The Deterioriation of Jerry

I had Folly out the other night. In general, I’m not a namer of things. Only one car I’ve ever had earned a name (The Heap), and never have I felt the urge to name my computers or other durable goods. My big, fancy camera, however, has a name. Folly. It’s a much bigger, fancier camera than I should be bothering with, and I still have issues with taking my photos through photoshop before I can post them (and usually photoshop resets the time and day info, so they don’t sort out right with the snaps from my little camera). Overall, labor per picture is about ten times the effort for my little fuji/iPhoto/gallery routine. In the online galleries, there are still many more shots taken with my little camera than with the monster. Granted, the results with Folly are better. Sometimes much better. On those occasions I pat myself on the back for having enough faith in my abilities to spring for the damn thing.

Not that it was a difficult decision at the time. I had borrowed my cousin John’s camera for a trip to Yellowstone. I took about 150 pictures and had a lot of fun. Being able to change lenses makes a huge difference over even a respectable zoom feature on a digicam. So I was looking over the results from the day’s excursion while having a few beers with John because that’s what we do, and I was really happy with the results. Really, really, happy. I’m squealing with delight like a schoolgirl, sipping suds, and occasionally sharing my success with John while he’s on his laptop pulgging away. Finally he says, “OK, here’s what I have for you,” and he lists off a camera, three lenses, and a few accessories. I thought of a couple more accessories and told him to make the purchase.

John likes to spend money on cool toys. At the time, his money/toy ratio was a little thin, so I think he had fun working on mine. I knew that I was making a poor decision, and if I waited and thought about it carefully reason would prevail and I’d chicken out. That’s the beauty of the Internet.

So anyway, that’s not what this episode was supposed to be about. I was goofing around with Folly, taking self-portraits. Amateur photographer, amateur model, extreme light conditions. It was a long night. In the process I discovered a camera setting that would have improved my pictures of Amy immeasurably. Next time I’m hanging around with her while she’s in her little nightie I’ll be ready. But that’s another digression. This episode is all about me.

I noticed something when looking back at previous self-portraits. First, the ones taken with Folly were way better (granted, I shot about 400 frames the other night and never got the perfect one), and second, I look different now. A lot of it is hair, of course. Is that the only difference? You be the judge. In fairness (and, um… vanity) I have posted the most flattering pics from each era.

self-portrait by pool

Exhibit A: May 2nd, 2004, San Jose, California. This is the earliest picture of me while on the road trip, exactly one month after it began, and moments before scampering back into the shade. Those lily-white shoulders don’t see the sun if I can help it.

self-portrait crater lake

Exhibit B: May 30th, 2004. Crater Lake, about a month later. Beard is getting full, hair is still in the “respectable” range. (Hair covers rather pronounced forehead tan line.)

Buffalo Milk!

Exhibit C: July 22, 2004. Drinking Buffalo Milk, Two Harbors, Catalina. Things are definitely not moving in the direction of “pretty”. Desert and ocean have done their work on my skin.

Self-portrati PB Library

Exhibit D: July 31, 2004. The beard is gone! Still not looking exactly clean-cut, but I was wearing shoes while in the Pacific Beach Library.

Self-Portrait Veermillion Cliffs

Exhibit E: October 9, 2004. After some attempts to stay clean-shaven, I had given up. Hair is becoming a nuisance when driving at highway speeds with the top down.

Selp-Portrait Prague

Exhibit F: December 10, 2004. Shaggy, with two-level beard. (I had started to shave it off, but stopped at a goatee, and now it’s been growing in on the sides.) As I mentioned before, this picture is one of the best of the hundreds of shots I took. I got so close so many times, but never nailed it. This wasn’t my first night shooting myself, but it was the first session with Folly. You won’t be seeing any of those previous results. I got a heck of a lot closer this time than I ever had before. This shot would simply not have been possible with my little digicam.

Looking at the first and last pictures tells me I’ve covered more than just miles. Time has passed, obviously, months of not having my own bed, of quiet solitude punctuated with raucous good times with my friends and family. Months of wearing the same clothes, of living with only what fits in a suitcase. Months of restaurants and bars and of not showering as often as I would have liked. Months of worry, fatigue, peace, and inspiration.

Damn, I’ve got a good life.

18 thoughts on “The Deterioriation of Jerry

  1. Preliminary caveat: I am returning to the land of the living after several days and so my perceptions may be a bit warped, especially since I didn’t do the usual suffering until the doctor decided I’d suffered enough coughing to get the cough syrup with codeine in it. I drank slippery-elm-bark tea instead, and it worked just as well.

    So you’ve gone from paleface to Rasputin. That last picture actually reminds me of a self-portrait I did of myself on a then-new Mac 600 with an S-VHS camera. It took about 40 shots to get the right one. But that was long ago.

    Keep the hair. Keep the beard. The grey in the secondary layer adds a special sort of dignity.

  2. I recommend beer therapy for those nagging coughs. I had a cough once for the entire month of October. I did everything right in order to get well, but nothing worked. Finally on Halloween there was a party and I just decided that if taking care of myself wasn’t getting anywhere I’d just have a good time.

    Next day, no cough

    And if that’s not scientific proof, I don’t know what is.

  3. Oh man, Exhibit F is way scary! You look like Rasputin or some other hippie. I hope that you like the CR cuz there is no way in hell that Homeland Security will let you back in.

  4. Exhibit C is the most flattering pic of that era? I hope that means there was only one picture taken then, or that you were constantly working on even sillier faces.

  5. Actually, in the exhibit C era there were many pictures taken. I chose that one in part for it’s silliness, in part for it’s good portrayal of my beard, and in part for it’s silliness. In the original photo Pat was also making a silly face, but as I pointed out, this episode was all about me. There was also another decent PB picture of me, but Amy looked like hell in it.

  6. I think exhibit B is the best. However exhibit F makes you look like a very serious author. Take a look at some pictures of T. C. Boyle for reference.

  7. What usually happens when I have a cold: The cold goes away, but it leaves a nagging cough that does not, that keeps me awake at night, that makes my rib cage ache and my abdominal scar tissue (the doctor who caused it was already being sued for wrongful death, and I didn’t have enough energy to pursue my own malpractice suit) hurt like hell. The cough hangs on for weeks, until I can pursuade a doctor to prescribe the cough medicine that has the codeine in it (it’s officially over-the-counter, but if you can find a pharmacist that’s willing to let you have it, which you most likely can’t, you have to sign in blood to get it). Once I get the stuff with codeine, that knocks the cough out, and I’m all better in 24 hours.

    So I read in the Sunday newspaper that all of the over-the-counter cough medicines are totally useless (in one case, the placebo had a statistically significant advantage over the medication), except for the medicine with codeine in it. Great to find my experience finally confirmed, but it doesn’t make Albuquerque drugstores any more likely to dispense the codeine.

    OK, so if I can’t get the stuff that’s been proven to work, I decided to go the alternate route, and that led me to the slippery-elm tea. It works. It’s not as powerful as the codeine, but it’s actually knocking down the cough better than anything else.

    Now I’m headed to Five O’Clock Somewhere, where the supermarket carries lots of herbal remedies such as slippery-elm.

  8. I know you don’t really care, but exhibit F was lit by a single bulb on the other side of a partially-closed door. It was a six-second exposure at f-4, ISO 800. I had to sit very still because I had the camera set to take three pictures at three different exposures each time I hit the shutter. One of the reasons the hair is down is because I was getting a lot of reflections off that lens of my glasses.

    I like how the foreground is dark on the left and light on the right, while the background is the opposite. That was purely an accident, I assure you. I also like how the eyeball turned out. Most shots where the eye came out so bright the skin on that side of my face looked radioactive. That’s one of the reasons I took so many shots–trying to get one without the other. I wish that stray shadow wasn’t on my forehead, though.

    By the end, the process for taking each shot was very complicated. Good thing I wasn’t paying the model union rates.

  9. In earlier pics with the new camera I was critical of how dark the shots were. I would be remiss if I didn’t give positive feedback, too. The new “mood” shot is good – not too dark. It appears fine on both my work machine and home machine.

  10. Actually, most of the dark pics you didn’t like were taken with the little camera. It’s the one I take to bars, and I hate to use its flash.

  11. Whoa — flashback!

    My greatest portrait ever, which, alas, seems to have been lost to the impermanence of electronic media, was taken in the light of a single 60-watt light bulb reflected from a screen, and through trial and error I found it looked best with the hair down over my left eye, although not totally obsucring it, because otherwise the glasses reflected. I didn’t have to pay attention to camera settings because the Mac was taking care of all that — I don’t remember exactly what I did, but after each shot, I told the computer how I wanted the shot adjusted, and the computer did the rest. I got the best portrait of myself that’s ever been made, and I had saved it to disk and transferred it to the next couple of computers I got, but now it seems to have been lost.

  12. I’ve been looking for photo archiving software to avoid some of that problem – what I want is to be able to keep thumbnails on my computer and when I decide I want to work with one it says “put in disk blah blah” and away I go. I’ve found plenty of options for backing up images, but when it’s easy to shoot a gigabyte of data in a day, hard drives become impractical.

    Anyone know of archiving software like that?

  13. Hi Jerry,

    I love Exhibit F! Wouldn’t it make a perfect author photo for a creepy Stephen King style novel! Hope you’re writing something suitably gothic.

    Great website, BTW


  14. Thanks, Terri! I’ll have to keep that photo around for the dust jacket for While God Sleeps, which is currently fourth on my novels-to-finish list. Or maybe fifth.

  15. Re: Exhibit F. I too thought “hippie” immediately, but went even further to identify the similarity by name: I’d like to say “John Lennon, from the picture in the White Album” but I’m afraid you’ve overshot. The look in your eye is beyond “thoughtful and reflective” but well within the “crazed and scary” category: you are squarely in “Charles Manson” territory. In fact, I think I saw that picture on the dust jacket of “Helter Skelter.”

    Do you notice if the other tenants of the building shut and bolt their doors as you walk through the halls?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *