Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.
Everyone who knows me, knows I don’t really like the holidays. I like them less than my birthday, and to be honest, I’d love to go somewhere remote and secluded from a week before Halloween until a week after New Years. I get argument after argument about this, so lets just accept it as fact. I try never to hamper anyone’s good time, I guess I just have too many hang ups to enjoy it all.
Tomorrow I think will be the most difficult Thanksgiving I’ve faced for quite sometime. My life is nowhere near where I’d like it to be. I’m broke, out of work, on the edge of giving up the freedom that I had decided to get back into my life, and 1,500 miles away from the person I want to be with.
Yeah, it’s gonna be a bleak day, inside of a bleak month, buried in a bleak winter.
But I’ll have my kids. My boys. The two greatest things that have ever happened to me. I’ve forgotten a lot in life but I like to think that even when I close my eyes for the last time, I’ll remember the exact seconds that I held them both for the first time.
Needless to say, I take a lot of photos of my kids. To begin with, they’re easy targets. They’re my flesh & blood so there’s no way they tell me stop anyway. Jack hides from me now, but I manage to catch him when he’s not looking. James… well James tolerates me. He’s started to play with my camera, but he still has trouble working the buttons. My mother got a new camera recently and we gave the old one to the boys. James especially loves it, he takes photos of all sorts of things, and I love seeing what he sees. He’ll be better than me someday. The interesting thing about that is he’s named after my Grandfather, James Killeen, who was a great photographer who passed his talent to my mom, who passed some of it to me.
So tomorrow will be another day of tickles, playing on the floor, goofing off, and me hitting the bed exhausted after them both wearing me out. I’ll sleep good. I tend to briefly forget my woes for the time being, even if it’s just for a few minutes while I play “I spy” with Jack or James is sitting on my lap. Sure things are pretty crappy right now, but Jack and James are still smiling, and they both still say “I love you daddy.”
I used to tell this neat little lie when I was a kid.
See, my birthday is November 12th. Veteran’s Day is the day before. Schools are closed, as are banks, government offices, etc. When I first joined a union, it was floating holiday, but I think we gave it up for the day after Thanksgiving or some other day that was more convenient to be off. I grew up with a dad that always told us trivial historical facts, dates, names, places, etc, stuff that never really got you anywhere except when you knew that November 11th was Veteran’s day before the rest of the kids in your class did. I of course told my whole class one year that the school was closed so my parents could get ready for my birthday.
I don’t know if it worked ever, but it made me feel cool.
Today’s Veteran’s day, and yes, I know what tomorrow is, I rather not be reminded. I have too many bad birthdays to enjoy them any more.
Today I had off, not because of a union contract, rather because I am one of the millions of newly unemployed Americans. So after I went on another fruitless interview this morning, I decided to head to the New York Veteran’s Day Parade. Today was a special Veteran’s Day in New York. The USS Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier that served as a museum was rededicated by the President Of The United States. Afterward, the parade would stroll down Fifth Ave. I was too late for the ceremony, and knew I couldn’t get close enough anyway, so I set off for the parade.
I got there shortly after the start of it, and found a nice spot across from the main viewing stand. The crowds were deep, and it was mostly a crowd that stopped by on their lunch break. They were enthusiastic, and cheered as the parade came by. I moved around and shot as I had with countless parades. I tried my best to capture the jubilation and excitement on faces, in movements. I found myself at an intersection, where a member of the NYPD control pedestrian traffic. I looked around, then slipped behind him into the parade route, on the other side of the barricades. I didn’t turn my back to see if he noticed, but I did hold up my camera, as if to show I had it, and to try to show I belonged there.
Once inside the parade itself, I went “butt-ass-wild” taking shot after shot of participants as well as viewers. I was lost in the moment, caught up in the excitement of it all.
Then I saw Smitty.
I don’t even know if that was his real name, but I noticed it was sown on his jacket. He stood against the railing, American flag tucked unto his buttons. His eyes were red, and he chocked back the tears as he watched everyone stream by. I turned to see what he was looking at, and all I could see was the parade. I looked back at Smitty and I realized maybe what he was seeing, was not only the parade, but what wasn’t at the parade. Those who weren’t there today. Maybe those who didn’t have time to come and cheer. Maybe those who were off, and would rather be loafing on the couch then battle the fall wind and head into Manhattan. Maybe he was seeing the men and women who never made it home to be in a parade like this. I’ll never know. I raised my camera and took Smitty’s picture. I reached out and shook his hand. “Thank you.” I said. He nodded and I moved on, capturing what was there, and never forgetting what wasn’t.
I took a lot of shots… too many to put them all here. Enjoy this slideshow of all my 2008 NYC Veteran’s Day Parade images
Why does the world hate mimes?
There are 52 unique muscles in the human face and she was using every one of them that spring afternoon to convey all the emotions she could with out her voice. As the crowd streamed around her she practiced her craft mimicking, teasing have playing with the people passing by. A few stopped and watched and drew delight in the ones that didn’t stop, just walked along. Those were the ones she performed with, imitating, following, using a comic foil for her act. A few would notice, and turn and she would instantly switch to something else so they never had any idea what went on.
I watched for a while, and took her photo as she performed. I thought she didn’t see me, but in the end she did, and even posed for me.
I don’t know why people hate mimes….
I never wanted to sing. Actually I never really wanted to be anyone in the band. Being in front of a crowd for any amount of time turns my knees to jelly and makes me wish for a mystical cloak of invisibility. My best friend asked me to be his best man and from day one I dreaded the speech I had to give.Even today, I don’t really remembered what I said, I just remembered I wanted nothing more to hand that mic to someone else and get a Jack ‘n’ Coke.
Even early on, I was drawn to the spotlight however. Not really the spotlight itself though, but to the edge of it. My natural curiosity brought me to that line, never over it. I always wanted to see what was going, watching it all, imprinting it into my memory.
And now I have a camera, makes it easier I guess. Well, in some ways. The great thing about spotlights is they tend to make if difficult for the person in the spotlight to see what everyone else is doing. Now it’s up to me to slowly sneak my way to the back of the crowd and take the shot that totally captures their spirit without them knowing it.
Growing up, my mom was always the one with the camera. I get whatever talent I have from her. But mom was always part of the party, she was always laughing with us, not being the social introvert I’ve grown into. We always goofed around on holidays and Mom’s slogan was “do that again!!” so she could take a photo. Someone, usually my sister would call out “And act candid!!”
Of course there is no way to “Act candid.” Furthermore, there is no way to tell a complete stranger to pretend he/she doesn’t know his/her photo is being taken. So, when I see someone I really want to capture, I linger, make myself disappear and try to take a shot I’m pleased with.
Here are some I’ve been pleased with… in no order…
Mike and Shea
There’s more, but that’s enough for today. I’d say something stupid like see you around, but I guess the point of this is that you don’t see me, that I see you, and I see you being you.
I was sitting in Laguardia Airport, which I really believe holds the record for the most boring airport on planet Earth. I think a one room shack in the middle of the Philippines would have more to do. There was a bar I had spent some time in, but the necessity of catching this flight kept me now glued to the gate. I sat there on the floor near the closest outlet and goofed off on my laptop, at least I had Wi-Fi.
I noticed a boy and his mother approach from the side. She was young, I actually wouldn’t have been surprised to find out she was his older sister. What first caught my attention though was the fact that he was in his pajamas, Pirate Of The Caribbean PJs in fact. After that, I noticed the IV and colostomy bag.
They sat in the corner, and she produced two small robot toys from her bag for him. He played with them on the open chairs between us as I closed up my laptop to prepare to eventually get on my plane. After a few moments I noticed he was watching me.
“Hello.” I said to him.
“Hi.” He responded. “Are you going to Florida too?”
“No, I’m going to Atlanta, and then to Dallas.” He picked up his robot toys and moved closer.
“I have to go to Florida to see another doctor.” He told me. “Do you want to play robots?”
“I only have a few moments, but sure.” I took the robot he offered me and for a few minutes were first explored the top of my suitcase the he suddenly turned on me and threw my robot off the suitcase which suffered a horrible fall to the terminal floor, screaming in panic the whole way. The Boy In The Pirate Pjs laughed, and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed so did his mother. An announcement that the boarding process of our flight had begun rang out, so I told the little boy I had to go. He smiled, picked up his robots in one hand and the IV and colostomy bag that trailed behind him in the other and walked over to where his mother sat. She greeted him with a big smile. I finished collecting my things, and before I stood, I pulled out my camera. As he climbed up on a chair and looked out the window, I took a shot. I heard them announce my flight again so I stuffed the camera in my bag and got on the line.
As the line began to move, I watched the two of them. She now cradled him in her lap and tickled him. He laughed and tried to catch a necklace she wore. I silently wished them a safe trip as I boarded my plane.
I walked through Union Square one late summer afternoon and I came across a man who had a table set up by the steps at the southern end of the park. He had a sign that said “50 Cent Flowers” and he had buckets on the table filled with them.
I came a bit closer and noticed that the flowers weren’t real flowers at all, rather fake ones, made from material and wire. They were all very delicate and I watched from a distance as he sold a few. Finally I approached them and took a closer look.
He noticed my camera and asked if I was a proffesional, and I chuckled and told him no, just enjoying a hobby. He chuckled back and said “Me too.”
I bought 4 flowers and then asked him if he minded if I took pictures of his flowers. He smiled and nodded and I took some, but when I looked at them later, I realized that none of the images I had captured of his exquisite creations were as delicate as the man himself tending to his hobby.
It’s a difficult thing to go most places with class of children on the autistic spectrum, but the Queens Science Museum was probably one the most ill-conceived and poorly executed trips I had ever been a part of. To expect five to seven year old autistic children to be even mildly interested in concepts that quite frankly bore older mainstream children was simply ludicrous.
But like the say, when handed lemons, right…?
So we ate lunch in the cafeteria, which was a timed affair, BTW, since there were so many schools there that day. The teachers huddled and all of them saw this as going south really badly of we were to stick with the museum plan. I was called in because I was the only one from the area. I suggested a few ideas, but then someone noticed a small playground across the street. We were all in agreement, so once the children were done eating, we all marched out the museum doors (“No return admittance!!”) to the playground.
The rest of the day was spent forgetting about the science of the how and why and just living in the reality of a sprinkler, jungle gym and slides. Since there was already one teacher or para for every child (and me) all the kids got individual attention. It was so warm out that soon almost all the children were in the sprinkler. I played with James on the jungle gym where he climbed to the highest perch like the monkey he is. We rested at the top and I began shooting.
I took several shots that day, most of which can be seen here in slideshow form.
The shot though that most consider to be the shot of the day is the one I call “Joy”
This one, as in all of the shots of that day, is of a child experience the unique summer time fun that seems to fall away when you grow older. Something about a child and water just leads to pure happiness.
To me though, the real joy in that playground that day was the fact that for a few hours they were just kids. For a short time they had broken the chains of autism and were speaking in the immortal language of just having fun.
I’ve been asked if the subject in the photo above had autism and the answer is yes. I saw him at school awhile later and he was having such a rough day he had a pressure vest on. He was screeching and wouldn’t get on the elevator. He was lost in the sucky world of his condition. However, I knew somewhere inside him was the same joy that was on his face that day.
Maybe all he needed was a sprinkler.