Archive for November, 2009

Collateral Damage

Friday, November 20th, 2009
Jacqueline

Jacqueline

 

 

I was 23 years old and saying a tearful goodbye to my wife of one month in LAX departures. As I slunk back in my seat moments later, and heard the soft thunk of the cabin door closing, I noticed Shaun Tomson sitting a few seats away. Dane Kealoha was nearby, and behind him I saw Mark Richards. We were all headed for Hawaii and what would be my first travel leg of the then IPS world tour. 

 

The next ten years or so of my life consisted of moments like that: traveling alone, or with some of my pro surfer pals from California. The goodbyes were frequently followed by amazingly wonderful hellos a month or so later. The stress on our marriage, though real, was manageable. We both had known what we were getting into. 

 

There is something magnificent about the bond between a man and woman committed to each other. It just feels sacred. My wife had never complained about my other mistress. The sea would always give me back. She knew that it would never do anything but wash me home. It was not an enemy, but part of our bond. We both got that about each other. We were able to share it. 

 

I bailed on my busy work schedule last week. The details of life sometime necessitate we take care of things like house, taxes, cars. I was resigned to a drive down coast to Encinitas to drop off a commercial job for a client, and trade in my 07 car, which had reached that crossroad of diminishing value that occurs at around 60 k miles. 

 

A very patient car saleswoman named Barb Shev, had borne with me as I decided to trade my car in on a 2010 version. I had dropped her a simple note hello. A query and in two e mails later and Barb had ferreted out a deal that gave me a good trade in amount on my car and a great price and financing on the newer model. But getting away had been almost impossible. I finally picked a day and resolved to  just drop everything else and go. I had bought a car before from that dealership, and it had been a straight shot, no BS in and out thing. I needed that. 

 

On the way out the door my girlfriend Donna (Hey, the marriage DID last 20 years. That is another story) asked if I was bringing a camera. I was not intending to. Like a bad school child, I stomped back into my camera room and grabbed a little Canon Rebel T1i and a 10-17 fisheye zoom lens. Why that lens? Because it was already ON the body. I was not into making more post production for myself. I already had six stills shoots and three motion projects awaiting my attention. No shooting was planned for me that day. But Donna knows me well, and she smiled as she saw me stomping out the door and kissed me goodbye. I was grumpy. I like my car. I hate LA freeways. Harumph. My shiny black Mazdaspeed 3 came to life with a smooth rumble at the touch of a key. It had been a seamless performer for 3 years. I had disassembled and reassembled it almost as a child would a model car. I like cars. I like speed. I know both quite well. 

 

Listening to AM 1070 for the traffic news, I found myself whizzing up on OC via I 5, and dialed my friend Shawn Alladio, who I knew lived there somewhere . She picked up. Turns out that the next exit was hers. In a few minutes I had found my way to her house and she met me at the curb, wearing camo pants, a Liquid Militia tee shirt, and a soft smile. 

 

We do not get to catch up in person much. She owns and operates a global water safety company called K38 Rescue. One of the smartest, toughest, most fair people that I know. I am lucky enough to have had her tutor me in Ocean Rescue, PWC operation, risk assessment, and be my friend. She had been through a lot lately, and I was really glad to wrap my arms around her. I care about my friends. This one had been to hell and back several times recently in her work. A slew of awards for heroism had been the by product. But there had also been collateral damage no one saw but family and close friends. 

Shawn’s blog is here. Read it if you want insight into a very remarkable woman and her world. 

 

Coffee at Peets in a trippy nearby mall (I had been up since 3am working and needed a cup) had Shawn asking if I wanted company. 

 

So down the 5 we went, sipping our coffee and catching up. As we passed Pendleton, a powder blue Pacific glistened beyond the ocre brown of the coastal chapparal. Shawn asked if it would be okay if we stopped on Base after the car thing. She said that there was someone she wanted me to meet. I said sure. 

 

Barb met us at the door of a very quiet Penske Mazda, standing in the midst of other very quiet dealerships. She looked the same as when I had last seen her 5 years ago. She pointed out the shiny new black MS3 sitting next to my shiny older and rather sinister looking MS3. “There is your new car David. Want to go for a test drive?” And then she smiled as I declined. Barb knew I was likely on a mission. She helped. 

 

While Shawn chatted with her, I met with the same finance guy that I had seen 5 years prior and really just had a pleasant time. In a bit, all of us were hanging in the office and talking story as the paperwork got completed. It was comfortable. But my psyche was someplace else. 

 

In a short while, we were saying our goodbyes and I settled in behind the wheel of my new car. But I did not care. And I could not figure out why. Somehow I knew that today was not about getting a car. Shawn was sweetly enthusiastic as it roared to life and we eased towards Hwy 78 and Pendleton. I was quiet. 

 

Though successful, I do not make a lot of money. I spend most of what I earn on my career tools. I should have been amped. I love cars. Here was my old car, refined and brand new. A car enthusiast’s dream. But inside, it was all pensive brooding. Something else was up. I knew the signs. 

 

At Pendleton’s gate I said that we were there to see Mike Arnold, base safety Officer down at the marine Boat Locker. We knew that Mike was having a hard day. It looked like he may have lost someone to an incident earlier. Mike takes the Marines and their lives very seriously, and one lay in a civilian hospital critically injured. A phone call confirmed that he would not be meeting us. 

 

Shawn said that her friend Jacqueline would come down to the boat docks, near the Marine Yard where she occasionally holds training courses in Ocean Rescue and boat ops. “Do you think that you could take a picture of her for her husband? He is away on deployment.” “Yea sure, I brought a camera” I said. I thought about my odd choice in lenses. Oh well, it would be a snapshot. Something for him to hold close while he was away. It would do. 

 

So we nosed into the launch area. Shawn got out and immediately headed for the water, squatting down and holding her hands in it. A sharp breeze carrying the increasing coolness of a Fall ocean, contrasted against the warm yellow light of the late afternoon sun. 

 

“She should be here soon. She is a blond. You are really going to like her.” I heard her say, hands still in water and back to me. She was recharging. The ocean does that for us. Here is a very cool video that explains why. 

 

 Camera in hand, I took a deep breath of cool salt air. It was nice to be here again. In a few minutes I saw a bright red little Chevy rolling up on us, and lots of black hair blowing out the open window. “That’s her” I heard Shawn say. “That gal has brunette hair Shawn. No, blonde, no, blond and black.” As the little red car rolled up next to mine on the pavement, I noticed that it’s tires glistened shiny black, The bright red paint glowed. The windows glistened spotless and three stickers were placed carefully on the side and back windows. This woman kept her car up. You do not see that much from 23 year old women: being into their cars. It was Jacqueline. 

 

As Shawn introduced us, she explained the hair. “Like it? I just did it.” Her long hair was close to black in color with two near white pieces that framed her face. The choice spoke a lot to me about her. “Nice car” I said. She smiled broadly. “Thanks!” I take good care of it. It’s a 2005.” (It looked as new as my fresh one). 

 

I appreciate individualism in people. I saw it standing there in front of me in the form of a confident, relaxed, charming and attractive young woman. The saying “on the threshold of life” dropped in to mind, as I asked if I could take her picture. Still unsure or entirely motivated to do anything but a simple snap shot, I did not really understand what in the heck I really was doing at that exact moment in place and time. But a nagging feeling, which had been tugging on my insides had kept up it’s persistent tapping. What was this all about? 

 

With no clear direction I began to shoot around a little bit. For the past hour my eye had been drawn to a spot of wet sand nestled into the big brown rocks of one of the jetties that framed the launch ramp. I asked Jacqueline to head down to the water. On the way, I had joked about what I do. “Yea I order people to do things and they do them.” As we passed by that spot at the jetty, I said: “Could you please just stand right over there?” 

 

Jacqueline turned, looked me square in the eye and in a revelatory and surprised fashion turned the light on for me about the purpose of my day when she said simply, “There? That is where I said goodbye to my husband.” She appeared shocked that I could know. And as enlightenment came, direction and motivation dawned as well. I knew what to shoot, what needed to be communicated. 

 

Her husband Ryan was deployed on a ship, somewhere in the Middle East. 

He was a sniper. This spot was where something sacred had occurred between the couple. In ten minutes I had shot a series of images that communicated what was involved in that sacrament. Ryan would “get it” when he saw them. Hopefully others would as well. I noticed my eyes trying to tear up as I worked. Emotion indicates something to me. So when a subject evokes it, I know exactly what to do: tell the story. 

 

Deployments are three months long generally. Ryan comes home for a month. Then it repeats. That is three times a year when the soldier’s family gets to go through the process of separation. Now goodbye, that is not just a sweet au revoir. I questioned Jacqueline about it, as she explained what she and the other wives dealt with in their relationships and the comings and goings. The stories were heavy. The implications vast. The potential damage to relationships and people a clear and present sort of danger. She began to cry as the back story arose. 

This Video tells another soldier’s story. 

 

When you are just barely out of childhood and getting your feet under you as an adult, there is a steep learning curve. I had been where she was, having married early as well, and leaving. The glaring difference being that her husband’s job was as a merchant of death. And what he would be dealing with, is an enemy whose job was to snuff him out. That is war. Ultimate conflict, with ultimate expense. 

 

 The energy of that has a ripple effect that can sweep through the harbor of a soldier’s loved ones and wreak an incredible amount of damage. For the family, the constant loss and return and loss, can create what psychiatry calls separation anxiety and other maladies. Their life consists of maintaining a relationship in spurts. 

 

 At 50 I could maybe have a decent chance of surviving it. But at 23, it is an entirely different set of skills that one may not be in possession of, that can wreak havoc. You learn fast. Or not. But in reality it is all about resolve on both peoples part to get through to the other side of this phase in a career choice that it is difficult to see clearly with young eyes. 

 

The net affect of this process creates the bond of the military family. Everyone tries to link arms figuratively. Each supports and holds up the other. It was what Shawn and I were really there for that day. To show Jacqueline that we cared about her, Ryan, and them as a family. We were spiritually linking arms. It is much more difficult for a person to be knocked down when friends, family and country hold them up. 

 

Shawn had told me a story about a fighting group on it’s way into battle in the back of a helo. They had made a pact that should one of them fall, the rest would step up in support of the family of that member of the group. They had sworn on it. A short while later one of the group had been blown to his end. When those men returned home, true to their word, they formed a support group. It is called The United Warrior Survivors Foundation. The link is here. What the UWSF and several other groups do is offer support. They try to limit and contain the collateral damage of war. That collateral damage is the type of energy that can sweep through the cultural fabric of a nation with the effectiveness of a blast. So these warriors seek to soften the blow for the rest of us. Talk about nobility. 

 

Jacqueline loves her husband, that was very obvious. But more than that, she is committed to him, spirit soul and body. She is at war. They all are. She is present and accounted for. And her reality is becoming more stark, as she realizes that the next deployment already beckons. 

 

Collateral damage. The enemy is around us. We are at war. Think about what you support and why. I did, as I eased through the steel pulse of Friday night traffic on the 405 later, with everyone else bound for someplace else, and someone. 

 

I awoke the next morning, opened my carport door and saw my shiny new car sitting there and it finally hit me. I picked up my cel and dialed Shawn. 

“Hey. I have a new car.” It had taken me that long to really notice. But I have a new friend. That part is special. And an obligation. That part is sacred. 

Shawn Recharging

Shawn Recharging

 

puua-2779puua-2795puua-2796 

Shawn and Jacqueline: Edge of the World

Shawn and Jacqueline: Edge of the World

 

puua-2808puua-2790 

 A Sniper's Wife

A Sniper's Wife

 

puua-2823puua-2818 

Future Perfect

Future Perfect

 

Side by  Side

Side by Side

Wonder

Sunday, November 8th, 2009

It has been a very busy year. So busy in fact, that I have needed to learn how to recharge my creative battery while on the fly. Fashion, Video projects, TV projects, motion pictures, my penchant for documenting beautiful things, travel, new tech, literary projects, commercial imaging, social projects, community, and hopefully some of me for my wonderful girlfriend and family. All of these things have beat a tempo never experienced in the realm of my career as an image maker.

It comes at a time when the economy is without a doubt at one if its worst places in recent history. Things have never been so hard for so many in the scant 50 years that I can recall on this blue ball. It is so distressing with friends and Country being dragged so horribly through the gutter, that it would be a more natural reaction to recoil in horror. But I don’t.

Seth Godin dropped this fantastic blog into my e mail this Sunday morning that had me go: “AHA” and sit down to write and ply the pixel seas for this.

I am supposed to be preparing for a fashion shoot for the next couple days. In fact I am supposed to be doing quite a few things like that.   Four AM today I awoke with the Music Video for Elliot Minor that Tyler Swain and I have been whacking away on in edit for the past two days, alive in my head.  I have watched a lot of their videos recently. High budget deals. Ours is not. Tyler was simply inspired enough by them to pen a concept and call  his friends, who in turn were equally inspired at the band’s ability and desire to deviate from a Pop culture, success formula laden career path, that we threw down our various skills to make something special at a unique fork in their creative path. So we endeavor to create something that will convey passion. The song is dark. We are all about light. It is a creative challenge. Plus there is only talent, no budget. But talent and passion trump dollars every time. All my close friends and colleagues live this credo. So doing fantastic work without a lot of money is just normal to us.

I was struck by what Seth said as he pinpointed exactly why I am busy: I have been focused on fabulous, but more succinctly: on wonder. The money sure isn’t there. But then I have never had that as a motivation for what I do anyway. Much to some of my commercial colleague’s concern over my well being. But it seems to work.

The Dictionary defines wonder here as a noun. Simple word, but since it converts easily to a verb, it is a very intrigueing thing to ponder:

wonder |ˈwəndər|
noun
a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable : he had stood in front of it, observing the intricacy of the ironwork with the wonder of a child.
• the quality of a person or thing that causes such a feeling : Athens was a place of wonder and beauty.
• a strange or remarkable person, thing, or event : the electric trolley car was looked upon as the wonder of the age.
• [as adj. ] having remarkable properties or abilities : a wonder drug.
• [in sing. ] a surprising event or situation : it is a wonder that losses are not much greater.

The worse things have become for the country, the more I have said yes to endeavors that point out the fabulous, the blessing, the awe inspiring. Why? Because we need them.  I want my family, friends and country to thrive. Inspiration is the fuel of innovation and we need that right now.  Possibly like never before. So I am going to continue with tail feathers on fire and hope the sparks ignite something in enough people that I feel it is safe to rest a bit.

I wonder. Here is some. It is all that I have to offer you. But it may be enough, if you treat it as seed. We need to plant seeds right now. No future harvest exists without them.

Liam: Wonder

Liam: Wonder

Looking for Rainbows

Looking for Rainbows

Hans Rathje

Hans Rathje

Zuma

Zuma

Hans: Zuma

Hans: Zuma

puu-5005

puu-4975puu-0320

Minor Monitor Burn

Minor Monitor Burn

Contrast

Contrast

Bliss

Bliss

Indian Summer Sunset

Indian Summer Sunset

My son Jon, me: Family

My son Jon, me: Family

puu26531

Texture

Friday, November 6th, 2009

Textures and Light

Textures and Light

I like to listen to things. Sound is life. People think that because I am a photographer, I am all about light. But light and color are merely indicators of a signature flowing through creation that is sound. So I listen and try to decipher, to hear, comprehend, move forward.

Certain things that I hear create textures that eventually comprise threads which in turn weave the tapestry of life. You all get to see that, as I photograph those instants.

It is Fall here in Ventura California. The voices in my life burst forth in a timbre that in turn, becomes something remarkable. Here is a sampling of some  heard, these past few weeks. The view is rich but the sonnet, remarkably breath catching.

From film maker Gregory Schell.

“California Forever” Jean Baudrillard, (1986)

The sunsets of California are giant rainbows lasting for an hour. The seasons here make no sense: in the morning it is spring, at noon it is summer, and the desert nights are cold without it ever being winter. It is a kind of suspended eternity in which the year is renewed daily, with the guarantee that it will be like this each day, that every evening will be that rainbow of all the colors of the spectrum in which light, after having reigned all day long in its indivisible form, in the evening fragments into all the nuances of color that make it up, before it finally disappears. Nuances which are already those of the instant rainbow catching fire in the wind on the crest of the Pacific waves. This is the invulnerable grace of the climate, privilege of a nature that completes that insane richness that is man’s.”

From EMT and Photographer Charlie Witmer.

I’ll try to make this brief. I went on a call recently. An older

man about 89 years old had fallen out of bed at a supervised care

facility in his apartment and hit the call button around his

neck.The nurses all huddled around him said he hurt his legs. I

said to him “Hi my name is charlie, what’s yours?” The answer to

this brief introduction usually yields a clear picture of

orientation, slurred or clear speech,and affect of a patient. he

said, “My name is Ed” I noticed he was unclothed except for a

diaper he was wearing. I inquired as to whether or not he was

injured, lost consciousness, had any shortness of breath, chest

pain, and a few other annoying questions. He informed me that “I

just want to be put back to bed” I told him I had to perform a

hands on physical exam to rule out any injuries but that I first

had to move him away from the edge of the bed. I reached under his head

shoulders and chest while the other firefighter got under his pelvis and

legs and we moved him in unison out away from the bed. He

was putting his full trust in me. It was then that I looked up and saw the

photos of a much younger “Ed”. He had been a USN Commander and was in fact

the lead pilot of the Blue Angels at a point earlier in his life.

I asked him if that was his photo up there and he confirmed it. I

immediately told him how I admired the Blue Angels and In my mind they

“are the best of the best”. I felt so humbled and honored to be able to

help this unsung hero.I pondered in my mind what it must be like going

from having a rocket strapped to your ass, screaming through the wild blue

yonder at super sonic speed, only to land next to your bed over 50 years

later unable to get up on your own power

It also struck me like hammer that our glory days are so fleeting

and in time they become a faded memory. We really can’t take any of

it with us so we must make the most of what we have right now and

give what we can while we can.

I sent “Ed” off to the hospital having just been privileged to touch

some living history and honored to have met such a special man.

A poignant blog by photojournalist Logan Mock Bunting

From my friend and team leader, K38’s Shawn Alladio, an excerpt from a debriefing on the death of Cesare Visrara:

2 days ago, Cesare received his final send out in Italy. Rest In Peace. Life has been fair to all of us. We have a job to do and it is not finished. Learn better leadership skills,stay steady, stay strong, lead with integrity, lead without fault, use the standards, do not deviate. You must be physically fit! You have to be fit to do the job to the ending! Pay attention! You have to develop a stronger mindset. I do not want to work with idiots or mediocrity. Idiots and mediocrity kill people, destroy team ethics and has no place near K38, so get the fuck out of the way if you want to be weak. Strength is what you need, are you good enough? You better be, if not dig deep and make it happen. Find your weakness and change it. Don’t be afraid.

I want all of you to rest in peace as well. It is time to move forward and not stare at our past, but look forward to our future work and goals and becoming a better person from this experience.

As usual Seth Godin dropped this into my e mail just now. One of the voices.

There are many more things that I have heard this week. This blog could go on for way too many pages. But I recount those, to show and tell you this:

Things we hear, choose to listen to and embrace, pay great dividends. So discern and cherish those. Look at the texture it creates.  You feel it.  May you never hear those words: “You never listen to me.” What we hear becomes the light on the highway of life.

Listen to this while you look at these. The Earth whispers this to us non stop.

Did you hear that?

Zuma Post

Zuma Post

Cesare Vismara: Lifemarker K38

Cesare Vismara: Lifemarker K38

Pumpkin Patch Moonrise

Pumpkin Patch Moonrise

Sustainable Landscape Architect: Devin Slavin

Sustainable Landscape Architect: Devin Slavin

Community Activist, Camille Harris

Community Activist, Camille Harris

Photojournalist Helen Yonker

Photojournalist Helen Yonker

Ventura Voices

Ventura Voices

Trees as Men: Ventura Eucalyptus

Trees as Men: Ventura Eucalyptus

Mary, Dimples, Mary McGrath

Mary, Dimples, Mary McGrath

Lars Rathje

Lars Rathje

Ventura Harbor

Ventura Harbor

California St

California St

Dafoe's Vintage Bottle Shared

Dafoe's Vintage Bottle Shared

Ventura Pier Sunset

Ventura Pier Sunset

Two

Two

Two Tree Sentinels

Two Tree Sentinels

Highway One

Highway One

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.

home