silver linings

The skies have been absolutely insane around here lately. It rained pretty hard this afternoon, then the sun came out strong, and everything was bright and clear and wet, while the sky was as blue as you can imagine with big fluffy white clouds. I went down to the hatch where the sky was dramatic, and sat for a while on the stones above the water. Such wind! I was actually chilly, and the waves crashed against the rocks hard enough to spray me, 20 feet up, every few minutes. There were several layers of clouds, all different and all moving in different directions. Every once in a while they'd hit just right and the light would change completely and instantly. It was strange and wonderful. The water went from steely gray to mossy green in the blink of an eye, then back to grey before I was ready. My battery ran out so I headed for home, and didn't I see another rainbow?



Being of a certain age and living in a Rust Belt city means there are big chunks of your history that are simply gone because so many people either moved away or died. It was really bad back in the mid 1990s, when it seemed every other weekend was a going away party for someone who was moving to North Carolina or New York City or anywhere but Buffalo or Syracuse. Times were tough around here back then, and the various associations I made between people and places stayed strong because nothing ever changes in a depressed Rust Belt city except maybe another layer of grime and decay. I used to call them my ghosts, because seeing this corner or that apartment building or the other storefront would take me back, instantly and without warning. Sometimes it was nice, but mostly it was just jarring. Buffalo has been on the mend now for a few years, and many of those old haunted places have changed, breaking the chain that links me to my past. I didn't realize how many of those links had been broken until today in Dollar General when I saw a living ghost; a woman I had known many years ago and who I thought was dead. It took me a few minutes to place the voice, the way she stood, the way she talked to the clerk, but then it all clicked into place and I felt that jolt again that I'd managed to avoid for a very long time. I knew she'd never recognize me - I was much thinner when she knew me - but even so I kept still in order to avoid catching her attention. I much prefer this city of living vibrant people to the land of ghosts I knew 15 years ago.


Chasing the Light

I've often heard people who take a lot of photos refer to themselves as "chasers of light" and though I sort of understood what they mean, it never really resonated with me until last night. I don't know if it's Arthur's distant influence (note to readers from the future: Arthur is a tropical storm that keeps threatening to turn into a hurricane and move up the east coast) or just luck, but the skies were absolutely beautiful yesterday. Impossibly big, fluffy white clouds fought for space with dark, ominous clouds that looked packed with rain and/or other kinds of michief. All day at work, I glanced out of a window every chance I could, watching the show and trying to decide where to go after work to take some snaps. As I drove around, I realized it must be Arthur, because everything was all wrong. The fluffy clouds weren't where they usually are, and the ominous clouds were moving very fast and with a purpose. Meanwhile there I was driving driving driving but never finding just the right view. Chasing the light, Pulling into a lot by the outer harbor to watch the sunset, it started to rain. Ok, I thought, not having taken a single shot, I can take a hint. Grab some dinner and go home. Tonight's sky was to experience, not to capture, and that's ok. As I came out of the store with my dinner, didn't the sky taunt me with this rainbow?

It's Out of My Hands

So my first ever photography exhibit is up at Rust Belt Books for the month of July. The process of choosing photos, having prints made, and hanging the show has been mildly but unmistakably unpleasant, but now it's up and it's really out of my hands. That feels surprisingly nice. I think the biggest lesson learned has been how to look at photos in a new light. Normally when I take a shot I'm proud of, I throw it on FaceBook and maybe add a fun comment. That's it. I'm not thinking about context or theme or the experience of walking through a space and taking in art, or which images lend themselves to prints vs. a digital frame. These were all considerations for the show, and frankly I didn't deal with all of them successfully. Live and learn! Besides, like I said, it's really out of my hands now.

Now the big challenge is staying the hell away. I want to hover, to see people looking, to see their reaction. But I know myself well enough to know that a negative reaction, or worse, indifference, would crush me, and besides, who wants a creepy guy watching them when they shop for used books? Kristi told me there were a couple of people who really spent a lot of time looking at every image, and one even commented to her, which made me very happy (though she very distinctly didn't tell me exactly what he said). I think that more than anything else, a reaction - any reaction - gave me the sense of calm necessary to just let go for a while. It's really out of my hands.


Back to the Islands

They say you can't go back, but they're wrong. You can go back, as often as you like. But you might not like what you find there. When I was in school, 'driving around' was a legitimate way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Everyone would pitch in a couple of dollars for gas, and those two or three dollars bought a full day's worth of exploring. A few times we wound up in Toronto, but most often our destination was Niagara Falls. One of my friends was a little obsessed with the Falls (in a good way) and another had actually grown up there, so she knew all the secret places. She brought us to a place which became my favorite place in the world: the Three Sisters Islands. The TSIs are, as the name implies, three small islands off the west side of Goat Island (Goat Island separates the American Falls from the Canadian Horseshoe Falls). Of course there's a whole mythology about how they're named for the three daughters of a general and they're haunted blah blah blah, but none of that was the reason why the TSIs were so special. Wild, untamed and nearly forgotten, you could wander the islands, walk right up to the raging rapids, and do all the thinking in the world without ever seeing another person. It was an incredible spot. The noise was deafening and yet it was a place of complete and utter peace. You could easily forget that you were just a few hundred feet from one of the world's most crowded tourist spots. As the years passed, I kept those memories of the islands but with no car and 'things to do' it was many years before I returned to visit. It wasn't exactly how I remembered... there were people there. True, only a handful, but still. I was surprised at first, and a little disappointed, but I soon realized that we all had solitude in mind and so everyone sort of spread out over the three islands and it was just as if you were alone. But each visit there were more and more people, until eventually complete solitude was out of the question. That's ok. It was still a magnificent place, and I still greatly enjoyed my visits there even if I could occasionally catch glimpses of other people out of the corners of my eyes. Then New York State stepped in with 'improvements'. The first thing they did was clear out about seventy percent of the foliage (trees, shrubs, plants). The wild, dense islands now looked more parklike. Then they put up fences preventing you from going anywhere near the rapids. This restricted visitors to probably forty percent of the islands' area, where in the past you were free to go pretty much anywhere if you were brave enough to climb up and over the rocks. The paths within the fenced area were paved with faux cobblestones, and in the one improvement I approve of, two of the three bridges were replaced. A parking lot and tour bus stop (!!) were added, and almost overnight the islands were overrun by tourists who were simply checking off another attraction on their list, not visiting and appreciating a unique spot. On my first post renovation visit, I almost cried, and I vowed (on FaceBook, no less) that I would never return. 'The Three Sisters Islands are dead to me!' I posted in my most dramatic style. Well, time passed and I started to wonder if I hadn't been too harsh. So this year I went back, and the island foliage is coming back but it was just as bad as I remembered. Except that it really wasn't bad unless I continued to compare it to the almost sacred place it used to be. It's actually still quite amazing, and if I were to visit the islands for the first time today, they'd still be one of my favorite places. So I've decided to consider my memory of the islands a completely different place; one I can remember and cherish and love but never return to. And the islands of today are a perfectly pleasant place to spend some time. If they remind me of that sacred place in my past, well, that's only a coincidence.

So my big photo exhibition is in July at Rust Belt. The show is called OhCD, because my original plan was to have square photos displayed in CD jewel boxes. Each case would contain a collection of five to ten photos centered around a theme. I soon realized that left me with a couple problems; first off, my 'themes' were all very similar. Too similar. One could even say 'nearly identical' and not be wrong. Second, that still left a lot of wall space to cover. So the CD boxes are no longer the main focus of the show, but the title remains, and I'm sure people think it refers to OCD and mental illness. I don't mind the ambiguity. I have OCD of the 'I left the stove on!; variety, but I don't think my photography would show that. Or maybe it does in a very obvious way only I can't see it, because I'm... you know, crazy n' shit. That's a much less appealing ambiguity. And speaking of OCD... once I was getting on to the Thruway to go to Syracuse to stay with my parents for the weekend. Right about Medina the OCD kicked in. Did I lock the door? Yes. Did I turn the water off? Yes. How about the stove? Oh shit. I couldn't remember checking the stove. I was already about a half hour into the drive, and I tried to talk myself down, but it just didn't work. Finally I realized I'd be a wreck all weekend so I turned around and went back. And my stove was ON! The good news is that I turned it off. The bad news is that I'll never be able to talk myself down in the future because 'it was on that one time'.


creation in 2014

Last winter was a tough one psychologically, but I knew if we could all just get through it a big creative storm was on the way. As usual, I was right. 2014 has been a year of interesting collaborations and opportunities. March saw the debut of the TwoLip Crew at the Vintage Vaudeville Cabaret. We performed Royals and No Diggity, and this time nobody said "oh,no!" (out loud, anyway) so I'm calling it a win. And it was a lot of fun to rehearse and perform with Jhen and Lindsay. I shot a short video on the Five Points "tactical urban intervention" which happened during CNU's visit to Buffalo. It wasn't a great video, but it was the most professional looking video I've ever shot and edited (not saying much) and I learned a lot for next time. Tonight is Artists and Models which I was not planning to attend and then BOOM I'm in it with Holly and Brian. Vintage Vaudeville Cabaret is chugging along, though the Sheas performance is probably off and I really struggle to find my place there. I keep wanting it to be Real Dream Cabaret Part II and it's just not. It takes time. But the big news is that I have a photo exhibition at Rust Belt Books on Allen Street. Iat will be up for the entire month of July, including a First Friday and part of Infringement. Very excited and terrified. I'm texcitified. Yes, it's a word.