31 Days of Reflection, № 1 – Escapes

I’m going to attempt to post a thought every day this month reflecting on the year overall. It went by way too fast, so I want to bring some of it back. Some of these might be surface skims, some might be deep dives…

№. 1 — Escapes

Today I’ve been reflecting on how much I like to escape to other places, people, and thoughts. I think I’ve let that happen far too often this year. A lot of it has been reading (especially after slacking off last year and early this year), a lot of it has been media consumption, and yes, escaping through people, too. But it’s also been letting busyness and distraction get in the way. I found myself getting lost in work, then checking the calendar to see what I was supposed to be going to for the evening, then running off to that without thinking. Stopping to think and reflect didn’t happen enough (if at all), thus these notes.

At least reading-wise, this year’s been great. The last couple of months have been dominated by one writer, five books, and 4400 pages. All about a cat. I read the fifth volume of The Familiar in two days because all the different plot threads that were so disparate in the first book were finally interlinking and crossing over in the catchiest ways. Waiting a bunch of months for the sixth entry is going to be tough, but hopefully it won’t fly by like this year did. As a recommendation, I’d hunt down how the book club broke each book into sections spread out over the course of a month for each volume. I’d been buying the books as they were released, but avoided reading them do to their heftiness. Appearances can be deceiving and luckily they’re not endless pages of dense text.

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Midnight Jazz at the McKittrick

It was about a quarter to midnight on a Sunday and I was wandering my way to the McKittrick Hotel. I don’t think I’ve been there since the secret Spoon concert a few years ago.1

The New York Hot Jazz Festival made its way onto my radar earlier in the week and sounded like fun, but I was pretty sure after an adventurous weekend of book launches and photoshoots that I wouldn’t be able to handle attending an entire day. Luckily, Shanghai Mermaid came to the rescue and they had a Midnight Speakeasy, perfect for my Night Owl Club tendencies.2

After entering the building and taking a short elevator ride up a few floors, I made my way down a hallway, stealing a cursory, curious glance at a sliver of light through a roped-off set of curtains: bright colors, some music fading away, and lots of movement. At the end of the hall was another doorway with the curtains parted and tied to the sides. I ducked under it and found myself in some other time and place. The scene was a jarring change from the quiet, dim hallway. Everyone was dressed like they stepped right out of the Roaring Twenties and the decor matched. There was a stage at the far end of the room, blindingly lit. A few couples were finishing dancing as the band wrapped up their set. The bar was on my left, and the bartenders had joined in on the fashion theme. I ordered an Old Fashioned and tried to scope out the room and get my bearings.

Of course I brought my camera along. I haven’t shot any music in a while, so between that, two perfect Old Fashions, and just trying to relax and enjoy the show, I still got some pretty good photos.3 Hours of good music and fancy dancing followed.

The party slowly wound down, star performers from earlier in the day who had made one last encore over the past two hours finished their drinks and said their goodbyes, wandering out into the early a.m. hours of the night.4

  1. And it was so amazing and still the best concert I’ve ever been to, to the point that I don’t need to ever go to another one.

  2. I’m appropriating this Langism that usually happens when games start after 10:30… Although now I’m just realizing that I may have heard that phrase during a Penguins game for the last time last season and I’m really sad about that! ☹️

  3. I’ll probably revisit editing these photos. I’m still getting used to Lightroom (since the end of Aperture and the inability of it to process my X100F shots). So they’re kind of rough drafts.

  4. I’m already looking forward to next year’s rendition. I’m definitely going to try to go to more of the festival. Maybe a half-day. The only way it’d have been better is if someone wasn’t missing, half a country away…

Moments of Escape & Solace

Photography is about freezing a moment in time, creating a memory that you can share by showing others. There’s a lot of blanks to fill in, and I’m always happier to leave it that way. 1 Some of the answers can remain unsaid, others cannot be said.

About three years ago, I got to have some of my photos exhibited as part of a group project. 2

I was nervous when the exhibition night rolled around. I think I was actually shaking with anticipation. I hadn’t had my photos on display since high school, maybe nine years prior. It felt good to have my work up on a wall in a gallery for people to see. And we had sponsored drinks and snacks, so that made it a bit easier to pass the time. Turns out, only two friends showed up. 3

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It’s odd going back and seeing what I focused on.4 Looking at the pictures now, the set of them definitely reflect the lonely and isolated feeling I had at the time. The rest of 2014 would be a roller coaster as well, but that’s another story….


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We also had to write a didactic panel to go along with our work. This was the scariest part for me. I like to let my photos speak for themselves to the point that I won’t even give them titles if I can help it.


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This project was initially a foray into exploring the use of black and white photography in New York’s urban environment, but a funny thing happened on the way to the darkroom… Manhattan’s unrelenting hustle and bustle, brusqueness, and confinement led to exhaustion and a need to escape. I found myself searching for open, natural, and quiet locations; trying to find a small measure of peace and solace. Whether it was New York’s parks where one could almost (but not quite) leave the city behind, to the edge of Long Island on the beaches of Montauk, or far up in the Catskills in the rolling, foggy mountains, I needed to be away from everything in order to read, write, or relax. In Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino describes the concept of the city as “the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together.” These photographs are an attempt to illustrate respite from that inferno.

That was me in that moment, three years ago; it almost sounds like someone else, or at least it doesn’t sound like me now. No better or worse, just different. I think I was still coming to terms with everything I had gone through in the first year or two in New York. It was quite the tale of two cities, and this was the cap on the end of a particular phase.

  1. That’s the point of art, everyone can interpret it in it’s own way.

  2. Moments seems defunct now, which is too bad. I think I was a little advanced for their target audience, but it was a lot of fun going through it with a group, discussing our work, and having an assignment or goal every week or so to go out and work on.

  3. So heads-up if you miss out on something I do: it might take years to catch it again!

  4. Pun intended, ha!

Five Years


I moved to New York five years ago today. That wasn’t the plan at the time, but that’s when I drove up here. I didn’t know how long it would be for. Maybe a week or two and then I’d continue on to Pittsburgh. Maybe I’d be able to stay for a little while longer. I certainly didn’t see five years happening. It was 2012, after all, and the apocalypse was scheduled for December.

I had spent the past 12 or so years trying to get back to DC. It was my favorite location while growing up, which I had only learned after moving away. When I ended up back there, it wasn’t what I wanted anymore. So I was directionless. 2

All my life, I’d considered myself a city-person. Primarily growing up near DC and just assuming everything was like that. The hustle and bustle, the national museums and monuments, the center of attention, and everything else. Moving around constantly led to that also. I never identified myself by what age or what grade I was in, it was always by where I was living. I was in Georgia when we got Sugar. I had my First Communion in Alexandria. 9/11 happened when we were in Maryland. Five years here, five years there; that was always the longest time in any one place: five years.

New York was always too big, too crowded, too busy, too much. Somehow it held a semi-dangerous reputation in my mind, probably from movies or tv in the ’90s. When I was looking at colleges, New York was never close to landing on my list. It was mostly DC, Pittsburgh, Boston, with a few smaller cities thrown in for good measure, but not real consideration.

Sometime along the way, New York lost its dark, foreboding status in my mind. DC was the green light across the water that I couldn’t quite reach, but New York became the true beacon of hope that I could get to. And that’s all I had at the time: some distant sense of hope — a faint glimmer in the dark. And I was in a -DARK- place before making the journey. The drive north became my last ditch effort… just a Hail Mary throw towards three friends in the city. 3

Somehow it all worked out. Not instantly, not along any clear path. I walked miles per day around the city going to interviews I had lined up and stopping anywhere I could think of in-between. I camped out at the different library posts to get applications set-up and sent out.

Living in New York has crossed the entire spectrum of possibility. There’s been amazing days and horrible ones. Some of the worst days in my life where I barely lived through things I never thought would happen to me, all easily made up for by having a vast majority of the best days of my life. A friend and I joked that we were living in a sitcom and were trying to identify which episode by what we went through each day. Here’s the rooftop party episode. There’s the heartbreak episode. Here’s the random live musical episode imposed by the Powers That Be at the network.

Five years on, and moving here might’ve been the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. Everything I’ve been able to see and do. All the people I’ve met and new friends I’ve made and memories I’ve lived. I’m alive here here in New York and I wouldn’t change a thing I went through to get to this point. Here’s to five more.

  1. This is a living document that I’ll edit and update and expand. I wanted (or needed) to start my blog with a milestone and this seems as good as any.

  2. A large part of that was the devastated economy at the time and empty-handed job hunting. Another part was nostalgia that didn’t match up to the reality of returning there (You Can’t Go Home Again, as the saying goes); another part was that none of my friends were around.

  3. And it felt like, at the time, the last three friends I had anywhere.