To Be the Boy Playing the Piano

Home Sweet Home?

Ah yes, there we were, pillars of success in our community: We had a single family home in the suburbs, two very commendable and solid careers, two dogs, a couple of pensions, and a fenced in yard.  If we were the model citizens, why was I miserable with the way things were going?  Probably an infinite number of reasons I guess, but my understand of myself, the world, and my place in the world, has yielded that we as a people (or maybe just my wife and I) are not supposed to be as transient as we allow ourselves to be.  Seven years later, I am back where I started. …And… I couldn’t be happier.

Our house was no big prize by suburban Gwinnett, Georgia standards.  Down there, a house is nothing unless it has a basement the size of 4-6 Brooklyn apartments and a family room with 18-20 foot ceilings (seriously… probably a waste of space only bested by the Gwinnett Braves Stadium).  But our house was nice.  Our cars were garage kept, we had all the niceties and a really nice back yard that only took 5 years to complete.  Sodded it twice!  But Georgia tore the shit out of my family.  Not the state, really, but my sister’s ex started on a mission which then ended up with my entire family relocating from all that we have ever known and moving south.  It’s not Georgia’s fault, and we made our own individual decisions to move; I get that.  But at the time I did not get that at least for me, I was not supposed to move.  The idea of home ownership and cheap taxes seamed important at the time.  It means nothing.  The housing market crash showed us all how unimportant it is to have our names tied to a mortgage note.  None of that is important.  Family is important, our roots are important, and the places from our childhood that meant the most (Beach, New York City and Long Street Farm for me) are the exact same places we should not separate ourselves from as we age.

But I was doing ok.  I thoroughly enjoyed my career as a Police Officer, as it was something from my childhood that I always wanted.  Matil was thoroughly enjoying herself as a Deptuy Sheriff.  We both were very good at our jobs, and nobody can ever take that away.  With very few exceptions, every one of us in the Gwinnett Law Enforcement community is very good at their jobs.  Coming from and coming back into New Jersey where law enforcement is not as visible as the road checks on I-85 North at Pleasant Hill, I can say with absolute certainty that Gwinnett streets are patrolled by a team of highly dedicated individuals who truly want the best for their families and communities.  That is something that will be sorely missed, but it is also something that was not going to hold me in Atlanta.  There was a stronger force at play…

Boy Playing the Piano

The entrepreneurial spirit I witness on every brief little escapade to New York City is unlike anything I have experienced anywhere else.  And I have been some places, guys… like the Poconos hehe.  Seriously though, I want you to look at this picture of the boy playing the piano and really try to comprehend everything that is going on here, and the many different ways it can be interpreted.  To give you some background, this is in the subway near Penn Station New York around Christmas last year.  In movies, they show borderline criminals banging on buckets or faux-blind people demanding money.  In real life, not to be confused with ‘Real Life,’ I have been witness to some awesome music from pianos, saxophones, cellos and violins, and even buckets- but not by borderline thugs- they were musicians!

Combine that entrepreneurial spirit with the fact that these people, ever-present, are playing in the basement of the epicenter of greatness that ever was and ever will be in America: New York City.  And in my mind, my house, 401a, career, golf course green lawn simply pales in comparison to the desire to be the boy playing the piano in New York’s basement.  It wasn’t just him, who I didn’t take the time to obtain a name because we live in anonymity when a small space is shared by better than 10 million people, it was countless others.  There was the guy selling knockoff sunglasses at a street vender stand on Park Ave, and I said to Matil,  “This guy gets to say he works on Park Ave!!”  Life suddenly became not about what I did but where I did it.  Why?  Because where this guy was doing it was in the middle of everything that was important to me as a child, and I wanted nothing more than to come home!

So here is my new home.

Apt. N114

Yeah, it is an apartment and an apartment is exactly where I thought I would never again hang my hat, but that is OK because as luck would have it this part is only temporary.  I made it a mission to return home sometime in the middle of 2010.  When I found out what my mother in law was earning, the idea of paying high taxes and tolls suddenly became a nonissue.  Money is about balance.  There are some extremely high values placed on properties in New Jersey, but that is because people will pay extremely well for a house in a decent neighborhood that also holds a very brief commute time to New York City.  So what? So I had to find a job to support that lifestyle is what.  So now I’m training to drive commuters between that house in the ‘burbs to that city where it all happens on a very large and powerful commuter railroad (3rdlargest nationally, behind Amtrak and LA).

Rainy Days

Cool, right?

No, not really.  I’m not a huge rail fan with model railroad club memberships.  It is interesting enough, but the part that matters is that it is compensating me well enough where I can live and stroll through the neighborhood that inspires boys to play pianos, or men to play the saxophones, or street vendors to sell glasses.

But I don’t just stroll.  I document.  I believe in this melting pot society that we live in here.  I love photography.  I love to capture people and places in all sorts of occasions to share that certain element that makes life here worth living.  And my loving wife Matil has pushed me along all these years to move closer and closer to a point where strangers might even give me the honor of dedicating a few moments of there time to look at my art.  I hope that her efforts will not be in vain; I often have photography-related depressions where I want to see what hits the ground first: camera or lens when I throw them both off a skyscraper.  I feel like I am heading in the right direction because now I am in the environment I always wanted to be in.  I see my craft getting stronger.  I see myself spending more time with Ken Rockwell and Zack Arias’ philosophy about the craft and less time on Nikon Rumors or DPreview.  That’s a positive thing.

Photography is getting better.

“Integrity of a Lion.” -Cpl. C. A. Deming 982

I’ll never forget my many life-altering experiences in Georgia, nor will I forget my awesome career as a drunk-driver-ass-kicker or knight in shining armor to women who were beat by their piece of shit husbands (seriously shiny, I used Leather Luster).  That kind of pride is the stuff we get to take to our graves.  And as much as I miss my family (including my sisters who have yet to speak to me about what needs to be spoken about and whom I think about daily as much as they probably don’t believe that) and my amazing friends from all corners of the globe, I know I had to come back home.

Of course, there is an open invitation to you all.


-Mark Wyman
Follow me on Twitter: @MKWyman


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