Saturday, February 28, 2009

Relaxing into Chaos...

When confronted with uncontrollable change, I guess I just have to go with it.  Like today.

As the approaching opening of the gallery crashes toward me, some 2/3 of the art from Haiti is in Mechanicsville, about three hours drive away from Lexington.  It's okay -- how could I complain, as it made it here from Haiti at the absolute last minute, arrive last night with a generous volunteer who got dragged into the task just two weeks ago ... and has put in diligent service.

First, she loads all that stuff out of Haiti, including a giant box holding a dozen, handmade frames for my photographs.  Then she calls -- twice, because I wasn't home the first time -- from Miami airport to tell me she and it all made it into the US.  And then, late last night, after a week in Haiti and the day-long trip home, she called again to report that everything made it ... except the frames.  But the airline expected them today.

Today, a series of calls as she updated me on the progress of the frames, which missed their first flight from Miami, then wandered off to Dallas (?), before finally arriving in Richmond this evening.

Meanwhile, my plans shifted from a midday dash from Lexington to Mechanicsville, to a late evening run, to finally an overnight trip, staying in The Jefferson in Richmond, before going to pick up the stuff in the morning.  (Yeah, it didn't take much convincing from my wife to decide that staying at The Jefferson was a good idea; we've been here -- I'm writing from the dark wood desk in my room now -- a couple times before.  It's a tiny luxury that's often too tempting to resist.)

Tomorrow, it's another run back in the morning to arrive before 1 pm, when we begin setting up the gallery ... stocked with stuff I haven't seen yet.  But it's all worked out so far.  All I can do is relax into the chaos...

Thursday, February 26, 2009

There are no followers...

That's what it says: "There are no followers.  Be the first!"  Over there, just to the left of this text (or just to the left until I manage to crank out another entry here).  

It sounds like a philosophical statement; maybe a Zen saying*.  There are no followers.  What does that mean?  Where is the front?  Could you be a leader, but in the middle?  "There go the people.  I must follow them, for I am their leader."  Google Book Search shows that attributed to French revolutionary Alexandre Ledru-Rollin, according to Respectfully Quoted by Suzy Platt, of the Library of Congress.  (One website attributed it to Gandhi, which shows why the internet cannot be trusted.  Trust me.)

So I have no followers, yet I write.  Do I care?  Well, yeah.  But I also make pictures with no particular outlet or viewer either.  I have about seven rolls of film in the darkroom, waiting for processing.  (And that's film -- remember that? -- not the easily run off digital.)  In a way, that's also a purpose of this blog: to find an outlet for all that stuff.  But what if an outlet is not an inlet?

I think the tree falling in the forest makes noise.  It may even make a lovely noise ... or at least an interesting one.  Does it matter that no one hears?

*Koan.  Damn, that's the word I was looking for.  Koan.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And I really mean it...

The blog seems to be the graveyard of good intentions, or rather the haunted house.  By that I mean that, for every entry I've managed to do here, I've thought of at least three -- and probably more -- clever ruminations that haven't appeared.  Their ghosts now hang over the "Create Post" area, weakly moaning, the barest, faint outlines of their original forms drifting about in a thin cloud of regret and frustration.

There was, for example, the micro-essay on the Academy Awards that I thought of Sunday night.  It would touch on my eagerly watching them year after year, even as I've managed to break the habits of presidential speeches and Sunday talk shows.  (The common thread: All are essentially meaningless in themselves; it's only the myth of what happened that is established afterwards through constant commentary and repetition that matters.)  There would be the humorous, self-deprecating aside about how, like anyone who works in film, I have imagined being there and accepting an award ... even though the documentary category is probably the moment everyone chooses to go to the bathroom.  And I won't go into what I think about Michael Moore winning, aside from saying his film stretches the definition of "documentary" beyond breaking.

But my memory of it ends there.  That brilliant thought -- I know it was brilliant, because that's how I remember it -- has evaporated, first a mist and now ... poof, nothing, my hands grasping the air in hopes of catching that last little drop.  It's gone, another ghost in the machine.

There are others, some of which I hope to recover, like the explanation of my love of ellipses...

However, in the end, all I can do is renew my resolve.  Lent is a good time for that.  Let the ashes be spread, and my thoughts broadcast to the internet world.  God help us all...

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Rule of Joseph...

I think I'm beginning to figure out what to do with this.  Forgive me as I find my voice -- a voice I wish sounded more like P.G. Wodehouse, or at least Bertie Wooster.

It has occurred to me that this is a useful place for those ideas that occur to you suddenly, wholly formed, but have no particular use or outlet.  At least, they occur to me ... especially after a couple of glasses of wine.

Tonight, I suddenly thought of something that could be called "The Rule of Joseph," after St. Joseph.  Yep, you know, Jesus' father -- or rather the guy who took on the father role for a couple of decades.  

You know, he's not quoted in the Bible.  At all.  Not one word from the guy who had to take care of Jesus -- provide income, teach him a trade, be a Dad.  Yeah, I know it was a different time, and frankly who could beat Mary in the Mom role, but still not one word?

My Dad pointed out one day, when I was still fairly young and it was still unusual to be on TV, that people often waved at the camera and said, "Hi, Mom!"  It became a bit of a joke, it happened so often.  I remember a pro football player noticing the camera, waving and mouthing the words, "Hi, mom," and my Dad asked, "Why don't they ever say, 'Hi, Dad?''

It did strike me as an interesting thought at the time, but it means ever so much more now.  Now I'm Dad, to two girls, 6 and 2, and they're in a Mommy period.  Me?  I'm chopped liver.

It's the Rule of Joseph.  It's my place.  I have to be Dad: available, dependable, solid, stolid, and strong.  They're not coming for me for long talks or soft hugs, but I have to be there.  There's not a lot of payoff, especially not if you had some vision, say when you decided to get married, of how life was going to be.

You were probably in your twenties, when you're looking at options, and this marriage and kids option has begun to look like a good idea.  Believe it or not girls, to guys that does seem a good idea at some point, and you are a big part of that vision.  But what I'm getting at is this: As with everything, you don't really end up where you thought you would.

Perhaps that should be carved over the exit of the birthing center: You won't end up where you expect.  At any rate, I digress, because it's not just where you end up; it's where you need to be.

As I enter the power dive down toward 50, I gotta' tell you twenty-somethings that no one is going to appreciate your efforts.  You'll stay up late helping, you'll be the Dad you wish you had (or in my case, was lucky enough to have), you'll keep trying to do "the right thing" and that will keep you up at nights (when you desperately need sleep).  And for that, your two-year-old will only want Mommy.  It's your place.  You're Joseph.  You do everything you can, raise a family, and what will happen?  Mary gets a cult.  You get to help sell real estate...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So let's see how this works...

I'm engaging in my first experiment in viral marketing.

You see, I made the mistake of speaking up in a meeting.  It's a lesson I never learn.  This time, I was in the meeting for the Haiti Committee at our church (which probably requires an explanation in itself.  I think I'll save that for another post -- suffice it to say that many Virginia Catholic churches have twin parishes in Haiti; it's something encouraged by the diocese).  I had the brilliant idea, inspired by an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, of opening a "flash" art gallery of Haitian arts and crafts for the period of Lent.

You see, it would get money to the artisans, it would raise awareness of the situation in Haiti and the twin parish program, and it would (through the markup) get money down to the projects we were working on.  As a "flash" art gallery -- lasting only one month -- I wouldn't have to create a steady supply line; just fill the gallery once, and you're done.  I figured there would be some overhead, but hoped the profit would more than make up for it.

So I pipe up, and everyone in the room looks at me and says, "What a good idea.  You get right on that!"  So there's a pause (much longer in my mind than in reality, I'm sure) while I come to grips with the fact that I, who know nothing about retail or sales or anything but making the occasional interesting news picture and documentary film, realize this whole basket of worms has just been dropped in my lap.

No problem, I think.  I'll just get started at the start, and either it works or -- more likely -- some massive, impossible to overcome problem kills it, probably before anything even really gets going.  I discovered that God apparently wants there to be a flash art gallery of Haitian art in Lexington this year.

All the legal problems were gently and efficiently solved by local officials.  (Really, how often can anyone write that sentence?)  The problem of having a physical location was generously and easily solved by a local gallery owner, local artists (and even nationally known ones, like photographer Andrea Baldeck -- check out her website at -- who gave us four prints and a number of her books on Haiti) contributed, and just yesterday my final problem was solved when another Virginia parish, Redeemer in Mechanicsville, agreed to buy and bring back additional arts and crafts when they return from Haiti at the end of the month.  And that overhead thing?  There essentially is none.  Almost all of the costs have been contributed.  Everything we make will be going down to Haiti.

So now I have to hold up my end.  This starts with marketing, and my first step is to begin a mysterious campaign with the name of the gallery: Karant Jou.  It's Haitian Kreyol for forty days.  (Imagine saying the words with a French accent: Quarant Jour.)  I have begun distributing flyers, myself and through friends, which say only:

A Unique Opportunity

Only in Lexington
Only in March

What will happen?  I don't know, but I hope some curiosity.  I'm hoping that, by mention around the 'net, I can move up in Google searching.  (Right now, "karant jou" only brings you Kreyol translations of the Bible.)  I'm hoping that, as I begin the actual PR campaign -- involving press releases and all the usual stuff -- next week, people will begin to wonder.  I'm hoping that it will bring people to Lexington to see what it's all about, and to learn something about Haiti and our efforts there ... and to buy something.  

Yeah, that would be nice...

I thought it would be easy...

This blogging thing, like so much in life, looks so much easier than it is.  I've got to say, it's not that I lack for things to say (as my long-suffering wife and friends would tell you).  It's that I lack for time to write it down ... let alone write it down in some clever manner.

Today, however, has disappeared in a cloud of tiny activities, overwhelming great plans and small desires.  How often does that happen, or rather, how often that happens...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


It ain't holistic, it's probably strep throat.  Or at least that's what both daughters have.  Sometimes I manage to dodge these bacterial bullets ... but I think this one has my name on it.

How very uncomfortable...

I'm usually uncomfortable about using words like "holistic."  It's one of those terms that people say and hear and act like they all know exactly what it means ... when they don't.  I won't define it, because I probably don't know either.  (Okay, says it's "incorporating the theory of holism in theory and practice" -- now there's a circular definition for you, although sort of Zen in its way.  Holism, it explains, is "the theory that whole entities ... have an existence other than as the mere sum of their parts."  See, not so easy; it's all vagueness.)  But mainly I wanted to use it to talk about how I feel like crap today.

There's no good reason for it.  Sure, the family has gone through the usual winter array of sniffles and coughs, sinus infections and so on, and life with two small children results in being tired as a matter of course, but this is more than that.  This is a sucking exhaustion, a general malaise, a headache with no proximate cause, a stiff neck that is a pain in the ... uh, neck.

Worse yet, it's a perfect day out there.  Dawn came to Lexington with a sharp chill, but the sun is out and the sky is clear and the temperature is headed up.  The weatherman promises a pleasant day, not the sort of gray, cold, listless atmosphere that usually drags me down.  That's where the holistic part comes in: I really do think that has impact.  So why, why?

Ah, well, things to go, places to see, people to do...

Monday, February 16, 2009

And so it starts...

I'm told that one must do things like this to increase one's profile.  And I'm told that one must increase one's profile (sadly, not solely through good food and wine) to increase one's business.  And as I'm rather fond of good food and wine, business must be done.  So, at least my friends will be relieved of some of the burden of listening to me go on about my latest interests...

As a start, I'll explain that "cat typing" is a term I discovered on the Word Spy website (, defined as: "The random keystrokes made by a cat as it walks across a computer keyboard."  My thoughts are often about that organized, but hopefully somewhat more interesting.

I was sent to Word Spy by a friend, who had found the term "The Arsenic Hour."  If you're a parent, it's worth looking up.

The tradition in navy wardrooms (or the gunroom, where young junior officers messed in the days of sail) was that conversation was not allowed of politics, women and religion.  Those subjects would often end in arguments, and when at sea for months at a stretch, arguments and hurt feelings are not productive.

My plan is to avoid mainly politics, a sure path to unresolvable disagreement, often marked by ad hominem attacks.  Religion and women are not really an open subject for me: Both have been long resolved by church membership and marriage, and thus would be rather monotone subjects of discussion.

Thus, I may be limiting the level of readership.  But I do hope to be somewhat clever and generally diverting as I write about the things I have discovered, photographed and generally become interested in...