Inertia: Traveling Again

June 23rd, 2006

MONDAY JUNE 19, 2006 – EN ROUTE TO SACRAMENTO Inertia. It’s been a little over a month since I returned from Chamonix and the various other stops, an international travel itinerary which broke a several year spell of inertia. Not that I wasn’t busy. I just felt stationary, my experiences were narrowing in scope. (at right on assignment in Yosemite)

Today part of my groundwork is paying off. I’m flying to Sacramento, in the Republic of California, stuffed in the back of an MD80. 33B, literally the last seat in the last row.

I will be shooting two days of alternative energy for World Picture News followed by three days on assignment in Yosemite for the weekly news magazine der Stern (Germany), and then two more days for energy stuff before returning to Seattle.

It was all last minute. Only three days ago the assignment was confirmed and I bought my ticket.

As part of this story I am to shoot some action sequences but my editor, after learning this would involve hanging from ropes some thousands of feet off the deck, told me it was too dangerous, too extreme, and that I wasn’t being paid enough for the risk. She had visions of me climbing with one hand, shooting with the other, and pounding nails (pitons) into the wall somewhere in the middle. Not quite reality, but it does help reiterate differing perceptions of risk. Would I ever attempt to speed climb the nose? No. I’ll just be lucky to have a chance to climb it one day. By the above self portrait you can tell I didn’t listen to her.

I think it possible to draw parallels between risk and inertia; for many my life in Seattle would be satisfyingly risky. Actually, some have expressed that the ambiguity of just where my next paycheck will come from is too risky. Yes, financial stability would be nice but I fear the 9-5 it might require would pull me to a stand still, a veritable inert object collecting dust. So I continue to seek the opportunities which will allow me to broaden my experience and engage in relationships based on storytelling. And hopefully I can pay my bills. Anyhow, I think it’s all relative; for the Hubers taking the risk to not only attempt breaking the Nose speed record, but the risks you must take to do it are acceptable. My risk on the wall to shoot it seem reasonable. And living minimally in order to freelance, which allows me to be on that wall, seems acceptable.

I think this passage, introduced to me during a torturously confusing college relationship with a writer, illustrates my desire to storytell. And why you might follow it. The shared experiences from that relationship, by the way, committed me to journalism.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live. The princess is caged in the consulate. The man with the candy will lead the children into the sea. The naked woman on the ledge outside the window on the sixteenth floor is a victim of accidie, or the naked woman is an exhibitionist, and it would be “interesting” to know which. We tell ourselves that it makes some difference whether the naked woman is about to commit a mortal sin or is about to register a political protest or is about to be, in the Aristophanic view, snatched back to the human condition by the fireman in priest’s clothing just visible in the window behind her, the one smiling at the telephoto lens. We look for the sermon in the suicide, for the social or moral lesson in the murder of five. We interpret what we see, select the most workable of the multiple choices. We live entirely, especially if we are writers, by the imposition of a narrative line upon disparate images, by the “ideas” with which we have learned to freeze the shifting phantasmagoria which is our actual experience.”

Joan Didion, The White Album, 1979

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