Just stay.

It’s been so long, I almost didn’t recognize you. Once upon a time you were a part of me. We were a package deal. Where I went, you followed… gracing others with your presence. So familiar–so common–so under appreciated.

Stay, you sweet little feeling. Stay…

Oh, how I’ve missed you. I make special note of you now. Darkness fell upon me and you were gone. Or, maybe you were gone and darkness fell down. It doesn’t matter. I feel you now. Rare, fleeting moments, but I feel you now.

Stay, you darling little feeling. Stay…

I promise to cherish you. To show how much you’re loved. I’ll open doors. I’ll walk on the outside of the sidewalk. I will listen to you. You’ll know how important you are. You left me a changed man. Not shattered. Just changed.

Stay, you precious little feeling. Stay…

Please, let me feel you a bit longer. Let me enjoy this. My soul needs food to survive and you’re so sweetly filling. Maybe not forever, but for now…

Just stay.

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Stir it up.

On my way to the coffee shop this morning, Bob Marley’s “Stir it up” came on the radio. It’s been sixteen years since you passed away–far too young. I remember how much you loved that song. As soon as it started playing–wherever we were–that lovely smile would come across your face.

I was a “rough one” back then, but you found the good in me. You recognized the love in my heart and pulled it out. You just had that way about you. I remember having long, late night phone conversations with you. You’d say “Ashley, I don’t want to hang up. How about we just stay on the line–put your phone on the other pillow and in the morning I’ll wake you up.” As ridiculous as it seemed to me, I did–and grew to love it. Each morning before class I’d hear you yelling through the phone. My days started this way.

I remember your love. I remember your easy, happy spirit. Sadly, I also vividly remember the morning my friend woke me and told me you were gone… Never to return. After only sixteen short years, the world was deprived of you.

When I hear that song now, I picture you. I feel your love filling me up like a balloon. Sometimes it bursts and your love flows through me and onto my friends, family and even strangers.

When I fall in love and marry, I will love my wife the way you would have loved your husband. When I have children, I will look after them with the same kind of love that you would have yours (wow, what a mother you would have been!).

I take great pride in knowing that even to this day, you’re still making the world a better place… forever my friend.

“Stir it up. Little darlin’, stir it up…”

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The Next Chapter

I’m in New York at the moment. I was just walking down Smith Street, searching for my much-needed morning coffee. The air is hot and heavy today and so are my thoughts. I’ve been battling a restless, unsatisfied feeling as of late. I love being a photographer, but the “buzz” I get from it has been fleeting. I’m feeling the same dissatisfaction from my writing, too. The good news is, I have a new plan: I’m going to try my hand at directing. Or, as the woman I seemed destined to sit next to on the plane yesterday put it “you mean, you’re going to be a director.” Yes. That’s a much better way of saying it.

It seems like a natural evolution for me and maybe it’s supposed to be the next chapter in my life? (refer back to the last segment of my first blog “Intro to me”.)

I’m doing my first little project here in New York. Wish me luck. Let’s see what happens…

~ Boy named Ashley

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Memoir from the future…

The first thing I noticed when I woke was the temperature of my skin. Hot and sticky. She usually opens the bedroom window in the evenings to let the sea breeze in, but she must have forgotten. I crawl from our big, cozy bed and slide the window up. She hears this and immediately apologizes, still half asleep. I smile, walk over to her side of the bed and kiss her cheek. I’ve kissed that cheek a thousand times, each one feeling like the first.

The Central coast is quite different from Southern California. There are fewer palm trees. More pines. The mornings are usually crisp and cold, but we’ve been under a heat wave for weeks now. As I stand on the front porch, pulling on my wetsuit–still wet from the previous day’s surf–I find myself grateful for this early fall heat. The overgrown grass around our house has turned brown and as the morning sun lands, a sea of golden-red is formed. The beach cottage we built years ago is the only white amidst the cozy earth tones of our land. It’s not much. It’s not fancy, but it’s ours.

I take the windy path from the front porch, thru the overgrown field and down to the beach, finally arriving at the deep emerald sea. The water is cold and refreshing as I dive in. I’ve grown used to surfing alone up here.

I watch from the water as she makes her way down the path to the shoreline. Always easy to spot in her simple, white sundress. Through the years, there have been several girls–relationships and impostors– that strolled the beach as I surfed. She’s the only one I ever looked back towards. I stare as she wanders through the sand, collecting shells. I think about the days when I was impressed by a girl’s Facebook photos–drunken party scenes and everyone trying to one up the “cool factor”. I think about how hard I worked to maintain an image, to increase the work-flow and build an empire. It took me a long time to figure out what I wanted from life. Longer than most, probably.

The next wave rises up and I hop to my feet. I slide across it’s face, board and body in unison. Time stands still and life replays in slow motion. Images of her. Images of our crazy lives when we first met. Images of our children, now grown and happy in their own adulthood. Images of the different stages of our marriage–the different stages of our love. All the way through to the slow, peaceful hearts that beat inside of us now.

I make my way back to shore, sand beginning to form to my feet with each step. I look at her and smile. She only smiles back. There’s nothing to be said. We’re both grateful for this “empire” we’ve built.

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excerpt from a current project…

… Then there was Rachel. We’ve been having sex for a couple months now. She’s an actress. I’ve photographed her a few times for different magazines. She said I made her feel comfortable and sexy, which of course led to our current sexual affair. She’ll never be an A-lister, but she doesn’t exactly struggle, either. Over the next few years she’ll do a couple TV shows, maybe a horror film sequel and eventually fade off into oblivion. These type of celebrities are like girl scout cookies. During the season, everyone’s desperate for a thin mint. After a couple months of being gone, though, we will forget about them. However, right now we are in peak season and I am very much enjoying my thin mint.

Rachel doesn’t want a relationship with me because she’s emotionally unavailable. When you’re in love with yourself the way she is, there’s not much love left to go around. I couldn’t have asked for a better deal. So, here I am laying in her bed, smoking my cigarette and using her People’s Choice Award as a bedside ashtray. She doesn’t notice because she’s too deep into her usual morning speech. She tosses her hair and pulls on her jeans as she spews out aimless chatter.

“So, I went on a date with some asshole the other night…”

I nod, uninterested. Occasionally, I’ll blow a smoke ring.

“We went to Gjelina’s. You’ve been there, right?”

I don’t respond because I didn’t hear the question. I’m too consumed with a photo I’ve spotted hanging on her wall. It’s a picture of her in Tibet, arm in arm with a Monk. I try to make sense of it, but it hurts my brain and I quickly give up.

“God, I’d fucking kill to spend all my time in Venice. Anyway, halfway through dinner, he tells me he doesn’t know who I am. I’m sitting there like ‘come on, dude.’ I mean, you’re either lying, which is just lame, or you’ve been living under a fucking rock. Equally, unimpressive.”

My focus goes back to her. I get the sudden urge to spout off truths to her… “It’s so unattractive when you talk about yourself.” Or… “I hope one day you’ll find some real purpose in your life.” Or… “I fucked your publicist last week.”

Instead, I resist and only stare at her as she dresses. Somehow, amidst her speech, she notices said stare.

“What?” she asks–managing to sound human, if only for a moment.

“Oh, nothing. You just look really lovely…” I reply.

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The Love Raffle

The lucky ones

One fine day last week, I was talking with a friend I hadn’t seen in awhile. Amidst the small talk, I asked how her husband was doing. She said, with a heavy heart, they had recently divorced. This friend of mine: She’s beautiful, she’s perfect, she’s full of life and no man in his right mind would let her go. Somehow, that’s just what happened.

On that same fine day, I spoke with another friend who is currently being swept off her feet. She’s falling, tumbling, diving head-first into love. She’s blinded by it. And that’s okay with her. In fact, she thinks it’s pretty damn nice.

I drove home that night thinking of both of these friends. I thought about how every single day people find love… and everyday people lose love. It seems this constant cycle is what life is all about. There will be those beautiful times when you meet someone. When you fall in love. When you do cartwheels in your living room thinking about them because keeping both feet planted on the ground just doesn’t make sense at a time like this. And there may be those “other times”, too. When something happened and it’s gone. Sometimes you can’t even pinpoint what it was. It’s just… gone. You will cry, you will shake, you will learn how to make yourself happy again.

They say it’s hard in LA. I don’t believe that. I don’t believe it’s any harder to find love here than it is in New York. It’s no more difficult to find love in New York than it is in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The reality is love is hard to come by, no matter where you are on the map. That’s why it’s so cherished. The difference is–because LA is filled with self-obsessed, celebrity crazed people–the stories you hear of love are not very inspiring. When a model tells me she’s dating the lead singer of so-and-so band and how life on tour is so wild. I am not impressed. When a publicist tells me that her up and coming actress client is “secretly” dating so-and-so movie star, but the paparazzi got a shot of them together. I am not impressed.

When you’re ready to be impressed, park your car in downtown culver city near the cafes–the beautiful little walking square lit up by fairy lights thru the trees–recline your seat a bit and watch the everyday couples. Watch as a young man takes his dates hand at the cross-walk as they walk towards the movie theater. Watch the older couple having coffee, laughing between sips. Watch as two people kiss so deeply that they become unaware of the hundreds doing circles around them. This is where time stands still for a lucky few. This is where inspiration lives. As Shakespeare once wrote “The sight of lovers feedeth those in love.”

Love comes at unknown times. It’s a raffle and we all deserve the prize. Just make sure you’re nearby and listening when your number is called out.

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Wise words…

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow. What a Ride.’” – Hunter S. Thompson

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