Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over candlestick

I was never good at the limbo. I only ever tried it, once, at the Castle Roller Rink in 1988. (Pause while Lancaster crowd shudders, smiles, slaps their foreheads or does a combination of all three. Check out their website- WJTL Night!) I was first in line, and I fell on the first pass, when the bar was at the absolute highest. It was not a comfortable moment.

My dad came up here on Monday and absolutely kicked ass in negotiations with a car salesman (a former SU linebacker) in the Bronx. He is my hero. My awesome mom sent up a care package to end all care packages, complete with amazing homemade sugar cookies that my grandmother hasn't had time to make since her husband first exhibited signs of Alzheimer's nine years ago when he mowed the lawn for 18 hours straight. (My uncle stopped him when he realized he was refilling the gas tank for the second time, and the grass was like a putting green).

Right now I'm in limbo. Until I officially take possession of the new car and stop twitching at every intersection, until I can drive it for a few months without anything bad happening, I'm just a third-grader in acid-wash jeans with a pink and white feather clip in her hair, squatting shakily on rented wheels.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

No More Sunday Drives

This afternoon we were on our way to go for a hike and a quick visit to Octoberfest at Bear Mountain when a few blocks from the house, a man ran a red light, hit us directly on my side of my door. He tried to flee, scraping the whole length of my car, lost control of this vehicle and drove directly into a nearby house at a high rate of speed. Joel and I are okay. We were wearing seat belts, moving slowly through a green light. My head hit the window beside me, but I don't even have a bump. The other man is okay. No one in the house was injured, and their house is still structurally sound. None of the kids playing nearby on the sidewalk were injured.

Unfortunately for me, my car is completely totalled. The other driver is an undocumented immigrant, with no license, no insurance, no ID of any kind on him, and as of yet, no proof of ownership of the car, which has Tennesse plates. Ironically, I worked for months on a piece about illegal immigrant drivers, and I know I have very little recourse or likelihood of ever getting compensated.

I'm not angry, all I can think about is how this man will almost certainly be deported, about the desperate situation his family must be in now. Joel says "Fuck the other guy!" and says he's "feeling Republican today." He just pretended to be an elephant. It was funny.

What this means for me is that my parents are helping me to get into a safe, new, four-wheel drive vehicle. No more Nannymobile, no more Toyota with an attitude problem, just high no interest debt to my parents. It could be worse. I am going to crawl back under the covers now.

Hate this.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Syracuse Flashback, Part II

(a poem, with educational links)

I think
I am radicalizing my lover

He is outraged to discover
Acts of injustice (I was protesting back in '98)

when I wore a button that said
"If you aren't outraged you aren't paying attention"
to the mall

Late at night the Daily Show
makes a crack about Hugo Chavez
and then I am preachingteachingreaching

for an old CD from my Marxist days
singer-songwriter activist-feminist
taking back the night
idol worship at the coffee shop

bet she's kicking ass these days
*Loading page*

In Memoriam, it says
"year-long battle"
"late stage ovarian cancer"
I can't believe she's gone

Who else would remember
Who else would care
Radical cheerleader vegan lost touch
less than a year after graduation

bet she's kicking ass these days
*Loading page*

Em!ly St!nnet
Services Coordinator
affordable housing non-profit agency
*email click*

But what I really want to know is,
is your hair still pink?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Hi! Guess what?

Today is Distract and Entertain Cindy Day!

Cindy has been dying to learn the gender of her baby-on-the-way. She was supposed to find out today, but the ultrasound person at her OB/GYN couldn't come in for some reason. She has 48 more hours to wait. Help a weepy pregnant lady out. Please post some of your favorite websites that make you laugh, tell her a joke and/or de-lurk and introduce yourself in the comments section.

Let's see...
Cindy likes Project Runway and won't even have a new episode this week to make it through Wednesday night. Let's talk about the "Bringing Back Angela and Vincent Mindfuck Challenge." Personally? I figured Kane was on his way out anyway, but it was a shitty way to ultimately maintain the status quo for the designers still in the competition.

Also, Television Without Pitystopped recapping Bridezillas. What's up with that? Did you ever watch that show?

I'm also posting a photo that Lauren sent me from her "Emergency Smile File" after the Heartbreak. If you didn't grow up with or go to high school with Dosh JeBord (ahem, Gwen), it won't be nearly as funny to see him as a gay prancing reindeer.

And someone sent me this last week, which I found highly entertaining....

Finally... here is a picture of Fred when he was a baby. I had no idea that his cocoa puff-sized brain would never learn anything new from that day forward... FYI, his obsession this week is paper towel rolls. Will try to catch hilarious photo and post soon.

Hang in there, lady... Commenters, I'm counting on you!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Intense Frustration

Yesterday Joel was hanging out with friends, including the adorable Melanie, who is seen here sporting the wholly unfeminist birthday gift I gave her a few weeks, including sparkly eye shadow, a pink feather boa and a Happy Birthday wand. (Sadly, our decidedly wholesome and empowering storybook of Navajo legends, complete with cover photo of indigenous child who looks just like her, was left for dead in the wake of a Disney Princess frenzy.)

Yesterday, Melanie was throwing the hissy fit of a lifetime. She allegedly screamed "I hate this day! I hate everyone except Grandma!"

After today? All I can say is "Word." Wordy McFucking Word.

Today was a day of intense frustration, the kind that only seems to strike me. Remember that time with the cell phone and the lost credit card that was in the car I couldn't find in the parking lot and the keys that had fallen down into the Verizon display and then I got hit in the head with the pointy, point edge of the car and I threatened to commit suicide with a stapler in Circuit City?
It was almost exactly like that.

Where to begin? Let's Spin the Wheel of Crap-o-La and see!

1. Incompetent Pharmacist at CVS... Erg. This story starts three days ago at a DIFFERENT branch, trying to refill my birth control. They swore up and up seventeen ways until Sunday that they didn't have my transfer. I went to the original CVS, asked for a refill, was told they have to call the clinic and come back by the weekend. With just 15 hours left until my fallopian tubes enter the Danger Zone of Potential Egg-Releasing Hormone Production, the pharmacy tells me they don't have my prescription, they DO have my prescription, they never called the clinic, maybe they DID call the clinic, the refills are at the other branch, they can't find the other branch's phone number, calling 411 is apparently not an option, then it IS an option, and by the way, the branch I was at four days ago must have LIED because they have seven refills for me. Great! Whatever! Finally, I kind of hopped up on the corner and all but shouted "I CAN NOT AFFORD A BABY RIGHT NOW!"

This day gets so much shittier that I must leave this story here. Basically, forty-five minutes later, I left with my birth control. But when I got out to my car where Bella was waiting patiently with all windows open on a breezy 65-degree day...

2. I found that someone kindly scrawled "HOW CRUEL" on a Carvel napkin and stuck it under my windshield wipers. Cruel, INDEED, thank you and fuck off. I tried to get her to drink all the water out of my water bottle with her dirty canine mouth out of guilt. (Obviously I threw it away afterwards). She was totally psyched to eat all the McDonald's crumbs off the front seat and could not have cared less about my Guilt Water.

3. Joel and I were 5 minutes late leaving for his cousin's wedding. We left with double the amount of time it should have taken to get to the Chelsea loft where the blessed event was held. It took us TWO FREAKING HOURS to get there. We passed every imaginable obstacle- accident on the parkway, traffic jam in a different highway, and indescribably SLOW traffic on FDR Drive due to rubbernecking.... Everyone was watching (and I wish I were making this up) a homeless man standing statue still, balancing a watermelon rind on his head, holding another one, and making the "Okay" sign with the other. WTF?!?! Add in a construction detour, a street fair and lots of fire trucks, and we totally missed the ceremony.

4. We missed the ceremony! It just... sucked.

5. We got there for cocktail hour. Everything was beautiful. I got to meet all of Joel's relatives, who were extremely nice and understanding about the traffic. And Joel's mom who really likes me, I mean, I think so.. says, "Where's your camera?" Not "Hi." Not "Glad you finally made it." Just "I thought you'd bring your camera." Which... okay... I almost always have my camera. Fair enough. But I've been in WEDDING! mode (including a tiny last minute wedding-at-home for a friend of a friend whose mom is dying... so poignant and beautiful and really sort of sad) for the last month. I've never met any of these relatives, and frankly, I didn't want to be mistaken for a vendor by people whom I want to like me. Later, she greeted me at the bar by coming up behind me and smacking me upside the head with her purse... which... okay... "Yes, I'll have a red wine and OW! Oh, you surprised me! Ha ha! Ha?" And then rather inexplicably she kind of liberated a bottle of wine as we were leaving, which was spontaneous and funny and not as inappropriate as it sounds, but Joel and I were still puzzling over it when we went out to the pay lot where he parked and found...

6. That the entire front end of his car was bashed in by a truck driver who took off! Yes! Who is this man that I love WHO IS EXACTLY LIKE ME and OH MY GOD what did we do in a previous life that this kind of shit happens to us all the goddamn time?!?!? Hate. HATE!! So the little Russian guy who was working in the lot had thoughtfully written down an approximate license plate number on his pack of cigarettes and told us it was the delivery truck driver.. Long story short, the police were called, paramedics came, no one is injured, and the boss of the truck's company came from a funeral and promised to pay for absolutely everything. Sigh...

7. We came home and found that the dog had gotten into the trash- HOW CRUEL- Joel forgot to turn off the iron, which thankfully didn't burn anything down and I had a bunch of messages from work looking for photos that weren't supposed to run until Tuesday. Fuck.

In the words of a certain 4-year-old: "I hate this day. I hate everyone except Grandma."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Another Wedding!

Aw, come on, you know you like it. Now you can see 130 photos from the wedding I shot over Labor Day here.

Special thanks to Julia (frequent commenter, college friend, London buddy extraordinare) for the referrel. You can see her in the photo below, on the right, getting her groove on with her silky brown hair sprayed into extra crispy bridesmaid tendrils that stood up to the fiercest winds Tropical Storm Ernesto had to offer. :) You'd never know she was fighting jet lag and a sinus infection; now THAT is a fabulous bridesmaid.

Oh, I also have been wanting to tell you for DAYS now that there's absolutely nothing better than stumbling into Alissa's apartment around 1 a.m. with 17 bags of photo gear and finding Todd holding a baseball bat menacingly by the door. Hee! (Actually, he was demonstrating proper batting grip as he and Alissa forced themselves to stay awake for me.) And by the way, Mr. Clomp-Clomp-Clomp *is* kinda loud.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Take on Things

A few years ago, on a previous anniversary, I went down into Manhattan and took pictures up close of the light tribute that "restores the New York City skyline" for one night each year. You probably all know the famous view of it, like this one, which I'm linking to from Time magazine online.

My photographs are taken from a less famous perspective. When you get down to Ground Zero and get really close, you realize, actually, that those big beams of light attract a LOT of bugs (all those little white dots in the photo below). Also? They attract a lot of bats, which come to eat the bugs (the slightly larger white dots). If you listen carefully, you can hear the bats doing their screechy screaming, and it's a little unnerving, frankly.

I think that this five-year anniversary is probably a little more acute for most of us. I personally started working on anniversary articles, tribute pieces, and "Where Are They Now?" stories right after I got back from the beach. It's been an exhaustive week of coverage, all leading up to a special edition discussing where we were and where we are.

The pomp and ceremony of this Nice Round Numbered Anniversary have gotten me thinking about how future generations will mark this day. As a former marching band geek, all I wanted as I fidgeted in my wool uniform was for the self-righteous old people to stop intoning the solemnity of Memorial Day, so we could be released from the Salunga Fire Hall and jump into Grach's pool. Well, that's not really true. I wanted to honor the day, you know, a little bit. And THEN I wanted to jump in Grach's pool.

in 2002, I heard an interview with Sarah Vowell on NPR. I'm not even sure if Ground Zero was even fully cleared at the time. She was talking about her book "The Partly Cloudy Patriot" and historical tourism. She described her somewhat grim habit of spending her summer vacations at sites of (bloody) American history. Back in 2002, the interviewer, Terry Gross, I think, asked her if her experiences driving along the Trail of Tears, for example, or visiting Salem, Mass., would be comparable to a young woman of the future visiting Ground Zero as a tourist. Vowell is audibly shaken as she makes the connection in that 2002 interview, and admits, Well, yes, that's the kind of place she visits.

I'll never forget when I realized that more than 23,000 people died in one day at the Battle of Antietam during the Civil War, compared to 2,973 who died on Sept. 11, 2001. I'm not trying to spark debate about Civil War soldiers versus civilian victims. I'm only saying that while 9/11 feels hugely tragic, there are many other days in American history with a larger death toll. That realization was striking. I immediately called my dad and apologized for whining and not wanting to get out of the car and visit the Civil War battleground at Antietam.

Can you imagine a day in the future when a 9-year-old girl whines to her father about not wanting to visit Ground Zero and the memorial that will someday be there?

Oh, and the calendars I've bought in recent years? All have "Patriots Day" or "Remembrance Day" labeled on Sept. 11th, even though it's not an official national holiday yet. Joel pointed out that there's a good possibility that eventually schools and government offices will be closed on this day. What would September be like, having off for Labor Day and then 9/11 Remembrance Day about a week after that? When he said, "Imagine the commercials 100 years from now- 'September 11th sale!'" I felt sick to my stomach.

Then again, maybe it won't be a holiday. I've been trying to think if we have any other national holidays that commemorate a tragedy and/or the start of a war. People compare 9/11 to the attack on Pearl Harbor, but people go to work on December 7th. Veterans Day technically used to be Armistice Day, honoring the end of World War I, though I would argue that it commemorates a day of peace, not war.

I've been thinking about how I WISH our country was on this first Nice Round Number Anniversary. I wish "United We Stand" meant that our country had, well, stayed unified. I wish we could have set aside prejudice for the greater good. For instance, it would be nice if we could stop dismissing Arabic linguists in the military for being gay, please.

I wish that we, as a nation, had challenged ourselves to set aside our previously conceived stereotypes of each other. The tragic events of 9/11 revealed a human inclination toward the same sense of community and desire to help one's neighbors that I grew up with in East Pete. So-called "small-town America" had a lot it could have taught New York and DC as the painful healing process began.

I wish firefighters and police officers in major cities were currently all using hand-held radios outfitted with a universal channel, like the kind the military uses. That way, in the event of another terrorist attack, they could all switch their radios to the universal broadcast channel. If they had those five years ago, people would have known not to head for the roofs of the twin towers. The firefighters would have known immediately when the first tower collapsed. Many of them thought that the sounds of the first tower falling were the cables breaking in a nearby elevator shaft.

I wish Hurricane Katrina had presented a test that we as a nation could have passed with flying colors. I wish that FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security could have said, "While we mourn the 150 or so victims of Hurricane Katrina, we are proud that we saved so many lives. Although the storm was a natural disaster, we were able to employ many of the emergency response tactics we've been practicing since the tragic events of 9/11."

I wish every major airport were outfitted with x-ray machines that also detect explosive materials. The monetary cost to outfit every major airport is the same as what our country is currently spending in ONE DAY for the war in Iraq. I wish we were creating jobs and job-training programs for transportation security workers. I wish we were paying airport security workers higher wages for a more thorough, professional standards of work. I imagine staring at black-and-white screens for hours, forcing people to throw away their deodorant and feeling the inside of thousands of strangers' shoes gets old REAL fast, even at $14.00 an hour (though double what it was on 9/10/01).

I wish we were screening more than 6% of the 11 million cargo containers that come through American ports. I wish our president could say, "Not only are our ports more secure against the threat of terrorism, but we have also made great strides in busting human trafficking rings."

I wish that someday, maybe even someday soon, I'll be able to look back and see that some of these goals will be achieved. After all, another Nice Round Numbered Anniversary is only five years away.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Where the Hell is Matt?

Oh my God. This is my favorite new Internet thing. This guy- his name is Matt, apparently- made a video of himself dancing this awesome silly little dance all over the world. If you go to his website, he explains how he somehow got a company to sponsor him. I am JEALOUS. I think I'VE traveled a lot? This totally got my wanderlust kicking in overdrive.

If I only I weren't ripping through my savings like a fart in a wind tunnel...

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Um, yuck!

Bella has an eye infection. The 15-minute trip to the vet and the special antibiotic drops cost $100 bucks. They had better cause her to poop turds of gold so I can pay the bill...

Monday, September 04, 2006

Homecoming, Coming Home

I'm not quite sure when I got on my "nostalgia for college" kick. I think it started about a week ago when I did a story about freshman move-in day at a local college.

I remember eating lunch with my parents before they got back on the road in August 1997, thinking I might need to cry, barf, rush to the bathroom, or burst out laughing loudly and inappropriately. I was definitely in danger of rapidly expelling something from my body when my dad said, "Angela, give me one hour and I'll trade places with you." And he was right. I was embarking on something great.

Last week, as I was photographing two girls setting up their dorm room, I told them, "Give me one hour, and I will totally trade places with you." They laughed and I wished them luck. As I gently closed the door to their tiny double dorm room, I could hear them talking about where to put the minifridge.

Fall always makes me nostalgic. In keeping with my recent habit of watching bad movies on TNT, I watched "Drumline" the other night. The plot is terrible, but the drumming is impressive. There was a huge marching band competition in Rochester this weekend, and Alissa and I were on full band geek alert as the sound of warm-ups and run-throughs drifted through the air. I love the sound of a drumline warming up.

Keeping all of this in mind, let me tell you that I haven't been back to S.U. since the day I graduated. College... didn't exactly end with a bang for me. I had the bout of depression. My thesis kicked my ass. I had a stubborn, fussy, rude OCD roommate. It was totally my fault that he lived with us. It was so much harder that my previous, happy three years there that I wasn't all that sad for it to end. It was a relief.

I've kept in touch with my closest friends from college, and they all moved to such interesting, different places that there was no need to physically return to campus to see them. Syracuse is pretty much exclusively a college town. Since everyone has been in DC, New York, Philly and Boston- and I have other fun people to visit in these places- there hasn't been a need to return.

But I shot a wedding in Rochester this past weekend, and I totally passed Syracuse on the highway. As I rounded this one bend on Route 81, the familiar skyline caught my attention with a jolt. I remember feeling so many things as I rounded that same bend in the past. It was my transition from home to school; a moment when I always took a deep breath, psyching myself up for another semester of darkroom chemicals and critical feminist theory.

On the way out, I didn't have time to stop. I saw the sign for the Carrier Dome and the hospital. I thought about the drumline and the kids I used to volunteer with on the pediatric oncology ward, wondering if any are still braving treatments or possibly worse, middle school by now.

The bride and groom live in Seattle, but they both attended U of R. There were probably 35 alumni at the wedding. I was totally blown away by that. Are you in touch with 35 people from college? I have, like, six college friends I'm still in touch with on a regular basis.

So on my way home today, I got off at the exit and drove through campus. Everything, almost everything, is exactly the same. All of these memories were coming back to me, like a black and white pencil drawing filling itself in full Technicolor about one block ahead of my car as I slowly drove on familiar streets, the names of which I had completely forgotten: Sumner, Livingston, Euclid, Clarendon, Comstock. Dorms I never lived in: Dellplain, Watson, Booth, Shaw, Kimmel, Marion.

And more than that, another name, one I don't think about every day, coming up from inside, like a heartbeat, a small marble landing in my stomach: Stephen. We had a life together in that town. Not the frantic "weekend here and there" routine we had for years after graduation, but a real daily routine. I had forgotten about that. Even when we were still together, I had forgotten about that.

I stopped outside the house I lived in senior year. It was smaller than I remember. The porch steps still sag. Then I realized I was starting to ruminate and drove over to the awesome New Age bookstore to see if they had any more of these intention candles with words on them that I like so much. Perhaps I got the faintest whiff as I walked up to the closed door, but I thought just before I pulled it open: "I know exactly what it's going to smell like in here." It smells like 70 different varieties of essential oil and incense.

As I pulled back on the highway, I thought about the six people I'm still in touch with through IM and email and blogs and marathon cell phone calls. I know where they are in life, respectively: heading into the third trimester, moving back to London for good, working on a pilot's license, debating getting a puppy as practice for parenthood versus just trying to get pregnant, working trade shows in Vegas, picking up after devastating heartbreak and moving on.

I have them on speed dial, plus one number that's been deleted from everywhere but my brain. One by one I called them all from Interstate 81, leaving one voicemail message after another. I pulled "Glory Days" up on my iPod as I waited for them to call me back, and before the song was over, someone did.

I chatted with old friends for the rest of the trip. As I waved my EZ pass at the final Thruway exit for Yonkers, the song from the eHarmony commercial came on the radio. I grinned to myself, and I knew I was almost home.


Thanks to everyone who weighed in on the sample DVD debate! Comments were highly appreciated and much discussed. I think I'm going to make one blended DVD. If I get referrals for a same-sex couple, I'll have a shorter all-gay version handy just for them. If I get referrals for someone, say, in Lancaster, I'll try to take their socio-political temperature and MAYBE make an all-hetero version, and only if I really like them.

In general, though, I found the discussion of what people look for when they're previewing wedding photographers very interesting and helpful, so thank you. As a result, I moved one of my couples into a place of greater prominence on the DVD.

They were atypical clients in that they were older. Both had been married before, and they each had teenagers who are bright and lovely and starting to look at colleges. They had a very small wedding with a church social hall reception. I say this next part now as a size 16; I'm no pixie myself. Both the bride and groom are, to quote Cindy, "larger than size 12." (Probably twice that). I am very proud to say that the bride- 40 years old, mother of three- looks gorgeous. She does not look like she could sink the Titanic. She looks beautiful and happy, with her husband, daughters, step-daughter and son at her side.

So I decided, you know what? I know how to photograph people of every body type in a flattering way. I know how to photograph people in wheelchairs in a flattering way. It isn't magic or Photoshop (though it's a powerful tool). It's lighting and angles and technical skill and making people feel comfortable. Wedding photography isn't hard, persay, because unlike the unpredictability of my real job, I know exactly when, where and in what order the important things are going to happen. In other ways, it's incredibly difficult to do extremely well.

I think so much of the wedding industry is selling people the "fantasy." So much of the process is searching websites and clipping out photos of cakes, hairstyles and flowers and saying, "Give me this." Don't get me wrong; I like that stuff. I enjoyed making shower invitations that looked just like Amanda and Kelly's gowns, including the bit with the red glitter, more than I care to admit. But I don't want people to hire me because they see other people's events and think, "Wow. That bride is model perfect and and this is just what I've wanted to look like since I was five and ew.... gay people kissing."

I say, fuck that. My couples are gay, straight, traditional, unconventional, interracial. My brides have worn dresses in just about every size the garment industry makes. My couples are happy and in love with each other, which I say with as much certainty as any person who isn't actually in the relationship can. I've shot weddings that took place on a beach, in churches, in country clubs, in a tent at a B&B, in a tropical garden, in a clearing in the woods, in a mountain resort inn, and once in a hotel lobby.

I shot 300 photos this weekend outside in the remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto wearing galoshes and a poncho with a hole cut in it for my camera. Only the lens was poking out and it was covered in plastic held in place with a ponytail holder. That takes SKILL, my friends. (The photos of the groomsmen running around with the umbrellas are awesome.) I want to work with people who will hire me for my skills. My skills are what is showcased on the DVD, and that's what matters to me most.

Thank you all for sharing your ideas and opinions. Much appreciated. :)