Unfocused

Nothing has worked more effectively towards keeping me sane than the purity of sweating on my bike. Lactic acid cures everything.

January really doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago.

I mean, in actuality, it was just a blink. But in social web terms, that was like…so last year.

I’ve allowed myself to be buried in the Tyranny of the Urgent since the relocation, which, is a shame. Last autumn, I had so much going on for The Personal Me: samlowephoto.com and all it contains was numero uno in my heart and head, and I was shooting up a storm, and Tweeting up my own little cloud.

Then…the headhunter called, and well…here we are.

The Day Job

They say Tyrannosaurus Rex had a walnut-sized brain, despite his ferocity and bulk. After a two-year reprieve from from the pharmaceutical marketing industry, I can now tell you, having reinserted myself firmly back into the jaws of that doughbrain, that creatively, the damned thing hasn’t learned crap.

I should be clear at this point that the company you work for and the industry you serve can be two very different beasts. One can certainly be dumber than the other.

The people I work with, are, for the most part, dears. The industry we’re attached to, however, isn’t. I like to think we’re like those little birds that ride the back of the dirty rhino in the Wild Kingdom episodes I enjoyed as a kid.

Systems, once they’ve become bloated, metastasize like cancer. The reason is because people who have no sense of wholeness, or rather, no true sense of self, rely so intently on those systems that they become impervious to creativity. And I’m not just talking about art and beauty.

I arrived on the scene as a creative director, and have quickly learned that the title is a non sequitur when viewed in the context of “pharmaceutical creative.” Truly, it’s an oxymoron. In an industry where free enterprise and good ol’ ‘merican capitalism is a red herring, the idea of being creative in order to illicit a decision from a doctor or a patient dies under the heat of “efficiency” or “legal concerns.” Or the whims of whoever controls purse strings. Top creative managers are reaching a kind of critical mass in terms of our frustration with this icky business reality. This article from last September in Ad Age will give you a very clear understanding of what it’s like on the consumer side of the aisle.

Remember, True Believers, as Michelangelo discovered, just because the Pope is paying you, doesn’t mean he knows flip about how to tell a captivating story with an image. Paint on!

But I digress.

From January to the beginning of April, I had to craft a lot of administrative stuff that kept me away from shooting, away from video production, away from writing, and away from this blog. But in the last few weeks, I’ve clawed my way back to a new launching point by Taking Care of Me.

Here’s how I’ve done it:

Make sure your mask is securely fastened before helping others

One in a series of images I submitted to...a prestigious photo competition last month

Last year, I coated my then-home office wall with posties. They were The Dream Posties. Promises to myself — real promises — of things I was going to do, all related to getting myself “out there” as an independent photographer. I actually accomplished way more of them than I actually thought possible. But one of the most important was one that seemed so immense, I was willing to let it slip.

OK, almost willing.

Despite the unrelenting demands of the new job, I was not going to let the dream go by of at least submitting my very best work to the most important photography competition I knew; a juried show that I have always believed was where the best of the best in commercial and editorial photographers was recognized. And yes…I’m not saying it by name here ‘cuz I don’t wanna jinx it!

It took weeks of late evenings, pouring over every shot I’d created since committing myself to samlowephoto, and then reevaluating the post-production work on those images. Then, I had to come to grips with the entry fees, and pare down the submissions even further as a result.

The final result? I did it. I did the hard work of determining what my ultimate creations were, and I respectfully, hopefully, and pridefully submitted them. That was an accomplishment in itself. Believe you me, my friends, if I’m selected and published you’ll shamelessly here all about it right here.

Pull the postie down. Check.

DeMille. Copolla. Lowe?

As if Photoshop CS5 and Aperture 3 weren't enough, now it's Final Cut Pro — and it's a #$%^ lotta fun.

Another casualty of delay, thanks to accepting the Ohio post, was a documentary film I spent 2 months shooting. At the end of October, I had 500 clips of a group of Trenton-area boys who had decided to enter a Quickball tournament, without knowing what the heck Quickball was. They went about practicing as if it would be traditional baseball, by throwing themselves into hours of Wiffleball games in the front yard and garage driveway. It was great fun to shoot. Trouble was, I was packing up and moving, and just like the boy’s ignorance of Quickball, I was equally clueless about Final Cut Pro. I had used a number of consumer video editors in the past, but nothing as robust as FCP. After lots of reading, and many hours spent with a remarkable educational resource, lynda.com, I’ve got about a quarter of the film in rough cut. I’m pumped. The project has been such a rush so far that I’m also now working through state-of-the art title animator After Effects CS5.

I have no set date for when this will be ready for viewing, but I’ll happily let you know when it’s time to play ball.

The Bitch is Back

In November, she literally blew her oily guts out. Now, she's poised to growl again.

With the interview process going full swing, and the feeling that my days in Jersey were numbered, I zipped up the Alpinestars armor, and through a leg over Sophie, my much loved ’95 Ducati. It was uncertain how much riding I’d get in; Sophie had been suffering from a mysterious engine malady for months, one that had stumped me and a number of other would-be wrenches. Only four miles from home, her engine mysteriously lugged as if God had pressed his thumb down on her rear brake and was giggling at my efforts to get her to accelerate. Well, dang it, I grabbed a big Kentucky boy handful of throttle, thinking more gas could “blow through” whatever was ailing her, and in a vicious roar, she blew her oil filler plug, spewing hot engine oil all over the right side of the bike. The insides of her red fairings were covered, as well as my leather armored leg and boots.

I came to a stop in a cloud of bluish smoke, right next to a gas station. A friendly tow from AAA, and Sophie would have to wait ’til Cincy to have hope of health, again.

And health is what she has. I found a great mechanic in former AMA racer, Chris Nicoloff. He had been the head wrench at Cincinnati’s only Ducati dealer, but as luck would have it, that dealer closed its doors in the middle of January, just after I came to town. The dealer put me in touch with Chris, and for pricing that was much more than fair, he diagnosed and repaired her, stem to stern. He discovered that her frame had cracked, electrical connections had gone awry, an engine stud had broken, seals had gone bad, and her valves needed adjusting. All of this he handled in a most expert and professional manner, with education ‘ta boot. He also added fresh screws here and there, topped off her fluids, and polished her beautifully.

I got my Sophie back. Life is good.

The Pain Closet

Cincinnati roads, unlike Jersey roads, are tres hilly. This one is a flat exception.

The photograph at the top of this post says a lot. Grinding out the miles, in a methodical manner, has been a spiritual practice since moving. Sophie has a motor, but on my bicycle, I am the motor.

The first thing I bought with my very first paycheck back in 1985 was a racing bike. I’ve never really looked back. Yes, my pedaling adventures have been interrupted with other relocations, the birth of children,  economic difficulties, and all kinds of other bumps on the tarmac. But the love of cycling has never waned.

A couple of years ago, I discovered Michel Brazeau’s freetrainingplan.com. Michel is a Canadian who’s love of racing inspired him to develop a great resource for riders like me: punch in a future date for an event (in my case, an upcoming Memorial Day century ride) put in some details about yourself and the ride, and bang! You have a day by day, diary-style training plan that includes strength-building exercises, cycling tips, and more.

As of this rainy Sunday night, I can say I’m in the best cycling shape I’ve been in for years. Today’s 55-miler averaged 18.2 mph over some challenging hills. And not one pedal stroke was compromised by thinking about work, or finances, or any other worry. The focus was on form, proper gearing, and enjoying the new terrain. If you have a bike, please…ride it.

Discovering Cincy coffee shops

Really. Why go to Starbucks, when you can have great local brew?

Cycling and espresso go together. And this morning, knowing I had a 3-hour training ride coming up, I was seriously jonesin’ for a really flaky croissant and a cup of brown lovin’.

Cincinnati has some really neat shops. I’ve enjoyed quite a few of them over the past four months. This morning, I was at Awakenings, in Hyde Park. The neat thing about Awakenings is that they are also a wine bar, and I’ll be sure to revisit them when I don’t have hammering on the agenda. The croissant was fab, and the small breakfast quiche was an unexpected delight.

The Reclamation Continues

Where the good stuff happens... My funky little office chair

I tweeted, about 2 weeks ago, about how I was going to begin blogging about seemingly inconsequential things, and how they affect our lives. That’s certainly in the offing, but I wanted to reconnect with you by letting you know about the significant things had been keeping me busy of late.

The line between “significant” and “insignificant” really is a matter of perspective. Leaving New Jersey has certainly reinforced that for me. Everything you decide is “important,” really is just that. So why not live fully, in every action?

Thanks for reading. I’ll try to not let four months go between now, and the next post!

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