A Perspective: Don’t Look Down (Unless It’s For The Sake Of Tourism and Photography)

My old pal Webster defines acrophobia as “an abnormal dread of being at a great height.” Of course, “great height” is quite subjective, seeing as how I sometimes find that being a mere three feet off the ground is outside of my comfort zone.

However, as a child, I tried to force myself into situations that would help me overcome that fear. I pretended to enjoy roller coasters as long as I could…and as long as someone was sitting next to me that would help hold me in the seat. I was proud of myself for riding the Judge Roy Scream at Six Flags Over Texas when I was eight and even more proud of myself for tackling Splash Mountain in high school (even if the words I shouted at my friends on the way down the final drop suggested otherwise), but as I grew older, my mind began to formulate more possibilities of what could happen at those heights. Therefore, I all but stopped riding roller coasters in my early twenties and merely tolerated glass elevators.

Elevators are another story altogether. I was stuck in one briefly when I was ten years old and developed some semi-annual recurring nightmares about being in one that was tipping over or falling, so I’m also not too crazy about that mode of transportation. Granted, my ankles and knees prefer the elevator, but my brain seems to like the stairs.

I think “The Price is Right” has long been providing the perfect representation of how I feel on an elevator.

Four years ago, I was in Chicago when a friend suggested we go to the top of the Sears/Willis/Whatever-It’s-Called-Now-Tower for a stunning view of the city. I’ll admit, I wanted to do it to start marking more items off of my Ferris Bueller Bucket List.

The Cameron pose.
I’d already taken care of the Cameron pose.

The thought of the elevator ride made me a little nervous. Well, the elevator ride turned out to be sixty seconds with no outside views, so it really ended up being a non-issue. I could handle one minute, although the feeling of my ears popping was a bit unnerving.

Once we made it to the observation area, I was very impressed with the views. However, another attraction was available that no one told me about, and once I saw it, I couldn’t believe it was there.

The Skydeck.

Yes, this is a perfectly natural way to observe your surroundings. What reasons could I possibly have to be absolutely, completely, 100% terrified? Oh, right...it's PLEXIGLASS.
What reasons could I possibly have to be absolutely, completely, 100% terrified? Oh, right. Chicago’s about a thousand feet below me…and I’m standing on PLEXIGLASS.

A professional photographer pulled us aside and asked us to take a step back for a picture. I looked at her and said, “You take a step back!” In the end, I managed to muster up enough courage to step out twice. The first time was for the terrifying look you see above, and the second one was to plaster on a smile for my friend so that we could have documentation of our little adventure. (Yes, a copy of that photo exists, but the one you see here more fully captures the sheer terror of my experience.)

This weekend, I decided it was time to tackle both of those fears again in the name of tourism and photography. Bass Pro Shops recently opened its beautiful new facility at the Pyramid in Memphis, and I really did want to take some photos. Ten dollars pays for your trip up the elevator to the top, and while it’s not a tremendous height, the elevator does offer a view…spectacular to some, slightly terrifying to me.

As soon as I stepped on the elevator, someone who had apparently ridden it about twenty times that day stepped on with a bag of greasy food. I’m one of those people who gets queasy when I get nervous about something, and the aroma of fried anything wasn’t really helping. Thankfully, the ride was relatively short, and the doors opened to the restaurant atop the Pyramid.

I really did love the views from the windows, but my real test was actually stepping outside to the observation deck for my photos. After all, I had to take few selfies to prove that I did it, and a few landscapes to feed my photography addiction.

Once again, I found myself in a situation that falls under the “Nobody Told Me About This” category.

Pyramid Feet
That first step is a doozy.

I’m not sure if the people who plan these things think that we don’t realize that the ground is down there, but they sure seem to be obsessed with giving us every opportunity to look down and see just how far off the ground we are standing.

Two older ladies were out on the deck and we immediately struck up a conversation about acrophobia.

“Oh,” one of them said, “I’ve also been up the Sears Tower, and I was stretched out all over that Skydeck thing. My friend here hates this stuff!”

Her friend had found a nice corner by the door.

“I’m not coming out there!” she yelled.

Her friend laughed like crazy.

“I made her come up here.”

“Well, I’m not too crazy about this myself,” I said. “But I really want to take some pictures. Here goes.”

“LOOK!” she yelled to her friend as I took a deep breath and stepped closer to the railing. The wind was gustier than I’d hoped it would be. “SHE DID IT! SHE’S OUT THERE!”

I immediately started snapping pictures.

The "New" Bridge view towards Arkansas.
The “new bridge” view back towards Arkansas.
Sometimes, the view looking up is just as impressive as the view looking down.
Sometimes, the view looking up is just as impressive as the view looking down.
Yep, I actually went out there.
Yep, I actually went out there.

Fifteen minutes later, I’d had enough, and I found myself back on the elevator for the trip back. So had my new friends. One of the ladies stepped on the elevator and walked over to the corner nearest the doors.

“There. I’m in my corner!” she exclaimed.

I was a little irritated that she had claimed it already, and her friend turned her attention to me.

“You need to look! It’s not like we’re gonna fall or anything!”

Bad choice of words.

But, I did force myself to look, and it wasn’t unpleasant…just not really my cup of tea. The decor is very nice. I just preferred looking at it from the ground.

I doubt I’ll be dancing a jig on top of a high-rise anytime soon, but I’m okay with taking a few trips to new heights once in a while.

Once in a great while.

A Brief Observation: “Awards” Shows

I did not watch the VMAs last night…or whatever “awards” show it was that graced the television sets of America. I heard plenty about it, though.

And that’s EXACTLY why I don’t watch “awards” shows.

These shows have NOTHING to do with music anymore. The “M” in MTV is like the “S” in Harry S. Truman. It’s there, but it doesn’t stand for anything.¬†

The first headlines I saw online this morning all had to do with the “controversy” created by Miley Cyrus and an interesting wardrobe that we honestly knew was within the realm of possibility for her. I also brushed up on my political news in hearing about Kanye West’s apparent declaration for the presidency in 2020.

I haven’t really seen any kind of “awards” show in years that hasn’t been “upstaged” by its own participants.

(If you think I’m using quotation marks quite a bit right now, it’s because I am.)

Here’s a news flash (kids, take notes): Miley Cyrus is NOT creating “controversy.” She’s seeking media attention.

(Whoops. I guess I just gave her some media attention, albeit on a very minor scale. I’ll try not to do that anymore.)

Kanye West is NOT going to be sitting in the Oval Office anytime soon. He’s trying to sell his product.

Their products are NOT music.

Their names are the products.

Marketing is the last remaining art form available for mass public consumption. Think about that the next time you decide not to tip a truly talented performer singing in a club to earn enough money for a meal or two.

Caveat emptor.

An Observation: 80s Sitcom Living Arrangements

I’d love to live in an 80s sitcom.

I should have graduated high school in the 80s. I would have looked totally radical.
I graduated high school in the 90s. I wish I’d graduated high school in the 80s. I would have looked totally radical like this (although I’m glad I didn’t contribute to the systematic destruction of the ozone layer via hairspray).

I’d have a sidekick with an annoying nickname who gets me into innocent mischief but actually proves to be a genuinely good person at heart.

I’d spawn a few catch phrases that would ultimately land my face on thousands of profitable t-shirts.

I’d go to a high school with one hallway and six lockers.

I’d have problems that could be solved in under thirty minutes each week, leading to a happy ending many times in the span of a year.

I’d skillfully navigate my way through the “Very Special Episode,” learning a valuable lesson in the end, forgetting it ever happened by the next episode, and find myself in another “Very Special Episode” when the ratings start to slump.

I’d sit in my living room on a couch that faces nothing.

I’d end up with a little brother or sister who magically aged six years in three months.

I’d play baseball with the neighbors on an AstroTurf lawn the size of a closet.

I’d be the valedictorian, the prom queen, lead singer of a rock band, choose between Harvard and Yale, deal with a bully for one episode, stand up to the bully and become their best friend by the next, save a friend from making a morally objectionable decision, make a morally objectionable decision, get caught, get grounded for the remainder of an episode, and hide a pet from my parents with comical results.

I’d use the kitchen staircase.

I’d triumph over the most humiliating experience in the sitcom universe…getting glasses.

I’d make a cameo in another sitcom, say my catch phrase, smile, soak in the studio audience applause, and go home.

Yes, I’d love to live in an 80s sitcom.

A True Story: My Mom, Elvis Presley, and a Stoplight

If you live anywhere within a few hundred miles of Memphis, Tennessee, August 16, 1977 is a date you practically learn about in school. It’s the day that, depending on your perspective, Elvis Presley either died…or the grand hoax of his death was hatched.

I am the only person in my immediate family who has never called the Bluff City home at one time or another. My mom lived there in the mid-70s while she was working in a hospital lab. My dad lived there close to the same time and claims he could practically see into Graceland’s back yard. My brother lived in Southaven around ten years ago, which doesn’t really count for this story, so I have no idea why I threw in that little tidbit. (Moving on…)

Mom really has the most interesting story out of her experience with living in Memphis. She was in the right place at the right time for about two seconds of spectacular family lore that I can always count on as a great conversation-starter in a room full of Elvis fans.

Here’s how it goes.

She told me this happened about a year before Elvis died, which is a good thing, because if she had claimed it happened after he died, we’d probably all be spending a lot of money on her therapy. She was sitting at a stoplight on her way to work (I think…it could have been on her way home from work, or it could have been on the way to the grocery store…we’ll just say “work” for now). A motorcycle pulled up beside her at the stoplight, and she turned her head to offer a passing glance at the driver. As soon as she looked back at the stoplight, she realized who was on the motorcycle and snapped her head back around to look again.

Elvis.

THE Elvis.

He looked back at her, smiled, and the light changed.

That was it.

I didn’t even see Graceland until I was 33 years old and she had the chance to see the man himself in a chance meeting at a stoplight.

While the story may seem anti-climactic…c’mon, folks! My mom sat at a stoplight next to ELVIS PRESLEY! While he was STILL ALIVE! And he SMILED AT HER!

Mom’s not an Elvis super-fan or anything like that, so as scores of Elvis fans make their way to and from Memphis on this August 16, she won’t be waiting at the gates of Graceland to light candles or leave flowers.

But, you have to admit that she has a pretty cool Elvis story.

A Silly Short: A Dog Tale

Undated File Photo: Bosco
Undated File Photo: Bosco

“I never knew my dad. He left before I was born. My mom did the best she could as a single mother trying to raise six of us. She didn’t speak English. She understood some of it, but she couldn’t respond. We lived outside on a dirt floor. One by one, my brothers and sisters were sent away. For some reason, I got to stay.

“Stay. There’s a word I heard a lot as a pup. I hated that word. I couldn’t do anything I wanted. One day, when I was a little older, someone left a door open and I ran away. I’d see my picture on fences and telephone poles from time to time, but I wasn’t going back there. I kept running. I think I liked chasing the red cars the best.

“I do okay. No leashes for this guy. I can get food anytime I want if I look at people just right. I stay in a barn most nights. The cows seem to be cool with it. Maybe I’ll settle down someday, but I’m in the prime of my life. You don’t stay four years old forever. I have time. I like to wander. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I knew where my family was, but I’m good. I’m a good boy. A good boy.”

A Brief Story: Logic and Mascots

During your formative years, you probably spent a lot of time trying to figure out your place in the universe. More specifically, the high school universe. With that in mind, my brief “career” as a cheerleader shouldn’t be too surprising. We all have to try different activities before we find something that fits, and it only took me a year to decide that cheerleading was not something I enjoyed. My fear of heights alone created enough problems.

Had I not had the experience, I probably would have wondered if I’d missed out on something. Of course, that’s not the case for everything. There are plenty of things I’ll never experience and never wonder about, like male-pattern baldness. However, at the time, in the high school universe, I had to find it out through trial and error.

As with anything, a number of tasks that must be completed as part of membership in organizations do not make themselves known until you are well into your involvement. Some are universal to the activity, like raising money for camp. Others are specific to your region, state, or school.

At our school, each week before the football games one cheerleader was responsible for making spirited name tags for the football players. Something about the way we did it bugged me, and it didn’t really occur to me to speak up until it was my turn to sit down and painstakingly create the little tags.

Every week, the tags were custom-made to tell the world exactly what we were going to do to our upcoming opponent.

And every week, the tags were wrong.

How, you say?

Well, for reasons that are still unknown to me to this day, the tags–without fail–always said something to this effect:

“Wrangle the Mustangs!”

“Sink the Pirates!”

“Kick the Mules!”

To make matters worse, the tags were in the shape of something that represented the opposing mascot: an anchor or a horseshoe, for example.

Our mascot was a vicious feline completely capable of inflicting its own brand of damage. The way I saw it, we were essentially switching sides. Every week.

I was on the floor tracing tiny tomahawks during practice one afternoon when I stopped and asked the big question.

“Why are we saying we’re going to do the things to them that their mascots are supposed to be doing to us?”

Silence.

“Umm…what?”

“Well, shouldn’t we be saying that we’ll claw them or mangle them or something? I mean, last week we said we’d sink the pirates. Isn’t it their job to sink us? We have to use our abilities, don’t you think? Cats don’t really like water anyway.”

Silence.

“You think too much.”

An Observation: World Emoji Day

Today, July 17, is World Emoji Day. (They have a day for everything.)

As far as I’m concerned, emojis represent another subtle step in the decline of language. Granted, had the ancient Egyptians not taken what was then a big leap forward and used their own form of emojis back in the day, written language as we know it might not have evolved to a more sophisticated state.

However, emojis–little characters on a screen–seem to possess enormous power among younger generations. More so than written language itself.

I’m sure you can find entire articles about how poorly-placed emojis ruined (fragile) relationships. Relationships rooted deeply in love, trust, understanding, and texts. Relationships in which the two parties had never actually spoken to each other…

True love.

My true love is, apparently, written language. I love to paint a picture with words, and I’m in awe of those who can do it beautifully. Words are powerful, and sometimes I fear that they are slipping away with each new generation.

That’s not to say I never use emojis.

They can add a nice touch to a text, since texts sometimes can be misconstrued. (See also: sarcasm.) I still contend that if it’s something terribly important, you should use the actual phone or meet in person. However, a quick message or request or simple “hello” can be accented nicely by the emoji of your choice.

World Emoji Day. Definitely a smiley-faced sign of the times.

An Obvious Observation (And More Photographs)

You’ve all heard the saying about how it’s safe to under-promise and over-deliver. Regardless of how far you go with that philosophy, you would have to agree that if you’re offering one service, one menu item, one ANYTHING, it would be wise to actually provide it.

(NOTE: On some mobile devices, the photo below appears to be sideways. I’m not sure why that’s happening. It seems to be just fine on my laptop. If it bothers you too much…well, just tilt your head until it looks normal. Sorry…and oops.)

It's true that pay phones are dinosaurs, but the sign said "Phone Here." (Maybe those quotation marks an attempt at sarcasm...?)
It’s true that pay phones are dinosaurs, but the sign said “Phone Here.” I expected to see a phone…here. (Maybe those quotation marks are an attempt at sarcasm…?)

I said I would post photographs; therefore, I’m going to post them. I had a nice outing along the Little Red River feeding my photography addiction. If you have the chance to visit the area, it’s a great place to relax, especially during this incredible heat wave. While you wouldn’t want to attempt swimming due to the cold water temperatures, the cold water temperatures have the bonus effect of cooling the air at the banks.

I have added the new landscapes to the photo gallery and included a link below for your viewing convenience. Check this one out and click the link for more of my work! Enjoy!

Cow Shoals Black and White Watermark

Photo Gallery–Updated!

A Gallery: Photography

Why, yes…I did mention photography!

I’ve updated the menu on this page and added a Photo Gallery. Please browse through some of my original landscapes and nature photographs. This gallery is currently for display only. More details¬† about purchasing photographs will be coming in the future.

Click below for an easy link to the page!

Photo Gallery

Hayrake 2015 Watermark