May 25, 2017

Portrait of the photographer as a young, too young, man

020405pix.jpgFred First started this madness when he posted a 1977 photo of himself and his family and suggested others should dig into their own shoeboxes to see what popped up.

I’m afraid I can’t match the bucolic setting of Fred’s hippie days. This photo comes from 1968 while working for The Roanoke Times and was taken in the front yard of the family farm near Willis by my mother, I think, and found not long ago by my sister. I was 20 at the time. The Times had a dress code in those days, which meant we all wore coats and ties, even when covering sports and disasters. I’ve sometimes wondered if our editors were more concerned with how we looked than they were in whether or not we got the story.

Note the short hair, the trim waistline and all-too-serious demeanor. I was pretty full of myself in those days, full of piss and vinegar and out to save the world. In another year I would be gone from Virginia and in a far off place where idealism wasn’t welcome. It wouldn’t take long to discover the world, in fact, had no desire to be saved and — even if it did — I wasn’t the one for the job. Age has tempered the need for conquest as well as the desire to save anything, except perhaps energy enough to get through the day. The black hair is almost white, the beard is white and the waistline is, well, fuller — much fuller.

I think I wore a tie twice last year and got a haircut back in August or September. The memory fades at my age and I keep a gray suit for weddings and a black one for funerals.

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