Monthly Archives: November 2009

A lot to be thankful for

Had a very good Thanksgiving this year. Our family went to HealthSouth, the physical rehabilitation hospital he’s been staying at for this past week. We all sat down and enjoyed an Asian Thanksgiving lunch! By Asian, we eschewed the traditional turkey and went for rice cakes, pork, buns, with flan and the round sesame mung balls for dessert! I decided to go ‘old school’ and take my film camera with me, so there aren’t pics to be posted yet until I complete all 24 exposures and get them developed. Something about this Thansgiving made me decided to go with the physical tangible film, instead of digital. I guess I could always print digital copies, but we rarely ever do. They sit in my hard drives forever, and with film. Well, they get developed, and will be there for me to remember them for years to come.

But I did take my dinky little hand held video camera. I’m just really bummed that the sound wasn’t so good, so I didn’t get a chance to record him saying prayer at the table. It’s something I think I will cherish much later on, so I’m going to have to record that when he gets better and goes home.

It’s a bit interesting, I’ve been doing either morning or afternoon shifts hanging out there and feeding him either during breakfast, or dinner time. He looks healthy here in the vid, but Cancer is an interesting disease. You have good days, and you have bad days. Not to say that he’s at that point where he’s in pain during the bad days, but he just looks tired, and you can tell in his eyes. I really just want to say don’t give up hope, fight it. You’ve gone this far, just keep on fighting!

But yeah, I must admit sometimes I’m tired, and I don’t want to do my shifts, but I guess I do it, and trudge on because I do think it is a privilege and an honor to be able to take care of a loved one. Either feeding, or helping him use the restroom, I think it is entirely true. When you’re born, you’re pretty helpless, and towards the end of life, you do revert back to that state. And it is how you lived your life, and how well you teach and raise your kids (if you had any), that will determine whether or not you’re leaving this world lonely. Or among friends and family who will be there to take care of you.

After I feed him, every night, he’d ask to give me a kiss, one on each cheek. (He used to say if he only gave me one I’d be lop-sided, so he’d have to give me two just to balance myself out). I think every time he does this, I pretty much have to man up and be strong, because I almost break every single time. It’s real because I really don’t know how many more times left I’ll get to hear it.

I know I quote this a gazillion times, but it does seem apropos, so I’ll quote it a gazillion and one times!

“Because we don’t know when we will die,
we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well,
yet everything happens only a certain number of times,
and a very small number, really.

How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more, perhaps not even that.

How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.

– Paul Bowles. The Sheltering Sky

Cooking and photography

Today I volunteered to take photos for an organization run by my friend called charitable chef. It was at a home up in LA, the family donated 5k to helping homeless children obtain shelter, education, and medical relief, etc. What they get is a chef to come to their residence and cook them a meal. I guess where I come in would be to help the organization get pics for their website. I’d volunteer to cook, but I don’t think people want to pay a lot of money to get cup o’ noodles or boiled eggs, so I’ll stick to what I do best (or try to do best), which is take pictures.

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What’s interesting, is I’ve watched cooking shows on TV, and of course I’ve witnessed my mom and my wife cook at home. But it’s casual cooking. I’ve never experienced first hand how a life in a real working kitchen is like. I find that it is surprisingly similar to a photographer’s working environment (Under the stipulation that you are a traveling chef and have to do these sorts of things at other people’s homes, not just in your controlled kitchen environment).

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They’re standing up all day, trying to work under time constraints and pressure, all while trying to make their food look and taste good. To top that off, they’re restricted to the kitchen environment that they are in. If the stove or broiler can’t get hot enough? If they run out of ingredients and are scrambling to find sugar in the household? The main chef has to made alternative decisions based on a constantly changing work environment, and asking the assistant/secondary chef to take care of this and that. Barking orders, managing time, and just trying to get the job done. That’s pretty much how photography works.

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We can’t choose the environment we are called to work in. Some days, it’s a well lit, beautiful location, while other times, it’s dark and the the weather is very cloudy, and it just isn’t ideal for shooting. But generally on the field, I have a certain look I try to achieve, I try to get my assistant/second to achieve those shots. And usually if they work with me long enough, they know what I want ahead of time (Which is why as in any profession, having competent, trustworthy team members is key to any organization) You have to trust them, and they have to trust you.

The kitchen has a hierarchy:

  • main chef (main photographer),
  • sous-chef — second in command– (second photography)
  • the food preppers and/or dishwashers (light holders and equipment carriers)
  • on occasion, you get the super overseer chef that determines the menu items for the day. I suppose that can be analogous to a creative director in photography land.

But I’ve never really worked with a creative directory, usually as the main photographer, you have to play the that role. Though I would love the opportunity to work with one. I think it will better hone my skills. Sometimes you’re just so busy trying to nail the technical aspects of it down and not screw up the shot, you forget the little details within the shot. And as the old saying goes, “the devil is in the details”.

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But it was fun, just to hang around and observe the process. I had the easy job, all I did was take a few pictures!

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A 3 hr tour that became 7 hrs

Well here’s a pic of my dad on Sun when Chrissie, and my niece Rose visited him.  He was doing fine, he said he was a bit scared of going into surgery, but I think it simply had to be done. He was in good spirits, when they took him to the ICU a few days back, it was interesting. He was pretty much laying there in his bed, and he wasn’t sure if it was going to be the last time, so he kind of outlined his regrets in life.  He started to choke up and almost cry when he said that I should really try to get a long with my brother.  I promised him I would do so, it’s not that I don’t get a long with him, it’s just that his temperament and attitude makes it hard for people to get along with him.  Anyways, so I guess he was in a very contemplative sort of mood.

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He looks quite chipper and with his beanie.  He’s wearing a  beanie because with the chemo and everything he started losing a lot of hair.  My goofy niece whom I love dearly drove down from the 909 (riverside) to visit him.
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Today he went in at around 7am, for surgery to remove the three tumors in his head.  My mom got to see him before he went under, and she told me he said, “If I don’t come out of this…I wanted to say Thank you”.   Which I thought was very sweet of him.   They’ve been married for a gazillion years, and sometimes he drives her crazy, and she sometimes drives him bonkers, but at the end of the day, they are husband and wife, and they love each other, through thick and thin.    After waiting for a very long time, the Dr. came out and said it went well.  It took longer than expected because the big tumor was the size of a small fist, and he had to be really really careful around that area of the brain.   I think after 48 hrs in post op, I’ll officially declare him out of the woods.  He’s lost a bit of blood and requires a transfusion, but this is nowhere near like last time, where he was in septic shock, required dialysis, the whole nine yards.

Watch tower
We visited him in the ICU a few hrs after the operation.  He seemed somewhat alert, knew that Obama is the president, knows he’s in the hospital, etc.  He was fuzzy as to whether or not the surgery took place.   Note the gigantoid bandage behind his head in the pic below.

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I think it went well, I hope he gets function back to his arms and legs after this.  The tumor was blocking and squishing other parts of his brain.   Wow, I’m really thankful there are people out there who pursue medicine, and even go as far up as neurosurgeon.  I mean, that is a long, tough road to travel, and if it weren’t for people who sacrifice themselves for that sort of work, people like my Dad wouldn’t be around today.   I was almost ashamed as to what I do for a living after being in that hospital for awhile.  I grabbed a volunteer pamphlet and emailed the lady there to see if I can do anything to help out.   

It’s just a very humbling feeling, when you’re surrounded by sick or dying people. Just earlier in the ICU waiting room, there was a very young lady there who was talking on the phone.  I couldn’t help but to listen in on the conversation, and she said her husband or brother (not sure what the relation is) had a massive heart attack.  What’s the catch?  He is only 31 years old.  Can you believe that?  It’s just insane, so I’ve had renewed interest in trying to volunteer again to something other than myself, to build up that karma.

One more time but on our terms (sort of)

Surgery is a tricky subject, but this time around it was planned and scheduled, which is always a good thing.  The last time my dad was int he surgery room, it was most definitely a life and death procedure, and he was fighting for this life with a very low chance of survival.  This time, well, there’s still a 10% chance his heart could give out, but it’s something our family decided we needed to do.   As of 07:00 this morning, my dad went in for brain surgery to remove 2 tumors in his brain.  (One of which was pressing into the tissue causing weakness and loss of motor functions on his left extremities.  Radiation and Chemo didn’t really work to supress it, so surgery is our best option.  Last time when we knew about it, we were going to do surgery as well, but one of the doctors in the panel dissuaded us stating the risk to his heart.  (Of course he we later found out he is also a naysayer).   The primary Dr. who is in charge said it it was his dad, he would do the operation.  So that really assured us that it was the right thing to do.

I’ve visited him in the ICU and the day prior,  and I think I’ve made my peace.  It’s funny, in a way, as morbid as it sounds and I hope it never happens, but if it were to happen, and he was destined to go, I think I would rather it be in the operating room floor.  I’ve watched as my Aunt passsed away, and I know the mind shuts down in these matters, but it is still very painful it seems.  Whereas in surgery, you’re under anesthesia and to my best estimation, it would be as if you’ve passed in your sleep.  No long drawn good byes, there isn’t the waiting period between this world and the next.  So yeah, I think if I were to be able to talk to my dad right this instant.  I’d say, Thank you for being the most wonderful, smart, caring, nurturing man.  It’s been a blast, and I will do my best to make you proud.  See ya on the other side.”

And that would be it.   Anyways, so getting ready to head back into the hospital should anything arise.   Just wanted to remind everyone, we’re all on borrowed time.  Make it a good stay.