How will you know which pictures are of me?

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“Can you send me the pictures?”

The woman asked me to take some photos of her at a formal event I shot last Saturday night. And one of the things I knew I would need – and ultimately forgot – were contact cards for this very purpose. I had to admit my goof up to her.

“Yes I can. But I forgot my business cards.”

“Oh I’ll give you one of mine,” she replied.

She had a wonderful name. I quoted it back to her. “Thank you,” I said while raising the card in the air.

“How will you know which pictures are of me? She asked.

Earlier she had arrived at the event in a floor-length sequined white dress that hung over one shoulder; it was cut to follow her shape. She walked and danced with smooth grace. A willing smile blended innocence with charm, and was punctuated by expressive green eyes. In photos with others she smiled even wider while fitting her shape to that of her companion. Her shoulder-length red hair shone with the color of Autumn’s turning leaves. Of all the people at the event, she was by far the most memorable to me. And, to be honest, she was a person who would be hard to forget.

“Are you kidding?” I replied. “You’re beautiful. I’ll know which pictures are you.”

She gave me one more smile and thank you before hitting the dance floor.

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The Life We Hide

“I always looked up to you.”
 
I commended my high school classmate for being amazing, when I had lunch with her in 2002. She is successful, highly educated, and very approachable. She has a way of making people around her feel comfortable and engaged. Always has in the nearly 40 years that I’ve known her.
 
“I was a misfit in high school,” I continued.
 
“Never completely connected socially with any one group, and I always felt out of place, not knowing the right things to say or how to start a conversation. It didn’t help that I was an awful student. But YOU. You had it all together; you were social, connected with so many people, and a great student. Everyone loved you.”
 
“Oh Kurt,” she replied. “What you don’t realize is that, by the time I was a Junior, I was coming to school drunk every day.”
 
I was floored, and had NO idea she was a heavy drinker, or that after high school she ended up running with a very rough crowd. I had no idea she sustained serious injuries during that time, and has spent a lifetime reversing that damage – both physical and mental. The force and internal fight that drew her to alcohol at such a young age is the one that defined several years of her future – and nearly killed her too. But she crawled out of the gutter; she got back on the street, and made something of herself. She thrived once she came to terms with her life.
 
But she never forgot that her day as a 17-year old started at The Bottle.
 
At that point in 2002 I realized our lives in the eyes of others can be skewed. The life we FEEL inside isn’t always visible to the outside world. Maybe this is by choice. We may do this for social stature, or as a way to lift ourselves up through denial. Some people look at struggle as weakness. We want to look strong, organized, fully in charge of the hustle. Sometimes we don’t want to be reminded that sometimes life sucks, and the quickest way to forget it is to bury it.
 
Humans can be highly skilled at hiding what we don’t want the world to know – sharing our “Instagram Lives” instead for an adoring public.
 
The world may not know the struggles we face. And alternately, the people we meet could be hiding a struggle from others. In short, we all struggle with something. The fight is more acute for some, but the fight exists. Mine is weight; I’ve struggled my entire life with extra pounds, portion control, and hunger. It’s pretty messed up; it controls my way and my day. Thoughts of food or meals seep into every activity, warranted or not, because I’m almost always hungry. Why am I this way? No clue; I’m wired for food, and it sucks. While my struggle can be measured differently against the reason a teen gets drunk every day, it is a struggle nonetheless.
 
So that person you think you know? You may not know them at all.
 
What you see on the outside is merely an aesthetic. Inside, that person might be hurting. Bad. You might not be able to see it. But be open to share in what they FEEL. If you have to, put away the politics – because pain isn’t partisan. Find common ground and build on it. Connect with their heart. Share in their struggle as best you can. And share yours with them. Love and understand that humans are humans. We make mistakes. Every one of us. When the minds align, all will be fine.
 
And eventually, you can look up to each other.

Bus In The Woods

One Monday in February 2009, David and I hit the trails.

We did it mainly to get out and away from the Wii. Our park of choice: Tiger Mountain State Forest. While heavily used during the other three seasons, winter is quieter. There are plenty of service roads for bicycles and, from what we discovered, a few surprises as well.

There are lots of power lines and subsequent roads to support them; this is the domain of the mountain bike, where cyclists can cruise at the speed of their equipment and feel the wind and the sun without having to inhale exhaust from a Lexus. As we stood near the crossroads of the Puget Power Road and the Bonneville Power Lines, I asked David “Do you hear that?”

“What?”

“Exactly.” It was almost entirely quiet. No sirens, video games, computer hard drive sounds, or shopping networks. Just the wind, a faraway jet overhead and the muffled sound of Interstate 90 over the hill. I could get seriously addicted to this place.

Just off the Bonneville power line road, I was able to show David a wetland and explain how it holds onto water so the lands below it don’t get flooded. This was along the well-named “Wetland Trail,” and Round Lake. As we were coming off the trail, David said “Look…an Owl.” Sure enough, he had eyeballed a huge white owl sitting on a low branch off the trail. I explained that owls were predators that ate things like mice and even cats, and that their wings were shaped like hawk wings. This owl just watched us without much fear, even when we moved to the other side of his perch to get a better look. Sadly the Owl picture I took ended up looking like a white blob on a tree branch. No value there at all. From a distance it looked magnificent.

After we headed back towards the truck, David decided to take a detour down what was called “Bus Trail.” Didn’t have a clue what it meant…until we passed by an overturned Greyhound bus from the 1940s or 50s sitting just off Bus Trail. Hmmmm…I’ve been here almost my entire life and never knew about the bus!

Turns out very little is known about it.

There are no identifying marks or serial numbers.  Experts have figured it got stolen and driven into the woods back in the day, which would be likely because this trail would have been fairly close to the Sunset Highway.  Or, it was a mining camp transportation bus that broke and was abandoned.  We will never know, and to date it simply rots along the trail.

We’ve been back along this trail system a few times since.  I want to get out there again to do more walking, because most of the trails are pedestrian only. Check out the map I created; if you click on the little icons you’ll see some pictures taken at the location!

MomSpirations

Earlier today I saw a Buzzfeed Article that showed inspirational-style photos with quotes that your Mom would say instead. Only my Mom wouldn’t have said most of the ones posted there.

So I made my own 🙂

Hell’s Bells, A Camaro, And A Girl

An extremely vivid memory from the past popped into my head this morning as I drove The Clark Boys to school.

David wanted to hear AC/DC’s Back In Black on CD while we drove; when the first song “Hell’s Bells” rang its way in, I was immediately transported to 1981, and a club in North Seattle called Mister Bill’s. One night like many nights those days, a friend and I were cruising in his Nova SS. We ended up at Mister Bill’s parking lot, near a beautiful red 1969 Chevy Camaro parked across two spots. I didn’t know the owner, a guy in his early 20s, but I knew his leather-clad copilot: a 15-ish year old classmate of mine who I hadn’t seen at school for a few months. Her coat was black, her brown hair was feathered, and her jeans were wide. All perfect for the time, down to the heavy Joan Jett makeup. To this day I don’t recall her name. She was cagey about why she hadn’t been at school. Talk turned to his Camaro, then Hell’s Bells came on the guy’s stereo.

With the windows down, the bells in the song echoed across the parking lot and attached that time and place permanently to my brain.

He explained all the work done to the car – fast motor, sound system, red lacquer paint, Crager S/S rims, and a suspension rake that had 1979 written all over it. The car was beautiful, and presumably fast. “Yeah, it gets me in a lot of trouble,” he explained. “Cops pull me over all the time, just because it’s red.” Since that night I’ve always wondered if that was a myth, because I’ve heard arguments from both sides. Still, I can close my eyes and see that car – jacked up in the rear and gleaming under the parking lot lights. And the girl leaning against the front fender. I always remember the girl.

And whenever Hell’s Bells plays, I see her in my mind – all over again – and wonder whatever happened to her.

Flying Tigers II

Flying Tigers II

When I was 11-years old I “designed” a space ship.

It had a modular design (see above right, drawn today from memory), which allowed for the center section to be disconnected from the front control module and the rear engine module.  That way the center module could be purposed in many ways, and swapped out for other units – a process which promoted utility and efficiency.  With my design, fewer ships were required.  Never mind that the ship I created looked vaguely similar to the “Eagle” landing craft used in the TV show “Space:1999.” I was 11. I was impressionable.

My space ships were called the “Flying Tigers II,” and they were part of a story I never finished.

Like the original Flying Tigers during World War II, the story of FTII started with a volunteer group of humans helping an alien race in the 21st century – against the attacks of a vicious interstellar foe. The ships even carried the fabled “Shark’s Teeth” on the nose from the original Flying Tigers, an artistic treatment that I also went on to use in college for The Food Shark: my pizza delivery car.  While the story of Flying Tigers II wasn’t completed, the space ship design stuck with me in countless doodles and drawings.  When I read that NASA was designing a reusable orbiter, I sent them a picture of an FTII ship and a letter explaining why its modular design would be a good configuration to use.

And NASA replied.

“We like your submission very much,” the letter explained (paraphrased), “but unfortunately we have already designed our orbiter (space shuttle is drawn above left). Thank you for taking the time of sending it to us.”

They also sent along an entire folder filled with space shuttle books, magazines, and space info.  Somewhere in my archives (aka “Plastic bin in garage”), I have those documents, my uncompleted story, and several drawn versions of the FTII ship. At the time I was learning about drawing in perspective, and many of the works show FTII in dog fights in space.

The fact that I was able to draw it today from memory – nearly forty years later – might give you an idea of how often I drew them.  Just thinking about FTII today brought back many great memories of being that age, plus the wonder and limitless possibilities of creativity.