way back in the 1900s, for all of our wildness in the liberating 60s, we were still a pretty uptight race of men and if you were a 16 year old boy and fond of another male you’d best be careful how you displayed that affection. you’d have to have been up all night at some teenage campfire singing kumbaya and watching the sun come up before you’d ever tell another guy, ” i love you, ” and then you’d have to add “dude” to it or you’d both feel uncomfortable and start punching each other in the face. and, maybe it was just me, but seems like you’d never notice the sweetness of another guy; how an athlete loved art, or how your best friend for all his swearing and cynicism was never happier than when he was holding a camera and creating something unique.
i had a best friend in high school. we lost track of each other over the years but a few months ago i had a gig in st. louis and he invited me to stay at his house. i learned, that though he’d built a career as a successful lawyer, what he really enjoyed was traveling the world with his family and taking pictures. the funny thing was, his family and my family had been in a lot of the same places at the same time. kenya, south africa, new york city…places i’d lived were places he’d visited and some times we were not even miles apart, yet never saw each other.
while he was playing host, we went out to a wildlife preserve near where he lives and walked through tick infested brush to discover the herd of elk that live there. since then his wife has told me that he’s been covered in ticks; the result of waiting in the weeds for hours until he could get just the right shot of a fox, or a bird, or whatever catches his eye; whatever crosses his lens and makes that just right balance of light and color and image that fills a frame. sorry, he’d probably cuss, but i find it all terribly sweet. a man who’s made his living in a cynical world prefers living in the brush and bramble in wait of something and ….take its picture.
he sends me the pictures now. since we’ve been reconnected one of the joys of life for me is to check my email and see if he sent me anything. for the past few months i’d expect something on sunday night or monday. seems like his religion is going out to that park and taking pictures on weekends. but he’s retired now and i can expect cool stuff from him at any minute. this is what i got today…
the pictures are always beautiful in and of themselves. but when i look at them i think of my friend sitting out in the weeds. i think about his wife and what she’d say, something like, “yeah, you like the pretty pictures but i had to pick lice out of his hair all week.” i think about him out there with his camera, just waiting…until at just the right moment…
…and to me it just seems sweet.
we all start reflecting on our lives at one point or another; whether we wait until all our years ‘flash before us’ just before some sudden, unexpected death or, on occasion as i find myself doing every day, we remember as much as we can, in fear that some day we might not be able to remember anymore. i can string the years of my life together by remembering the cars we had or houses or towns we lived in. i sometimes go through my life and tie huge spans of time together by the girlfriends i had, ending with lisa for the past 37 years; then i kick into when churches were started, when the children were born. now time is marked by when lisa got sick, where i’ve gone to do gigs for kind people who’ve been helping cover the expense of her treatment. but i think the next years will also be marked by the cycle of experiences my best friends are having: one friend’s bout with cancer, another’s year with the rebuilt triumph street triple; another’s adventure of starting a church in battambang. and not least, my sweet friend’s photographic chronicles. i can hear him cursing at me for calling him sweet. i don’t care. i love you. dude.