Secret for Secret...

My love of the website PostSecret… ironically, is not a secret.

I last wrote about it almost a year ago… about the first postcard I sent in. Since writing that, I’ve made more postcards (like I said I would) and sent them in. Probably about 5 or 6 more. It *did* get easier to send those in. Some, I just wrote simply on the postcard, others I tried drawing.

None of them were ever posted… but like I said before, if you send it in with the expectation of them appearing on the site, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. The guy gets over 1,000 a week, and posts 25 of them. Odds aren’t in your favor.

But it’s the telling of the secret is the key. It’s entrusting it to a complete stranger… even potentially the world. Maybe even getting away from it. Giving the secret to someone else… because you don’t want it anymore.

Since last year, the site now has a presence on MySpace and Facebook, of which I also check every now and then (though not as often as the main site). These sites are mainly used as “what’s going on” with the site, and upcoming seminars/exhibits and whatnot… while the main site is solely for the weekly postcards, and nothing else.

Last Saturday, I was looking at the latest MySpace blog… and people have started posting their cell phone numbers in the comments section… for the purpose of letting strangers text-message secrets to them. The “instructions” just said to go to the latest one posted, and send it to that person. I thought that it could be dangerous… but honestly… I think the only people that READ the PostSecret MySpace blog… or the main site itself… are the kind of people that wouldn’t abuse it. Plus… you can always go back and remove your comment if you get too nervous.

I sent off a few of my own to some numbers that were posted. And a few minutes later:

I posted my own cell number.

Within 2 minutes… I got my first text-secret.

It… was a bit heavy. More so then I was expecting. It definitely showed me that this is an experience that isn’t F**king around.

But the trust it shows… to send that to *me*, and who the hell am I? It absolutely humbled me. Sorry, I won’t say what it is… because it *is* a secret. Entrusted to me, and I don’t tell secrets that aren’t mine to begin with. I took the secret so this person wouldn’t have to keep it. Hopefully, it helps them… they said it did.

Within the hour, I got several more. For the next 3 hours, until I went to sleep, I just lay on my bed, texting secrets back and forth to strangers from across the country… some told me their names, some asked for feedback. But I always exchanged a secret for a secret. I believe that’s part of the trust.

It felt… very intimate. Sharing some things that even people I’m close to don’t even know about me. I actually felt connected to so many people at once… it kinda feels like falling in Love. The trust I felt… the trust I gave… the vulnerability, seeing and feeling it… and especially NOT suffering embarrassment for it, or having it shoved back in your face.

I think I can honestly say… it was one of the most Beautiful experiences I’ve ever had. And you know I don’t take the word “Beautiful” lightly.

I was still texting a few people the next morning… continuing conversations. Now, I don’t have unlimited texts… but frankly, I don’t care. I’ll pay the extra fees… this experience was too wonderful to not continue as long as I could. I even got some new people texting me… even though there were more recent numbers posted after mine.

I wanted this to continue… I wanted to do something more.

So, I wrote out several secrets of mine… and when I went to the gym for my daily masochism/work-out… I placed them all around. (I don’t think anyone saw me) Didn’t put them in obvious places… but hopefully places where they would be found. I did notice a few people actually saw them… fewer actually picked them up to read them. But I don’t think anyone threw them away… at least when I was there. But the next day they were gone. So… I put out a few more. I’d like to think that someone was picking them up and keeping them… and not tossing them in the trash, but who knows? Maybe the gym isn’t the most empathetic place to hide secrets at… but the place does advertise itself as a “judgment free-zone”… so that makes it sound kind of appropriate. It’d be hypocritical if they frowned on my behavior… don’t you think?

Hiding those secrets… was fun. And a bit cathartic. Because like the texting and sending in the postcards… it’s a way to get away from the secret. To get rid of it, in a sense (though not really).

This whole past week has been filled with PostSecret for me. I discovered that there’s going to be a “PostSecret Event”… basically a seminar and exhibit, given by the founder, and it’s coming fairly close. By “fairly close”, I mean about 3 hours away. But it’s the closest the tour has come to me yet… about 7 months ago, another was scheduled that was closer… but it got cancelled a few days before it happened, much to my chagrin… so I’m not skipping *this* opportunity. I’m taking a half-day at work, and driving up for that evening. Sure, coming back so late will suck… but I think it will be worth it.

And I’m sure I’ll do another update when that comes up in a few weeks. Count on it.


Nobody knows…. How Dry I Am… (sing if you know it!)

I don’t drink.

Now, to answer the questions I’m most often asked, from the start:

No, I’m not a recovering alcoholic… no, I’m not Mormon, or otherwise religious in any way… and no, I’m not allergic to it.

I just don’t drink. In fact, I’ve *never* been drunk.

Whenever someone asks me, “Why?”… I usually say something like, “It’s just something I never got into”, and leave it at that. Admittedly, this isn’t much of an answer. Almost sounds like I never had the access to alcohol, or was never in a situation where it was available, and just grew up feeling that’s the norm.

Oh please… I’m not, nor ever have been, THAT sheltered. I did not spend my childhood in a Sense-Dep Tank… and while my High School socialization may have been limited, it wasn’t like I didn’t have a clue where to find alcohol. Access and opportunity were not lacking in my world.

There are several reasons why I don’t drink… though if I had to pick ONE as the root of it all… the answer is simple; My dad.

Now, my dad is not an alcoholic… as one might think when I mention him as a reason. No, he never let the bottle affect work, or the normal day-to-day functioning of his life… he was just a blue-collar shmoe that liked his beer, like most people. He’d have one, maybe two in the evening after work… and when he had a day off, he’d have… more than that. If you look at all the instances or him pissing me off, upsetting me, or (when I was young) flat-out scaring me and making me feel horrible and stupid… let’s just say it’s no coincidence that those stories almost invariably begin with the words, “Dad had a few too many beers that day…”

Combine that with an already short temper, a wavering idea of personal space, and a stubbornness that borders on self-delusion… No, he’s not an alcoholic… just a complete obnoxious asshole when he *is* drunk.

Some people fall into similar patterns of libation-consumption that they witnessed growing up… Some people rebel, and go the opposite way… only to eventually end up in those same patterns… some learn actual moderation and end those patterns in a responsible way. Me: I just rebelled 100%, and never stopped.

Now a lot of people have looked at my personality and lovingly tell me I’d be a “happy drunk”, and how I most likely wouldn’t be an asshole. But you know… after years of the kind of aforementioned stories, and hearing some of the most horrible, hateful, insulting things spoken (or “yelled” would be more accurate) while under that influence… I really don’t think that’s something I care to even take a chance on. Nah, I’m all set on that.

Even on a practical level… I hate the taste. We can also attribute that to my dad. When I was a little kid, Dad would let my brothers and I have little sips of his beer. For me, I would then go about a year or so before I thought “I forgot what that tastes likes”, and ask Dad for another sip, which he’d oblige. THEN I’d remember why I went a year plus without trying it. Henceforth, it always confused me when people told me how beer was an “acquired taste”… because if you put something disgusting in your mouth… what on earth would give you the bright idea to do it AGAIN??? Jeez… little babies figure this stuff out.

Though what may be a missing piece in that story is the *brand* of beer my Dad drinks. Apparently, my “hate-the-taste” position makes sense to some people when they hear it, as it seems that brand is universally referred to as the “rat-piss” of the beer drinking world. I probably shouldn’t mention the name… but I will say that it rhymes with “Shmold Shmilwaukee”. (And if that’s a proud export of Wisconsin… they should stick to the cheese.)

Now, I’d be lying if I said I’ve NEVER had a drink (since being legal). My first one was a “Suffering Bastard”. I specifically wanted that to be my first… solely because of the name. (It seemed like it fit.) I finished maybe a quarter of it… IF that. Another time, I had a Zombie. Again… for the name (Cause zombies are cool), and still only finished a fraction of it.

I did try wine a few times… and wine was actually something I would have liked to know more about. It just seems like a very “James Bond” kind of thing to know… the years of vintage, the regions it comes from, and how to accompany it with crackers and cheese to help bring out the subtlety of the flavors. You’re not even supposed to get drunk on wine, it’s supposed to be a sipping/tasting experience. If you want to get drunk, you drink whiskey or vodka or something of that ilk… not wine. If you’re drinking wine with the intention of getting drunk… I think you’re doing something wrong. Wine is about the actual flavor… of which the few times I tried, I didn’t really like. I was given half a glass one time, and I nursed it for about 3 hours… and by that point, I’d only finished maybe a quarter of what was poured (so not even 1/8 of a glass). I wasn’t so much “drinking” it… as I was “letting it evaporate.”

I think the taste of the alcohol itself is just kind of repulsive to me. And since I’m not used to the taste of it… when it does exist in my glass, it’s pretty obvious. I’ve taken a drink of punch before, to find it had been spiked. I then found out it was *very lightly* spiked, and that no one else had been able to taste it… but I did. *shrug* I’ve been told several times that I “just need to find something I’d like”… and I’ve had many offers to “help” me with that. I don’t know… maybe there IS something out there I’d like. But I don’t think I have any interest in finding it. (And if you want to “help”… Worse have tried… and Better have failed.)

Even though, I seem to find a lot of disadvantages to not drinking. That seems like an odd statement, I know. Most people can immediately think of several reasons why it’s good to NOT drink (even though they are drinking themselves)… “It’s healthier”, “saves a lot of money”, “you’ll never do anything you regret”, blah blah blah.

Yeah, that’s what they SAY. But I think the subconscious says something different.

Alcohol is very much a social lubricant. It lowers inhibitions and gets strangers talking, opening up a myriad of possibilities both bad and good. We walk around with our guard up all day, and to relax we want to let that guard down… and most people don’t consider the bad possibilities 100% of the time (otherwise, they’d NEVER let their guard down). Always keeping your wits about you… can be hard work and stressful on its own, so who wants to constantly worry about that? It’s nice to feel you can let that responsibility go… which alcohol can do, artificially.

Me… I’ve always got that guard up. Now, from my point of view… it’s a little tough having an intelligent conversation with someone who’s visibly inebriated. For them, I can only imagine what they’d be thinking… anything from “What a stick-in-the-mud, he’s no fun” to “I’m vulnerable and he’s not… oh my, this is uncomfortable” to “I’m engaging in a horrible vice and therefore, he must think he’s so much better than me, the bastard”, etc. Sure, they “say” it’s good I don’t drink… but they talk more/flirt more/get-to-know the other people that ARE drinking. (I *do* meet people who drink that are 100% a-okay with it and really don’t care that I’m a teetotaler... but it’s rarer than you think.)

In all honesty… I don’t care if other people drink. My “no drinking” policy is only for me and me alone. I hold NO one else to those standards. I think some of my past relationships felt a little awkward with it… being in a situation where they wanted to have a drink, but knowing that I wasn’t. Whether they felt pressured by my presence to not drink, or didn’t want to “leave me out”, I don’t know. But I want my friends to have a good time… and if that entails knocking back a few… go for it. I will never tell someone they *shouldn’t* do that. It’s our inalienable right to do whatever you want to yourself… that’s the beauty of America. If you’re my friend… especially if I’m dating you… then I’m accepting flaws, vices and all. If I’m THAT opposed to something you practice/engage in… I’ll leave or just won’t get involved in the first place. (In which case it really is an honest-to-goodness “it’s not you, it’s me” situation. I don’t like the idea of asking anybody to change for me… as I don’t think I have the right.)

Yeah, there are times I do feel a little “left out”. I wonder if it would be nice to get vulnerable like that. Hell, maybe I’d have had a lot more sex in life if I did… (but I think I’d rather have sex that I *remember*… and not have to regret later)

I think it’s a trade-off.

I’ll gladly be the designated driver. Sure, maybe I’ll be a bit bored while sitting around and people-watching drunk strangers… but if I know my friends are having a good time, that’s okay by me. As long as I have my wits about me… as long as I have control over myself, I have control over the situation. There are a lot of bad possibilities that *can* happen. At least I can make sure that those things don’t happen to my friends. If you get drunk-sick, I’ll hold your head over the toilet… and when you have the hangover, I’ll bring you the vitamin B and water.

Call it another part of my inner Superhero complex. If you’re with me… you’re getting home safe… I guarantee it.

I’ve seen some people at their absolute worst while drunk… alcohol combined with medication (or even alcohol withOUT medication that they should have been on), borderline alcohol poisoning, falling off the wagon, getting violent and even acting downright stalkerish while under the influence.

I’ve also seen people become scared for their own safety, and the safety of those they love… deathly afraid that they are going to be hurt or scarred forever from someone who was drunk and not in control of themselves. I’ve seen too many tears and have heard of far too many stories of good friends turned into victims and statistics.

Since there’s almost nothing that pisses me off more than that, I say this with as much passion, rage and utmost seriousness that I can muster:


(God help whoever tries to F**K with me on this one.)


Looking Through Another Eye

I first started getting into photography when I was in Graduate School. I had gone home for Christmas break, during which I had bought myself my first digital camera. It was 1.3 Mega-pixels, (which at the time was a half-decent resolution) and I barely knew anything about it.

My only experience with taking photos was earlier failed attempts with a “regular” camera, using actual film. Rarely did those pictures even come out... at all. It was pretty frustrating to take a few rolls worth of pictures, send them in for developing, spending 5 bucks or more per roll, waiting a few days for developing, making a trip to the store to pick them up… only to find that just about all of them were too dark, too fuzzy… and totally incomprehensible. When I figured I’d be in events or situations that I wanted to take pictures, I bought a few disposable cameras, and hoped for the best.

So, I was pretty happy to get a digital. You can see right away how the pictures come out, and if they suck… you can instantly delete. Plus, they hold a LOT more than regular cameras, and no film to change. If I wanted a hard copy… you can even get prints of them at the store. (And eventually, even print them out myself) In the long run… they would be a lot cheaper… so, on a practical level alone, it seemed worth it.

Wanting to get my money’s worth, I carried it around a lot. Just threw it in my bag, and if a sudden Kodak moment showed up, I’d be ready… (even though it wasn’t a Kodak). People noticed I had it… and for some reason, everyone assumed I knew how to USE it. Not many people had digital cameras (it was still in its relative infancy in the market), and since I was in the Theatre Department… I got requests. Some of the directors doing the small tiny one-act plays were asking me if I could take pictures of their shows, so they could have them for their own portfolios. Or if the Film Majors needed a photographic prop for their film, they came to me. These were all people I liked, so naturally, I’m going to accommodate and help them however I can. So I found myself, several times, being the “show photographer”… sometimes even listed in the program as such. (I considered it an unnecessary credit… but they wanted to put me in there.) When I actually found myself taking archive photos of the large-scale, highly-funded official Department Musical… I looked at my tiny, low-end 1.3 Mega-pixel camera and thought, “How the hell did THIS happen?”

But everyone seemed to like the photos I took. Granted, I knew nothing about lighting, or shutter speed or anything that “real” photographers use to get the “perfect picture”… but hey, if the customer is happy, right? And it’s not like I didn’t learn anything. I did figure some things out… like the darker the room, the brighter the picture would end up being. (The shutter has to stay open longer to absorb the little available light… and usually absorbs too much, hence… brighter picture.) Plus, my camera did have a neat feature… panoramic pictures. Not *real* panoramic pictures… but rather it would take up to 5 photos and stitch them together, so you had to make sure you lined them up right from shot to shot. It was neat to take a picture of someone, have them move a few feet to the side, take another picture… and stitch them together so there’s two of the same person in the same picture.

Plus, once I got the pictures onto my computer, I could play with them even more. I guess the word would be “photoshopping”… but I never actually had Adobe Photoshop. Rather I had the really cheap program that came with the camera… but I got by nicely. My favorite thing was (and still is) to add captions or “word bubbles” above people… mainly to give myself a laugh (and I think occasionally other people find it so). That’s why I love the “candid shots” more then the “oh-there’s-a-camera-let’s-pose shots”. There are more possibilities with the split-second looks on people’s faces which can be drastically misinterpreted from the original context. (That cracks me up)

Once Grad School ended, I figured that was the end of my Photo career. I had no training, very little knowledge… and the camera is not the kind of Pro equipment one would need. Honestly… my heart was not broken. It was such a small part of my life… a minor hobby, really… that I barely thought of it.

Then, when I was living down in Los Angeles, I got involved in a weekly ongoing monologue show. The subject of all the monologues were sex and relationships… so it was considered an “adult-content-show” even though there was no nudity or anything like that. Now, all the actors were supposed to have their own poster… in a town full of actors, everyone wants to promote themselves… it made sense to have it like that. So after my first night of performing, the director mentioned that we needed our own posters, and she would call the photographer that did the last batch… and I noticed she didn’t seem too happy to pay the guy again for more pics. Well… I saw the last batch of posters… I didn’t think they were that great, frankly. Not to be elitist or judgmental… but for a show talking about sex, the posters weren’t very sexy.

I raised my hand. “You know… I have a digital camera. I know it’s not much, but if you’d like… I’ll take the pictures. No need to pay some guy for it.” I mean, this was a no-budget off-off-off-off-off-off-off-broadway theatre show… let’s pinch pennies where we can. I had no problem helping to promote a show I was a part of. (Call it a vested interest) She emphatically took me up on it. This way, I could make appointments with each person individually, take as much time as we want (so you’re not shuffling people one after another just to get the job done and over with in one sitting), I’ll put the text on at home on my computer… e-mail the finished product to the individual… they can print it out and make as many copies as they want… voila. Cheap show posters.

When I got together with each person… I gave each person the exact same spiel:

“Okay… just so you know: I’m NOT a professional photographer. I’m just ‘the guy with the camera.’ I have no interest in asking you to do anything you’re not comfortable with… frankly, I’m making this up as I go. So, if you have ANY ideas about what YOU want for YOUR poster… please, let me know. Cause I need the help.”

Everyone seemed to respond favorably to that. Some of the women that didn’t know me from Adam had brought along their large, karate-expert boyfriends because they didn’t want some “creep asking them to take their pants off”. They would later tell me that they thought I was a total sweetheart, and thanked me for being so respectful. Some even said they considered me more professional than most photographers they worked with. And everyone was happy with their posters.

(And yes, there is a poster of me… half-naked with a white sheet draped over my shoulder. One of the actresses took the picture for me. No, you can’t see it.)

No, I never asked them to take their pants off… though some did it anyway. (Only in L.A…) Since we only had to “imply” nudity under the sheet… that did give some leeway. Plus, when I looked at the “last batch” by the guy who got paid for it… they were all from the same level and angle. Almost like he just set up a tripod and lined people up, took one picture and moved onto the next.

I tried to give a little variety. I tried from lower angles, higher angles… tilting the camera a bit. Played around with them sitting or standing… anything but the same angle and level… all the while trying to leave room on the side for the titles and show info to go on. I didn’t want any words or info overlapping the actor… I figured that would be bad. They’re not the background of the picture… they ARE the picture.

After I took all the pictures, I went home, chose maybe 10 of what I thought were the best ones, e-mailed them to the performer, who would make the final decision. (Like I said… it was THEIR poster, so they should have that right.) Then I make the final poster, and when I saw them at the next show… I brought a burned CD with the finished poster and every picture I took of them. I know a lot of professional photographers actually claim legal “ownership” of the pictures they take… but what the hell was I gonna do with them? I think the subject of the photo has every right to know and control where that picture is seen. Sure, I kept copies for my archives… but they never have, nor ever will be released to be used by anyone else.

Like I said, people were happy with the photos and posters… which was a nice compliment for me, I thought. But I was getting bored… with the SAME corner inside of the SAME building, and everyone wearing the SAME white sheet. There’s only so much variety I can get with that situation. So, without telling the director… the next person that joined the show and needed a poster (it was a rotating cast… I was one of the few that was with it for so long)… said, “Yeah, I think I’m supposed to be wearing a sheet or something, right?” I replied… “*Actually*… I’d like to try something different…”

We got the hell away from that corner. I asked the performer to pick out a few of her/his own outfits… ones that they felt Sexy in. Not ones that other people said were sexy… but ones they FELT comfortable in and FELT Sexy in. (Big difference) Some women would come in black cocktail dresses, or a business-type outfit, or an artsy-kind of getup, or PJs, or even just jeans and a t-shirt. (Most of the guys came in jeans and a t-shirt… go figure.) But that’s what they felt sexy and comfortable in… (and I think “comfortable” is always sexier anyway). And some would come to my apartment, or I’d meet them elsewhere… anywhere but that damn blue corner. We tried different places, different outfits… different ideas. Now that we had more options… we came up with a lot more ideas for each shoot.

I quickly became very surprised at what I could get people to do when I had a camera. Having one guy stand in my shower, fully clothed, with water streaming all over him, soaking him and his clothes to the bone, and me snapping pictures… Again, I thought, “How the hell did THIS happen?”

And I really liked how the pictures came out. They looked sexier than the ones before… and they even had more clothing than the sheet. (Funny how that works, huh?) When the final picture was selected and the poster made up… it was shown to the director. Who loved it. Finally! I was away from the white sheet and that blue corner… and allowed to do whatever I want.

Plus, I started getting a little money. I started asking for about $5- $10 to help cover the cost of making the posters (really for the ink and paper from the computer)… everyone gave me at least that with no problem… quite a few actually gave me more. One women handed me $50… and when I told her I didn’t have change, she said, “I didn’t ask for change.” (That helped with groceries that week)

Wow… I was technically getting paid for making sexy pictures of people... with my low-end crappy 1.3 Mega-pixel camera. (As the technology got better and cheaper, the more adjectives I added to describe that thing.) Kick ass.

One night, after a show… a guy not much older than me had seen the show, and asked me, “Hey, who took the pictures of the posters that are outside?” (I signed them all… “Photo by Victor Riley”, adding to the history of not using my real name.) I told them, “Actually… it was me. The name on there is a pen name.” Then, this guy told me about a project he was doing… he had made an adult board game version of “Spin the Bottle”… with drinking rules and everything. He had a prototype, and needed some photos taken for the website and promotional stuff… he asked me if I was interested.

I had to tell him… “Uh… just so you know… I’m NOT a professional in the least. And the camera is NOT a high-quality camera. It’s just this little crappy thing that’s getting us by.” (I believe in letting people know exactly what they’re getting.)

He said, “Well, you bring your crappy little camera… and make some money.”

About 2 weeks later, I was in this guy’s apartment… with 2 attractive young women he hired for models… taking playful/suggestive/sexy pictures of them next to and playing with this adult-themed board game.

When the guy’s business partner was standing next to me, looking into the camera’s viewscreen with me… and whispering to himself, “Oh Baby…yes yes yes…” Admittedly, I was a little creeped out… and once again said to myself, “How the hell did THIS happen?”

Only in freaking L.A.

But apparently, I was good at making people look sexy. Even fully clothed. I think me doing all this with the other actors inspired my girlfriend-at-the-time to suggest that we “take some pictures” of our own. You’re not getting details… that’s a little *too* personal… but suffice to say , these were not going to be seen on any poster to advertise the show. I did make an effort to make them look more artistic rather than pornographic… and I thought we did that nicely. I even experimented with shadows and silhouettes… and suffice to say (again), we had fun. When we broke up… I looked at the CD we had the pictures on, the only copies of them, and gave them to her. I figured they were taken in a state of trust in our relationship. Now that it was over, the only way to honor that trust was if SHE had the only copies of the pictures. I don’t know if she realized I was giving her the sole copies… but that’s what I did.

(I did tell some friends later that I actually kept another copy of them… but I really didn’t. I said that to try and make myself feel better, like I still had some kind of advantage or something. Going further will get into a subject I don’t care to devote time to anymore. Anyway… yeah, I’m a lying liar who lies.)

I did actually get some requests from friends… ones who weren’t connected to that monologue show… “Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you… could you take some pictures like that of *me*?” (They were implying the “fully-clothed-sexy” ones of the show posters, not like the private ones that they didn’t know about.) I did mentally kick around ideas of some things I’d have liked to have done, picture-wise… but I never did get around to shooting photos for any of them. But it was a nice compliment that they thought I’d do good at making them look sexy.

When I got back to the East Coast… my brother gave me his old digital camera. It was only a few years old… is about 5 mega-pixels, has a great lens… and is a MUCH higher quality that my little 1.3. Looking at it… if I had THIS camera in L.A… I would have felt more confident about actually pursuing more paying options with it. At the time he got it (he won it from work), it was worth over $1,000. Nowadays, there are more powerful cameras that are cheaper… but it’s still a very nice camera.

Most of my pictures these days are of the “candid” variety… (because I love putting those word balloons in)… or more landscape-type pictures. I’m a sucker for good scenery. My new letterboxing hobby helps me with that. I take pictures of the different places I go and hikes I do, and put them in my logbook. It keeps me snapping pictures, and makes my logbook more interesting to look at.

That’s my photo career as it is today. Back to being a nice hobby rather than a pseudo part-time (not even “part”… more like “fraction-time and low-paying-but-interesting”) career.

But you know… while I’m usually behind the camera, rather than in front of it… that does me just fine. Because picture composition is pretty interesting to me… and whether I’m taking photos of models or scenery, I have fun with it. Who knows… maybe in the future, I’ll once again be put into a photographic situation where I’m saying:

“How the hell did THIS happen?”

Cause at the very least… it’ll be a lot of fun.


Zen and the Art of the Late-Night-Parking-Lot-Conversation

My first real job (not counting a paper-route from 8th grade) was at a small family-style restaurant in town. The majority of us employees were all High School students… except for a few older ones that did the slow day-shift. When it came to evening rush, along with cleaning and closing up shop… that was left to us High School kids.

In school, I didn’t really have friends… just a lot of “acquaintances”. Relationships and friendships are built on “experiencing” things… and I never was able to get invited to the parties, or even take a lot of initiative to pursue “hanging out” with people (I was terrified of rejection)… so I never did a lot of “experiencing” with people. My world was the world of school. While there were people I liked being around (they were actually decent to me), if you asked me the bottom line… School was a big ball of misery.

But this little family-style restaurant… suddenly became another world for me. One I actually didn’t mind. In fact, I liked working there. Sure, washing dishes was messy and a tad smelly… the late-night rushes of large groups were stressful and filled with muffled cries of, “God, I’m never going to get out of here!”… but for me: It wasn’t school. And I wasn’t at home. I was somewhere else… with people my age (give or take 2 years) and actually Experiencing with them.

And my favorite memories of working there… were the late-night-parking-lot-conversations. These *were* fun… every single time.

We would finish cleaning anywhere between 11 and midnight… the dishwasher, the cook and the supervisor would be the last three to leave. Most of the waitresses (yeah, there were no male servers… the owner was a bit of a dirty old man) finished up before that, so they were usually gone already. So it was just us guys. The walk from the front door at last lock-up to the cars at the end of the parking lot would be filled with the in-jokes and previous topics of the night (attractive waitresses was a common one). When we arrived at the cars, all parked fairly close together… we’d still be chatting, so we didn’t get into our cars and drive off right away. Oftentimes, we’d just stand outside the cars… and continue talking.

Sometimes, for up to 3 hours. Suddenly, I didn’t care about school in the morning, or any other reason I had to go to sleep… and we just hung out right there, in front of our cars… and talk.

These conversations… would run the gamut. From life, love, lust… to colleges, problems, personal philosophies, fears, rants… Everything! Something about being in a wide-open parking lot… few to no other cars around… alone in the night air… allowed me, them, us... to open up ourselves. Conversations were uncensored, brutally honest, always real, and always known to not be blabbed about later. The Late-Night-Parking-Lot-Conversation is always considered “not for gossip, on the QT and the down-low.” In the open air, yet behind closed doors. I always respected that. That unwritten rule is what made ME feel comfortable to talk.

But I especially loved to listen.

I wonder how many things I heard that had never been told to other people before? How many things have never been told to anyone since? (Probably not much… but maybe something.)

In the years since working there… I’ve had other Late-Night-Parking-Lot-Conversations. (Not all of them were even in a parking lot, technically.) But they were all in the open air… late at night… no one else around. I often forgot about the specific phenomenon until I found myself in one and remembered, “Hey… this was my favorite thing about my first job… and here it is again!” As soon as I recognize that I’m in that situation… I find myself listening more intently, and speaking more honestly than maybe I usually do. I don’t often get the LNPLC as much as I used to… so when I see it, I don’t want it to go without savoring it as much as possible… and appreciate exactly what it is I’m hearing.

A few weeks ago… I found myself in another LNPLC. A fairly new friend of mine and I were walking to our cars, continuing our earlier conversation that took place during a weekly Geek Game we play. We weren’t talking about the Geek Game, we had moved on to other topics… and we got to our cars, and just stayed there chatting. Fairly early on, I recognized the start of the Late-Night-Parking-Lot-Conversation… and at first opportunity, I took a seat on my car… ready for a wonderfully long conversation.

I got it in spades. It actually wasn’t as long as some LNPLCs I’ve had… but it was high up there in quality. The honest and the revelations… hell, just the plain old fashioned getting-to-know-someone aspect… was nothing short of Beautiful. Like the best ones I’ve had in the past, this was uncensored, honest, real… a real glimpse at the genuineness of another human being.

Reflecting on it later… made me remember how much I loved it. I remember his story… but will never repeat it (remember: The unwritten rule)… and that’s the way it should be. Because to me, empty parking lots are bastions of honesty… places where your soul can be poured out, and not be soiled by the gravel and dirt, nor trodden on by the hundreds of cars and feet the may trek it in a day.

I’ve always been a huge fan of one-on-one conversation… a *really good* one-on-one conversation, that is. And late at night, outside in the open air… with few to no one else around… is my favorite way to have it.