The Eye of my Tornado

I was sitting here this evening searching for the latest news on #HurricanHarvey, when a song started playing that hit me over the head like a ton of bricks to pull me out of the deluge of weather reports.

Back in the mid 90’s, I worked with and hung out with a bunch of social rejects. That’s a bit harsh, but irregardless of the term, we all bonded for reasons varying for social ineptitude to sheer rejection of society. We had everyone from the crazed punk rocker to the free living hippie.

I called a lot of these people friends even though society called them outcasts. We were different. That’s for sure. Most of all, we were just dumb kids in our late teens to early twenties

At this time, my best friend and craziest friend in the world was a girl from Kansas. Her name was Abby. She didn’t walk into a room, she whirled into a room. She was a hippie stuck in the wrong decade. When she wasn’t working, she wore hippie clothes from the 60’s. She was a fashion freak and made hippie fashion trendy before it was a trend again. She was an amazing person and the eye in my own tornado that brought a brief respite to the storm.
Niccolò Ubalducci Photographer
We used to talk all night long about her life in Kansas, tornadoes, and her dreams of moving to California. She loved me like a brother, and I loved her like a sister. I was a little fella back in those days, but I kept her out of trouble on a few occasions. The woman wouldn’t hurt a mouse, but like the rest of us, she had a wild side. She knew how to break me but also how to make me. She lit up my very dark world with kindness and goofiness. She was a saving grace, really. I wouldn’t be here, if it wasn’t for her, and of course, a lot of other people.

I remember us sitting in the darkness talking one morning about 4AM, only lit by a single incandescent bulb in a large room, when we heard the light pelting of summer rain. She leaped from her chair, started laughing, and demanded that I go dance with her in the rain. I laughed, opened the door, and motioned for her to go outside. I shut the door behind her. I was trying to be funny and somewhat mean, but she didn’t care. I ran to the window to discover her dancing under a street light. I ran outside and did something that I had never done before in my life, feel comfortable and be in the moment. We danced like goofs in the rain for probably half an hour, just the two of us in the muted rain. We were two tortured and twisted souls that made one normal human being.

She was a big Grateful Dead fan and had become friends with roadies over the years. The last time I saw her was in early 96, I think. I do remember it raining on that cold February morning. She laughingly insisted that we dance in the rain one more time. She said she’d call me as soon as she got to California. She did write me a letter, and I wrote her back. Over the years, we lost track of one another as people do.

In 2006, she found me on skype. At first, I didn’t know who she was, but when she wrote her name back, I instantly knew who I was talking to. We talked for hours about her adventures and jobs in Cal. And my adventures in the past decade. She had a brilliant eye for aesthetics and style alike. She had no formal training, but she worked on a lot of music videos(below), short films, and the occasional tv show. She was a go getter. She’d do anything to stay on set and keep the production moving forward. She said her life was great, and that I should (at the time) come out.

I lost track of her again in late 2006. I was trying to sort out my own troubles at that time and didn’t give her the attention she deserved. The last time I talked to her, I was stressing out over final exams in college. She was the type of person that required your full attention, but she gave back as much as she took.

I found out in late 2012 that she had overdosed and her light no longer shines on our world. The conditions of her overdose and death are no ones business. I know, but I have enough respect for her family not to say. I, like a lot of people, feel that I can’t do anything to help friends or family with a drug addiction. In 2015, 52,404 people died due to accidental overdose in the US. According to the CDC, 33,000 of those were due to Opioids (including prescription opioids ((pain killers)) and heroin). This is the highest number on record!

You don’t need a f*cking degree in psychology to help someone. If you know someone struggling with addiction, call them. Ask them how they are doing. Get them to tell you a story. Keep them engaged. If I’d done that, my friend might still be here. I’m not trying to clear my conscious, but I do wish she were still here. I lost an angel due to drugs, and I have almost lost family. We’ve all lost people. Don’t you think it is time to do something about it?

Free Agent

A camera has been my constant companion for over a decade. I started my own photography business in 2015. As expected, it was slow at first but it gradually picked up. By the winter of that year, it had slowed down to a trickle. I was desperately seeking work, and quite frankly, income. The only things free in life is the air we breath and light from the glorious sun.

At that time, I started working as an IT Consultant for my families business. I enjoyed working for them. I love my family and was grateful to get out of the corporate environment I had been in for years. I sorted every IT problem that I could and wasn’t really needed on a daily basis, so I wished them well and am now a free agent.

When a person works for someone else, their income is usually consistent. When you work for yourself, it is rarely consistent. It was time to go. I’m a much stronger and better person, when I have to be quick on my feet. I don’t have the option to sit back and pick and choose projects or clients. I am willing to work with anyone. I don’t have the benefit of a large surplus of cash to sit on, and I don’t believe in taking welfare from the government when I’m able to work.  In other words, I better get to work!

What do I do?

I am a landscape, architectural, and portrait photographer. I cover several areas of photography. You have to today in order to survive. I sell landscape photographs on several stock photo sites, but I also do local portrait sessions, weddings, and events.

I also do photo retouching that usually consist of removing blemishes and color correction. I have been a constant user of Photoshop since the days of MS-DOS.

With the help of friends, I produce a weekly podcast about life, liberty, and the unending pursuit of happiness. That consist of setting up mics, setting up and managing the software and settings, audio editing in Adobe Audition, and publishing on the site as well as producing a video version for youtube in Premiere Pro CC. The podcast taught me about time management and logistics. At one time, we had co-hosts from the East Coast of the US, Ireland, and Australia. As you can imagine, managing the time table and getting everyone to show up at the same time in three different time zones can be a nightmare.

In addition, I have also written and published five travel photo books. Four of these are about Ireland, a project that took years to complete. I am still working on the last piece of the puzzle, a book of my adventures across the Emerald Isle and the misadventures I managed to get myself into over a decade.

My academic background is varied. I started out majoring in IT Security. I love all forms of tech, so it was right up my alley. After a few years, however, I started to hate the idea of spending the rest of my life in a dark room staring at monitors. I love the outdoors too much to dedicate the majority of my remaining days in a cubicle or server room. That may sound vain to some, but it is a matter of choice. I passed every class and certs with an “A”, so it wasn’t a matter of failing. I was minoring in Art at the same time.

At that time, my family was having some problems, so I did somewhat of a 180 and changed my major to Criminal Justice. I minored in Forensics, so there was still technology involved. I graduated with honors in less than two years. It was a great decision. I had some of the best professors you could ask for. Though we had heated debates, most of them always welcomed debate on the Constitution.