Private property. Probably the two most boring words ever. But there is something I totally appreciate about private property. When I'm hunting around with a camera I usually walk right up to the edge. I'm freewheeling until I see the sign. When I see the sign, I back off. One, I don't want to get shot. Two, I don't like confrontation. And three, mad respect. So for me, the sign is one of those proper mind awareness tools. PMAT. It's readily available, there's no monthly fee and it's full-on yoga. This is a tool I can trust. So I'll wander to the boundary with no worries, clicking this, clicking that. Taking picture after picture. Because when I'm lying on my deathbed and my life flashes before me what I'm actually remembering are all these images. So I want to take the best pictures and I want to capture all the feels. With tender heart and lowered guard I expose every frame to love. I want pictures that help me remember the good shit. Just like they did in Soylent Green. So I'll take another photo, ooh, ahh, then another. Until I see the sign. Then it's BAM! snap-to. I am slapped from my dystopian melancholy and the awkward ironic pleasurable pressure to document my life is gone. Private property, yes, a simple reminder to get back to living.
So maybe we start with a 5x7 canvas. I'll create something that lives on the 5x7. Can I fit it all in? I need more space. I have so much I want to say. I have feelings. Perhaps the 16x20 is better. A bigger universe for my narrative. The beginning, the middle, the end. No way, 16x20 is not happening. I need more than inches. It's all about feet now. 6x8. Yes. I can capture the forest, the animals and all the love on a 6 by 8 foot canvas. Done. But I don't have room for the ocean. Hmmm. Let's be honest, I'm a water spirit. Always have been. Perhaps my landlord will let me put a mural on the side of her building. It's massive. I'll ask. A good 30x50 feet should get the job done. Just enough room for the dolphins and the redwoods and the lavender. But what about the people in Africa? I need a bigger building. How do I illustrate an ancient face? Space, that's how. I need more of it. A gigantic room for everybody dancing together. One love. I need more than feet. I need centuries to capture all the minutia. The depth of feeling is intense. I need a million songs, endless kisses and the ethereal flow of forever. Art is everything and everywhere. Oh so glorious. But I'm getting rather sleepy thinking about it all.
I think I'll just watch TV.
Let's just clarify that I am writing these words while listening to soft piano music, sipping on an Italian roast with bits of dark chocolate stirred in and looking out my window while a cool breeze reminds me a rain is coming. I can see the water of the James River. I am wearing flannel and writing on a late 2013 MacBook Pro. My toilet flushes and the refrigerator stows away pickled jalapeños and frozen blueberries. In essence, I am rather fortunate. Is this white male privilege? Probably. But either way, this is my current state of physical being. It feels lavish to me so I will honor the luxury while it lasts. I promise to write about contentment when I am homeless and my body withers away from cancer. Just for comparison. To see if my current perspective holds water when the view changes.
I speak of contentment and the efforts to both recognize and monitor this feeling during all my waking hours. This is a practical guide to awareness. Contentment is available all the time. It's just a vibe. Thought waves. I've recognized these vibes while creating a spreadsheet full of numbers. I've also felt the ease of contentment while sipping drinks on a beach. Whether my head is full of practicalities or dreamy with dance I glue it all together with the same thought. The mantra is basic. I am grateful for this experience, this breath, this ability to not measure myself against others. This is the gateway to contentment which is the gateway to happiness which is the gateway to love. When I first moved to NYC I joined a gym. I felt the need to be fit. And there was a Crunch within walking distance on the corner of Christopher and Greenwich. Their motto was no judgements. Still is. I can truly get behind this hashtag. But I would like to believe that Crunch was inspired by a simple Taoist concept that the true measure of life is to not measure at all.
The human species is constantly evolving. Faster, stronger, smarter. But no matter how much we change there seems to be a universal joy for contentment. To be comfortable in your body and your head. The first step to being comfortable is listening to how much we judge. Let go of judgement and you will be rewarded with contentment. But letting go of judgement in order to love is a mental thing. And stuff involving headspace is really hard to grasp. So let's introduce a practical tool to make the act of letting go easier. Unclenching. Unclench your butt, unclench your jaw, unclench your shoulders, unclench all that shit. Now you can get busy with loving.
I'll conclude this journal with a photo of Dee W Squeeze. I met her while living in NYC. I wasn't going to Crunch anymore when we became friends. I had a yoga mat instead. Dee and I recently went on a road trip. We slept at a funky motel in Arlington, VA. It's her most favorite motel in the world. So this is Dee being happy. Her happiness is my happiness because we are like a pajama onesie.
Find your happiness. If you are struggling, please let me know and perhaps we can collaborate on an art project that champions love, awareness, no judgements and contentment. Art project? Sure. It's all art really. But we'll talk more about this in the next journal.
You read that right, but we'll get to the dirty deets later. Whoa, the last three months just whizzed by. Long of the short, all is chill in Wiggyland. Yay. I've been trying on some new clothes, taking off some used. I'm still living in Lynchburg, VA with the always inspiring Dee W Loizou. We've perfected our spicy fish-sauce sauce. Yes, I'm still vegetarian but this Thai dish we love requires the Red Boat, so we tread lightly and nom, nom, nom the bejesus outta that dish. I took photos for a wedding. My god, that was hard. Probably won't do that again. Thankfully the bride and groom are the best people on the planet. I took on a bookkeeping job for my dear friends at Riverviews...what! Yes, I hear you screaming. It's just temporary, people. No, I'm not moving back to NYC just yet. But I miss it. Dearly. Took photos for a fundraising event. Umm, super hard. But I did it all in character, with a British accent, in striped tights. For the challenge. Oh, I would do that again. For sure. Makes picture taking wildly mysterious. And fun. I did a few promo videos, bought a battery powered light kit, started using my flash a bit more for stills, and yeah, I taught an Introduction to Digital Photography class and an Advanced Digital Filmmaking class at the local liberal arts joint just up the street. It's called Randolph College. Used to be all women. Then that changed in 2006. I had 19 students and 16 were women. So who knows. I began teaching in February. Unfortunately I missed the first 11 classes of the semester because I came in as a pinch-hitter. Probably won't do that again. So hard. But I would do it all again if given a full semester. I taught four classes a week for a total of nine hours. 4.5 hours on Monday and 4.5 hours on Thursday. But you know what, that shizzle was a full-time job. Seriously. Best paying gig I've had in Lynchburg, but damn, brother barely had time to rest. But I kinda loved it? I know it's trite, but mad respect to all the teachers out there. Bring it in for a group hug! Yesterday was my last day. Graded all the students, sent each a personal note of gratitude, and then I noticed I hadn't written a blog post in three months. Whizzed by. The picture up top was taken at a show ring in Big Island, VA. I imagine myself sitting on those aluminum bleachers just taking it all in. Beautiful scenery, nice and quiet, just me and the cool breeze. What a spectacle. What a show. What a gift. Might as well be happy.
I woke up today and my face was sagging a bit. My bones ached. I needed to wake up. And fast.
Our meeting was scheduled at 9am. Sharp. Don't be late. Coffee, yup yup yup. A banana. Brush my teeth. Black pants? Sure. Black sweater? K. Black shoes? Wait a second. Next comes the black gloves, the black coat, the black hat. Snap out of it. You look fine. Everyone wears black in New York. But this isn't New York.
Today was my first day of teaching a beginning photography class. I rented a room. I posted an ad. I was taking reservations. One person replied.
I arrived at 8:30. Nervous. I opened my laptop, sipped the warm joe and reviewed my notes. My student burst through the door at 9:15. His name was Grey. He apologized for being late, his forehead was sweating, he had dark circles under his eyes and he immediately told me he forgot his camera.
Ain't a thing, Grey. I offered him my coffee. With his coat hanging off his shoulder he dropped down to his knees and started to cry. He lifted his head and confessed. "I could barely get out of bed today. My head is throbbing. I am tired, so very, very tired. I'm not sure why I signed up for this class. I don't even have a camera. I'm sorry. I hate myself. And then you offered me your coffee. And I'm sensitive. And small gestures mean everything to me. And I do enjoy looking at photos and daydreaming and thinking of brighter days. Connecting with the world, living outside my head. And you standing there, looking at me, so much love in your eyes. And that's the picture I want to take. Can you show me how to take that picture? A picture of you and me. I don't care if I'm a mess. I want to see how people would see you looking at me. I am pathetic. But I can do better. Promise. I want to be that hope in your eyes."
I unzipped my backpack and set up a small tripod on the other side of the room. Grey held the coffee mug tight in his hands and sighed when he drank. "Oh my god," he whispered. And he watched me work in silence. I looked through the lens and framed Grey on the left side of the image. I imagined where I would be standing. I picked the widest aperture and focused. I set the timer to 10 seconds and walked over to Grey. He brought the cup to his lips and looked up at me. I reached out my hand and began to lift him off the ground.
The shutter clicked.
Dear President Trump,
I want you to be great. I really do. So in the spirit of your legacy I'd like to make a suggestion. I've been doing some research and I noticed that starting in 2001 our government has really jacked up the number of executive branch czars. Some of my favorites are the asian carp czar, the cyber czar, the ebola czar, the faith-based czar and the weatherization czar. Good folks doing the best they can. But maybe we can do better.
IMHO I think you should appoint a love czar ASAP!
Your personality and methods, Mr. President, are what they are. I have no judgements really. You have reasons for being and doing what you do. But again, IMHO, I think you come off as a bit mean spirited. You're kind of an arrogant bully. Hey, it is what it is. At one point in my life I was just like you. But I evolved. Thanks to the help of my friends, who are, I hope, proud Americans.
A little bit about me if I may. Just recently I appointed my good friend Dee W as my personal love czar. I created this executive branch, if you will, out of necessity. It was either create a love czar or go bonkers. I chose creativity. I think you'd really like Dee W. She is gentle and curious and effortlessly positive. A real find. Her official title is, for funsies, Director of the White House Office of Love and Compassion Policy. Right?!
Dee W is my savior. She created an essential balance to my ever changing emotions. I have so many feelings. I sometimes find myself wandering down the cold wet road of negativity, doubt and darkness. And believe me when I say that I may appear all lovey dovey on the outside, but girrrrl, don't get me started about the rage. Dee W is the light. She is goodness. Light, dark. Good, evil. Yin, yang. Masculine, feminine. These polarities are inevitable. No getting around them. The antidote is balance.
I know this is a lot to digest. Your head is probably swimming right now. But take a deep breath, visualize your greatness and what do you think about Melania? She'd make an awesome love czar! Melania knows you. Her familiarity is key to the success of, dare I say, your legacy. She will look you in the eye and say, "Honey, that idea is whack." She won't back down. Mama will tell it like it is. Melania is the light. She will provide our nation with the balance that is necessary to make America great again.
P.S. If you want to borrow Dee W's official title, go for it. I'm cool. Mi casa es su casa, bro.
The earliest picture I have of Eric and myself is from the 70's. We played sports together in the YMCA. Our team was called the Dodgers. We both lived in the San Fernando Valley. We enjoyed competition. Football, basketball, tennis, billiards, foosball, ping-pong. You name it. And it is an honor to say we remain true friends to this day. Although we talk less and less I will always consider Eric a faithful companion. My fondest memories were from the late 80's when he and I and my mom all lived together in Woodland Hills. If any of us had something we needed to bitch about we would talk it out. Patiently. With emotion. But we also loved to laugh and dance and play board games. We were a formidable trio. The thing I admire most about my dear friend is his loyalty. I could trust Eric. He was sensitive. He could always relate. And his love and generosity for my mom was remarkable. Probably the most compassionate gift I have ever witnessed. Thank you, Eric. Godspeed.
God I'm happy to be alive today. Wait, is that too mushy, too pollyanna? Whatever. I don't care. I am going to be super compassionate today. I'm barely gonna say a word. I just want to take deep, deep breaths and be patient with everybody. Just tell me your dreams. I will do yoga and listen.
Today is the day I throw out the garbage. Today is the day I stop using the words good and evil. Today is the day. In our micro community the trash is picked up once a week. There are a dozen apartments that share the same bins. Last week when the buckets were good and empty a family moved out and filled every container to the top with the stuff they no longer needed. In the meantime our coffee grounds and carrot pulp had to live happily in compostable bags on our front porch. We accumlated seven sacks in total. Early this morning a big truck gloriously emptied all the hampers. We were a clean slate once again. As I lugged our watermelon rinds to their final resting place I heard the birds sing and I paused to muse my feelings. As far back as I can remember there have always been perishable feelings in the world. Nothing lasts forever. And each day is filled with a bounty of love and hate feels, good and evil feels, yin and yangs. It is hard for me to articulate these polarities because I believe we are all one big ball of feels. And sometimes what makes me happy makes you sad and vice versa and so on and so forth. The birds don't really care. They sing either way. As I walk back up the stairs to the bounty of our home I am grateful for this reckoning. It looks like rain is on the horizon. Maybe I'll take a picture. I do not know the feelings of another. But I know what is in front of me. It is the energy of everything wrapped up together. It has always been this way.
Lately I've been feeling nostalgic. I'm totally happy I have nostalgia. Grateful I've lived to accumulate these recollects. Oh, I must mention I recently moved my desk. I look out the back porch now. The fresh view has something to do with me floating in time. At least two or three things are always in motion when I daydream. Most of the flow comes from the steady parade of Chevy's and Ford's along Commerce. Just beyond, the graceful James slinks easily in a SE direction. And then there are the walkers down 12th searching for bargain antiques or tequila shooters. But my favorite flow by far is the slow passing train. The pace of the freight syncs perfectly to Ahmad Jamal's, "Poinciana." Smooth. I think about my life. Sometimes thoughts are about what is happening now. And then I scan an old photo and my mind wanders. Downstream. Today the skies are misty blue so I muse in black and white. The day I went to Santa Anita with my friends. I loved the track thanks to Uncle Tom who traditionally took the family to Santa Anita the day after Christmas. It was everything. Beer, sunshine, handicapping, people watching, science, drama. The perfect social scene. So I look out the window inspired by movement. Flow. I am a visual artist. A gambler. A drunk. Wait. Are these my memories? Who are you?
Pulling the blinds. When I am hunkering down for some creative, I tend to work in the dark and alone. My inspiration is a combination of music, memories and the now. Music provides a calming focus. Memories supply an endless stream of happy and sad. And the now. Oh the now. No matter the song or the recollection, I always return to love. Yes Milan Kundera, yes, it is unbearable at times. Being.
Readymade TV. It's my new craze. There is so much beauty in the world. I'd rather look than speak. I'd rather listen to instruments than voices. A face says it all. A flower is everything. Architecture quietly begs me to stare. With this mindset I can go anywhere. I can walk into any disco and dance. I can travel to any country and communicate. I am peace and tranquility. I am entertained by the basic.
I want to run, kiss, dance and create. Is this too much for a Saturday? I say no. Because you must take it when you get it. There are days when the power of love permeates my entire being with blissful intent. It is a day like this that can motivate a man for months at a time. Deep seated belief. I am wide awake. But I have to close my eyes to truly feel it.
Dee and I moved to Lynchburg, Virginia on January 6th, 2017. It has been almost one year. Today is Sunday and it's a typically quiet day on Main Street. We have plans to make coffee, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, curried cauliflower, cranberry chutney, rosemary potatoes and mushroom gravy. But before all of this, we took our time getting out of bed. We spoke about the middle way. A place between our earthly bodies and our ethereal souls. And we sincerely believe our happiness is the result of this delicate balance. This is how our morning began.