Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Few More.


My father has taken photographs ever since he was a teenager. He's a serious hobbyist, an amateur in the most positive sense of the word. I don't know if it's true or not, but a story I tell about my dad is that he used to say, "Don't try to make money at something you love; you'll ruin it." There are many things he's done all his life and is highly skilled at -- building model airplanes and replicas of 19th century firearms, carpentry and woodworking, wine and beer making -- but never did professionally. Instead he spent his whole working life at a job that I'm pretty sure he didn't much enjoy.

Recently, he had hundreds, maybe thousands, of old slides converted into digital files. (For years, I think he took only slides, in the late 50s/early 60s when people were buying expensive projectors and screens and having friends over to look at their vacation photos. The reason people loved slides is that photographs come to life when projected with light. Computers do the same thing, now.) The history contained in the images astounds me, but, besides that, many of the photos are evocative and beautiful, funny, full of emotion. I've been poring over them and choosing my favorites, and I thought I'd share a few here. (Click to see them full size.)

I always knew he was talented, but our aesthetic sensibilities were so different when I was young (he's a formalist, loves following the rules, whereas I never met a rule I didn't want to break) that I didn't really appreciate how good he was. Or I should say, I always knew how good he was but never thought of him as an artist until I saw these photos now with more mature eyes.

Monday, January 5, 2009


My official GRE scores arrived today. I already knew the verbal and math scores because they give them to you right after you finish the test, so the writing score was the only news. I got a very low score: 4 out of 6, which is in the 37th percentile. Which is bullshit. But still frustrating because there it is, a big "4" printed on a page that came in the mail with my name on it.

A New Year.

I just got back from a week in Indiana. I have an itch to write something long and reflective to start the new year, but it's not taking shape in my brain. Things I want to write about:

How happy I am that my mom's hair is growing back. It's funny how we focus so much energy on the hair loss associated with chemotherapy, as if that even comes close to being the worst thing about cancer. It's just so ... visible, I guess. (She wore a wig when we went out for New Year's Eve dinner. She's still self-conscious -- I guess older women with very short haircuts stand out at the Outback Steakhouse in Muncie Indiana. The wig is very pretty. She calls it "Gina" because that was on the label when she bought it, and I'm sure it looks totally natural to anyone who doesn't know, but it cracked me up because it's my mom in a wig, which is just funny for some reason.) Anyway, without the wig she looks great, like Laurie Anderson with her spiky silver halo and big wide smile.

My nephews, who are endlessly fascinating to me. The oldest (will be 13 this month), who is getting tall and just starting puberty. He listens to hip-hop and lets his pants sag when he can get away with it. He can be a little shit, and he's rude to his mom (who is of course my little sister, so I want to slap him), but he's funny and cute and that goes a long way. He's also very sensitive, cries at the drop of a hat. The tall and cute part reminds me of all the boys I wanted to be when I was 12. The crying part reminds me of me.

The middle one, who will be 9 in March. I could follow him around forever. What's in his brain? He loves musical theater and science fiction. One evening, he and I played a spontaneous game for a long time which went something like this: "I have a million dollars in gold, but it's disguised as an artichoke and hidden at the bottom of a volcano in the past." "I would design an indestructible robot and send it back in time in my time machine to find the volcano and steal the artichoke." "But I have the only time machine in existence and I'm the only one who knows how to turn the artichoke back into gold." "Then I would design a bomb that would selectively blow up the time-space continuum, then use my robot to retrieve the artichoke from the volcano." "But it's still an artichoke." "That's okay. I love artichokes." And on and on. He laughed every time either of us said artichoke. I enjoyed that a lot.

And the youngest, who is in kindergarten, adorable, and spends most of his day just trying to keep up with his brothers.

I'm putting together a list so I can send New Year's cards this year. I've fallen out of touch with so many old friends, and I don't want to let another year go by without remedying that, if I can. My first plan was to write a concise story of the last few years of my life to include with the card, but I've given that up in favor of just letting people know where I am now. I figure anyone who wants details can ask.