picture (re)start

A month and change ago, a friend was gonna have questions on how movabletype works. It’s a system for running a weblog or online journal, which she already had well-established; she merely needed to change hosts and in the process would need to take control of things herself. I installed MT on my own account, so I could better answer her questions.

And, to kid myself that I was going to do some writing.

In May and June of 2000, a moment of giant flux and transition in my life, I wrote a small pile of things – essays, letters, what have you. I’d left a place I’d lived for eight years, a place I thought I’d always live, and it seemed important to me to record the ensuing adventures, to keep up with old friends. It was a grand plan. Five essay things in two months, not too bad. And then… I stopped. For fifteen months. Months! And after all that time, just two more essays, and then I retreated into the forest, evidently to hibernate like a bear. After another six months of creative winter, I did just one more post. A relatively speedy four months brought one more.

Geeky date-math: That’s 11 posts in 1,522 days, about a post every 138 days. And that’s front-loaded, too, as it’s been 815 days since the last post.

Regular updates like that sure keeps the readers coming back.

I’d love to say quality over quantity, but… 815 days since I posted anything? Yikes. And I just speed-read some of the older posts… there are some moments I like, passages that I feel properly capture what I wanted to share. But mostly… I was young, I was stupid, I needed the money, please don’t hold my checkered past against me. An example: I was initially terrified of the roads in rural Nevada, thinking they’d all be cliff-hugging mountain nightmares; this is why in ‘Thousand Mile Home’ I took the long way ’round. I have since discovered that those routes are some of the best driving anywhere. I’m not sure my younger self is to be trusted as a journalist. At a minimum, I think it’s hard to write with any insight or proper perspective on on things and moments and issues you’re still living inside. If the sun hasn’t yet set, you can’t be completely sure everywhere the day might take you.

Besides, I have enough trouble sometimes just living, forget writing down the good stuff. I certainly have stumbled through some cool stuff, a reasonable fraction of it already written up (and that’s part of why I’ve transferred the old posts here). But there are of course many days of not so cool, of the same routine over and over, of wondering about money, about marketing my photography, of paying bills and writing better spam filters and watching too much television. (I originally did all the date calculations for this post for March 25th, and did indeed write a half a draft, intending to return and finish before midnight. But too long at the Wal-Mart debating weed killer, dinner, “The Apprentice”, and “Awesomely Bad Hair” on VH1 delayed thinks and I had to add a day to everything. I shirk all personal responsibility and instead, blame Viacom.) I’m not looking to do a diary, or a link log, or anything like that, and every time I try something ongoing like that, I fail. Eight hundred and fifteen days since my last post…

Why am I constantly drawn to something I say I want to do and then I don’t do it? It’s not like that with my photography; I’ve been reasonably good at doing what I intend to do with that, slowly sometimes but at least it’s there. Sometimes I think I should stick to that. It’s more comfortable to me, more familiar. I’ve actually been paid for it. But cameras can’t record everything.

They can’t record what I simply didn’t have a camera for.
They can’t record what I chose at the time to not photograph.
They can’t record more than about 1/60th of a second, when some things in life that are memorable take minutes or hours or years.
They can’t record the other senses: the promise of warm spring air, the electricity of a new city, the feel of your dying father’s hand the last time you saw him, the feel of your newborn daughter’s hand the first time you saw her.
They can’t record things in your head, or things in your heart.

But writing is hard, and taking a photo is, to me, not: I’ve taken maybe fifty thousand of them in the last three years. It’s like breathing.

The other day it was fifty cent day at the second run theater, and I saw “Big Fish”. Without any spoilers, it’s about the stories of a lifetime, the relationship between a father and a son. I cried my eyes out. I got on the phone as I drove home, trying to find anyone to ground me. Back in Los Angeles, C. was at his video store gig but answered his cell anyway. We hadn’t talked in a few months, but we’re old school film geeks and no conversational pleasantries were needed:

“Hey man.”

“Dude. Have you seen ‘Big Fish’?”

“Of course.”

“I just got out; it fucked me up.”

“Yeah, that one will hit you hard if you’ve got any father issues.”

Instantly, I felt better. He got it, a minimum of anytime minutes expended.

But the need the film touched is still exposed. And I think I found a topic to write about, a shape of things I wish to carve, a blueprint, some dust-jacket copy, a sense of what I need to explore. It was 1,839 days from when my father died until when I became a father myself. I suspect, after all the exploration, I’ll find that on 15 April 1998, I knew nothing, and that scared me, and on 28 April 2003, I knew that I knew nothing, and it was okay. There, I just saved some of you some time. But if you’re up for the ride, tomorrow, I hope, we can set off exploring.

(However, to keep things from being too sugary serious, and because I promised someone, the first post will be about an insane bag-eating squirrel. Don’t forget the popcorn!)


This was published on 26 Mar 2004.
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