Saturday, April 14, 2007


Long time, no hear, I know. But all's well, and I'm feeling great here. No symptoms to speak of, and I guess the doc in California was right: we really kicked the snot out of my cancer with that last chemo!

A few years ago, Casey and I did a whirlwind tour of the entire length of the West Coast Highway, with stops along the way to explore various interesting things from the Space Needle in Seattle to the Giant Redwoods to Big Sur to Hollywood. At the end of that journey, we made a side trip to visit the Grand Canyon and Meteor Crater, and I was blown away by the Southwest. Later, my friend Laurie and I visited Sedona, Arizona for a long weekend and I was blown away some more.

Ever since, I'd been wanting to get into a position of spending some real time in the Southwest, exploring and shooting photos. I finally got the chance when one of my best friends picked up work where he lives and invited me out to Phoenix to join in the fun.

At the time, I was working all the way over on the East Coast, near Washington DC, and used the opportunity to visit and shoot various Smithsonian museums and the natural habitats along the Maryland, Delaware and Virginia coasts. So the weekends were great fun, and I got a lot of great shots along the way.

Work was a different story though. Frankly, I wasn't very happy trying to appease a certain boss who, IMHO, knew too little about the actual job in the field and tried too hard to overcompensate with intimidation, which has always been laughable to me. Apparently, he didn't like being laughed at, and he fired me as a Christmas present - what a guy. Big surprise there - not. I saw it coming from the day I got hired (it was pretty obvious that something about me just rubbed him the wrong way), and I'd been saving up money to deal with it when the axe fell. I viewed it as a well-deserved and much-needed vacation from another corporate poser with too much testosterone, and it was all good.

I went home to Detroit, spent time with Casey, worked on a management database program I've been developing, bought a few antique cameras and a small studio light setup on EBay, got myself a new light meter, and generally chilled out, waiting for the Phoenix job to fire up.

When the call came from my friend, I loaded up a U-Haul, fired up the GPS unit, and headed South West toward an adventure I'd been looking forward to for a long time. Since then, I've been spending the weekends in the deserts and mountains around Phoenix, while looking forward to it warming up in the higher elevations, when I'll get back up to the Canyon, the Wave, Monument Valley, Sedona and all that stuff to do the shooting I've really been wanting to get to.

So it's all good here on the personal front.

But the job... Well, I took about half what I normally earn just to get my foot in the door, and I figured I'd show 'em my stuff and get what I deserve later. That has yet to happen, and I'm beginning to wonder what it's going to take. If I were to get a better offer, it'd be really hard to turn it down - I need the money. I guess I'll just have to play it by ear for a while and see what develops.

Meanwhile, on Friday, my friend was fired. Hey, he's a big boy and can take care of himself, so I'm not worried or freaked out or threatening to quit or anything like that. We help each other where we can but, ultimately, we're all on our own to make it through the world somehow.

I think it was bad idea though from the company's standpoint. He's a really hard working guy who seriously knows his stuff. He puts in long hours making sure that he's got all the most important bases covered for our customers and the workers in the field, and that's no small task. In the end, that effort and the hard work and integrity that drives it ensures that the company he works for is giving the best to everyone involved and therefore getting the best from them in return. On top of that, he's a local that the customer knows well, trusts implicitly and wants to do business with.

Of course, we've all got our little idiosyncrasies. He's got a couple of hang-ups I totally recognize, because I've got the same ones. For one, we can both be a bit sarcastic. The thing is, we're just dealing with a situation in a way that helps us lighten it up a little so that we can deal with it in real-world ways that make sense. We're formulating plans that can actually work, rather than trying to bullshit our way through a pack of lies we know can't achieve the real goals. We're not "It's GOING to happen because I SAID SO!" kinds of guys, and we tend to think that sort of thing is funny when we see it coming from others, like they're God or something and can bend the will of the universe and break the laws of physics with a mean look.

Well, sometimes we're dealing with someone who just doesn't get the joke, so they react like we just had sex with their kids or something. Add to that the fact that when we run across someone that just doesn't 'get it', it's usually a big, giant sign to us, and not usually a good one. It generally indicates a level of cluelessness - people like that obviously aren't quite in touch with reality on some level. It's like having your boss come up to you and tell you in all seriousness that he needs you to flap your arms until you levitate, then getting pissed when you laugh at him for coming up with such an idiotic plan and, worse, actually thinking he can make it happen through his awesome will-power and intimidation. I'm sorry, but that shit's just funny to me, not intimidating.

But probably the big one that gets us into trouble (and it tends to go hand in hand with the one above) is that we don't automatically respect or suck up to people just because they walk in saying or implying "I'm the boss - YOUR BOSS!!" and acting like that's reason enough to kiss their ass. If they really know their stuff; if they demonstrate real knowledge and ability, they'll get the respect for it without asking, let alone demanding it.

A real leader leads others by example, not by pushing them from behind with intimidation tactics while holding a whip and chair, or by holding the threat of their job over their heads. A real leader doesn't demand, he inspires. A real leader doesn't need to act like a dictator.

Those of us who've been doing this a really long time can spot a poser a mile off - all bluster and hot air and pretentious posturing, while lacking any real substance. You got a BA in selling jelly beans? Good for you. I've got a MD in Cable Construction Job Site Management earned over the course of nearly 30 years at the school of Hard Knocks located in the REAL WORLD. Yeah, it's called experience. Look it up.

Okay, so you get the idea. Enough already. But it all reminds me of my favorite Pink Floyd song. I find myself playing it really loud at times like this. It reminds me to keep it real, to stay human, and not to become one of these:


You've got to be crazy, you gotta have a real need.
You gotta sleep on your toes, and when you're on the street,
You got to be able to pick out the easy meat with your eyes closed.
And then moving in silently, down wind and out of sight,
You've got to strike when the moment is right without thinking.

And after a while, you can work on points for style.
Like the club tie, and the firm handshake,
A certain look in the eye with an easy smile.
You have to be trusted by the people that you lie to,
So that when they turn their backs on you,
You'll get the chance to put the knife in.

You gotta keep one eye looking over your shoulder.
You know it's going to get harder, harder, and harder as you get older.
And in the end you'll pack up and fly down south,
Hide your head in the sand;
Just another sad old man,
All alone and dying of cancer.

And when you lose control, you'll reap the harvest you have sown.
And as the fear grows, the bad blood slows and turns to stone.
And it's too late to lose the weight you used to need to throw around.
So have a good drown, as you go down, all alone,
Dragged down by the stone.

I gotta admit that I'm a little bit confused.
Sometimes it seems to me as if I'm just being used.
Gotta stay awake, gotta try and shake off this creeping malaise.
If I don't stand my own ground, how can I find my way out of this maze?

Deaf, dumb, and blind, you just keep on pretending,
That everyone's expendable and no-one has a real friend.
And it seems to you the thing to do would be to isolate the winner.
Everything's done under the sun,
And you believe at heart, everyone's a killer.

Who was born in a house full of pain.
Who was trained not to spit in the fan.
Who was told what to do by the man.
Who was broken by trained personnel.
Who was fitted with collar and chain.
Who was given a pat on the back.
Who was breaking away from the pack.
Who was only a stranger at home.
Who was ground down in the end.
Who was found dead on the phone.
Who was dragged down by the stone.

Who was dragged down by the stone.


Watch out for the dogs, folks. They're out there, and they're hungry little mongrels with big teeth, no compassion and little integrity.

And to you dogs out there - Better watch out; the sheep are learning karate.