March 7, 2014

The Postman Never Rings Twice Part 2


As early evening descended on some excruciatingly hot summers day in 1967, Niven and I were walking slowly through acres of walnut trees at his ranch in Hollister, California, when he mentioned casually that these acres of trees almost became a vineyard.

In typical Niven fashion, with a languid meandering drawl, which fit the hot dusty earth of California, he began to unwind a slow and bemused story of an almost wealth that was not to be.

California in the early and mid sixties was just beginning to produce grapes on a large scale for wine. Napa and Sonoma were in their infancy as one of the wine producing capitols and one of the largest producers of wine was Almaden Vineyards.

Almaden was one of the businesses of Louis Benoist of San Francisco, a descendent of French aristocracy, a uniquely extravagant and flamboyant figure of the late fifties and early sixties, he had five houses planted around California, huge yachts and planes, and a lifestyle that fitted a boastful man of means.

One afternoon, some months before our conversation, Niven received a call from a representative of Mr. Benoist, who asked if he may come over that day for a conversation.

It turns out, Mr. Benoist was expanding both his lifestyle and his property and wanted to buy Niven’s few hundred acres of mostly untended apricot and walnut trees and turn them into more land for Almaden to grow grapes.

Although the land looked fallow, dusty, and dry to me, and the ranch an unpretentious single level house that was comfortable but nothing special, it turned out the land was perfect for a premiere vineyard and Louis Benoist wanted it. Niven in his usual fashion negotiated an extravagant and incredibly prosperous deal for himself and with his very best gold pen signed that day a letter of intent to be finalized and notarized at Mr. Benoist extravaganza party at one of his palatial estates in two weeks.

As we reached an end of an allay of walnut trees my heart began to beat faster in expectation. If you think I’m a good story teller you should have heard Niven. Remember he’s a screenwriter novelist and if there ever was one who could spin a yarn it was Britton Niven Busch. Niven told me he was ecstatic at the thought of selling a few hundred acres of dirt. He had negotiated a huge sum and with it he had fantasies of a beautiful townhouse in Pacific Palisades in San Francisco.

Finally the evening arrives and Niven and Cheeta, his fourth and my most favorite wife, go to Mr. Benoist house for one of the most lavish and extravagant parties Niven had ever seen. And Niven, who was a product of Long Island extravaganza, had seen a lot. Remember this man was friends with many of Hollywoods most illustrious luminaries, and I could only imagine what his good times were like.

As we are slowly meandering back towards the ranch Niven tells me that all night Mr. Benoist eludes him. He seems to be continually avoiding any opportunity to sign the papers but finally at the very end of the evening Mr. Benoist tells Niven he’s too busy at the moment but they will get together next week to finalize everything.

I am now more impatient than ever and beg Niven to get on with the story and tell me what happened. He laughs and slowly unveils the remainder and the most important part of the story I’m about to tell you.

Firstly, despite numerous attempts by Niven over the next few weeks, Louis Benoist never signed the papers. Two weeks after this last extravagant and lustful party, Niven reads in the San Francisco Chronicle that Louis Benoist has been arrested by the FBI, and here is where this story like many other stories of the past, the present, and I am sure the future merge into the common denominator of greed.

With an eye for going from rich to even richer Louis Benoist began to expand his empire on credit, buying more businesses and more land, and this is where Niven came in. Louis Benoist was on a tear buying more and more land for his ever-expanding Almaden Vineyards and to raise the capital that all acquisitions need, Louis Benoist put up as collateral all the soybean oil he had stored in his tanks being held at Lawrence Warehousing, which I understand to be many millions of dollars.

He borrowed huge sums of money against this oil to go on his buying spree. The banks, to continually check and confirm their collateral, would send inspectors out to the warehouse on a monthly basis armed with a giant dipstick that they would place into the top of the tanks to make sure their oil was still there. Month after month they would confirm their collateral. It was just on the day that Niven was to get his papers signed, that someone spilled the oil and told the FBI that there was fraudulent playing at Lawrence Warehousing. Oh to imagine what could have been.

So the story goes like this. Over the last number of years Louis Benoist had been sucking dry his soybean oil unbeknownst to the banks. He did this, like all intelligent men of greed, by cheating those who supported him. He had placed a small and narrow tube down the inside of each of his tanks and slowly syphoned out and sold all the oil outside of this small tube. By the time the FBI got to him the tanks were basically empty except for a few hundred gallons that remained inside the tube to satisfy the bankers dipsticks.

So with this discovery the world of Louis Benoist, Almaden Vineyards, Lawrence Warehousing, and a number of other businesses along with the houses, the yachts, the planes, came tumbling down and just a few days after his arrest Almaden was sold in a fire sale to National Distilleries. Along with the sale all the hopes of what might have been for Niven were lost.

Niven the ultimate wheeler-dealer had been double wheeled and double dealed by the infamous Louis Benoist.


P.S. It has come to my attention that my story is correct but some of the facts are wrong, well what you would expect from a story that is 47 years old told to me by the greatest storyteller I’d ever met.


February 19, 2014

The Postman Never Rings Twice Part 1


This is a story about my first wife’s father Niven Busch, the GRANDfather to my son Jonah. For he was truly grand in every way and like my own father, left his mark imbedded and scattered throughout his seven children and five wives.

He was born of wealthy patrician parents and lived in Centre Island, Long Island, New York. He went to Princeton, worked with his cousin Briton Hadden, the co-founder of Time Life with Henry Luce, at The New Yorker, and ultimately (an this is another story) abandoned the East and all its history to become a screenwriter and novelist in California.

He became quite a legend writing films like Duel in the Sun, and The Postman Never Rings Twice as well as writing many novels set in California such as California Street, The San Franciscans etc.

He was tall and very handsome “looking like a cross between Errol Flynn (a good friend and fellow polo player) and John Huston, and women by the droves were attracted to this handsome, adventurous, smart, cunning man. His life was an enormous adventure, which I became a part of my last two years of high school and remained so for many years.

He often confided in me, and even wrote one book with a little help from my father whom he liked. These two giant egos seemed to mesh perfectly as they had different lives in different places. They related and understood each other from afar.

Niven was tall and very Western and my father was small Jewish and very Eastern yet these two men were both a force to be reckoned with and despite their deaths their legacy has lived on strongly.

Karl Malden once told me his agent told him never to go into a room alone with Niven as he would come out the loser.

Niven married the actress Teresa Wright, my first wife’s mother and his third wife in 1942 and they were divorced in 1952, when Mary-Kelly and her mother moved to New York City, and Niven and Terrence, Mary-Kelly’s brother, stayed in California moving north to Hollister where Niven bought an Apricot and Walnut Ranch and settled in to write novels. After the less than amicable divorce Niven and Teresa barely spoke to each other except to exchange information on the children.

He quickly remarried for his forth time to Carmenceta (Cheetah) and had three other children. Cheetah was one of the most special people, and as time went on became one of my closest friends. I was always Rodney Lewis to her and I will get back to her at a later date but for now this is a story about Niven and I must plow ahead.

As one might expect from these two very beautiful and handsome people, a movie star and a writer, two children were conceived Terrence, who I always thought was going to be the next John Steinbeck, brilliant handsome and my idol as a child. He was four years older than me but yet seemed miles ahead of me and Mary-Kelly my wife whom I met in our high school years. Mary-Kelly was beautiful, fragile, and very delicate and when I met her much of the damage of the divorce, the separation from her father and her brother was already done. I think I only contributed to closing the lid on this very special person.

For a number of summers while in high school and my first years of college, I would spend one month at the ranch. Mary-Kelly my girlfriend at the time would spend her whole summers there and I would go in early August to join the Busch clan, and this is where one of my Niven stories begins.

For some reason I think Niven, unlike Teresa who resented my fathers wealth, took a real liking to me. He had come from wealth, his father had lost everything in The Depression, but he never was uncomfortable around it. Cheetah a San Francisco socialite and I loved each other. She was hysterically funny and so human. We laughed from morning to night and it was all great fun. On occasion Niven and I would take a walk and he would tell me stories about his life.

In the summer of 1966 or 67, when I was enjoying the life of a small ranch in California, one evening on a long walk Niven began to tell me the story I’m about to tell you. It’s a story about California, about loss and gain and maybe what could have been. In any case I’ve run out of room and time so this little story about California life in the mid sixties will have to wait till next time.



February 12, 2014

Mr. S Meets Mr. Smith: Part Four


It’s time for a fourth annual give and take sometimes better known as “ask and you shall receive”, and on rare occasions “give it to me Mr. Smith”. The interview will take place as always by me, probing ever deeper into the truly eccentric ID of Mr. Smith.

Mr. S: For those who have followed your exploits and notations, is it true that you believe self-awareness (an examined life) constitutes a strong part of one’s ability to make great photographs? 

Mr. Smith: Wow, you get right to the point. Absolutely, yet not necessarily so. I don’t mean to be elusive, but this is a very complicated issue. For me I find photography to often be a key to unlock some of the great mysteries about oneself. I can look at photographs and tell a great deal about the person who took the photograph: it’s as if the photograph is a guidebook that helps reflect what one feels about the world around them. But I’m not sure self-reflection is necessary for everyone. If your life and your pictures are working well and you are comfortable with your work, so be it.



Mr. S: Can you elaborate further?

Mr. Smith: Firstly it is my belief that great photography as well as many of the arts is an expression of deep profound feeling that lingers in one’s soul ready and able to be expressed. Some rare people have an avenue directly to these feelings, and need nothing else. This is quite exceptional and often not the case. Most people are unable to express the positive forces that reside within them. They express resistance, frustration, distance, anger, and other repressed feelings in their work.

Mr. S: So what is wrong with that. Isn’t that simply expressing what they are feeling? 

Mr. Smith: Good question, but no. It is an expression of confusion and conflict, which is ok, but generally not that successful photographically. One needs to pour one’s heart out, to stand vulnerable, exposed, shouting (even if it’s a whisper) a very clear message to those around them to have the world even begin to take notice.



Mr S: I still don’t understand why confusion expressed in ones work isn’t successful?

Mr. Smith: Please remember, I am not talking about the surface, or a purely descriptive expression of something. The surface, i.e. the subject matter, is not in question. I am talking about what resides below the picture. For example I can feel in the photograph how one relates to the subject, whether it be a figure, or a landscape or even a still life. Is a photographer tentative, frightened, aloof, angry, etc. then the viewer consciously or unconsciously feels confusion rather than intimacy. The viewer will feel confused about their feelings. The photograph will remain unresolved, off-putting, and incomplete.

If you look at a Rembrandt or a Leonardo painting the subject is emotionally very complicated, but the painter who made those pictures is very clear.



Mr. S: Do you think you have the ability to make the same intense pictures as you are getting older and you have some illnesses? 

Mr. Smith: As long as the intensity is still there, as long as I can respond powerfully, as long as I am deeply attracted to people and the world in which we live, all is well. In fact I am far wiser today than years ago so one now gets the very best of me when I make photographs.

Mr. S: How do you see your legacy?

Mr. Smith: I put my life on the line for photography, and it returned the effort with abundance. Its gift back to me was a me devoid of most of my neuroses. One who is clear, sharp, and energetic. Whether all these years of work, or whether the work is good enough to pass the test of time, is beyond my control. What I do control is my effort and focus on trying to make great pictures. Whether they are or whether they’re not successful is up to the viewer.



Mr. S: So what is The End meant to stand for?

Mr. Smith: Many opposing things, and with that I will say goodbye and good luck for now.



January 30, 2014

In Sickness and In Health Part 3


In the Summer of 2009 I began to notice that I was becoming slightly winded as I went up the stairs, and that a profound fatigue was beginning to nestle into my body.

On the next visit to Dr. Wolf in June of 2009, he mentioned I was becoming more anemic and he wanted to see me again in a month.

I returned a month later to see that I had become even more anemic, and he informed me it was important to immediately start chemotherapy. As I went through the process of having many tests before treatment, I began to get more and  more fatigued, until when the therapy actually began a week later I was close to needing a blood transfusion.

And so it began. I just avoided needing a transfusion as I responded very well to therapy. I began to actually feel much better and I went through a six month course of infusions without losing my humor or my hair. Ironically my hair stubbornly refused to fall out, which was a surprise and good news to all.

Over the last few years I have had two more treatments for reasons I won’t bore you with but at the moment all is well.

As I wonder to myself about the silver lining to my illness, for example, shouldn’t it make me re-evaluate my life, or change direction, refocus my efforts, change my priorities, or simply appreciate life for it’s beauty every day, I find actually that none of this has happened.

But do not feel any sorrow or pity for me because as I have gone through these last years with its many ups and downs, I have realized in most ways I am living the life I want. Sure I would love to have more time to spend with my wife, visit friends more, achieve more acclaim, see my son more, but if I look at my life as a whole, as the life I have actually lived for these past 45 years, I find I am doing what I want. I am living the life I dreamed about, I am resting as much as I need, and most of all I don’t think I would change much.

Continually reflecting on my decision making with the help of guidance over these past years has helped me choose the life I wanted to live then and not waiting for something traumatic to happen to make that change.

So as the world turns, and I along with it, I wonder what I will meet along the way. But with the past that I have chosen and hope for the future, I find myself looking forward to the road I must travel ahead.



The leaves are falling, falling as from way off,
as though far gardens withered in the skies;
they are falling with denying gestures.

And in the nights the heavy earth is falling
from all the starts down into loneliness.

We are all falling. This hand falls.
And look at others: it is in them all.

And yet there is one who holds this falling
endlessly gently in his hands.

By Rainer Maria Rilke
The Book of Pictures, I


January 23, 2014

In Sickness and In Health Part 2



It began with a small whimper

One morning while in my early fifties I had a simple flu and went to the local clinic for some medicine and comfort. By now I had mostly expunged my dreaded fear of doctors, and although still very trepidatious, I was able to overcome my resistance, and forge my way forward to seeing doctors.

It had been some years since my first encounter with doctors and physicals, and I now found my fears of sickness and doctors slowly dissipating. In fact, I was actually beginning to feel myself in good physical and mental health.

While at the local, clinic the doctor made a routine check of my blood to evaluate whether the illness was viral or bacterial, and to his surprise my white blood counts were very high.

He was quite sure there was something wrong with his machine (as he had had problems in the past) and asked me just to return in a few days to check my condition out further.

I’m not exactly sure of what happened next, but I do remember going to see an internist in Manhattan.

At this point in my life both in story and reality there was and is no going back. For years I have debated whether I should be telling you what I am about to unfold. For years I’ve kept this information mostly private except for friends, associates, neighbors, and a few others, so I’m not sure what purpose it serves to disclose it now, but then again I have tried to provide full disclosure. And with this promise as my guide, I am now proceeding to tell all.

When the internist evaluated my blood he became quite alarmed and nervous. For an hour he was trying to figure out what malady I might have that wasn’t that serious, all the time fearing that I was quite sick. Interestingly enough as I noticed he was getting more and more agitated and probably quite concerned I noticed I was becoming calmer. My blood pressure probably went from off the roof to normal. How could this be? All my life up to this point, I had imagined this moment and dreaded it. These fears had paralyzed me for a good part of my existence, and here it was happening right before me, and as the doctor was becoming more and more concerned I became calmer. How do I explain this?

I remember him commenting about how peculiar it was that I should be calm when most people would be so nervous. In conclusion he recommended that I have a biopsy of one of my lymph nodes to see what malignancy I had.

My wife (Leslie), and I left his office in a stupor. I was totally confused as I felt fine. Leslie’s father who was one of the wisest men I knew, strongly suggested I should not get a biopsy until I met with a hematologist.

At this point I began to change from continually fearing sickness to believing I now truly was, but instead of becoming immobile and paralyzed as I always had feared, somewhere I began to find strength.

We went to visit my college friend Michael, who I had rarely seen, because he was a doctor, and I was terrified of him. Luckily, he knew me well, and immediately saw us and helped us begin to figure out  a strategy. I was also lucky that Michael is very smart and a very distinguished doctor so I was ready and able to take his advice. He told me quite bluntly, in agreement with Leslie’s father, that before doing anything, I should see a Hematologist who he recommended. And so began my relationship with Dr. Wolf.

On my first visit he did extensive blood work and a bone-marrow exam, and came back to us after examining my cells and told me I have chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL).

By being chronic rather than acute it can stand watching and doing nothing for some time. I am told my immune system is greatly compromised, and I must be very careful about getting sick as my system has a hard time curing itself, but otherwise there was nothing to be done at that time.

So this is the way it was for some years. My lymph glands were the size of oranges and I had some fatigue, but otherwise I was fine. I became a regular at Dr. Wolf seeing him every three months, until four years ago when things began to change.

Until next week.




January 13, 2014

In Sickness and In Health


As noted in the past, on a peaceful summers midday afternoon in August 1972 my father collapsed in a restaurant in Manhattan while having lunch with some associates.

Just like a sudden snap of a falling majestic oak tree, he collapsed and died instantly. For years afterwards I too was sure I was dying without him. I invested in every conceivable malady sure this was the one that would bring me down. I was convinced that the bind that tied me to my father was unbreakable, and that without his strength and power to protect me, I would fail miserably.

My early adult life was filled with anxiety and hypochondria, which surrounded my conscious life with failure and sickness. Deep down though in the very private unconscious realm that resides within us all, I was surviving, progressing, and actually flourishing as a photographer.

From my early childhood, and especially in my adult life I was terrified of doctors. What might they discover by their probing tools and penetrating eyes on this weak and frail person. Just a thought of visiting a doctor ignited an anxiety attack. For years I simply avoided doctors. I was easily able to talk in front of hundreds of people, but seeing a lone doctor for an annual physical was out of the question. Standing naked and vulnerable in front of a doctor who was more knowledgeable about health and sickness than me was terrifying. Face to face confrontation was simply tortuous. If I let someone in, all they would find would be a failing sick person who was hiding under the veneer of health.

For me a visit to a doctor was even more emotionally intimate and revealing than physical intimacy with a woman, although being close and intimate is what I have most craved and needed my whole life. I was filled, even overwhelmed with desire and attraction but so fearful of it. My early adult life was so confused and anxious that real intimacy was mostly a dream and hope rather than a realization.

But not in my pictures. It was with my camera that I began to find intimacy. With a camera, I responded to this sick frail person I perceived myself to be, with a strong YES. The pictures were strong, powerful, and invincible.


I see it all now, all so clearly. I truly understand with over forty years of introspection with a doctor in New Haven. I took my mothers love, and it’s perceived withdrawal because of her sickness, and I then attached all the guilt I felt in the belief that my strength was the fault. If I remained frail, sick, and did not stick out too far by being overly assertive or strong then everything would be alright. I could keep things under control. I needed her love so badly that I would even take her sickness on to me. I would do anything to keep her alive. and well even if it destroyed and changed me. So at age five I turned a powerful vibrant smart young boy into a sickly failure for all to see. How could a mother abandon a child so in need of her love. I thought my strength was killing her and I changed everything to keep her alive. Instead of accepting my new state internally, I was always unconsciously fighting it with ruthless determination. This conflict in the end led to years and years of enormous anxiety.

Then I remarried at age forty, started a new life, and things began to change. As my fiftieth birthday loomed closer on the horizon this wife of mine insisted that I didn’t need my head examined anymore but that “now it was the time to get physical”. No matter how much I feared it. It was now time to have an extensive physical exam. My psyche was in good shape but how about my body. For me it was now time to open up and finally find out what was wrong with me. I was now going to let some doctor probe, inject, and look closely into my being and my heart (which I was sure was failing) and face my fears straight on.

So one Spring we went off to the Pritikin Institute for a thorough physical and the start of a new lean diet. I was finally going to face all my fears. I was going to let my father die. So with the help of many Valiums and enormous encouragement of friends and family I set off on an adventure of a lifetime.

This is just the beginning but until next week it is the END.





December 23, 2013

Deck the House


Forget dinner in Singapore until next year, we have dinner right here in the good old USA.

Everything is as it should be, except for one small minor detail. Instead of turning up the heat, preparing the hearths for Yuletide fires, we are turning on the air conditioning.

Except for the bizarre fact that it is hot when it should be cold we are in a frantic pace, to prepare ourselves, our home, and our lives for what lies ahead.

This is our early winter, pre spring, Christmas activity. The house is abuzz with activity. All engines are humming along with a nice sonorous tis the season… as we prepare not for Babettes Feast but rather for our annual Christmas Roast.

Savannah, our daughter, is home for the holidays, and is baking every conceivable concoction of desert including a Yule log, a Bourbon pumpkin cheesecake, a red velvet bunt cake, a chocolate buttermilk cake, and various pies.

Since she has been surviving on college food for the last months her mind has obviously wondered off into the land of fanciful deserts, which she is fulfilling in the days before Christmas.

She has taken over the kitchen in preparation for her all-nighters of baking. There is flour sifting everywhere, moulds, cake pans, bunt pans, and pie pans being greased and caressed. Even our bird Melody is humming Christmas carols along with Savannah as she dons her apron singing I’m dreaming of a white Christmas while it is 70 degrees outside and focuses on her tasks ahead.

There is the aroma of Bourbon and pumpkin wafting through the house and as I make my way into the kitchen there are endless mounds of butter, flour, sugar, and chocolate. Enough good food to give any good set of eyes and nose good cheer.

Outside the final leaves are being raked, the lawn pristine with dew, the gravel driveway is being raked and manicured for our guests.

Inside the tree is glowing with decorations, and mysteriously mounds of presents seem to find there way under the tree.

The couches are being vacuumed, windows are being cleaned, beds are being made and slowly the house begins to shine its Christmas best.

And now we prepare the table for the feast. The handmade linen tablecloth is carefully ironed and with all hands on deck, is carefully placed perfectly over the large dining table.

Next my mother’s Royal Copenhagen china from the early 1950s is carefully placed around the table along with the silver tableware. The wine and water glasses are placed by each serving. The silver candlesticks are carefully placed in the center of the table, and beautiful flowers are placed throughout the house. Often there is the smell of peony, lilac, vibrant tulips, lush hydrangeas, and exotic roses perfuming the Christmas Feast.

Special wine has been selected and the house begins to shine with all its glory as it prepares to welcome those who come for this special feast.

As Christmas day approaches I love the smell of the fir Christmas tree and the decanted red wine. I love seeing my wife and daughter cooking, laughing tasting together in the kitchen. I love our housekeeper scurrying along with great purpose as we all prepare to carve the roast and give thanks that there still are traditions and values worth preserving, that in the preparation of a great feast one can find beauty and great purpose.

For me as I sit down to Christmas dinner and give thanks, to the year before, I relish the traditions that I still implore and hope that as we make our way into the next year we are able to hold on to some of the life we knew before. Happy Holidays to you all! Until next year.


December 9, 2013

When it Rains it Singapores Part 1


We arrived at the terminal at 9:30PM on our day of departure for a late night eighteen hour nonstop flight to Singapore. We were off to participate in an opening of my work at the FOST Gallery in Singapore. Leslie, my wife was convinced that leaving late at night was a good thing. We would arrive at the airport already tired, and we would simply get on the plane and sleep our way luxuriously to Singapore.

I, on the other hand, was not so sure. I am a morning day person, grumpy and irritable at night, and was not sure how well I would do with the window blinds closed for the whole flight. We were traversing the world flying east in eighteen hours of continual night.

At 11PM sharp we departed on a large Singapore airlines plane, converted to only one luxurious class, and off we went on an adventure, my feet will never forget.

As we began our long travel we relaxed into a four hour dinner, and despite consuming alcohol, drugs, and wishful thinking I found myself unable to sleep but rather staring at the flight-map for eighteen hours as we slowly made our way across Europe, all across Russia, down the edge of Iran, through the entire length of India, down further past Thailand, and lastly finally touching down at the immaculately, clean, precise, and ultramodern airport of Singapore. The third world may be all around you but you are in an oasis of first world modernity.

For eighteen hours I had not blinked once watching the TV map progress ever so slowly in front of me. I was totally transfixed. I knew as well as the pilot our longitude and latitude at every given minute. I was a sitting GPS. Unlike all the intelligent people on the plane, who had slept luxuriously flat on a bed made by stewardesses, I had remained upright, for some unknown reason, for the entire flight. Everyone arrived ready to go. I arrived ready to sleep.

No wonder I arrived in Singapore with spots in my eyes. These little black spots floating across my vision, I am convinced started by staring at the map for eighteen hours.

We were met at the hotel by our most gracious hostesses, who for the duration of our stay made every effort to be our companions and take care of our every wish. Here I was surrounded by two young beautiful gracious Asian women, who took care of me. What could be better for an old man like me. It was pure bliss.

Every day the question would be. Do I need a foot massage, a back massage, a leg massage, a nap, a meal, or anything else that they could do to make our stay pleasant and memorable. The art of hosting and graciousness is definitely not lost in the East. Woe to America.

Every day as the clock struck 2PM it was time for our daily reflexology. We would be ushered into a quiet store, where women would message and rub intimately your toes, your ankles, and oh those aching legs.

For 60 to 90 minutes my legs where caressed as I blissfully napped off into total ecstasy. People often say the stomach is the way to a man’s heart. Who knew it really is through his toes. I was in pure heaven.

After an hour of near orgasm I was ready to be fed, napped, and then ready to take on the Singapore world. I had interviews with magazines, newspapers, and radio stations. I met with wonderful clients, went to the gallery, and prepared for the opening.

We had dinners with friends, clients, prospective clients, and met friends at their homes for dinner. During our stay I traversed from one end of Singapore to the next.

The opening was a success and a few days later we continued our journey east, this time in daylight watching my map every step of the way until finally landing in New York where it all began.

But there is a subplot to this story of traveling so far East that it actually meets the West.

On the road to Singapore I met a man and his wife who had me to dinner. And what a dinner it was. Stay tuned.


November 25, 2013

“I Never Sang for My Father”


Death ends a life, but not a relationship, which struggles on in the survivor’s mind toward some resolution . . . 

Robert Anderson I Never Sang for My Father


You can see it in many of my pictures. It’s there below the surface, residing often in the very molecules that comprise the image. Deep below the whimsy, and the joy is a loneliness, a slow whiff of sadness and an everlasting melancholy.

Although I am shouting yes to life, to goodness, to beauty, and exalting on the wonders of our existence, I am forever fighting a looming large and very dark presence that is saying No.

It’s as if my pictures are my response. They are my strong defiance, even my “ruthless determination” to refuse or accept the verdict that I am a large No.

My response to these very deep lingering feelings tells a personal story that was only partially played out in reality. The pictures tell a story of triumph, joy, and are filled with hope, when in my own personal history this partial triumph over despair, this anger that fueled my determination to find a small yes and overcome this great No, was only played out in a small office, deeply alone with only the help of one doctor in New Haven Connecticut over many many troubling and confusing years.


It ended and started one very late morning in the early Spring of 1968. I was home for Spring Break in my junior year of college, and for some reason my father and I were alone together in New York City for a day.

I don’t remember where it started but somewhere, some morning, outside of our Manhattan apartment my father got very angry at me. You would think that by this time in my life I could handle his disappointment and annoyance at me, but even at this ripe old age of twenty-one I still was unsure where to place his disappointment with me. Was I to accept his stated and unstated view of me, or was I to fight back with all the rage that was lodging in every anxious and fearful sinew in my body.

By now I had excelled at things he knew nothing about. I was an A student, an academic, a boy of confused and smoldering ideas with feelings that had no place to go, especially where they belonged. I was engaged to be married into a world somewhat distinct and removed from my own, but still I felt unacceptable and unequal to this diminutive man, who remained a very dark towering presence standing mightily over me.

For a few hours after breakfast while I tagged along with him as he did some errands, my anger smoldered and churned within me. For as many years as I could remember I had never once stood up to this man, fought him fairly in battle. The odds had always been on his side. Today I was going to change that.

In the past I had quietly gone my own way, looking like the obedient son but rebelling in my interests, my loves, and in my thoughts. I looked like the dutiful son but who was I really?

By the time we returned to the apartment in the late morning I had finally after twenty-one years of a lingering, agonizing, deep seated anger intwined with tremendous fears and anxieties finally reached my tipping point.

When we got back he noted with disdain something I had done wrong when in fact I had done nothing. I started to say something that now reflected all the years of silent self-destroying resentment that was contained in my soul. Just as I started to raise my voice in rage to sing my song of rebellion, my fathers voice came down on me like a sledge hammer. He became furious, dismissed me abruptly and walked away angry.

For hours I fumed and he in his fashion spoke nothing to me. Finally some hours later, with the battle lost before it even really began, I apologized, he nodded and never spoke again of our encounter.

On this same Spring Break in 1968 I went to see the permanent collection of photography at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and sealed my fate. It was there on that early spring day that I realized that I wanted to be a photographer and immerse my soul far away from any control he had over me.

So in the end I found my special voice and I was able to scream at the top of my lungs not at him but for him. To this day I am still begging for this man, my father, to notice me, and to see me for all I am worth and to realize finally I am worthy of his love.

Two years later my father was dead. I was left with forty years of trying to find a way to come to grips with the complicated man I called Dad.


Happy Thanksgiving to you all.



November 6, 2013

To Use or Not to Use, That is the Question.


It’s staring me right in the face, this beautiful grey box with a silver chrome jewel inside it. It’s precise, elegant, and very refined, yet all last night I had trouble sleeping thinking about it. You would have thought that this magical grey box would have calmed my fears and given me a restful and blissful evening but no, this little grey box required two valiums to knock out my fears.

Yesterday I paid a great deal of money for it and I’m not even sure I want it. I walked out of the store where I purchased this box and began to tremble, but here I am and I don’t think I have any intention of returning it, but I’m not even sure I will ever use it. What a confusing state I’m in!

Yesterday afternoon I bought my first digital camera, a small Leica M240, that looks almost identical to the M6 I used to use, and even the M4 I used when I was in my twenties. The only difference is that one was film and the other has a card that records about 400 images before I have to change it.

I wish it were that simple, and maybe it is but last night I tried to keep my soul in check. I felt like it was ready to abandon me, reject me for my reckless faithlessness.

Film has been my confidant, my beloved, for forty-five years and why have I even been thinking of abandoning it even if it’s only very slightly. For me the newfangled digital world is something I mostly abhor, and yet for some time I have ruminated and thought that if I ever was to shoot a digital frame this new masterpiece of a camera with it’s perfect 35mm format would be my choice. So what do I do as soon as I make a little bit of money, I go out and spend it on a camera I’m not sure I want. Oh what a state I’m in.

Here I am at this very tiny crossroad with its various ups and downs. A person who is computer illiterate, who emails almost never, who only reads printed books and newspapers, and tries as hard as possible to avoid the digital world has with great reluctance bought a camera that begins to unite me with a world I want nothing to do with.

Here I am, a person who does not like retouching, compositing, or even looking at the frame until the image is developed, usually days later, buying an instant camera.

Here I am a person who does not like most digital reproduction as it looks sterile, lifeless, and often very cool, buying a small digital camera.

And lastly why would I buy a camera I probably could have borrowed from Leica to test to see if I felt comfortable with it before I went out and purchased it?

The answer to these and most other questions concerning this camera is for the most part, I simply do not know. I have some small incite but no clear definition.

I am a person for better or worse who does not test or try things in practice. It has to be something I truly care about before I will pick up any camera and make a picture. This camera if I ever use it will be handled like its predecessors, nothing ever will be shot without an attempt to make it significant. I don’t fool around with cameras. I learn my craft full speed ahead. Every picture is for keeps, and it stands on the contact sheet for eternity. There is no taking anything back.

These four hundred frames will be shot very deliberately and precisely. Nothing arbitrary, just as the film cameras that preceded it.

I bought this camera to use only when film is not effective. As usual I will keep only my toes in the modern world while my heart and soul stays firmly footed in the life and times I know best.

This camera is well made and beautiful as the objects I hold from the past but it no longer has the mechanical Swiss movement of a fine watch but rather contains the technology of the present. It represents both worlds to me.

I will continue to shoot film almost all the time but there will be a time, a moment on a shoot, where this camera will fill in the void that is there. It will be a small special tool for that special occasion.

We will all stay tuned to when that day arises. Until then my life and my work will remain grainy and will be filled with the unknown.

Life in all its varieties will be recorded using the reciprocity of light as its guideline, and ultimately brought to life in a very dark room.


P.S. I’m off on a far far away adventure for a week. See you again in two weeks.



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