Tag Archives: time

The Unexpected

I did not expect my idea for a book of interviews with DJs and producers to get any kind of serious attention; this was October of 2000. But it did. I did not expect to land any seriously successful interviews: my 1st interview was with Paul van Dyk. I now believe I should have started with some local DJs…PvD was like a god to me. I was terrified. But it went very well.

Johnlee photography © 2013 420_0559v2
Johnlee photography © 2013 420_0559v2

I did not expect that the string of interviews that followed were as good as I thought they were but apparently, they were. And then the whole thing changed when I got an interview I was certain I would not.

Mr. George O’Dowd is often known as the singer for a group but he was a DJ before and a DJ after. The interview went well – enough so that all of a sudden, I began getting calls from record labels and PR firms who sent me bags of promos. This was April/May of 2001.

Fast forward. November 2000 – my attorney and I sent out fifteen proposals…there were at least six rejection letters and then one of the unanswered called me at home to let me know his company was going to pass on the project but he had a friend who might be interested. I was doubtful.

Johnlee photography (c) 2013
Johnlee photography © 2013 0418

I watched all of season one of Game of Throne in two nights, a week before season two started. By the time season three started I had bought all five books. Then I met a girl and things were off for a bit. I thought she was unexpected – what eventually happened was enough to make the relationship emulate any number of (relation)ships that have ever been utterly destroyed. And Truly Unexpected.

Johnlee photography © 2012 1307
Johnlee photography © 2012 1307


And so, now I find one of my favorite books has some unsettling parallels to a short story from 1979. George RR Martin.

Last thought for tonight:

“Increasingly, modern science pursues powers traditionally reserved for the Almighty. But those who encroach upon the province of the gods realize too late that the price for entrance…is destruction.”


Johnlee photography © 2013_sunset38
Johnlee photography © 2013_sunset38

The End of the World

I don‟t really want the world to burn or for a pandemic to decimate the population. One may not come to this conclusion if they‟d read most of my screenplays, short stories, poetry and all that but I assure you, the fact that some kind of apocalypse dropkicks the world after setting it on fire is a complete coincidence. I like the end of the world as a primary ingredient to building the worlds in which I set many of my stories because everything Matters More.

With so many people gone and – presumably – everyone having lost people they love, all actions would, in theory, be more carefully considered. This doesn‟t mean I think people will just start getting along after the apocalypse (if you‟ve read my work, you probably picked up on that) but what I love most about these shadowy levels of skyscrapers with no windows – places where no elevator can go and no doors get you to the stairs – is that when something good happens (and it always does eventually, if only in effect of the factoid that nothing lasts forever) it affects a change. The flickers of happiness may amount to little more than precisely that by the time our hapless antagonists and protagonists reach the end of the 3rd act but all of them, even the faintest and briefest of them have Changed Things.

In my feature screenplay for “Romeo & Juliet‟ the Capulets are vampires because I wanted to amplify Juliet‟s longing and her rage at being told to marry the cousin of Escalus. The rest of the backstory that I wrote also served to amplify the events of the story but it was All written so that the events of the tale we all know would not have to be changed drastically. Yeah, time of day is different and I won‟t get into how I transplanted Shakespeare‟s dialogue into a near-future (all of Juliet‟s „where art thou Romeo‟ remains intact word for word) but it‟s as much out of respect as it is bittersweet memories of teen-angst-infatuation-primal-blinding-lust that I keep the story so tight to the original, I‟ve just added vampires, machine guns, explosions, lots of knives…and beneath all that lies the firm belief that the right one IS out there for everyone. (except me, of course)

In my screenplay “Lit” the main character‟s depression nearly keeps him in on Friday night but a coincidence lands him a party where he meets a girl; a girl who has a lighter which was stolen from him a week ago. This leads to the discovery he‟s at the wrong party and then things get rolling, but the point is, Gavin has no doubt whatsoever that nothing outside is going to alleviate the pain he feels. And it really doesn‟t seem like it will, as details are revealed throughout Act I but when his stolen lighter shows up… To close, here are some not-so-happy-quotes which – for me – start narratives on a path where something akin to happiness is inevitable…if only for a few moments. It may just be all the “preservatives‟ I’ve invested in but the truth of all things horrible: ALL of it has a flip side. A few quotes of shadow that lead to some form of salvation (in my opinion are:

[] “I’m nobody! Who are you?”Emily Dickinson

[] “Love is poison. A sweet poison, yes, but it will kill you all the same.”Cersei Lannister (George R. R. Martin)

[] “All we ever see of stars are their old photographs.”Dr. Manhattan (Alan Moore)

[] “Everyone in life is going to hurt you; you just have to figure out which people are worth the pain.”Erica Baican

[] 1“True love is like ghosts, which everybody talks about and few have seen.”La Rochefoucauld

[] “Gravity cannot be held responsible for people falling in love.”Einstein

[] “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”William Gibson

[] “You used to be the victim, now you’re not the only one.”Elvis Costello

The end of the world is the beginning of the next. Nothing lasts forever but the misery which comprises so much of everyday life is included. Happiness comes and goes but so does despair. The feeling that the integrity of one’s soul is cracked so that all happiness just seeps out … it isn’t permanent. Nothing is. 

It’s just a matter of holding on long enough to see it – to experience it – for yourself.

Life is full of pain but as Faith No More said, “droplets of ‘yes and no; in an ocean of maybe,,,”


The Day That Was The Day

In the 1990’s I was in high school – a couple of them, actually. The last was a short bus school (they were called Alternative Schools back then) and its wasn’t about memorizing facts so much as it was about not getting into fights or settings things on fire. I learned a hell of a lot more lessons that would later help me in life than I did at any other school, that is for sure.

What I’m about to tell you is absolutely true but I don’t wish to present it as “I was right they were wrong” – with that disclaimer firmly in place:

One of the classes I took was Child Development…it was partly because of a girl I liked but mostly it seemed like an easy class. At the end of the course, we were taken to a daycare center and under supervision, put it charge of a ‘class’ of children for ninety minutes or so.Almost all of the women who ran the place were all old enough to be grandmothers to the kids from my high school so the kids attending the daycare center were nearly another species, as far as I could see. They were definitely all looking at me when they warned that any defiance would result in our being banned from the place and thus, failing the class. Back then, I had a blue mohawk which hung to my shoulders, I wore lots of rings with spikes, eyeballs, etc and I definitely wore all black.

I figured this would scare most kids off but the kids I was in charge of were either not normal or young enough to not judge – or, as I suspected, they read one’s emotional vibes more than anything else. They swarmed over me like zombies over humans who can’t get away but there wasn’t any biting. I believe it’s a universal thing to consciously try and not pick favorites but it happens. There was one kid, a girl named Amanda or something who was clearly sharper and more mature than all the others. She never cried when her mom dropped her off, she was never one of the ones to get into a fight over a toy (I quickly smoothed out conflicts like that by asking who wanted to wear my sunglasses or listen to my headphones for a minute – strictly Pink Floyd and The Cure) and when it was time to read a book to the kids, she sat next to me and turned the pages. The first time I ever saw her start to cry was when she fell and when I helped her up, she hugged me and that was that, she was back to normal.

When a fight got bad enough or some kid was unruly enough, my supervisor would deal with the kid in various ways, one of which was putting the kid by themselves in an empty classroom until they calmed down. It made me uncomfortable but (1) I wasn’t sure how I would have dealt with it if it were up to me and (2) it wasn’t my deal; I was there for the class thing. After a week or so, I knew which kids were the ones to keep an eye on and which kids could be relied upon to play nice; to share, to not push back, etc. One of the things I taught the class was the ‘peace sign’ and I really thought it would pass in and out of their minds but kids are mysterious in their own way. And as the school semester was ending, there came a day when my teacher told me I had been reported as being ‘surprisingly good with the kids’ and I figured it was a done deal, I would pass this class with no sweat but then the day that was The Day came.

Amanda’s mom was late dropping her off and it was clear that the kid was exhausted; pretty much half-asleep and cranky and totally unlike her usual self. It didn’t take long for one of the more troublesome kids to take something from her and when she tried to take it back, they pushed her over. She began to cry and I knew if I gave her a hug she’d be fine but one of the supervisors intervened and with more disdain than usual, put her in an empty classroom and slammed the door. She began to scream and something in my head – and my heart, I suppose – changed modes. She wasn’t my daughter or even the daughter of a friend but what was happening was wrong and I could not allow it to go on. Hearing her howl PHYSICALLY hurt me. And the look on the supervisor’s face pushed me through rage into another state where…well, where we do things we shouldn’t.

I was told that she wasn’t allowed out until she stopped crying, just like all the others…but she Smiled at me when she said it. At least, that’s how I remember it. Amanda’s howls were echoing in the room and she was pounding on the door and my supervisor crossed her arms and said to me, “NO. Don’t you dare.” I tried to explain that a simple hug would solve the situation and she told me that if I opened the door, I was “done” and it was around then that I realized it was very very quiet. Every single kid was staring and other teachers (and kids from my class) had gathered in the doorway; she could not see them since she was staring at me but I could see them watching me…and I tell myself I weighed the situation, I thought it through but I also know I didn’t care.

I was not defiant enough to smile at her when I did it but I clearly remember I looked her directly in the face when I opened the door and Amanda pretty much jumped into my arms and I hugged her and she stopped crying immediately. It was the first time I ever wiped tears and snot off a kid’s face and absolutely the first time I felt a fulfillment in making a kid feel better. I remember her eyes were still bright and shiny with tears when she smiled at me and I smiled at her – and then the moment of reckoning was upon us. The woman told me, “You’re done.”

I looked at Amanda and smiled then looked back at the woman and said, “That’s cool.” I set Amanda down and the woman looked like she was going to have a heart attack she was so pissed. And I was somehow more than ‘cool’ or ‘ok’…I felt (for lack of a better term) Good. She turned away and saw everyone had been watching and I began to feel pretty great…she was totally unaware that we’d been observed. As if to prove this, she said to the audience, “He was wrong!” There was no response and I didn’t care. It was time to read the kids a book and Amanda already had our chairs set up.

At the end of that final session, the woman told the class that “John won’t be coming back so say goodbye” and each one of the kids looked up at me and gave me the peace sign and I felt something that I’ve felt maybe two or three times in my entire life. It wasn’t anything specific, I know that, it was just Overwhelming. Amanda smiled and waved and I smiled back and then I had to go. I had to get out of there. I couldn’t bear the thought of that woman being in charge of those kids, the unruly ones as well as the well-behaved ones. That was the only time the woman who ran the daycare center spoke directly to me – she stopped me on the way to the bus and said to me, “Thank You” and shook my hand.

On the bus, a girl from my class sat next to me and I remember a weird sense of Disconnect. She squeezed my hand and didn’t say anything. If I remember correctly, nobody said anything or maybe I just wasn’t listening. When we got back to the school, I knew there had been a phone call or something; my teacher took me aside and told me that I wouldn’t be going back and I should have obeyed and I may have set a bad example by picking a favorite. I probably did. But I didn’t agree. And I didn’t say so…and I don’t think I needed to.

I think about all of that now and sometimes I think the woman who was my supervisor didn’t like Amanda’s mother (who was pretty, well-dressed, elegant, etc) and sometimes I think I would be a bad parent because I would pick a favorite but mostly what I feel is that there’s nothing to think about. It’s an emotional thing and that is it. It was a decision blinded by emotion. I can’t decide if I feel it was right or wrong in the ‘big picture’ but by every rule, every factoid, every piece, every element to the foundation upon which my present day self has been built up from, I know it was worth it.

She was a tiny human, a person in the making and she was in distress and I knew how to fix it and I did. Everything else is irrelevant. I remember it and cherish it as much as I am haunted by it. Yeah, she was my favorite and that affected my judgement but it also made that moment when she stopped crying and smiled and I wiped the tears and snot from her face something elemental. There’s that concept of ‘the exploded second’ where time warps…when I think about the events of that day, I know to an absolute certainty part of me became known to myself in that moment.

In the end, I guess I know it wasn’t only me who knew it because I didn’t get an “F” even though we’d been told repeatedly that if we didn’t finish that section of the course, we would. I never asked the teacher why I got a “C” and I never told anyone in the class about it -although later, I found out that the ones who didn’t gather in the doorway and see what happened told the others. To say it was one thing or another isn’t right or wrong it just isn’t Enough.

I think I changed a little bit – maybe more than a little bit – that day.

It’s something that I can’t quantify or easily reference or write into a script.

It’s something I’ll always remember.

It was worth it.


From the Outside


Have you ever watched a dark fluid soak upward? It appears to crawl, to pour in the wrong direction. The horror of being close to someone is that its eventuality is exactly that. Doesn’t matter if it’s a secret, a facet of their personality they normally keep hidden away or someone they know who is a disaster waiting to happen or a simple bad decision.

From outside the glass outside the air bubbles, everything is More. I manipulate light with different flashlights, LED ropes and even a candle and watch the shadows and colors slide up the inside face of the air bubbles in the glass and keep remembering what happened when the dark got inside of me. I can – and usually do – chase it around but it never goes away and then I remember that I realized a long time ago that pain is pretty much elemental to moving forward as a person.

But sometimes you get far enough that anybody around is not to be trusted – and the ones you relied on haven’t betrayed you, they’ve simply become other people. And it’s time to start screwing with the light – that’s partly why I’m so obsessed with contrast in my photography. Why sunrise is bedtime and sunset is when my brain and mind sync.

I live in the dark and watch what happens out there in the light. For best results expect the worst. My 1st freshman year of high school there was a girl – long story short, I wrote something about her and for her. Every so often, in films or songs, I hear echoes of it (“there’s two tragedies in life: never getting what we want – and getting it”) and take a morbid comfort in knowing someone else has felt it and realized it / recognized it for what it is: something that you simply won’t ever have. The thing I wrote for Vicki was this:

“The things that I want and the things that I get are the only two things that never connect.”

I was right about that but I’ve been wrong about so many other things – it’s crazy how good it can be to be wrong. That’s probably why I bother acknowledging the light and what happens out there in it. And probably has some intrinsic connection to why I can’t sleep – why I don’t want to sleep. But that’s for another time.