This or that

I have a question I’d like to cast-out into the abyss–a question that I honestly do not know the answer to.  I’m stuck.  This is me throwing a line into the darkness hoping that I’ll catch a response.  If there is in fact an actual audience reading these hastily written diatribes, up until this point you’ve been rather thoughtful and extremely quiet.  This time I would really like to hear your voice.  

So here we go.  How do you measure and balance the emotional needs of one family member against those of another?  More specifically how do you balance those needs when the family member in question is a person with special needs?  Every family is different and every person that makes up every family is different so I’m not so foolish to think that there are some one-size-fits-all formulas out there to these questions.  I’m just honest to god curious how other people cope.  

Elliot has, with an ever-increasing frequency, become more and more stubborn and single-minded.  As loving as he can be, he’s now a teenager and incredibly headstrong, so much so that almost every interaction with him has become a struggle of wills.  His inability to compromise and total lack of empathy is throwing our family into a perpetual emotional merry-go-round of irritation, anger, regret and sadness.  Often times what he wants is something completely untenable like a date with a cute girl from a tv show, but his inability to differentiate reality from desire forces him to fight for these imaginary impossibilities like there were as tangible as the parents he’s arguing with.  If he doesn’t get his way he enters a state of complete non-compliance which can manifest itself for example, in refusing to move from here he’s currently standing.  This form of non-compliance can be sooo dangerous if you’re out on the street or on an escalator or tying to get on a subway train.  If he’s especially angry with you he’ll decide in his teenage brain, “hey fuck-you dad, I’m just going to run away” and you realize you only have a split second to stop him.  So you grab his hand and then he starts howling and screaming that you’re beating him and hitting him to everyone around you.  He screams and cries so damn loud that people start to stare and question whether you are the kind of parent that would actually beat their special needs kid.  The transit cops look down the platform to see what’s going on.  Maybe one comes over and asks if everything is ok as you struggle to maintain your grip on his wrist as he howls and throws his full weight behind his escape attempt.  You can’t even hear what the cops are asking through the screams.  The frustration flares in concert with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and desperation and then then anger boils over, louder in your head than his yelling and POOF!  You’re having a nervous breakdown.  

You see people staring and pointing and judging.  You can only hear his voice and whatever noises you’re making which incidentally don’t even sound like words anymore because you can’t muster a coherent though through the anger and sadness and frustration and desperation that’s flooding your emotional compartment.  But it doesn’t really matter anyway because you’ve completely lost it.  Maybe you’ve screamed.  Maybe you’re crying.  Maybe you’re standing there comatose while this situation continues to unfold but you’ve checked out.  You’re no longer driving the bus. You’re sitting in the back while some primordial impulse grabs the steering wheel, slams his foot on the gas and jams this whole fucked-up, bat-shit-crazy emotional meltdown into sixth gear.  

Back in the realm of physical reality, fight or flight has completely kicked-in as you see the subway doors start to close and you yank him into the subway car with the remainder of your nearly depleted strength.  He’s so shocked by the force of the pull that he stops yelling for a moment and you can’t help but wonder if it’s because you, the shittiest parent in the history of all shitty parents, has just dislocated your child’s arm by pulling them by the wrist into a subway car with all the strength you could possibly muster in order to avoid leaving them on a subway platform alone because you were caught in the closing doors of a departing train and couldn’t get him onboard in time all because he lost his fucking mind over an imaginary date he booked on the family calendar from his iPod touch with the actress from “KC undercover” at R&D Kitchen.  You can’t make this shit up folks.    

The bus slows down and you begrudgingly take back the wheel.  Elliot is still struggling and yelling a little but the fight’s gone out of both him and you.  He yanks his hand back and grabs a seat  five rows away, pretending that he doesn’t know you.  Now the sadness and guilt kicks usurps all anger.  You start to cry and everyone sees but you just don’t have the energy to hold it back any longer.   You know that they all see you for being the shitty parent you believe yourself to be.  So you just let these random faceless people pass their judgement over you with their suspicious, accusing eyes because deep down you know that they’re right.  

One of your other children comes over to you and wraps their arms around you.  They’re whispering that they love you and that they want you to stop crying.  They’re maybe crying too.  You wipe your nose on your sleeve and trying to pull yourself together.  You wonder what you can do because ever bit of behavioral theory you’ve learned at those months of classes you took have failed you and in turn you’ve failed your family.  At that moment you realize that your other children wish that Elliot just wasn’t there–that he was just somewhere else.  Then comes the realization that you too wish he wasn’t there and a fresh tidal-wave of guilt breaks over you, crushing the air from your lungs.  

You want your family to be together but it’s slowly getting ripped apart.  No one wants to be with him for the rest of the day.  Everyone is sad or angry or both and everyone blames Elliot.  Elliot, of course, blames you because even now he still maintains the whole thing started because you “hit him” and that you’re a “liar.”  He’s still manic–you can tell by the way he rushes through the words and punctuates his broken phrases with the hammering of a closed fist.  He believes balls to bones that he’s done nothing wrong–that you beat him by not letting him run away and that you’re to blame.  He’s mixing his internal narrative with reality again.  He can’t tell the difference.

All hypothetical of course.       

So riddle me this infinite void, what do you do?  How do you weigh Elliot’s needs against the emotional stability and well-being of the rest of the family?  How can you, with a clear conscious choose this or that; we take him and have a nervous breakdown or we go without him and have a great time?  It’s a binary choice–there’s not really any grey area anymore as he maintains the emotional development of a 3-5 year old and the girls continue on their own developmental path into young adulthood.  What he wants, or more specifically what he perceives his needs to be usually lie in direct opposition to what the family perceives it needs to be, not just as a whole but also as individuals and ALL of this is predicated by whether or not his perceived needs exists beyond the realms of his imagination.  So how do you square this particular circle because I worry if it continues as it’s has this year, escalating in intensity and frequency with every month that passes, that our family will suffer irreparable harm.

“This or that” Leica M7/35mm Summicron/Tri-X 400 +1/Processed at the Icon.

Not like the others

I was walking through the sculpture garden right outside NOMA when I turned a corner and came across this installation.  At first it didn’t dawn on me that the life-like statue in-living-color was actually a real human being.  He was being so still that when he finally did move, I was more than just a little surprised.  His head just dipped slightly and man I almost dropped my damn camera.  I got in closer, even more curious now, framed up and shot.  He gently turned his head to face me and asked, 

“Did you get it?”

I smiled and nodded my head in the affirmative, to which he replied,


and his head slid back to it’s initial position and he returned to his semi-petrified state.  

“Not like the others” shot on a LeicaM7 at 35mm on Kodak Tri-X, pushed to 1600 at the Icon.   

When I was young

When I back in New Orleans for Mardi Gras–my first in twenty years and the kids first ever–my mother insisted that we go to the Lakefront airport.  When I was a kid, I was fascinated with planes trains and automobiles just like every other kid that had the giant Richard Smiley books.  My mom (or maybe my dad or both) used to take me to the observation deck at the lakefront airport so that I could watch the planes take-off and land.  I remember this vividly and what’s incredible about this memory is that what really makes it stand out isn’t the airplanes themselves which, if I’m being perfectly honest don’t really stand-out after all these years.  What is crystal clear in my mind 40 odd years later is the drive to the airport over the high bridge over the industrial canal, into the parking lot of this structure with these monolithic white walls and through the lobby of what I would later find out was an art deco masterpiece.  I saw that building in coutless dreams throughout my life in fact.  It was the keystone image for my internal idea of what the future was supposed to look like.

As time passed, the vision of that art deco hall mutated into many other things, but it was always a symbol for the comings and goings of people and things.  My own Kings Cross station or better yet, (if I’m going to use an HP reference) its been my subconscious’ room of requirement, always ready to morph itself into a familiar place but somehow always retaining it’s distinct character as remembered through the eyes of a small child.  Last year I dreamt that we were living in New York and the Grand Central of my dream where I would change trains was a childhood remembrance of the Lakefront Airport.  A few years before that I woke from another dream when I realized the lobby of the Lidmar hotel in Stockholm (gone for easily 10 years now) bore a striking resemblance to the Lakefront airport.  

So of course when my mom suggested we go and look around after the post Katrina restoration I felt a surge of excitement punctuated by a wave of fear.  I cherish the vision of this place I’ve had locked in my head for all of the years.  I know it’s not real but I never needed it to be real either.  Curiosity got the best of me in the end and we drove out there.  I can’t fully explain why visiting this childhood place of wonder–this magical place subconsciously kept under lock in key deep in my memory and released every once in a while over the last four decades–this whisper that breaks into a thousand pieces the second I open my eyes–would have caused my heart to ache.

But there I was, walking though this fragmented memory turned reality and a singular thought began to spin in my head as I watched Ester peer out at the airplanes on the runway.

I want to be a kid again.  I want a do-over.  I want one more shot and I promise, if I get the chance, this time I’ll play harder.  I promise I’ll dream bigger.  I promise I’ll build more.  I promise I’ll give my mom more kisses.  I won’t pick fights this time and I swear I won’t ever watch tv.  It all went all wrong at some point last round and it went way to fast and I think I deserve a do-over.   I had a sense of wonder when I was young.  I was curious and I was good and I thought anything was possible when I was young.  Can’t I have that back?  I promise I’ll be good.  

Mamiya 6MF at 50mm on Tri-X at 800.  Processed by the Icon. 

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