Category Archives: IncompleteThought

Dimples That Can House the Ocean

The last couple weeks have been so full that, when contemplating how best to re-cap things, I find myself stumped.  If there’s a theme to be found, I’m guessing it is what it usually is….I’m some special variety of Lucky Bean.  Perhaps a hybrid bean made up of some parts Jelly, Mexican Jumping, Magic, Lima, Baked and Green?  James Garfield once said that, “a pound of pluck is worth a ton of luck” and I have been plucking and lucking like it’s my job…

The most noteworthy news would have to be my 3 days of documentary photography at Levon Helm’s Studio in Woodstock, NY.  Chris Castle rallied The Womack Family Band, Garth & Maud Hudson, Tommy Ramone, Gabriel & Salli Butterfield, Sandy Allen, Daphne Lee Martin and Carl Franklin together to make an album.  The session was masterfully run and engineered by Justin Guip and his assistant Brendan and, in a nutshell, it was amazing.   The atmosphere is something all by itself but add to that some rock and roll icons and 5 cameras and you’ve got a smile so wide my dimples could house the oceans.  I’m still editing away and hope to be able to share the work and – eventually – an album cover with you…fingers crossed.  Even if the work never sees the light of day, pays me nothing and costs me plenty it was a worthwhile experience and something I hope to do more of.  Though I will never complain about shooting rock shows, the quiet tension of the studio and added elements of hope and waiting and architecture challenged me in a new way.  It’s been a while since I have felt like a humbled and hungry artist….mostly becuase I’ve been consumed with my day job…but it feels great. 

You know what else feels great?  A whiskey-drunk Thile & Daves show at the Bell House.  I could not like these guys any more than I do and I especially love rocking the front row with a video-equipped recording device.  Here’s my favorite shot of the night and a little video clip.  If you want to see the rest of the album (published on their Facebook page by Red Light Management) click here and click here for a couple more videos.

Thile & Daves @ The Bell House

The down home goodness just kept giving when some besties rolled in from far and wide (VT, PA, SF) for some mexican food and karaoke.  The nice things about time rolling past us so fast is that good friends become good, old friends in no time flat.  Queso & Karaoke are always good fun and throw in a cute (and amazingly well-behaved baby) and it’s a party!

The gift of GOOD kept on giving for a third, yeah!  that’s right!, third night of Tragedy at the Brooklyn Bowl.  I skipped my weekly Glitter Anonymous meeting and decided to indulge for their finale and I’m glad I did.  You can check out the growing archive or Tragedy pix here or, if you’re lazy, just check out one of my favorites right here…

Tragedy @ Brooklyn Bowl

The text and life that occurred between all this rocking punctuation were as – perhaps even better – than everything else.  I’m beginning to feel like myself again after a long haul of identifying myself as an expatriate before whatever came next.  It feels like a long, cosmic exhale.  

Ahhhhhhh.

In the immortal words of Oprah, “Breathe. Let go. And remind yourself that this very moment is the only one you know you have for sure. “

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Cosmic Sandpaper

The weekend is crawling to its close; on its last legs but not quite finished.  I should be packing a bag right now, planning my week and trip but my mind can’t leave this moment.  I’m content to leave all the details for the morning and while away in Sunday evening.

The weekend surprised me.  Actually, the last couple weeks surprised me.  Since I returned to New York I have felt a little numb.  I thought there was a chance that the city would have a Novocaine-like effect on me and the irony is that I have been numb to my own numbness.  Drifting through the days and nights, so filled with so much goodness, I am tingling now; coming to, shaking off the anesthesia and feeling flooded with all the bits and pieces of the last weeks.  The details that I normally like to wade in are flooding me and I’m happy to sit here on my couch and let them.

The thing about moving is it shatters routines to pieces and lays waste to the order of what was.  Disorientation is like cosmic sandpaper; buffing and polishing as it wears away edges and reveals the essence of things.  In my own lost way, I can see familiar pieces of me bobbing up to the surface, tied loosely together with new threads and modified perspectives.  Retrospectives.  Connectro-spectives.  The rhythm of conceive, create, experience, reflect that I relied on like clockwork to measure my careful days is now more like free form jazz.  There is space between the notes,  they jumble and then pause, they collect and then spill over…yesterday’s metronome is obselete and my clockwork has melted like Dali’s Persistence of Memory.  Dripping and moving like liquid finding it’s new level.   I have no idea what my new level is going to look like and I can’t guess when full sensation will return.  I have no idea what my routine will evolve into and I am looking forward to finding a new rhythm for this new soundtrack that is my life.

If the past few days are any kind of indicator, I think the rhythm might rock ’cause there are a lot of good stories heating up like coals in the fire…

Reunion

New York Fucking City!

If you’re wondering about this shot, it was taken last night on the tail end of the tail end of a frozen margarita (or 2) after the Rocks Off Rock and Roll Walking Tour.  I learned some things, had some fun and shot some pictures

NJPW Invasion Tour

Had I known that Rock and Roll history was going to lead me to the East River, under a bridge and smack dab into the middle of some Japanese Pro-Wrestling, well, I might have brought my camera.  OH WAIT!  I did.  Click here to see some more photos of these legends (or whatever).  Good times.  Great oldies.

Puzzles are fun

Imagine dumping out a box of 10,000 puzzle pieces. 

Now imagine that the table onto which you dumped them is still set from breakfast.  Pieces sliding under napkins and getting lost in coffee mugs…

Now imagine that your hasty dumping of the puzzle pieces found some stuck in the box and others flung onto the floor.

Stretch your brain one last time and, finally, imagine that the picture on the box of this 10,000 piece puzzle is a blank, white canvas with no edges.

This is as close to describing my current situation as I can get.  Puzzles are fun, as are blank canvases and fuzzy boundaries so, overall, I am thrilled to have the problems I have but being thrilled doesn’t make the collecting of myself any less stressful.

Chapters of my life, long packed away and dusty, are now piled into one place and this puzzle is taking on a 4th dimension…time.  Love letters from when I was 15 are stacked on top of a manila folder labeled “divorce.”  Ticket stubs, birthday cards, tax returns are all swirling into a crazy cocktail that is as intoxicating as it is disorienting.  Seeing all these versions of myself strewn across my empty apartment are something of a mindfuck.  When reflecting back on who you were then it’s almost impossible not to consider who you are now.  Its like looking at yourself as a cross-section of a tree, rings exposed, experience sticky like sap holding it all together.  Seeing yourself fragmented in this way is interesting, like looking in the mirror and seeing something Picaso-esque looking back. 

3 more “chunks” of me are still orbiting and, once gathered and contained, I will have successfully collected myself.  The metaphor is more meaningful to me than the result of a pile of crap in my place and I’m holding out hope that the whole will be greater than the sum of its parts.  In real terms, most of my belongings are stuck in Customs so the stuff that is with me has nowhere to go.  What isn’t in Customs is scattered across MA and NH and will require attention, muscles and a van to reclaim and it is likely that I will not see the end of the ‘moving’ tunnel for another week or 2…good times.

The Big Town: Chapter 3

Watching the headlight of the N Train crawl along the dirty, white tiles in the Court Street station this morning, I found myself captivated.  The same wonder and curiosity that I enjoyed in discovering the mundane details of a commute in Innsbruck or Hong Kong is not lost in the familiar and also new home I have in New York City.

It’s been just over a week and I am perfectly at home while still feeling totally unsettled.  I wish I had more cosmic weight and could simply yank all my belongings back to me with the force of gravity but, alas, I am at the mercy of the God of International Freight Forwarding Logistics.  She is not a benevolent or merciful God and, it appears, as though I will roll with the air mattress and my (tired) suitcase of things for another week.  This nomadic, sparse living should be something that I’m used to and, I am, but my lovely nest in Brooklyn is yearning for some furniture and I have been waiting years to dust off my pretty pictures and hang them on walls.  All in good time…

Would you believe that, in addition to simply arriving that I have already painted this town a whole rainbow of red?  Some notable dinners (Frankie’s b-day topping the favorites list), Mike Birbiglia on Barrow Street, Charlie Sheen at Radio City (that’s a whole story in itself) and I even had my first house guest.  It’s all a little disjointed in a way.  Making time for Charlie Sheen before making it to New Jersey to see my Gramps has confused me a little but, as I see it, my life is something of a Rubik’s Cube.  It will take some strategic shifting of this and sliding of that before things line up.

I can remember clearly turning 25 a few months after arriving in NYC in 2001.  Hopeful and open, I perched myself on the fire escape of my apartment on Cornelia Street and dove in.  10 years and a lot of miles later, I am perched on a stoop in Brooklyn Heights equally, if not more, hopeful about what lies ahead. 

”Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”  ~ Seneca

Here we go….

Arrows & Boomerangs

Joseph Campbell said once that we need to ‘let go of the life we have planned so we can accept the one waiting for us.’  He also said that ‘the privilege of your life is being who you are.’  I am a planner.  Therein, lies the rub.

The day I learned that I was moving overseas in early 2007, I bought a map of Europe, hung it on my wall and put a big black “X” on Innsbruck. I printed out 6 pages, 1 for every month between me and my departure, and hung them in a line wrapping around my living room so the last one touched the map and signified ‘lift off.’  The days, weeks and months that followed were changed because of that installation and I had a literal canvas  on which to ensure that I savored every last moment in New York while lapping up every ounce of anticipation of the adventure on the horizon.  It freaked the spontaneous people in my life out completely and even raised the eyebrows of my fellow planners.  Visualizing time in that overly literal way definitely didn’t interrupt my ability to live in the moment and actually helped me process something that was up-til-then not processable.  Like the moment you realize you’re in love or the first time you face an impossible fear (sometimes the same feeling?), remembering the actual moment when a dream emerges from your heart and mind into reality is hard to do.  The lines through the days added up like rings in the trunk of a tree.  The months falling away, one after the other, fell like leaves and felt like leaving…

Much coming and going, anticipation and planning, excitement and fear have happened since then.  16 seasons of sprouting and blooming, falling and freezing.    My love of the literal time horizon has not abated but is more sanely contained in my blackberry this time and, I am somewhat surprised and gleeful to see, what has also not changed is the intensity of the countdown.  In some ways, I am finding the 28 days between me and my next departure harder to endure than all that have come before.  One cycle of the moon and I will fall asleep in Brooklyn.  I will make new life in a new, old home.   I will return to somewhere for the first time in my life.

There’s something symbolic about an arrow, always moving forward – swift and far.  But you gotta give it to the boomerang too and it’s charming ability to know when to go home.

Closer

Onto the Next Life

The fog is settling down into Victoria Harbor tonight…just as the fog in my head is beginning to lift.  Like jet streams crossing one another in a blue sky, the circle I made around the planet has me feeling a little tangled and tied up.  Parts of me still wandering the Tucson desert and other parts of me tip toeing down Montague Street, gently, like in a dream.  When everywhere is home, it’s kind of the same as nowhere being home.

I thought that I might feel some relief flying into Hong Kong, watching the yellow sun shine on the South China Sea, warm wind blowing.  Turns out what I felt was mostly longing.  In some ways I guess I was longing for the life I could have made for myself here and didn’t but, really, I was longing for the springboard I always reduced this place to to spring faster only to realize that these slow-action, heavy springs will take a full 4 weeks to compress and finally jet me out of here.  If only I could drink patience like I do water or wine or whiskey…

Salty air coming up off the Pacific some weeks ago in San Francisco felt a little like drinking patience. So vast and tranquil.  The rest of my time in SF wasn’t quite so zen but it was all fantastic.  Check out some perspectives if you want to…

Flying South for a desert chaser, I found myself in Tucson for 8 days.  Also not totally tranquil, I did manage to find a few hours to lose myself among the cacti.  That landscape and air has a way of leaching any static out of you and leaving you only with the kernels of truth, concern, doubt, wonder and, in my case, hope.  I found myself taking a lot of deep breaths, closing my eyes and stretching my arms up to the sky…hoping to find them filled with something and then realizing they are overflowing.  I really do love the desert.  Here are some more photographs.

Following West Coast mellow and Desert calm with The Big Apple could have proven harsh but, as my luck would have it, the snow melted and the clouds lifted and I wandered Brooklyn Heights looking for a nest in Spring Weather. That little fact was one of many ‘good omens’ in addition to some uplifting music, really good company and epic french fries.  Oh, and bourbon.  Did I forget to mention the bourbon?  There was a lot to celebrate and I think I might have still been dehydrated from the arid, Arizona weather.

These letters are like water bugs right now…relying on surface tension…to keep from dipping below the surface.  If we took that plunge and I revealed the spectrum of emotions and experience and encounters that washed over me in New York City this could be end up being a short novel.  Instead, I’ll leave the story line to your imagination and the gaps between these sentences and words…

 

Wayside Shrines @ The Stone

The bourbon was not the most intoxicating ingredient in the cocktail that was my week in the city and, each day that brings me closer to returning there, I well up with excitement and curiosity about the how the next leg of this trip is gonna look.  Part of the pull West is this guy…you’ve heard about him here now and again, my grandfather.  Quality time over a jigsaw puzzle and stories about The Chelsea Theater never cease to make me happy…

My Best Friend (and his best friend)

Completing the trip around our blue planet, I jetted over to Austria for some meetings and a few hugs from my ‘family’ there and, amazingly, this view of my old backyard.

Seeing all three of my most recent homes from above – New York City, Innsbruck and Hong Kong – put my last 4 years into perspective in a way I couldn’t have asked for but totally appreciated.  I mean, wow.  This all really happened.

I cleaned out the 1st of my 3 storage units today and will get the first shipment en route to The Heights next week.  Bit by bit collecting myself…

A Wise Man Once Said…

“The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.”

That smarty pants was old Abe Lincoln and, on the cusp of what is sure to be an intense and exciting 2011, I am taking this to heart and going to try my best to just take things as they come.  This is probably good advice for all of us, actually.  All the resolutions and promises and hopes and projects can, if we’re not careful, stifle our abilities to experience the present and leave us dissatisfied or somehow longing for what could’a, should’a or would’a been.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…presence is the best present so, for this new year in this new decade, I resolve to try and stay present and do the best with each day I’m given – whatever that might be.  That’s the kind of New Year’s resolution I can get behind…tangible enough to have some viable metrics but intangible enough that I have elbow room.

Sooooooooooooo 2010. . . . what were you all about?  And how am I better off because of you?

Probably at the top of the list (by a lot) would be mobility.  I was all about travel and all those destinations and quiet hours on trains and planes in between brought me the gift of perspective, some introspection and awe.  The past year saw my carbon footprint increase by leaps and bounds (a whopping 20,646 kg CO2 according to Dopplrs account of my recorded trips) as I traversed the planet for work and love and friends and family.  Japan, Bangkok (3x), Paris (2x), Vermont (2x), New Jersey (2x), Austria (2x), Macau (2x), New York City (3x), San Francisco, Los Angeles, Reno, Seattle, Santa Barbara, Rhode Island (2x), Boracay, Barcelona, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, Phuket, Hanoi and – naturally, China (5x).  Wow.  The list is amazing, in and of itself, but what’s actually amazing is the breadth and depth of the stories that wove their way into my life on all those journeys.  Seeing myself cast against all these different places, Hong Kong included, whittled down my shell a little and helped reveal more of myself.  I’m utterly grateful for the ride, for the joyful erosion, the evolution and the frequent flier miles.  In case you missed any of the pix from these adventures (or would like to revisit them) here’s an easy link.

Next up after mobility, if I’m being honest, would have to be work.  I’d be a big fat liar if I pretended like I wasn’t a fierce workaholic this entire year.  Propelled by the uncertainty of my future and a vision and belief in what I was doing, I gave up a lot of opportunities for personal development in lieu of professional development.  I lost balance, stifled some of my more artistic aspirations and turned laser beam in a lot of ways.  Measuring ‘lost potential’ is an exercise for Paul Krugman  and not something I want to dabble in but, what I can say is that regardless of what I gave up, I have no regrets.  I attribute my triumphant return to greatest city on Earth to the work I did this year – all the late night con-calls and power point tweaks and lobbying and jockeying and politics seem worth it to me, though I do plan to try and restore balance again once I’m landed.

Hummm, now that I think about it, work and travel consumed the vast majority of my year.   In addition, I was lucky that music found it’s way into my life more regularly than is normally possible for a resident of Hong Kong.  MD just posed the question, ‘ how many peoples lives were saved by rock and roll?’ and I’m pretty positive that I was and am all the time.  I caught the Secret Machines, the Bobby McGees, Snowblind, Album Leaf, WEEN!!!!, Attack Release, The Futureheads, The National, Prins Nitram, Slash and the Punch Brothers in addition to the live, streaming Phish show that’s playing right now and all the songs and performances I’m forgetting.  Oh!  Like that Filipino duo in Qing Dao that knew every Lady Gaga song with dance moves to match :)  Flying into WEEN from Hong Kong was a highlight, for sure…as was shooting The National at Radio City and getting some shots of Album Leaf published in Time Out Hong Kong.  If you want to journey back to the dark corners and sweaty photo pits of my 2010, here’s a nice link.

The kiddos did some growing up, some new ones arrived (Happy 1st New Year, sweet Amelia!), the grow’d up kiddos did some growing older and everybody else moved and turned and bloomed and molted and learned and left and tried and did what they did.  With that in mind, life carried on and for that reason alone it was a banner year and I am grateful for all 365 days of it.

This new year promises some very big change for me…a return and also a new beginning.  I hope that the circle that follows me back around the planet is more like a spiral – elevating me a little while still placing me exactly in the same place where I began this epic journey almost 4 years ago.  For those of you with me now, I wish you upward spirals, patience, surprises, clarity and good parking karma for 2011.  Even when things get dicey this year – which they will – remember there’s nothing you can’t do…

Live to the Fullest!

Happy 11’s!!