The Drive

A couple of days ago, my brother in the throes of cleaning the house dug up a piece of my past that I thought was long gone: "The Drive."

Prior to my joining the Armed Forces, I was a prolific amateur photographer who had serious aspirations of becoming a professional photojournalist.

Early in life I had messed around sporadically with my mom's old SLR 35mm, but with the advent of digital cameras I found a whole world of possibility open up to me. I shot with our family's point-and-shoot compact 2 megapixel for a while, then worked a whole summer on a local farm to save up enough for an 8 megapixel prosumer ZRL (zoom reflex lens). Over the next two years I shot around 40,000 photos. My photos were all stored on a hard-drive when I went off to Boot Camp and when I came back I found that I had completely and inexplicably lost all interest in my creative outlets. Photography was no exception.

Photography was the most important thing in my life before joining the military, and as such, returning to that obsession became the path that I navigated as I sought to return to something of my former self.

I took what I thought to be the first step back when I met a girl who somehow helped me to see colors again, (ironically, she had just gone color-blind) and I felt a hope that among other things, I could be the obsessive photographer again - the trait I thought that defined the pre-military me. Then she left my life completely and I soon abandoned my reborn photographer in favor of going on a long streak of heavy drinking and writing heaps of ridiculously emotional music and poetry.

The final blow came one day when the hard-drive with all my work on it started clicking and suddenly died as well. At first, I felt sick to my stomach thinking that my greatest tie to my prior self was gone.

At first I thought about spending the heaps of money that it would take to recover the photos, but for reason, I felt a strange peace and acceptance that the photos were gone. No longer would they haunt my existence, bidding me return once again to my former obsession. I think now that I was right to feel that way, and my life has been better since I gave up that pipe-dream. 

However, although I gave up on being a photojournalist, I found in it's place a revolving door of other aspirations whose urges and capabilities came and still come to me in an almost clock-like cycle. 

It will happen (often suddenly) that when I am within grasp of finishing a project, such as the production of my music album, that I lose all creative drive in that direction and find myself writing heaps upon heaps of lyrics and poetry instead. In time I'll move onto some other interest, and then something else, and even spend weeks just subconsciously adsorbing stuff, and many days later when my drive for making music returns, I find that I want to take my album in a completely different direction and I'll start all over again from scratch. This cycle has repeated in some form ever since photography ceased to be a part of my life, and now it seems with ever increasing regularity.

I've only recently, and quite gradually become aware of the surety this phenomenon, and I find that I am actually happy with it. Granted, I'll never be really good or well known for any one thing in particular like I felt sure I would be as a photographer, but I see and experience so much more without my eye glued to a simply viewfinder, or a microphone, or a monitor, or my fingers tied to my computer's keyboard or a guitar's neck.

So, this hard-drive showed up, bringing with it some turmoil, memories, phantoms of ambitions and dreams. It reminds me of the two years I spent looking through a lens; of the perhaps one thing I could have been really exceptional in my pursuit of; but it also reminds me of the life-time I might have spent doing just one thing, trapped by ambition and obsession. 

So I suppose I'll keep this little doohickey safe, and one day years from now I might see if I can recover the photos. But in the meantime it serves to remind me of the path I once travelled to a destination I thought I knew; and the path I'm on now which could go just about anywhere.


Frozen Pond

My ventures left no visible marks 
                 where I walked
 yet the surface of the pond was marred
           where the deer 
              and the raccoon stalked
                    Upon midnights so brightly starred
                          Their wild spirits led them 
                                                              to reach
               Where my own feet would not go
                        for the ice popped and cracked beneath
          my firmly planted
                                      cautious feet
        I walked for a time 
                         the edge
                and on the bank 
           when the ice was weak
                    there I fought the briery hedge
to step again 
 where the ice did not creak
           The ice in the center was likely
                          more sure than that on the rim
                                where it was full of fractures 
                                                           and weeds
                           But I stayed 
                where I could easily reach the shore 
                     and would not risk drowning 
                                   simply to feel free.


A Christmas Poem

"To My Fellow Gentlemen"

Let us lift a glass of Christmas cheer
To welcome the coming of the New Year,
With pungent smoke where we, sitting,
Will reignite what is manly and fitting.

While the cold outside gathers strength,
We at sit at home and talk at length,
On finer aspects of our various lives,
In smoky rooms, away from the wives.

A decanter of port is slowly tipped,
And the fruit of the vine is fondly sipped.
A fine tradition passed on from our fathers -
From homelands far over blue waters.

Yet, there are many who don't understand
About finer things which wait for a man.
For if only moderation he would employ,
Simple pleasures are what he should enjoy.

So here is to all who seek simple pleasures,
May it come to you in tasteful measures.
In a season when our great gift is to be alive,
Please, I pray you, don't drink and drive.


Remember to thank a deployed Service Member, Fire Fighter, EMT, or Police Officer if you know one who is working hard over the holiday to make sure that your's is a safe one!

May God bless you all, and have a very merry Christmas!


As It Was

I am walking the rails that run between my house and the river, looking for solitude and a coal nugget or two in the white gravel where they often lay, both glittering and void-like in the moonlight. Melancholy hangs heavy in the air about me and fills the spaces within my chest, like the frost on my sleeves and the bitter cold in my knees and lungs.

The spirits and memories of the past hover and watch me in the deepening shadows, waiting seemingly in vain for the coming of the Sun. I am not far from where the place where I had not long ago lost a battle with my heart - an outcome I had long feared.

In the silence of the night, I hear footsteps echoing from ahead and look up to see a spectral scene approaching from afar:

With head hung low and hand buried deep a man is walking towards me. He kicks at the gravel as he walks and yet it does not seem to move. I stop and stand in the shadow of a tree to watch him pass. A ghostly light seems to follow and I see faint, quickly vanishing images of lights and buildings and people all around him. As he comes closer, I see his face, covered in ice crystals. He is just about to pass the place where I stand thus shrouded, when he stops and turns slowly to look in my direction.

I stand in place, frozen with apprehension and fear. Then my heart stops beating for just a moment as I realize that the face looking at me is very much like my own. I feel a chill run through my body and I turn to flee but cannot move at all. I see that the face holds no expression except an odd grimace which the ice had frozen onto it, the eyes sunken there are lifeless, filling me a nameless fear. My thoughts fail and I fall into a strange, sleep-like state.

The cloud cover the Moon's face and the wind dies. How long I stood thus transfixed I did not know, but sometime later I find myself still standing there and I look about to see no one around me, only the moonlit trees swaying silently in the wind. The vision is gone.

I look down at my feet which had melted the ice beneath me and become refrozen in place. Breaking free of my icy bonds, I run home as fast as my legs could carry me, shaking with the cold and shaken to my core, and vowing to myself to forsake no more the warm company of my fellow man for the bottle and the solitude of my dark studio.

He walks the tracks as they once were 
In the places where they still are;
Under gaslight's eternal glow 
He revisits these places
Looking for the faces
He used to know 
And knows no more.

A young man who died old.
He walks still in the world;
A prisoner, earthbound 
By a love he'd found,
And a love he betrayed
They have all moved on 
And he has stayed.


An Update:

Well it's been a while since I posted anything, and I'm not happy about that.

It's been an absolutely crazy  month. But I'm hoping to have a chance to relax and gather my thoughts in the next few days and maybe have something to say. In the meantime here's a recap of some of the things I've been up to lately:

Fishing: I never really thought of myself as someone who would get into fishing, but being out on the water with no distractions and just swish and buzz of casting a line, interrupted by the thrill of an occasional catch has proved itself be like a mini-vacation. It helps that my friend's home is just a stone's-throw from a fully-stocked pond and there's no packing and unpacking of the boat to deal with. Going out on the pond surrounded by good friends, still water, and nature's bounty is truly a worthwhile escape from the madness of the world.

Fall colors...

Jim, looking like an old dude.


The Sun dipping low in the sky...
 Theatre: I was recently apart of a local community musical theatre production in my town. This Sunday was the final performance and we played to a packed house. There were a couple of rough nights, D.O.A./small audiences, but the rest of the nights more than made up for them. The play was written, produced and directed by the extremely talented Langden Mason. It's all about a year in the town in 1954 and is written around a local radio station that ran at the time. I was a part of 7 different numbers, including a solo, a duet, a quintet, two sextets, and two ensemble pieces, with my characters ranging from a radio singer to a cowboy, irish immigrant, marching band member, to a vampire. It was a healthy bit of fresh air and exercise for my multiple personality disorder.

Langden out front directing a rehearsal.

Langden at the piano surrounded by the cast of On The Air

Little brother Sam (second from left) and some fellow cast-members during rehearsals.
 The second and last weekend of performances fell right on my duty weekend, so I drove over an hour both ways, from the base to my hometown three times in total that weekend, getting up at 5:30AM and going to bed and 1:00AM each day. I just now am starting to feel like I might actually eventually catch up on sleep!

But what has been really amazing about this whole experience is that I actually saw the play the first time it ran in 2001. I was 14 years old at the time, and it made a huge impression on me, one song especially: "Your Love Haunts My Dreams" which is a piece written by Langden Mason when he was 16 years old (what better age for writing entrancingly hyperbolic music?) and is based on Bram Stoker's Dracula. It was a haunting performance that has stayed with me since the first time I saw it, with Langden singing from the orchestra pit and Terri Long up on the stage, exuding vulnerability and emotion. When I auditioned for the play, I assumed that it would be the same deal as last time, but Langden decided to have me replace him in the number and I found myself onstage with Terri, who came back again to reprise her two roles in the production, and singing a song that I never thought I'd hear again, not to mention have a chance to perform. All in all, it was nothing short of thrilling, especially just to be a part of this group of talented, positive-minded, and truly wonderful people. But the whole experience has ultimately been quite exhausting and time consuming. In consequence and conjunction with everything else that has happened recently, mostly mundane and un-post-worthy, there have been no blog posts.

Terri Long as "Lucy" and myself as "The Count." (photo by Barry Long)
 Riding: I got my bike up and running, cleaned it up, and have been rolling out the miles pretty steadily on the odometer. The cold weather has necessitated my layering-up and I walk out the door most days looking something like the "Michelin Man." But the added hassle of dressing for the cold is vastly out-weighed by the liberation I feel when blasting through turns and cruising down the highway feeling the full force of the elements, fully aware of my surroundings, the smells, the temperature and humidity, the position of the Sun and clouds, the colors and all the sensations of acceleration and gravity, friction and momentum. There is no ignoring the natural world on a motorcycle.

The bike stripped down and ready to clean and polish.

Graduation: My younger brother, Andrew, graduated from Army Basic last week, and those of us that could drove down to Georgia for the day. Contrary to reasonable expectation, it did not get any warmer the farther south we went. It was, in fact, quite the opposite. And it was something of a blitz back and forth, but we were able to spend a few hours with Andrew and it was well worth it.

Slipping down the road, trees like water flow by.

Keeping the natives happy with my iPod Touch.

Almost there...

The Georgia "moonlight in the pines" can seem so sultry in the words of a song...

... and slightly less so in the middle of the city.

Fueling up at Denny's.

A Georgia morning...

...mist and Spanish moss.

The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center at Ft. Benning

My brother, a newly graduated U.S. Soldier.

... and that is some of what's transpired since I've last posted.

A closing thought: 

Which definition of love do you find most accurate?

1. Deep affection and warm feeling for another.

2. The emotion of sex and romance: strong sexual desire for another person.

3. A beloved person.

4. A strong fondness or enthusiasm.

5. A zero score (in tennis.)

Leave it to sports terminology to sum it up correctly, right?