Sunday, December 08, 2019

Turning Corners

Serious breakfast at Sears Fine Foods in San Francisco
When I woke up at 5:00am on the morning of my 78th birthday I had the sinking feeling that I had finally turned the corner to oldness and should stop fooling myself. That’s never happened before. So, why now? There’s no demonstrable difference between 77 and 78 after all. Yet it felt wildly different. I suppose those blues can be attributed to seeing a tractor-trailer full of 8 Zero steaming toward me like a tsunami of decrepitude.

I came out of my funk over breakfast. Food will do that for me. We had a wee celebration that included half a dozen birthday cards and calls from my son and four buddies of long standing. Peggy had me giggling by third cup of coffee and left for her studio so I could do whatever the hell I wanted. And, as always, that means something from columns A through D. Exercise, ideally both cardio and strength training, a creative pursuit which more and more is writing, a good meal with an interesting wine and a page turner before I turn off the lights. The best days have all of the above.

Yet, a malaise has swept over me since September 11. Not exactly depression though writing the word suggests otherwise. What’s missing is the impetus to finish any job that requires a real commitment of time, energy and focus. Maybe there's some what's the point in the situation. My week begins with a Sunday to-to list that stretches in into the low forties and has been topped by Create a new website, Complete the sheep book, Become a competent Spanish speaker, Pitch the sheep story to the Sangre de Cristo Arts Center and Sell the Porsche for five years and counting. And now I’ve added learning to edit video and mastering blues guitar. All of those take concentration and discipline which are apparently in short supply. “Get a grip” you say. “Pick one and finish the son of a bitch.” Good advice I’m sure but how to I choose?

Basically, I won’t apply myself for the two, three or four hours at a sitting required to finish any of the jobs I’ve started. Writing this blog is the exception and it can take as much as a day to complete. Had I actually studied Spanish for two hours a day since studying in Guatemala in 2013 I would be an accomplished speaker by now but I don’t study the language at all except for writing a three paragraph story for my Friday Spanish group, itself a six year staple of my life without which my Spanish would have withered into nothingness. Studying Spanish doesn’t even make the list of forty most weeks. The same would be true of video editing, a newer interest. If I had systematically ploughed through my video editing course with its how-to CDs and sample videos, I’d have that complex process as wired as the Spanish.

Thankfully I’ve signed on to man the second camera on a video project helmed by my good friend Terry Thompson and will force me to man up. Terry, a former movie producer, won’t let me not do the job. Last week we did a short practice video of a two-camera conversation between the two of us.  While I watched he edited the first five minutes of the piece and it was remarkably good for a first effort. The clip looked half-way professional despite our rudimentary tools and my non-existent skills. We’ll do another test this week before shooting a real story which will involve three subjects and three locations including a car interior.

The only pursuit where I have a modicum of discipline is fitness where I work out as much as I ever have except for the triathlon years of the mid-80s.

In the runup to my 78th I had a revelation while driving to Albuquerque for a doctor’s appointment. I found myself thinking of myself as a writer first and a photographer second. That may be hubris but after 650 blog posts totaling at least 3,000 pages and a couple of years contributing my series Telling Stories to Shadow and Light Magazine, I have earned the right. 3,000 pages you say. That’s a lot of books. What you really mean is that if I’d invested that kind of time on a real book I’d have ten of them.

At the dawn of old age one asks, “What’s next?” aside from general pleasure seeking. Not to suggest seeking pleasure is a bad thing. In fact, I’m pondered making it what's left of my life’s work.

It’s well established that good food and wine make my world go ‘round. And the fact that I’m always hungry makes me an eager participant. As I’ve written in these pages, my memories a laced with dining experiences and food epiphanies. So, why not make the pursuit of culinary delights under the broader banner of travel be my be all and end all. Because it’s self-indulgent and frivolous and it accomplishes nothing. There is that.

Which leads me to ponder what to do for my 80th in 2021. Extravagance on that scale requires serious contemplation. Not to mention planning. Among the ideas for monumental self-congratulation are things so sweeping or expensive that I’ve haven’t done them yet. Now I’ll have an excuse. They’re experiences that I’ve dreamed of for decades. Live in a bustling neighborhood in foreign city for a full year through all its seasons, celebrations and attendant tribulations. Meander without an itinerary anywhere in world for all of 2021. Naturally, I’d keep a serious journal of my life on the road or in the 6th Arrondissement. The 6th is a place holder. I’d probably want to live where Spanish is the language of choice and that could be Latin America or Europe.

Third of the big three possibilities would be to sell the sweet 1980 Porsche 911SC with 74,000 miles and buy a Sprinter van and do the big mosey all over North America.

180 degrees from all of this self-indulgence would be a year in service. I’m the first to admit that I haven’t given back enough. That I haven't explored this option more fully is telling.

We’ve all heard the Shakespeare’s line, “What’s past as prologue.” So, looking back, even at failures or goals not met, may be instructive. Reviewing the odd success and understanding what experiences provided the most satisfaction might inform the next 78 years. Or at least one of them, the all-important 8 Oh.

I’m open to suggestions on how to waste my time in 2021. What would you do?


Blacks Crossing said...

Absolutely adored this blog of self-introspection at age 78. Fred's comment? "I want that breakfast right now." Lucky for you, we know many people who turned 80 this year, are 80+, and then there are those who are 80+ and continue to be avid Fourteeners and kick butt climbing mountains in Colorado and New Mexico. You should meet some of these folks. Just amazing. But first, you asked for it, and here it is. Start jettisoning emotional baggage for the Porsche, prepare it for sale, and buy the damn Sprinter. Heck, you were talking about that years ago while we were out on photo shoots. Those two things would really set the tone for other things you might want to do. Giving back would be easier as well if you had the Sprinter. You could go to wild fire areas, flooded areas, etc., and offer your services. You could get stories and take photographs during the process. A real photojournalism workshop in progress. I am so happy Terry T. asked you to be second shooter. You'll make a great team. So so much potential coming up, Señor! As they say in the Times, we will look forward to "reading all about it."

Jamie said...

Focus on writing...much as I love your photographs, given the nature of fine art photography marketing, if you are looking for validation there you will make yourself crazy... There's work to be done as you strip-mine your experiences and intuit the path ahead. Too many choices leads to over-thinking I have found. Grab one thing and run...!

And a rewarding 78th!!!

Steve Immel said...

Thanks to both of you. Good advice all round. There's a groundswell for losing the Porsche, buying the camper van and wandering forth to find stories worth telling. And there's a plurality that says stop drowning in an ocean of choices. Pick a gold ring and reach for it. Decisions, decisions. Yes to the writing.

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