousands of workers.
My profession, print journalism, has struggled for more than a decade, and the outbreak has ripped away much luxury, and even some necessity, to the craft of delivering the news.
Readers might notice that in print, I have a new title, Senior Staff Writer. The reason for this is that corporate entities don’t see a need for photographers at struggling, small-market newspapers. Our hope with this title change is that they see me as a multi-role staff member with feature writing, column writing, internet, videography and photography skills, which I absolutely am.
I don’t anticipate taking fewer photographs, and I am already writing quite a bit at my paper. It’s a move intended to do more with less.
No one in my community will think I am no longer a photographer, their photographer.
There was a time in my life, around my college years, when I imagined that total isolation, on a mesa in a home built into the cliffs at the end of the Boys Ranch Road northwest of Amarillo, would be the way I wanted to live.
*** As I wrote this, the phrase “no contact with the public at all” floated by through a television program. ***
But I am not that college kid any more.
There are news reports of people feeling isolated, and a lot of people are creating memes for social media that express isolation.
But for Abby and me, and the next door neighbors, the Nipps, life hasn’t changed all that much. They cook out and cut the grass. The next day, I cook out and cut my grass. I walk the wolfhound and the Chihuahua past them as they put ribs on the grill, and we chat or a few minutes. Mike is building a chicken pen, and plans to get some chickens, which I look forward to naming and photographing.
What has changed dramatically for me is work. I still have a job, but everything about it is different, because of what my newspaper covers. Sports have stopped. There won’t be any graduations this month. There are a lot of parades and gatherings designed to get people together, yet keep them far apart enough to check the possible spread of the coronavirus.
At an evening event I covered Thursday, 15 people called me by name.
At Walmart today, in the egg aisle, with both of us wearing Rona masks, “Hey, aren’t you here to take pictures?”
My community knows me, which I love. It’s also something that lets me do my job better.
So, here we are, May 2020. We are trying to “reopen” America bit by bit while the pandemic still rages, and while I hope for the best and prepare for the worst, I expect something in between.
We have all faced stress in our lives. My sister Nicole, for example, lost almost everything she owned when Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans. She seemed to handle it well, and bounced back to be the first to rebuild in her neighborhood, but I know it must have taken an emotional toll beneath the surface.
I thought of this on this Easter Sunday as I watched a video from a fellow professional photographer Nic Coury (from whom I bought an 85mm last year), who came to us via Facebook live video from his henhouse with his pet chickens, encouraging us to do what we have to do to survive, but also to pay attention to our feelings and how this unprecedented situation must be effecting them.
I have always been pretty good at deferring and compartmentalizing my feelings. I do that partly so I can do my job when it gets rough (just this week, I covered a double-fatality car crash that killed a two-year-old), and as a pillar for my wife Abby, for whom I must care.
Nic’s video and the ever-increasing bad news about the pandemic got me thinking: am I just going to fall apart one of these days? I can’t just switch off compartmentalization and fully integrate my feelings; I’m not constructed that way. I guess time will tell.
In the current scenario of risk around us, it is entirely possible that we could be at risk of illness and death.
I thought of this in February when I had the flu. What will become of my intellectual and creative content, the embodiment of everything I ever photographed and written, if I die?
And how would anyone reading my website, for example, know if I had shuffled off this mortal coil?
I thought about how to keep my family and friends updated about how we are without going through the eternal train wreck of social media, and finally settled on a widget at the top of our home page, on the right. I will update it as I am able, and if one month, three months, six months goes by without an update, we can all assume the worst.
Visit this page (link) to see the widget, or, if you are viewing it on a smartphone, click on the link and scroll to the bottom of the page to see “How Are We?”
I am presently coughing my fool head off, but don’t worry. I don’t have the covids or the amtrax. I do, however, have a face full of dust after completing a task I’ve been avoiding for a couple of years: moving Abby’s mom’s curio cabinet into my dressing room and making it into a camera cabinet.
I actually accomplished this while Abby was napping, a variant on the saying, “It’s easier to get forgiveness than permission,” though when she woke up, we were all happy with it.
This started with me seeing a dusty camera, dusting it off, then seeing I couldn’t set it down again without dusting the spot where it sat. There was a lot of dust, then a decision, then action.
I sometimes wish all our actions could come about so organically.
The only remaining task is to find a new piece of glass for the front door, which was broken while moving it here with a bunch of other stuff.
The cameras on display in it are items Abby bought for me at various thrift and antique stores over the years.