Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas portrait: simplicity

I have a tremendous fondness for good, hard simplicity. Things that just work. So do the Gawrons. So I have a tremendous fondness for this family now.

Our shoot was short and to the point. They only wanted one location — the couch. I tried to talk them off of it and into their nice backyard or somewhere else (simplicity is the joy of my life, but variety is the spice of it), to no avail. They knew what they wanted — and they were kind enough to tell me I delivered it. Merry Christmas, Gawrons.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

On the border with the Taco Bell Caroling Crew

I never thought I'd be happy to stand in line for 10 minutes at a Taco Bell.

I eat too much fast food, but everybody has a vice. I know from experience that working fast food is a lame job, nobody likes it, and nobody wants to work there...except, apparently, for this crew at the Ogilvie Transportation Center.

I was just sitting at one of the tables, munching on the day's fast food of choice, Burrito Beach, shuffling some e-mails around on the handheld and waiting for the train. I heard this really annoying jingling sound, joined quickly by an equally annoying horn...and then caroling. "Jingle Bells," if I remember right. I looked up to see who these fools were and why they were harassing people in the food court.

Well, it's because they work there. Behold, the happiest, friendliest fast food crew I've ever encountered, rocking it for the lunch crowd at Ogilvie's Taco Bell. The lady on the right was "conducting" the chorus of three on the left.

They only jingled when they had no customers, so they only got about a quarter of the way through "Jingle Bells" before some guy craving a Gordita and some Baja Blast stepped up. I wandered over and told them I had to get their picture. I then had to wait 10 minutes, because customer after customer came through.

Finally, a break came, and I got them to jump back into form again. Yes, this picture was worth the wait.

Sitting still and performing C.P.R.

Marquette Elementary is using a new program to help its students learn positive methods of communication: The Circle of Power and Respect. Yes, the kids are performing C.P.R. on each other — and they do it mostly while seated.

Welcome to Miss Rogers' class, where the C.P.R. begins at 1 p.m. The exercise starts with the telling of knock-knock jokes...

...which the entire class, including Mark Criollo and Grisel Hernandez, seemed to enjoy.

The next activity was pairing up and sharing characteristics each looked for in a friend. Tyriek Kirkwood gave Valerie Diaz a few examples, hoping especially for someone who is "committed."

This is the class' message board, which Miss Rogers uses to convey different lessons during C.P.R.

Miss Rogers, presiding over her crew.

Another facet of C.P.R. was a game a bit like musical chairs, except that everyone had a chair. The student sitting next to the empty seat would recited the lines "I the grass...with my friend..." and then call on a classmate to cover and and sit in that chair (in this case, Joanna Mena). The student sitting next to Joanna's now-empty seat played next, and so on.

This game...I couldn't figure out what the heck was going on. It involved the class counting to 10, going around the circle, but whenever a student would say "Nine and a half," the next kid had to sit down. Here, some of the students are sorting out whether a kid is out or not...

...while Cassandra Gonzalez grins, because she's not out...yet.

After recording the final two kills, Matthew Cole broke out into dance — twice, after each elimination.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Ben and Carrie: The rewards of patience

Ben and Carrie's wedding is an example of a business deal gone all wrong, and two longtime friends who got it right.

Carrie and Ben have been BFFs since before that term existed. They met 10 years ago through their church, and with time grew close. As with any boy/girl friendship, there were a few people on both sides telling them they would be so perfect together — in this case, those people turned out to be right, but Ben and Carrie had a good reason to doubt them.

Risk. Carrie spent years earning a Master's in Business Administration, and she will gladly tell you that the fundamental principal of economics is to maximize profit while minimizing risk. And the friendship was working status-quo, yielding a profit of enjoyment for both without the complications of romance.

But love is a merciless negotiator, and it moved on Carrie's heart and mind aggressively. She found herself attracted to Ben. And trying to remind herself of the risk.

Love cornered her, and Carrie eventually downsized logic off the payroll. The friendship started changing, and it became Ben who started thinking about risk — because Carrie was winning his heart.

He made some mental budget cuts as well. About two years ago, they started dating.

The risks turned out to be real. About a year and a half ago, they broke up.

They fell back on the old business model, and became friends again. Yes, just like how it was before — not "but we're still friends" friends or Facebook friends. They called each other, they talked, they hung out, and it wasn't all that weird. The friendship was real.

But the attraction was, too. In the time off, they didn't date anyone else. They didn't really think about anyone else.

They started thinking about each other again. The friendship started feeling like it was supposed to be a means to a more profitable end again. The risks were real, but living without each other's love got really risky too.

If they ever fell out of love the first time around, they fell back in love again. I can't say "they got back together" — even though they weren't dating, they hadn't parted in 10 years.

And for Ben, Carrie had become gold — everything else was a slush fund. On Saturday, they maximized their profit.