Posts Tagged ‘Penske Mazda’

Collateral Damage

Friday, November 20th, 2009




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



Shawn and Jacqueline: Edge of the World

Shawn and Jacqueline: Edge of the World



 A Sniper's Wife

A Sniper's Wife



Future Perfect

Future Perfect


Side by  Side

Side by Side

© 2009 David Pu'u. All rights reserved.