Chautauqua. Jobs, Shows, Cars and Adventure #3

Once I was settled in I started doing the photography again. Because I had so much stuff accumulating in the car, I went looking for a storage unit to rent. While checking out a unit at a place in north Boulder, I met Melissa, a late 20s gal who was also looking for a storage unit. We got to talking and decided to share a storage unit. Then we went for breakfast. She was looking at some of my pictures and suddenly she said, “You should have a web site! And some business cards!”
I agreed as how that would be nice but I didn’t know the first thing about how to go about doing that, and besides, it was probably pretty expensive. She explained that her boyfriend made web sites for a living and assured me that he would love to make one for me, maybe in exchange for a picture or something. So that’s how I met David Wright.
Dave moved to the states from the UK about ten years ago. He’s heavy into mountain biking and works summers for an outdoor adventure company as a guide.
An affable youngster with an engaging smile, Dave had already done web sites for Wells Fargo, Microsoft, and United Airlines to name just a few.
He was very willing to take on this basically pro bono project because as he said, “I’ve never done an artistic type web site and this will be fun.” Dave also said I should have some business cards, if for no other reason than to lend an air of legitimacy to my somewhat stumbling and stilted spiel when I approached women. But not just regular little business cards. Artistic type postcards are what he had in mind. So he designed those too and had them printed by some outfit he had worked with in the past, for cost.
I gave him a big print of Mesa Arch, matted and framed. I probably had four hundred dollars into the picture so I wound up with a beautiful, professionally designed web site, and high quality, high class cards that would have cost anybody else several thousand dollars and I got it all for four hundred bucks.
Dave and Melissa broke up shortly after that.

In the process of doing all this photography, when I got a picture that I liked a lot, I had it enlarged, matted and framed. Eventually I had about fifteen framed images of various sizes. Some were landscapes, some were nudes and some were portraits.
Penny Lane always has art hanging on the walls. The show, or artist, changes every two weeks and they don’t charge anything to hang. They are typically booked up six months in advance but I knew that sometimes someone would cancel or be a no-show, so I talked to Shaun who manages the shows and said if there were ever a cancellation, I would be interested. As it happened there was an opening a couple weeks later so I hung my first show at “The Lane”. After that, in the course of a year, I had two more shows there, which resulted in being asked to exhibit at a gallery in town called Gallery Sovereign. So I wound up having two shows there, a landscape show and a nude show.
As a result of those shows I was asked to do a show at The Boulder Art Gallery on the mall. That show lasted a month and if nothing else, I can at least say that my pictures once hung in a gallery on the Pearl Street Mall. Did I sell anything? Not bloody likely.

One of my earliest jobs since moving to Boulder was working at a tele-marketing place called Aspen Media and Market Research. I would call companies and get them to renew free subscriptions to trade publications that they were already receiving, for free. Not very challenging. You could read the paper, do the crossword, write notes to the person in the next cubicle, paint your fingernails, or your toenails if you were so inclined, anything to keep the mind and hands busy while the mouth did it’s own thing to the tune of $8.50 an hour. After a year of that, I moved over to a different tele-marketing place a couple blocks away and started selling environmental video training programs to companies that were required to provide that type of training to their employees. That was much more interesting, and with my environmental background, I was actually quite good at it.
The trick was getting to the right person, the decision maker, but once I found them, I was able to talk the talk, establish rapport and get all collegial with them. And did I sell training programs? I did indeed. More than anyone had ever sold before. I broke all records for the company and made lots of money in the process, most of which I spent on photography, always photography. Oh, and I bought a car, a blue Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder convertible.

That’s when I first started toying with the idea of living in a car.
I also drove the Spyder back to Minnesota for a week to visit the fam. 2000 miles, mostly with the top down. Once I got back to Colorado, it soon became apparent that I could not live in a small convertible so I sold the Spyder and bought Rosebud, a sweet little Toyota Corolla Hatchback for $800. Several years and many thousands of miles later, I still have her and she’s still getting me around. And though I haven’t lived in her for three years, all I have to do is make the seat go flat and I can fall right to sleep.

Any way, that job lasted about a year, during which I took the trips to Jamaica and Florida.

Adventure #3

At the end of that gig I decided to go on a little road trip out west to Utah and Arizona to do a little exploring and do some photography. It was the middle of November when I headed west on I-70 with only a vague idea of where I was going or how long I would be gone.
After I crossed the boarder into Utah I decided I might as well check out Canyon Lands National Park. It was after 5pm as I entered the park and I saw a park ranger truck going the other way, towards Moab. When I went past it, the Ranger Station at the entrance to the park was closed, dark and deserted. A little further on I passed a sign that said “Mesa Arch Trailhead” and thought I would return in the morning to maybe take some pictures. It was getting dark and I wanted to find the campground. I passed not one other vehicle as I drove through the park that evening, including the campground, which I had all to myself. No cars, no RVs, no Park Ranger vehicles, parked or moving. Nothing and no body. I know that I was the only person in that whole National Park that night.
Do you know what it feels like to be all alone in a National Park? To be the only living person in a whole United States National Park? Well, it’s not at all creepy, but it is kinda cool. Imagine having a whole National Park to yourself.

It got pretty cold that night. The sky was clear and there was no moon so as it got darker and darker, the stars just got brighter and brighter. Before I settled into the car for the night, I crawled up on the hood, lay back against the windshield and gazed up into pure and absolute blackness, a backdrop for more stars than I had ever seen or imagined before in my life. The Island In The Sky part of Canyonlands where I was spending the night is surrounded on three sides by deep canyon. If you go to the end of the road, the ground falls away straight down, in front and all around you. It’s a little unnerving during the daytime, and at night it’s downright disorienting.

On that high desert plateau, hanging in space a thousand feet above the canyon floor, it seems like the air is hardly there. On a cold clear night it’s as if there were nothing between you and all those billions of sharp little pinpoints of light. There’s no depth to it, or too much depth, if you get what I’m saying. You forget if you’re looking up into that sea of light and dark in space, or into a bottomless ocean full of phosphorescence. The Milky Way just wraps across the sky from horizon to horizon like a white shawl, and the horizons are lower than you are because the ground drops away all around, so you’re up in it, stuck out on this promontory, higher than anything, and the sky is like a globe, an astronomical fish bowl, and the stars are so sharp and bright and unreal looking that… well, I got a little dizzy lying there looking into that endless void. I felt like I was falling endlessly through space. Plus, I had a raging case of the munchies.

It was my teeth chattering that finally brought me around. It was very cold and I was shivering like crazy. What time was it and how long had I laid there? I got in the car and crawled into my sleeping bag, which was cold but quickly warmed up on the inside. I checked the thermometer and it was 7 below. By morning it was 12 below (-24 C) and all my water had frozen solid. Before the sun came up I drove back to the Mesa Arch trailhead. Low and behold, there’s three cars and two vans parked there. When I got to the arch there they all were with their tripods, lined up in a row, drinking hot coffee, stamping their feet and saying, “Oh my, it’s so cold!”, over and over again.

I knew that they had spent the night in warm motel rooms down in Moab and had gotten up early to drive into the park and be at the arch when the sun came up.
It gave me a secret feeling of being closer to the arch, more deserving to photograph it, since the arch and I were alone in the park all night with the stars and the comets and the numbing chill of the high desert. These others were strangers, but the arch and I had been there together.

I shot a roll of film and left the park heading south through Moab and down through Monument Valley into Arizona. Once I crossed the border I headed west to the town of Page right on the Arizona-Utah border. Right outside of Page is the Glen Canyon Dam and the resulting Lake Powell, a place of stark beauty and lots of water. The mesas and buttes are colored every shade of red, pink and orange which makes the area all the more dramatic and beautiful. I got a room at a motel for a couple nights and got ready for a day of shooting the Antelope Canyons. Officially named North Antelope and South Antelope, the two slot canyons are a photographer’s dream and I had seen many pictures of them. Documentaries, commercials and even music videos have been filmed there and I wasn’t disappointed when I saw them. I wound up only shooting South Antelope that day but promised myself to return again some day if possible.

I was running low on funds so I retraced my route back to Colorado. I didn’t stop in Boulder however, but kept going all the way to St. Cloud, Minn. I was looking forward to seeing the folks, my brother and sister, and a few friends, but mostly my son, Josh.
I decided to go ahead and spend the winter in St. Cloud, especially since my folks were going to be in San Diego until April of the next year anyway. It worked out well too since I was able to be there for Josh’s high school graduation in the spring.

A few months after the folks got home I decided it was time to head back so I packed up the car and took off. I stopped in Spearfish, South Dakota to visit June and that brings us back to where this story began, with a deer licking frost off of my windshield in Spearfish Canyon.


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