It's the middle of the night, and I'm looking out the window as a light snow falls. It's a view that, while lovely, would normally inspire thoughts of shoveling and brushing off my car before work. Not my favorite activities. But it's different this time. I feel fortunate just to be able to see out my window. Less than 10 miles to the south, my friends don't have that luxury. The Knife Storm of 2014 (insert eye roll at lame nickname) broke the U.S. record for one-day snowfall, dropping more than five feet of snow in some places, with more to come. I was lucky this time. The lake effect snow band stayed well to the south of me, and my neighborhood got maybe five or six inches total.

Following my friends and coworkers on social media and viewing the photo galleries sent out to an incredulous world has made my jaw drop more than once. I'm grateful I was spared this time. I'm sorry and concerned for those stuck in their homes or workplaces with little chance of getting out before the weekend. I'm determined to stock up on essentials for the inevitable time when I'll be the one snowed in (maybe next week, maybe in five years). I'm in awe of nature's power, which can easily destroy anything we create but cannot break our spirit.

My facebook feed is full of people being the best that people can be... caring, concerned, looking out for each other. I received several notes from friends all over the country checking to see if I'm ok. Unfortunately there's a lot of behavior that falls short, as well, and I'm trying not to dwell on any of that. Life's too short, and I've no right to complain anyway.

Next week America takes time out to celebrate a day of giving thanks. I would imagine more than a few people will have a new appreciation for their many blessings. I know I will.


Sudden Fear

The fallout from my summer exhibition continues. I got an e-mail out of the blue inviting me to be the "Guest Artist" at the Williamsville Art Society's September meeting. I was so flattered that I said yes before remembering how much I hate speaking to groups of people, and what would I say about my work, anyway? I can't really articulate or explain how I see the world or how I shoot or how I crop... I just work at it until it feels right, and then I'm done. That's not a very interesting lecture. So I was more than a little nervous as I drove out to the suburbs on Friday night.

Well, consider this chapter 19,261 of the book "Things John Was Wrong About" because you couldn't ask for a nicer, more hospitable group than the 30+ people who attended the meeting. I played a bit of a trick on them. I was supposed to discuss my background, my photography, that sort of thing. And I did, very briefly. But then I talked about the "No More Second Hand Art" philosophy that I have found so interesting. I didn't explain it very well, but people got it and we ended up having a lively discussion about various aspects of creativity. It was a lot of fun, and I'm so glad I was part of it. My new goal: stop being afraid of stupid things!


Time Capsule

My computer died about a month ago, so I'm using the one it replaced way back in 2008. It's about 80% annoying because there are reasons why I replaced it. But it's also about 20% fun because I'm rediscovering all the photographs I had taken back then which, in most cases, I'd completely forgotten about. It's interesting to look at the way I viewed the world then vs. now. It's only a few years but there are some differences. The first is that I didn't miss a chance to frame an image in a cheesy Paint Shop Pro frame (see above for example). This one isn't so bad, but a lot of them are hideous. And I used every single one. The second difference is that the photos are so small. Was I worried about storage? Computer speed? I don't know, but whatever it is I'm glad I don't worry about it anymore. The big difference is I got around a lot more back then than I do now. I think it's time to expand my range.


Life in general is a time of contradictions and paradoxes, but it's especially true in Autumn. I've been out of school for *CENSORED* years now, but Autumn still reminds me of new beginnings, even as the leaves begin to turn red and fall off the trees. The cool Autumn mornings hint - discretely at first, then a bit more forcefully - at the Winter to come, while the warm afternoons remind you that Summer isn't going without at least a little fight. Autumn just never feels long enough. Not this year, Autumn. I may have frittered the Summer away but I have plans for you.


Bad Poetry

I used to joke that "open mike poetry night" were the four scariest words in the English language, but one night many years ago, I learned it's no joke. A friend had invited me to an OMPN at a local church hall, and as incredible as it seems now, I didn't run directly to the Peace Bridge and hurl my body into the cold, raging waters of the Niagara River. I went. I remember sitting in the church basement, holding a styrofoam cup of flat soda and trying to get comfortable. I'm not a fan of poetry in general and bad poetry in particular, but the people seemed sincere and even I had to admit their poems were mercifully brief. Then "she" took the podium. She opened up a worn notebook, adjusted her glasses, took a deep breath, and launched into "January" the single most heinous poem I've ever heard, read or seen. You might think I'm being dramatic, but trust me: this poem was a stinker. It hit every trite cliche, every worn turn of phrase, every dimestore psychological insight in the book. But even worse was the dull, affectless monotone she read in. As she droned on, I was afraid of falling asleep and dropping my soda. Or clawing my face off. Both were very real possibilities. Eventually she reached the end of "January" and the crowd applauded. "Finally!" I thought, looking around the room to see who the next reader might be. But no. She turned a page in that worn notebook, took another deep breath, and launched into "February". I don't think it's exaggeration to say my life flashed before my eyes.

Years later the Real Dream Cabaret was working on a Cabaret Hell show to be performed at the opening of the brand new Burchfield Penney Art Center. I wrote a very long, very deliberately bad poem for my Cabaret Hell act, and I had a couple of ringers in the audience to heckle me a few minutes in. Tonight when I was clearing out some computer files I found the first draft of that poem. Enjoy. Or don't.


Monday rolls in like a 1973 Ford Pinto
And rides like it hasn’t had a tuneup
Since before my soul turned inky black and began to reek
With the stench of conformity
With the stench of acceptance
With the stench of acquiescence

Or perhaps it’s the stench of off-brand instant coffee
Waiting for the boiling water that will finally justify its existence
A garishly labeled plastic jar of powder
Ground and pulverized like my inky black soul
Seeping through my fingers and onto the kitchen floor
For the dog to sniff before losing interest and walking away
To lick itself in places we think obscene

Monday drops by unannounced
And overstays its welcome
Puts muddy feet on the expensive upholstery of my dreams
Leaving a mark no Oxy-Clean will ever remove
And no Sham-Wow will ever dry
Monday feels like salt and vinegar potato chips on a fresh paper cut
Take your search for comfort to some other day
Lazy Sunday perhaps, or Industrious Thursday
You’ll find no comfort here
For Monday is a harsh mistress
Her steely gaze and icy grip promise little and deliver nothing
Monday tastes like desperation
Yet the lonely gorge themselves at her banquet table of despair
Then ask to be excused so they can purge in the restroom
And return for yet another course
It’s all you can eat, baby
But the tray of roasted garlic mashed potatoes
Is always

Monday is the teacher of hard truths
And we her unwilling pupils
It’s 8 a.m. and Monday comes roaring into town
Sounding like the mother of all snooze alarms
She’ll sell you another ten minutes
But you’ll only be ten minutes closer to losing your mind
Monday makes awkward banter on slow-moving elevators
And whispers tales of weekend conquest in the breakroom
Sexual or otherwise
And it’s almost always otherwise