Don’t go in the bathroom

I lost a friend this week. And my heart is heavy for the loss.

I first met Joey a few years ago when I interviewed him for a YouTube video at his home just outside of Miami.

Joey Image was the drummer for a punk group, The Misfits, who were quite successful during the punk heyday of the late 70’s and 80’s. While stories of touring with The Damned across Europe intrigued me, it was really getting to know the man before me that enriched my life.

Here he was, born the same month of the same year as me, yet with lives that bore no resemblance. His achievements and subsequent fall from grace are well documented and in the twilight years of his life, he was in many ways a better person than he had been when he soared in the clouds.

His success stories very much epitomized the sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll stuff that we have all heard about. But it was his honesty and humility that grabbed me most during our time together.

He was a genuine human being. Surprisingly humble and appreciative of his time here. Death had come knocking on the door in the form of liver cancer, yet he took it in his step and in many ways blamed himself for the knocks.

He had arrived at the conclusion that sharing drug needles gave him hepatitis and heavy alcohol use had shot his liver. So, in his mind he deserved this.

For my part I don’t believe in just desserts and most of our private conversations after the interview played on that theme. People don’t get what they deserve in life and yes, his life story very likely contributed to his health issues. But there are many others who traveled the same path, without hitting the same crossroads.

At the point in his life where our paths came together, Joey lived a mostly quiet existence and his humility shone through. He was heavily engaged in the whole chemo process and while it certainly dominated much of his day to day existence, he still occasionally played drums and returned to the moments of his youth.

We talked several times over the past few years and messaged infrequently but he was never far from my thoughts. And when we did speak on the phone, they were heart warming conversations. Time spent with a real human being.

Thank you for those, Joey and Rest In Peace, my friend.

Footnote: If you don’t know The Misfits, they had a huge success with their album Horror Business and my favorite track is Don’t Go In the Bathroom, hence this title.

When I grow up

I was on a property this morning …. ok wait. I love it when my story starts with that phrase.

Why? Because it tells me that even when I am in a commercial photo mode, I still have my eyes open for something beautiful around me. Apparently I haven’t become a robot yet.

Anyway, back to the story … so when I was on a property this morning, photographing drainage and storm-water elements, I stumbled across a bald cypress on the edge of a pond and it had these guys growing on it. Lots of them.

I had absolutely no idea what they were but thankfully my dear friend, Simona, put me straight. Hey, we should all have a botanist in our friends-circle … they come in real handy. Just saying!

Anyway, I stood there for a few minutes lost in thought and enjoying their little wondrous shapes and this is the one image I got worth talking about.

Now, don’t go imagining I am all clever and knowledgeable …. I didn’t even know this was a cypress tree. And so I naively thought these were baby pine cones.

I know. I know. I am hanging my head in shame.

So in my ignorance, I heard them telling me that when they grow up they want to be pine cones.

So as I got back into my business mode and proceeded around the property, the thought played around in the back of my head of the innocence that most children have when they first imagine what they might be “when I grow up”.

I am sure it is a phrase that plays out at least once in almost every life.

It is a thought and wish that lives in the minds of the most innocent until in most cases, reality comes along and smothers it.

There are a tiny few who actually achieve what they first wished for and I am truly delighted for them. Witnessing people fulfill a life wish like that is inspirational and a source of hope for most.

My Victoria wanted to become a doctor ever since she first went to elementary school and though her dreams of finding a cure for Ebola morphed into pediatric critical care in one of the nation’s most critical hospitals, she still managed to achieve it.

But the vast majority of us never get to realize that initial wish. And maybe we shouldn’t. I mean, we can’t have a world full of ballerinas and supermen.

What dawned on me though is that the realization isn’t as important as the dream itself. So whatever we dream can live in a dimension that is completely different to that which our life plays out in.

Because dreams should never be bound by reality.

If they were, then us oldies would no longer have a right to dream. And we do. And if we don’t, then we should.

It’s what allowed this engineering graduate to pick up a camera at the age of forty and escape periodically into the world of being a photographer.

Will I ever really be one? No. Does it matter? No.

Because I can still live the fantasy of occasionally getting a great pic and experiencing the oohs and aahs of friends and family, as they indulge my dream.

Beyond our own dreams, we should encourage those around us to dream for themselves. When we hear someone express a wish for what they might do or could be, we should listen and encourage.

It is real easy to pick apart anyone’s dream and some people seem motivated to do just that. But stealing a dream from someone is probably the greatest sin we can commit as a human.

Dreams create a spark of light within the soul of the dreamer and extinguishing it turns us into the grim reaper of souls.

And on the off-chance that our support and encouragement helps the dreamer achieve their wish, then our own souls get to bask in the light of theirs, knowing that we played a tiny part in creating a pine cone.

When I started shooting model portfolios almost 20 years ago, I remember feeling strange that I was stepping into someone’s “what I want to be when I grow up” dream.

Many of these young ladies dreamed of being a model and while in my heart I felt that most would never realize that dream, it wasn’t up to me to disillusion. So I shot them.

There is one very successful model and actress now that has graced the pages of Cosmo and appeared in her first couple of hollywood movies. When I did her very first few shoots, she was a young hair-stylist from a Jehovas Witness family in DeLand.

She was seriously gorgeous and I wished with her. But I doubt if either of us thought it might happen for her, yet it has.

Yet for each of her, I have shared that same dream with a hundred if not hundreds of young ladies.

Did they realize their dream? No. Were they wrong to have that dream? Hell no!

Whether it lasted only for the moments of the shoot or stretched beyond that, each dream added a spark to the life of the dreamer. Even if it didn’t catch fire, it warmed up her life for a moment.

And we all have the right to dream. From the richest to the poorest of us, we can define our very life by the scope of our dream. To never dream or ask yourself what you might be when you grow up, is diffusing your life into an aimless path between birth and death.

My most favorite poem is by WB Yeats and the extract that plays around inside my head is:

“But I being poor have only my dreams.
I have spread my dreams under your feet.
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.”

When Victoria graduated as a doctor and fulfilled her dream, these are the words we had engraved onto her first stethoscope.

So, when I grow up I want to be a … fill in your own blank!