Mustache and Member’s Only

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I’ve said this before, possibly to the point of irritation but three decades go by pretty fast.

Two thousand thirteen marks 30 years since I stared in the journalism business.

mustacheThat would have been February, 1983.  The Soviet Union performed two underground nuclear tests, “Thriller” went number one and stayed there for 37 weeks, Wayne Gretzky set an NHL all-star record with 4 goals in 1 period,  there was an apocalyptic snowstorm on the eastern seaboard and I was spending evenings drinking margaritas at Charlie Brown’s in Ventura while wearing a black, Member’s Only jacket, acid-washed Jordache jeans and high-top, LA Gear sneakers.

Also, 27-year-old Steve Jobs appeared on the cover of Fortune along with a story about how he “gets his jollies” making great computers. At that point the Apple II was showing it’s age and the Lisa had yet to come out.

My first day as a news photographer was February 7. Ventura County was experiencing torrential rain storms and although I thought my first day on the job would be to tag along with the Oxnard Press Courier’s chief photographer David Crane, I was told to “go get some rain art.”

They may as well have asked me to surgically separate conjoined twins. Continue reading

Walkin the Dawg

The idea is simple. Time tested. Tried and true.

Gather together in one place all the best content you’ve produced for the entire year and present it in a way that’s engaging, informative, entertaining.

I’ve been doing it for decades at various newspapers.

So last year, my first year completely away from daily newspaper journalism, I put a video up on the net that showed the best photo work that I did during the year.

But this time instead of train wrecks floods and fires it was personal projects.

As of today, the last day of 2012, that video got a whopping 45 views.

The only plan this year is to beat 45 views in 12 months time.

So I tagged all the best stuff I shot all year in Lightroom, brought it all into FinalCutProX and started looking for what amounts to the soundtrack of our year.

I considered Bettie Serveert, The Airborne Toxic Event, The Pineapple Thief and Portishead all of which had some influence on me this year.

What I settled on was this old Harry Nilsson song from his 1972 album Son of Schmilsson.

This hauntingly beautiful song became my favorite last Christmas and again this year.

And although it’s kind of slow and syrupy, it just seemed to fit what our year was like.

If you followed the link I posted on Facebook last week, I’m sorry to make you listen to it again.

Personally, I could listen to it over and over, and I did for the past two weeks.

But while I was editing the video, most of the images from 2012 just didn’t work with this music. So this represents a small part of what would have been the best images of the year.

Not a good way to try to break my record of 2011, but I’m going to let Harry carry it.

So, it’s the last day of the year and this piece is all of 5 minutes. Same length as last year.

If you’ve gotten this far, then you probably have 5 more minutes.

Why “Walkin the Dawg?” It’s a song by Rufus Thomas and released on his 1963 album of the same name. It’s been covered by a ton of people including The Stones, The Grateful Dead and Green Day but my favorite cover is by Aerosmith.

Oh, and Wendy, at the end.

Occupy print journalism

Twenty five million, two hundred twenty eight thousand, eight hundred … seconds.

That’s four hundred twenty thousand, four hundred eighty minutes.

Or, seven thousand eight hours.

Two hundred ninety two days.

Exactly 9 months and 17 days since the Los Angeles Daily News decided that they could no longer afford to keep me employed there.

That’s longer than the average gestation period of a human being in the 21st century (280 days) and it’s the longest vacation I’ve ever had.

In those 292 days my income, obviously, plummeted, my savings account strained, my health insurance went away and my car turned over 200,000 miles.

We also buried Joey, one of our three kitties, in our back yard. Continue reading

Thought I’d something more to say

A few years ago – well, four years ago – I wrote in this blog a piece about the ever-accelerating passing of time. You could read that here if you were so inclined.

The title of that post, “Where’s the Time Go?” was a direct quote overheard from a geezer named Glenn in a cafe. Glenn was lamenting the fact that he was old and unkempt and suffering from unceasing acid reflux.

Since that Christmas Eve morning that phrase, “Where’s the Time Go?” has been one of the many mantras Linda and I restate, nearly daily as we watch the sun race across the sky like a meteor and dive beneath the western hills, only to instantaneously pop up back behind us in the east.

I revisit that idea now just as a way to make sense of the whole year-in-review vid above.

It’s kind of peculiar, in nearly 30 years in the newspaper business this is the first year I wasn’t involved that end-of-year salute that newspapers always do.

So, after being inspired and prompted by my pal Mat Luschek, who told me he has been doing a YIR slideshow for several years now, I decided to do my own.

Then …

Just tonight I stood in the mirror and observed that I was wearing a dark blue t-shirt with “Press-Telegram SWIM TEAM 2004″ emblazoned across the front in swimming-pool-aqua-colored type.

Two thousand four.

George W. Bush was still in his first term and was even reelected. The Abu Ghraib story broke. An enormous tsunami killed more than 200,000 people in Asia. Ray Charles died.

Tonight, I’m wearing an eight-year-old t-shirt.

I probably have six drawers that can barely contain the superabundance of t-shirts I own, some of which are significantly older than eight years.

Where does the time go?

Thorazine, Tequila and Dancing in the Streets

Only once.

Only one time in my entire life – and I’ve been around for a quite a few years – has someone made mention that I wasn’t a half-bad dancer.

This happened in the mid-1980s at an office Christmas party for the Oxnard Press-Courier which was held at the Casa Sirena at Channel Islands Harbor.

Not only was I not half-bad that night, the exact words uttered by the 20-something circulation clerk were, “You’re the best dancer here tonight.”

I remember those exact words decades later because I happen to know that I’m a really dreadful dancer. The scant few times that I have been hoodwinked onto a dance floor with treacherous comments like, “You love music right? You play music right? So, you HAVE rhythm, right?” led to some of the most mortifying moments I can remember, and I remember them all.

Once, at a now-long-gone club called “Garfield’s” in Ventura, I was literally jeered off the dance floor by the three girls I came in with as I attempted to emulate that 80s kick-thing.

Picture Paul Giamatti impersonating Elaine from Seinfeld. Disturbing, I know. Continue reading

Funeral for a friend

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He was ornery, cantankerous, whiney and a bit grouchy.

He was confident, independent, determined and self-reliant.

He had no use for chasing butterflies, no interest in birds or squirrels and he would rather lay on his back in the shade than stalk a mouse or a lizard.

Joey, the big, fat, black kitty cat that ran things around Rancho de los Gatos for more than a decade and who was his guardian mother Linda’s best friend for the past 13 years, slipped the surly bonds of Earth on Thursday morning after a long illness.

He was 91 kitty years old.

Continue reading

Polarity on a rainy day


It’s a cold, rainy day here today. The kind of weather we live for.

I know that sounds odd. Don’t most people like warm sunshine?

Yes. And I like warm and sunny as much as the next person. But when you get 330 days a year of warm and sunny and perfect blue skies, well, you get bored.

You just sort of crave any kind of change in the weather. A single cloud floats by and people are stopping traffic and shooting photos with their phones from their car windows.

So when it finally rains it’s just such a calm release and a massive relief. A break in the relentless monotony that bears down day after day.

And that says nothing about the tranquility the sound of rain tapping the window brings while you sip hot tea.

So we just soaked it in today.

At some point, during a pause in the rain, I decided to grab the LX3 and shoot a few macros in the yard.

I’m walking around the front of my house in my green, plaid pajamas and a sweatshirt sticking my camera into the bushes and crouching down at the curb taking photos of leaves in the gutter.

Might as well have been out in front of a single-wide coach with a washing machine on the porch and a barking doberman pincher on a chain in the yard.

I notice my neighbor directly across the street has his garage open. He’s not out front but there’s a large deep-fryer, the type you’d use for a Thanksgiving turkey, on the curb with sign on it. “Free” it says.

Further down the curb is a wooden rocking chair with a sign on it. “$20″ it says.

There were no junk cars in the yard, but there may as well have been.

My neighbor, Clem (not his real name) with his improvised rummage sale, and me, crawling around on the sidewalk in my underwear, have unconsciously combined forces to take home values on our usually well-manicured street, down 15-20 points, temporarily.

As I’m down on my knees, getting my green jammies wet and the Lumix down to sidewalk level, my neighbor Clem calls out.

“Hey Tom, how are you doing?”

Strange he didn’t ask WHAT are you doing.

“Good Clem, how are you?”

We start chatting about the rain, the upcoming holidays, the brand-new deep-fryer he just bought, the fact that he’s going to turn 68 next month and how he’s going to retire next year, but not with a big enough fund to hold him over. In fact, he tells me, he’ll be relying on his social security.

“And to think the Democrats are trying to take that away from us,” he says.

Awkward silence.

I’m nothing if I’m not stupefied by that statement.

Not because I’m a staunch Democrat or a bleeding-heart-liberal-socialist. Or a radical. Or an anarchist. Or advocate of death panels.

I’m stupefied that there are people on this planet, on my street, using the same air as I am, that actually think this could be true in any fantasy that even Glenn Beck could dream up.

After a long pause, as hard as I try I can’t contain myself and  just reply, “That’s bullshit.”

Immediately realizing that the word bullshit, mentioned in response to something he just said, hit him like huge tax increase I follow with, “We’re just not going to talk about politics. Let’s not talk about politics.”

“Yeah right,” he says. “Let’s not talk about politics.”

Another long pause.

“But didn’t you hear about that? he asks.”

More pausing.

“No, Clem,” I said finally, “I didn’t hear that. In fact, that’s preposterous. If any party would even dream of such an idea it would be the Republicans. Remember, it was Bush who wanted to take the whole system and privatize it by putting the entire fund into the stock market.”

“Ah, well, uh, yeah, we’re obviously on opposite ends of the, the … let’s not talk about politics,” he says adding, “At least we live in a free country and we elect our government and we don’t have somebody just taking over and … we have freedom.”

More silence.

“Yeah, yeah, that’s a good thing,” I said, sensing that the conversation had just been hit by a bus and that there would be no recovery.

So I just looked him in the eyes and said, “Now if only we could get universal health care.”

I think he shit himself.

“Clem, have a great Thanksgiving if I don’t see you!” I said as I headed back toward my single-wide with the barking doberman pincher on a chain in the yard.