A rare video chat with some of my oldest friends, catching up over beers, across thousands of miles, sitting in Florida, Oregon, New York, Texas, and California.

The occasion was Dan’s 28th birthday, who I first met when I was 11 years old. His finance Dominique set the whole thing up and surprised him when she handed him a laptop with all of our faces on it.

Such a great feeling shooting the breeze with some of my truest friends.

My old name tag from Albertson’s. Seemed fitting for labor day. My good friend Charlie worked there, and got me an interview when I was fifteen maybe sixteen. I was hired as a Courtesy Clerk. You did a lot as a clerk. You were asked to do what needed to be done where there was no one to do it. It was never the same from one day to the next. I spent time helping in almost every department. Cleaned toilets, buffed floors, stocked shelves, cleaned machinery, and froze working in dairy refrigerators. If there was something too heavy to be lifted for a customer or employee, they called the 135 pound kid over to handle it. It was 30 hours a week, the maximum allowed for my age. Full days every Saturday and Sunday and a few 3 to 4 hour days throughout the week after school. It was hard work, and by the end of the day, I felt it.

Mostly, I fetched shopping carts and loaded groceries I bagged into customer’s cars. Often helped load for elderly customers or mothers trying to manage one too many kids. Occasionally there were the able bodied eccentrics, who just liked to talk to strangers. Always got a kick out of reactions as I handled a customer’s eggs. You’d think I was moving an unpredictable stick of dynamite. The few minute walk from the checkout line to the car taught me how to make small talk. Weather was the typical topic. Customers were always curious to know if I was saving up to buy something specific, a car maybe. I always surprised them and got a few laughs when I said “retirement.”

A faulty moral compass kept me from accepting customer tips for a long time. My family, friends, and co-workers eventually convinced me I was insane for it. Think I made five or six dollars an hour. The job taught me the value of those dollars. I vividly remember sitting at Wendy’s on my lunch break, calculating in my head how much time the food I was eating cost me. I ate every crumb, and soon after started brining my own lunch.

Collecting carts outside was my favorite. I didn’t have to talk to anyone. There was time to think. I taught myself to whistle out there. I always wore a wrist watch but once I learned that time liked to move faster when you didn’t watch it, I kept my eyes away from it. Instead, I liked guessing the time by eyeing how far the building’s shadow was cast across the parking lot.

I have more memories and stories from the job than I can fit here. It was invaluable to me and the most laborious job I’ve ever had, yet I worked every labor day I was there. In a strange way, I do miss it sometimes.

Shot at Sue Bierman Park in San Francisco, looking at the Bay Bridge. Recently there for a short work trip. Haven’t spent much time there before, just a day, years ago for a friends birthday.

I took the longest bus route I could find from the airport to my hotel. Wanted to take in as much of the city as I could. Spent the first day there scouting shoot locations. Essentially an all day walking tour. Spent the second day at the shoots, and that was that.

Fun to see and be part of the process away from my desk for a change.

Another CicLAvia with my good friend George.

The Parker, Palm Springs.

My friends watching the fireworks.

I intend on breaking these buttons when I have no more use for this shirt.

Three generations of Smiths. My Gramp, my Dad, and me. I was 15 years young.

Our good friends Drew and Kelsie spontaneously invited Alexis and I to Hawaii with them. Good company and paradise? Who would say no?

We spent a day and night in the touristy and beautiful Waikiki, enjoying the calm waters and local eats. Seeking the local experience, we drove in our tiny convertible across the island to the North Shore. We stayed the rest of our nights at a small beach house, in a Mai Tai fueled state of rest and relaxation. Day after day, we explored, watched sunsets, and emptied our cups. It was nice to just slow down for a change.

Thanks for having us along.

At least they aren’t using MapQuest printouts anymore.

Mom and Dad exploring the Huntington Library.

Spring Shaving

Blue Ridge Mountain Blues performed by Wayne White

Visited Seattle for the first time. Beautiful city and geography. Good eats, good drinks, and good company.

The idea to go was suggested and agreed upon, among friends sitting in a hot tub with full beers in hand, with plenty of empty ones nearby. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say the idea would fade away in the sobering light of tomorrow.

People don’t really do what they say, especially if they said it after a few drinks. But as luck would have it, we did what we said.

Milo Greene at the El Rey in Los Angeles.

1957 by Milo Greene

Signed a lease for this car when I was Twenty-Five. Paid too much for it, but have no regrets about it. Always wanted to drive a car like that. And I did.

Returned it today, three years later, after its been to the mountains, the snow, the beaches, and the desert.

Going to try not having a car for little. I have strong legs, and a bike that needs pedaling.

I do miss those big Florida skies.

Few weeks back at Jenn and Duncan’s wedding. Was an honor to be their guest, and a night to remember. I’d like more images like this to live here. They’re more important than the things I make.

Souvenir from a magical night at The Magic Castle.

Hand cut silhouettes by Dave Spafford.

Not everyone can say their health insurance puts a smile on their face.

Día de los Muertos.

Alexis and I under the St. Johns Bridge, in Portland, Oregon. My friend Craig married his wife Chelsea here. It was beautiful. And a bit hot out. Not sure if I was sweating from the Sun or from the taxi ride over, which rivaled any attraction at any theme park I’ve ever been to.

Over the years I’ve been to a handful of weddings, but Craig’s was really the first one that involved someone I’ve known since we were practically kids. Knowing how the story started, and to see it all come together, is really something. Most people don’t get the privilege.

Congrats Craig.

One of my best and longest standing buds, Giovanni. Came to visit Los Angeles for the first time, and it was the best time.

A rare shot of an Alexis, captured in the Angeleno wilderness.

My Dad, manning the grill, next to the pool, under the Florida sun. Following his dream of getting his family the hell out of the Chicago winters.

Here’s to him, and my Mom, for showing me what it means to take a chance and follow a dream, and for always encouraging me to follow my own.

Today’s my birthday, so I thought it appropriate to share a bit of my brother and I talking about how old we’re getting.

I’ve lived in California for nearly seven years, but feel like I haven’t lived a single day there. Los Angeles is where I’ve been living, and to me, that’s a very different place. Just a couple hours north took us here. To California.

My mom being my mom. Love her so much.

Maybe my favorite in Downtown LA.

The fine and talented people I work with, standing on the observatory deck of the beautiful building we work in. Beers, margaritas, the sun and the sky. Not a bad workday.

I grow a beard every year, from the first of winter, to the first of spring. It’s a reminder that even though I live somewhere without black and white seasons, the days still pass.

Easy to get lost in all this sun.

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