Our Awesome Autumn ~ Framed Photography
While “What a Long Strange Trip It's Been” is the title of a landmark album by the Grateful Dead and a lyric from one of that LP’s most popular songs, “Truckin”, it has also been a longtime favorite of mine especially during my eighteen-wheeling day’s way back in the 1980’s. To a similar extent, the lyrics of this iconic song somewhat describes my life over the past few years. This long-strange-trip that is my life, could also be compared to the proverbial rollercoaster with magnificent highs (meeting my wife and marrying) to dreadful lows (losing jobs, facing severe financial hardship, battling to avoid foreclosure on my house in Massachusetts and coping with various and assorted health issues) – it has all served the higher purpose of just making me appreciate being alive, the new relationships I’ve formed and the wonderful places I have now discovered! And like my life, so too has the autumn season in this northeast corner of our country, seen its ups and downs over the past several years. The vibrant and colorful images I was fortunate enough to capture in the latter years of the 20th century and the first few of the 21st, proved hard to find in the last 10 or so years. This past autumn was markedly different however. After many years of being uninspired and disappointed by the fall colors, the autumn of 2015 provided some of the most spectacular foliage I’ve seen in many moons! In celebration of that, my wife, Susan and I decided to take a well-deserved Friday off from work on October 16th and make a trip south down to the southern Catskills near Gardiner, New York to both take in the excellent foliage along the way and to sample some wineries in that region. We basically followed State Route 32 all the way on one of the most spectacular days of the season. From this adventure was born the inspiration for my newest collection and website addition, aptly titled: “Our Awesome Autumn”. Like my new beginnings, described in the paragraphs to follow, this collection is an explosion of light, color and optimism for the future, from my perspective and in my humble opinion. I hope you enjoy!
As stated above, it has been a series strange occurrences over the last several years, which started in 2011 when I was forced to leave my home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, then to relocate to upstate New York where I found myself in unusual places, unfamiliar situations and sometimes, uncomfortable circumstances. Through it all however, I have learned to keep truckin’ and push through mostly by relying on the valuable lessons I’ve learned throughout my life from friends, family and acquaintances I’ve met or known along the way. All of this has helped me persevere and get me to the destination I now find myself arriving at. It isn’t always that we get the chance to arrive at a place, and to take the opportunity to turn back to reflect upon the road we’ve just traveled to get there. While riding along any bumpy, harrowing roadway, I know it’s not easy to take a moment to appreciate just being on a path somewhere, but it’s oh so valuable to do once and a while, or whenever possible. It is too a worthwhile exercise to just take a moment to recognize the progress you’ve made - the bridges you’ve crossed, the turbulent waters you’ve navigated, the previously and seemingly insurmountable precipices you’ve crested; or when you’ve completed even a short segment of that journey without incident, to step back and examine where you’ve been and where you’re headed. They are worthy of a momentary acknowledgement to yourself of a job well done, a task completed with another piece of the puzzle now in place. I’ve often heard it said, if it doesn’t kill you it will make you stronger, and for me nothing could be truer! Every experience, good or bad, serves to validate and strengthen the values and virtues an individual possesses, and may even help provide the confidence to forge ahead onto the next road, journey or challenge, then on to whatever far off destination or challenge you choose to pursue. I know these reflections have been a benefit to my progress over the years!
And so it has been, a difficult and sometimes extremely challenging road for me the last few years. At this moment in time though, I am very happy to report I have arrived at a noteworthy destination which is a new job and career that I am extremely excited about, and believe, a position I would not have arrived at (physically, personally, emotionally and/or professionally) if I had not traveled the road I just completed. If you were to read my expose entitled “Process and Stone Walls: My Road to Facilities Management” (first item located on the “Articles of Interest” page on this website), you can learn about the unusual road I traveled earlier in my life, through my twenties, thirties and most of my forties, arriving at a point in my life where I felt I was finally able to ascend to an occupation that I had long strived for. In essence, it was a path to a place which was not a direct one, nor one I’d suggest anyone else to embark upon, but may have been in the end, an ideal one for someone such as me. It has taken a long time to get here and to actually be qualified for the level of employment I’ve aspired to be engaged in. But to back up just a bit, (late 2011 / early 2012) my unique set of skills coalesced into a position working for the construction division of a supermarket chain operating in the Capital Region of upstate New York, which, along with moving in with my now wife, it prompted me to relocate to New York in January of 2012. While this job started with much promise, all of it sadly dissipated rapidly like sand through my fingers on May 5th of that same year for reasons I was told, were reprioritization of business strategies by the corporations’ parent company, thus leaving me without a job! In that traumatic aftermath, I managed to find some handyman work to keep me busy through the summer and fall of 2012, then went to work for a non-profit organization located in downtown Albany in January of 2013, as their facilities’ manager. That position was no cake walk - pitiful financial backing, poor morale, crumbling facilities, flawed leadership, high turnover of personnel, and offices located in an extremely rough neighborhood in the Arbor Hill section of downtown Albany. You name it, it all added up to a most distasteful and undesirable employment situation for me. So, in the early summer of 2013, when I was re-approached by my former supervisor with the aforementioned supermarket chain to consider rejoining their ranks with a promise of continued employment for at least two years, more money and other tantalizing incentives, I couldn’t afford to turn down this second chance opportunity. I accepted the offer and went back to work for them in August of 2013, with renewed promise and enthusiasm for a secure and happier future all over again.
Unfortunately, this situation didn’t work out that way either! I spent the winter of 2013/2014 working on a store remodel project at an undesirable location near Utica, New York and it truly turned out to be the season of my discontent! Bitter cold, never-ending snowfall, an unusually challenging project, along with difficult personalities to cope with, it all combined to make for a very difficult endeavor. While the actual remodel project was considered to be a success and completed in June of 2014, thanks in part to my managerial skills, I was nonetheless relieved of duties (2 weeks after being married and right before my wife and I left to go on our honeymoon!) on a bizarre premise that still makes me wonder as to the validity of it all. This, I still believe, especially after receiving high praise and award of another store remodel project closer to home by the same supervisor who originally wooed me back, not two weeks before he casually terminated my employ over lunch at a Red Lobster restaurant! I don’t think I’ll ever know what really happened to cause this outcome. Between all the mixed messages I received from various and authoritative individuals with this grocery store chain, peers and co-workers alike– no two explanations added up to make sense. Needless to say, along with my own inexperience and hubris, there was some sort of indefensible conspiracy that transpired to lead to the end of my employ, for which I believe was no good, truly viable reason. While I am not a vindictive or vengeful person, I believe good things happen to good people, and if that is so, the opposite is also true - what goes around comes around and for those individuals responsible, they will have their day of reckoning, if such has not already occurred!
So in the early summer of 2014 after finally meeting and marrying the woman of my dreams, and possibly being as happy as I’ve ever been as an adult (especially after recovering from my job layoff of 2008, multiple long periods of unemployment, and financial struggles until late 2011), I found myself unemployed, searching for answers as to why, and struggling to reboot my career all over again! Without many solid job prospects by the fall of 2014, I decided to sign on as a substitute school teacher at a few local high schools and to also work part-time nights and weekends at a local big-box home improvement center. At first these arrangements weren’t so bad. I enjoyed both the opportunity to serve in the educational field to a small degree and dabble in the Retail world once again (having done that for many years earlier in my life). However, by early 2015, due to a lack of a decent income, mounting tensions on the domestic front, personal doubts about all the choices I’ve made in life, and a lack of options available to me, I spent many sleepless nights, anguished days and unavoidable conflicts with my newlywed wife. Through all of this unrest however, there was this one proverbial silver thread of opportunity that existed – a job I had applied for in December of 2014, interviewed for once in January and again in early March, which I was finally offered a job for in April of 2015. This position, in the field of construction project management, was working for Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corporation, who are US Navy defense contractor operating a couple of multi-million dollar facilities here in the Capital Region. This was the opportunity of a lifetime for me and a position, based on my work experience and accreditation, I was ideally suited for! The only drawback with this situation being that Bechtel is a Federal Government military contractor and therefore, requiring a government security clearance prior to commencement of employ. It took another nine months for that security clearance to become validated and a long, excruciating wait it certainly was!
While I waited for my clearance over the lengthy summer and fall of 2015, I managed to stay busy working at the big-box store (much to my chagrin!) and completing many handyman projects on our house in Malta and on my other property over in Massachusetts. The tenant I had in the Massachusetts house moved out in May/June of 2015 and left quite a mess for me to clean up, which I worked on through the months of May, June, and July. I managed to get the interior of the house to a ready state for re-rental by August 1st, found new tenants and got them moved in, then continued working on the front and back porches right through to Thanksgiving in November. After those extensive outdoor projects were completed, my attention turned back to my art and the magnificent images I had captured back in October, and what to do with them. Well, another inspiration hit me - with a leftover inventory of picture glass I possessed, a bundle of culled oak 1X2 lumber I had previously purchased, some unique filigreed trim work from my place of employ, and the marrying of all of these materials with the new pictures I had recently taken, so was born my idea for “Our Awesome Autumn” that you see before you on these pages. I combined these magnificent images from this past autumn with frames made from my own hand, working on them through the latter half of November, December and into January. Just about as I was finishing up some of the last pieces of this collection, on January 14th to be exact, Bechtel Marine called to say they had received my security clearance from the Federal government and were interested in bringing me on board as soon as possible. I could not have been more thrilled and the timing could not have been better!
As an aside, there are few who know of my quiet, if not secret, enthusiasm for the United States military, its history, heroes, and the epic challenges it has faced over this nation’s lifespan. I’ve been a student of this history for a very long time and have always aspired to be an integral part of this institution in some way, shape of manner. While never personally believing a gregarious, independent, opinionated, and/or liberal person like myself could ever be an enlisted member of the military, I did believe I could be of some service at one point or another, and nothing could be better than the position I now find myself in! Like the magnificent colors you see bursting forth from the images on these pages, my enthusiasm for where I am right now, this destination I have arrived at, is an explosion of emotion for me like no other that I’ve experienced in many years (well except for the day my beautiful wife and I married!) I truly believe, none of this would have been possible without the sequence of events that landed me right here where I am today and for all of this, I am extremely grateful! I am appreciative of all the trials and tribulations, disappointments and letdowns, misconceptions and possible treacheries, which I’ve encountered over the past several years. Hell, I even forgive those individuals possibly responsible for the supermarket chain debacle! I know I am at the right place at the right time and could not be happier! I believe these same sentiments are expressed in the images and frames of: “Our Awesome Autumn”. I hope you can sense this energy and see what I have created for you to experience as well. It is a long, strange journey that I’ve been on, and I am grateful for the road I’ve traveled to arrive at this marvelous destination! JLG