Wednesday, November 07, 2007


A few years ago Kirk and I went to Sedona for the weekend. It rained almost all weekend and I ended up needing some reading material. I almost never buy Rolling Stone but I think there was some article that intrigued me so I got it. Inside there was a review of a documentary (I am one of those people who read a magazine cover to cover, for whatever reason, saving the article I bought the magazine for, for last). Anyway I read this review and I kept looking at this black and white photo by the director - his name was Sam Jones and it looked ...familar somehow. The director couldn't possibly be a guy I knew when I was at BYU back in the 80s could it?

In 1987 I headed off to BYU with about $100 to my name to go to BYU. I lived on the top floor of a run down house shouting distance behind a larger apartment complex and behind a Crest gas station close enough we could have climbed on top of their roof if we wanted. Through our walls we could hear a band practicing across the expanse in the apartment building next door. We started shouting out our window to them and struck up a friendship of sorts that partially included actually liking the band, and partially was because the guys who lived there were pretty cool buys. The band was "Second Thoughts". They let us hang out with them and they hung out in our apartment sometimes and we watched them skate in the parking lot outside our house.

One of them, Sam Jones, was just there for the summer. He was attending Cal State Fullerton but decided to hang out with his friend Eric for the summer. He sort of started dating my roommate Nannette, although Nannette had lots of dates that summer and somehow managed to keep 3 seperate boyfriends during that time - dating all 3 at the same time with each one thinking they were the only boy she really liked. At any rate we got to know Sam pretty well. He was the one who told me I should read Catcher in the Rye, which ended up being one of my favorite books and Sam was a sort of quasi-philosophical skinny skater kid who gave me some fairly sage advice for a 21 year old. We did not keep in touch much after the summer, mostly as a result of Nan's 3 boy at a time dating experience blowing up in our faces by the time fall was to begin.

Sam was a photographer and he had these awesome black and whites that I thought were really cool. He wanted to be a professional photographer. I thought that sounded completely crazy. Who does that for a living - come on Sam, you don't get to pick something cool like that as a profession. And if you do you aren't going to be able to make enough money to survive. But Sam just had this idea that it was something you do and that he would. For whatever reason he just had faith in himself. He had this really casual attitude towards life where he seemed to have this basic philosophy that you should do what you love and everything will work out. He was always broke when he was there that summer but he never worried very much about it. He relied on the tuna fish from our cupboards a lot. I seem to recall his dad getting irritated that Sam was spending so much time playing in the band and not looking for a summer job. He worked as a telemarketer for about 1 day. He came home and declared with a smile on his face some philosophy similar to the Lloyd Dobbler philosophy in Say Anything about not wanting to Buy things sold or processed, or Process things bought or sold, or Sell things bought and processed and that was the end of that.

I always remembered Sam because he was just a cool kid and likeable as hell.

Well, that Sam Jones it turns out is the director from the Rolling Stone article and as it turns out, over the years I've been admiring his photography on the cover of many magazines. I've been watching some of his commercials on tv. One of my favorite photos of John Cusack in Vanity Fair is Sam's. My favoite photo of Dustin Hoffman is Sam's. (which is extra weird becauseI watched The Graduate for the first time with Sam). Who knew? For me, it's a testament to doing what you love.

So good for Sam. He was on TV this morning on CBS this Morning promoting his new book of celebrity photographs. Most of Sam's photos online are protected from being used on other websites but I managed to find a few I could copy. Enjoy.

Even better, check out his website HERE

One of my best memories is of the time Nannette and I drove up to Salt Lake with Sam and took him to temple square. Sam wasn't LDS but he liked mormon's just fine - he was interested in our beliefs and asked a lot of questions - but he was a firm believer that no one under the age of 25 should pick a religion, he had some idea that you didn't know enough about life yet to make those kind of decisions. I'll never foget Sam doing a handstand on temple square. That's just the kind of guy he was, always doing handstands.

[Photo Credits top to Bottom: Photo of Sam Jones, Sam Jones Rolling Stone Cover Heath Ledger, Sam Jones Rolling Stone Cover Keifer Sutherland, Wilco Band Photo by Sam Jones, Wilco Album Cover Sam Sames, Chris Rock Vanity Fair photo by Sam Jones (that's not photoshop, he's suspended and blowing that water all over), Skater Photo by Sam Jones, Steve Martin by Sam Jones, Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson by Sam Jones, Jessica Lange by Sam Jones, Richard Gere by Sam Jones, Joaquin Phoenix by Sam Jones, Nicholas Cage by Sam Jones, George Clooney book cover by Sam Jones, Tom Cruise by Sam Jones, George Clooney by Sam Jones.]


Suzanne said...

It seems like you live a life of knowing a lot of interesting people. Is it because you are so interesting yourself? Interesting.....

Bandanamom said...

That's a nice compliment Suzanne - I'm not sure it's very accurate. Most of the time I feel quite boring! But it is cool to know someone who becomes successful like Sam - I guess not so much for the success in and of itself - because we all know people who are incredibly talented, and I don't know that Sam is extraodinarily more talented than a lot of other people who never make it into the spotlight - but I think more because he's someone I knew who actually believed in his own dream - and I think that's rare. So it's heartening I guess. I use him as an example to my kids of what you should do and how you should pursue something if you love it.

Anonymous said...

That's what I was going to say - how interesting!

Let's see: the kid who played Eddie Munster went to my school - Northridge Junior High, CA. Relatives of Barbara (as in Hanna-Barbara Cartoons) lived on my street. I saw Glenn Campbell driving on the Ventura Freeway when I was 12 or 13, right about the height of his "Lineman for the County" song. He didn't wave back. And I got Jack LaLane's autograph once! He was very nice.

Oh! And my grandmother as a young woman walking with her friends down Hollywood Blvd. about 1924 ran into Charlie Chapman. He was very rude to them.

That's about as interesting as I can get. Unless you count my literally bumping into the Mayor of Palm Springs once and realizing I was apologising (@ 9mo. pregnant I with Asia I was super off-balance) I was looking about eye-level with Sonny Bono. HE was very, very friendly and gracious. He even asked about the baby.

Even so, I think You win!

Cynthia said...

I grew up across the alley from Bill Engvall (Blue Collar Comedy Tour "Here's your Sign".) I guess if I feel I have to explain who he is, it's not quite the same status. That is my only brush with fame. But then again, it was Winslow. It's a big deal for anyone to come out of Winslow with any fame or fortune.
The photos you posted are fantastic! It is actually amazing that someone can really follow their dreams and make it in the world. You really hear that a lot, but if everyone lived their dreams, who would fix my backed up shower drain or replace the transmission on my car. Does anyone dream of being a electrician or a roofer? Do you ever watch "Dirty Jobs"? Does anyone ever dream of those jobs? It's weird how people end up in the careers they actually end up in. I guess there are some of those career paths that the dream is in the paycheck. Some, though, the dream is just a nightmare.

Bandanamom said...

I think that's an interesting line of thought Cynthia. Because the truth is that there are just crappy jobs that we rely on people to do. I don't want to do them - but I know someone has to do them. I think about this kind of thing a lot.

Maybe because I am from a more blue collar type of background and there are moments when I realize that slightly different choices than the ones I made and I could be living in a trailer in Rexburg with a husband who does taxidermy for a living. So is that the worst imaginable thing? Well, maybe not for the girl who married the taxidermist - but for me, yeah, it would be.

I don't know. I'm kind of torn about things like that sometimes. I guess ultimately, in terms of my kids, I just want them to feel that they have choices. To realize that most any job has days when you may hate it, it may be stressful or hard or you may not make as much money as you feel you'd like or even sometimes, deserve. But what I really don't want is for them to fall into those "dirty jobs" because they never took the time to figure out how to not fall into that trap. I grew up with a lot of people who have those jobs and I know almost withouth exception that the reason they ended up there was a lack of imagination, an absence of belief in their own abilities beyond being able to perform physical labor, or the lure of a paycheck that they don't feel they can earn any other way. Most of them are unhappy in their jobs and look for happiness elsewhere. Which is fine to some extent. But you sure do spend a lot of your life at your job!

I think this contributes to the massive amount of drinking and illegal drug abuse in the underclass. It's depressing working in a job that brings you no personal satisfaction day of day.

Sometimes you have to do jobs like this while you try to make a path to something else. Kirk built garage doors all during his undergraduate years in school. He hated it, but it was good honest labor and a decent paycheck that allowed him to go to school. AND I think there's another value in doing a job like that when you're young - you always appreciate that the job you have now, even on it's worst day, is better than the best day making garage doors!

But I do think about all of this a lot. It would ideal if everyone could do a job they loved and do it well and make enough money doing it that they could be content with. Far fewer of us are able to do that than we would like. So in the macro, there will always be someone shoveling manure out there somewhere. But in the micro - as in my little life and the life of my children, I figure, we might as well be some of the people who get to do what they love. Someone has to have the good jobs, just as much as someone has to have the crappy jobs.

I figure so many of us "settle" for less, when we really probably don't have to. And Sam's an inspiration in that regard - I'm rambling, but I think my parents raised me more to think that it's probably not likely you'll get to do what you "like" but more likely you just have to do something to get by. That always kind of depressed me, but I think I believed it on the most basic level. I think being married to Kirk helped me see the error of that thinking - because he always had this idea that although you might have to make trade-offs sometimes, you can actually do the things you want to do - it's just a matter of deciding what those things are.

That was a radical thought process for a girl from Idaho who thought education was just something that people did who were "dreaming".

Cynthia said...

I agree - there are a lot of people who do nothing because of a lack of something - drive, ambition, imagination, self-esteem etc. I went to my h.s. reunion in Winslow and realized of all the people who lived there in town, there were only one or two who left, educated themselves and made a plan to live there to better the town or find a unique opportunity there (an idea which I applaud) There rest of everybody who lived there (or in neighboring small towns) just got a job at the grocery store after high school and just stayed. How sad.

Suzanne said...

Interesting thoughts Lezlee. I think there are people like you've described, but I have also met others who are really happy doing some of those jobs. That they feel good about a job well done or their own expertise. They enjoy providing a service. I know it doesn't cover everyone, but some truly are.
I think the drugs and alcohol pretty much cut across socioeconomic lines. There are lots of reasons for that, but I have come across quite a few rich, well off drug and alcohol abusers. (Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, etc...)Addiction is something that can get anybody.
I often feel I didn't have the courage to go for some of my bigger dreams. I applaud Sam for having the courage I lacked!

Bandanamom said...

I agree Suzanne - there are certainly people who enjoy doing things that are not the jobs we typically dream of. I think that many people derive a sense of satisfaction from their work, and this sometimes extends to the guy who works in the potato factory who is a really good life-long employee.

I think though my perspective is that most of the people I grew up with who ended up in those types of jobs ended up their not out of any real desire for the job they have but rather happenstance brought them to their professions. They may have other talents or desires, but it's a paycheck, so they just keep doing it. But I should also say that some of my friends who decided to get a professional degree are not totally happy either. This is usually when they only decided to become an attorney because they thought they would make good money, not because they like what they do for a living. So it's easy to dislike what you do and a whole lot harder to hit the jack-pot of striving to do something you like, and achieving success in that endeavor or at least personal satisfaction.

As far as the substance abuse - I think that follows the same lines too. For the most part, substance abuse is a result of a person who is not satisfied with certain aspects of their life, and subsequently falls into a form of substance abuse to try to minimize their unhappiness. Which is certainly what we are seeing happen with Britney Spears, as much as the football star I went to high school with who ended up in a lower-level sales management position, was very unhappy and recently died of a drug over-dose.

But coming from a blue collar background like I did, you do see an awful lot of substance absue in one form or another among people who are stuck in dead end jobs. When Kirk built garage doors as an undergrad, almost all of this fellow work-mates were LDS, but they all discussed all week long how excited they were for the weekend, so that they could get drunk, high, etc. Some of them didn't wait for the weekend. None of them had any ambitions outside of their current circumstances and none of them seemed too happy about it. So it's an anectodal situation to be sure, and their are plenty of lawyers who head to the bar after work, or actresses to who do a line of coke in their dressing room.

So yeah, I agree with that, I think it has a lot more to do with general unhappiness.

harrison said...

what you're writing is interesting, but somewhat removed from reality. statistically speaking, there are more doctors and lawyers who have substance abuse problems than factory workers. Doctors and lawyers have their own AA modeled support groups because their egos are so outsized, frequently, that they fear they'd be outed if they went to normal AA meetings.

Most of the lowest paying jobs have been shunted onto recent immigrants these days. Where I grew up, there was a Champion tennis ball factory and a Revlon factory staffed almost entirely by undocumented immigrants. I lived in a place with abundent agriculture, and cotton and onions and grapes and cauliflower and broccoli and carrots and oranges and all manner of citrus were picked by undocumented migrant workers who were paid very little and who were in the fields when the crops were dusted.

The maintenance men at apartment buildings, the plumbers and bicycle messengers and delivery guys, the cooks in the kitchens of restaurants and the upholsterers at furniture restoration boutiques are mostly undocumented workers now where I live in NYC. They're far less likely to use drugs than the lawyers and accountants and investment bankers and editors and art directors and doctors I know. Part of the reason is because the consequences are far more severe for people with less money. If a lawyer has a substance abuse problem, her firm will send her to a treatment program and keep it hush hush for the sake of the reputation of the firm. If an undocumented immigrant is working as a mover and drinks too much and shows up late and smelling of alcohol, he'll be fired on the spot and can't collect unemployment while he looks for a new job.

the people who do most well are those who have the luxury of time. if you have to work to pay for college yourself, taking a risk on something creative is far less wise than if your parents pay your tuition and send you an allowance, and then support you in various ways for a few years after college so you can take unpaid internships and take time off to travel or build your portfolio or change directions because you find what you've been doing isn't for you.

when people are successful in the creative arts, you can rest assured that their parents were a safety net that mine, for instance, with 8 kids younger than me, simply couldn't afford to be.

Sarah said...

I own the Wilco movie - that he did- I don't know if you've seen it, but if you ever want to come on over!


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