Saturday, October 04, 2008


Yesterday was one of those amazing days that, after it's all over you sit back and think, "How the hell did that happen?" It wasn't the day actually, but rather late afternoon into the evening.

First of all, I received some creative inspiration via e-mail from an awesome photographer on the west coast. Every time I get an e-mail from him I shake my head in disbelief and think, "How am I so lucky that I get to correspond with this person?!" I still don't know, but damn lucky I am.

After work, M and I had made plans to go to a Pictures of the Year International (POYi) exhibit at the Sheldon Art Galleries. POYi is run by my alma mater, the J-School at the University of Missouri. Each year, the school chooses the most amazing images made during the past 365 days. They are always incredible, and being given the chance to see many of the best in one place was something I was definitely interested in. The e-mail I received about it said that last night was the opening night, and we could expect a lovely little reception with beverages and appetizers. It was to run from 5 to 8, with drinks served 5 to 7. We rushed home, changed, and headed down to Sheldon.

When we walked up to the door, the attendant asked, "Have you been to our gallery before?" I said that I had, once, a year ago when I visited to see an incredible Jennifer Silverberg exhibit. She responded, "Great! Then you know the event is upstairs! Oh, but before you go up, you might want to check out the Pictures of the Year exhibit on the main floor here." M and I shot each other a look...ummmm...we thought the POYi exhibit was the event. We played it off like we knew exactly what we were doing and went in.

The POYi exhibit was incredible. Even M, who normally hates it when I drag him to photography exhibits, liked it, as he recognized many of the images that portray seminal moments in history. After spending some time in that gallery we decided to head upstairs and see what The Event actually was. Why not, eh?

Upstairs, it turned out, was the launch of the exhibit and book for the 40th anniversary of Contemporary Productions, a local music promoter. After we had our fill of cheese and crackers and veggies, and one glass of white wine each, we went in to the gallery. It was incredible. Music was in visual form all over the walls: photographs from concerts, back-stage passes, crew passes, t-shirts, promotional posters, newspaper and magazine articles. We drifted through, exclaiming over our favorites. Bruce Springsteen, Genesis, Journey, Jimi Hendrix, The Temptations, Eagles, REO Speedwagon and more. We laughed at the posters for "Superjam '76," doing the cheesy radio announcer impersonations we knew must have accompanied the on-air promotions for the event. One of the principals of Contemporary (and one of the authors of the exhibit's book) was there signing.

We had passed the gift shop on the way in to the exhibit, and the Contemporary book was displayed on a little easel. On either side of it, laying flat on the desk, were several other books. One of them was Vanishing America, by photographer Michael Eastman. I've followed his work for about 10 years, and I absolutely adore it. Having not had the chance to see Vanishing America yet, I stopped, of course, to look through it, all the while listening to the gift shop attendant try to convince me to look at the Contemporary book instead. "He's here signing it tonight!" I flipped through to appease her, but the Eastman book got far more attention. As we drifted away to hit the Contemporary exhibit, she mentioned the Eastman book was the last one they had. I made a mental note to convince M through the exhibit that I must purchase the book.

We went through several rooms of the Contemporary exhibit and found ourselves in a completely different section of the gallery, surrounded by giant, beautiful color photographs. I thought they might be Eastman prints, and went closer to inspect the description card by one of the images. Sure enough, they were all Michael Eastman's. How cool is that? I had never been able to see his work in person, and here it all was. I started my rounds, M gamely tagging behind (he's such a good hubby).

As I was studying one print, I couldn't help but overhear a conversation going on behind me. Several people were talking, and I heard one man say, "Well, these were all done with a 4x5..." My stomach flipped. "M!" I hissed. "That's Michael Eastman!" "Which one?" "The hippie-lookin' guy with the glasses and the long hair!" I stuck around to confirm my suspicions, listening and trying to covertly sneak good looks to see if it really was him. After I satisfied myself that he was him, I bolted for the gift shop. That last copy of Vanishing America was soon mine, and I was back at Mr. Eastman's side within minutes.

After patiently waiting for him to finish his conversation, he turned to me and stuck out his hand. He was a most genuine person, truly in this moment, kind and gentle and generous. I introduced myself and then M, and we had a 15-minute conversation about photography. I'm pretty sure I grinned like an idiot the entire time. Mr. Eastman signed my book and M finally dragged me away so I wouldn't monopolize his entire evening. I was in heaven.

I chattered the entire way home. M, I'm sure, was desperately wishing he was packing ear plugs. Near home, my cell rang. It was Stef, and before she could even get a word out, I exploded with what had happened earlier. She was, as every best friend should be, thrilled for me. Then she said, "I have an etiquette question."

Basically, she had been invited to a colleague's wedding. She had been planning to attend the reception with her boss and his wife, but learned at the wedding they wouldn't be going to the reception. She had no date, as her girlfriend is in Ann Arbor (hi Nicole!) and she hadn't lined up a friend as she didn't want to appear rude. "Hi, I figure I'm going to be bored at your wedding reception, so I'm bringing a friend to keep me amused." Since she was now going to the event completely alone, and knowing no one but the groom, she was in a pickle. "How long do I have to stay?" I told her all she had to do was greet the happy couple and then she was free to leave. She sighed, "I should have asked someone to go with me. I was going to ask you but you're too busy with school and everything."

Ironically, M and I had gotten all our work done early this week, so I had no other plans for the evening. M said, "Hell, you should go. You're already dressed for it!" I asked Stef where she was, and she was relatively close (in St. Louis terms, anyway), so she came by and we were off, and soon I found myself crashing my second event of the evening.

It was a very nice reception, especially considering I didn't know the bride or the groom. I don't know about Stef, but I had a blast just getting to hang out with her for a night. We should crash wedding receptions more often, I say. Good food, open bar, fun music, and cake! What's not to love?

So, that's the story of my sleepy Friday evening that wasn't. Just another confirmation of how lucky I am.


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