Wednesday, January 17


Stock photo
For the first time in recent memory, I've decided to craft a New Year's resolution, late though it may be. I usually don't get involved in the year-end self-exam ritual, and have always avoided the crowds at the gym that are determined to lose that extra fifteen pounds. Again.

We were walking on the beach at Fort Flagler, Washington recently, and I was trying to make the best of a bad photographic situation - a thirteen year-old digital camera mounted with a 50 mm Nikon lens that has seemed to have slipped an element or something. The lens' sweet spot is somewhere to the right of center, but never seems to be in the same place twice. It is an infuriating exercise in futility and misplaced focus.

A few weeks ago, I had a state-of-the-art Nikon digital SLR, a stable of excellent Nikkor lenses, and the ability to translate nearly anything from three dimensions to an artistic rendering in two dimensions with a dependable alacrity and zen-like possession of the skills of a lifetime spent behind the camera.

I was then faced with an unexpected financial situation as a number of months of my Social Security benefits were being suspended due to an error on my own part two years ago. These benefits represent a major part of our income, so I did what any rational person would do, I took the ferry to Seattle, grabbed an Uber to the camera store, and sold my tools at thirty cents on the dollar. I am now becalmed in the photographic water.

Point No Point, Washington
Looking back to that decision, it's all I can do to keep from crying. I am brought down. It was not well-reasoned. Yes, I meant well, and I had the common good at heart, but shit, what a dumb move. While I'm not a going concern photographically, my world exists in large part beyond the lens, and my motivation for experiencing so much of what exists around me comes down to my ability to capture a small fraction of time, to share that slice of the universe as I see it. Now, without my time machine, my translator, I feel as though I may have ceased to exist.


At the end of 2006, I was close to the top of my game as a journeyman photographer, and had developed a solid reputation as one of the digital go-to guys in Kansas City. I wasn't shooting national ad campaigns, but I had loyal, dependable, clients who regularly referred me to others. My studio space was provided to me without cost, except that I maintain the owner's digital systems and help her when needed. Then, a local company that had provided rental digital Hasselblads for a demanding food shoot, offered me a place on their roster as a photo guru, Mac Tech and digital sherpa.

I accepted. I then announced that I was shutting down the commercial photographic studio that had been my excellent livelihood since 1989.   I hauled all my stuff from the studio to the house, and filled our already-crowded basement with twenty-five years of accumulated studio gear.

Not a clear-headed decision.

That company closed late in 2008, a victim of irrational exuberance on the part of its owner and founder, as well as a rapidly-shrinking economy courtesy of George W. Bush. It would have made perfect sense for me to canvass the top commercial studios in Kansas City to find a partnership opportunity that would allow me to work another ten years in a field that I excelled at.

I didn't. I decided to do Macintosh consulting, IT work, and network construction. To subsidize this endeavor, I slowly sold off my studio equipment - thirty strobes, six view cameras, four Hasselblads, three Bronicas, and three workstation Macintoshes. I donated all five of my film Nikons and all of those manual-focus lenses to my old high school.

Do you see a trend here? I could have thought that through a bit better. 

Eventually, I went to work for Lowe's in 2010, and held on there until we pulled up stakes in 2016. I had insurance, and the company treated me very well, although big-box retail can be soul-crushing, back-breaking work. I am now on the verge of doing that again.

I was once told that unless a person is self-destructive, every decision that he makes is the right one at the time. I now politely disagree. It's as though I've been looking at things through a smudged lens. In retrospect, I now understand that I tend to make some pretty shitty decisions. There are plenty of other examples, but to protect the names of innocents and to prevent me from becoming even more depressed, let's just say I have a history.

Funny, I ran a successful business for twenty-five years. Revenues in the millions. I regularly reinvested in the business, and except for the market panic that decimated my transportation stocks following 9/11 and my intuitive failure to hold onto my 2,000 shares of Apple stock that I bought for $9.17 a share, I made pretty solid decisions most of the time. I created a corporate entity to take advantage of the tax laws, and was able to shield both my income and my civil liability from excessive exposure.

My situation as an individual, it seems, is that I don't take enough time to look at the long-term implications of my decisions. There have been no guns pointed at my head, no deadlines or impending events to force my hand, but I still tended to roll out my nearsighted plans with the speed of a fry cook at a greasy spoon. It may be a holdover from watching my parents invoke Depression-era survival thinking - a bird in the hand, etc. - but it may just be a system of reaction that jackhammers my ability to think things through. Maybe I'm just impatient. (I am.) I know I don't always have the facts before deciding what to do.

I was dead sure that the cost of electricity at our current location would be so expensive that propane would be a better answer for heating the house this winter. Nope. The juice here is only $0.10 per kWh, and the money I spent buying and hooking up an additional tank for propane cost the same as a month and a half of electricity. Keeping the tanks full while heating the house in December cost three times that. I might as well have thrown five hundred bucks into Puget Sound.

The Olympics
The fiasco with the cameras has finally enlightened me and made me realize that when it all comes down to the fork in the road, I may not be the navigator you're looking for. Even the decision that got us to the Pacific Northwest was an impatient grab at the first opportunity that came along. A couple of days of applied consideration would likely have put us in a more volunteer-friendly place than the park. Mine was not the right choice, although Kathi's brush with the afterlife rendered that decision moot. We would probably be where we are right now, anyway.

My resolution for 2018 and beyond is only this: When faced with a decision that may have long-term implications, I resolve to slow down and take a few days to think it through before jumping off the cliff.
I'm feeling smarter already.

Thus spake the rabbit.

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