Is Measured Kindness Still Kindness?

I’ve been walking three to four miles along the river.  Some days I just want to run, flap my arms and fly above the rushing Sacramento.  There is freedom in hovering over the deep green waters flanked by yellow poppies and purple wildflowers.

I waited too long and hit an all-time high in weight.  At one time I wondered if that was some type of achievement by itself, but in reality it only makes you big and tired.

It has been twenty-four months since being able to look at a paycheck and the freedom to go to the pharmacy without reviewing our bank account before making the plunge.  It’s funny how I like to use months and not years for the length of time; like no one will know.  Much too long for a vacation, the longest I’ve ever taken was two weeks.   I think of it as retirement and not being unemployed.  It’s really a form of economic purgatory.

At the half-way point I can only see the rustle of plastic around the garbage can and half of a body, feet planted flat on the ground.   Head to waste digging deep for plastic and aluminum treasures. Same dirty, sun bleached black shirt and pants with tattered shoes and no socks that I saw the day before.

The walks allow me to hit the replay button.  I review the past 276 resumes sent looking for new opportunities. I define the level my competence during four phone interviews and one face-to-face.  Gee they seem to have gone well?

First to emerge from the garbage can is a dirty hand grasping tightly to a plastic water bottle. Dirt caked thick silver hair, my color, and a strong face.  It was the sun’s Etch A Sketch, no softness to the eyes as he looked through me.

“Hi, how are you doing?” I greeted with a warm smile.  How fucking lame I thought to myself.  How and the hell you think he feels digging in public garbage for survival?

There was no reply as he mounted the bike and arranged the black and white plastic bags on the handlebars.  His look was empty and lifeless as he pedaled down the asphalt path.

I wanted to offer half what I had in my wallet.  “Here you can have the five and I’ll keep the four.” Even that was a lie I had thirty hidden in the pocket.  The words wouldn’t come out!

Does karma repay you kindly for a lie with good intentions?

If you have to worry about the amount of kindness, is it still kindness?

I was scared; the line runs too thin between what’s hidden in your wallet and no pocket to put a wallet in.

I just wanted to run again, I just wanted to fly!

The Economy and the Icicle

Work for the fun of it, and the money will arrive some day. -Ronnie Milsap-

How long does it take ice to melt before it becomes a puddle?

Is it the largest icicle with the widest grip on the roof that will hold the longest, or does the weight drag it crashing to the ground before the thin more fragile ice spikes?

There appears to be a parallel to the economy and the nation’s continued unemployment with that of the weather.  Over time the temperature determines if the melting water continues to grow the icicle or it becomes fractured like broken glass…the same with people who love to be useful and find that through using their acquired skills.

Last evening, I was returning from my “Job Searching Techniques” class at the local community college.   The headlights illuminated and doubled the size of each snow flake produced by the white flurry making it impossible to see the car ahead.

Why am I intimidated by the classroom white board? Is it the instructor?  The magic markers that never work?  Not really knowing my career objective?  What are my skills and my strengths…do I still have them?

As humans, we are defined by our employment, five seemingly very nice people trying to understand who they are and what they want to be when they grow up. We were all sitting in a cold classroom with a menacing white board predicting our future.

There was the corporate financial analyst, who knew it would be a short time before his position was down-sized or out-sourced. It was a nervous laugh when he said, “he wanted to be a clown.”

The social worker, who was beat down by the work load and the hours.  She wanted to help others, make a difference, and maybe thought a career in health care. 

The woman who owned a child care business, who was also beat by the long hours and who felt she had fallen behind in technology.

The security administrator, who had worked hard and sacrificed much, returning to school for a degree and still confused on life’s direction. She felt safe in what she knew but knew she needed more.

And, the photo editor who felt much like an icicle, not sure which one he closely identified with but his eyes are coldly fixed upside down on that puddle below.

A time to eat the young:

Spending time watching the wind.
Spending time watching the wind.

Managers have to be ready to Eat Their Young

 At times during the day I’ve found myself pacing from room to room with no apparent destination.  My daily routine disrupted and foreign to what I’ve known for the past thirty-seven years growing up in newsrooms.

The last two household boxes are all that remain and the daily process of unemployment, cobra and paperwork for the movers has slowed. 

The kids are gone with the youngest graduating from college at the end of May. The eldest has just purchased their first home north of New York, just in time to give mom and dad a place to stay while seeking out a new direction and hopeful employment.

Uncertainty is the norm in the newspaper industry at a time where a lay-off colleague noted “There are more of us on the outside than the inside anymore.”  It’s sad that we can coin-the-phrase ‘lay-off colleague”.

Fear of the future prevails in the newsroom and managers have to be ready to eat their young.

The light wind is blowing the curtain over the chair commanding my attention much longer than it should, offering a reason to look to the past with appreciation, and with a combination of excitement and fear to the future.

I started as a newspaper photographer at a time void of corporate liability concerns.  It was a time when you could hang out with the local small town newspaper photographer on their night shifts.  Watching them work a room; create images; and see the satisfaction in their eyes when the black and white prints formed in the developer.

The camera store kid who one Friday afternoon in 1974 was walked into the Redding, Record-Searchlight; shown where the Saturday assignment hook was; given a key to the front door and told “not to screw up!”.

After a few years on staff; following a love of travel and nature photography; opening a photography studio; and getting married somewhere in there; I was back at the newspaper in 1977 for the next eleven years.

“No one really cares about this!. It’s too depressing” The images were tossed to the edge of the table as the editor walked back into the newsroom.

I was crushed; I had worked on the homeless project using my own time for two months in 1988.  I worked the shelters, parks and encampments along the tracks. Did he miss the part about having the knife pulled on me? Did he not see the pain, loneliness in their eyes?

It was the realization that to bring change to a newsroom; photographers needed a voice in the newsroom. For some strange and delusional reason I needed to be the voice.  It was the start of a twenty-one year photo editing career with a path through Salem, Des Moines, San Bernardino and Riverside.

Blessed with talented photographers at each stop and editors who took the time to answer questions and guide me over the bumps like Jim Vestal, Paul Whyte, Bob Lynn, J. Bruce Bauman and Scott Sines I was able to avoid many of the landmines that came with directing a photography department.

Yes, the changes in our industry are monumental but it will be the love of our craft and the understanding that photojournalism, on all levels, has the ability to change lives.

I’m reminded of a photo assignment early in my career of an elderly woman who was bound to a wheelchair.  As we went into the kitchen I noticed one of my photographs of Mount Lassen taped to her refrigerator door, “That’s my window.” she noted pointing to the photograph.

A simple reminder, that no matter the vehicle we choose to deliver our images, the impact to the public remains the same.

The Six Arts:

The Six Arts: The Six Arts of the Confucian Gentleman-Ceremonies, Music, Archery, Carriage-driving, Writing and Mathematics



The coffee maker was set the night before its green ready light was standing sentry over the dark kitchen much like the old weathered lighthouse along the Oregon coast, pulsating across the hammering cold waves, and a guide to exhausted northwest fisherman.


Mine is a dim but key guide illuminating the path through a maze of tossed shoes, cat toys and the occasional slime-like hairball waiting to surprise my bare feet.  My late evening treks are given comfort by that light, its just knowing that it was there.


“Knowing that it was there.” a term of comfort and familiarity, it’s the thought that things won’t change that gives you warmth.


It’s been just this side of thirty-seven years, and when the coffee maker light turned from green to red filling the small house with the smell of the delicious caffeine brew, along with that wonderful smell, there is the realization that there was no job waiting for me to fill the day.


This day will end like any other by filling the container with coffee and then water (you don’t take a chance on changing the order of things)…and I’m thinking “Carriage-driver”!


There is comfort in things that don't change. They become weathered and at some point disapear.

There is comfort in things that don't change. They become weathered and at some point disapear.