Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Why Spontaneity Pays Off (Sometimes)

I'm a creature of habit. Everyone who knows me knows this. Or, rather, I should say that I'm a creature of planning. I plan everything out -- my days, my clothes, my workouts, my expenses, my travels. Everything gets plotted out and charted down to the decimal point!

In general, I hate jumping into a situation completely blind. I need to have all my options choreographed first, with chances of failure appropriately weighed, and with plenty of back up plans or failsafes in place in case failure does occur. Only then do I act.

Yes, I'm serious. I do this for everything, and especially when important decisions need to be made.

But lately I've been thinking about the few times in life I have made important decisions out of spontaneity -- that is, without having my course pre-routed for me or any measurable back up plans to cover a failure.

One such time was my first job out of college. I hated that job. I had been at it for 19 months and really wanted to quit. Me being me, however, I couldn't do so until I first had another job lined up to land at when I jumped ship. It was tough being able to go on interviews and still do my day job, but I managed it. For months I went on several interviews in the publishing industry here in New York, but to no avail. I had no leads.

Then one day my difficult manager was being difficult as per usual. She pushed my buttons one too many times on this day, however, and I decided right then and there that I was done! I went to her boss and presented my resignation. I announced I would give them two weeks to find my replacement, but that I was out after that. When asked if I had another job lined up, I replied that I did not. The director seemed taken aback by this, and assured me that I could take all the time I needed to find a new place of employment before I left.

I resolutely held my ground and replied that, whether I found another job or not within that two weeks, I would still be leaving at the end of it. It was just a feeling I had deep in my core, that this was the right step to take and -- more importantly -- that things would somehow all work out if I give in to fate.

So I left the company after 2 weeks with nothing new lined up. I then spent the next 2 weeks afterward interviewing at various places. And just like that, I found myself starting a new job at a new company on the 3rd week. This place was better structured than the last, my reporting manager was the nicest person I had ever interviewed with, and best of all -- I was getting paid a LOT more!

I remember thinking to myself: Wow! Had you not gone for it and quit, you might never have had the free time to even go on this interview, let alone land the position!

It was a lesson that taught me not everything needs to be *safe* before you make a life change. Sometimes you just need to read the situation and understand that it's time to move on. You need to act when you feel that it's time to act.

Yeah, lately I've been feeling this again. Not just at work, but in my personal life as well. It's starting to feel like as if it's time to move on. Which scares the hell out of me, because I have no alternatives lined up. I do want to switch to another job opportunity, though. I just don't know exactly what to do right now. Do I simply look for a change of scenery within the same field? Or do I reinvent myself entirely and try for a field that is totally different from what I do now, but which would make me happier? Something involving photography, perhaps? Or freelance writing, maybe? Because I'm starting to feel the boredom of my current job.

Then, too, I'm wondering: Should I leave New York City? Where would I move? I would love to move back to Vermont where I went to college, but I would imagine my chances of finding work there would not be as favorable as they would be in another big city. Or should I move to Texas where my current company has its headquarters in the Dallas area? My brother lives in Houston -- should I move there, perhaps?

Honestly, sometimes I wish I could just take that blind leap of faith and simply GO! Leave everything behind in my current life and completely change my situation.

Who knows?

But on a much less serious, yet oddly connected note .... just recently an acquaintance of mine from years ago contacted me out of the blue. I hadn't heard from her since then, but she had been an aspiring actress and model at the same time that I had begun exploring photography. We had helped each other out back then: I taking her headshots, and she ... well, posing for 'em! Fast forward to earlier this year, and this same woman texted me wanting to know if we could meet up again and do another photoshoot. I told her "sure, of course!", although truth be told I wasn't feeling all that confident in my abilities to take good photos of anyone. I didn't want her to think of me as a *real* photographer, you see? Too much pressure on me! Because then her expectations would be so high, and the end result would not live up to the imagination.

Still, she had loved my headshots of her, and I did explain that photography is just my hobby and not my actual living. Trying to downsize her expectations, you know?

But then months went by, and I realized I just didn't want to put myself out there like that. To set up a meet with this woman, go over how I wanted to shoot her, and then execute the shoot.

Then one night a couple of weeks ago, out of nowhere, I sat up on my couch while watching tv and said: Hey, why not do it tomorrow?!

It was a crazy idea and totally spontaneous and on such short notice ... but I reached out to her and asked her if she would be willing to do the shoot within the next few days. She told me she was free in the morning if I wanted to shoot something quick; otherwise, it would have to wait until she got back from a trip out of town 10 days later.

I leapt at that and said: bet! So we set up a quick street shoot outside her building the following morning. Basically, in less than 12 hours from the time we texted until the time we saw each other face to face. Hey, that can be a lifetime in this city!

Anyway, I'm happy to say the shoot went very well. Far better than even my best expectations. It was a quick affair, and we made a quick decision on what she should wear. Something casual for sure since it was stifling hot and humid this July morning in New York City. At first she wanted to wear a summery dress, but then thought she'd rather wear something she would normally wear and feel more comfortable in. I dubbed it her "Boho chic" look!

And so, for an hour that morning while the light was still soft and dappled, I shot her on the front steps to her apartment building. These were just a few of the photos I made:

As I said, this ended up being a really great shoot for me. And best of all, my client loved her photos! She squealed with delight and high-fived and hugged me upon seeing them on the viewscreen. It was a great feeling.

And I was very happy for taking the chance, completely out of my comfort zone, and simply DOING IT rather than pre-planning and second guessing and talking myself out of it. Coming as it did while I'm in the midst of this current existential funk, I have to say it gave me a lot of food for thought concerning the direction to take my life next.

Maybe I really should just go out there and take the plunge. Make a change, and to hell with the possible risks. Maybe life is all about risks, no? Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?

Hmmmm .... I wonder about that, though.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Panama Trip - Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime. A trip to Panama's steamy tropical province, Bocas del Toro.

Now, before 2017 I had never heard of Bocas -- as it's so lovingly referred to by travelers to this jungle paradise -- but I was searching for someplace exotic to take myself that year, and frankly I had plenty of options. A cultural exploration of the mountainous region of Romania's back country? I really wanted to do that. Or how about a photography tour of Western Ireland? Oh man, oh man!

But then I came across this guy's account in Condé Nast Traveler of his 2012 solo trip to Bocas del Toro in Panama, and suddenly I knew that this was the place I just had to go to. It spoke to me on so many levels!

This is my account of that 7-day adventure.

DAY 1: Here There Be Balboas!

I was so excited the night before I was to fly out to Panama. I checked and double checked everything, went through my suitcase to make sure everything was still there, and most importantly I made sure that my camera equipment was safely stored within my carry-on bag. This was going to be a big trip for me, and a perfect opportunity for which to practice my newfound hobby.

So with that in mind, fair warning: From here on out -- all pic are mine!

The flight from New York City to Panama City (there are no direct bookings to the capital of Bocas) is straight forward and painless -- that is, if you book with the country's premier carrier for International flights, Copa Airlines. It's a 5 hour direct flight between the two cities, and I had made arrangements to spend a day and a night in the country's capital before boarding a local flight to the province of Bocas del Toro, my ultimate destination.

Luckily the country has a 1:1 monetary exchange with the United States, what with its deep historic and economic ties to the U.S.A. and all. So this means the US Dollar and the Panamanian Balboa hold identical value there, and in fact the USD is accepted as legal tender throughout the country. So, there was no need for me stop by the Currency Exchange bureau on my way to the taxi stand outside of the airport. I simply grabbed my bags and hailed the first cab that pulled up to the curb.

And I was off to my first destination just like that! Which, in this case, happened to be the historic "Old Town" of Panama City known as Casco Viejo -- aka, Casco Antiguo. You'll find both names used for the district, although the latter seems to be used more by locals. All the cabbies know how to get there, however, as it's practically tourist central.

My cabbie spoke almost no English, and I speak only a little Spanish. But between the two of us we managed to cobble together a weird Spanglish shorthand for conversation during the 45 mins ride. He enjoyed very much that I was wearing my NY Yankees baseball cap, since after all baseball is the No. 1 national sport here, and the legendary Yankees closer, Mariano Rivera, is their native hero. No, seriously, this country is quite obsessed with their local boy turned sports legend. Mariano could probably run for president there and win handily.

Anyway, the drive through Panama City that early afternoon was quite a sight. The poor areas are extremely poor and rundown. It pretty much looks like the back towns of Mexico. But the more well-to-do districts where most of the corporations have their offices and the big chain hotels cater exclusively to tourists -- you would not be out of place thinking that you were driving through downtown Miami!

Tourists using downtown Panama City as their selfie backdrop.

This city definitely has a southern FL vibe going on if you stick mainly to the affluent areas. So, yes, the differential between rich and poor in this town is HUGE to say the least. It's quite disconcerting to the outside visitor, this stark contrast.

Panama Trip - Day 2: Honor Among Thieves. Sorta (But No, Not Really)

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime to Central America. Specifically, I visited Panama's steamy rainforest province of Bocas del Toro, a place I had never heard of before, but of which I had read many encouraging accounts.

But first, if you wish to read up on what has transpired before, click on the link below:

Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!

And now for the continuation . . .

DAY 2: Honor Among Thieves. Sorta (But No, Not Really).

After taking another leisurely stroll around the Old Town in Panama City where I was staying, it was time to pack up my things from the day before and commence the second leg of my trip; to fly west northwest into the tropical jungles of Bocas del Toro!

Flea market abutting the sea wall in Casco Viejo.

I bid farewell to the hotel staff and Ubered my way over to the local airport for domestic flights (Albrook) -- which is separate from the international airport (Tocumen), and located almost on the opposite side of the city. For some reason, my cabbie didn't even know where this airport was, and so it took a little longer (and a few frantic exchanges in broken Spanglish) than it should have to reach the place.

But once there, I was greeted with one of the smallest airports I've ever been to. Not as puny as the landing strip on North Eleuthera island in the Bahamas when I stayed there a few years back -- but still pretty tiny. And laid back! There was hardly any security, and people were just walking in and out of the terminal from the street with no luggage or anything. There wasn't even a terminal, to be honest. Just a waiting room and an announcement over the PA system alerting you (in Spanish) when a plane was arriving on the tarmac. Basically, it felt more like a train station than an airport.

When the plane that would take me to Bocas did arrive, though, I noticed a ton of American and European tourists were suddenly joining me. It seemed like they came out of nowhere! This reveal actually helped to put me at ease, because in that moment I knew for sure that I was on the right flight. I don't think white people travel from Panama City to anywhere else in the country *except* to Bocas del Toro. I may be wrong, but probably not.

As you would expect, the plane was one of those small commuter type deals and we were all crammed tight in there. Luckily, the flight from Panama City to Bocas Town is just under one hour long, so it was hardly that big of an ordeal. And anyway, I just couldn't wait to get there!

Unfortunately, I had no idea of what would be in store for me once I reached this tropical province. A near catastrophe totally of my own making, but which almost ended up ruining my trip before it really even got started!

I'll get to that soon enough.

Panama Trip - Day 3: Making the Best of Things

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime to Central America. Specifically, I visited Panama's steamy rainforest province of Bocas del Toro, a place I had never heard of before, but of which I had read many encouraging accounts.

But first, if you wish to read up on what has transpired before, click on the links below:

Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!
Day 2: Honor Among Thieves. Sorta (But No, Not Really).

And now for the continuation . . .

DAY 3: Making the Best of Things.

Despite the rather crummy circumstances of losing my bag the previous afternoon, I woke up to a much better mood on the day I was set to depart Isla Colón and head across the bay to Isla Bastimentos. But since I wasn't getting picked up until late afternoon, I decided while the morning was still young to do as much as I could on this, the much more populous, island in the Bocas del Toro archipelago.

I had heard about a beach way out toward the northernmost point of the island called Boca del Drago. And in particular, a very nice stretch called "Starfish Beach," a 15 minute walk away from Drago. I planned to find my way there and just hike the shore with my camera in tow.

I ran into the owner of the hotel who inquired into how I was feeling. I mentioned that, despite being out $800 hard cash, I was strangely much more relieved that I had been returned my expensive electronics (chiefly my new iPad, which was thankfully fingerprint locked) and travel documents. And, to be sure, I was also happy that not all of the cash had been discovered. At least they hadn't taken the $400 as well!

I mean, hey, that's just the kind of person I am. Always looking for the brighter side of things. The important thing was that I had recovered the bag, and that everything *except* for some cash had been returned. The owner agreed and mentioned that it was "just money," -- a casual flippancy I couldn't exactly duplicate, I must confess -- and recommended that I have some breakfast at her restaurant while the receptionist (a different lady from the day before, but equally nice) tracked down their favorite personal driver to take me to the other side of the island. It was a 30 min drive there, and the public bus in town could take me for $5 if I so desired -- but a private cab would be far more comfortable and leisurely, and I could also take better photos along the way. It was only going to cost me $25, so I said: hell, why not? Don't have to sell me twice!

So after a perfectly normal American-style breakfast and coffee, the driver Rolando showed up and we were off to the beach!

Panama Trip - Day 4: .... We Have Fun and Games

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime to Central America. Specifically, I visited Panama's steamy rainforest province of Bocas del Toro, a place I had never heard of before, but of which I had read many encouraging accounts.

But first, if you wish to read up on what has transpired before, click on the links below:

Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!
Day 2: Honor Among Thieves. Sorta (But No, Not Really).
Day 3: Making the Best of Things.

And now for the continuation.

DAY 4: ....We Have Fun and Games.

I'm awaken by the sound of something large growling in the dense jungle beyond my open-air cabin. It's one of the howler monkeys whom I've yet to see, but who I can hear perfectly fine moving through the dark trees surrounding me. I imagine there's a family of them in there, watching me, plotting. During the early pre-dawn hours I think one of them jumped on my roof, scurried across it, then jumped back into the trees on the other side. Probably the same one who just woke me from a fitfully earned sleep; or maybe his sister or an uncle. Great fun .... for them.

Me? Maybe not so much. Truth be told, my first night at La Loma Jungle Lodge and Chocolate Farm was a frightful one for a kid from the inner city. I, of course, am accustomed to sleeping through such fracases as late night fights and shouting matches in my neighborhood of the South Bronx where I live: the rummaging of garbage cans below my windows, the odd gunshot ringing out from the rooftop across the street at 3am, or through a cacophony of honking horns and sirens flying by the nearby intersection just before midnight. I sleep through all that like a boss!

So what could possibly have kept me awake for most of the night in a nice little hideaway jungle oasis deep inside Panama's tropical rainforest province?

Bugs. Lots and lots of BUGS!

Thankfully, much in part due to the reams of thick mosquito netting cocooning my bed, no bugs actually crawling on me. No. But, rather, what felt like every insect under creation was out there flitting by in the night, bumping into my nets and trying to get at the sweaty, hot, stinky human full of delicious hemoglobin who they could sense lying there just beyond their tiny grubby grasps. A whole heap of 'em rubbing legs and wingtips together, chirping, clacking, or otherwise producing an alien-like chorus of sounds that took a long time to get accustomed to for someone who, yes, may have hailed from a jungle of the urban variety -- but not the jungle; ancient, primordial, green and alive. I mean, the night air was thick with these suckers inhabiting this very real jungle around me. And boy, they were LOUD!!!

Partial daytime view of my bed with much welcomed netting!

Added to this was the reality that nighttime temps in Bocas del Toro in June seem to bottom out at a not-so-bottom 88-degrees F. And the humidity is easily north of 90%!!! So when they say "you're in the thick of it" here in Bocas, they really mean it.

Then there's this other fun tidbit of wholesome knowledge: Because the lodge I was staying at prides itself on being off the grid (mostly) and eco-friendly, there are no ACs in this place. Which is perfectly fine and understandable, as the cabins only have one wall and are otherwise largely open to the elements, but what this means is that the only thing you have to combat the oppressive jungle heat with is a high speed fan above your bed. And perhaps a silent prayer to the rain gods to send a fast moving low-pressure system in to scrub the atmosphere away -- albeit temporarily. It always returns, though, the humidity. And your choice is to either: 1) Accept it; or 2) Take a cold shower .... and accept it.

I ended up doing the latter quite frequently during my stay.

Panama Trip - Day 5: Making Friends and Fighting Dragons

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime to Central America. Specifically, I visited Panama's steamy rainforest province of Bocas del Toro, a place I had never heard of before, but of which I had read many encouraging accounts.

But first, if you wish to read up on what has transpired before, click on the links below:

Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!
Day 2: Honor Among Thieves. Sorta (But No, Not Really).
Day 3: Making the Best of Things.
Day 4: We Have Fun and Games.

And now for the continuation ...

DAY 5: Making Friends and Fighting Dragons.

I awoke on this morning to more muffins and coffee delivered to me by some unknown porter of miracles just as the sun was beginning to rise. It had rained for most of the night in drenching, heavy sheets of water sluicing off the roof of my cabin and curtaining down the sides. At times I was awaken by such tremendous lighting and thunder that I thought the entire hillside was shaking. And then I fell soundly back to sleep when the rest of the storm went on its way to parts unknown. Apparently my body had become quite accustomed to the peculiarities of the rainforest, as unlike the night before I was barely fazed by it all. And once the storm left, it ushered in a refreshing, almost mountainous, cool breeze onto the farm that dispelled all that wretched heat and humidity. At least for a few hours.

As I carefully descended from the hilltop on this fine morning, I stopped a few times at strategically placed landings along the way to admire the actual crops being grown on the downward slopes.

Plantains, potatoes, tomatoes ... and a few other "'oes" (such as mangoes -- yum!!!) I spied as I gently arrived on flat ground near the main lodge of La Loma Jungle Lodge and Chocolate Farm. I had yet to see the actual cacao crops, but was assured by one of the friendly farmhands that it was being grown at a lower elevation in another section just behind the big house. What a wonderful place of untold splendors to explore!

I had a delicioso breakfast with my fellow travelers at the large communal table in the main lodge, and we all seemed eager for more adventures of the day. After so much fun snorkeling and beach combing the day before, the consensus ruled this day to ... do more beach combing! Hey, why not? I mean, when in Rome right? One of the older couples staying at the lodge that week opted out of having more fun in the sun, however. They had taken quite a beating on the previous trip, and really just wanted to laze about on the farm doing -- well, you know: not much of anything at all. Hey, I can appreciate that! And I would have joined them in fact, had I been on this vacation with someone else along. As it was just me, I didn't see much value in staying cooped up alone in my cabin on a sunny day.

And so, off to the yet another fantastic beach we sailed!

Panama Trip - Day 6: To the Bat Cave!

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime to Central America. Specifically, I visited Panama's steamy rainforest province of Bocas del Toro, a place I had never heard of before, but of which I had read many encouraging accounts.

But first, if you wish to read up on what has transpired before, click on the links below:

Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!
Day 2: Honor Among Thieves. Sorta (But No, Not Really).
Day 3: Making the Best of Things.
Day 4: We Have Fun and Games.
Day 5: Making Friends and Fighting Dragons.

And now for the continuation ...

DAY 6: To the Bat Cave!

By now I had mastered all there was to master about jungle living.

Okay, let me cut the crap. I wasn't truly "roughing it" out here. Not really. Aside from the atrocious heat and humidity (high 90s for both) that made all my clothing remain forever damp no matter how long I left them out to "dry" ... the most disturbing thing I had to deal with were the monkeys in the trees watching me and occasionally jumping onto my cabin and, well, monkeying around. Hey, at least now I truly understood where that expression came from in the deepest, most profound way.

All that aside, I actually did have a great daily game plan going by now. Wake up around 6:15 in the morning; retrieve the enclosed tray of muffins and coffee left on the stoop outside my door; read a book on the making of the film The Princess Bride (one of my favorites!) as I ate this small *snack*; take a much needed and refreshing cold shower in the outdoor stall attached to my room; pack up my day bag for whatever adventure awaited me; apply SPF 50 sunscreen (I wasn't all that far from the equator, after all); lather on the max strength bug juice; and then finally, around 8am, make way down the many flights of steps to the main cabin for breakfast with the other guests. It was a nice routine.

Where everyone gathers to eat and hang out -- sometimes literally!

And this day was going to have something special in store for those of us willing to take on the challenge. We were going to boat and hike our way deep into the Panamanian rainforest to reach the Nivida bat cave for some underground climbing and exploration. Ho-lee shit!

So those of us going -- which was just myself and a nice family from Prescott -- piled into the boat, and off we went again. We left La Loma behind for the day, but provisioned with the same packed lunch of gourmet goodness as per usual. I was getting too used to this kind of pampering!

Panama Trip - Day 7: It's Closing Time

In late May, 2017 I embarked on a trip of a lifetime to Central America. Specifically, I visited Panama's steamy rainforest province of Bocas del Toro, a place I had never heard of before, but of which I had read many encouraging accounts.

But first, if you wish to read up on what has transpired before, click on the links below:

Day 1: Here There Be Balboas!
Day 2: Honor Among Thieves. Sorta (But No, Not Really).
Day 3: Making the Best of Things.
Day 4: We Have Fun and Games.
Day 5: Making Friends and Fighting Dragons.
Day 6: To the Bat Cave!

And now for the continuation ...

DAY 7: It's Closing Time.

I had been in Bocas del Toro for almost a week now, and yet not one of these days had been a washout.

Until today, the day I had to leave.

The morning actually started out pretty and sunny. Because it was our last day at the lodge, and because we would have to leave in the early afternoon, our hosts suggested that we all participate in a tour of the actual farm we were staying on. In particular, to finding out more about the chocolate making process.

Hey, you don't have to twist my arm where chocolate is involved!

Dragonfly watching us with about a hundred eyes!

Of course, somewhere in the middle of the tour when we were deep afield where the cacao was being grown, dark clouds rolled in and the skies opened up. A trickle at first, and then the veritable deluge. A non-stop, hard pounding rain that would let up only later in the day when we reached the airport back in Bocas Town.

So those of us on the tour agreed to continue on with it. We were already packed, after all; our bags wrapped in protective plastic and lined up at the dock waiting to go. And we all had our ponchos with us, too, just for the inevitability of rain that had been forecast for the day. So, once again I found myself repeating the mantra: When in Rome, eh? Except in this case Rome was a rainforest, and tropical downpours came with the territory.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Happy July!


So here we are, in the thick of summer. My least favorite season. And as a new month begins, as if to really hammer the point home, we've had one of the hottest days here in New York that we've had in quite some time. It reached 100 degrees today. Arrghhh!! I'm so mad. That is just not civilized weather for this part of the world. And this was actually the 3rd day of 90-degree+ temps here, with two more still to go. It's official: we're in a heat wave!


Still, I'm trying not to let it get me too down. Luckily our Independence Day is this Wednesday, so that's nice. The holiday will help break up the week, plus I'm taking an additional two days off after to give myself a really long weekend. That helps improve my mood greatly. Although, it will still be ass-crack hot in this city during those days, but at least I can go to a movie or something. Someplace indoors with copious amounts of AC.

Anyway, how are you all doing? Pleas let me know. I hope you're off enjoying holidays of your own, wherever you are.

My mood's pretty good, despite the fact that my girlfriend is overseas this month and I couldn't take the time off from work to join her. That truly sucks, but at least there's Face Time!!

Before she left, we celebrated her birthday by going on a dinner date to a great Korean BBQ joint downtown. The food was FABULOUS!!! I mean, damn, we really enjoyed it. It's the type of place where you have a grill recessed into your table, and the waiter brings out tray after tray of marinated meats to grill. You also get around a dozen small plates (known as "banchan") that are like little appetizers of different vegetables, often pickled, to help satiate oneself while you wait for the meat to cook. Yummy! After dinner, I took the birthday girl to a beautifully lush and secretive speakeasy in midtown where we were serenaded by a playful lounge singer while we sipped on inventive and quite strong cocktails and talked into the night. It was magical!

But now I'm all alone in the big bad city for the next 4 weeks. I'm going to try to use this month to do more writing on my spare time. And, sure, I'll get in a little photography here and there. I'm debating whether I should splurge to upgrade to a new camera. It's going to cost me over $800, and I'm just procrastinating over pulling the trigger on such an expensive purchase. I mean, I already have a camera, right? I've been using it pretty heavily for the past 3 years, but alas I just feel I've maxed out its limitations. It's really meant for an amateur, and I feel that my skills have taken me beyond that level by now. I guess I have a few weeks with which to make a decision. Dilemma, dilemma.

Speaking of which, I took this photo of myself in my apartment just to test out a few new editing techniques. Pardon the flexing, I'm not great at posing myself and I didn't really know what to do with my hands. Also, I had just finished watching the new season of Luke Cage on Netflix, so was feeling a little "extra" with myself, LOL!

Stay tuned this week as I'm working on a long travel piece about my trip to the rainforest of Panama. It will basically be a day-by-day account of all the fun I had and adventures I went on while vacationing alone in the province of Bocas del Toro. There will be plenty of pics!

So anyway, that's going to be coming here to this space soon. But in the meantime -- I hope you're all having a great summer so far!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

I Don't Remember Who I Bribed, But -- I'm In Print!!!

Yes so, as I alluded to in my last post, it's now official: My short story "The Collector" is appearing in the most recent issue of the speculative fiction magazine, Space and Time (Spring '18 issue #131).

This is indeed a big milestone. I've had a tough road these past 5 to 7 years ... lots of personal problems to deal with, mostly of the failed marriage variety and trying to piece together my life in the aftermath. I've mostly kept quiet about this aspect of my personal emotional makeup, especially on other social media platforms outside of Blogger, and with good reason. Yet perhaps the most regrettable fallout from all that was my lack of writing output during this time. I've tried to write, and in fact did pen several short stories from start to finish (with "The Collector" being one such result), but to be honest it's been like pulling teeth. I used to look forward to writing each night after returning from work, or on the weekends when I could truly devote most of my day to it. I was content, and gratified by the noticeable progress I was making. I had even sold a few stories to several token and online markets back when I was married. Nothing big, but I was still proud of that progress all the same. And when it all came crashing down around me, and my lost of self confidence -- and all that doubt -- would gnaw and eat away at me?

Yeah, I hate to say that I succumbed and just could not go on writing. And yet, that yearning to be creative and express myself was still there. Hence, why for a time all I wanted to do was get lost in my photography. Making pictures allowed me to get out into the world and walk around, clear my head, and see things around me instead of within me. More importantly, it allowed me to still create.

Does that make sense?

And in all that time in which my photography started to improve greatly, and I was getting more opportunities to shoot, I was still shopping around what stories I had already written. I've received numerous rejections, let me tell you. So many that I could say I've lost count. I haven't, because I actually keep a spreadsheet of all my submissions and when, where, and how they were rejected. But the point is: I still held on to that writing bug in whatever way that I could. And now something good has happened that I cannot let go to waste. After so many years, I've done it. I finally sold another piece. Why is this so important? Well besides the fact that it marks the first time my work will appear in a physical, solid printed medium that you can honest to god hold in your hands ... it reminds me that I haven't lost the ability to write something meaningful. Meaningful to anyone else? I'm not being that pretentious, no. But meaningful to myself? Yes. "The Collector" is a story I'm extremely proud of. I don't think that it represents the best of my talents, but it does illustrate to myself first and foremost that I can indeed write for what speaks to me. I can pull myself out of that doubt and self-pitying misery and write just for the fun of being creative, of expressing a poetry of the soul that hearkens back to the man I've always been. Before, back when I was married; and after, when I was divorced and had to find my own place to live. I'm still both people -- the same person. I shouldn't let external shortcomings affect that joy to be found in doing something fun and special and creative. I shouldn't forget to just write, dammit!

And that's what I intend to do. If I never sell another piece again, that's not really the point. If no one visits this blog anymore or comments on anything I put up here. That's not the point. The point is that I need to simply be me, that I need to shut up and. just. write.

And in the meantime to enjoy, however briefly, this one big moment that I will never forget. It's a small thing to most, but it's a milestone all the same. And I'm happy about it!

For those who have been asking me about where to purchase this issue of Space and Time, Issue 131 should be hitting magazine racks this week. I don't know for sure, but that's what I suspect. I've already received my contributor's copies, but I plan to visit a few Barnes & Nobles in the city over the next several days to see if I can spot any "in the wild." Having purchased the magazine from there before, I know from experience that the publication is often in the "Literary" category of B&N's magazine section. Most often it's grouped with other like-minded mags such as: Asimov's, Analog, and Fantasy & Science Fiction, but also other speculative rags like: Mystery and Romance. If you see these titles, then Space and Time will be somewhere among them. Right now, last winter's issue is still in good supply, so if you happen to see both that and the Spring issue on offer, do yourself a favor and pick 'em both up!

Alternately, you can simply go to the website's subscription page, scroll midway down, and order the current issue to be shipped to you in the mail. That's an option, too!

Friday, June 8, 2018

You're Not Seeing Things

Yes, it's me. That's right . . . I'm back! And I'm still alive as you can see. It's been a very long time since I've posted -- since August 2016, in fact. Almost two years ago! Blame it on whatever you want: life's obstacles, ennui, creative black holes . . . the death of blogging. I don't rightfully know. I guess blogging just didn't hold much appeal to me for a while there.

And you know what? I can't honestly say that the draw is back, or that blogging is really worth my time right now. However, I do want to try at least. Maybe I can get back to my old ways of simply putting out there whatever's going on in my brain at any given moment? I know, right -- ACK!!! But I promise, I'll try to tone it down a bit. Heh, heh, the operative word here is: try. So, yeah, I'll not be back to the old output of 6 or 7 posts per week anytime soon; more like only 1 or 2. If that. We'll see.

But in the meantime, how have things been going for you all? Please reconnect with me in the comments below, if you're so inclined. Health-wise, I'm doing great at least. I've never felt better. Despite getting older (I'll be 42 at the end of the summer. HOLY CRAP!), I definitely feel young in spirit and body. That's always a good thing. And on the career front, I've actually been promoted to manager and am a heck of a lot busier at the office than I used to be. I was also able to get in quite a bit of travel over this time period, with some very exciting international trips to both Panama and Morocco last year. What a time I had visiting both exotic locales! And I'll get to them, separately, in other posts still to come in the near future. Don't worry. On the personal side of things, the divorce from several years back still hangs over my past like a dark cloud . . . but I've mostly moved on now. I'm seeing someone very special, and she and her children constantly make me happy and feeling loved. It's really remarkable how much has changed over these past 5 years since my life hit rock bottom. Thanks, mostly, to my family and my closest friends. And maybe even, yes, to VIEWERS LIKE YOU!!!

Ha ha, sorry 'bout that. I couldn't resist.

As for my creative endeavors, well I've admittedly been very lax on this part of my life on account of the daily 9-to-5 and a few interpersonal issues I won't go into at the moment. Perhaps at a later date. I've tried off and on to get back into writing, but so far I never seem to be able to gather up enough steam to make it through a project anymore. It's something I'm actively working on, however, and in fact part of the reason I wanted to return to blogging was to get back into the groove of things. Flex the old writing muscles, so to speak.

Although, I do have one other bit of good news on that front:

Why Spontaneity Pays Off (Sometimes)

I'm a creature of habit. Everyone who knows me knows this. Or, rather, I should say that I'm a creature of planning . I plan everyth...