The Lightning Bolt (people).

August 23rd, 2012

Holy Hell, what a year this has turned out to be.  Somehow it’s here, and in my last minute packing its become painfully clear how little time I have had for photography in the wake of starting up a huge new project and finding a place for the endless sorrow of lost friends.  Heavy year.  On my knees in my friends garage, covered in Playa Dust, half excited, half dreading, looking for this little pin that goes in my camp stove, I realized all the stuff I didnt post up here from last years burn, all the reasons why I didnt and got out Occam’s Razor to figure out what was going to get published in the very little time I have left before the drive North.

In the eight years that I have been going to Black Rock City, I pretty much come back with the same group of pictures every year.  Impressive art, camp tom foolery and assorted ballyhoo, center camp oddities,  people jumping out of airplanes and then, always, the Lightning Bolt People.

I had dragged this 1970′s Summicron up there and while I was not so much in portrait mode of thinking, I was determined to take some pictures of people.  I tragically cant remember either of these peeps names, where I was coming from, where I went after, but when the French girl stopped to ask me if I had a lighter, camera was to my face and for the next six minutes, it was on.

I thought about this moment I photographed all year.  I spent a long time this year thinking about Love.  Not so much trying to figure it out, but simply identifying what it is.  How can you love something so much.  How can other humans not in any way relate to the depth at which other humans can love: other people, vocations, places, experiences, the way things smell, the space between heartbeats: any of the things that define our experience in life.

As silly and cliche as it sounds, the one thing above all that I have learned at BRC is one big lesson in Love.  Not how to love, not who to love, but identifying it.  Perhaps this year I’ll learn how to explain it.  In a lot of ways I kinda feel like perhaps it’s isolated me even further into my uncompromising black and white world but so be it.

And then these two walked by, and instantly, Im in.

She was from Paris.  I think it might have been her first burn.  He was from Northern California.  Two people with seemingly nothing in common, except for sharing the static charge from the lightning bolt that had struck the ground between them.  If you ever get caught in a lightning storm above the tree line or in a huge open field, its important to crouch with your heels together so if the charge goes in one foot, it will exit to ground through the other foot without going through your heart and stopping it.  Every once in a while you come across two people who dont know that little survival tidbit and they’ve just got this exploding energy.

When you go to burning man, its easy to find these people every day, reveling in it.  These are always the folks Im inspired to chat with and photograph when Im walking around.  I was never really conscious of this until I saw these photos a few months ago and was just waiting to find the right commentary to go with them.

I think Im always looking for that in any of life’s given circumstances: the lightning bolt.  Its probably why I have the social life I do, not everyone enjoys a lightning storm, but you know, the people that do, they kinda live for it.  Maybe its why Im so at home with the people I meet at BRC, we are all one way or another functioning on that quest and its not some elusive thing out there, its the force holding that whole place together, can lift the x-wing out of the swamp with it, spew thousand meter fireballs out the top of oil dereks, build trojan horses, many story staircase to nowhere, create DEEP friendships with people you’d never think possible, take the pre-existing relationships you bring out there and rocket them to the discovery of what truly is on the dark side of the moon, present the understanding of the true magic in life.  Its there, ya just gotta see it.

Im not living in a world where many people can recognize that.  Marvel at it.  Like, truly marvel at the force of life.  And Im fucking tired of it.

I never realized how alive I was until one of my most cherished friends died.  I also never imagined that the lessons I would learn in his death would be such a completely life changing, absolutely resetting event.  I triple never thought that reset would be positive.  But fuck, the clarity to move forward has never been so present and the root of that clarity is this completely lucid understanding of Love.

Certainly dont know how explain it or even think thats particularly relevant, but can simply show you what it looks like, and these guys have it going on.  I wonder if they just met and walked around for two hours and just had that moment, which I was lucky to be part of.  Or if they spent the day together.  Or the week together.  I wonder if they realized.

There is real magic in this world.  Purely real magic.  Ya just gotta get yourself open enough to see it.  What a challenge that is.  The reward however, is pretty amazing.  The true source of a smile.  The fabric of who we are.

The source of the experience.

As illustrated vibrantly, by the Lightning Bolt People.

Jumping out of planes at night.

August 6th, 2012

People sometimes ask why I go to Burning Man.  Usually its an amusing task to try to sum up the possibility of things that exist out there in the high desert and for the most part, its simple enough to dismiss most folks with a simple, “ya just gotta see for yourself”.  But then there’s the people that do go.  And while there is such stimulus overload to be had there, no matter how hard ya try, there are still some things that are bound to be taken for granted.  Perhaps its not taking life for granted that pulls me back year after year.

Of all the wonderment to not take for granted while out there, Civilians jumping out of a fucking airplane at night is one of them.

But before we get to that, this is Ken (with the hat).

There are lots of people who bring the most amazing shit to Black Rock City.  And by amazing shit I mean The Truly Amazing.  And maybe its more than lots, perhaps its in the order of loads of people, on a good year, tons.  But then there are the one percent.  The gifted.  The determined.  The possessors of vision, ingenuity, and the distinct skill set to make things happen.  And this fellow, if there ever was one, is a one percenter.

Ken is the guy that runs Burning Sky.  If you’ve ever gone to Black Rock City and have seen people hanging in the air under open parachutes, chances are extremely high that its because of Ken.  Burning Sky has been on the playa since before Ive been going, maybe ten years.  One of my first memories of my first year in the dust is sitting next to the stranger I was getting to know over dinner, who was kinda showing me the ropes, and seeing some dudes parachute down near center camp.

what the fuck, people parachute here?

Instantly I was mistified.

Burning Sky arranges a pilot, few hundred gallons of Jet-A, a plane (and a PAC 750 on top of it) and provides as many loads as the weather and fuel allocation will allow up over Black Rock City.

Before you ask, you’ve gotta be a very experienced skydiver to jump at Burning Man.  Why?  It’s a great open desert, what could go wrong…

There are drop zones all over the country.  And all of them are free of people, moving vehicles, objects of varying height protruding into the sky and of course then there is the weather which can change on a dime faster than any place Ive been in my life.  Making a safe landing involves dodging a variety of things to avoid injury to the skydiver and the people and art on the ground.

So yeah, Dangerous.  And that’s with the sun shining.

And while that seems like it would be more hardcore than most people could handle, one night, every year, there is a load of folks at Burning Sky that cork screw up the eighteen minutes to 12,000 feet and jump out of that plane into the inky black sky over Black Rock City.

 

I showed up at Burning Sky Friday evening just in time for the safety meeting, the night load was full and everyone was at complete attention.

What makes the night jumps really special is the fact that each of the skydivers wears a rig which trails a magnesium flare.  The flare flies maybe 25 feet behind the skydiver and sprays a long tail of sparks streaking through the night.

It would be awesome enough to just jump out of a plane at night, anywhere, let alone over neon wonderland.  But these guys step it up a notch and provide a synchronized pyro show from the air for anyone lucky enough to be looking up once it gets dark enough.

After the safety instruction on the proper mounting for the electronic ignition system that would set off the pyro units mounted on the skydivers  was concluded and the preparations for the drop zone outlined, Ken biked out to the airport to set up lights on the runway.

Via those lights, its possible to take off, but the pilot would have to fly to Reno for the night (probably his favorite night at BRC…) as its too dangerous to land there without a properly marked runway.

The plan was to line up a bunch of art cars a bit out from the man to create the drop zone with their headlights.

You get used to seeing lots of things at Burning Man,  fireworks are definitely one of them.  In this case, however, the fireworks were set off for the sake of the night divers to mark the drop zone once their altitude was low enough to see.

Standing out there in the shadow of the glow of the man and the headlights of a makeshift drop zone, ya just have one of those “what the fuck, how did this get done?” moments that are often common in Black Rock City and tragically devoid of my daily experience the rest of the year that I spend in the USA.  How did this get done.  Slowly that turns to simply, this got done.  And Im standing here.  Part of it, one way or another.

It’s why so many of us go to Burning Man, to be part of this thing that is just entirely bigger than all of us.  But it starts small, with focused effort from a truly elite bunch of people.  Burning Sky is one of those institutions at Black Rock City that not only makes BRC a better place, but ultimately makes it what it *is*.

If you are out on the playa this summer and you see some skydivers, take a second to appreciate the hard work and determination poured into the skydiving camp allowing for a safety first experience from the air over Black Rock City.  Burning Sky is located on 5 O’clock around G, if you happen to be walking by, stop in and say hello to this amazing bunch of people.  Ya need at least 100 jumps logged to skydive over BRC with Burning Sky.

There is a Man.  Fucker’s gonna burn in Twenty Six days.

 

 

Tuesday Nights.

July 9th, 2012

During the course of the roller coaster that was the last couple weeks, lots of things came to mind.  Nothing that I didnt necessarily already know but certainly one or two things that I was getting lazy about not appreciating or at the very least, on the slow track to taking for granted.

Ive met alot of people over the years.  Not really saying anything new there, we all have.  Some interesting, some useful, some entertaining, some unlovable, some inspiring, some worthless, if there is a judgement about the human condition, at this point in my life, I can probably attach it to someone Ive met, somewhere along the way.

Some of the people Ive met are just purely amazing and among those, there’s this small group of people that are always just there.  I dont feel like I work hard to keep them, I dont feel like they work hard to keep me.  These are usually the lowest maintenance people, years can go by without a peep and you can pick up right where you left off.  These are just the people that you are lucky enough to love, lucky enough to be loved by.  These are the people that you want to tell everyone about, but only usually just tell the other amazing people because nobody else would really understand.

These are the folks that memorable Tuesday nights are made of, the first people that come to mind when the loneliness creeps in, memories of whom always bring the biggest smile and of course the faces of which are always to be found in your most fondly remembered moments.  Life changers, lucky to knows, sources of the reliable warmth, call them what you will, but take a moment to appreciate the subtle good times because for whatever reason, after driving 1600 miles in a couple days looking for answers, its these Tuesday Night moments with so many different people that seem to come to mind first.

“Daayfe Rafelll” were the first two words that came out of my phone as I sat drinking some coffee looking out my window across the canal at the kids throwing bread and/or rocks at the swans that swim around Prinseneiland.  Not redundant as I still cant get into the fashion of answering, “Hallo met Dave”.

There’s only one person who can say my name like that and usually when Tos calls, its always with a good reason.

This was no exception to that rule.

Do you have some plans tonight?  Some friends from Norway are playing at de Bimhuis, maybe swing by for dinner and we’ll take a ride over?

Bimhuis? Fuck yes.  Dinner, double Fuck yes.  See you this evening.

The worst part about being a jaded production guy, is well, being a jaded production guy.  Which makes the best thing about Bimhuis absolutely the BEST fucking thing: I totally get excited to see *anything* at that place.  Fuck.  First off, acoustically, the room is insane, whomever did the acoustic engineering in that room tuned the fuck out of it, Ive never been anywhere that sounds quite like that room.  Second, design wise, the building it is in is one of my favorite places in the world, let alone Amsterdam, to hang out.  The stage sits against a glass wall and often, when bands elect to perform with the curtain pushed back, youve got a floor to ceiling view of Amsterdam lit up outside the window, with the tram and the trains passing by right below.  Its something else.  The bar in the Bimhuis space also has Grolsch on tap, which if you are a fan of Dutch Pils, surprisingly, is not so incredibly common to find in Amsterdam (perhaps because its so common, Vakmanschap is Meesterschap) so that’s a nice treat on top.  All this together adds up to an afternoon spent totally excited about the evening’s sudden plans.

I walked in to find Eef taking a break from a deadline working on a new Obsessed record cover design and Tos knee deep in it in the kitchen.

One thing I will never tire of watching is Tos cooking.  Ive never met someone who can bring such a cavalier approach to the mastery of craftsmanship (heh) quite the way Tos can.  Sure, lots of people have a mad passion and pride for cooking but the routine in Tos and Eef’s kitchen is effortless, without cause and full of passive joy.

In the decade of dinners to come out of this kitchen, one has not been better than another and none have been anything short of incredible.  Its a feat, for sure.

There was a new hifi set up for dinner that night, the details are blurry, but trying to split my attention on decoding the conversation from my limited (like, l i m i t e d ) dutch vocabulary and putting my ear to the stereo to give a listen worthy of evaluation was a challenge.  Keeping the Norwegian theme for the evening, this was the first time I heard Elephant9 “walk the nile”.  That was definitely the way to start the evening for certain.  The new amp Tos was burning in also lived up to expectation, to say the least…

Philips freaks unite.

 

For those not familiar with Bimhuis, it is Amsterdam’s home to Experimental music and Jazz.  The variety of performances I have seen here is pretty staggering, especially for a venue that has members.  Puma’s performance this night was unsuspecting and overwhelming all at once.  The Norwegian three piece took noise and independent movement to a next level, all on top of a bed of loops that would suggest four other people on stage playing with them.

 

The greatest part however, was the presentation.  They played with the curtains open and with the lighting trusses down on the stage, where you’d set them just to hang the lights.  They played mostly in the dark, allowing the city lights to shine through, with periods of varying intensity of strobe as they built the fury.

It had been many years since I sat through 15 minutes straight of strobes against the thunder of a band, probably since Spiritualized in the 90′s.  This was an event welcomed back with open arms.  Simple, effective lighting that you cant close your eyes to take shelter from.  Rock.

After all these years, there is a folder of thousands of frames of film that have accumulated from a life lived better in Amsterdam.  Its starting to become just slightly overwhelming to realize just how many of those photos are in exactly this setting, a collection of good friends, sitting around a table, exchanging the idea of the day, in a legitimate exchange of thoughts and emotions, free of ego, full of patience, almost always attached to the sharing of some laughs.

As an American, Im continually amazed by these exchanges and snap these moments, almost as a reflex to what always touches me as a truly unique footnote to Dutch life.  Sure, people sit around tables all over the world, but there is something about what happens at the tables in this city that Im still trying to fully comprehend.

Truly when a Tafel is not just a Table.

It’s one of the more beautiful things Ive been lucky enough to experience and there is certainly no parallel in my country to anything that approaches this, in any way.

 

Typically, nobody is in a rush, nobody is on a mission to get wasted, people do not often vie to be the center of attention, the contribution of thoughts and ideas are respected as a contribution to the social event in front of everyone and when people disagree, it is with a curiosity to discover the root of disagreement, not to silence the voice of the disagree-er.  Temperance.  Tolerance.  Openness.

Im a different person from living there in the brief spurts that I have but Im still in my infancy unlearning so much of the ugliness that comes with having a blue passport.

Not having a Dutch Summer this year came as a surprise, but so did everything this summer really.  Missing everyone over there, our scheduled absurdity, 11PM sunsets, words with 74 letters and way too many vowels, all of it.

Im really glad however, to have been able to reconnect with the few friends I have left in America, stumble through some monumental change with some of them and just drive down some dirt roads with a smile with some others.

Two worlds, getting better at balancing, getting better at appreciating the rich texture of this experience Ive worked pretty hard to create.  Careful what ya wish for…

So what to take from this Tuesday night?  I dont know.  But I am here writing about it.  Unsure of why I took all these photos.  Unsure of exactly what story they are telling to me.  Unsure of the story I want to tell looking a them.

Completely positive however, that the story is critical to tell, whatever it is.

My circle of old, old friends just keeps getting smaller, which is something they never told me would happen when I was a kid.  They also didnt tell that kid the depth to which it is possible to love those people in that circle that remain.  What would we be without love?  They didnt put that question to me as a kid either.  All grown up, I now know the answer to that is: nothing.  And while I dont know what exactly it is that I am, I sure as shit am something and it really is because of how much the good people in my life inspire me to be a better person, seek out the richer adventure and not settle for less.

And sometimes, that all happens, very subtly, on a Tuesday night, at the last minute, through the freezing winter mist whipping off chunks of ice floating in the Ij smacking you in the face just to remind you that you are still alive.

Trick is keeping yourself open enough to cherish the moment.  Were it not for these photos, I might have let this one go, or not noticed it at all.  Makes ya ponder how much good stuff flows in and out every day that can provide some pause to realize how lucky we are to have the amazing people that we have in our circus.

 

 

 

 

Abel Macias and the weight proper Dutch fiets can support.

June 18th, 2012

Last Summer held an incredible adventure.

Each Spring I always get this little anxiety, how will I top LAST Summer, THAT shit was insane.

Somehow it always seems to just work itself out.

Here is one such instance:

A few hours after I got off the plane, I buzzed Fake to see what was happening and ran over to Spui to help scrape a wall of stickers so he could paint.  This would be the first of many hours spent on that block over the course of the next few weeks.

At some point, Fake asks, “Hey, do you know this guy, Pink Cloud?  He’s from Brooklyn”.  I didnt.

“Ive been talking to him about showing him around town, if we wind up meeting up maybe I’ll give ya a call.”

Couple days later, phone rang.  Let’s meet up at the usual.  Cool.

A super fun day ensued, hit up a bunch of spots and not only did I get to see some cool work, got to watch the guy make it and thats always the best.

Turns out Abel Macias is in fact from Brooklyn, and it’s somewhat ironic that the both of us met in Amsterdam when we live just a few miles from each other.

Totally dig what I saw that afternoon, months later I was really surprised to see that like Fake, he’s far more than a guy with a spray can.

His oil paintings are super awesome.

If you happen to be in NYC right now, he’s got a solo show up at The  Vinatta Project, 69 Gansevoort on the West side of Manhattan.

The show is 10 pieces and really fantastic, if you are strolling through the meat packing district make some time to stop in for a drink and take a look.

More:

http://abelmacias.net/

http://www.fakestencils.com/

@fakestencils

http://vinattaproject.com/


John Pedone.

May 13th, 2012

Ive written and rewritten this over and over again this entire weekend, not sleeping much, really confused, trying to find my way through the hollowed out part of my heart.  The only conclusion I can reach is that there is really no good way to say goodbye.

This is the last portrait I shot of John, never in a million years would I have thought that this is the narrative that would go with it.

I first met John a million years ago when I was a kid in college.  One of my buddies from school had gotten a summer job at Concord New Horizons, affectionately termed “the venice film school”, the old lot was off Abbott Kinney where those silvery faux industrial looking condos are today, right by those train tracks that go nowhere.  Gio pulled me onto the crew, it was my very first paid day in movie land as a set lighting guy, early in the morning after exchanging hello’s he gave me a walkie and said “come to the lighting shed, I want you to meet the Best Boy” and standing there in the morning fog, hours before that marine layer would burn off, was John Pedone.

He was leaning up against the shed that he and Gio had painted a big yellow Omega on.  Through his defining chuckle I get “so you’re the new guy, heh heyh heh” the way that only John could say.  They took mercy on me and I didn’t have to wrap any banded cable and allowed me to work on set with them.  That was the beginning.  I cant remember if I was 19 or 20.

It didn’t occur to me at the time that John would become such a great and unique friend, although it should have because he welcomed me with an open hearted warmth that I only extend to my closest and most respected friends.  Anyone that has ever worked in production knows that indescribable fleeting type of friendship that you make with your coworkers, that friendly but standoffish Im a freelancer and so are you and we might not ever see each other again but are in this totally intense thing so lets have fun kind of vibe.  Its the same for film production, rock and roll tours and I bet the circus too.  I never had that with John, right off the bat it was like hanging with someone I had grown up with.

I lived in LA for a bit not long after that and thanks to one of the greatest friends I’ll ever know, have returned ever since to wallow in this quasi vicarious beach life that I could just never seem to commit to full time.  Out of all the cross country drives, extended stays and cheater continental flights, I cant recall very many trips where I didn’t see John for a night of drinking or a weekend camping.

As time progressed, so did our careers, one of my fondest memories was mixing a movie that John was shooting, and having those commiserating moments that only two frustrated department heads could have, except our bitch fests would always end with a smile, no matter how fucked the situation, we were having fun together and we were, as they say, living the dream.  Sometimes you suffer a nightmare but its never scary when you have the right company.

For years it was always Gio, John and I, I wouldn’t go so far to suggest that we were a team, but we certainly comprised some kind of unit, wether it was hanging out around Gio’s kitchen table, or sitting around the dimmer board on Studio 60 where the two of them always made me a welcomed guest when I was in town.

Around my 30th birthday, I had one of those amazing eight month long lost weekends that Brian Wilson would be jealous of.  At some point during that blur the three of us rolled out to the high desert and on the way out, while Gio slept with his face pressed against the back window, John told me all about Burning Man.  At that point he had been a few times and had invited me before, but I didn’t really understand what it was all about, as it is unquestionably the most misunderstood event in the world still today, let alone back then.

By the end of that weekend I was sold and two weeks later I was in the middle of nowhere, cranky from the altitude and the lack of humidity standing in a will call line casually chatting up the guy in front of me while silently trying to make sense of the dust I had heard so much about, I wasn’t quite sure how to clean it off and I was already pretty dirty having been outside for twenty seven seconds…  “This is your first time, shit, Im missing my son’s first birthday to be here, fuck, he wont remember it”.  Those were the first words ever spoken to me at Black Rock City.

What had John gotten me into?

Saving an endlessly long pontificating discussion, there is a certain bond that you make on the playa that is wholly unique.  Making friends out there I began to slowly understand the bond that combat photographers and journalists would always reference.  The friends Ive made out there have in every way impacted my life but John was the first guy I knew back from the world who I hung out with at the trash fence at 2 AM.

We were already great friends, we had known each other for years, but something changed out there, suffering the dust together redefined our friendship in a way I wasn’t expecting or can effectively communicate.  It’s like John, who was already the most full of life guy, was *truly* alive out there, and he was proud for me to see it.  And then he invited me in to the core of his world, the shit that he lived for, the circumstance that made him the happiest.  It was and epic thing to step up to and be a part of.

Once I thought we had reached the apex of awesome years later, John, an avid skydiver, invited me up for a ride in the skydiving plane, with that same quirky smile, “c’mon, it’ll be fun, heh heyh heh”.  I have had few, if any, life defining moments like that one, and there is no gift that anyone will ever give me that will compare to what John did for me that afternoon.  I cant even sit here thinking about it without a huge smile on my face.

I flew with John two years in a row, both of us sharing the fear together, sitting in that plane together, getting beaten around in the wind, making eye contact and locking in there, with a smile to mask the anxiety, those moments are absolutely burned into my soul.

You never know how alive you are until you think, in that moment, that you might die.  John Pedone took me right to that edge for the first time and we both looked over it together.  There will never be a greater gift and never from a more incredibly unique person.

 

My gratitude is endless.

Endless.

The thing that made John so special is that he had hundreds of friends, and all of us are telling our own version of this story today.  Different details, different characters, same story.

The impact he had on all of us on a personal one on one basis is staggering to think about.  Add that to the contribution he made to the arts, the talent he brought to the motion picture industry as a light operator, a camera operator, a director of photography, a still photographer, picture editor, lighting designer, stage designer, costumer, puppeteer, stilt walker, clown, huggie bear, and then putting together the monument of Mystical Misfits, it’s a staggering legacy.

The last time I saw John, we talked about motorcycles.  I was out at Pro Italia looking at a Moto Guzzi they had in the show room which had just sold like an hour before I got there and I was all frustrated.  John had just moved into a new house in the valley, he had invited me by a few times and figured Id try to stop in on the way back to town.

“No Im off today, come on over”.

Burning Man last year was pretty intense for both of us, for entirely different reasons.  We both drove off the playa about two weeks prior, so we sat around and had that traditional first talk back in the real world.  Did you see this, did you see that, did you ever bump into so and so, how many times did you jump out of the plane, what did you think of the pilot, how was it landing in the plane, how was it jumping out of the plane, was there any resolution to x y and z drama, how did it go with the equipment rental returns, etc, etc.

He was super excited about the big garage at his new place, paced around the freshly packed place with that playa dust smell still in the air.

Yeah, Im pissed that we didnt get the street sign this year, someone grabbed it on thursday, but check these out from a few years ago.

We gossiped and gossiped and gossiped like we were in high school, exchanged all the playa tales that we could until the conversation naturally ran out of steam.

 

Yeah, that was my last burn.

 

You always say that.

 

No, that was my last burn, Im not going again.

 

At the time, that seemed like Santa not coming to Christmas, plus I had heard it before, pretty much every year for the last few years.

 

 

There was one afternoon in late August, hanging around his camp at a scheduled happy hour where we both kinda sat around and talked about the amount of people that were drinking at the Misfits Bar in comparison to the year prior.  The previous year, he hosted the Waldorf Mystoria and it was the greatest thing at Burning Man and I don’t say that casually.  He designed a 3 story steel tower with a fucking functioning chain elevator.  The happy hour parties at Misfits 2010 were impossibly insane, the addition of a drum kit was extra special fun for me.  Last year, the camp had a different layout and the ground floor was kinda blocked off from the street and as a result, there were significantly fewer people hanging out at the bar.

“I kinda like it” he said surveying the crowd, “its way less crazy than it was last year”.

I was expecting the madness to repeat at misfits and I had to let that soak in.  Then it hit me, I suggested “We should build a castle next year”.

“Mystical Misfits Castle?”

“Yeah man, fucking C A S T L E, it’ll be insane.  We can make a slip and slide moat around the front and put two chain motors up for the drawbridge, when the party gets too insane, raise the drawbridge and we’re good

“?We talked about this for a long time that afternoon.  “Yeah well, this is my last burn, so Im passing the torch to you, build the castle”.

I was never officially part of his camp and this seemed like an unlikely scenario.

We briefly revisited the Castle theme for Misfits 2012 in the garage that afternoon, interjecting the fun class structure that could be instituted among the camp members.  While it was all just fun talk, it was turning into a better and better plan by the minute.

We were also starving as a Castle Serf and jumped in my car and cruised Ventura looking for a spot to eat.  We wound up in one of those horrid “classy” dives that I dont even know how to explain right now to anyone who doesnt know LA.  That shitty bar by the Universal Lot, I think its called the Casting Office or some shit like that, in a strip mall with a horrid yellow sign, worn patent leather booths whose shine was lost decades ago with carved wood railing all over the place, edges smoothed from years of drunk handling.  Nicotine stained glass chandeliers hanging on a chain with the wire not woven in between the chain links, just hanging down to the lamp, nicotine stains still on there from like 12 years ago when they outlawed smoking.  We didnt go to that place but one of the other 200 places just like it.  This is the restaurant that everyone in Boogie Nights hung out at.  This is the bar that Vic Vega goes to to have a confrontation with Butch that only Jules can break up.  It’s THAT place that no amount of daylight through the front window can properly illuminate, just perma dark, perma shitty, the core of pulp, the heart of Los Angeles style.  We had a drink at the bar, which obviously was red, and then grabbed a table for soup, salad and exhaust on the sidewalk on Ventura at 5pm, just to catch some sunlight.  Castle talk continued.

 

When we got back to the house, we lounged in the back yard for a long time, I told him about the bike I didnt buy that afternoon and we devised cool things to do with ten grand that neither of us would ever do.

I can’t believe you are into cafe racers.

He needled me with this all afternoon.  And then got into a long story in typical Pedone style about the last bike accident he had, an incredible story of evading law enforcement and crawling out of an ambulance with a torn open leg to sneak his bike out of the ditch and walk, limp, it away from the scene of the accident, turning over the engine which luckily started right up just far enough from the scene to make a clean getaway.  “Yeah, that was the last time I had a fast bike, Im getting a harley next”.

In the middle of the story Bachman came bounding out, named after a character on a pilot that he was working on when he got the kitten.  He was so entirely proud of the fact that a) Bachman would come when called, like a dog and b) Bachman had figured out how to walk so the bell around his neck wouldnt jingle.  Little guy was a true predator at heart and a truly awesome cat.

John absolutely loved this cat.

I was pretty burnt and having taken a million pictures of John over the years and just didnt shoot a bunch of pictures that afternoon.  The thought that I wouldnt have another chance never crossed my mind.  We talked about more BRC stuff, he had a date that night, I had a date that night, we went back in the house, he handed me a bumper sticker that says “Im kinda famous at Burning Man” and as I started to walk to the door he commented that he was going to check out the new Harley the next week.  I sat on my dumb phone in the car and watched his red truck pull a u turn in front of me.  The last thing I noticed as he pulled forward was that “Im kinda famous” sticker on his tail gate and after he made the U turn, he smiled and waved as he drove by.  It was close to 7, the orange socal sun was low, right on the tree line and his eyes were as bright as I had ever seen them in the sunset.  That was the last time I would ever see my good friend John Pedone.

A few weeks later he sent me some pictures of the new bike and I was cautiously happy for him.  We didnt talk for a while after that, conversations were still in the “No Im not going” direction, and then there was the big ticket fiasco.

The big ticket fiasco.  Fuck.

I was absolutely resigned to not go after that shit.  I was so done and was deep into figuring out a trip to Mongolia with my usual campmates which was going all fine and dandy until someone (ahem) didnt want to take a train from russia, as if that wouldnt be the craziest shit ever, but that is a whole different story.

Smack in the middle of fuck bmorg, the phone rang.  It was John.

“Hey, we got some tickets allocated for us.  I want to build the Castle, will you do it with me?”

“Ha, I knew you’d go”

“Will you come?  Here’s the code for the private sale, you gotta buy the ticket before this weekend, it expires Sunday”.

For the last three years John had invited me to go up a week early to help him build the steel, two flatbeds worth of pipe, which he would drive up from LA.  This is the kind of dedication this guy had to an event that most people go to without even filling a car with fun stuff for other people to play with.  He brought two flatbed trucks and a show power generator for the sake of everyone’s entertainment.

Immeasurable dedication.

The first year he asked I couldn’t conceive of it.  The second year I totally wanted to do it, but had a scheduling conflict and absolutely couldnt.  The third year I had my own camp and obligations to my camp mates and didnt want to complicate things.  I’ll come up 2012.  I was sooooo looking forward to being out there with him and 400 other people building the most beautiful thing ever.  I was really bitter on going this year but there was no way I was going to say no, the circumstances were perfect AND it was really looking like he wanted to go forward with the theme we joked about, and then talked about more seriously.  Ironically, I was going to send out invitations to my birthday party tomorrow morning and was totally looking forward more than anything else in LA to the next conversation about the plan for the camp and all the associated logistics.  I celebrated my birthday last year in LA with John and three other people and it was the first time I had fun on my birthday since I was 9 years old.

I called Gio just this afternoon and told him to keep the night open and we spent ten minutes just randomly talking about John and all the fun we had last year.

I remember a night last summer hanging upstairs at Misfits with Paige and Braydon, John walked up the stairs,  “Come on, we are all going to do Greeters, hop in the stake bed with us” John kinda turned his chin up and gave me that half a grin as he tilted his head beckoning towards the door.

“Fuccccck Im exhausted, there’s no way I can pull a greeters shift at 3 am, get me next time”

next time.

fuck me.

After spending the day in a daze today thinking about Adam Yauch, walking around the city, going to all the places that I had some connection to the Beastie Boys, when I saw the phone ring, the last thing I wanted to do was answer it.  It was Gio, we had just spoken a few hours ago so I figured he had forgotten something important to tell me so I reluctantantly answered the phone.?Ive known Gio since my first semester in college, I had never quite heard his voice like that.  His lead, “I have horrible news, I didn’t want you to find out from someone else”

No.

You can say a word a thousand times until it loses all meaning and just becomes a sound coming out of your mouth, a series of notes, a beat, not communicating anything.  But not this one, not in that moment or the many that followed.

No.

On 4 May 2012, heading North on Coldwater Canyon with the sunset over his left shoulder, John Pedone was killed when a woman made a U Turn in the middle of the fucking street and turned into his motorcycle.

This is the last picture I took of my great friend, confidant, endless source of joy, laughs and inspiration, John Pedone:

You changed the world for so many of us, you effected my life like no one else, I’ll miss you forever JP.

 

 

The Tracks.

May 4th, 2012

 

There’s this thing about driving fast.  Driving really really fast.

Once you get a taste for it, its hard to push that down, sometimes so hard that you are still fighting it long past the point at which you’ve far exceeded your threshold for sanity: the most dangerous place to feel normal, the only place to realize you are alive.  Beneath sweaty palms, a heart beat that pounds you back into the seat and a sixteenth note left foot socketing you in the groove, its just you, a machine menacing your nerve and a road daring, fuck you, accept the challenge.

This is all quaint and romantic until you transplant this scenario onto a desert back road, maybe one that never got paved since the last washout, with a surface cracked by the sun, slick with the rubber that has melted onto it and one that was never smooth in the first place, its rocky topping the result of whatever was laying on the side of the road when the macadam was mixed.

When you get that deep into the middle of that nowhere it takes everything up about a billion percent.

At critical focus, just trying to keep the car on the road and your body alive, its often hard to truly absorb whats flying past you at 130 miles per hour or however fast you are going beyond where the speedo pinned.  With some 70′s rock blaring over the roar of the engine, the pulse of your neck beating against the nylon belt and the ringing in thy ears from doing this exercise over and over and over again at maximum volume, its super easy to get lost in the speed, the vibration of your machine and the perfection of John Bonham.

 

And then there are the tracks.

One of two things happens at the tracks.  1: Air.  Full compression of some shitty rental car’s shocks.  Swift reclamation of control.  Followed by some type of vocalized celebration once you are sure that ya made it.  Again.

There are never, ever, photographs of 1.

The other thing that happens at the tracks is, not so surprisingly, 2: Train.

 

And this is no train that goes through town.  No.  Trains in the middle of nowhere might as well be hundreds of miles long, it wouldn’t matter to anyone.  So they just make them as long as a pile of synchronized engines can pull (and/or push) them.

When the train happens, you get to sit.

By poroxy of 2, if you allow yourself to receive it, you get 3: the screechy steel, oil scented transcendence in the hundred ten degree breeze.  There is never shade at the tracks.

Monks wish they could achieve the moment of reflective meditation that occurs directly after you prove the minimum breaking distance required to go from however fast beyond 130 to full stop.  That is a moment unlike any other and way out in the no humidity expanse of the Eastern Mojave, it lasts forever.  Or at least seems to while you watch a twenty minute train go by.

I’ll never again forget my first one.  It was in Arizona, definitely low desert, I was 19, it was the first time I drove across the United States, it was the first time I drove more than twice the posted speed limit, it was the first time I had to confront any number of fears that I didn’t even know were lurking.

After the first three or four minutes, once my pulse slowed to match the clack-clack  clack-clack  clack-clack of the train slow rolling over the joint in the track, long after the air drumming stopped, I switch off Allen’s Wrench to investigate the possibilities of local desert radio, which back in the early 90′s, was still a real big thing and was a huge part of the adventure of driving around the country.  Independent radio broadcast, imagine some novel shit like that in todays world…  Sitting there on the precipice of number 3, that was the first time had I ever heard Art Bell, unquestionably the most important broadcaster of the 20th century, its a shame he’ll never get his due largely because of the content he chose to discuss and with the high level of respect he offered virtually everyone he spoke to.  There’s alot of details from that night remembered in the echo of that train, it was a big moment.

It didn’t seem like anything other than a train in my way at the time.

There have been many periods of silence waiting for a train to pass since, I suspect I look forward to them more than most.  The reflection found in the shadow of a passing box car with your license plate pushed up against a guard gate is just an incredibly unique thing.

Earlier in the week I took these snaps, I had raced one of my oldest, closest and absolutely most reliable friend from the beach to vegas and I beat the fuck out of him by almost 30 minutes and I bet 50 or 60 miles.  It was a somewhat of a fun weekend working in vegas, but just like every other time Ive shot there, there is nothing as refreshing as seeing that fucked up place in the rear view mirror.

Excited to get back on the road, got to drive one of my favorite roads in the country which contains my all time favorite stretch for attempting to set the new land-speed-in-a-rented-v4 record.  That same road also cuts right through these tracks.

I crossed the border, fell into the groove and had just about made it through the A side of Physical Graffiti before I got to the tracks.  The gate was down when I got there, no sign of how long the mustang in front of me had been sitting there.  I put the toy car into park (why would you be able to rent a manual in america? if there is any bottom line statement about american culture, it is that right there…), wiped the sweat on my palms deep into the greying black denim burning up my thighs in the sun and searched around for the water which of course, was now on the passenger side floor along with a camera bag, two bodies, four lenses, an ipod, a phone, a hat, a scarf and some granola bars.  Do Not fuck with Newton, that guy was totally not wrong.

Picking up my leica from the floor, for whatever reason, that first cross country trip popped into my head, it might have been the first time I had thought about any of that stuff since the 90′s,  Heavy.  Im all grown up now.  Or at least a little bit grown up.  I dont normally take pictures of trains, but the camera was in my hand, my head was full of romantic notion and the door was open before I knew it.

Standing out in the middle of the street, that first night in the desert from twenty years ago flashed back, the memory of that first absurdly long train brought with it all kinds of stuff I hadn’t realized I had forgotten.  When this train finally cleared, my race was over for that afternoon, casually cruised under the afternoon sun lost in a sea of thoughts- adventures Ive had, the right people Ive met, the wrong people Ive let in, the few people I’ll never stop telling the new people I meet all about.  I had planned to drive back to the beach that day.  I didnt.  I stayed lost in that desert, full of love, all alone, for a few days.  I thought it would work itself out, it’s been about a year, Im not so sure it has.  My brother asked me once why I stopped posting stories up here, I didnt have much of an answer.

Digging through some negatives this week, I came across these and now I know, it was because of this train.

There is the most amount of power and beauty in the most unsuspecting places, I think the answers are always right there in front of us, the hard part is just staying open enough to see it.  Keeping an open heart in a city full of new yorkers is a test of will, but let’s give this a try again.

 

 

 

Prints available at Milk Gallery!

January 27th, 2012

Milk Store is open!  Limited edition C-Prints of the Five pieces I showed at the Spring and Autumn MGU shows are available for purchase via Milk Made, Milk Gallery’s online portal.

 

Get ‘em while the fix’ still smells fresh.  Each is limited to an edition of 25 and when they’re gone, there will be no more.

While perusing my prints available at MilkMade make sure to take a moment and check out all the other amazing work from the MGU photographers that is currently available.

MGU LA

December 15th, 2011

It certainly has been a busy couple months…

Three pieces from “the piece of me I left behind at the desert center” which I showed for the first time in the US at the Spring 2011 MGU are now on display through 20 December in Los Angeles.  Prints are available through Milk Gallery.

If you are hanging out at the beach, or need an excuse to hang out at the beach, swing by my old hood and check the show out at Kana Manglapus Projects, 1346 Abbot Kinney in Venice.  It’s just right down from my favorite coffee spot in LA, Abbot’s Habit (at California) just in case you want to get extra caffeinated before checking out the exhibition.

 

Also, big thank you to the folks over at Milk Made for the feature about the current work I have up here in NYC which runs through the end of the month.

 

 

Shattered out in Wonder Valley opening tonight !

December 7th, 2011

 

 

There is a place you can go to try to find the way out of the spot inside yourself that sheltered your retreat.

There is a place where everyone thought it would be ok.

There is a place where they got it for free.

And in that place it cost them everything to leave it behind.

In the welcoming arms of their devastation lies an invitation to free yourself from yours.

If you look through obliquely canted eyes, in the shadows of having invested everything you were into nothing, you can find a place to leave your bags.

And its right there, shattered out in wonder valley, that you can start again.

Nestled in with all the other broken dreams, you’ll realize you aren’t the most alone.  I did.

 

It’s slow coming, but you’ll get it figured out.  Out in Wonder Valley.

 

 

 

Milk Gallery Underground Autumn 2011.

November 21st, 2011


I had been looking at a flight to Japan all morning and despite trepidation that the island is possibly totally radioactive, had made the decision to meet my friends there the following week.  The prospect of an invite to a trade show, full on sushi adventure to the most absurd degree and Keirin racing was too much to resist.  As the process usually goes, I started packing a bag and lining up cameras and then the email popped up with all the details about the Autumn Underground show at Milk Gallery.

I had shown in the Spring show and couldn’t have had a better experience, it was THAT good.  Gave it some very long thought and elected to stay for the show.  That left me with something like 48 hours to find my negatives, make some scans and get everything printed.

There are these zen moments in life, which maybe some people can relate to one way or another.  Lately for me it’s been breaking the tenth mile on the daily run, hitting 4000 RPM in sixth gear, or laying behind a target rifle.  But it takes the strong blast of fixer to remember that first situation in life where the mind is just truly free to wander, where you get that semi- out of body type of perspective on life; the place where you got your first lesson in patience: leaning on the Colex waiting, waiting, waiting for the print to make its way out between the rollers.  That was my original escape for most of my twenties.

The hours of my life spent in that position, high up in a Tribecca loft, leaning hard on a Colex, or pacing absent mindedly in circles around it, to add them up, that would be interesting…  Major life decisions have been made listening to the whir whilst waiting for a test print.

And so it went, with a bed of traffic on the street below seeping through the windows rattling in their frames, Im not going to Japan so I can exhibit in NYC, how things can change at the very last minute.  Not quite a John Paul Jones “That’s tomorrow” but close enough.  I stood there for probably way too long, pondering this and with a smile, thought back to some other decisions I had made in front of that very machine.  This was not the most radical travel decision I had ever made, that’s for certain.

The idea of hanging back in NYC stung a bit, but as the registration on the first prints slowly crept out of the machine, with it came the take your face off excitement that can only come from somebody wanting you, or in this case, my work.  There is likely no drug that is more euphoric in my world than that.  Yes.  Definitely.  Made.  The.  Right. Decision.

So, exactly how awesome is it to be showing at Milk this week?  All things considered, about the most awesome possible.

Milk is absolutely my favorite space in NYC to see an exhibition.  I met my favorite photographer of all time in this gallery a few years ago, so being able to show here has a pretty special place for me.  The staff that runs the gallery is amazing and the panel of people that curate the MGU shows have thus far put together truly amazing group shows.

They are also expert level when it comes to throwing a memorable opening party.

For me, the big underlying stress of showing is that incessant vibration of wondering if that ONE person will show up, and no matter what you are showing or where, there is always that ONE person.  Thats the person who’s presence usually makes any evening, is the root of the smile that has no end and of course can also inspire the longest walk home anyone has ever had when they skip out on your gig.  Despite my silent passion, I knew my person wasnt going to come.  I had allowed myself to get totally distracted by this until there was this guy standing in front of me saying my name, a little louder each time:

Dave!  It’s me, Seth.

WTF, Seth Markowitz.  Seth played drums with me in the first band I was in when I was 13.  We performed for the first time in our lives in front of people together.  The last time I can remember seeing this guy Im almost positive I didnt even have a drivers license, positively teen age.

Talk about blast from the past…  Best part is that he didnt even know I was showing this evening.   A purely random reunion and an absolute mind fuck.

Bumped into some other people I knew and met a whole host of incredible new folks, notably a bunch of people from Copenhagen in NYC for a month.

Of all the things I expected to be chatting about this evening, the political climate in Christiania and jamming Communication Breakdown for an auditorium full of 8th graders was critically at the end of that list…

My two favorites that stood out  were ironically right next to each other, Billy Yarbrough’s Untitled:

and Steve Stone’s exceptionally printed “Dead Man’s Dog”:

These are mine:

These two trip’s are an excerpt from the first chapter of a long form work Ive been working on for the last few years.  With much excitement, this is my first public showing of material from the project entitled “Girl That Loved Me Last”.  Im currently seeking a publisher now that Im nearing the end of my production schedule on the photography for the book.  Nothing is better than the light at the end of the tunnel, thats for sure.

Godzilla can wait, MGU Autumn 2011 however will not, get out to Milk Gallery this week to check out the show, it’s up until the 28th.  It’s a really great honor to be part of another great show, every single last photo on the walls in this show is amazing.  How many group shows have you been to where you walk out saying that?

Milk Gallery is on 15th Street in Manhattan, right next to the High Line at 10th Ave.  If you are driving, there is a parking garage directly next door.

All of the prints in this show will be available for purchase through MilkMade, Milk Gallery’s online portal.  Please check in the coming weeks!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New work showing at Milk Gallery this week.

November 15th, 2011

If you are in NYC (or like me, just need the hint of an excuse to run to an airport), I have two pieces up in a group show this week at Milk Gallery on 15th Street in Manhattan.  The show last spring was a riotous good time and featured some amazing fellow photographers, Im completely excited to see what the curators have planned for this show!  Opening reception is this coming Thursday, 17 November 2011.

Ive been absolutely buried under a new project for the last several months and havent had much time to dedicate to the usual flow of photographs I like to post up here.  Ive got some exciting stuff up my sleeve, but for now this is a great opportunity to see some brand new work.  This show is also an excellent indicator of the pulse of photography here in NYC, plan to stop in if you can!

Day Ride.

September 27th, 2011

Night Ride.

four am bookshelf.

September 15th, 2011

Lucky in the morning.

September 12th, 2011

Featured in Catapult Art Mag Issue 1

September 9th, 2011

 

Big thanks to Catapult Art Mag for the feature in their first issue.

It’s a treat to be one of the few photographers among a super great collection of artists.

The above pieces were from an exhibition I had last year in Amsterdam and as soon as life slows down a little (what fun would that be) hope to get up here with a big revamp to my site.