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Friends and Enemies

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In response to today’s Daily Prompt:

Witness Protection

When you do something scary or stressful — bungee jumping, public speaking, etc. — do you prefer to be surrounded by friends or by strangers? Why?

Personally, I’d rather have my friends around in uncertain situations. Someone to give you that knowing glance when you are struggling. To provide support when everything might not be going well. A friend in the crowd. 

The scariest situations I’ve found myself in I’ve experienced both ways. I had a 7 1/2 month stay in the Denver County Jail back in 2001. I didn’t start out with any friends in that situation. I’ve also been in combat zones with fellow Marines, surrounded by my brothers in arms. Both situations were scary as hell.

When surrounded by strangers I have found that if all of you are in the same boat you have nothing to lose by supporting each other. In the Marines we began boot camp as complete strangers but we ultimately learned to pull together in order to overcome extreme adversity on a daily basis. I still talk to the Marines I served with to this day, but there was a time when we were all strangers, wet behind the ears, most of us broke, young and dumb, the adventurous sort that can’t afford to go to college. I only spent four years in the Marines, but the friendships I made there have stood the test of time. Nearly 20 years later we still look to each other for moral support and guidance. 

In jail it’s a little bit more shady but the same approach works wonders. It’s easier for a room full of strangers to be able to relate to each other because none of us really know each other. So we are all in the same boat. Going to court appearances, shackled to each other at the wrists and ankles. There is no dignity to be found in the county jail. There is no privacy, you eat together, sleep together, shit together and suffer together.

There are unwritten rules that you need to learn fast or else you will find yourself a social outcast in a real hurry. My first full day in my squad bay (pod) I tried to take a shower while another guy was in there. There were two shower heads on opposite sides of each other, and every gym in every high school I’ve ever been in, guys showered at the same time. So I walked in there and stripped off my towel and started taking a shower.

The dude on the other spiget wasn’t too pleased with this, and he stormed out of the shower mad dogging me the whole time. I had to find a friendly face I could talk to to find out why this guy was so pissed off. It turns out that in this squad bay, the showering is done one at a time. Lesson learned. 

During my time there I made many friends and very few enemies. Of course there were a couple of jerks that I was forced to stand up to, but my ability to get along with others always made it easier. In the real world I’m anti-social but in extreme situations I find a way to do what’s necessary to survive. Knowing how to make more friends than enemies is a great start. It’s nice to know that a few people have your back.

Looking at it from my current perspective as a college student I prefer presenting in front of people I know. I don’t really know them per say, but we’ve been in class together for a few months and there isn’t a single one of us that gets to get out of it if we want to pass the class. I still get awkward and nervous but I know I can count on my little clique within the classroom.I look to them for encouragement.

I’ve been in classes before where a person might be giving a bad presentation, one where it is obvious that this person might not pass the class, and someone in the crowd starts peppering her with really intense questions, knowing they don’t know the answer. I witnessed one man badger a poor girl with questions just to watch her squirm and go through the embarrassment of not knowing. The one thing I have the most trouble understanding in life, the capacity of us humans to be cruel to each other. The worst part is having to accept that you cannot change it, and you have to carry on knowing the problem will never go away. 

I had to help that girl a lot in class, and after watching her go through that I admired her ability to shake it off and not let it destroy her. It was obvious she had already moved on from it or just didn’t know or just didn’t care. My skin was hot from watching it, but she was entirely calm as far as I could tell. I clapped loudly and shouted a compliment her way when she was finished. She made the best of it and pulled through. Maybe her presentation wasn’t an A+ performance, but her composure in a tough situation was commendable.

So I prefer friends in scary situations. I’ll be your friend too if you need me. If someone is picking on you I got your back, we might not win but at least we’ll go down together standing up for what’s right. Kindness, compassion, and good will towards all. The “Do the Right Thing” mentality. 










Sent from my iPhone

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Denver Street Photography

what’s your sleep number?
inner springs contour the skull
improvisation

I honestly can’t remember if I have shared this image on the blog yet, but this haiku came to me so I had to post it. I love these type of found moments. The serendipity of life. The fortuitous happenstance of stumbling upon a moment like this. Another reason I love photography.

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Denver Street Photography

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Denver Street Photography

Denver Street Photography by TheJeremyNix
Denver Street Photography, a photo by TheJeremyNix on Flickr.

I wish she could see
the things I see everyday
the gift of vision

Via Flickr:
Two women wait for the #15 on Colfax & Broadway in Denver on a Thursday morning.

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LAUNDROMAT LOANSHARKS

one-room laundromat
predatory paycheck loans
taking advantage

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LAUNDROMAT LOANSHARKS

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Denver Street Photography

The Street Photography is my holding pattern. It keeps me interested in photography. It keeps me in practice. I do it to satisfy my curiosity and test my limits. I think that all people are beautiful and that beauty is only relative anyway. I’m looking for direction, trying to determine what story it is that I want to tell. I keep expecting that I will have this epiphany, that these journalism courses I am taking will somehow trigger the creative enthusiasm that lies dormant within me.

The truth is, I am learning a lot, but it is really just the basics, and so far I am not impressed by the level of instruction I have received versus the amount of money I am now on the hook for in my pursuit of this journalism dream. This is merely my opinion, but I get the feeling sometimes that my professors are competing with me. It might just be me being paranoid or egotistical, who knows? I just felt that in some instances I was being completely ignored, shunned even, when it came to positive or even negative feedback on my work. I felt virtually ignored. This is what $20,000 plus in student loan debt gets me?

I am tempted to go it alone, to try and break in on my own, but I’m afraid I need more structure and planning. In the next two years, I will be required to perform an internship which I both dread and long for, as I believe I will be ridiculed and exposed as a no-talent fraud, but I’m holding on to the hope that just maybe I am a diamond in the rough. A guy with a chance to break out into something bigger. Isn’t that what we all want to believe? That our dreams are attainable? Realistic even?

So for now, I walk the streets with my camera and document existence. One thing about taking your camera with you everywhere that they forget to mention, it exposes how boring and mundane your life actually is. I can’t even count how many times I’ve pointed my camera at the same thing over and over again, trying to capture it in a way that I’ve never seen before. All it does is drive me crazy and give me the urge to see something new.

While I pursue my personal goals, my family life also is presenting challenges. In three weeks, my girlfriend Maizy, the mother of my child, will have her final mastectomy. I await the day with great sadness and worry for her well being. the one story to tell that has meaning, but needs to be kept private for the most part. Suddenly my petty problems pale in comparison to the love of my life having flesh removed from her body permanently. Cancer is so overbearing. It all seems so matter of fact at times. We have to plan for it, schedule it, budget for it. It hangs over our heads at every chapter in our life. It’s always “once we pay off this $5,000 bill, everything will be so much easier,” only to receive another bill in the mail we forgot about.

So I grab my camera, I take off. I walk the streets and I watch. I walk until I can’t take another step, then I shuffle slowly back home clicking all the while. Hoping for the best.

This image has nothing to do with anything I just said, other than it is street photography. Maybe I shared it because the facial expressions are an illustration of how I feel inside right now at this moment. I can’t be sure.

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Denver Street Photography

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Faceless

an untold story
a prosthetic reminder
a dangerous world

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Faceless

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I walked along a skinny sidewalk

on a dreary morning in January

crossed paths with six souls

walking the grimy snow covered sidewalks

gingerly sidestepping the slick ice

we share space in passing

the silent language of eye contact

two living, breathing, thinking beings

forces of energy

crossing paths

Humans Crossing

Aside

cold air chills my bones
a short burst of high speed wind
click. click. click. click. click.

no time for settings
hair is flying everywhere
humans in my lens

imperfect photos
memorizing the moment
traveling through time

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Wind

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Denver Street Photography

made up of atoms
absorbing light energy
electricity

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Denver Street Photography

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The First Day

Colorado’s weed industry is open for business. I spent the morning scoping out the Denver Metro Area for a good place to purchase marijuana. It turns out it wasn’t exactly as crazy as I thought it would be. The first place I went was Denver’s Discreet Dispensary, and it was a media circus. I wasn’t sure if I parked legally or not, and it was freezing, plus I wasn’t going to get anything here that Channel 7 wasn’t already getting, so I snapped off a few photos and took off in search of greener pastures.

I gave the Denver Post’s Cannabist section a look and obtained some addresses that looked promising. I decided to give Kindman a shot, because I read some interviews and the place sounded pretty cool. When I pulled up there were about 20 people in line, after about an hour that number grew to around 100 lined up all the way around the corner of the building.  I talked to Mike from New York, who was standing first in line. Mike told me he worked for the state of New York for over thirty years and just recently retired. The couple behind Mike was second in line, but insisted that they were technically the first to arrive, but just happened to be warming up in their vehicle when Mike took the first spot at about 7 a.m. In true pothead fashion Mike was chill about the situation, and even after waiting about an hour and a half to get in the door, he gave up the historic “first customer” spot to the couple from Missouri. For that Mike, I salute you.

The store had some issues with their computer system and couldn’t open the doors until sometime around 8:30. The crowd was getting a little restless, but for the most part everyone was happy to wait for the chance to purchase their marijuana for the first time. I hung around long enough to get a picture of the first guy out the door with his sack of weed. I started to notice a certain look that everyone was giving me throughout the day. It was that “Oh shit, I didn’t realize there was going to be a guy with a camera taking my picture while I stand in line for weed” look. I get it. I still feel awkward talking openly about Marijuana and how it pertains to my life.

It is a whole new world. There is nothing discreet at all about standing in line by the hundreds to buy Mary Jane. Today was like a coming out party for closeted pot heads everywhere. There was a really diverse mix of people standing in line publically admitting to their previously illegal recreational activities. I don’t blame anyone for being concerned about having their picture taken while in the act of purchasing marijuana, but if you don’t want your picture taken, you shouldn’t come out on such a historic occasion.

I would feel worse about it if I wasn’t myself standing out there admitting to the world that “yes, I do smoke pot.” I’m taking the same risk you are, except I don’t really have a job right now to worry about losing. Getting one might be a little tougher in the future, but from what I hear it isn’t all that easy right now in the first place.

The third place I looked into to was Citi-Med on Evans. It was the longest line of all the dispensaries I visited by far. I imagine that being right next to the University of Denver  might have something to do with that. Surprisingly the folks in this line were the ones who seemed the most appalled that I would dare to snap their picture. While photographing the people in line, one girl mentioned she didn’t want to be on camera, but then the guy right next to her shouted out, “I DO!” I told them all they should be proud and just let their freak flag fly for the morning.

I think one of the biggest things I learned today was that there really are a lot of people who smoke marijuana these days. I saw people that I would have never expected to be pot users standing in line eagerly waiting for their chance to get their hands on some great weed. Which brings us to my final destination: Altitude: The Dispensary. This place was very discreet, tucked away in a little corner behind an abandoned K-Mart. The line was short, but the wait was long. I stood in line and talked with my line-mates about all things marijuana, and even a little bit about our personal lives and how we’ve survived this long as closeted weed smokers.

The staff at Altitude is top notch. They were super-friendly and knowledgeable. I had to give up my ID at the door, and it took an hour in line, but that was to be expected because of the circumstances. Once you give up your ID, they register you in a system in their computer. Then you are let into a waiting room, and you watch Comedy Central until they call your name.  Once in the main room, you tell them what you want and they take care of you. I just went in with $20 bucks, which was good enough to get me a gram of Sour OG. The taxes are no joke, that’s double what you can get a gram for on the medicinal side of things. While waiting, I listened to one of their Budtenders speak eloquently about the multitude of benefits that Marijuana can provide. He was sort of a guru of pot gracing us with the sacred word of ganja. He was just one of those types. Outgoing, exuberant, easy to like, he was the kind of guy that could talk you into joining a cult without you even knowing it. It was awesome to be present in his aura of wisdom. I instantly felt at ease around this guy. I would say I would go back to Altitude specifically because I had the pleasure of meeting this man.

All in all, it was exactly what NORML‘s  Mason Tvert said it should be, just a normal day, except responsible adults can now purchase marijuana at their sole discretion and for whatever reason they see fit.  The prohibition of Marijuana has come to an end in Colorado. Legalization is here. It’s time for the rest of the country to follow suit.

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Budtenders,Potheads,and Long Lines: The First Day of Legalized Weed in Denver

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