JULY 17, 2015 – EVERY VETERAN HAS HIS WAR STORIES. I may not have participated in the blood-soaked trenches of our darker yesteryear, but as a career photographer, and as stories go, I have my own anthology to share.
Wedding photography was an intoxicating career saturated within my very veins. It entailed life on the road, something I was clearly bred for. You might even say it was, for that decade, my heavenly assigned destiny. Thanks to so many young brides and grooms scattered in cities and communities across this great nation, who found faith and favor with me (despite never often meeting until the day of the event), the camera carried me everywhere. Alaska, Chicago, Maine, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and practically every state in-between filled the ranks, dozens of times over. Almost every weekend I was commuting by plane somewhere. Boston, New York, and Washington DC were frequented destinations. The cash started flowing in quicker than the grime of adventure under my fingernails, and my phone was swamped with courting couples. It was the perfect lifestyle for a hound like me, except for one glitch.
There was someone else more worthy of my love and devotion than the sweet-scented aroma of the American dream; that cheerleader whom I met so long ago in high school. If this was a poetic epic, then she was the muse driving at my ambition.
I was in Charleston, South Carolina, when the call came in. For breakfast, I’d ordered the magnum opus of grits, still unmatched in perfection even as of this writing. There was this dead cockroach on the shag carpet of my hotel, overturned on its back, yet it always seemed to move whenever paranoia advised that I take another look at it, and I’d just been outside in the sweltering wet of summer where a hungry truck driver climbed out of his cab and asked if I were Bubba. That was my day-to-day life. I have recollections for every crossroad, and perhaps, if my further travels permit cause to do so, I will be sure to reminisce about much of it.
Sarah was on the other end of my cell. She said she couldn’t do this anymore. And I knew what she meant by it: my serial flights, all-night travels through the interwoven quilt of America (rolling down the driver-side window, hanging my head out and singing Elton John’s Tiny Dancer while sipping burnt gas station coffee simply to keep awake), and the cockroaches that I found so much fascination with, all in the obsessive pursuit for the perfect photograph. It was maddening in a way, almost like Ahab seeking the great white whale. Here finally was Ahab’s wife, weary of sleeping in bed alone, and this was her breaking point.
The fork had been looming on the road’s horizon for some time now, and I was selfish for even letting her come so close as to gaze into the abyss, which made the following decision easy.
I can recall gazing down at that cockroach, still on its back but suspiciously inches closer to my bare toes than it had been a moment earlier, and then into the phone I declared this simple message: I was through, with my career, that is. Just like that, I was coming home. If keeping her meant never taking another gig again, then I’d never take another gig again. Sure, I still had contractual commitments to fill (two years worth), but otherwise I was coming home for good. And the next opportunity to see America again, if ever it came, would be with her.
It was the basic equivalent of throwing my entire life’s pursuit, as professions go, into the trash. I dumped my website into the dot-com graveyard, even sold off my camera equipment to the highest Ebay bidder, and found temporary work as a bartender before taking up the mantle of an author, and finally a stay-at-home dad. And there hasn’t been a moment where I’ve regretted it.
I’m leaving again to see America, and this time it’s with her.