We head into Christmas with plans to enjoy Chinese food and some Japanese sushi as our holiday dinner in Christiansburg. Amy’s parents and cousins either dead or estranged. Same for me. My daughter and her husband are hundreds of miles away and my health prevents any travel other than the 25 miles or so to either Christiansburg or Roanoke.
Then we will probably cuddle up to watch a streaming movie or two. ‘Tis the season to be folly.
A good friend here in Floyd County says he and his wife are thinking of leaving Floyd County. Most of their friends, he says, are dead and their parents are gone too. They might move to be closer to their daughter.
Amy and I moved to Floyd County 19 years ago to help take care of my ailing mother with the understanding that after she was gone, we might move to one of the areas we had long considered for retirement. Mom passed in 2012 and when I asked Amy if she wanted to move, she shook her head and said “this is home. I’m not moving again.”
Our 24 years together was nomadic, at best. We moved from the St. Louis area to the National Capital region in 1981 and my job had me traveling the world. She was on the road to direct plays and work in New York as an actress, but our move to Floyd County ended travel and I walked away from several hundred thousand miles of Frequent Flier reward miles and even received a letter from one airline asking: “Is everything OK?You haven’t been flying with us lately.”
My last flight was a redeye flight from Seattle to Dulles International Airport in Seattle on the day after the 2004 presidential election, which I had covered as a news photographer. For most of my professional life, I had kept a “to go bag” by our front door to respond quickly to calls from assignment editors. It remains in a closet by our front door but has been used sparingly, once when a Washington assignment editor roused me from a deep sleep on April 16, 2007, asking for help covering the Virginia Tech mass shooting and twice to shoot news footage of hurricanes in North Carolina.
The last such call came more than a decade ago.
I recently turned down an offer to cover the upcoming 2024 presidential election for a wire service. Now hobbled by a stroke, my health will not allow me to fly to spots around the country and haul heavy cameras while fighting for a good spot among a crowd of younger members of my profession.
In 2004, on the coast-to-coast red-eye flight, my Blackberry vibrated with a message to call the paper in Washington to help editing some photos I had shot on the last day of the election. Using the airline phone, I plugged into their computer to select some of the photos and write captions for the photos. A woman sitting next to me in first class spend nearly an hour on her air phone with her lawyer colleagues in Washington on one of their legal cases. After she hung up, she leaned over and said: “Remember when we used to enjoy the downtime from stuff like this when flying?”
Yes, I did. It seemed to long ago but it wasn’t. Time changed rapidly in our professions. I remember covering Desert Storm, the war against Iraq to stop their invasion of Kuwaiti by Iraq. We shot those photos o film and couriors would catch up with us to bring new film and take the the exposed rolls back to the Saudi airport for a trip back to Washington where they were developed and appeared in newspapers about a week later. In 2003, I covered the conflict in Afghanistan with digital cameras and used a satellite phone to transmit the images back to Washington, where the photos appeared online or in newspapers almost immediately.
Yea, the times are a changin’, even faster than when Bob Dylan released an album with a signature song on the topic:
Come gather ’round, people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
And you better start swimmin’
Or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’
Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who
That it’s namin’
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’
Come senators, congressmen–Copyright © 1964 Bob Dylan
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
The battle outside ragin’
Will soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin
From Amy and myself, our best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.