Jun 29 2006


He walks up to the bar rattling confusing tale of digits. “I ordered the three Jager Blasters twenty minutes ago, and you gave me back one five and three ones, and I wanted to tip four dollars, but I gave you one ten and a twenty, so I should have five more dollars….” He’s got his next round of seven drinks waiting for him at the bar.

Natalie turns her attention to the guy, who’s still recounting a transaction long past, at least in bar time.

“I’m sorry, what’s the problem? Could you start again?” She’s a terribly sweet girl, not aggressive in the least.

“You gave me a five and three ones, when it should have been a ten and three ones, so you owe me five dollars. I wanted to tip you four dollars.” He stares expectantly.

She turns and checks the tip jar and till, not finding evidence of the slip-up, and he resumes his spray of numbers. About how much he was going to tip, and how much he’s owed.

“Do you have the still have bills?”

“No, that was a while ago. I just noticed now.” He’s getting more aggressive, alpha-male posturing and leaning across the bar, flipping his hand up in the air while he talks, projecting disdain. “So can you just comp me a drink?”

The change is subtle, but visible. You can see her expression change from trying to politely rectify the situation to having to dealing with an asshole customer.

“I’m sorry, I may have messed up, but I can’t just short my till or comp drinks to every person that asks. If you had shown me when I gave you your change, I’ve been more than happy to fix it. But there’s no indication I messed up.”

“Listen, I wanted to tip you four bucks. This isn’t the way to get good tips. I’m telling you that you gave me a five and three ones, when I should have had a ten and three ones. You messed up, so you should be the one to fix it. Why don’t you believe me? It’s your fault.”

“I’m not denying that I might have messed up, but you need to let me know when it happens, not twenty minutes later.” I can see the unspoken sentence in her eyes: maybe if you weren’t being such as ass about it….

“Listen, I’m not making this up. I work for tips also, sweetheart

Natalie makes me proud, cutting him off with a curt “Don’t call me sweetheart; I’m not your sweetheart.” Good girl. You don’t need to take shit from this guy. If he really did work for tips, he would know she lost more than four dollars in tips wasting her time with him. Better to cut her losses and serve others, four bucks won’t make it up.

Here’s my take: she might have messed up, and he definitely messed up by not checking his change (or he’s trying to hustle her), but he’s the one that’s entitled the money and/or drinks? If you were going to leave tip, wouldn’t you have checked the money you were going to tip out of? And to top it off, you’re buying around $60 worth of drinks, and you’re concerned about $4?

We’re at some sort of uneven tie, deuce-ad-Natalie, and yet he’s demanding that he’s faultless, and that trust should be placed in him when he’s placed none in others? If the guy really was honest, and she really did fuck up, it’d be much more productive to let her know respectfully and suck up the loss, learning a lesson in the process – and he probably would’ve ended up with a comp part of his tab anyway for being reasonable about it.

As carries his round of seven drinks away, his friend walks up to order a glass of wine for herself. I hear him whisper in her ear: “Don’t tip her at all, she’s royal bitch.” So that’s ten drinks now without of tip? (At least ten, as they were here when I arrived 30 minutes ago.) Wouldn’t surprise me if you don’t get any more service tonight.

The tip on the single glass of wine from friend-of-A-hole? 33%.

I guess we know how much his friends believe him.

Jun 27 2006

40 Little Chinese Girls

Friday night I had the opportunity, thanks to a friend at Silk Road Productions, to shoot the Dynastaes show and cast photos. It was another paying gig (this is good), and I can’t say that I’m averse to photographing an all-girl performance troupe, with acts ranging from music to dancing and acrobatics. Those girls are positively amazing, so if you’re into Chinese culture, check it out. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some of the low-rez versions over on osbornphoto.com pretty soon.

Friends continually wonder how, with gigs such as this and the fashion shoots I’ve been doing lately, I manage to keep my tongue in my mouth and work without distraction. It’s true, sometimes the subjects are just so damn beautiful that they catch you off guard, but most of the time your head gets so locked into chasing the light, composition, timing, focal length, aperture, shutter speed, theme, emotive response … well, you get the idea. I could be looking at anything from a nude model to a corroded tin shed, and I’m looking for the beauty in the shot, I’m thinking of the presentation and the mood and the if I want a representational shot, or something more artistic, or if the two are the same.

I’m thinking of balancing the desires of the client withing the shots available, and thinking how much license they will give me or are expecting me to take, reviewing the pre-show conversations and/or contract to ensure fulfillment. I’m considering the story I want to tell, I’m thinking of how my actions and speech affect the personality of the subjects, and if I want to encourage their emotions in a particular direction, or if I want to be invisible. I’m wondering what will happen if I try something new, something I’ve never done before.

Even when the shots are provocative, it’s chasing beauty that’s appreciated by the heart over the loins. During the fashion shoots, I make mental notes of those models I think have the attitude and looks to make it, those that sizzle or sparkle or project some understated allure, but it’s because I’m thinking of reserving more shots for them, for capturing that magic. It’s not until the way home I think, “Damn, that girl was hot!” When I review the photos for print, I’m back behind the lens – even when browsing Ginger’s Playboys I caught myself examining the lighting, that the play of light and dark on bare skin, of how the composition leads you to … well, where it leads you.

There are martial parallels here: I am training myself with a focused mind, completely intent on the task at hand. This is good, this is better than shooting mindlessly – without plan or goal, without efficiency. Perhaps someday I will be good enough to shoot with “no mind,” to be able to effortlessly produce that which I seek without the impediments of analysis, and it’s not until the act is complete that I think, “hmm, yes, that was good.” Of course, that’s a long way off.

Oh, what, you’re naked? I hadn’t noticed. I was kinda’ preoccupied.

No, really.

But you can call me tomorrow.

Jun 26 2006


*Chirp, chirp* – is that crickets I hear? Perhaps a tumbleweed blowing through the eddies of redgeek.net? Yeah, I need to spend the night with a bottle of vino and a laptop and catch up on this thing. But in the interim, I’m seeking advice. My situation right now is such that the kitchen has been remodeled (see below), we’re going to re-paint some rooms this weekend, and as soon as the exterior construction is done, it’s time to sell. The question is, where should I move? I’m looking to stay in San Diego, but I’d like to save as much money as possible on a monthly basis, in either a studio or a one bedroom apt. Areas I’m considering, in no particular order:

  • Pacific Beach
  • Little Italy
  • Bankers Hill
  • North Park
  • University Heights
  • South Park
  • Hillcrest
  • Cardiff/Encinitas
  • City Heights/East Village

Ideas? Suggestions? Connections? Email me. Thanks in advance.

Jun 25 2006

Kitchen Remodel

Much better.

Jun 21 2006



Jun 5 2006

Final Retreat

I’m bruised and sore. My ribs and shoulder ache, my right bicep doesn’t work as well as it should, my legs are blue and purple. Lance commented to me once this weekend, “I love having Uke’s I don’t have to worry about hitting too hard.” Of course, as Uke, you learn more than anyone else, and of course, I volunteered as often as I could.

The retreat was impressive on all levels, and I’ll definitely be making a dent in my 800mg ibuprofen. But the real significance was facing the impending loss – or evolution, I should say – of the school. Of how much I’ve grown, and how close I’ve become to these people. To Mike and Chris and Lance and Jess, and all the rest, too numerous to name, the brothers I never had. To be able to say unabashedly that I love these men. I’m reminded of that exchange from Good Will Hunting: “The reason he hangs around with those ‘gorillas,’ as you called them, is because anyone of those ‘gorillas’ would take a baseball bat to your head anyday. It’s called loyalty.” These guys aren’t gorillas, although we do each live in disparate domains outside of the dojo, but the loyalty to I feel to these brothers is rings similar.

I remember distinctly the Friday night I’d just flown back to SD after having just lain Kevin to rest. I walked into the dojo and drilled aiki, silent, again and again, until I was too tired to muscle the movements and the flow began to emerge. I stood, bowed to my partner and off the mat, and plopped down in the changing room. Half undressed, with one shoe on and one off, I sat, and cried. I hadn’t cried during the funeral – my role there had been support. But now I let myself go, exhausted, without the strength direct it. Jess walked in to fetch something from his bag. After a moments glance, he asked the inevitable, and I replied matter-of-factly: “I buried a friend today.” A pause, and a response: “Come on, let’s train. Back on the mat.” I followed, without the strength to contest, and bowed in. Lance notices, understanding with a nod. We proceed to beat each other silly in silence, a celebration of brotherhood and blood and sweat and pain and … of finding victory now. A physical analogy to finding that which needs to be done, and doing it. Not controlling the grief and loss, but harnessing; not caging a wild horse, but mounting it, directing it, letting it run it’s course under my direction.

I thought back to the time I spoke with Sensei, after Ashley and I split, where he revealed more to me of himself than he’s ever shown me, of the common denominators of us all. Of accepting out situation but not sacrificing our will to cope with it or change it. That night, as well, I re-entered the mat and trained until I was emptied of frustration and confusion and self-detritus, and full of resolve.

At the luau after the retreat, several of the senior-most students stated public acknowledgments to Sensei in front of the student body, thanking Sensei for what he’s given us; how he’s given us heart and compassion and discipline, all tools that have allowed us to overcome challenges over the years and excel.

And Sensei apologized. He apologized to his teachers, he apologized to us, he apologized for being to young and not masterful enough, for this being too early to deserve this. He said, “I’m not ready for this. I still have a long way to go myself. But thank you.”

I drove home from the retreat with these thoughts and these aches, and noticed I kept slowing my speed, continually creeping below sixty, as if my body wouldn’t let me pull from the bonds, a visceral rejection of finality. I don’t want it to end.

And I won’t let it. I don’t know how, but I won’t let this art die in me, and I won’t let these bonds break or atrophy.

I commented, privately, to Sensei before I left: “I don’t want to say goodbye, so I won’t. I know I’ve got a little trip planned, but before and after, I’m gonna try to figure out where you are, ‘cause I’m not done training.”

His response? “Good.”

Postscript: There is one thing I never thanked Ashley for: breaking up with me. She never issued an ultimatum to me, she never even intimated that it was “me or your art,” but I’d realized the logistics of our relationship, that I would have to move out of San Diego for us to be together long-term. I had plans to move, I had plans to keep myself training in another place, plans to generate income and time to fly back down to SD to keep training periodically with Sensei. But it would have minimized the constant interaction with my peers. As the bonds between my brothers and I were not completely forged at the time, they would have been strained under the pressure of distance. So, Ashley, thank you for breaking up with me; thank you for not forcing me into having to make that decision. Thank you for the gift of allowing me this time with my family.