It is not the collision. It's not the airbags. It's not the thought of, what is our best friend going to think of me cracking up her van?
The moment that is still with me is seeing the van ahead of me stopped dead. I'm going 50. I brake, then brake fully, as distance closes far too fast. I don't know if I can do it.
I remember my surprise at seeing the rear view mirror skewed weirdly. I remember the gentleness of the airbag, like smushing onto a pillow. I thought it would be a hard, sudden strike that would embed my glasses into my skull, but it wasn't. That I had stopped in time and not hit the car in front wasn't enough. I remember steeling myself for a car behind to hit, and that we're about to be in a car crash. These thoughts all happened very fast.
I had just been to the airport, loading the borrowed van with Eileen and Dick (relatives of Robin from LA), their three grandchildren, and a mountain of luggage. They were going to lunch with us before boarding a cruise ship to Alaska for the week. “I can't find a place for my seatbelt,” said one of the kids at the airport. A suitcase blocked it, so I rearranged the van and made sure he, and everyone else, was belted in. That moment too is still with me. What would have been the consequences of a different decision? It was a hassle to rearrange the van, but I took the time to do it.
One by one I look at every passenger. “Are you OK? You? You?” Then I check with the van in front of me. Everyone OK here? Then behind me, the 93 LeSabre. She and her two kids are unhurt, and she's already called 911. I had tried, and couldn't get through, I thought. I couldn't hear Robin on the phone either, and much later, realized I didn't have a bluetooth on my ear anymore. My conversations were one way. Robin had the sense to call Eileen on her phone and I caught her up.
After the incident truck and the state trooper leave, we are all able to drive away. Lunchtime is a debrief session. Robin does trauma therapy on the two kids who are most distressed. Then the hastily hired town car came and takes our guests away to the cruise ship pier.
I don't like to think of myself as someone who cares about a television. I'm embarrassed, actually, to tell of this journey. I still identify with the man I was 20 years ago, when I didn't and wouldn't own a TV. I still cringe when I see family rooms set up with an enormous plasma screen as the center of the universe, and there's not a book to be seen. Is your life that vacuous, I think? Have you no intellect left after you pay your cable bill?
Rigid ideology has a way of biting one in the behind, and the universe appears to be laughing at me lately.
Our decade-old television (tuned, of course, to appropriately edifying stations like BBC—to watch Torchwood and Doctor Who, but don't tell anyone) needed replacement. Robin's birthday was coming up—she hinted more than once how nice a new TV would be for the Inauguration Day party.
I bargained 25% off a 40” Toshiba at Best Buy (checking Consumer Reports on the iPhone to make sure it had a good rating), then went to Ikea for a cheap stand. This is where everything started falling apart.
The stand was up to Ikea's usual standard, meaning it looked crappy and cheap. A coat of paint just made it look worse. And it wasn't deep enough to hold our other components. After two days of alterations I admitted defeat and we found a nice media table at Cost Plus.
Then I entered the world of video cable components, connectors, multiple remotes, and archaic ancillary equipment. At last, I cobbled everything into one Entertainment Center. And we sat down to watch some TV.
A standard def signal displayed on a 1080i screen looks dreadful. The sound out of a contemporary television is tinny and weak. It appears the TV is the least of the changes, and cash is about to begin hemorrhaging. To get this system up to snuff we apparently need: a new Direct TV receiver, an HD subscription upgrade, some kind of external speaker array, a new DVD player, and probably a new amp for the stereo. Nothing we have now has contemporary outputs, like HDMI.
It is extremely tempting to go back to the old Triniton. Or just read a book.
Everyone is playing in the snow today, particularly on the hill by the side of our house. We got about 6 inches overnight, then freezing rain, so there's a crust. We might get a couple more inches this afternoon.
If you want to be thoroughly disheartened by the prospects for staying a pro photographer in these times, you could read Vincent LaForet's blog entry on the dismal state of the industry. However, if you tend to be highly anxious, you might want to skip it. My normal tendency is to treat such prognostications as an existential threat, and therefore, panic. Whereupon Robin has to talk me off the ledge, about every other day. It was like that back in 2002-2004, when a lot of my colleagues got out of the business during the slowdown after 9/11.
This time? I'm not freaking out. I seem to be nesting. Or cleaning the nest. I appear to have a great need for order lately.
We're going to be OK through this. Although my income for the year is down about 30%, we have savings. Robin has a counter-cyclical business—everybody's going back to therapy now. We have no debt. I'm cutting back on expenses (no 5D Mark II for me this year, and I might skip Photo Lucida), I'm eating lunch out less and making my coffee at home.
What I'm doing is stripping and rewaxing the studio floor. It hasn't been done this thoroughly since I moved in, 15 years ago. I'm making order where I can, since the world otherwise has so clearly gone off the rails.