Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Basketball Coach and the Evangelist

Heading for Colorado on Thursday for the wedding of my friend, Vicki. Vicki and I became acquainted through church in Ft. Wayne, Indiana at the ripe age of 23 or 24. She coached the women's basketball team at a local high school and I ministered to Christian Student Fellowships at northeast Indiana colleges and universities with the aim of encouraging bands of young Christians on secular campuses to evangelize their non-believing peers. She is a central character of my book, 'Jesus Days, 1978-1983.'

We were an unlikely couple well suited to each other, the Basketball Coach and the Evangelist. She loved sports, I loved the arts, and we both stood firm under the umbrella of our faith. We were fellow travelers stumbling into adulthood, struggling to loosen the bonds of our evangelical backgrounds in order to breathe freely.

It seems amazing to me now that I questioned my sexuality when it must have appeared so apparent to anyone with good vision. But the evangelical church, or perhaps any religion or social structure, allows one to hide, to appear as others want to see you. And I excelled at appearances. One learns early how to choose one's life costume.

At times I'm asked if I still believe in God. Vicki does, although she doesn't practice her faith in the way that we did as the Young Evangelicals. I don't know if I do, although if I were pressed to say whether I leaned toward faith or not, I'd have to say that I tilted slightly toward God, however you might define it. Perhaps it is easier. But I know that I really don't think about God anymore, although when my father endured triple bypass surgery last winter, I said my prayers. Who were the prayers directed to? I don't know. Some times I think that prayers are like tossing pennies in a fountain. All the pennies pile on top of each other and you can no longer discern which penny is yours, but you still wish it has an effect and will prompt the fulfillment of your wish.

More than twenty-five years has passed since Vicki and I met. More than twenty-five years has elapsed since I abandoned the evangelical world in which I'd lived my entire life. Yet the circle closes and touches again this weekend when I share in the wedding of Vicki and her new, husband, Ernie. I'm very happy for them and wish them best for the coming years.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Keeping On, Keeping On

The blazing sun under which some young artists shine is as far removed from my world as a faint star in a far off galaxy. I see it twinkling cheerfully in the charcoal sky but I can not warm my body with its warmth or see my path with by its light.

Over the last days, I have been engaged in increasing my "visibility." I say visibility because I feel that often as an artist I have moved through life as the invisible man working away but having the work never seen. It is time to move things forward and using the above paragraph's metaphor, bring the work into the light.

I don't really write these thoughts for the young, excited and ambitious photographer or artist, but for the older creative who struggles to continue and not give up. Recently, I attended a small dinner party, a reunion of sorts with fellow graduates of the Film School at Columbia University. We met in the 1980s, in our youth, energized by our hopes and dreams. Some twenty-five years had passed and the crew had passed from their twenties into their forties and fifties. What excited me and energized me was the enthusiasm for the arts that this crew still had exhibited. None had reached what could be called the pinnacle of success but all were still striving to create. I think that's amazing and I'm so impressed and motivated by their continued aspirations.

So even though I wrote yesterday on my Facebook wall that I felt that "putting myself out there" felt like pitching stones in a vast lake and hoping that the ripples hit the banks, I'm still pitching and watching for the waves to turn Tsunami on me and wash across the shore.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

When Should Dreams Die?

Kamesh. Photographed in New York City in 1997 by Greg Reynolds.

Tonight an Opening at a Gallery in a suitably downtown New York City lower eastside neighborhood features the new explorations in Black/White photography of a very famous, (not to my family but to the right people in art circles)young photographer, whose suitable good looks has made him also a subject of other well-known photographers. I venture a guess that the Vernissage will be suitably mobbed by suitably goodlooking and young gay men. I will not be there.

I'm glad I'm not the bitter type of older artist who resents the fame of sexually attractive younger artists. Well, maybe a little bit. For me, I, (perhaps naiively, perhaps not) associate fame with recognition, admiration, money, travel, great food and drink and opportunities to frequently get laid. Who could or would knock that? Like probably many other artists, I imagine my moment coming late in life as I'm wheeled out to a microphone, thank all the people who have since died many years before and obviously can't be there, and then keel over from a heart attack.

When should dreams die? Should I let them expire in their own time? Should I just stop feeding them hope or denial and allow them to starve to death? Or is a quick, clean kill the best? A decision to end the pursuit and change direction.

Sometimes I'm amused by advice directed toward the young to follow their dreams. Following your dreams isn't so hard to do if you're living at home or parents are still financing your education, but it's not so easy in middle age. Youth grants the capacity to sleep on a floor or a lumpy sofa, to eat hor'doerves and bar fruit, or to smoke or indulge in drugs and too much alcohol without looking like shit the next day. If I do that, I will look like hell and not function for two days.

I have a an artist friend with a degree from Columbia University, who, in his thirties, turned away from a career in architecture, acted against the wishes of his parents, and put brush to canvas to become a painter. He's now over fifty, does great work and slowly is achieving the recognition that he has long deserved. I admire him so much because he paid such a price to pursue his dreams, and he still struggles to pay that price each new day.

The road to success requires both a point of departure and a good vehicle. It helps tremendously to set off on your journey from a place of affluence and influence. The "affluence" will insure that you can afford the right schools, food and housing, and still have pocket money to pay for drinks and club admissions, while "influence" will make sure you actually get into those acclaimed institutes of higher learning and meet the "right" people. Yet most young people come into the world with out the benefit of wealth or contacts. To them I say, shit sinks but something built of wood floats. Make great work and it will rise to the surface where it can be seen.

The thought of giving up comes to me often, usually in the middle of the night when dreams interrupt my sleep. Yet at this stage of life giving up is difficult to do. I feel like the swimmer who dives off a river bank thinking that the opposite side is only a short distance away, but realizes when his muscles tire that he actually swims in an ocean and can no longer see the shore ahead or behind him. At that point, you have only two choices: keep swimming and pray your toes soon touch bottom, or sink beneath the cold surface and drown. To your advantage, after stroking the water for a long while, your muscles will strengthen, allowing you to paddle faster and further.

I choose to keep swimming.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Men Observed: Part 1

Top to Bottom: Justin, Patrick, Negovan, Mark and Bill, Ralph, Martin and Gary, Serbian Model, Jeremy.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Simple Questions. Hard Answers.

"How's your work going?" inquired a colleague/acquaintance at the School of the International Center of Photography in New York.

Simple question, right? But why the blank, is it so difficult to answer. I don't know how to reply. Stumbling for words only makes me appear stupid and inarticulate.

Or so it makes me feel.

The creative life is a long journey down a winding road full of potholes, shattered glass, fallen trees and detours. Along the way there are amazing adventures, but for most people it is not a trip in First Class. I'm happy for those who seem ride in great comfort and reach their destinations quickly without any wear or tear, but my means of transportation evidences dents, scratches, peeling paint and tires balder than a baby's butt.

What do I say but, "My work is going well, thanks!" It's like a stranger asking how you are. They don't really want to hear how things are actually going, because if they did, they probably wouldn't ask.

I think many artists feel uneasy about their creative endeavors. Unless there is hard evidence showing that your book will be published, your music or dance performed, your art shown, you often just don't know. You don't know because you are still in the process. Maybe at the beginning, perhaps at the end, but still nevertheless you're not there yet. And there's no shame in that. The shame would be if you quit before reaching the end.

So I decided not to quit, but to persevere. It seems to me that I've gone so far already at this state of life, that there's no turning around and going back. I can only press on.

But, to answer the question, "How is your work going?"

It's going well. I am working and I get a lot of pleasure out of what I'm doing. And, finally, I can see that, perhaps, I'm finally getting somewhere and that all the work will be worth it. Yet I'm not sure if the reward actually comes in the act of working or if it comes after the work is done.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

January and All is Gray with the World

An unexpected phone call has the force to shake our little planets. The phone rang on New Year's morning. On the other end of the line was my Mom in Kentucky requesting my immediate presence. My father has been rushed to the Hospital with chest pains and tingling in his arms. The doctor's finding: blockage in his arteries (probably a result of 83 plus years of fried bacon, fried eggs, fried chicken and fried whatever "southern style." He required open heart surgery. Around midnight of that same day, I stood in baggage claim at the Lexington Airport, waiting for my bags and my youngest brother to pick me up.

Until my grandparents all passed away, I believed myself surrounded by two defensive walls made up of my parents and their parents. With the loss of the grandparents, one barrier collapsed into dust leaving only one wall standing. The thought of losing my parents means that one more barrier will have fallen leaving me standing alone before my ultimate end.

This kind of thinking, obviously, can sound pretty morbid. But, I look at it, as more sobering than anything else. Youth inspires the confidence to tackle anything believing oneself invulnerable to pain or death. While middle age makes you value life even more, knowing full well that at some point every book has a conclusion, no matter how much you may want to stall the ending.

Three weeks has now passed, Dad survived his operation and now is home recovering. My father is not a patient man. He's the kind of man who plunges three stories down a cliff, brushes himself off and starts climbing again. But you don't endure having your chest cut open and your heart pulled out, and expect to ride a motorcycle the next day.

On Monday, I fly back to New York City. Thankfully, I leave knowing that my father health will improve over the next weeks, and that he will probably have a much better summer this year than the one he experienced last year. Regretfully, I leave knowing my mother will have the full responsibility of caring for my Dad, a traditional man of a generation of Men that expected certain things from their wives. My father still expects that my mother will prepared three meals a day for him, and that means three meals daily that he enjoys, because it is no joy for my mother to prepare food for someone who doesn't believe each bite they swallow is the best bite he's ever enjoyed.