A few years ago, out the window of my train, I spied something interesting along a wooded patch of forest. I sat on the same side for the return trip and confirmed my suspicion: a the hulk of a finned 50’s sedan of some kind, minus doors and hood. I filed this away for future exploration and checked on it once every couple of weeks, always meaning to plan out an investigation. Recently I was appalled to see that a tree had either fallen on or had been felled on the roof of the car, squashing the back half flat, and decided I’d better shoot it now while I had the chance, and before spring vegetation swallowed it.
I did some Google sleuthing and found the nearest road to access the site, then found a place to park my car. I noticed that several lengths of chainlink fence nearby were missing or knocked over from snowplows, so I knew I could get to the trackbed easily without bushwhacking or climbing fences.
I woke up at 6AM on Saturday to balmy weather, stopped at McDonald’s for some breakfast (don’t judge–nothing else in the ‘Ville is open that early) and set out for my parking spot. Getting down to the trackbed was as easy as I expected, and the hike was short.
There’s been some work done to erect fencing along the track, and upon arrival it became clear that a bunch of the clowns on the work detail decided they’d use the car for target practice when they dropped one of the trees.
Using these three distinctive bolt holes on the remaining front fender, and the fact that it had single headlight buckets when most other sedans of its era were dual-lamps, I determined it was a ’57 Chevrolet Belair Sport Coupe, a desirable car in good condition.
This one had been abandoned since at least 1998 based on graffiti I found etched into the paint.
Anything of value is long since gone. The only distinctive element left on the car other than its shape is the wiper knob barrel, which holds one last piece of the hammered metal dashboard fascia in place.
I stuck around and shot a couple hundred photos with a Canon 7D and my Fuji X10 over the course of an hour, at times walking back into the woods for different angles. I found some castoff elements hiding under leaves and under bushes, including the brake pedal. Then I packed up my gear and headed back home.
Look what I did:
So with the exception of about 30 seconds of B-roll we had to buy, and another 15 seconds we borrowed from some other organizations, everything in here is stuff I shot in Paraguay. I’ve spent the last two weeks assembling, rewriting, reassembling, compositing, coloring, and editing, and I’m really happy with the results here.
Next week I’ll be producing a second version in English with subtitles to post on WRI’s site.
So I got the official word yesterday that I’m not on the schedule to teach next semester, for reasons that the school wasn’t able to really explain other than saying that they’ve changed their curriculum around. I know a little more about what’s going on than this, but won’t say anything here other than that I’m having a hard time not taking it personally. I work super hard for my students. I’ve developed two custom syllabi, added custom lectures on everything from printing to color to getting a job, and I spend days of extra time off-campus grading and reviewing work. I get good student reviews at the end of each semester. I feel like they’ve ignored all of this, and that hurts.
I’ve been slacking on my photography lately; winter months usually make it harder to shoot interesting subjects. I’ve also been fighting my Fuji kit. The Ins and Outs of Fuji Autofocus talks about how the original X-series lenses (of which I have several) were slow to focus, which made the subsequent photos blurry unless you’re shooting in full daylight. While I’m happy with the system overall it’s clear that I need to either divest myself of all of the gear to go back to DSLR, or invest in one fast AF lens and maybe sell the others.
I’ve been coming to terms, slowly, with the fact that I’m middle-aged. My knees don’t bend as fast as they did. My hair is thinning, but I’m still hanging on to my widow’s peak. I have to pull my glasses off when I need to look at something really close. I’ve actually gained 6 pounds in the last 6 months–mainly around my midsection. The last time I weighed this much I was in college and had a job wrestling drums of oil paint onto and off of a stakebody truck as a summer job. Now I sit behind a desk and the best exercise I get is running up the escalator to my train.
It’s cliché, but my brain still believes I’m 28. I’ll have beers with friends and have to stop myself from drinking at a post-college pace to avoid a crushing hangover the next day. I used to think nothing of having a cup of coffee at 4PM, but now it keeps me up at night. That and having to get up and pee–I didn’t have that problem 10 years ago, either.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep up with other major changes. I’ve gone from a job where I was the sole designer to being one of two who did the work, then one of three who did some work, and now I’m hardly doing any design at all. My day is caught up in a mixture of meetings, design direction, phone calls, and strategy (roughly in that order). The skillset I’m using now is completely different than that of four years ago; on one hand this is a blessing, because I was completely burned out when I changed jobs. The mere thought of designing a website holds absolutely no interest to me anymore. On the other hand, I sit and talk to a lot of people all day when I’d like to actually be making something, and my brain is pretty crispy by the end of each workday.
I miss the thrill and pleasant grind of designing from scratch, from start to finish. I’ve worked on some new projects that have kick-started my creativity and learned new skills I’m only beginning to tap into. While my job is that of a manager who makes decisions at a reasonably high level, I’m trying to find a balance between the things I want to do and the things they need me to do. Part of this is addressed by teaching and photography, and part of this will hopefully be addressed by a project I’m waiting on the funding for.
At no time should this ever sound like I’m complaining. I’m grateful for every moment of the opportunity I’ve been given, the three years I’ve been there have flown by, and I hope to have three more exciting, productive, and challenging years ahead. I just need to rebalance the father, husband, manager, and creative to keep my soul nourished and my heart happy.
My neighbor, while showing me how to fly the drone I was borrowing from him, asked me casually, “Would you like the old plasma TV I’m Freecycling?”
Curious, I followed him out to the curb of his house, where a 42 inch Panasonic plasma sat waiting for someone to pick it up. He told me the HDMI wasn’t working but that the component inputs were all functional, so I figured I’d toy with it first and then Freecycle it if I couldn’t get it working. We hauled it back up the driveway and continued the drone lesson. Later, we heaved it into his van so that he could drive it over to the house. It’s just shy of 100 pounds, so it’s almost impossible to carry by oneself. I was leaving for Paraguay the following day, and Jen wanted it out of our hallway, so she and I hauled it upstairs and onto our dresser, where it sat like the Monolith in 2001.
When I got back from the trip, I hooked an HDMI cable up to it and confirmed that it wasn’t sensing input. Then I tried my XBox with component cables, and…there was no input. I haven’t gotten any farther than that, though I need to try a camera with a component cable, or maybe our ancient DVD player which predates HDMI to confirm. But I’m pretty sure it’s a 42″, 100 lb. brick that I need help hauling back down the stairs.
We have found a house in Delaware that will be our vacation hideout for 2017. It’s up the street from 2014’s rental, and this one is actually across the street from the beach, but there’s access within a short walk and the view from the porch looks beautiful. We’re taking two weeks this year to get our full rest on, and we’re sharing the house with friends to offset the cost and make sure Finn has playmates to hit the water with.
I’m home with a sick monkey this morning; we have confirmed Finn has strep, while I’m recovering from a respiratory infection and Mama is fighting off both of them as best she can. Keep your fingers crossed for us.
The new semester is underway, and I’ve got a crop of 16 students. They’re all new to me save two, which is a nice change, and after our fourth class I’m relatively happy with them so far. I’m teaching a slight variation on last semester’s syllabus, having tweaked the timing, assignments, and deliverables a bit based on what I learned in the last class. These students are all graduating in the spring, so I’ll be one of their last waypoints before they reach the outside world. It feels good to be teaching again, and I’ve added a couple of workshop/discussions to the schedule that should help them beyond the assignments we’re covering.
We have some friends who own a digital printing shop in Columbia, and over the break I went down to tour the shop and talk to them about taking on student work. It’s not the most glamorous work, and is realistically a money-loser for them in the short term, but the students have all been limited by what their campus print shop can and cannot do. My aim is to widen their horizons so that they realize there’s more than one place to produce their work. I’m also developing a workshop around the art of ordering a print job, so that they know what to ask for, what the language means, and what questions the print shop will ask them when they call.
Strangely, it sounds like I might not be teaching next semester due to scheduling issues at the school. I don’t know if they’re going to sort things out or not (I have been told on the sly that they will) but my hope is that they do.
I took a pair of Anker bluetooth headphones with me to Paraguay, and I really like them. They are actually wired together but don’t tether to my phone itself, which makes commuting easy–I constantly spend time untangling headphone cables around my messenger bag, so having something that’s up and out of the way while I’m transferring from car to train to office is wonderful. They are also the first noise-canceling headphones that actually stay in my ears during normal usage. I put them in on the plane ride and shut out the entire cabin around me; the only thing I had to worry about was clearing the air pressure in my ears.
After two months of searching, we hired a production manager at work to help keep my team on track and relieve some of the management pressure from me and my senior designer. She’s a transplant from Southern California who worked in the magazine industry for three years, so she brings a wealth of good experience to our team. We’re sorting out the logistics of equipment and seating this week, and she’s been invited to about 100 meetings over the next three weeks to talk with our internal clients and begin to understand how the organization works.
I was never trained as a manager, so this experience is a new one for me. My style to this point has been very laid back, mirroring my personality, but I’m seeing that I’ve got to step up more and become more proactive about a lot of things. Having come from a tense environment of micromanagement, I never wanted to do that to anyone else. What I have to do now is find a happy medium between being more assertive with my team and our clients and not being a domineering tyrant.
The second contractor I had come in for the bathroom ghosted me. I’ve left him two messages but haven’t heard anything back since he came to look things over. Meanwhile I’ve got the estimate the first guy sent us to review, to see where I can cut some costs. Maybe with some tough negotiation we can bring the price down to a reasonable amount. I do know he quoted on 7 very expensive windows when we’re going to reduce the number to 5, and we don’t need top of the line models, which will save thousands. There may also be some prep work I can do to cut costs as well–when the porch was enclosed, the builders put in a thick wall below the windows and a thinner wall above the sills, making a waist-high shelf around the room. I want to shim out the walls to a consistent depth all the way around for ease of finishing and added insulation value, which I can probably handle myself.
Who broke down and cried about riding her bike for a half an hour, petrified she was going to fall and break her arm? Who then battled her fears, faced them head on, and was riding laps around the elementary school parking lot by herself on Sunday? This girl, that’s who.