Through the inquiries of others and their reactions I’ve come to the realization – and this is going to sound arrogant, and I’m sorry – that I’ve done some pretty amazing things.
They wouldn’t be wrong, I suppose, and the reason it sounds arrogant is the fact that I’d not really thought too much about that. Most of the things I’ve done have been for my job not necessarily for fun or experience.
– I’ve been upside-down doing barrel rolls in a biplane
– I’ve been to Mexico
– I found pieces of the shuttle Columbia in the woods of East Texas (my Mom still tells people about that one)
– I’ve covered a number of presidents
– I’ve met John McCain and Rudy Giuliani in their pre-presidential campaign days
– I’ve been waste-deep in flood waters
– I’ve covered the 101st Airborne training to go into Baghdad…and interviewed their commander, who was on the ground during the Blackhawk Down mission
– I’ve been in and out of Afghanistan on an amazing 6-day mission
Okay, you get the drift. That’s a sample, and it’s smelly enough in its arrogance I don’t want to go any farther.
The point to this, though, is I always back down from seeing these things as that amazing. I do tell the stories, probably too often, about a lot of them. What I don’t do is realize that they are.
I had this discussion recently and I’ve come to a couple conclusions. Early on, some twenty-five years ago, I pushed myself, hard, to be more, say more, do more because I wanted so desperately to make some sort of mark. Not get attention, but being just one of the people who knew told these stories of the world. Not the same stories, but new, innovative, amazing stories.
In the end, though, I saw the world through a 3″ x 3″ black and white screen on the viewfinder of my camera. That was it. It was in Israel that my friend and colleague stopped me and said “take a minute, Dave, look at where you are.” You get so caught up in the drama and the rush of getting the story you miss the experience. He’d been to Israel for a vacation…I hadn’t taken the time to look at what I saw. I experienced the fact that, whether you believe in the Bible or not . . . whether you have a faith or are simply a good human being, the events of Biblical history have basis in historical fact. I was standing on pathways that had been trodden by people who likely wrote those very books of the New Testament. It wasn’t a religious experience for me, even, it was seeing the historical significance. We are a really young country. Old to us is 1776. This . . . this predates that by 2000 years or more. The fact Jerusalem still stands, the old city itself, though now divided into quarters, is breathtaking.
The reality, I’ve come to see, is that I’ve done a lot of things through work, through the rush of adrenaline and focus but not actually experienced them all. It was after that trip to Jerusalem, after being told by my colleague that sometimes you have to just see what you’re in the middle of, that I realized I needed to take those few-second moments. Moreover, I needed to make new ones.
So I started taking a camera with me. I have pictures with Giuliani and Adam Savage! (though I try to avoid asking interview subjects for pictures, this is business, after all) I have pictures of the Old City. I have photos of Ft. Campbell and I realized that I like seeing what I’m in the middle of for just a few seconds.
I’ve also come to realize that I don’t see these events as more than work because they are just that . . . work first, experience second.
But that’s changed.
Small things become experiences. Taking Abbi to her NYU audition in San Francisco we avoided the wharf and Union Square and ate off Market street in a little cafe run by hipsters and had the best burgers of our lives. We went to a chocolate place two doors down and had English Toffee that made us want to melt. I’ve been to a hole-in-the-wall jazz club in L.A. and seen Kenny Burrell, who plays better than most people 1/4 his age. I drove the PCH from LA up through Carmel and Monterey . . . just so I could see the ocean off to the side of my car as I drove.
I want to do so many more things. I want to see the pyramids (when Egypt is less volatile). I want to stay for a week in the French countryside, away from Paris. I want to see the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I want to drink in a pub in Ireland.
I want . . . the experiences. This world isn’t as big as it used to be and I truly want to experience it. Will I get all those things under my belt? I don’t know. Maybe not. Maybe I’ll do it alone or maybe someone will be with me, but I’ll get some or all of them. I never thought, twenty-five years ago I’d be in Afghanistan or Germany or Israel…but I did it.
Imagine now, with determination, what I can accomplish!