I drove up to Parkville on Sunday to pick up that lens I was talking about last week (it’s wonderful and was a fantastic bargain) and somehow misplaced this year’s Moleskine notebook, which has me feeling anxious.
As a longtime sufferer of ADD, I desperately need someplace to capture thoughts before they fly off into space. I’ve been using notebooks for the past 10 years to keep track of everything, collecting copious lists of tasks, ideas, plans, sketches, and other ephemera, and it helps me stay organized and focused. I carry a notebook with me wherever I go, and it sits at my bedside under my phone when I sleep.
The last place I remember seeing this notebook was on the trunk of the car after I put it down to snap a picture of the Bel-Loc diner, where I’d just finished a stack of pancakes. I don’t think it made its way back into the car from there.
The big problem is, this isn’t the first one I’ve lost recently.
I keep a separate notebook for work, because if I combined the two I’d never keep anything straight–there’s too much going on in each place. The one I keep for work went missing last week.
I’m thinking this is the universe telling me something, because the sheer volume of projects we’ve got going on at work is too much to be contained in a notebook; they are all multi-level long term productions that require a lot more than one page to keep track of all the details and notes. I’ve been searching for a project management solution that fits with my particular needs, and I haven’t found anything yet–Basecamp’s organization is too convoluted, Flow isn’t robust enough, and Slack is more focused on chatting. Wrike could be close, but I haven’t had time to get it set up yet. Moving from paper to online makes me nervous, but if I can find something that works maybe I won’t need to buy a second notebook anymore.
I broke down and got a barber to trim my hair and beard yesterday, after going a full two months without any major manscaping. The shit was getting bushy. In strange places. My neck directly under the jawbone was like deep, dark Amazon rainforest, while the area above, between my ears and the overgrown perimeter of my goat, was thinly covered. My chops were big fuzzy clouds. While I’m sure most of the locals in Abu Dhabi didn’t mind it one bit, I really should have gotten it cleaned up before I left.
I went to a local barber and had her trim my hair up, and then we worked out a plan for the beard. I’ve still got one, but everything below my jawline is gone and the stuff up top is neat and tidy. It rounds out my face, which has been getting more and more angular as I get older. I’m going to give it another couple of months to see if it fills in OK, keep my neck clean, and see how I like it.
It occurs to me that my father was only a year or two younger than I am now, in 1981, when the family went on vacation, and he grew the beard he’s had until the present day.
Sewer lines are like arteries; you never really think about them until they clog up and you have to spend thousands of dollars to have them excavated, and then you’re left with a terrible scar and an empty feeling. Our sewer line went in relatively painlessly, but the magnolia tree had to die for its selfish ways. Along with 20 feet of hedge in front of our house.
A nice bunch of men came with a cute little backhoe and went down nine feet to get to the pipe; as part of the process they disconnected the copper ground from the electrical panel and blew out four breakers. If you haven’t guessed, that’s not supposed to happen. It turns out BG&E never properly hooked up the main ground going back to the pole with our service, so the backup copper wire attached to our water pipe has been carrying the full 220 volt ground. When he disconnected the ground, the breakers blew and fried four power strips. (Pro tip: always buy high-quality power strips). Our plumber, shaken, suggested we call BG&E to have it checked out. Um, yeah.
And, it turns out there was a cleanout for the sewer, but it was buried under the magnolia.
So at the end of today, we’re missing one whole side of hedge, the west side of the front lawn is one huge mound of dirt covered with straw, the magnolia tree is gone, but we can again poop in dignity without raw sewage flooding the basement.
As is our family tradition, we drove to Leonardtown this morning to take in the St. Mary’s County Oyster Festival. The festival hasn’t changed much in the 15 years we’ve been going, and that’s exactly why we like it. The beer is cold, the oysters are raw or fried, the funnel cakes are hot, and there’s St. Mary’s County ham available.
They’ve added baked oysters, steamed oysters, various deep-fried desserts, and pit beef. It feels, actually, like it’s gotten bigger over the last five years or so, which is a great thing.
This year, instead of the sketchy carny rides they normally have, there were three huge bouncy rides for the kids, and a zipline. Finn went right for the bouncy rides, got her courage up, and asked to ride the zipline. Who am I to say no?
As she waited at the base of the stairs for her turn, the older girl in front of her froze at the edge, unable to jump by herself. After about three minutes of waffling, she walked back down the stairs. Finn marched up to the top, listened to the guy who hooked her up, and then looked down at the grass. She closed her eyes for a moment, bent her knees, and then she jumped!
She liked it so much, she asked to do it again.
This young man is Gus, who is a shucker working in the main shed. I tipped him a dollar, asked his name, and talked to him briefly about how long he was shucking for before asking if I could take his picture. I was nervous about asking him, because he’s the first stranger I’ve ever shot. I’m going to do a lot more of this.
The oysters were excellent as usual, and Mama had her fill.
Finley even had three herself! We’ll make a gastronome out of her yet.
There was a time, long ago, when your correspondent hoarded several tons of brick in his backyard, with the idea that he would mix concrete, lay water piping, and build a patio to escape the city blues in Baltimore. It came to pass, after a few long months of planning, construction, and hard work, and for a short while into the fall of 2001 I had a lovely oasis with lighted steps, trees in planters, and a deck leading to my back door.
That November, the ancient terra cotta sewer line collapsed, and I had to call a man in to demolish half of the brick I’d laid down to dig out the yard and repair the pipe. Discouraged, I waited until the spring and Jen and I replaced the brick, fixed the planters, added fencing around the walls, and made it new again. Then I sold the house. (I think the new owner is using it as a parking pad now).
I’m telling you this because I’ve been feeling a keen sense of deja vu lately. I was feeling great about the progress I’ve made on our brick walkway, which is only about 8′ from being finished. Last week, our basement started filling with water.
It turns out the magnolia tree in the front yard has been looking really healthy for a reason: it’s broken through the sewer pipe and is drinking straight from the tap. So we have to dig up the front yard to replace the sewer line from the house to the street–there’s no cleanout anywhere outside–which will eliminate any funding for further renovation this year.
Am I discouraged? Yes I am. Could it have been worse? Certainly. It didn’t happen in frozen February, they’re coming out on Tuesday to fix it, and we have the Oh Shit cash to make it better. But I really would like to have spent that money on new windows.
I sold one of my duplicate Nikon lenses (a 55-200 zoom) this afternoon in order to finance the purchase of a new lens in a focal range I don’t already have: a 35mm f/1.8 that just appeared on Craigslist. The seller is out of town this weekend but hopefully I can meet up with him on Tuesday to make the deal. In a coincidence, I relisted the Xerox Phaser that’s been sitting in the office taking up space, and got a hit on that after a couple of weeks of silence. Getting rid of that will free up space and some cash to replace the ancient Laserjet 4000 we’ve had for years, which is suddenly throwing memory errors and refusing to print.
I’m on the ground in Catonsville after an enjoyable 14 hour plane ride (thanks, Etihad! thanks, Ambien!), a two hour wait in DC Beltway traffic, a burger and a beer at Red Robin, and 10 hours of sleep. Hopefully, I won’t be too jet-lagged today, which is why I stayed up yesterday and slept for as long as I could this morning.
Abu Dhabi was an amazing experience, although I really didn’t get to see much of the actual city. The conference was the most elaborate, organized, and expensive event I’ve ever been to, hosted in the most elaborate and expensive hotel I’ve ever set foot in. Had I been a little luckier, I might have been able to stay at the host hotel, which featured several swimming pools, multiple four-star restaurants, and a beach fronting the Persian Gulf. My hotel was a 45 minute drive from the venue, which meant I was beholden to the bus service, eating dinner at my hotel, and rushing to press a shirt before crashing into bed at 11, only to wake up at 4AM unable to go back to sleep.
I’ll write more later, because there’s a soccer game to attend and a house to clean before we host guests for dinner tonight. It’s good to be home.
Yesterday I woke up at 4AM local time (8PM EST) and couldn’t get back to sleep, after only 5 hours’ rest. I got showered, polished, and loaded up with gear to travel by bus to the far end of Saadiyat Island for the first day of the Eye on Earth summit. The bus ride was painful because I kept swiveling my neck to see Abu Dhabi out the windows as we drove; everything looks new, and construction cranes are everywhere. It’s fascinating to look at, and I was lucky to have a new acquaintance to point out the highlights; we ran parallel to the Sheikh Zayad Bridge, passed by miles of newly planted mangroves, and saw the Capital Gate building off in the distance.
I wasn’t clear on my hotel’s breakfast arrangements (it is, in fact, free), so I waited to get to the conference for food and coffee, which was fiscally sound but tactically dumb. I had to wait on line to get my ID, every moment of which my stomach complained about. Once I was downstairs, I got situated and gulped down some basic pastries minutes before the opening ceremony began.
The conference has been excellent so far; the speakers are all first-rate and the work is excellent. I spent most of it mapping out sightlines and settings to prep for our launch events, shooting a WRI speaker, and meeting people. At about 3PM I was dead on my feet, so a colleague and I ordered some coffee and recharged. Ahhh, strong Arab coffee.
Wednesday will be more intense, involving a lot of shooting and possibly some interviews, the location for which I haven’t nailed down yet.
This morning I woke up at 4AM again and laid in bed for an hour, planning to get up and outside to record the call to prayer at 5, but I missed it by 10 minutes. By the time I was downstairs it had ended.
I’m writing this at 6:26AM local time, which translates to 10:30PM Baltimore time. I went to bed seven hours ago and woke up with the sky still mostly dark through my hotel window. I know at some point today I’m going to crash hard.
The flight was good, but long. Etihad Airlines flew us on a 787 Dreamliner, which was a very comfortably appointed plane to spend 13 hours on. I had the misfortune of sitting in front of a very loud, very angry toddler who cried for the majority of the ride, but with my neck being kinked up as much as it is lately I doubt I would have slept well anyway. Mad Max: Fury Road was a fantastic movie, even though it was on a 12″ diagonal screen. Jurassic World was visually very pretty but choppy and uneven.
I got to the hotel at about 9PM local time, found my room, and tried to get some food at the restaurant (the service was a bit harried), then walked outside to the beach to shoot some pictures of the gigantic mosque across the water. This was thwarted by 100% humidity, which fogged up the lenses to the point where they were useless.
Today’s agenda is to go to the venue at 9, hopefully find some food to eat and try to get on a regular schedule. I have no idea what the run of show is yet, but I’ll bring my laptop and gear and be prepared to shoot whenever I can.
Oh–I forgot to pack shorts.
Details are sketchy right now, but there’s a very good possibility I could be doing some overseas travel, shooting video at a conference. In Abu Dhabi. Next week.
I would very much like to hone my videoography skills in a foreign country.