Saturday, December 20, 2014

2014: Certainly A Year To Remember...

I normally don't write big, year-end "this year is circling the bowl" sort of posts every December, but I feel  somewhat compelled to do it this year.

I've now been in Florida for right around 16 months. I don't know that I ever thought I'd end up moving here and, if I did, I don't know that I ever thought I'd stay. But it's been right and good for me, and has allowed me to feel grounded and, to some degree, mildly sane.

The year 2014 started, well, badly. I had planned a New Year's Eve celebration in North Carolina. Instead, my brother Greg and I were in New York, as our Dad was in the hospital, and he was not doing well. So, we spent New Year's Eve with Dad's friends; those people who he loved and cared for, and who loved and cared for him right back. In early January, the doctors said Dad would be going home, so Greg and I said our goodbyes and headed south, back to Florida.

On February 13, we got a call telling us that Dad was going to be moved into hospice. Greg and I, again, were on the road on February 15. At about 3:00pm that afternoon, my phone rang. It was Dad's longtime partner Judy. "Steve", she said, "He's gone". Those were the only words she could muster.

Dad passed away at 2:15 that afternoon.

We were somewhere in Virgina.

One of my favorite photos of Dad...

The funeral was almost surreal; the collection of mourners as diverse a crowd as you could ever imagine. It was comforting to see everyone who showed up, and I think it was a testament to the man everyone loved. During the eulogy, I commented that "JP" wasn't perfect; far from it, in fact. But, if he had been perfect, he wouldn't have been the man that everyone knew and loved.

Only a few months later, one of Dad's best friends (and, as a result, a friend to Greg and me, as well), Bert, passed away. Then, in what seemed like only a blink of an eye, another friend, Tucker, also succumbed to cancer. It was a difficult time; more for some than others, but everyone felt the pain of losing loved ones.

Somehow, we figure out how to live life without them. It may not be as much fun, but there's really no alternative.

The last photo ever taken of the three of us...

After returning to Florida, I found that my photography business had ramped up to a point, and then kinda' stagnated. I was determined to fix that. I opted out of the camp photographer job I had the year prior, instead choosing to remain in Florida for the summer. Along with working on my photography presence in town, I also started working at a local club as a bouncer. If working as a bouncer taught me one thing, it's that I really, really don't like country music. That aside, though, it gave me the opportunity to listen to a lot of live music (not all of it country), and it expanded my circle of friends.

At some point, I decided I wanted to head north. I would visit Maryland, Long Island, New York City, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. I was gone for about three weeks, and got to see friends, family and loved ones along the way. And, sometimes, as much as you think you can handle a summer apart from someone, you usually discover you'd rather not. So, you take care of that.

A rental car and the road. Not a bad way to spend a few weeks of the summer...
I did a lot of shooting over the summer. While I didn't shoot as much as last summer, I shot, probably, far more than most sane people in the same period of time.

From a photography perspective, the highlight of the summer came on August 1. An old high school friend of mine is the team photographer for the New York Jets, and he got me on the sidelines at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey for the Jets pre-season opener against the Indianapolis Colts. I'm glad the Jets won that game because, let's face facts, their regular season has been a tad lackluster.

With my old high school buddy Al Perreira, on the Jets sideline at Met Life Stadium. I could've kept the vest, but they'd have kept my driver's license. It almost seemed like a fair trade...

I returned to Florida after a stop in North Carolina, and hit the photography head-on and with both barrels. I'd invested in new equipment prior to my trip north, so now it was time to invest in getting my name out there and making inroads into the public arena.

Since I'd moved here, I had the chance to shoot longtime friends Barenaked Ladies at the St. Augustine Amphitheater last November, and shot in that venue again when Daughtry came to town. I was able to use those photos as my resume', in a way, to get into the rotation as a house photographer at the Amphitheater and at the Ponte Vedre Concert Hall, about thirty minutes north of St. Augustine. Sure, it would be great if they paid me (they don't), but I get the opportunity to see some great shows and get some great photos.

Along with Daughtry and Barenaked Ladies, I've had the chance to shoot Earth, Wind & Fire, Phil Phillips, Goo Goo Dolls, Plain White T's, Richard Marx and Hall & Oates. Upcoming gigs include Sarah McLachlan, The Doobie Brothers and Marshall Tucker Band. So, yeah, I don't get paid, but I suppose there are worse ways to spend some free time.

The highlight of the year, above all others, had to be the celebrating of Mom's 80th birthday. Greg and I enlisted the help of his girlfriend Renie and her friend Ruth, and we threw Mom a bit of a wing-ding back in August. Not only were there a lot of locals in attendance, but also friends and loved ones from as far away as California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and even the Cayman Islands. Mom knew the party was going to happen, but she didn't know who would be there. It was quite a time, to be sure, and everyone loved seeing everyone else.

Mom and I dancing... Greg taking pictures...

August also marked the first time that I'd seen my daughter, Jessy, since I left San Diego in November of 2012; almost 22 months. I won't write a whole lot about that other than to say that I will never let that happen again.

Back on the photography front, the biggest "photography win" came with me being picked up by a new magazine here in St. Augustine: St. Augustine Social. I'm not only shooting for them, but have started writing for them, as well. It started with "Bloody Mary Monday", for the magazine's blog, which was the result of Beth and I enjoying tasty cocktails on a Sunday afternoon. It's morphed into a whole series on the best Bloody Mary's in town and that, in turn, has turned into me doing restaurant reviews for the print magazine. The first one will hit the street in February, and I'm pretty jazzed about that.

So, in a nutshell, that was my 2014. It started on a low and ended on a high, but I've really tried to keep things in perspective. Three years ago I never would've imagined this path for me but, hey, here it is.

The only thing to do now is see where the path leads...

Wrapping Up Another Year...

I'm finding it a bit difficult to believe that's it's been six months since I've posted anything. It seems as though, as soo...