Friday at 5:00pm, I received a call from my 12-year-old son telling me that he was at the barbershop with a bunch of his friends. This Friday was not any different from most Fridays when the kids traditionally walk to the downtown square in Decatur to hang out with their buddies after school. The exception to this day was that Peter called not only to check in with me but to ask if he could get a mohawk. My initial response was an emphatic “No”, but after listening to the urgency in Peter’s voice, my concession was that he could go ahead, but I would not pay. I relented because I realized that these 12-year-old boys are in the process of discovering who they are and trying to determine, as individuals, how they fit into their world. Getting mohawks as a group was symbolic of the brotherhood that exists between these boys; it was about doing something daring and different with the support from peers.
What happened to reading a book at night as a way to unwind? Last night, I caught my son fixated to his iPod, at bedtime, when he should have been ramping down from his day, preparing his body for a good night’s sleep. I know Peter is not alone in the habit of using electronic devices before retiring in the evening. When the eyes are exposed to bright light at night, it signals the brain that it is time to wake up to milk the cows. Is it any wonder why half of all Americans have difficulty sleeping?
This photograph was taken after the coldest 24 hours I have ever spent at home. Our furnace died on one of the coldest nights this week and a replacement did not come until a day later. The morning the technicians arrived to install our new furnace, I was eating breakfast, bundled in the warmest clothes I own. I glanced up from my cereal bowl, looked out the window into our front yard to see the last leaf remnants on our tree brilliantly illuminated by the rising sun. I dashed outside with my camera and took a few shots before Mr. Pruitt, from Stone Mountain Heat and Air, wandered around to see what I was shooting. His presence completed the picture.
Yesterday afternoon I visited Little Five Points in Atlanta, an eclectic neighborhood of funky shops and eateries. It was here that I was introduced to Jimmy. I had stopped along the sidewalk to photograph Rock ‘N Rick sing and play his guitar, and when Jimmy wheeled up with his buggy laden with trinkets, Rick told me I should photograph his friend. We introduced each other and struck up a conversation. I learned a most interesting story. At the age of 18, Jimmy was hired as the production manager for the band, Lynyrd Skynyrd. He worked with the group for 12 years, until that fateful day in 1977, when the band’s chartered plane ran out of fuel and crashed in the Mississippi woods. Three of the band’s musicians were killed on impact. Jimmy had been waiting on the ground for the plane to land. After the tragedy, Lynyrd Skynyrd disbanded and Jimmy went on to work for Mack Trucks as a mechanic.
As Jimmy and I wandered off the sidewalk to a less cluttered area so I could create his portrait, I commented on his necklace. Off the chain he had hand crafted from soda can tops, hung an array of interesting objects. I was particularily drawn to a pair of plastic breasts that dangled next to the dice. Jimmy told me he wore the breasts in honor of his wife who had died of breast cancer four years earlier. We spoke of her and our mutual connection to Tallahasse. His wife was from there and he recalled the beautiful oak trees with spanish moss and quail hunting on the plantations. As we parted ways, I thanked Jimmy for his time and the stories he had shared with me. One of the last things he told me was, “Most people misjudge me. They think I am homeless, but I’m not…” Perhaps we all need to be reminded now and then not to judge people by how they look.