Thursday, December 31, 2009

As our December sun is setting...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Two shows down on Christmas Eve and the tech team and I were ready to book it. If that juggler dropped one ball, man, if it had been any other day, she would have had 52 stagehands ready to pummel her with her own bouncing green artillery.

I'm pretty sure John, our dear lighting board op, bolted before the curtain even dropped, while Chris and I shut down our stations - haha I'mmmm preettty sure John's Grand MA most likely ran through Christmas.

By the time I made it out of the Garden, I was also on a separate holiday mission. Wrap, cookies, church. I am a master of the Christmas Eve prep, but this year I was on a little more of a time crunch and in a new environment. Thank goodness I had just scrubbed the apartment from top to bottom a few days prior or Houston may have had a problem.

But I digress.

Ok, wrapping... check... cookies... in progress, despite minor setbacks in sprinkle selection, which under different circumstances, would be a good reason to abort mission. More importantly, what's Christmas Eve without an amazing Jewish roommate with whom you can listen to Jimmy Buffett's Christmas selections, smoke hookah and go to the midnight church service? Assuming there will be many a holiday spent in New York, I just can't imagine it any other way - I mean, come on! When a Jew and a Lutheran attend an Episcopalian service, magical things happen!

Unbeknownst to us, the midnight service was moved from Trinity Church* to the St. Paul's Chapel, the oldest public building in continuous use in New York City. We arrived to find a smattering of Episcopalians and rogue patrons from all over the world... and on folding chairs. Four corners of folding chairs, all facing each other, altar in the center. Do you know what folding chairs mean at a religious service?? Participation and interaction beyond normal protocol. Goodbye celebratory formalities of Trinity Church, hello groupthink at St. Paul's Chapel. It wasn't at all what I had expected to find this Christmas Eve, but we still enjoyed the very new experience, more or less because it was a new experience. If nothing else, candles were lit, Christmas hymns were sung and it provided plenty of food for thought on the way home - and no, no, I don't mean the assortment of cookies the acolyte placed on the altar prior(!?!) to the end of the service. Certainly neither of us were trying to save the world through conversation, but, as always, there is nothing as comforting and thrilling as an exchange of sound minds. Perfect for a chilly walk home on what now was Christmas morning.

*Land for Trinity Church was purchased from the Lutheran congregation in Manhattan (1696). How 'bout that tid-bit?

Photo courtesy of Trinity Church Museum. I've been stalling on this entry for a few days now because I've not had a suitable image to post with the copy... so for now, this snowy shot of the church stands.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Going to watch my 3rd favorite Christmas film while baking cookies the other day, I was heart-broken to find that I had left "The Preacher's Wife" back in Pittsburgh. There are a few items that have not migrated to NYC and unfortunately, that was one of them.

Most of you, I know, will roll your eyes. This is not so much about a man's firm belief in a textbook God and His heaven, as it is about a character who has come to understand life on his own terms - and for him, it is through his definition of God. For you it may be something different, for me it may be something different, but either way, this time of year, spending time with loved ones makes you remember. Remember what, you ask? I can only answer that from my thoughts, friends. Take what you will from this.

"Beloved, God never promised us a perfect life. He's savin' that for the Hereafter. While we're here on this Earth, there's some things we just got to work for. It could be a job, it could be a church, it could be a community, could be a marriage. But the good news is, He gave us two secret weapons to help us succeed: Hope. And love. Hope is all a prayer is. And love, loving is giving. Pure and simple. But in love, there is also forgiveness. And forgiveness belongs to everyone. It's a right, like the right to breathe, or eat, or even to fall in love. Sometimes, we take love for granted. Am I right about it? Those who are nearest to us, dearest to us- those are the ones we forget to love. But the miracle is, when we love someone, we are really lovin' God. Look and wonder at those you love, for they are the face of God. And when the path is dark and the road bends, we will let the Lord show us the way. He will give us heart and make us whole again. Because I know! He did me. You may ask me- how? You see, He's got these angels, waitin' in this loonnng line for the chance to come down and help each and every one of us. And They do! So you see, Beloved, today I am truly blessed. Blessed with hope. And blessed with love - and blessed with the belief that I can make a difference. All of us can. We can save this church! We will help our poor! We will help our young! And our lonely! And our needy! So now, let us begin again. Let us go forward! Forward in hope! Forward in love! And forward into the new days of our lives. Put your hands together and praise God."

-Christmas Day sermon from "The Preacher's Wife"

On a completely separate note, Denzel Washington can be my angel any day.

Monday, December 21, 2009

"And hey, happy Winter Solstice - this is the longest night of the year, it's our night to shine, Kiddo." - J. McClellan

What are you doing inside reading my blog? Go shine!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Before I start my story, let me give you an idea of the beginning/middle of December last year. With a fair level of stress sitting on my shoulders, I tried to be as reasonable a human being as being a reasonable human being would allow. Not only was I a fresh freelance photographer in the most densely artistic city in the world, but my month sublet in Gramercy had ended and an exhausting real estate search through Manhattan, plus various boroughs, had begun - all the while sleeping on a friend's living room couch in Park Slope, retrieving necessary items from my suitcase that was her car on a daily basis. Working through my issues, working through the issues of people I loved - everything happening at once. I don't know that I solved my problems or theirs, but I did find a wonderful abode at the southern tip of Manhattan, which was certainly a start. With work not flowing as regularly as I would have liked and a move-in date of the 15th, a Christmas tree wasn't out of the question, but definitely wasn't likely.

So I've been here over a year now, and the tree you sort of see above is my first Christmas tree in New York. I found its purchase particularly necessary, because this year also marks my first Christmas spent in this extraordinary place. Now, I'm not the sentimental anniversary type and usually wouldn't bother to mention this occasion, had it not come about as it did.

Cue week 2 of December 2009...

Last Tuesday, Ms. Brown, my gentile roommate, and I set out to get a tree. As of Monday, there hadn't been any tree vendors in our neighborhood, so we were assuming the worst (or the best, in my opinion) of having to take a subway ride with our new fragrant, green friend. By Tuesday morning, Brown reported that our local 24-hour market had some trees out front. Super. Great. However, by the time we were both off work, we arrived to find three sad Fraser firs left, about 6ft, going for $75 a pop with the market's owner refusing to lower the price. The guy handling the trees told us to come back late Wednesday night, as a different owner would be there and would give us a deal. Done.

I got out of my last Cirque show on Wednesday around 9:30, promptly calling my cohabiting Gentile to make our festive purchase. No answer. Despising inefficiency, my final decision was to get off the train two stops sooner to check out the prospects on my own. As I got off the train, I called B again. Still no answer, though with the excitement of a Sheik spotting an oasis in the desert, my eyes widened to see trees! Trees! Lots of green trees!

As I approached with a little dance across the street, I saw a small Ukrainian emerge from behind a row of trees:

"Excuse me, Sir, how much for a tree?"
"Eh, what kind you want? What size you want?"
"Fraser, balsam fir, either will be fine... mmm 6-7 feet"

Unlike a lot of the trees he had, the tree he lead me to was an unbound, deeply green, 6.5 ft balsam fir.

"It's 60, but for you, I give 50."
"It is quite pretty. I do like it, but just to be sure, may I see another?"
"Other tied up, on wall, will have to untie. This one prettiest."

Skeptical of his motives, despite the tree's outward good health, I agreed it would be foolish to open more trees because of a compulsion. I asked him to pick up the tree and drop it. The only needles to fall off were the dead ones. Okie dokie. Check and check.

"Sir, it's a very pretty tree, but I'm not quite sure how I'm going to get this tree home. My roommate isn't answering calls and with my computer bag, I'm not sure if this is going to work."
"I vould help, but have to stay with trees. Can help you at 10."
"How heavy is it?"
"Eh" (he lifts the tree again) "Not bad. Can carry for you at 10."
"No, no, thank you, but I appreciate the offer. All right, Sir, I'll take it. I need a stand too. How much?"
"20, but for you, 10."
"Do you take cards or just cash?"
"Both, but ATM 'cross street."
"Not my bank and I hate bank charges." (Running joke: my bank is STILL in NJ, but now with a full branch in Manhattan)
"Listen [pronounced l-eee-sen]. I pay bank charge. No tax vhen you pay cash."

I ran across the street to the ATM assuming he's sawing off the bottom and putting it through that net-machine thing that I had assumed existed.

I crossed back over and saw that I guessed correctly about one of the two.

"Can you please tie the tree up? Twine? Net?"
"No more twine. Garbage bag?"

Four pauses of me staring at him pass.


I call Brown again, because while I was sure I could carry a wrapped tree on my own, I was not sure I'd be able to manage the width of an open tree. Again, niente for B.

So this delightful small Ukrainian and I tore a hole in the bottom of a giant garbage bag for the trunk (aka grip 1) and shimmied that tree into its carrying pouch. I tossed the stand into the bag and with my right hand on the bottom of the trunk and my left hand somewhere at the 3/4 mark, my new green friend dressed in plastic and I in Marc Jacobs were off on our 15-block trek home.

Receiving plenty of questionable glances from passing pedestrians, I suddenly became aware that it appeared as if I had just kidnapped a Christmas tree from goodness knows where. Now I'm sure someone has carried a 6.5 ft. tree in a garbage bag through Manhattan before me. Probably during the middle of June. As far as I was concerned, it was just a method of getting my friend home.

When my willing captive and I landed on my doorstep, we had two flights of stairs to tackle and then we were home free... into the apartment, onto the stand.

It wasn't until Thursday night that Brown and I were able to collect the suitable trimmings, put on some Christmas tunage and make our little tree look divine. Simple, affordable, elegant. As Brown plugged the lights in, I switched off the lights. A home is not a home until you make it one and we had just done that. Brown went to sit and watch the tree and I walked over to do the dishes. With nothing but the tree light, I was a happy, serene little clam. Listening to music, taking in the soft light and dancing about the kitchen: wash, dry, dance, repeat. I don't know what it was, but it made me very happy.

Happiest of holidays, Kids.

Photo: Tree, apartment, me.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Let's see, let's see... Warhol being from Pittsburgh aside, what do I love about pop art? In this case, make-up entirely inappropriate for everyday use: light orange eyes and magenta lips!

This is one of the raw images from a project started a few months ago. As all art of this genre goes, goodness knows what crazy color and design will enter into the final product...

Speaking of color, once again, having an RGB profile issue with the true color of this photo. Imagine it? Sorry guys, Noah did a great job lighting skin tone and I can't quite do it justice. :(

In case you were wondering, that frowny face is me.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Didn't think you'd see this rare breed again, did you? She essss-CA-pes* to the ocean when she doesn't want to speak, where no one expects her to speak. Just swimming amongst the colors, taking in the wavelengths of light and thinking about the universe. At 110 ft in the Coral Sea, she couldn't have found a better spot.

Photo taken by a fellow diver aboard the Spoilsport and yes, yes that is the camera rig in my hand. Fan coral in the foreground.

*I try to be serious, but cartoon references (in this case, "Finding Nemo") often foil my plan.

One of the most venomous feeessshhies on the ocean floor: Mr. Lionfish!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I've been saving this picture from the Great Barrier Reef specifically for the holiday season that is now upon us. What's festive about this, you ask? They're Christmas Tree Worms!

These guys are shy guys too! Well, not like Super Mario's shy guys, but with each passing shadow or the slightest touch, they retract into their little burrows in the coral. If you wait a minute, they slowly reemerge looking as pretty as they did when you spotted them.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia.

Probably one of the coolest populated places on the eastern coast of Aussieland.

Cataract Gorge, Launceston, Tasmania.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

I've had a number of people ask me over the past few years about the origin of my profession(s) and how I keep myself employed. Below is a sample voicemail for a work inquiry. I hope it answers some questions.

Fuckin' Harvey! Didn't answer my call.

Shocker. Stunning.

Hello?... It's your pal... Cory. I hope you are doing well... ahhhmmm.... I can't get too mad at you for not picking up because you just sound so darn cute on that little cell-phone recording. Uhmmmm... please call me at your earliest convenience... I have a proposition for you if you're not doing anything from September 3rd to September 12th.

And it's not going on vacation with me.

Although that would be nice.

Sooo call me... 3rd of September through the 12th of September. All those days. Working. Call me back... bbhhhyyyeeee.

Peacock, peacock, how proud you are with your pretty, pretty plume. Were you so proud that you had to chase a little 8-year-old Alli around a farm many years ago? How beautiful she thought you were, but perhaps you didn't know that. Despite that treacherous lap around a barn in West Virginia, she still finds you exquisite.

Crazy writer, talking about such nonsense as peacocks in West Virginia or in this case, Tasmania. Such things surely aren't possible.

Monday, December 07, 2009

When we last left Australia, we were roaming and romping around the countryside of Tasmania. What's really inconvenient, however, is that my Cape Tribulation photos are still stuck on that stupid XD card (damn you and you inferior storage methods, Olympus!! Why do I have an Olympus you ask? The 550uz was part of my underwater rig that I wanted to test on dry land). I confidently inform you that my battle with it is far from over.

In the meantime, I'll stray from my frustration and leave you with an image from our hike through the gorgeous Cataract Gorge in Launceston, Tasmania.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Rihanna attends the release party for her album "Rated R" on Thursday at M2 in NYC.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Think of every one-of-kind place in the world you've ever wanted to visit. Why do you want to go there? What makes it so different, so solitary? It's funny, but I started to type the word "rare" then "uncommon," however realizing using either would be an incorrect use of language within context. Those words imply that there is a level of equality elsewhere, but what if that's not true? Sometimes I feel redundant, always talking about how utterly incredible the above is, but then again, I do that with everything and everyone I find astounding and inspiring. If it/he/she is that amazingly incredible, it/he/she deserves to be spoken of admirably and frequently. Very frequently. I can't say it's happened often, no more than seven times in my life thus far, so I won't apologize, but if you don't want to read about the Garden anymore, it'd be best to find alternative material. I'll be very sad to see you go, but I'll understand.

In being absolutely honest, it's one of the very few things that has left me speechless on a repeat basis. When we came down off the roof, Tim just looked at me and said, "You know how I knew you were excited? You were emotionless." Which means two things... 1) That he understood something that many people do not, in that a lack of projecting socially recognized emotion often indicates the greatest expression of feeling and 2) that he had been paying attention since the day I met him. It's like when you try to hand-write your thoughts, or even type them, sometimes even speak them... the result that is displayed is only a part of the calamity that has taken residence in your head.

My point? The widest smile and the brightest eyes wouldn't have been an adequate translation of what was in my brain.

As a rule of thumb, if I'm still able to form sentences and carry on a dialogue, well, it's not always exactly what I was hoping to find. It puts life at a different standard and is a wretchedly terrible, yet splendidly terrific personality trait - a flaw and an attribute all rolled into one. Fantastic because I look for it in everyone and everything and awful, of course, because I look for it in everyone and everything. I can count on one hand the amount of times I've met my own standard - two fingers and a half... maybe. Call me difficult, call me impossible, but while I try to meet my own expectations, I have what I might call a "good time" doing it.

Creating reality one hour at a time.

Photo: Roof of Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving around 7 p.m., 8th Ave. to the left, 33rd St. (almost) dead on.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

I usually make no mention of this, but as some of you know, it was my birthday yesterday. Furthermore, I had a completely different blog for today until late last night when a string of stanza-ed text messages came rolling through from one of my favorite dudes out on the road.

Ladies and gents, my absolute favorite birthday present of 2009:

One summer afternoon I met Alli in PA.
She picked me up, even though I was out of her way.

Then we had to part for quite awhile
And were separated by much more than a mile.

But we'd soon reunite in a city farther east
And enjoy together an authentic Chinese feast.

Then back to her apartment she would bring me,

But it was only so I could assemble her Wii.

And when I proved undoubtedly inept,

Remarkably still her patience she kept.

So that's how I know Alli is sweet and kind,

And not just another superb behind.

Now I hope we'll hang out whenever we can,

And I promise I'm better at working things made in Japan.

- Bryan Strickland, tour manager/photographer/poet/class-A friend

Even if he's lying about the sweet, kind, behind part, the rest is awesome and true. From working my first big show in Pittsburgh to late night adventures in Chinatown to Mario Cart in my apartment to DMB catering at Fenway, we've managed to grow a wonderful friendship, which can be hard to do in the music business. I think it's frickin' great. Contrary to my usual stance, I give communication technology a big thumbs up for this one.

Photo 1: Bry's cover shot for DMB's Live Trax (Lisbon) vol. 10 album
Photo 2: Bryan!