Saturday, July 28, 2007

Brad is in the hospital again.

Brad, my hero and big brother of the heart, used to have a baseball cap that I thought was hysterically funny when I was 8. It had two visors pointing in opposite directions and the printed words, "I'm their leader. Which way did they go?"

I'm scared; I'm sad, and I'm fiercely proud. He is fighting with everything he's got. I will never, ever be ready to say good bye, not even if we lived to be 99 and 102. And just when I think I might have to be ready, he surprises us all. Repeatedly.

I want him to lead me where he needs to go, because the truth is, he always has.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Some days the bipolarity of my job just absolutely blows my mind.

I started out today photographing and filming a $1 million historic Tudor home "with panoramic views of the Hudson River!" for the Real Estate section. The agent walked me and my cameras around the property, extolling the virtues of the inground heated swimming pool and adjacent cabana, the jacuzzi and steam shower, the two working fireplaces (one surrounded by vintage tile, naturally), the newly renovated kitchen with brand-new stainless steel appliances, multilevel terraces, a claw-footed bathub, original hardwood floors and mahogany beams, and the topper, a completely separate apartment for live-in help that can also stay vacant for occasional use as a guest suite.

Then my cell phone rang.

State troopers and local police are evicting a homeless woman from her temporary shelter behind a Park and Ride lot near the Thruway. (This is a trend we've been following.) She had left briefly to go to a nearby church for their free breakfast program, but the volunteer with the key to the church kitchen didn't show. She went back to her makeshift shelter to eat fistfuls of dry cereal and found two bulldozers getting ready to raze the home she made from a tent, a tarp, playwood and some old shipping pallets.

She called her social worker who promised to be there in 20 minutes, but never showed up. Then she called a friend (yes, she has a prepaid cell phone with minimal minutes. Judge if you must, but remember, by the grace of God go all of us...) who lives in his car. They loaded everything they could into the trunk and the backseat. She took everything she could grab to the home of a friend, an elderly woman she calls "Mom" who lives in Section 8 housing and never fully recovered from a broken hip.

People from her church offered to pay for a storage locker where she could lock up her belongings. She will sleep at her friend's house tonight, but tomorrow she's on her own. She doesn't want to go to a shelter because she hasn't done drugs in six months. She's afraid of falling off the wagon if she runs into her old crowd, whom she knows will be in the shelter.

She doesn't want to get help from the nearby organization started by and for homeless people, because the man in charge- who was homeless until recently- left her for another woman. She is broke, brokenhearted, and scared. She is getting by with the help of people from her church where she hopes to be baptized. At 2 p.m., she swore she'd never go back to her tent. By 5 p.m., she went back to retrieve a small ceramic statue of a squirrel she had left in a tree, because she couldn't bear to leave it behind.

In short, I drove from here to here.

Monday, July 23, 2007

You Don't Know Jack (Well, maybe you do)

So I just finished up a grueling seven-day work week, one that involved shooting Harry Potter until 1 a.m. and starting again at 9 a.m. the next morning to photograph environmental volunteers removing parasitic vines from a state park. Yesterday, I was driving back to the office after shooting a house fire when I saw a little dog almost get creamed by an SUV on a blind curve. I was honking and waving my arms from inside my car, then hopped out and stopped traffic in both directions.

He was a pretty cute little thing, some sort of pug-inspired mixed breed. I called the phone number on his tags, which had been disconnected. His ID said his name was Jack. I knocked on a few doors. None of the neighbors recognized him, but one lady gave me a spare leash. As we were running out of clues and I was on a tight spot news deadline, I took him back to the office with me.

In the time it took me to cut together a 60-second movie of the fire scene and transmit ten photos, he chewed through the leash not once but TWICE after I tied the severed ends back together. When he pulled out of his collar without my noticing despite the fact that the retied leash was hooked around my wrist, I started to have a sneaking suspicion about how and why Jack was running amok in traffic.

His rabies tag said he had been inoculated at the nearby chapter of the SPCA, which on a Sunday night, was already closed. Jack came home with me for a sleepover. He and Bella did alright actually. They scurried through every room in the house, and she proceeded to assert her Alpha status in each and every one.

Bella; Wanna see the people bed? It's reallyreallyreally cool!
Jack: Yeahyeahyeahyeah!

(He was a hyperactive little thing).

Bella: Okay, but you can't get on it, okay? I can, though. I'm allowed. You aren't a'pposed to! I'm a lot taller now!
Jack: Whimper?
Bella: Wanna see *my* bed?
Jack: Yeah, yeah!
Bella: No, only *I* can sit in it. Well, me and the cat, but not you.
Me: (warningly) Bella... He's here one night. Can you share?
Jack: Cat? Cat! CAT!!!
Me: Oh, Jesus.


Bella: Wanna play humans?
Jack: Okay!
Bella: Okay, now I'm the girl human, which means I get to tell you what to do and make you wear the leash and stuff. You can be the cat, okay?
Jack: That's not humans, that's- Um, what does the cat do?
Bella: He walks around screaming and staring at nothing all day.
Fred: (peeking around door, tail three times as wide as usual) Hey!
Bella: Jack pee-peed! He pee-peed and not outside in the business place!
Me: You know what? Time for separate walks and bed!


In the morning, I took him to the same shelter where he had his rabies shots, knowing they could find his owners from the paperwork. There was a shelter employee and a guy from Animal Control taking care of forms behind the desk. They looked up and simultaneously said:


Me: "You know this little guy?"
Animal Control Guy: "Dude, I just dropped you off at home again yesterday."
M: Really? I found him running along-
Us Simultaneously Again: B****town Road.
Me: Yeah!
Shelter Employee: Let me guess, in Pony Stoint?
Me: Yup. He almost had a close encounter with an SUV at the intersection with W@yne Avenue.
ACG: Yeah, he lives less than half a mile from there.
Me: Well, I called the number on his collar. It's disconnected, and I did knock on a few doors, but no one knew him.
SE: (petting Jack) Don't worry, you're not in trouble.
ACG: I'm just curious. When did you find him?
Me: Around 5/5:30 p.m. or so?
ACG: I dropped him off at 10 a.m.
Me: Do his people need, like, a fence or something?
ACG: He's pretty sneaky, actually.
Me: Yeah, I noticed that.

Weird little mutt. :)

If anything else, it's a good reminder to double-check your animal companions' ID tags. We realized about a month after we got rid of the landline that none of the old cell numbers nor the house # on Bella's tags were accurate anymore. Doh!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Joel Needs Your Suggestions

Seattle and Pacific Northwest readers, please advise! Having decided he's done photographing the desert for a while, Joel is planning an 8-day nature photography trip in the last week of August.

I, on the other hand, will be leading my glamourous life here at home, walking the dog, placating the cat, evading the skunk and trying to make my Pulitzer Prize winning shot in the photo-rich splendor that is varsity high school football, cross-country and field hockey camp. Woo, Fall Sports Preview Section! Woo!

Anyway, Joel is considering shooting the following:

1.) Mount Ranier
2.) Mount St. Helens
3.) Hoh Rain Forest
4.) Coast at Mora, WA
5.) North Cascades National Park
6.) Mount Garibaldi in BC

NW Pacific folks, which of the above do you think would result in the most dramatic landscape photography? What is a Must See? What would you skip? Should he also be including, say, the San Juan Islands in there? Take it away!

I'm done!

Well, less than 24 hours after I shot, edited, compressed and transmitted this video for work of Harry Potter fans counting down to midnight in the Barnes and Nobel cafe, I'm done with Book 7. It felt... bittersweet... to me, cracking the spine on a brand new Harry Potter book for the last time.

Now the only thing left to do is start all over again, and begin the complex and wonderful journey of spotting foreshadowing and making connections I missed the first time. The good news is, secrets and connections are still revealing themselves to me in Books 1-6, despite the fact that I've read them repeatedly. From here on out, Book 7 will be a gift that keeps on giving, rather than the final mysterious answer, and I guess there's nothing more satisfying than that.

Friday, July 20, 2007

We've Got Annie!

(FYI: I am going to go ahead and talk about wedding planning then. I trust that you will tell me when it gets excessive and that those of you who don't care will just... go read something else, I guess? And then come back later, I hope.)

So, they say that doctors make the worst patients. I definitely find it weird being on this side of the bride/vendor relationship, but one thing I'm not worried about is photography. Earlier this year, when I knew that marrying Joel wasn't just a possibility but a certainty, I was keeping my eye on my friends Lauri and Katie, who just started their own wedding photography business. They burst onto the scene with more natural raw talent and visual style than I have ever seen in "beginners." So I was all set to have them shoot the wedding, and Lauri got engaged. Yay! But the only available dates for their wedding was the same date Joel and I booked, and the week after. Boo!

So it was back to the drawing board. I contacted this amazing photographer, on whom I have a total photo crush, by the way. I was all giddy on the phone. It was like that time I met the actress who played Frenchy from Grease (who, by the way, was sitting next to me at the Genius Bar in the Apple Store last week. I channeled all my extreme dorkitude into frantically text messaging Gwen about it instead of freaking out and asking if she remembered me taking her picture and then blurting out that she could piece my ears with an ice cube or something.) After she left, the Apple Store employee who helped her and I had a girl screamfest moment about it.

So yeah. Anne Ruthmann is my wedding photographer! Rah! This is like having J. R. R. Tolkien edit your Lord of the Rings Fan Fiction, if he weren't, you know, dead. Speaking of serial fantasy novels, it's Harry Potter time! I'm shooting the big debut tonight, but I'm also working for the next three days. I plan to just not sleep, and also probably not blog. And then I'll try to back on a routine here. :)

Be good.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Thing I'm Trying to Avoid

Yes, I made this graphic, and no, no one in my gracious and loving group of friends and family has said this to me. Yet.

So here's why I'm not blogging. I'm trying to knock out the major elements of wedding planning, get the basic framework for the event in place, then gradually work on what I consider to be "the fun stuff" (favors, decorations, music selection, etc) over the course of the next year. (Yes, I actually enjoyed hand-glittering stationery for Kelly's shower so the bride on the invite was wearing red. I enjoyed adding a blue ribbon and itty-bitty pearls so that each and every shower invitation looked like Amanda's gown. Like, a lot. Shut up!)

I've long since agreed with Dave Barry that weddings and funerals have essentially the same elements: church, officiant, music, flowers, out-of-town guests, a big meal afterwards. Somehow weddings take a year to plan and funerals take less than a week. So I'm trying to get the big stuff done.

Joel and I are having a lot of fun, actually, talking about what we want to do, laying out the ground rules (no synagogue in Queens, no Catholic Church in Lancaster), thinking up both silly and sincere vows. (Joel: "Can I talk about how you hosed both Bella and I down with V8 at the same time in our vows?" Me: "I can still smell skunk. Gimme the baking soda."

And yet, all the phone calls, which have to be made during business hours, gives all of this the look and feel of a part-time job. The number-crunching kinda sucks. Weddings and car buying all the only times when no one wants to tell you what every damn thing is actually going to cost you. Just put it all out there- cost, tax, gratuity- so I can just DECIDE, dammit.

Overall, my question to you, dear readers, is... do you care? Do you want to hear about wedding planning? Because I do not want to be That Girl, the one who can't stop talking about her fucking wedding. Good deal?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

A two minute, 42 second vacation

Man, I wish I weren't working on a Saturday. Can I go back? Please?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Welcome Home, Critter Style

Hi! I'm back!

Le Sigh. Ze blog, she 'as languished! Zut alors, I have sat on my croissant!

Yeah, I don't know where Crazy French Lady came from just now, but there it is.

Anyway, my family is still down at the beach, but Joel and I had cut it short due to the fact that he's taking a graduate class and teaching summer school. He missed the first two days of both, thanks to the graciousness of his professor and a supervisor. Also, I have only thirteen days a year- count 'em, thirteen!- to use for beach vacations, nature photography trips, freelance weddings, major Hallmark holidays, doctor's appointments, friends' weddings/showers, fun girl weekend, etc. Gotta make 'em stretch.

When we got home, Bella pranced all around and did her happy whimper of barely contained joy as we schlepped all of our bags and gear up the three flights of stairs (Chunky PhoJo Barbie hasn't "traveled light" since 1998) . Fred didn't rub up against my legs or show affection to either me or Joel, but he did pull my flip flop into a big bear hug as soon as I kicked it off, rolled over onto his side and frantically rubbed his face all over the rubber straps. I guess somewhere in his little cocoa puff-sized brain, nothing says "I missed you" quite like frantically spooning your owner's footwear. Unless he was just trying to say, "I missed your shoe," which is entirely possible.

Another furry friend in the neighborhood had a special welcome back surprise for us. Rogue Skunk strikes again, my friends. This time both Joel and Bella got nailed. Luckily I had a six pack of V8 juice in the fridge. I do love all of Mother Nature's creatures, but if I ever find myself behind the wheel of my car when Rogue Skunk is crossing the street, look out, vermin! I have have a mind to grab Pa's musket and hunt it down right now, hollering "I'm a'gon make me a STEW!"

From Crazy French Lady to Redneck Ma and back again... Bonsoir!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Give ME the Brain... I can hear the ocean.

Um, yeah... I'm not posting so much because I'm in Rehoboth Beach for the annual vacation.

It's great, but so different. I for one have finally graduated from the Spinster Room, even though we're in a different house this year. The people who own the old place didn't list it as a rental this season, but we're literally steps from the beach and boardwalk for the first time ever, mostly because we're vacationing with a baby for the first time ever-- mmm, sandy baby.

Greg unfortunately had to bow out because he needs to travel somewhere to lay the smack down on the wheelchair repair service people in person- the world is full of morons, as it turns out- and none of the sisterfriends are making special guest star appearances for the first time, since... 1995? I think?

We miss you guys. If you were here, I would toss one of the two Scary Dolls (yes, there are two now) over the shower curtain while you were still in it. :) Hmm.. I wonder when it's Amanda's turn for the shower...?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Adorable 3' Tall Dictator, Smoosha and $439/night

EDITED TO ADD: You can see all of the photos from our adventures here

I always feel like I can do "one more thing."

Make my bed even though I really should I have left for work five minutes ago? Sure! Take on an extra assignment with stills AND video for a co-worker who's going home early with a migraine? Of course I will.

Do a two-day shoot involving studio lights, grandparents, two dogs, a 4-year-old, five costume changes, a carousel, a kiddie train and a butterfly garden? Bring it on! Add a visit with a friend and her newborn baby to the trip? Piece of cake! Speaking of cake, why don't I schedule two different meetings with potential wedding venues in a completely different state? BRILLIANT!

The way I figure it, I can rest when I'm dead, right? Riiiight.

First, I drove from New York to Pennsylvania with the dog and cat after work on Friday night, arriving around 3 a.m. I dropped Bella and Fred off with my mom in Lancaster, slept fast, then got on the road and arrived at Shannon's around 1 p.m. on Saturday. It's been seven months since I've spent a lot of uninterrupted time with Gaby, not counting two very short visits. Her thinking and reasoning skills have really developed since then.

It's very cool, actually, watching this world-beating little girl become more and more articulate and complex in her thinking. She's at that age now where all children see things in a very literal way. And yet, she's very imaginative, a combination that sometimes results in the adults who love her tiptoeing their way through a dramatic pre-school play following a very precise script that they've never seen. And if you get it wrong? Prepare to start all over again.

:::Cue Marker::: "Angelina Ballerina greets her adoring audience after an enthusiastic introduction by Mommy and a dramatic entrance from behind a 'curtain' dropped in a certain way by Nana and NO CLAPPING YET AUNT ANGIE YOU AREN'T SUPPOSED TO CLAP YET!" :::Take 12:::

This photograph kind of sums it up. This is a completely authentic moment. Gaby is, um, laying out her vision for the rest of the evening, and Gwen is reacting honestly to the way she's delivering the terms.

To be fair, the portrait sessions and shooting opportunities Shannon and I had planned (and I was being paid to produce) requested a lot of Gaby.

Usually our outings are guided by Fun Plans, and I just tag along capturing Her Awesomeness. This time I was giving her very specific instructions, and let it be known to all in the land that this little girl Does Not Like Being Told What To Do. I am so proud of her for that, but at the same time, Shannon just wanted one nice photo of Gaby smiling normally with Nana and Papa. Just one. And here it is:

Meanwhile, there are, like 79 frames of her pulling her dress up over her head. (Someday when you are 17 and have a boyfriend, I am coming over with ALL the out takes, girlfriend.) That said, I would still buy her a pony if she asked me in a moment of weakness.

On Monday morning, I met another little girl who had captured my heart before she was even born.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, this whole friends-becoming-mothers thing is FANTASTIC. It has bottomless amounts of amazing.

Dream big, baby girl.

I will rearrange whatever I can so I can be there to document your baptism, your First Communion, your pre-prom photos, your high school graduation, your wedding. When you are old enough, we'll play pretend and have tea parties, dress up like pirates, or fairies, or Prominent Female Democrats. I will read you "Where the Wild Things Are" and stop at the right places so we can have our own rumpus. I will teach you how to parallel park in New York City. And even if you melt down after the 17th attempt to take Just. One. Nice. Picture of your with your grandparents, I will STILL offer to buy you a pony. And yes, I will always have gum in my purse.

As for meetings with potential wedding venues, the Hotel Hershey is frighteningly overpriced. Gah. Not only do you pay a la carte for everything- $2700 for folding chairs and reserved blades of grass for a ceremony in their gardens (extra if you want a table for a unity candle, or a place for musicians to sit), $1500 ballroom "rental fee" if you have less than 175 guests, no music permitted during your cocktail hour, average $170 per person, which does NOT include a cake, flowers, special linens or a champagne toast, they charge a whopping $439/night for a regular ol' hotel room with two double beds. WTF? Are the sheets made out of hope and stardust? Does a choir of angels sing you to sleep?

That said, we're getting married in the botanical gardens next summer!

It's a toss up between two different dates at the moment, but one or two of the major puzzle pieces are falling into place. When all is said and done, at the end of the day I will be more than happy to guzzle a Gatorade and crawl in bed next to the man I've been sleeping with for the past two years at the Days Inn off Route 283.