The thrill of abandon

In a little bar in New York City back in 2012, our friends Becky and Luis sat with Tina and I over a couple of drinks and we discussed a dream possibility of staying at their friend’s farm house in the Loire Valley of France. They said the farm house was offered up for stay at next-to-nothing rates.

Becky and Luis brought it up.

T & I latched on like leaches.

It was one of those discussions that usually turn into a whole lot of nothing. The home was owned by their friend’s family.

Tina and I didn’t let it go. And we reached out to the couple and asked a few times, “Do you think we could really stay in that farm house?”

Between 2008 and 2012, Tina and I didn’t travel much. But that trip triggered a full-on travel bug infection.  Continue reading “The thrill of abandon”

Life moves so fast you can’t even taste it

The last two weeks of May, Tina and I were traipsing around Europe like to spoiled brats. We lived the life. Saw the sights. Ate the food. Met the people.

It was an amazing adventure.

We landed back in Chicago on May 30th.

And on May 31st, the universe thought it would be great to infect us with a stomach bug of some kind. I had diarrhea and Tina just couldn’t seem to find a time when her stomach didn’t hurt.

On June 1, we had booked the day with meetings. It was a Friday. We pushed through the day, but then found ourselves in bed for the weekend. Well, I was in the bathroom and in bed.

Then June 4 to 15, we were booked with appointments and jobs, most of which were 10 to 12 hour days on site. With the amount of gear we use, there’s a lot of work necessary to clean lenses and cameras, recharge batteries, and log footage. Most days we accumulated 150 to 200 GBs of data on 5 to 7 different memory cards. So there’s an hour of my time, watching data transfer to hard drives.

Or there’s requests for highlight images. So I have to fish through 4,000 to 5,000 images to  land on a few “good” ones to send.

Most of the projects these last two weeks were events. LARGE events. Multi-day events. We’ve been photographing them for years, and it’s hard to let go of them once we see the checks roll in. It’s a form of greed.

They’re hard work. Grueling. I carry between 10 and 25 lbs on me at all times. And in three days, I can easily rack up 45,000 to 60,000 steps.

But we keep them because we know the pay off is good enough to say yes to them when they book us for next year the last day of the show.

Tina and I have stopped shooting weddings. And smaller events, we’ve left as well. We still hold on to these two June events and one other client who has us two to three times a year.

As I grind through my days, I think. I think a lot. I think way more than I can write. And I regret how much time is spent not writing, when it’s often something I really want as part of my routine.

One of my thoughts over the past two busy weeks was that life was moving so fast, we couldn’t taste it.

I wonder how many people go through life like that. Not tasting it. A meal is just a moment between two other slots in their calendars. A workout is a routine experience. Seeing people is part of the day, not to be relished, or experienced.

On a busy day, food was thoughtless. It was stress induced. “If I don’t eat this salty plate of fake orange eggs, I won’t have the strength to make it to lunch, which will be a plate of salty chicken with a side of sautéed peppers.”

It seems weird to criticize good food. I’m sure there are people in the world who would love to have eggs, chicken and sautéed veggies.

But to use those items as more fuel and not an enjoyment. Or an experience, that seems weird to me. That seems so, well, American.

Back when I worked for the man, in 2000 to 2002, I hated it. I worked 9 to 5. Well, I personally worked 8 to 7 most days with lunch at my desk. But my time at home was so limited. It was to find something to eat at night. Get tired. Sleep. And Groundhog Day my day again and again and again and again.

I dreaded the idea that I worked to pay rent in a place I visited in the evenings for 2 or 3 waking hours.

There were may things that drove me to self-employment, but that was one of them. A huge one of them. I felt like it was a waste to spend 1/2 or more of my paycheck on something I enjoyed only 10-12% of my day (I didn’t count sleep or mornings as time spent at home).

The other thing was, I wanted to taste life. I don’t want to use moments in my day as stepping stones to get to the end. I don’t want my days to look exactly like the one before it, with corporate meetings and life-moving-so-fast tactics that distract me from the enjoyment of life.

I’m not working for retirement. I’m working to feel retired now. Or at least on occasion. Although the last few years have seen a big uptick in our schedules, and we are a little busier than before. But we’re also enjoying these European trips more, too. So there’s a trade.

If you’re not tasting life, slow down. If you’re sick of spending 10% of your day in the place you spend the most of your paycheck, you might be missing out on other things.

I’m a photographer because I LOVE what I do. I would photograph dirt. It’s just a fun art to practice. So the majority of my day is doing what I love with the woman I love. I cook. I sleep. I live in my oasis. And being too busy was like pinching myself to see if I am dreaming or not. I am in a dream 99% of my life. And that’s the way I prefer it.


Bertrand Russell : The Best Answer to Fanaticism …

I saw this paste of Bertrand Russell over at Kottke, and I had to share it. The advice rings symphonic bells. The ideas fell at the end of an article that Russell wrote in 1951 for the NYT magazine.

1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.

2. Do not think it worthwhile to produce belief by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.

3. Never try to discourage thinking, for you are sure to succeed.

4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.

5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.

6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.

7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.

8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent than in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.

9. Be scrupulously truthful, even when truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.

10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool’s paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness.

The first piece of advice stopped me in my tracks. “Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.” I can’t for a second back any of my views with absolute certainty.

And often, I feel trumped when talking to someone, especially with religious proclivities, who say things like, “I know I’ll be with my savior some day” or “I know Jesus is real.”

Those things are unknowable. As unknowable as any other “knowledge.”

Knowing the unknowable thwarts conversations, real discussion, and makes for frustrating talk.

Jason’s response to the 1951 article is also admirable:

Over the past few years, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to keep an open mind about many issues, particularly on those related to politics. Remaining curious and generous about new & different ideas, especially in public, is perhaps more challenging than it was in Russell’s time. We are bombarded on all sides by propaganda, conspiracy theories, and broadly discredited theories from the past pushed upon us by entertainment news outlets and social media algorithms — we’re under a constant denial-of-service attack on our ability to think and reason.

We can’t reasonably be expected to give serious consideration to ideas like “the Holocaust didn’t happen”, “the Earth is flat”, “the Newtown massacre was faked”, “let’s try slavery again”, “vaccines cause autism”, and “anthropogenic climate change is a myth” — the evidence just doesn’t support any of it — but playing constant defense against all this crap makes it difficult to have good & important discussions with those we might disagree with about things like education, the role of national borders in a extremely mobile world, how to address our changing climate, systemic racism & discrimination, gun violence, healthcare, and dozens of other important issues. Perhaps with Russell’s guidelines in mind, we can make some progress on that front.

He’s not only my co-pilot, he’s my lawyer, too

From Canada’s CBC:

The couple spoke in tongues in court to a stuffed lion who they claimed was giving them direct counsel from God.

They rejected legal aid, preferring to advise witnesses “it was their lawyer Jesus Christ asking the questions through the voice of the parent.”

The battle was for custody of their baby — who the mother wants to rename Jesus JoyoftheLord.

My parents were against this kind of “Christianity” when I was growing up, I don’t think it was too far away from the kind of Christianity we learned about in school. While there were no speaking in tongues, there was an idea about God’s voice talking to you in your mind, and through scripture. As a kid, it was confusing. As an adult, it’s just weird.


learning from life on the road


The trip that Tina and I just returned from was the best one to date. We saw and did a lot.   And by a lot, I mean a shit ton.

In France, We visited Paris, Bonnieux, Lourmarin, L’isle-sur-la-Sorgue, Gordes, and several other miscellaneous sights along the way. In Portugal, we hit Lisbon and Sintra. In Spain, we stayed in Barcelona, but knocked out a lot of sights in the city.

We ate and drank both the best and the worst of food and drinks. We toured like the best and worst tourists. I dented and scratched our rental car. Tina lost her phone in plain sight, searched frantically for it. We thought some Italian tourists in a camper van somehow swiped it while we were looking on. Eventually, after almost losing our minds, we found the damn phone in the bathroom beside the toilet.

Especially in crowded areas, we wore our wallets in front pockets, and I never kept my phone or cameras available for theft like that time in Rome when I was taking a photo in a touristy area with my phone in the big pockets of a rain coat.

We took risks in little shit restaurants. We pointed and grunted not knowing but a few words in Portuguese on several occasions. We paid one euro to use bathrooms in little restaurants only to get the money back by buying something, like a beer to walk down the street with.  Continue reading “learning from life on the road”