28 March, 2012

If I had to put a finger on it...

At the beginning of my second year in college, in the Interior Design Program at Wentworth, I met a girl. She lived about 45 minutes west of Boston, she was a friend of one of my dorm room mates and of course going to college in a city like Boston on a shoe string budget, I didn’t own a car. So I would take the long bus ride every weekend,  and she would pick me up at the bus stop.  She had a dog named “BEAR”, the dog was part black lab and part Doberman Pincher and was taller than my 5’-7” 140 pound body on its hind legs. I grew up with three different dogs through out my childhood, never dogs as big as this one though, but I felt comfortable around all dogs. One night after finishing dinner at her parent’s home, “Bear” was given the leftovers. We were sitting on the floor and it happened so fast, but I think I leaned toward the bowl to see if the dog was finished, a move that must have been threatening to this bear of a dog. He lunged toward my face and with one, very fast, very clean bite he severed or gutted my face from the bridge of my nose to the bottom of my chin, tearing open my nose and both upper and lower lips. Remarkablely their was absolutely no pain, only blood, lots of blood! In my vanity I ran straight for the bathroom mirror, to see my mangled face only I saw my father staring back at me amused at my predicament, he surely must have been laughing because I felt an inner pain so destructively blunt and violently turbulent that I must have fainted from the trauma. I remember waking up in the back of my girlfriend fathers' truck speeding down a back dirt road headed for the hospital. There was blood everywhere, you couldn’t see it in the dark interior of that pickup truck but I could feel it. The blood was drowning my throat and I was having trouble breathing but some how we made it to a hospital, it must have been late at night, I remember that their was no surgeon on staff at the time. I was rushed to the main hospital in the next city and I remember being asked for a photo. They needed to know what I had looked like before... 
in a moment of ironic brilliance, I wanted to ask for a magazine, so I could select the most handsome actor I could find and tell them, I looked just like Tom Cruise, can you make me look like Tom Cruise, God is that so much to ask after everything I’ve been through? The pain was starting to come on in waves of electrical shocks through every muscle and vein in my body. When they rinsed my face with a saline solution, it felt as though my burned skin was being doused with more gasoline as if the fire wasn’t enough. The last thing I remember was seeing my face one last time in that state, reflected in the lens of the camera, the artist was about to record the beginnings of what would become a miraculous recovery. 

It was recommended by my Doctor that I drop out of college for a semester and return home to New Jersey. I did not...
When I returned to class the following week, my studio professor asked if I would mind sitting in a separate room, the stitches and bruises made him feel uneasy and so I moved my belongings. We had been working on a bank project, from scratch. We had to not only develop a plan and furniture layout, but also the banks' identity including the logo. At the end of that studio class my face had slowly started to heal and we where all getting ready for our final presentation to a group of professional designers, one of which was Anne Lennox. After that presentation, I was approached by Anne to design an ad, for her husband, custom upholsterer Jim Sersich of Partners in Design. The ad, was placed on the inside cover of the ASID directory that year and when we had to apply for CO-OP positions the following year, I listed that ad under experience and sent my resume to everyone listed within that directory. This was how I would first meet Celeste Cooper. Celeste worked with Jim on most of her custom upholstery pieces and it was Anne and Jim's referral that placed me at The Cooper Group, a moment that opened a door for me in Boston, that has thank fully never closed.

If you are wondering why I'm telling you this story now, and what relevance it has on photography or anything else Design Business wise,  stay with me, we are almost there. Shortly after starting at The Cooper Group, my Mother received a letter from my father. I had not seen or spoken to my father since I was about 9 years old, but my Mother was never someone to hide anything from me, and so she forwarded the letter. After many, many crumpled and torn letters, I sent one back... 
We continued a brief exchange of letters, until he asked if I would visit him on the West Coast for a long weekend. 

I will never forget, approaching Celeste about the time off and her sensing how emotional I was. We spoke briefly about where I was going and why. I was handed a credit card and a piece of paper with a private number and these words "if you need to get out of there for any reason, just call me no matter what time it is and use the credit card to get home..."

When I arrived at the airport, the most incredible thing happened, something I'd not thought about nor anticipated. I was taller than him, I was taller than him and that was all that mattered to be able to stand up to a man whom I'd only known through the eyes of a child... 


Warm Regards,


Michael


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