All I’ve Got is a Photograph…

Ian and I are in the long, arduous process of buying a house and moving (while also planning a wedding and working 7 days a week, because we don’t half-ass anything) and while searching through his dad’s basement (where much of our stuff is currently stored) I came across an old, beat-up photo album, containing photos from 1992-1998. I remembered having it, but because it was in such rough shape, I had mostly ignored it as I compiled all the other albums into neat, chronological sets.

But I pulled it out and began looking through it — there are photos from three years of Hidden Lake Girl Scout camp, cast photos from Scrooge and The Wizard of Oz, pictures of my dolls and my cats. Photos of old friends, of times I’d forgotten.

But what really struck me was less the memories of these photos and more the actual photos themselves.  These days, everyone takes photos of everything and everyone.  This drives me nuts.  On the 4th of July, I witnessed a guy watching the Cosmic Karma Fire Troupe perform through his tiny screen.  They were right there in front of him, but he was hell-bent on recording the moment for posterity.  It was embarrassing, frankly.  By contrast, these days, I photograph almost nothing.

Ian is a professional photographer and a damn good one.  He knows how to get a photo, whether composed or in-the-moment.  But he occasionally laments that he spends so much time recording other people’s lives that he, like the aforementioned idiot, worries he’s missing out on his own.

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But as I stated before, what really struck me about these photographs was what was happening just outside the picture itself, the impetus for the photograph. These were still the days of 35mm and, better still, disposable cameras, so film, especially to a 13 year old, was a rare and pricey thing.  These are photos that couldn’t be edited on screen, photos we took chances with — the chance that someone might be blinking, making a weird face, that it might be over or under-lit, out of focus or out of frame.  You wouldn’t know until the photos came back three days later, and if that was the only picture you managed to snag of Jeremy S., well, you were going to hold onto that photo like treasure until you got your hands on another roll of film. And I’m fascinated by the raw, unedited appeal of these old photographs — the people in the background, the story behind how they were taken, the definitive history of my hair or my teenage bedroom, how I can mark the passage of time in teenage crushes by posters on my wall. (I’ll always love you, David Duchovny)

One thing I do regret about some of these photos is that I got rid all the pictures I had of my last boyfriend, Aaron, who I dated through high school and college and was engaged to, however briefly.  It’s a piece of my mythology that has been all but erased, and I’m a little sorry about that.  Those early photographs especially told of a pretty contemptuous teenage relationship, my first and one fraught with anxiety and melodrama, all captured in squinting, awkward, over-lit photographs snatched in the moment because he hated having his picture taken and actively made it impossible to get a decent shot, like a petulant child.

(David Duchovny would have never behaved that way)

These days, I would have 200 photographs of our first date and every moment afterward, but I’m not so sure that’s the solution either.  Because after awhile, it all just becomes white noise — there really is something to finding that ugly photograph again that can trigger more memories, more emotion, than 10 of the most perfectly-photoshopped, cropped, red-eye-reduced portraits.

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Yesterday I got out Ian’s old 35mm (the one this photo was taken with) and started playing around with it.  I want to get back to exploring photography, the whole of the photos themselves. The background.  The singular moment, book-ended in memory only by the before and after.  I’m not looking for the perfect shot, but rather, the imperfect. 

 

On Obits and Writing

Good news first — Nick Mamatas, who is currently my Favorite Person in the World, nominated my story “Late Night on Rt 17” for The Million Writers Award from storySouth!

But the kind of bummer news is that John Scarzafava, who was one of my favorite interviews in this last year, died this afternoon of lung cancer.  Scarzafava was a huge deal not just because he was the badass attorney who took on GM in the 70s, but because he was a philanthropist and an all-around nice guy.

When my editor, Jim, assigned me the interview ahead of the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce awards, he said that if I got in over my head or if John wouldn’t talk to me, to turn the interview back over to him and he’d take care of it.  This made me extremely nervous.  But when I got on the phone with John, from his winter home in California Wine Country, we talked for well over an hour.  He told me stories of standing up against corporations.  We talked about wine.   And at the end of all of it, I wrote what I felt was one of the best stories of my career.

He thought so too.  I got a call from Theo Basdekis a few days later, saying that John was trying to get in touch with me.  He loved the story and wanted to tell me himself, but his phone wasn’t working. I sent him an email to thank him and said I’d come over to the office when he was in town.  And at the chamber awards dinner, he found Ian, our photographer, and asked about me.  Gushed about me.  Said he couldn’t wait to meet me, and that if we needed anything, to just call the office.

I never went by.  Never got a chance to meet him.  And now he’s gone.

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When you’re a reporter, you always live in this weird place between distance and empathy.  If you let things affect you too much, you’ll be constantly overwhelmed with anxiety and stress.  Too distant and you can’t connect with the story in a way that’s interesting to the reader.  You have to keep your head together when there’s a shooting downtown on the day before Christmas Eve, but you have to be able to sound sympathetic when you are, say, calling someone who has yet to hear from a loved one at the end of the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon.

And, like all jobs, you can’t cry.  I become an expert on quietly getting up, walking calmly to the upstairs bathroom, and sobbing hysterically.  This has been termed a “Wagenbach Sob” after Dutch Wagenbach in the Shield episode “Dragonchasers

 

I have elevated the Wagenbach sob to an art form.  But I waited until I got home to have a little cry over John’s passing — not because I knew him so well, but because I didn’t.  Because I was foolish to keep putting off a chance to say hello to someone, introduce myself, and now, well, it’s too late.

Guess all there is to do now is write the obit and go to the funeral.

 

Gang Related, Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Menswear

Gang Related is the worst show I’ve ever seen.

MORE BOYD LESS RAYLAN

MORE BOYD LESS RAYLAN

I say this as someone who watches it every single week.  We’ll get to why in a minute, but it needs to be said that although previously, I thought Blue Bloods was the worst show I’d ever seen, Gang Related takes Blue Bloods racist, pro-police-state garbage to yet-unprecedented levels of awful. Justified’s boring-ness and complete waste of potential draws more of my ire than Blue Bloods, while the exceptionally frustrating Sons of Anarchy merely annoys me with it’s aggressive Kurt-Sutterness.

But Gang Related, which is basically The Shield-lite, makes me really, really angry.  I’m drawing comparisons to The Shield because that’s A) The Shield is the greatest show ever written and every other show, (including children’s programming) will be measured against it’s awesomeness and B) Scott Rosenbaum is the producer, so he brought this on himself.

 In the pilot (SPOILER ALERT: You Don’t Care) Ryan Lopez, who was raised by gangs (one might say he’s related to the gang) but also in the anti-gang unit (which responds to gangrelated crimes) watches his anti-gang partner get gunned down by a member of the gang Lopez is related to in a gang-related shooting (OMG DO YOU GET IT YET?!?).  Lopez doesn’t say anything when asked about the shooting and then spends the rest of the show roughing up various low-income minorities yelling “Who shot my partner?”  YOU KNOW WHO DID, YOU DUMB JERK.  YOU. KNOW.  

What can I say?  I make passes at men who wear glasses

What can I say? I make passes at men who wear glasses

 A few episodes later, Det. Knows-Who-Murdered-His-Partner steals a truck full of cocaine for the gang that he’s related to, punches Rza in the face and then walks around saying “Gee, wonder who took this cocaine while I wasn’t around!”  He is surrounded by equally-charmless assholes and Rza, who looks very handsome in his glasses.  Their captain murders a guy because, hey, why not, cops = good.  Detective Lady Cop tries to be Vic Mackey with tits, and there is Det. Asian Cop and Rza, who are okay for being Token Characters (TM), I guess.

Which brings us to Paul Carter, the Internal Affairs officer brought in to investigate Lopez’s partner’s shooting.

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Paul Carter is the only reason I watch this terrible show.  First off, he is played by Jay Karnes, who is tall and handsome and speaks with an inflection that is simultaneously threatening and erotic.  I’ve always had a soft spot for The Shield’s Dutch Wagenbach and a bit of a crush on Burn Notice‘s Tyler Brennen, and Carter is the best of both.  

Secondarily, Carter is the only non-loathsome character in the show.  Rza had potential, but Carter is there to bring Detective Dickweed to justice for his partner’s shooting, which, by my estimation, makes him the hero.  

That is one DAMN fine suit, sir

That is one DAMN fine suit, sir

But third, and most importantly, are Carter’s suits.

I have never felt about menswear — or clothing in general — the way I feel about Carter’s three-piece suits.  They’re a thing of pure beauty.  The charcoal grey with the subtle chalk pinstripes in episode two was one thing, but then he brought his A-game the next week with another grey suit, this time with the faintest black check. And I had the weirdest thought as I sat there sweating and gawking at the TV.  “I want to bite the cuff of his jacket,” I thought to my idiot self.  “I want to eat that suit.”

(I may actually be Liz Lemon.  Tests are inconclusive.)

And the vests!  I’m an absolute sucker for a man in a vest.  It says, “I take my work seriously and my women more seriously.”  Blame Han Solo for that fetish, I guess. 

Don’t even get me started on Carter’s maroon tie from last Thursday’s “El Zorro y el Gallinero.”  I had to leave the room.  

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I’ve always loved menswear and went through a considerable phase where I wore suit jackets, ties, even a three-piece pinstriped suit that I had lovingly tailored.  I had to tie my ex-boyfriend’s lone Yoda tie because he didn’t know how to and didn’t own any other ties, and I didn’t wear my own ties all Avril Lavigne style either.   

 I do own a fedora, yes, and it’s not one of those tiny MRA ones either.  I wear it with my skinny jeans, Betsey Johnson booties, a tee-shirt and a tailored jacket. I look fine.

There’s just something so wonderfully sexy about menswear that just doesn’t come from women’s suits.  If I had to chose between Glamour and Esquire, I’d pick Esquire every time, just to look at the fashion pages.  I love seeing women wearing men’s suits — like Diane Keaton in Annie Hall.  I love the playfulness of it, the subtle sexuality.

And really, is there anything sexier than a woman in a man’s dress shirt and not much else?