Curiouser & Curiouser

Life’s short. Get curious.

Paper Trails December 6, 2010

Egad, what a week!

Never one to remain completely useless, I decided to spend my one week in between vacationing in Ohio for Thanksgiving and vacationing in D.C. and New York for Christmas working as an extra on the set of One Tree Hill. You’d be amazed how exhausting it is to spend most of your 10-hour work day waiting, standing, and/or having silent and fake conversations. Four out of 5 nights, I came home and fell asleep mid-conversation with Jeff. You’d also be amazed that the biggest divas on the set weren’t the actors, but two particular female extras we’ll call Peg Bundy and Tweedle Dumb. They were raunchy, loud, demanding and childish and I’m infinitely grateful to no longer have to spend very long days in a very small space with them.

But my point was, not only did I make a tiny bit of money (and was fed some mean grub – those people eat well and often!), I also read an entire novel (The Alechemist by Paulo Coelho), swiped a few tips from hair and makeup, and now have another possible means of picking up some extra dough (at least for the next few months before they wrap up the series for good).

No permanent job in site yet, however. But I keep applying and in the meantime have been thoroughly enjoying my time off. Just started the tutorials for Photoshop 4 (and after listening to Geoff Blake for a few hours, I’m not only proficient in Photoshop, I also can’t stop speaking with a Canadian accent…), I’ve got back into the 365 project which went completely defunct over Thanksgiving, and my cats no longer wake us up at 4 a.m. because I actually have time to wear them out before we all go to bed.

As for said 365 project, I did a little multitasking with today’s shoot. My two desks and files needed a good cleaning and reorganizing and I was left with a pile of papers from the past. A few were old bills and I dropped them in the paper shredder and something about that sound and the resulting strips of my former life was so satisfying that I began to shred, well… everything. Everything from the past that I’m ready to let go of, that is. Evidence of the fact that I used to be a very different girl – many different girls, from the looks of it. Paperwork from the restaurant I managed, applications, business cards, calendar pages from my planner, check slips from taking orders as a waitress, a few chapters from the book I once set out to write about the cover band I fronted ages ago, a collage I’d made for an ex-boyfriend for his birthday (the guy is of no interest anymore, I think I was just proud of my handiwork)….. all fed through those efficient little teeth. And what I was left with was a pile of meaningless paper. And by meaningless I mean it was fresh and blank and awaiting a new use.

So use it I did. I put together my self portrait shoot in my bedroom, using only a 3 x 4 ft. sheet of white paper on the wall and a garbage bag’s worth of paper shreds dumped all around me. Enter those makeup tips I’d gleaned during the week, a dress I haven’t used since this summer, a few lights set strategically around my tiny set, et voila! Today’s self portrait.

It’s no job, that’s for sure. But I do love unleashing some creativity on the world from time to time and I have to believe that someday it will serve me well.

(Side note: Am I just a huge nerd, or does anyone else get all melty inside when it starts snowing on WordPress??)

 

Job Markets in Neverland November 5, 2010

Filed under: adulthood,happiness,life,photography,thoughts,work — curiouserx2 @ 5:18 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Last night, while driving home from work, it occurred to me that I am still not a full-blown “grownup” and in all likelihood, I never will be.

Exhibit A: I happen to know from experience that pinot gris pairs well with Chex cereal (but only the cinnammon kind – accept no substitutions).

Exhibit B: I left for work yesterday wearing a black dress, heather grey tights and (wait for it…) galoshes emblazoned with smiley-faced blue whales (and it took quite some self-coaxing to change into my black ballet flats when I got there).

Exhibit C: I still take playing dress-up quite seriously (see here)

Not that I necessarily find this to be a flaw. On the contrary, plenty of people have found ways to capitalize on their refusal to grow up: comic book writers, video game creators, Betsey Johnson, Amanda Palmer, Tony Hawk … Peter Pan.

So it’s possible, but I haven’t exactly got the hang of it yet – which makes me slightly envious of those who have some sort of built-in shut-off device for all of their “childish” leanings. Their desires to explore and adventure and create and play were shut down at a crucial time by some innate “Override,” allowing them to smoothly transition into an office, a company car, a nice salary with benefits and football and beer on the weekends and not too many questions asked. (Or the other type – the rocket scientist or mathematician who’s greatest love translated into a cozy career).

Well someone forgot to install my switch, so it’s up to me now to use my remnant love of bubbles, dirt and sparkly things as an asset rather than a handicap.

It’s nice to know that I’m not alone in this quest. I found out last night that my Fedex delivery guy moonlights as an upright bass player in one hell of a jazz trio. One of my bartenders not-so-secretly dreams of making a living off her designer hair flare and I recently had my hair done by a local stylist who’s not so far from making it as a bigtime hair and makeup artist. One friend of mine even quit her lame customer service job to start a handmade decor business and, after a slow and scary start, is making it work. I’m sure that all of us have, at one point or another, been told to get serious or at the very least to focus our efforts on getting a “real job,” to relegate our “hobbies” to the weekends.

Our talents may be considered fluff to some, but blended with a lot of hard work, innovation and drive, I think any of them can be transformed into successful careers. So here’s to discovering the perfect combination of creative genius and business savvy and here’s a big, fat raspberry for all the naysayers.

Cheers!

 

Well That Was Fun… October 25, 2010

I return to you, dear readers, on the eve of my leaving yet another job. I know you’re asking yourselves why I only seem to be interested in blogging when I’m on the verge or in the midst of unemployment, but I swear it’s purely coincidence. To be completely candid with you, I’ve missed you. It’s not that I don’t get a good dose of writing every day when I update my 365. That’s nice and all, but there’s much more to life than photography (understatement of the year) and I don’t think any of that’s been getting properly addressed.

Par example: My ever-lengthening list of  “Jobs I’ve Quit Despite the Shite Economy.” Just thrown another shrimp on the barbie, giving my notice at the tapas bar I’ve been managing. It seems it’s not just particular restaurants (although the hibachi definitely took the prize for unhealthiest workplace ever), but the entire industry that I’m not particularly in line or in love with. And yes, I’d worked my way through the ranks very quickly in this latest endeavor and I’d finally paddled hard enough to get my chin up above the poverty line, but in the end I found myself working harder than ever, earning less than ever, and forever feeling like a fish out of water. To say I’m not the most polished person in the world is to put it kindly. The reality of it was I didn’t have enough money to dress the part, and it was becoming too difficult to act like I liked every one of my my guests and loved being there.

Especially the nightclub. Watching people with more money than you (whether they earned it or not) blow said money and act like complete assclowns to the same, mind-numbingly awful 40 songs (it’s amazing how slightly altering the order fools people into thinking they’re having a different experience each week…), cleaning up after them when they dribble red wine all over the women’s restroom (or worse), helping them find the lost camel jacket (worth more than my entire wardrobe) that they left on the dance floor, getting the really wasted ones into cabs at the night’s end whether they like it or not (or, in one case, getting shoved aside by a grown man who insisted he was fine even as he stumbled to his car), returning their wallets – complete with credit cards and $700 in cash – to them when they return in their limo later and graciously accepting the $15 reward they offer you for doing so (wow. thanks.), and eventually crawling into bed (literally – because have you ever worn heels for 10 hours straight??) at 3 or 4 a.m. with your ears ringing loud enough to make it hard to sleep.

Awesome.

Who wouldn’t want this job?

Strangely enough, there are people who aspire to such things. I am, conclusively, not one of them. And, as if I needed another reason to quit, the night schedule had me missing out on far to much life. Having a schedule quite the opposite of Jeff’s had us literally missing each other. He’d be up and off to teach just shortly after I’d gone to bed, and I’d come home long after he’d hit the sack. Even my days off didn’t align. While it’s totally sweet to be able to run your errands or hit the gym or find parking at the beach while the rest of the world is working, the cost is resigning yourself to doing all of these things alone. Lesson learned: I don’t need as much “Me Time” as I once thought I did.

So what will I do? A very good question. I’ve got a few applications in at the university already and I’ll be taking some Windex to my resume and sending it out. Wilmington’s not exactly the Land of Opportunity, but if I gleaned anything from my managing job, it was the art of networking. It is a small town – and you can cry about it, or you can use it. I’ve met enough people now that (god willing) when word gets out that I’m leaving, I can at least get some advice or leads on where to start.

If nothing else, I plan to use the time off to work on 1201. I’m starting to do pro-level work now (granted, there’s a vast spectrum of “Pro” photography out there and I’m still hanging out in the middle somewhere with plenty of room for improvement), and if I’m going to ask for payment for my work, the business had better look like a business. Obviously, I can’t sink a lot of money into it right now, but the website needs a little spit shine and I’m in desperate need of a good business card (and thanks to work, I know a guy who knows a guy).

I realize that I’m in the same boat (it’s got to be like an ark or a cruise ship by now) as so many other people my age, creative people, intelligent people, extremely capable people who are stuck finding a way to make a living doing what they’re best at. Plenty ahead of us have figured it out. Maybe we’re late bloomers, or maybe the shuffle board and Mai Tais are keeping us on that cruise ship a little to long. As for me, the game’s over and I just got cut off, so I’m jumping ship and swimming to shore with every hope that land is close.

And not inhabited by cannibals.

(And –  just because – a little something from My New Favorite Web Comic: Hyperbole and a Half )

 

I Don’t Know Why You Say Goodbye April 26, 2010

Grown up version of playing in the sandbox??

Day 100 of 365

Hello again, mes amis!!

Were you starting to think I’d abandoned you?

Never fear, I’m still here, still making it and things have actually been looking up. Steadily. So let’s keep our fingers crossed that I can maintain this forward motion sans stalling out any time in the foreseeable future. I’ve been working like a  maniac, both at the restaurant where I’m moving up slowly through the ranks taking on increasing responsibilities daily it seems, and on my 365 project (it appears some of you have been keeping an eye on my Flickr photostream to the right there – thanks for checking in!).

I can’t think of any other creative outlet that so perfectly encompasses the way I try to live my life. This project gives me all the excuse I need to be adventurous, creative and, yes, often ridiculous, every single day (that, and every bit of camera shyness I once had was obliterated sometime around Day 26. Bonus?).

I’ve just passed Day 100 of this project, and already, less than a third of the way through, I’ve become so much more familiar and comfortable with my camera, with my post production software and with the art itself. The first time I opened Lightroom on my computer, I had a minor meltdown. I’m a creative type with an aversion to technical guides or owner manuals of any type. But I realized my creativity would drown in a pool of cheap gear if I didn’t give it the boost it needed in post, so I broke down and read up a little and spent many hours playing with all of Lightroom’s tools.  So my confidence grows, my imagination gets a pretty tough workout, and I definitely put my problem solving skills to the test. How DOES one fake a home studio when you don’t own a single professional grade light? The answer, so far, includes everything from hording every lamp in the house in the bedroom, shooting in the bathtub (or closet), using bowls, mirrors and poster board as reflectors, and the occasional single bare bulb in a dark room.

Most importantly, though, I feel a deep satisfaction in what I do with a good deal of my free time. Not a minute of my life feels wasted, and there’s a massive body of work (100 images deep as of today!) to show for it. Should you be so curious: http://www.flickr.com/1201photography/sets/72157623087853539/

Hope you’re all finding your own ways to explore your world. Here’s to all of us staying afloat and staying curious!

 

When I Grow Up February 2, 2010

Filed under: adulthood,life,thoughts — curiouserx2 @ 9:39 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Still playing dress-up

When you’re 8 years old, precocious, imaginative, terrible at math but “gifted and talented,” as likely to spend your play time choreographing modern dance performances in your bedroom as videotaping your latest episode of “Tiffy and Stacey” (in which your 6-year-old brother plays endearing fashionista/valley girl Tiffy), never for one moment do you think that at the age of 28 you’ll be between waiting jobs, down to your last 25 dollars and asking your parents to help you make it through the next week or two.

No. You thought you’d be an actress on Broadway (or at least just Off-) or a movie director or a magazine editor or a creative director or an author. Or at least you knew you’d be something extraordinary. It was expected. So the moment you admit to yourself that your current situation doesn’t even amount to ordinary is both a breakthrough and a horrible concession.

The bad news is your original path was leading you away from all of the other things that are important to you (stability, comfort, family). The good news it, you don’t have to scrap it entirely. While your instinct is to admit defeat, it’s possible that your game plan just needs a serious reality check and some major alterations.

Jeff and I had a long talk the other night (the f@#$-up scene from “Away We Go” comes to mind – if you haven’t seen this movie yet, do yourself a great favor and check it out) and took a good hard look at our priorities. The next few years are going to happen very quickly, and how we handle them will impact the direction of the rest of our lives. But, you know, no pressure.

What does all of this mean? It means I can still have an affair with my Nikon, but I can’t put it on a pedestal and act as though it’s my answer to financial salvation. This is not to say I still couldn’t make a career of it someday, but I’ve been creatively experimenting since the day I graduated from college and at some point the time has come to sideline your creativity into an extracurricular activity and push yourself in a more responsible direction. I’m not prepared to take sides with the creative life if it means giving up things like – well, children. At this point we’re so broke we can’t even think about getting married.

I won’t ever be a nine-to-five, cubicle dwelling girl. I know this. But there are plenty of positions that, while I never wanted to take them seriously in the past, I can do and probably do well. I’ve spent the good part of 6 years in a restaurant. For the right establishment, I’m sure I’d make a great manager. Hell, I’m strangely good at hospitality in general and I live in a tourist town. There’s no reason I shouldn’t seriously consider these things.

No reason besides my pride. And pride can turn you into a 30-year-old waitress with a shallow bank account and never-ending credit card debt without batting a lash.

For me, for Jeff and for our future, I choose reality. It may be sobering, but it’s only dismal if you make it so.

 

Too Sexy for Milan, New York or Japan September 1, 2009

Filed under: photography — curiouserx2 @ 11:19 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,
Photo by Scott Halford

Photo by Scott Halford

So there I was – surrounded. The darkened alley stretched out on either side of me. I eyed my four-inch patent heals critically, took one more look at the ivy-strewn, open window above me, hitched up my skirt and decided I was definitely not too sexy to climb up a wall in a dress if it meant getting the shot.

Back up an hour or so. I had volunteered to model for a Wilmington-area photography club at its first event. The group of roughly 10 photographers met me and two other girls in historic downtown to try their hand at shooting models – many never had. Never mind that I’m 5’4” and have the uncanny ability to blink in sync with camera triggers, today I was a model.

My only problem with this image is it remindes me of an Abercrombie & Fitch shopping bag. But thank you, nonetheless, for the image, Mitch. (Photo by Mitch Ward)

My only problem with this image is it remindes me of an Abercrombie & Fitch shopping bag. But thank you, nonetheless, for the image, Mitch. (Photo by Mitch Ward)

Truth be told, I had ulterior motives for participating. While I think it’s fun to get in front of the lens every once in a while (this, after overcoming an irrational terror of being photographed), my real itch is for art direction. Not having a great camera of my own, I still love to see the shot, to concoct the idea and make it real. I thought this might be a good chance to help these photographers not just get shots, but create images.

Therefore, I was a little bummed when the first  half hour was spent being posed (by the guy running the show) in hokey, portraiture positions with silly props (ahem… balloons??) in uninspired settings (ahem.. flagpoles???).

Something had to be done.

So when one of the photographers lamented that she’d wanted to look  in one of the old alleys close by to find cool textures, I told her I was in, and a group of us left the main event to explore.

Immediately,we were graced with a killer doorway with lots of depth and great color on the surrounding walls. After a few minutes there, though, we walked down further and struck gold. One of the buildings enclosing the alley was completely gutted and missing its roof. The windows were entirely blown out, and the inside was overgrown. “I’m going in!” one of the photographers shouted. “Well then I’m getting up,” I responded. I knew if I could get into the window, the framing of it would be amazing. I’d be able to squeeze in and have enough room to fill out the window by pushing out my legs and arms and working with the massive vines that had grown in. We couldn’t have staged it better.

A girl's gotta do...

A girl's gotta do...

... what a girl's gotta do.

... what a girl's gotta do.

Never mind that I leaned my head back into a huge cobweb that stuck mercilessly to my hair when I tried to pull way. Or that I broke my shoe. Or that it was so warm that evening that they probably had to Photoshop out entire droplets of sweat on my face. The lack of fuss made for some stunning work.

My thanks to Tami LaNunziata, Scott Halford, Mitch Ward and all others involved. It was a spectacularly creative evening.

~a

Photo by Mitch Ward

Photo by Mitch Ward

Photo by Tami LaNunziata

Photo by Tami LaNunziata

 

Brought to You by the Letter ‘S’ April 23, 2009

picture-12Today’s subject:

Simplification.

I have to call it a subject and not a lesson, because anyone who knows me realizes I’m the LAST person to espouse on the wonders of a simple life. No, I’m the girl who’s dug herself into one of the most complicated situations you can imagine:

-I live with a musician/friend and her boyfriend in a little house that, until yesterday, has been under construction since the day I moved in (and I knew it would be this way going into it, but somehow thought that band saws running at odd hours and having to plug the microwave in on the couch would be okay??)

-I inherited a dog. Not just ANY dog, mind you. A little powerhouse jack russell with anxiety issues and a Napoleon complex. Thus, serious, continual training ensued.

-I work an 8-5 job that involves little of what I love to do (i.e. being creative, writing, editing, interacting with people), and leaves me with even less time to pursue those things outside of work.

-And still… I managed to get into some extracurricular activities. Namely the musical, which, as we near the show dates, takes up increasing chunks of my post-work time so that my days go something like this: Up at 7, at work around 8, use lunch break to run errands and take Gabe out, actually eat lunch at work, leave work at 5, go home and feed Gabe and take him out, grab something that resembles dinner, get to rehearsal by 6, rehearse until 10, home by 10:15, tend to Gabe, in bed by 11 (or 12). Repeat. 4 days in a row.

-Granted, I only live a couple of miles from J, but we still live in separate house, which means packing night bags, running home before work in the morning to let Gabe out, constantly shuttling between the two locations and perpetually leaving things at his house. (My forgetfulness rivals that of someone fifty years my senior).

-I move, on average, once a year. This does not help the situation any. Being in and out of boxes and in and out of spaces, the constant address changes, the job switching (if the move is out of town), the process of moving itself. And yet, I love a change of scene. I start to itch when I’ve remained still for too long in one place. (Masochism?)

As you can see, life is not exactly streamlined. I’ve been taking a long, hard look at things lately and have realized that changes need to be made or my sanity will pay the price. J apparently must have realized this as well, because one of my birthday gifts from him this year was a subscription to Real Simple magazine. I’ve read this publication from time to time, and for someone who lives in mass chaos, I sure do have a fetish for organization and simplification that Real Simple seems to satisfy. The problem is, until now, I’ve been doping on the doctrine without actually living it.

Suddenly, however, the idea of simplification has become a new mantra. Granted, it will take some time before I can jump on the wagon, but at least I’ve started chasing it. While it will involve not one, but TWO moves, J and I will finally be consolidating our resources and living under one roof. Our aim is to rent a house where we’ll be the only tenants, thus taking control of our living situation. I’ve just started a profile on a money management website to conquer my spending and credit card debt. I’m working towards a job that either involves my talents more earnestly or offers me enough free time to pursue writing and other creative work on the side. Also, in the new place, we’ll be able to control use of space and organization. We’re both interested in growing herbs and vegetables and learning to cook at home more.

And that’s just for starters. I never believed it whole-heartedly before, but they may have been on to something with the “Gift to be Simple” thing, because with increased simplicity comes increased serenity. It’s not to say we shouldn’t be driven in our pursuits, which sometimes can be stressful, but we do need to choose our battles wisely and streamline everything else.

That’s where I’m at. The chaos will necessarily continue until the summer, but at least I have a light at the end of the tunnel.

And Real Simple in the meantime.

~a

(Need more inspriation to get simple? Check out this story: http://lifestyle.msn.com/your-life/bigger-picture/articleoprah.aspx?cp-documentid=19216974&gt1=32001. Yes it’s from Oprah’s magazine; whatever. I feel better having read it.)