Heading into the Special Events Center for commencement.
I've been out of pocket for the last five days but it was for something important. At least it was very important to me and my wife, Belinda. We headed up to Saratoga Springs, NY to watch the kid graduate from Skidmore College. He looked dashing in his Converse All Star High Tops, dangling his honors cords (both Magna Cum Laude and English Honors...) from his black robe.
I took it easy, at least from a photographic perspective. I brought along one camera and one and a half lenses. I decided to take the GH5 because I continue to be impressed by just about anything that comes from the Olympus 12-100mm f4.0 Pro lens. It's a big lens but it's damn sharp and it just floats in place with its I.S. The half lens refers to the Panasonic 42.5mm f1.7 lens which is so tiny that it only counts, in my estimation, as a half lens. But it's as sharp and well behaved as any lens I own and its combo image stabilization (body+lens) means that the camera+lens combo is probably steadier than putting a non-stablized rig on any number of cheap and spindly tripods. Toss in a couple of batteries and a coupe of memory cards and you've got a powerful kit for traveling through the weekend.
We worked until midday on Thurs., checked in to the airport and whipped through the TSA Pre Check line. Our flights brought us into the Albany airport a bit after midnight and we spent the night at an adjacent Hilton property, picking up our rental vehicle the next morning. After a good breakfast and nearly enough coffee we got into a Chevy Equinox and made the 25 minute drive to the northeast.
First order of real business was to meet Ben, and my friend Fred, at a favorite sushi restaurant in the small, downtown area. Fred is a VSL reader, musician, photographer, instrument maker, bon vivant, and swimmer who lives in Saratoga Springs. He introduced himself to me when he put two and two together and realized that my kid intended to be in his town for a while. It's been great having someone you know on the ground.....just in case. He's saved me tons of analyst's bills by cutting down dramatically on my separation anxiety from the kid. Fred is funny and bright and we're planning a secret foray to Michael Johnston's place sometime this Summer.
We might be mature, call in advance, have a genteel lunch with Michael, chat about heurmeneutics related to the worship of all things photographic or we may go to our default and just show up to toilet paper his house. You never know.... But Fred would be a great accomplice either way...
After lunch and a break to check into our AirBNB (first time for us and first rental for the AirBNB homeowner!) we headed to the college for a "Brick" ceremony. One of the things the college does to raise money for scholarships and grants to less affluent students is to raise money by having your kid's name inscribed on a brick which is then laid out into an ever growing sidewalk or plaza area. Kind of a permanent reminder of each alumni's time at the school. From 485 participating families the school as able to raise $1,300,000 this year. A pretty amazing total for the 2018 Parent's Fund Donation.
Having surpassed their goal by several hundred thousand dollars the Parent's Fund committee went ahead and had a brick made for each graduate. It was a warm gesture of inclusion and appreciated by everyone involved. The brick ceremony was short and sweet and followed by a reception for students and parents at the college president's house. I brought my camera along but didn't find anything compelling so I let it swing on the strap, kept my Champagne glass in my left hand and left my right hand for greeting a shaking.
We knew all the restaurants would be packed full on Friday night because a number of students come from families that live "in state." We rightly assumed that many would come in to town for the evening, do a big dinner celebration, hit the commencement activities the next day and then scoot out of town in the mid-afternoon on Saturday. We decided to do our fanciest dinner on Saturday night and it turns out our plan was flawless. That left us to D.I.Y. on Friday evening.
Since our AirBNB was spacious and well appointed we headed to a little specialty food shop called, Putnam's Market, and bought wonderful sandwiches; some with roasted vegetables, goat cheeses, and fresh tomatoes, others with various Italian meats and dressings. We tossed in a chocolate torte and a bottle of Champagne and had a wonderful, casual dinner at the house. We talked for hours.
The next day the college prepared breakfast for anyone who cared to come by and eat before the commencement event. The quality of the breakfast was a good summation of why my food oriented child chose this as his school over plenty of academically equally good schools. Skidmore is consistently rated as having some of the finest food in the country in their sprawling and beautifully design dining hall.
Coming from Texas, where the temperatures had been in the upper 90's last week, the commencement was an interesting change. It was cool and rainy, and the rain picked up just as the event started. The speeches and ceremonies were held at an outdoor amphitheater which is covered. We were safe from the rain but we Texans were happy that we had been warned to bring warm clothes! It was in the high 40's to lower 50's all morning long. OMG, it's the end of May!!!
Belinda and I shot photos of the commencement; me with the Panasonic and Olympus blend, Belinda with her ancient iPhone, and we hugged each other in mutual congratulations for getting the kid at least this far and this well. Then we gathered the kid and headed back to the campus for yet another reception and a wonderful lunch back at the dining hall.
We dropped Ben off at his apartment to continue packing and we headed back to nap and listen to the water play on the roof of our temporary home. We picked Ben up at 7:00 pm Saturday evening and headed to our favorite restaurant in the area, Max London's. We had a wonderful meal and, in a first for Ben, he was able to order a glass or wine without being carded (asked for I.D.). He took it as a sign that he had truly graduated.
We all flew back together on Sunday and Southwest Airlines worked like a Swiss watch. The capper to the weekend was the incredibly joyous reception between Ben and Studio Dog. She just couldn't believe her eyes and her nose. The (un)prodigal child had finally returned.
I looked through my images today in Lightroom and nothing rises above rote documentation and family memorabilia but I share a few here just because a fair number of readers have watched me and Belinda raise Ben over the years and I wanted to put a chapter marker on this phase of our lives.
That, and to write that it's possible to work in the arts and still have the normal middle class expectations we grew up with pan out. Not everyone needs to be an accountant, a doctor or a lawyer in order to get through life. (Not that accounting is in any way a bad thing....). Artists tend to hear an unceasing drumbeat from family, acquaintances and media that tells them they will be poor, live poor and die poor but it doesn't have to be that way. We just need to do a better job teaching our artists about handling money.
The camera choice was, in this case, totally immaterial to the event. I could have done just as much with my phone and few gimmick add-on telephotos. In one regard though the weekend was very re-freshing. I could not wait to get back home and get back to work on my own stuff. Sometimes even a short break is enough to prime one's creative engines.
The hardworking, ever present content creation professionals do their thing.
Ben gets his degree from the president of the college.
We all file out into the rain and temperatures in the upper 40's.
A day very unlike the day prior in Austin, Texas, when it was 97 degrees..
The Parent's Fund raises money to provide scholarships to economically
disadvantaged students to ensure diversity among the student body.
Some of the funding comes from donations given to get a "named" brick for your student.
485 families donated to the fund via the "Brick" fundraiser.
They were able to raise 1.3 million dollars....
Ben's Brick has been placed.