- Ted & Debbie (Photographers)
I’m up early to catch a flight to Miami. I can’t tell you how many worn Doug fir steps there are as I walk upstairs. In the dark my barefooted toes grasp and cradle their well-rounded nose like I’m hanging 5. The upstairs where the boys sleep is a mess. It reminds me a plane crash site littered with clothing, books, Legos and electronic debris. There’s more memory, data and power in their bedroom to rival the early Apollo program.
The air is heavy with sleep. I hug and kiss each of my boys and whisper I love you and listen to mom into their ears. I get to Henry who’s 14 going on 15 and sleeps in our old king size bed. It’s actually Sam’s bed but he’s away at college. I go to my old side of the bed and stretch over to where Henry is sleeping. He’s sweating while I give him a hug and we give each other a weird high-five knuckle handshake. I tell him not to worry about school and that everything will be okay.
I think of myself at 14, learning how to surf, listening to music that I’m still listening to today and the Miami Dolphins.
I’m sitting in the new Marlin Park on the former site of the Orange Bowl watching 2 teams I care nothing about but loving the sport. I think about my team, The Dodgers, about wins and loses – it doesn’t really matter. I remember sitting in this very place during a Monday Night Football game Uncle Bob took me to. We parked on the lawn in front of someone’s house. – The Dolphins playing the Benagals or the Bears. A time warp hits me like this Mojito I just slurped down like an Icee from the 7-11 on Oakland Park Blvd.
On the plane I’m listening to Dylan, blending the spirit and the real world together like nobody else can ever do.
Henry who is just 14 but looks a lot older. I try to catch myself using the word “just”- it diminishes it keeps it small but really he’s just 14. May You Stay Forever Young.
Dinner is over. There’s confusion about clearing the table, doing the dishes, taking out the trash, covering the fish so the raccoons don’t eat them, doing the counters and sweeping the floors. The arguing takes more time then the actual chores. Simon asks Debbie, “when you die can I have your jewelry?” He wants to keep them in a box to remember her by. There’s was something so sweet, honest but brutal in his question.
Silently, Sam walks in the front door. He’s been playing tennis and he smells. His spring break from Grinnell is almost over. His visits have been almost ghostlike, appearing and disappearing at times in Jacob Marley fashion as he jingles my Volvo keys and puts them on top of the green cabinet. I’m envious of his recent hauntings of coffee shops, record stores and restaurants. I wasn’t prepared for how much I was going to miss Sam when he went off to college and having him back for this break sometimes makes me stop and think to myself “are you really here?” There’s a sense of dread as the day he has to go back to college approaches.
On the way to the airport, we talk about surfing baseball and coffee. I ask him if the front breaks were squeaking when he drove the car yesterday. He says, “no, not really.” It’s small talk but really part of the bigger picture. His leaving creates an imbalance and emptiness inside of me that’s hard to pinpoint. It’s like losing a limb but seeing that limb hanging out of the window of a car going by in the opposite direction on the freeway.
I killed the koi the other day. He’s buried under the tangerine tree. I didn’t mean to kill him. I was responsible for his death though. Theo picked him out at the pet store 2 1/2 years ago for his birthday. He was black, had whiskers and was the only koi in the goldfish tank. Simon and Ollie each picked out a garish colored goldfish to keep him company.
Every day lately, he would shimmy and twist his scaly body out of the cistern he shared with the 2 goldfish and try to make his way upstream like he did when he was much smaller. He had just gotten too big to make the journey now. Sometimes he would lay in the concrete and algae, half of his body, head and eyes out of the water and stare straight ahead for a few seconds while the current touched his pulsating lips until he realized this was no longer a place for him and would slither his way back to his home.
I felt bad for him. I studied the pond and decided that if I raised the edges of the cistern and certain sides of the stream where the water breached when I filled it way up I coud give the koi a few more inches of water so he could make his journey.
On Saturday I filled up 2 large copper containers with 1/2 water from the pond and fresh hose water and transferred the koi and the goldfish so I could make the modifications to their stream. The koi was the last to make the transfer. He hid under the pump, alluded me at all costs and barely fit in the net. As I was mixing the mortar I kept glancing over at the containers to make sure the fish were doing okay. I looked and the koi container was empty. I ran over. He was laying on the grass tail slowly moving back and forth, gill flaps opening and closing and lips pulsating. I picked him up with my hands and put him back in the container. Minutes later he started swimming on his side, then upside down. I called Theo out to tell him what happened. Debbie started looking online. She found out he was probably in shock. She asked if I had any pond salt. “What’s pond salt?” I asked. “It’s salt that you use in ponds.” she answered. “No, I don’t have pond salt.” I said. ”Try to get water flowing through his gills.” she said. Theo started moving the koi back and forth in the water in an attempt at some reverse rescue breathing done in Atlantis to no avail. A thin trail of blood started flowing from his gills. The koi had died.
My mom gave me 2 photo albums recently. One was labeled “Allan Jr.” and the other “Teddy” in her familiar cursive writing. In the back of the “Teddy” album, behind the squiggly white bordered pictures of me being held by Nana and Grandpa, blowing out birthday candles, fishing in Vermont, receiving 1st communion that were coming unglued from photo corners there were some old negatives in an onion skin paper envelope. I took them out and held them up to the window light in my office. The photos from these negatives were not in the “Teddy” album. As I leaned back in my chair a wave of recognition clicked. These few strips were pictures I took with my first camera when I was 7 or 8 years old. It was an Argus. I remember never taking more then a dozen rolls of film with this camera. The small prints sent out and developed by Colonial Gardens Pharmacy became part of the landscape of the room I shared with my brother Allan along with Hot Wheels, Major Matt Masons and Creepy Crawlers. Most of the pictures were of my brother clowning around, mouth wide open hamming it up in front of the camera. There’s a few frames of Carl Bocchino, our next door neighbor, popping wheelies on his stingray, and some shots of our 1968 Pontiac Le Mans with Landau roof before it peeled away in the scorching Florida sun. There’s also a couple of images of a fort we built in Carls’ yard, a portrait of my mom and dad, pictures of clouds, trees, alligators, a bell and a license plate. Each image a time release capsule into my early years. When you are an 8 year kid with a camera you just click away and are not too concerned what the photos look like. The fun was just taking the picture. Years later the same still holds true.
I usually bring my Canon 5D Mark 2 with me wherever I go. It’s a big rig especially since I rarely take the 24mm-70mm lens off the body. I’ve modified (cut with my table saw) the sun shade so it will fit into my smaller camera bag. Last week I started using the camera in my iPhone. I’m hesitant about calling these pictures “true images” because of all the effects and actions available at the flick of a finger. It’s interesting taking pictures when people think you are texting on your phone.