Lucas II

If the cord on one side could snap, so too could the one on the other.  And now it was taking twice the weight.  Where is Grant?  What is happening up there?  

These thoughts flooded Lucas’ mind as he clung to the railing.  “Think clearly, think clearly”, he offered under his breath.  Then he remembered the safety cable and the harness he had fitted onto himself before stepping into the box.  He had been doing that for seventeen years and so now it was all too automatic.  He knew he was connected to the box.  Still though, he clung on with his one ungloved hand, shaking, grasping for life, flesh onto metal.

If the cable doesn’t go, he could be here for hours.  No problem, right?  Cold, sure.  But he wouldn’t plummet to his end.  The harness would assure that.  Grant would wake up or someone would check in and find out what was happening.  Surely, someone would see the bucket dangling on the side of the apartment tower.  Surely, someone would notice the tools and pails that must have crashed onto the ground below.  Surely, someone would be coming.  Surely

But the damn cold.  He felt the wind cutting his face, the frost of his breath created a mist in front of him and onto the glass window.

Just two weeks short of turning 35, Lucas wondered if this was it.  Thirty-five short years.  His old man was nearly twice that age and living in Fort Lauderdale, probably getting ready to head out to shoot 18 as his only son now dangled by the side of a glass and chrome structure.  Lucas imagined a glass and chrome tombstone, a grave marker leaving the only legacy of thirty-five unremarkable and largely wasted years.

He remembered applying for the window washer job.  It was going to be for just as long as he needed to get a jump start.  His father had told him to go to college or join the army, neither of which tempted him much.  No, he was going to live a life of adventure, travel, find his way out there in the big world.  “I’m living an adventure now”, he said aloud as he clung to living, hand bonding to frozen metal.  This might have been funny in any other circumstance, but there was no one there to enjoy it now.

The adventure he sought was never meant to be lived alone.  He always saw someone special sharing in it.  I’ll bring my kids along with us.  They will…

… just then he looked up and through the misted window.  Staring back at him was a young girl, mouth ajar… holding a coloring book in one hand and crayon in the other.  This was something she hadn’t quite encountered before.

Lucas I

Boston Business Breakfast 2017Hat in hand, Lucas stepped out onto the roof of the tallest building in town and into the bright morning light. The cool, crisp air stung his face and he quickly pulled his cap onto his head. Following the same routine he had abided by for the past three years, Lucas walked to the edge of the south-facing side of the tower, and entered the rectangular box. He turned to his partner and gave him a customary thumbs up. Grant, who was sitting behind the crane’s controls, yawned and acknowledged the gesture by powering on the machine.

I wonder if Grant has had his coffee this morning, thought Lucas. Lucas had been washing windows for the past seventeen years, and never had he worked with a crane operator quite as old as Grant. So long as he stays awake, I should be fine.

The sky had cleared up after a night of torrential down pouring; Lucas had even thought that he was going to receive a call telling him that he wouldn’t have to go to work the next day. Nobody cleans skyscraper windows in monsoon-like conditions, right? Continue reading

Forgotten images and the stories they tell


The angle is different but I swear I was standing in nearly the same spot at some point.  Yosemite in Ansel white winter.  A relentless chill kept me on the boardwalk looking down upon the steady stream.  I was breathing it in as my breath pushed a hazy mist into the air.  So familiar… so familiar.


Six years earlier, I hiked through a dry stone wash, thinking that a river probably finds its way along in cooler months.  Nothing remarkable to photograph here.  Wrong time of day, wrong time of year.  Just to jog my memory and perhaps create positioning shots for a series, I snapped a few… barely lifting the camera to my eye before pressing the shutter button.  Click.  Move along, nothing here.


Unearthing your Talents


Today’s Gospel contains the “Parable of the Talents” in which Jesus taught that we are all given gifts (time, treasure and talent) and have the opportunity to invest, to make wise choices, to use them for the greater glory of God.  Unfortunately, some of us for whatever reason bury them into the ground where they sit idly and unused.  For others of us, we find good reason to unearth our talents.  Marguerite was one such person.

Living in Montreal in the 1700s, she and her husband were people of good fortune, high society.  They lived in wealth and comfort.  Marguerite gave birth to five children and when the sixth was on the way, her husband fell ill and died when she was just 29 years old.  When they learned of his death, various men called upon her to repay his gambling and business debts which left her without nearly any money at all.  At that point, she became well acquainted with the side of Montreal she hadn’t previously known – the life of the poor, the sick, the forgotten.  And she took great pity upon them.

She noticed that the General Hospital of Montreal had fallen into a grave state of disrepair.  She also noticed that the poor were unable to receive care there.  So, working with government, business owners and the Church, she raised the money to improve the hospital and eventually she and a society of women she had founded were asked to take over its operation.  She agreed… but on the one condition that anyone, anyone, who needed care could receive it there even if they did not have the means to pay for it.

The hospital was destroyed by fire when Marguerite was 65 years old and it is reported that she knelt down in the ruble and prayed to God, asking that if he wanted her to rebuild it, she would.  And she prayed for his help.

Rebuild the hospital she did and she and her companions, who would become known as the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, eventually built hospitals all across Canada and the Unites States, in South America and in Africa as well.  Like the General Hospital of Montreal, Marguerite rose up out of the ashes of her life and served.  She put her talents to good use…

But what about us?  I don’t think I have it in me to start an order of religious, to build hospitals on three continents, to serve millions upon millions of people.  What can I do?

I heard recently that the Holy Father, Pope Francis, said that he enjoys watching parents interact with their young children.  They reach down, enter their space in a way the children can comprehend… in words and gestures.  This is tenderness.  And it is the same tenderness that God himself showed when he entered into our space in a way we can comprehend, in the form of Jesus.  This too was done in tenderness.

The Holy Father goes on to say that we can change the world if we band together in unity, in what he refers to as a Revolution of Tenderness.  It is this lack of tenderness to each other that troubles him most.

We should show tenderness to each other… to those we care about, admire and who treat us with respect.  And to those who do not, to those with whom we disagree, who do not show us respect.  Let’s lead with love, with tenderness.  We can do that.  You and I.  Let’s join the Revolution.  Then, like Saint Marguerite, we too can unearth our talents… and change the world.

Charlene III

The pale yellow liquid shimmered under the flickering light from the fluorescent desk bulb.  The Doctor’s hand passed through that light and toward him.  “Marcellus, you have done well.  Now, your compensation.”

The fragile recipient of the vial looked toward the the Doctor, but away from his eyes for he knew better, and simply said: “Thank you lord.  Thank you.”  He grasped the bottle, tightly.  Then placed it into his pocket for safe keeping.

Adorned in a high Elvis collar cropped from the top of a dark black jersey, the man called Doctor studied Marcellus’ eyes, then inquired: “Too early to talk about the next one?”

Marcellus felt his heart sink deeply into his stomach.  The next one… the next one?  Of course it was too soon.  This last one had been different.  He cared about this one.  And completely.  She was so willing, so filled with desire.  It’s always the same with them: a lifetime of longing, of wanting, of wishing it might just be… just this once.  And then Marcellus arrives, steps in as the final glint of hope begins to flicker out.  If he were to write about it, he would have included a white horse and blinding burst of light trailing his entrance.

“Too soon lord?  Of course not.  I am here.”

The Doctor assessed.  Could he be trusted?  Or was the last his final time?  He knew that this one had been different.  That he had broken the one single rule of this game.  He could not ever, under any circumstance, care.  Caring was to be the final chapter.

“Marcellus… I had grown so accustomed to your last name.  So much so that I might like to use it once again.  Do tell me though, all about her.  Tell me about your… love… for her?”

Marcellus understood what was happening.  No, this can’t be.  “Lord, there was no love for her.  I was merely doing as asked.  Doing my job.  And you see, I have done it well.  I convinced her.  You see, this is my mastery.  I am good at this job.”  And then he looked up slowly…

… and into the Doctor’s eyes.  “She was just a job to me.  Only a job.  I’m ready for the next one.”

The Doctor pondered.  Considered.  Marcellus was the best at this game.  The best he had known.  But perhaps it had run its course.  As was always custom.

The Doctor spoke: “Marcellus… you have served me well.  Instruct them to give you the next name.  Continue.”

“Thank you lord, thank you.”

But then the Doctor warned: “If you see her, if you go back to her, if you tell her… then you understand what that means, Damien?”

“I understand.”

“Silly girl.  Falling and spilling the money for the beggars to take.  Pathetic.”

Damien walked slowly away and toward the door, murmuring under his breath, “Pathetic… pathetic…”

Charlene II

A cascade of noise assailed her the moment the elevator doors slide open. Charlene lifted her right hand, shielding her eyes from the dazzling lights that were blinding her. Before Charlene stretched a hallway with a lofted ceiling and lined with black marble tables strewn with bottles of assorted alcoholic beverages. At the end of it loomed a massive two-story ballroom filled with people chanting and clapping. As her ears began to adjust to the deluge of sounds around her, Charlene could pick up the faint trace of a monotone voice emitting from speakers set high up on the walls. “Your pain is at an end, my friends. Come and be cured.”

Cautiously she stepped forward, squeezing her white leather purse as tight as she could. “How had it come to this,” she thought to herself. With each step, the voice got louder and louder. Charlene turned to her left and saw a man clutching his chest, crying out for help. “I thought I had enough,” he exclaimed, “Please someone help me. I thought I had enough to pay the doctor!” An empty bottle lay by his side and he stank of alcohol.

Charlene’s stomach dropped. She looked about her and saw dozens of men and women calling out in a similar manner. A shiver ran down her neck. “Do we have enough,” she muttered under her breath, hoping she wouldn’t be turned away like those she now walked past. She began to recite her prepared script. “Thank you for your time, Doctor. Damien would like to express his gratitude for your willingness to accept our business on such short notice, and with such limited supply.” She progressed down the hallway, desperately trying to calm her nerves. She thought of Damien’s smile, his gentle way of speaking to her, his confident demeanor. She knew that his life hinged on the outcome of her encounter with the one they called the Doctor. Charlene continued forward, her love for Damien propelling her onward.

Suddenly she stumbled, the heel of her Burberry shoe snapped off and went whizzing across the floor. She instinctively reached for the arm of the closest table and let go of her purse. In a panic-stricken flutter of heartbeats, Charlene watched helplessly as the envelope tumbled out of the purse and onto the floor. The cash spilled out and fluttered about, like crumpled leaves on a windy autumn day. People around her turned in her direction, shock and intrigue in their eyes. Panic-stricken, Charlene crouched down and started shoveling handfuls of the green paper back into the purse. People began descending around her, pushing and shoving to get closer to the pile. Someone kneed her in the small of her back and she was tossed aside like a rag-doll. Dazed, Charlene stumbled to her feet and dashed back towards the elevator. She could feel her dress tearing with every step. Try as she might, she could not stop the tears from streaming down her face, smearing her mascara. She repeatedly slammed her finger into the down button, muttering, “Come on, come on,” under her breath. The wait felt interminable. She could hear the elevator ascending, creaking and humming as it climbed the 45-story Chicago skyscraper. It opened and she flung herself inside. As the heavily chromed doors slid shut, she watched helplessly as dozens of intoxicated sycophants fought each other for handfuls of Damien’s life savings. “It’s not worth it,” she assured herself, wiping her eyes. “We will find another way, we don’t need that narcissistic Doctor.”

But deep down she knew, without his cure, her fiancé, like all the other infected victims in the room above her, didn’t stand a chance…

Charlene I

“Radio Ga Ga?  Seriously?  Who thought it would be a good idea to turn that into elevator music?”… she said to absolutely no one as she stood alone in a box ascending to the roof level deck.  An absurd choice she thought, thinking back on the 1980s when Queen’s hit blared from radios everyone.  It was an era when even the rock bands had to play disco, she recalled.  Absurd.

But no more absurd than this moment… a moment she had prepared for, rehearsed for months, first in her imagination and then in reality.  She observed her reflected self in the heavily chromed interior and wondered what her friends who listened to “Radio Ga Ga” with her back then would think about her now.  She scanned herself from toe to top: the profound heels, the shimmering glitter evening dress, the make-up, the hair color.  It was all so unreal to her.

Speaking of which, the numbers counting up on the small LED screen in front of her reminded her of what was at stake.  She reached into the white leather purse and tapped the envelope.  She reached inside and felt the bills, cool and crisp.  Unused, fresh, ready.  They were what she was not.

Suddenly the car jerked, as if momentarily it lost its track.  “What?”… she asked aloud.  Again, to no one.

The elevator continued on, smoothly.

Was this coincidence?  Or did they know?  Had she been discovered?  With the practical sensibility that should have prevented this moment in the first place, she considered carefully.  What’s the difference?… she thought.  I will go through with this.  I’m in an elevator going upward.  There’s no stopping this now.  

Ding.  The car halted and the door began to open…