The tragedy of celebration


In 2006, Tina’s dad made an announcement. Not just any announcement.

He announced he had cancer.

Not just any cancer. Stomach cancer.

Not just any stage cancer. Stage 4 borderline stage 5 cancer.

This was not just any announcement. An “I’ve got so long to live” announcement. “Let’s do things. Let’s reconnect. Let’s make up for lost time.”

The distance from the announcement to his death was short. At most, eight months. He attacked it with every ounce of strength he had. He tried keeping up his active lifestyle of rollerblading in his Florida neighborhood. He tried to keep dating a woman he’d been on and off again for a few years.

We saw him for a weekend that fall. His mom, Tina’s grandma, passed away in October. He flew up to the funeral. We talked to him. His hair was gone. But he felt okay. His feet felt heavy, like “concrete” he said, so he was buying tons of shoes to comfort the feeling.

Back in Florida, he was far from all of us Chicago relatives. While the sun and warmth were probably good for his soul and his attitude, he was alone down there. He had to drive himself to doctor’s appointments and treatments. He was a proud man, and didn’t want to bother his girlfriend. He started taking cabs to the doctor. He took cabs to chemo. He needed help.

His health nosedived toward Christmas. His brother ended up driving down to get him around the holiday with hopes he could help alleviate some of the ease of doctor visits and cancer treatments. But it was really to have him near his brothers, Tina and the rest of the family when he died.  Continue reading

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The helpless feeling of anger


Over the past 15 years or more, I’ve sat off again and on again on the couch of a therapist. I’ve discovered a lot about myself and the inner tickings of this old brain of mine.

Abandonment is a large issue for me. I trace abandonment back to adoption, a mental place of loss before I could decipher what loss was. Feelings of abandonment can trigger a swing. Abandonment can encompass betrayals. Abandonment can be triggered by another’s behavior that has nothing to do with mine.

Keep in mind, I realize that the best, most loving result of the situation that occurred before I could walk on my own was that I would eventually be adopted by two incredible parents. But all the good in the world won’t change my chemical and physical makeup for what my head thinks it needs, wants, desires and hopes for.

Continue reading

A link dump, a dumpster fire, and skating on thin ice, how nice.


When I took aim at blogging again with regularity, my goal was to reach back to what this blog used to be and that was a news aggregate of sorts. That hasn’t happened.

For the most part, I’ve been doing my best to stay away from consuming too much news. It’s like sugar, it tastes good for a few minutes and then you come crashing down after an hour or less. In this media market, there’s so much sugar that it’s causing a crash every second if I let it. So I stay away.

This video below is a metaphor for the mental state I’ve been aiming for, calm beautiful purposeful sounds that relax and encourage.

But occasionally the news of the day seeps in and disrupts my garden of tranquility. Below the fold, I’m going to throw a bunch of links to the shit that I would be posting and discussing more, but it puts me in a negative headspace.

So I’m considering this a link dump. I’m considering it a fire pit. A place where the news that sucks goes. Or news I might discuss and find some negativity about it. In this post, I douse it with gas, light a match, flick it on top and walk away.

If you descend into the link dump, come back to the top and refresh yourself by watching this video playing the sounds of skating on thin ice. Ah metaphors.

 

Continue reading

We’re nearing the end of the Whole30


Tomorrow marks 30 days of not consuming alcohol, sugar, legumes, dairy and grains. Not to mention junk food, sulfites, or — as I’ve found — nothing you can’t pronounce or identify as a food product.

My first Whole30 experience has been a good one. Positive. Mind expanding. Challenging and liberating.

The diet started with a bit of a laissez faire attitude. I could care less if I lost weight. If I quit drinking beer alone, I was sure to lose seven or eight elle bees.

I started the diet to support Tina, her cousin and her husband.

Now I’m wondering if I’m ever going to quit the diet ever. Yes, it’s that good. I don’t miss any of the foods we aren’t supposed to eat. I’m not missing alcohol, and this was my BIGGEST fear on this diet. I was this close to consulting an AA sponsor before we started. On day 29, I have very little desire to have a drink, and I didn’t need AA to do it. Yay me! Continue reading

Is there a good time for your refrigerator to die?


On Sunday morning, I woke up, zombie walked into the kitchen and could hear the refrigerator straining a little harder to keep itself cool.

I walked closer, thought, “Something is wrong.” I double checked the doors. They seemed to be shut. So I thought, crisis averted.

I peered back into the door and up at the temperature reading, and it was in the high 40s. It’s supposed to read 37 or so.

The freezer was reading well into the 30s. This sucks!

“Somebody left the door open. Probably Tina! And now we’re screwed!” I thought. Obviously the only culprit in the house for leaving open the door is her. But all will be okay, now.

So I went about my routine. Brewed a French Press of coffee. Did my morning mediation and stretch. Followed that with a warm cup of coffee and my journaling session. Mentally prepared for my Sunday work out.

Throughout the day, the refrigerator didn’t cool down. The temperatures rose. The ice melted. Everything defrosted. All our fridge items were souring. Not only is this bad timing in general, but we’re on the Whole30 diet which centers itself around pre-preparing parts or entire meals, so our entire freezer and fridge are dedicated to Whole30 success.

Around 8:30 that night, we panicked.

“Our refrigerator is dead. We need a new one. Our whole30 is at stake!” We exclaimed in bizarre unison.

Before bed, I filled drawers with snow from our porch and put in some of our more delicate groceries. I left as much as I could on the porch to freeze in the 10 degree temps.

In bed, we ordered a new $2000 refrigerator from Home Depot. The earliest delivery was Thursday or Friday. We chose Friday because we had an interiors job on Thursday. Tina had one of those “I’m a psychic. Thursday will postpone. I just know it.” I doubted her. “We can’t bank on your special powers of intuition.” So we went with Friday (a full five nights away!).

I’m a skeptic and she’s the damn goddess of prediction. 

Monday morning, our nightmare was still reality. We got a text that our thursday job postponed (Tina did the “I was right!” dance). I called my dad to ask him for advice. “Should I call a repairman or do you think this thing is dead?”

“If you can get it repaired,” he said, ” You could get another few years of life out of the thing, and not spend $1500 or more bucks, the better…”

I couldn’t help but feel guilty about throwing a 500lb piece of Millennium Falcon junk out because it happened to stop working and might be fixable. Tina and I went back and forth and thought, “This thing has been on the fritz. It’s dead. No dice. Let’s buy a new one.”

NEW STUFF IS FUN!

Tina went online to find a retailer with an earlier delivery date. I jumped in the car to pick up our studio mini fridge to use in the interim and run some other errands.

A text showed up while I was out that said, “I think the refrigerator is cooling off again. Am I crazy?”

I called. Sure enough, we were looking at the rough, metallic equivalent of a technological resurrection. Our fridge was Jesus’ing a Lazarus. Or vice versa.

It looks like we had  left a door open and it froze up its coils. The fridge shut itself down for 24 hours to thaw.

So for about 24 hours, Tina and I wasted a bunch of time troubleshooting a broken fridge that wasn’t broken. We’d like to thank the academy for our performance of freaking out. And for all your support during this time of stress and need, we appreciated your incessant prayers and positive vibes.

Oh, you didn’t send prayers? that’s weird. How did this fridge start working again, then?

What kind of Twilight Zone do we live in!?!

 

“It is vain to do with more what can be done with less.” Thank you, Mr. Ockham


When it comes to gear envy, the struggle is real. I’m a photographer, and if it’s shiny, and someone’s gushing over it, or it’s $200 off retail, or its promise is to make my life easier, better, more productive, I want it.

Want.It.

Crave it.

Obsess over it.

Some people look at porn like I look at new gear.

Just yesterday, there was an ad on my favorite camera store’s web site, B&H Photo & Video. It was for a light. A hot light. One that stays on all the time. And I wanted it. It was LED. New. Brand new tech. I stared at it for 15 minutes. Twenty minutes. There were no reviews, so I googled it to see if anyone on the internet had one and was reviewing them.

No luck.

So I googled comparable lights. When there’s one company making a light, that means someone else started it first. I found all kinds of information, but said and done, I don’t really need this light. It’s not going to make me go out and shoot more. Although, I want to believe that having more tools in my arsenal would somehow make my life soooooo much easier.

Said and done, keep it simple, stupid. Take it easy, Azizi.

That quote above from Mr. William Ockham (Occam) is a good reminder. For a long time, I use to reference Ockham and his razor when discussing religion. His razor is a problem-solving principle that, when presented with competing hypothetical answers to a problem, one should select the one that makes the fewest assumptions.

Because you know what happens when you assume. 

There’s also a quote that I found in Tim Ferriss’ Tribe of Mentors with a similar tone:

“Learning to ignore things is one of the great paths to inner peace.” –Robert J. Sawyer Hugo

Lately, I’ve had to eschew some news, even NPR, for the sake of peace. Like you and you, but not you, I’ve been Trumped to bits. Trump trump trump trump trump. Trump.

There’s not a corner you can turn in this media diet market when his name isn’t the focus or mentioned. In stories ranging from world markets to kitties stuck in trees, Trump. In stories about flu to venereal disease, Trump. Not even porn is safe anymore.

“The world is a vampire.” Thanks Billy Corgan. 

On top of my Whole30 diet, I’ve had to really take stock of the media I’m consuming lately. I needed to just take a step back and review what I’m reading, and how it’s affecting me.

This conversation I had a while back keeps playing in my head. It was about reading “both sides” of the issues. It was about balancing “liberal” web sites with “conservative” ones.

This person I was talking to said that Matt Drudge was left-leaning, and I almost spit out my turkey and stuffing. “Drudge is as conservative as it gets.”

“No,” sayest my friend, “He links to New York Times and other liberal sites.”

“Linking to those sites does not make the liberal.”

Clearly, it takes very little effort to see the bias of Matt Drudge, or any blog or website. His slant is clearly pro Trump, pro Republican, and anti Liberal.

If you don’t take my word for it (I’m not talking about you, because the whole world knows except this one fella), but take his word: “I am a conservative. I’m very much pro-life. If you go down the list of what makes up a conservative, I’m there almost all the way.”[38]

My point is: if you (or I) do not recognize something simple, how can we work from a level playing field. How can we discuss, say Politics, if we don’t recognize resources as what they are or are not?

If we’re sitting around celebrating NPR as the most fair and balanced news source in the world, because they’re neither conservative or liberal, but straight down the middle of excellent journalism, then we both suffer from the worst case of the Delusions that the world has seen.

That’s like reading Breitbart or WND and thinking, “I’m doing myself a favor!”

As I near the 30 day mark on my Whole30 diet — or reset — I’ve also had to revisit and diet from my media consumption. The stuff/words/food we put in our body is clearly going to affect how we view the world, our place in it, how we feel about it.

I’m going to do my part to encourage others, but I’m starting with me. And little old me feels fucking GREAT right now. Better than I’ve ever felt.

Amanda Palmer sings the hits


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A portrait I took of Amanda Palmer in 2016. 

“In both the art and the business worlds, the difference between the amateurs and the professionals is simple: The professionals know they’re winging it. The amateurs pretend they’re not.”
Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking; or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Let People Help

I’ve been reading Amanda Palmer’s book, The Art of Asking” thanks to a recommendation by my new little adopted sister Aynsley. She’s the daughter of my college mentor and she recently moved here from Michigan to pursue a career in esthetics.

When recommending the book, I told Aynsley I photographed Palmer a few years back. She was all, “NO WAY! I am one degree away from Amanda Palmer. I think I’m going to throw up.”

She wrote that if she had a religion it would be Amanda Palmer. And now after reading a good bit of her book, I get it. Amanda Palmer is rich with a good honest kick in the teeth. She reminds us that vulnerability and honesty is key to creative exploration and execution. Secrecy and shame are the Devils that suppress art and kill self exploration.

And, I hate to write it, but in a world where women don’t have nearly the presence in the art world as they should, Amanda Palmer is a tour de force of originality and motivating presence!

I watched Palmer’s TedTalk back when I photographed her. She’s an inspiration for sure. She’s super creative and tends to fly under radars while having the biggest following you never knew about.

That quote above. That shit about knowing and not knowing. That shit is true. And it’s not until I embraced the insecurity that I started feeling like there was art in winging it, art in chaos, art in vulnerability, art in acceptance.

Yesterday, I was on set with an amazing crew photographing a lovely model for a new mattress company. I had my gear out everywhere. I setup lights and mods, and my equipment was spread out from the bedroom to the bathroom, down a hall and into a bedroom. I leave lenses all over the place, all uncapped and exposed.

And when we walk away, we magically get beautiful photos. But in the act, damn, I feel like the world is a chaotic as it can be.

And you know what, I love it and hate it. I’d much rather know exactly what gear I need. Not leave gear out to be stepped on or knocked over. But I love it at the same time. It’s a weird presence that I bring. It’s me. And I accept that.

Over the last few years, I’ve suffered from mental challenges of fear and creativity paralyzation like no other time in my life. I amplified levels of shame and dishonesty in ways that I’m discovering don’t make any sense.

There tends to be an ebb and flow within most people for a time of negativity and a time for positivity. I’m enjoying the flow of positivity at the moment. I only hope I can keep it up.

There’s this model I know who has discovered her own, let’s say, religion. I’m really not sure if that’s accurate. Her name is Nasreen Ameri, and she calls her idea Carrorism, an extension of the made-up word “Carror” which she defines as the opposite of “Terror.”

On Facebook, she’s been posting positive quotes and pictures of what appear to be hearts she finds everywhere in the world, in cracks in the pavement, in oil spots on the road, in the way food is shaped on her plate.

How cool is it to look for love in everything, even things we find as inanimate as pavement.

I’m not necessarily going to call myself a Carrorist. But I love when positive people influence me with thoughts of wonder and intrigue. When the build while destroying. Isn’t that what it’s about? Creating one thing while eschewing something else? You can’t be both lazy and productive. So when you concentrate on art, you are also demolishing zombism, paralytic fear, shame, doubt, dishonesty and war.

Or maybe I’m missing the point all together. I need to go think on this a while.