Photography, USA

Don’t send you broken lenses to Precision Camera

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My favorite lens to shoot with, the Pentax 21mm prime, suddenly stopped working. The outer lens ring was completely knocked off the lens. I suppose I banged it into too many steering wheel and walls in its lifetime, and it just finally had enough. This lens is tough. It comes with a lens hood that is made of metal, and its profile on the camera is minimal. I like to shoot close, and this lens makes that possible. I’ve put it through its paces on the streets of Denver and in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

I’ve used it to capture tens of thousands of images and there isn’t any lens I like better. I found Precision Camera through Pentax. It seems that’s where Pentax sends their lenses off for repair, so I contacted them. I went through an online process with the company to start the repair order, and shipped the lens myself from UPS. The lens arrived in early May and I assumed work had begun. After several weeks of silence, I attempted to e-mail the company through their website. I received no response on three separate e-mails.

I then called their customer service department, and spoke with Charlene, who said that the problem was that I hadn’t authorized payment on the credit card for the $166.50 repair. I was under the impression that this was paid up front, when I entered my information online and received a confirmation. She was short, and I would bet she didn’t look at the order itself, just repeating the phrase “now that the payment is received you will get your lens in four to six business days.” Today the timeframe given was five to seven business days. I didn’t feel confident about the conversation or the information I was receiving, as the online order status had a big red stop sign on it and stated that they were waiting for backordered parts. I told the customer service representative and she stuck to her story about the payment problem and now everything is on schedule. I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t receive my lens within that time frame.

So I called again today, July 26, and spoke with Charlene again who says that the payment was approved, and the parts are on backorder until July 6th. After that date she says the lens will be returned as soon as possible. I asked her about the reason I was told on my last call that the lens would be delivered in four to six days, she said that was me that told you, and normally repairs take five to seven days barring any unforeseen circumstance. In this case I supposedly have parts on backorder that will arrive on July 6th. I asked how long ago the parts were ordered and she gave me two different dates in May, the eighth and then the 12th.

I will follow up on July 6, to determine if the part was received or not. My complaint about this experience is that the numbers keep changing, and I’ve been kept in the dark for long periods of time. I think your customer service department is suffering a deficiency in effective communication. The system you have in place isn’t working and the customers are receiving mixed information from your website and your live representatives. The information we do receive is often incorrect and is leaving your customers dissatisfied. We are vocal about this problem, and your company received poor reviews in many internet forums where fellow photographers warn against dealing with your company in any way.

I will join the ranks of your naysayers and advise any photographer I come across to steer clear of your company. The equipment we send you is expensive and waiting more than three months for a lens repair is just bad business. After being completely ignored on four separate occasions online, and getting mixed and inconsistent information on two phone calls, I am completely frustrated and unhappy with this experience.

Camera companies would do well to take their business elsewhere. I will contact Pentax about this experience, and while my one voice might not worry you, the voice of potentially tens of thousands of other photographers and customers of yours will eventually be heard and a good number of us are unhappy.

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America, Black & White Street Photography, Everyday America, Photography

Marijuana Haiku

Denver

A sign of the times

demonized and criticized

illegal no more

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Travelogue, USA

Now leaving Denver

The Vanagon is loaded to the hilt. Our already slow moving vehicle is that much slower under the weight of everything we own that survived the purge. Our last few days in Colorado were soaked with rain. And now I sit in this parking lot waiting for Maizy one last time while she finishes saying her goodbyes. It’s all over but the crying.

With Maizy’s last day behind us we turned the key in the ignition and headed for the road. I rolled my window down and waved up to her co-workers I thought might be watching and gave them all a wave. Then, as if on cue, we hit the seven foot clearance bar of her parking lot with the box of stuff mounted on our luggage rack. BAM! I watched it swinging wildly in the rear view and just laughed as we drove off. No harm, no foul.

Driving with this load it feels like a slow bullet careening down the road. We push the speed limit down the hills and hope the momentum will carry us up the steeper grades. Once we reach our destination we will reinforce our ride, store our belongings, say our hellos and goodbyes to the family and begin our journey. It might take a couple weeks, but it will be time well spent. Driving down Interstate 70 heading east the clouds seemed so low that  you could imagine yourself reaching up to touch them.

The sky was a mix of deep purples and light blues in a gradient line along the horizon. We left construction projects and road crews in the rear view, and as they disappeared we found ourselves surrounded by the familiar fields, farms and vast open spaces of eastern Colorado.  Cell towers and a brick and mortar church stands alone in a giant field. We are among our fellow travelers now. The license plates on vehicles start getting more random. Indiana, Florida, South Dakota, all of them just passing through, heading off to unknown destinations.

We’re out in the sticks, east bound on a two lane highway, slowly marching forward. A hawk circles above in the dark sky, an occasional bird drops in front of the windshield flapping its wings madly, bouncing up and down flying along with us. A glance to the right reveals an old broken down trailer home with peeling white paint and a crooked antennae on the roof, it’s gone in an instant shrinking out of sight as we make our way further east.We’re on highway 36 now, one lane east one west. Headlights approach and disappear in a misty cloud.

Pouring rain pelts the van. Groves of trees with black trunks and yellow green leaves, the silouhette of branches, jagged and pointy, natures concertina wire. Tractor equipment and yellow signs marking intersecting side roads. The van had some trouble up one hill so we pulled over to give old Betty a rest. Then the hail came and we decided to keep moving. It was pitch dark, huge raindrops soaked the van and we were all a little nervous.

The sky was electric, lightning crackling, thunder rolling, and us sitting on those front ️wheels holding on tight and squinting through a foggy windshield. I said it was probably because we were all breathing so hard from fear. Whoever said driving through the plains is boring never drove through it in the driving rain. My adrenaline is pumping.

We just passed a muddy road to nowhere called Winview. We began to question our decision to take highway 36 when the van started acting like it was running out of gas twenty miles from the nearest service station. I told Maizy that if something breaks it might as well be now while we have the money to fix it. Mound City or bust. We almost ran out of gas on the first tank.

U.S. 36 is empty and desolate through Colorado. We stressed over whether or not we could make it, and the van struggled to get us there. After about twenty miles of sweating it out, barely able to keep moving we hit an old gas station in Alton, CO with old pumps sporting analog read outs. We feel there is a problem with the fuel delivery somehow but we learned as long as we don’t consume more than half a tank everything runs great. We decided at this point to get back to I-70 where the gas stations are plenty.

We passed through a town called Cope which looked abandoned. There was an old red phone booth, abandoned buildings and dead looking farms. There was no gas to be found. We traveled down Highway 59 for 26 miles and got back to the familiar territory of 70 east. We haven’t had any problems since the initial troubles just as long as we fill up about every 70 miles, a problem that we can hopefully fix during our time in Mound City.

The smell of manure hit us hard just past the Kansas Colorado border. There was a giant stockyard with thousands of heads of cattle. The conditions didn’t look good from my vantage point, and had me seriously contemplating becoming a vegan. I’m already lactose intolerant anyway, and after seeing and smelling that cow concentration camp the decision seems like a no-brainer.

The first 300 or so miles have been crazy. Sad goodbyes, stressful moments, ominous skies and the hypnotizing lines of the road pointing us toward our next destination.

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Travelogue

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America, Life, Photography

Remembering East Colfax

I met a girl who lived in the Blue Spruce Hotel when I was still in elementary school. She was Asian and I had a crush on her. I grew up in Aurora and I lived two blocks from East Colfax. I didn’t find out that the Mon Chalet was a nude orgy hotel until I met the girl I was dating in the early 2000’s. I used to walk these streets as a young boy, oblivious to the seediness that was going on around me. I walked to the Gas-Rite with my sisters, and we bought candy cigarettes and slushies and just hung out doing nothing but eating candy and goofing off.

I used to walk this street in my teens in the wee hours of the morning after I finished my closing shift at Taco Bell. It’s a miracle I never got jumped, with my Sony Walkman with the digital readout, playing Digital Underground or the Beastie Boys or Iron Maiden, I never would have seen them coming. Maybe that’s why they didn’t bother. I just blended in I guess. I would walk that mile or so to my house at like 2:30 in the morning, let myself in the house, still smelling like I took a bath in tacos and burritos and I would fall asleep to nightmares of that night’s shift. My mom would tell me that I was talking Taco Bell lingo in my sleep. I made $2.85 an hour.

I worked at a car dealership as a customer relations guy for a few years, back when I wasn’t completely socially inept. Something happened between the late 90’s and now that soured me on social interaction and I’m still recovering. Being on the road is going to change that. I’ve already been befriended by a woman named Han. She made my daughter sandwiches and seems to enjoy having conversations with me. So we’re making strides. Little by little. So it’s the late 90’s and East Colfax is the place I go every day for work. I learned that “coolo” means asshole in Spanish here, I learned how a prostitute and a John make a transaction here. I learned that car dealerships are a sleazy place to work.

East Colfax is home to me. My Grandmother, Joan, died on this street, on a hospital floor, at Fitzsimmons Hospital, from a stroke. They didn’t even give her a room to die in peace. She had a curtain for privacy in a row of three or four beds. I held my grandmother’s hand on her deathbed, listening to strangers conversations on either side of us. I visited her every night until she passed, and lamented her lack of privacy. It really bothered me. The family has never been the same since she left.

I watched Unwritten Law play the Bluebird, and walked up and down these streets time and again, something about this street just pulls me in. So much of my life has been spent exploring its alleys and bars and hotels and places of employment. Many people would tell you to avoid these streets, and probably with good reason, but Colfax is a part of me and if I died there it would be appropriate. To my mind, Colfax is Denver. And even though I’m leaving, this city will ALWAYS hold a special place in my heart, and if you asked me where I’m from I’ll always say Denver, and I’ll say it with pride. There is no other place like it.

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Everyday America, Life, USA

Gazing 


A woman in a blue blazer with her jet-black hair fashioned in a bob, walks through the parking lot to join her friends at the tavern for happy hour. The power steering from a Toyota RAV4 whines. The crowd gurgles off in the distance from the unseen outdoor patio. A man walks out of his car, head buried in phone, clueless to his surroundings. 

A couple of guys walk by, the man on the left is big, muscular with thick thighs and bulging biceps. His company is the opposite. Skinny legs and arms that pale in comparison. A bald man and his brunette companion put take out dinners on the roof of their sedan, a Super High Output Ford Taurus, white. The smell of steak on the grill permeates the air, the sound of traffic forever in the background, never resting. 

Motorcycles scream, big trucks let out their guttural sounds from tricked out mufflers, and I write. Only it isn’t writing as much as it is tapping on a piece of glass. A black bird flies through the frame of the vanagon windshield just as a surly face behind the wheel of a gold Toyota truck comes barreling around the corner. He’s lucky no kids are wandering around as he would smash whatever unlucky soul stepped out in front of him, the kind of guy who runs over squirrels and bunnies on purpose, your basic asshole. 

A man with fancy sunglasses perched on his head rifles through the dumpster looking for boxes. He is wearing a grey golf shirt. The asphalt lot is surrounded by chain restaurants and other strip mall fare. Lil’ Ricci’s Pizza, Cuba Cuba Sandwiches, Floyd’s Barber Shop, Espresso Americano, Bam Bu, Tropical Smoothie Cafe, Scotttrade, Half Hour Power and Lyons Den Liquors.

This is the Denver Tech Center, the belly of the corporate beast and these people are the employees who work for it. 

A couple sit in a car behind me laughing into their phones. A girl in baby blue shorts strides through the lot, her pony tail bouncing behind her, scantily clad in a tank top.

I wonder if she’s freezing because it’s cool and windy and I’m sitting here in a hoodie. Watching the world go by, waiting impatiently to get on the road. Waiting for the eighth of May, the day when this family leaves the Mile High City. 

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The Family Circle, Travelogue

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