Nikon at the Playboy Mansion

To mark the passing of Hugh Hefner I’m reposting this from years gone by. RIP Hef. Lord knows you’d need some rest by now. 😉

So let me tell you the story.

I get a call from a BET producer on a Friday night asking if I can go shoot an event for her at the Playboy Mansion the next night. It might come as a surprise to most people but the Playboy Mansion is the site of innumerable charity functions. I’d been up there before. Swam in the grotto pool. Blah blah blah.

But never, slow my rapidly beating heart, had I ever been there with a camera and a press credential.

So of course, I say yes! The problem, however, is that at that time in my life my health was absolutely miserable. So when the next day dawned blisteringly hot, I was both sick and apprehensive.

To get to these things at the Playboy Mansion you have to shuttle over. Actually they’re full-sized buses and you usually depart from a giant multi-level parking garage somewhere else on the Westside of Los Angeles. That was the case when I had my significant and dubious girlfriend of over three decades drop me off at the parking garage.

And I was still feeling very bad. And it was hot as Hades. I gave her strict instructions to be ‘on call’ cell phone on because I knew there’d be a long wait in a smothering parking garage and that I’d probably bail even before the first bus departed.

That was at 5:00 pm west coast time. Girlfriend didn’t hear from me again until near 1:00 am, when she found me lying on the sidewalk where she left me, drenched in sweat, with an absolutely stupid semi-permanent smile plastered on my half-crocked visage.

Yes. I was there a LONG time. I went through three or four different types of event photography all in one night. Red carpet. Long lens daylight candids. Available lowlight shooting. Standard event flash photography with the SB-800 and the 24-70 f2.8 Nikkor.

Lot of great stories. Met a lot of great people, believe it or not.

A pair of young female reporters for an online publication that covers charity events hooked up with me on the bus over. I guess this is when you know you’re getting old and harmless as a guy and maybe just a little pathetic. For a lot of the evening one of the very nice young women carried my heavy camera back pack around for me. Are you kidding me? Nice girl, definitely not from L.A.

At one point in the dusky part of the early evening, after sundown but when there’s still some light in the air, and of course there’s plenty of lighting at the event, a heavily geared up Canon shooter came up to me while I was shooting with the 70-200 f2.8 Nikkor. This is in the early days of the D3. He was very irritated with me for some reason and he says, “You know you’re not getting anything with that lens in this light?”

That was right around the time the picture at the top of this post was taken. And this one.

I’m linking to a Flickr slideshow of the images that ended up being used not by BET but another publication. They might appear a little soft in the slideshow as they are only 800x on the long end. It’s the entire gallery of ‘safe’ images.

But I’m also including below a definitevly NSFW slideshow of images that have never been seen by anyone but myself. These are of body-painted girls and when I say NSFW I really mean it! These are not your father’s body-painted naked girls here.

It’s the Playboy Mansion. What’d you expect?

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And as usual, someone watching me… repost!

The image above is mine. The words are William Klein’s but I can certainly identify with them . He says this in an amazing contact sheet analysis film I’ve included below.

Everyone with an interest in photography should watch it and should look on YouTube for other contact sheet discussions by photographers like Sebastião Salgado and Josef Koudelka.

As always, thank you for looking.

Minimalist Mondays : Voyeurism

“The basic condition of the voyeuristic scenario is distance, an essential separation between seer and seen. Despite this distance, which is by definition unbridgeable, despite the unrequitable nature of the desire that drives it, the voyeur’s gaze is a privileged one.”

Great book I highly recommend called Train Your Gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography by Roswell Angier. The quote above is from TYG. Almost by anyone’s definition it is not a book on portrait photography. It is really an analysis of contemporary art photography as well as some of the classic but nevertheless quite daring, in their time, 20th century photographers.

The chapter on voyeurism begins with a quote by Walker Evans, certainly an idol of mine and countless other photographers.

“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”

CVS Pharmacies to Stop Selling Tobacco Products

Not a lot to say here. Just my tribute to the decision by CVS to stop profiting from the sale of this most dangerous of product lines at their pharmacies. All Nikon shots. Deep in the L.A. street.

This guy has good form. Feet shoulder length apart. Arms loose at his sides. Get it, buddy!

No, really. What are friends for?

So glad I never had kids.

I read somewhere that every great photo, and I’m not suggesting the above photo is great, but that it is said that there’s something just a little weird about every great photo. That’s all I’m saying. 😉


Okay, at least he’s not hovering over my lunch. Yet.

Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote Republican

Ventura Girl

venturagirl-Edit-2-EditOne from the very old pre-Leica days.

Is It Okay to Photograph Children in the Street?

Good lighting and exposures are very important. Color and proper focus are both critical. That’s all. lol. Okay, just kidding. But you didn’t REALLY think I wasn’t going to make a defense of street photographers taking pictures of kids who aren’t theirs, did you?

I originally published this about a year and a half ago and it met great controversy when I posted a link to it over on DPReview. Some people threatened my physical well being. Or at least it seemed that way to me.

In the interim, the state of California actually implemented a law last year preventing celebrity hounding paparazzi (not judging, I’ve sold many celebrity images via a celebrity photo agency and some of them were surreptitiously taken) from taking images of the children of, you guessed it, celebrities.

First, let me say that I’m just a little appalled that celebrities have the power to win the passage of special laws that benefit only them. That you can trot a couple of lovely weeping actresses like Halle Berry and Jennifer Garner out in front of the state legislature and get a law protecting only their children is kind of an outrageous proposition.

But I was also relieved to find out that it did only apply to them and their children. Sort of a dichotomy I guess you could call it. I’d thought of ranting and raving against the passage of the law and hounding the governor of California, Jerry Brown, to refuse to sign off on it but, honestly, on the one hand, I’m not supportive of the idea that children of celebrities should be targeted by a stalking paparazzi. That is unacceptable.

But had that law included ALL photographers, and made anyone taking images of children in a street photography situation law breakers for doing so I would have been even more outraged. There is a price of celebrity and that price should be paid by celebrities and not free citizens doing what photographers have had free license to do since the advent of photography.

Anyway. Here it is. I can only give you my answer to the question of whether or not it’s okay to take pictures of other people’s children, in public, with no permission from anyone. It is the answer that I’ve come up with that applies to me. Every single person reading this has to come up with an answer that works for them and please don’t take anything I’m writing here as legal advise or even suggestions as to what you should or should not be doing with your cameras or with your lives.

The only immutable law, I would suggest, is that you’d better be taking pictures of kids for good reasons and with the best intentions. And there are many and you have a right to those reasons and intentions. (as far as I’m concerned. Not necessarily according to the law or customs where you happen to be located. Or not. See what I mean? Me neither.)

Children tell stories, with their expressions, their body language and gestures, in an unfiltered and psychologically complicated way that adults very often don’t. And you have a right to grab those stories and record them on film or a digital camera sensor when and wherever you find them. (But don’t hold me to that statement as legal advice. I’m not a lawyer and it is not legal advice or guidance.)

The image at the top here is one of my favorites. There’s a lot of information in this shot. You have what would appear to any resident of Los Angeles to be visitors from somewhere else. It is summer and probably this is their vacation together. It is a family with three lovely daughters sporting matching outfits.

Their parents obviously take great pride in their brood here and it appears that two of the girls might be twins. The third, standing off to the right, seems a year or so younger than her sisters. That she’s wearing the same outfit nevertheless seems to indicate this family feels a desire or need for a certain degree of family conformity. I’m not passing judgment. I would probably be looking for three of everything myself if they were my children.

Mom looks like she’s ready to take a picture herself which further indicates to me that this moment, here on an icky sticky Santa Monica sidewalk, represents some holiday memory that must be preserved forever. Seems like they may have just gotten out of their rental car.

But kids are scary scary things and a set of three like this would give me nightmares if I was their father. You have three beautiful daughters, you dress them alike to show how much pride you have in your family. But then there’s the one with the broken arm to remind you how delicate and fragile your precious family is and how precarious and elusive will be your grasp on their lives for the rest of your own.

The second shot is a collection of three individuals connected by something technically invisible, meaning you can’t see a wire or a string or a discharge of energy like a lightening bolt or anything like that, but that is there nevertheless and is probably stronger than just about any physical connection could be. Love and adoration and maybe, again, family, sisterhood; this time it looks like a loving grandparent.

I like to say that I take pictures of things that a lot of photographers don’t typically set out to photograph. Things that are happening inside a subject’s head that are maybe very subtly represented by other things happening on the outside of their head or in their gesture or posture or physical relationship or interaction with other people in the photograph.

This picture is an example of what I mean by that.

He’s Still Got It

The stately old dude has his admirers. Or one of them, anyway.

Broadway: The Hard Way

Time to revisit some of my better efforts that were posted before anyone knew this place was here. Hope you all enjoy them and thanks to smilingtoad and Vincent Bolly for reminding me of this by liking to all these many months later.


About ten years ago we had some family come out for a week or so. On their last day here we needed to run them down to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles because, adventurers that they are, they were taking a train out of town. Okay.

So to get there, we decided that we’d take them up Broadway, something we did once or twice a month on our way to Chinatown for some Sam Woo’s Barbecue Restaurant, probably the best Chinese I’d ever eaten up till that time.

Anyway, Broadway, is a trip all its own. And this busy hot Saturday was busier and hotter than most days we’d taken the drive. This is a part of L.A. that doesn’t look like L.A. at all. It looks like New York City, but in another era, certainly in another century. It is the home of a historic commercial and theater…

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iPhoning it in… OOPS!


I repeated this post this morning… for the second time. Sorry. That wasn’t my intention!


Throwing a bunch of pics up that have been given the Instagram process. Even though none of them were taken with my iPhone.








Nikon at the Playboy Mansion

Reblogging this one from June of last year.


To mark the passing of Hugh Hefner I’m reposting this from years gone by. RIP Hef. Lord knows you’d need some rest by now. 😉

So let me tell you the story.

I get a call from a BET producer on a Friday night asking if I can go shoot an event for her at the Playboy Mansion the next night. It might come as a surprise to most people but the Playboy Mansion is the site of innumerable charity functions. I’d been up there before. Swam in the grotto pool. Blah blah blah.

But never, slow my rapidly beating heart, had I ever been there with a camera and a press credential.

So of course, I say yes! The problem, however, is that at that time in my life my health was absolutely miserable. So when the next day dawned blisteringly hot, I was both sick and apprehensive.


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A Look Back: The Nikon Coolpix 950


I actually bought, if not the first, then one of the first digicams marketed to the masses, the Casio Something or Other. Thanks to a liberal return policy at the now long gone Good Guys, that camera, which I believe set me back somewhere in the neighborhood of $800, was quickly taken off the charge card. I didn’t even think of buying another digital camera until about five years later. There was a very cool-looking camera from, I believe, either Canon or Olympus. But then there was the camera that won the highest ratings from all the camera reviewers. The Nikon. And I’d always been a Nikon guy.

But this camera was a weird looking thing, with a twisting body type, and it had a decidedly uncool name. Coolpix 950. But I went with the consensus opinion anyway and honestly never looked back. Until now. 😉 In retrospect, it WAS a cool camera. So cool the idea of shooting a ‘Coolpix’ camera again, this time the allegedly fantastic Coolpix A, is an intriguing thought. It would be like coming home for me actually. Stay tuned. As an aside, I love that this blog gives me the opportunity to traipse through my entire photo history, dragging any visitors here along with me. So stay tuned for more of that, too.

Most if not all of these images would have been taken prior to 2004.

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”Oh dad, could you please stop bragging about your affair with Liberace?”

Ha ha ha! That’s from David Letterman’s writers, by the way. Runner up was, “Hey Dad, thanks for teaching me to smoke.”

Just my way of saying, Happy Father’s Day!!!

LACMA, Wilshire Blvd., March 2005


The Three Graces

triplets at night_barnat1600I took this shot about five years ago and have never really shown it to anyone. I think the reason for that is that I never thought I could adequately explain how amazing it is to me. I guess I’ve felt it needed explaining and I guess I’m finally in the mood now to try.

No part of the West LA area is really that bad. But this is nearly as gritty a corner on the Westside as there is. It’s directly underneath the intersection of the 405 and 10 freeways, which is to say, the junction of the two busiest roadways in the United States of America. There are homeless people camped out under the overpasses and exit ramps. It was fairly late in the evening. The feel there at that hour is probably worse than the reality. Or vice versa. Who really knows?

I travel by that way innumerable times a year. At any hour, but especially late in the evening, the very LAST thing you would expect to find there is three truly lovely sisters, possibly triplets, on bicycles, cooling their jets waiting for the light to change. Trust me, you just don’t see this in LA at that hour. In most of Los Angeles, they kind of roll up the sidewalks. That’s a common complaint of people from New York and elsewhere who have moved to LA from cities with a more active night life.

I’m a man. The car was being driven by my lady of 38 years. We both were like, DID YOU SEE THAT? And then she asks, Did you GET it? I don’t know how I got it. The green light was with us and we never even slowed down going through the intersection. I probably was pre-focused to some degree and the amazing Nikon D3 sang the song. I put the camera to my face, framed the ladies and slammed down the shutter release. It just happened. It’s one of those moments that makes me so happy that I had a camera, not to create some work of art or anything like that, but just to capture the natural beauty I witnessed there at the grimy and otherwise unsightly corner of Sawtelle and Pico Blvds that night.

Alone, a younger man, I would have probably slammed on the brakes and went down the line asking for their hands in marriage. Because these sisters are not afraid of the dark or probably anything else. I thought maybe there was someone filming them, like a reality show or something. Truly gutsy young ladies. And reason #90454 I’m glad I never had children.

After the Match I’m Better

DSC_5056-2I very briefly shot women’s soccer a few years back. I wasn’t very good at it. I don’t think anyone noticed. Certainly nobody complained. But after the league’s inaugural match here in Los Angeles there was a short euphoric moment when fans and the press gathered near the tunnel and got to get up close with some of the truly greatest women’s soccer players in the world, including the consensus greatest player of them all, the Brazilian marvel known simply as Marta, pictured above and in the last two shots.

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Larva in (re)Pose

This young lady should teach workshops to models on the art of posing. Yes. Larva is her name. Click on the ‘Nudes’ categories link beside the title for more of her astounding work. Mine? Meh. 😉

Going Down


On an escalator, that is, at the Century City Mall. This was taken with a Nikon D700 and the legendary 85mm 1.4 Nikkor D.


Cheerleaders: A Love Story

When I first started shooting women’s basketball, the instructions from my boss at the publication were to not just bring back action shots from the floor, but shots of fans, cheerleaders, the band, etc. Everything and anything that would capture the atmosphere in the arena.

But he made it pretty clear that what he really wanted was cheerleader shots. That should be perfectly understandable; it’s an online publication, he needs traffic just as much as any other online publication does. And pretty girls equal heavy traffic.

No better place on Earth than to fulfill our need for click bait than the campus of USC, where the cheerleaders are icons of youth, beauty, energy, and style. I’ve seen a lot of cheerleaders, but USC’s “Song Girls” (that’s right, they don’t even call them cheerleaders) are in a class all their own.

But these fabulous ladies strut their stuff at Rose Bowl games played on New Years Day which decide the national championship of college football. (Or they did back then, anyway.) There can’t be any question that sitting on the baseline during sparsely attended women’s basketball games would be on the other end of the spectrum for the Song Girls in terms of the excitement and exposure they enjoy as USC’s finest.

So, in that first season, when a pasty middle-aged male pointed his long lens in their direction as they dutifully performed their Song Girl responsibilities at women’s basketball games, more than once I came away with looks like this.

Beautiful, yes. But I pride myself on being able to read people’s faces and maybe, hopefully, photograph what they might be feeling or thinking at the instant I trip the shutter. This was not good.

Where’s the famous USC ‘V’ for Victory sign? This seems to be teetering dangerously into ‘Hit the Road Jack’ territory and I’m just glad the razor thin depth of field on this shot only captured the scornful glare of Song Girl number one. I don’t know that my ego could have survived all three of them giving me that look.

Okay, I’ve had my fun with this shot. It was just an instant, it wasn’t planned, I know that. But I don’t think the looks being given to me here are at all misleading. After all, I was there before and after this shot was taken. I kind of know.

But I persevered, as a man with a camera is sometimes known to do. I continued to work the baselines of USC and other schools and accumulated my share of pretty good cheerleader shots to go along with hundreds of, I hope, pretty good basketball shots.

It was probably in the third season when I had prints made of some digital images and, just to see how colors in these lighting environments transferred to print, I threw in to the order a handful of the better cheerleader shots.

Well, I really liked the way the cheerleader shots looked from USC. The lighting in the Galen Center is fantastic. Colors were gorgeous, the subjects were stunning.

And far from the somewhat violated look I got from the ladies in the image above, the Song Girls had gotten used to me and went about their business and I went about mine. The images I took of cheerleaders became very good.

So I decided that I should share the prints of the images I took of them with USC’s Song Girls. I put about a half dozen in an envelope, including the image at the very top and the two below, and, I think, it was at halftime one afternoon that I handed them off to the sports information director for women’s sports at USC, who shall remain nameless because she’s a wonderful lady and we subsequently become pals and I don’t want to drag her into any of this.

At that point, however, she really didn’t know me and when I said I had some cheerleader shots that I really liked she kind of gave me a look and muttered something about not being interested in pictures of cheerleaders. But I handed her the envelope anyway and asked her to pass them along to whomever is in charge of the Song Girls.

Never heard another word about my cheerleading pictures. As I said, the SID and I became pals as I continued to shoot USC basketball for the next couple of years. USC even presented one of my shots, blown up large, to a graduating senior. That was a tremendous honor. The SID told me once to keep doing what I was doing, calling it a ‘fine art’ style of baseline shooting. Oh yes, that SID was a pal o’ mine.

But here’s the punch line. Starting maybe the next season, and for the rest of my two or so years shooting USC, I literally could not point my camera at the USC cheerleaders (or majorettes even) without finding them already looking at me. Smiling broadly. I would notice them looking at me as I sat there doing absolutely nothing. It was all so obvious. I told my significant other about it, she agreed it was happening and we would laugh about it.

The USC Song Girls were now very willing subjects for me. Too willing. It was hard to get the spontaneity, the far off looks in someone’s eyes that you only get in truly candid moments. It was no longer sports journalism; it was something else, and the pictures were never quite the same.

And, of course, I LOVED every minute of it.

Anyway. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, as my mom used to say. And I’m not going to be humble regarding the images. I think these shots are almost iconically wonderful images of the USC Song Girls, caught candidly doing what they so cheerfully do for the University of Southern California.

Hope you like them as much as the subjects seemed to.

How to take a pretty nice portrait in really bad artificial light…

You can start with a high ISO monster camera like the Nikon D3 and a great pro-zoom like the 24-70 Nikkor 2.8. But I’m sorry, that’s not going to get it done in light as as bad as this was. Color falls apart even on the D3 at a certain point in the higher ISO ranges and especially in gross fluorescents like we see here .

The 2.8 is a help of course. There again, however, and I’m sorry for the equipment-fail negativism, but I think even that great lens has to be stopped down a little bit to be as good as it should be.

What to do?

Well, you have to do things the old fashioned way. Long shutter speed, in this case i believe it was 1/15th of a second, and instructions for everyone to be as still as they possibly can. Just like 150 years ago.

Of course, with a flat Leica rangefinder pancaked against your face, 1/15th of a second is like your comfort zone. lol. No problem on your end, ever.

But with a D3 and THAT monstrosity of a pro-zoom, with all that heavy glass, sticking out 8 inches in front of the camera, huh, just try it. That’s why this picture stands out in my mind as a minor accomplishment.

And don’t forget the instant-after shots when everyone relaxes. Have to have those.

Broadway: The Hard Way

About ten years ago we had some family come out for a week or so. On their last day here we needed to run them down to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles because, adventurers that they are, they were taking a train out of town. Okay.

So to get there, we decided that we’d take them up Broadway, something we did once or twice a month on our way to Chinatown for some Sam Woo’s Barbecue Restaurant, probably the best Chinese I’d ever eaten up till that time.

Anyway, Broadway, is a trip all its own. And this busy hot Saturday was busier and hotter than most days we’d taken the drive. This is a part of L.A. that doesn’t look like L.A. at all. It looks like New York City, but in another era, certainly in another century. It is the home of a historic commercial and theater district.

But the Broadway of old is not the Broadway of today. It is close and very real.

The old giant office buildings and theaters that line the street block out the sun except for the middle part of the day. People line the curb and it almost seems like they could reach into your car. They’re almost exclusively Latino. The merchants blaring Mexican pop music are as loud as the people are close.

Needless to say, we knew this was going to be an experience for our small-town lily white relatives.

So down Broadway we moved at a crawl. The smell of garbage, car fumes, meat cooking. People practically breathing on us as we slowly made our way up the crowded street. The tension in the car was incredible. Fear, even. Oh yes, there was fear.

No one made a sound. When we stopped at a red light, I thought people in the back seat might piss their pants in our nice leased automobile.

Finally, a break in the traffic right at the point where the business end of Broadway, well, ends, and things open up, with City Hall off in the distance to the right.

The explosion of relief coming from the back seat at that moment is something I will never forget but can’t adequately describe. It was as if people had just bungee jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge. It was uproarious. After sounds that aren’t words, I’m sure I heard ‘Oh my God!” and “I’ve never experienced anything like that before in my life!” and some actual squealing.

Anyway. lol. Enjoy the pictures.

Sheri’s Wedding

Just remembering one of the happiest days of my adult life. The wedding of my best friend Sheri just five years ago. I’m not a wedding photographer but she didn’t trust the one she hired so she told me to be sure to bring my gear.

Good thing, he was a hack. She loved my shots and everybody was happy. All pictures were taken with a Nikon D3 and either a 70-200 2.8 Nikkor VR or the 24-70 2.8 Nikkor. Would give anything to go back to that day.

I’m Dreaming of Another Time of Year

Summer has finally arrived in Los Angeles this week. We didn’t even have our portable air conditioners in the windows until July 19th and have barely had to use them since then. We’ve been very very lucky while the rest of the country has sweltered in record breaking heat.

At night, every night this summer, the temps drop to the very low 60s. Run a fan out of the kitchen window and by morning you’re pulling three blankets up over your head.

But now, LA is slowly beginning its annual and inevitable imitation of the surface of Venus. Toxic gases replace the sea breezes and the blistering sun scorches everything it touches.

But I’m thinking of that drive I love to make across the desert to Las Vegas. The Cajon Pass. The chill wind blasting over the landscape.

The top photo is at the far reaches of one of our drives, near Zion National Park in Utah. It was absolutely freezing as the sun set that Saturday night in between Christmas and New Year’s Day. You can see the snow clinging to the faces of the cliffs in the distance.

The bottom images was taken out of the car window near the aforementioned Cajon Pass on the same trip. Snow on mountain tops. Wish I could roll down a window and breathe in some of that cold clean air right now.

Details: Sheri’s Apartment

When Sheri moved back from Maryland she had an apartment she didn’t like for a year. Then she got to work finding a place back up closer to where she used to live. Finally found the neatest little one bedroom in Beverly Hills. Built probably back in the 1930s, the owner was meticulous in keeping up the details of the place. Sheri was always finding things to perfectly accent her environment. When she first moved in she told me to bring a camera over to take some pictures.

All shots taken with a Nikon D3 and a 85mm 1.4 Nikkor D.

Sheri’s details…, a slideshow on Flickr.

My Sheri

I’ve done everything that I can to distract myself for the past three months and avoid posting on this subject, anywhere on the internet, or to wait until I’m able to do it justice and not embarrass myself or rush it or drag it out either in frustration or emotion.

This new blog will not be a place for posts of this kind. I promise you that. is about moving forward for me. The idea and opportunity of it and how it all came together for me now is something I will go into at a later time.

But there’s no question that what’s going on in my life right now, which I address below, is triggering a maybe instinctive survival mechanism that has created a need in me to put something out there that’s positive and hopefully beautiful, something that allows me to contribute anything at all worthwhile to the conversation about photography as well as broader subjects such as beauty, politics, and life.

I met a girl 17 years ago out at the Mobil station near my apartment here in Los Angeles. Her name is Sheri Wilson. Her mom calls her ‘birdi’. I used a nickname some people called me combined with Sheri’s nickname to make the internet username ‘jammerbirdi’ that I’ve employed for the last 16 or so years online.

Life with Bernadette, my significant other for 37 years, has never left me any time for friends but Sheri was instantly a huge part of our lives, in drama and in bliss, from the moment we met.

Bernadette and I are opposites. The dichotomy is that after all these years we are as one person, almost, but we are at the same time as different from each other as two people can be. It’s been a lifelong conversation between people who are like alien beings from different planets. It’s just a chemistry thing; we love each other like there’s no tomorrow, and it’s been that way now for most of our lives.

Sheri, on the other hand, is not my opposite. She was from the beginning like something that had sprung from my own subconscious. She was the little voice inside my head. I used to call her Dr Phil in a weave and from the first moments after I met her she was already in my head snipping wires and moving things where they really were supposed to go.

I was a boy of 37 when I met Sheri and I’ve said many times that she made a man out of me.

Three months ago, Sheri called on a Monday night from her car and said she’d be home in a few minutes, to be sure to answer the phone. When she called back she told me that she had just left UCLA and had been diagnosed with lung cancer.

Sheri didn’t have lung cancer, that was a misdiagnosis. The largest tumor was in her mediastinum, the cavity where the lungs and heart are, but it had already collapsed her left lung, which I’m sure contributed to the initial misdiagnosis.

The cancer was stage 4 and lesions were also found at two places on her spine, as well as on her pelvis and on her ribs. It has since spread to even more places and it’s obvious now to everyone that Sheri never really had a chance.

So that’s where it is. The first three weeks I thought I was going to lose my mind. I felt like the cancer was inside my own chest. I was depressed and I told Bernadette that I was going to go about another day of being in that place before I’d call our own doctor and get referred to someone for some professional help.

But then I hit a plateau and I got strong. Sort of. Many of you probably know what I’m talking about when I say ‘sort of’. Because things progress, you’re always being hit with something new and it’s always something terrible.

I love nothing nearly as much as Bernadette. But I’ve often wondered did I love Sheri more than my own mother, my family, my best friend from home. I don’t think you can actually know the answer to some of these things.

My emotional trigger for the last three months, and Sheri’s, has been … we just can’t believe this is actually happening. Not to us. I know that sounds less than admirable but we were both thinking why is this happening to us? To our tiny circle?

I lost my mom 9 years ago and that’s a very very hard thing. I’ve never had children, something I’ve never been more glad about than I am right now. It’s said to be the worst thing to lose a child. But I’ve personally never experienced anything as bad as listening to my best friend, younger than I am, sobbing and asking why, why, why. She was so brave and strong initially. But at some point, I guess when the finality of what she was facing hit her she became a devastated person.

I knew that this would be the most difficult situation I’ve ever faced in my life. I knew that I might not survive it myself. I’m determined to survive it, though. I thank whatever forces put certain things in my world at this precise moment because I’m using them all to help pull me out of the hell of this reality and distract my attention and thoughts to other, much better realities, that are about moving forward and trying and doing something good with the time and gifts and people you’re given in this world.

Long before this news, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the two kinds of people in all of our lives. The people who are in this world, among us, and those who are no longer in this world and among us. I’ve got a lot in that second group, and other than my mom in 2003, they’ve been there for a long long time. My father died of cancer 30 years ago. My two older brothers are dead 30 years or more. I guess when you have so many that are no longer here you think about them and how much you’d give for just a five minute phone conversation. I can make a pretty good cup of coffee. What I would give to just make my father a cup of that coffee and sit down and talk about everything we never talked about when he was alive.

My best friend is in this world, among us. So for me, with this distinction working in my mind all these many years, the last three months of knowing that she is still here right now but will soon and forever be gone has been a very destructive place to be inside my head. I can’t sleep. I don’t care how sleepy I am. I lay down and think about something else and start to drift off but the instant my mind falls on the situation, as Sheri and her mom call it, it’s like the front of my brain shoots off like it’s strapped to the front of a rocket. It’s just like that. You’re not seeing anything. At that point it isn’t even thinking. It’s just like a rushing sensation. And the adrenaline jolt is the only thing that’s real. In an instant you go from almost asleep to up on your elbows trying to breathe.

Sheri’s in the hospital now. I don’t think she’s going to be coming home. But with things so close now to where they are going I’m at times, not now but this morning for a few hours, at peace somewhat. Like I can almost see who I will be when this is over and how I can and will move forward. I don’t know what I would do if I wasn’t getting that glimpse of relief.

You know, I never thought of this until this all happened but… one of the most real and painful realities is that I’m losing one of the few people, honestly, in this world, who loves me. Like an asset in my column. A vote for me. Sheri has always loved me and gotten me.

Sheri spent most of her life in health care in some capacity or other. She felt deeply for aids sufferers and worked in HIV for 15 years at Pacific Oaks Medical Group in Beverly Hills with some of the most important aids doctors in the country, including President Clinton’s one-time aids czar.

When Sheri was hired untrained as a drug and alcohol counselor decades ago she was offered the job 30 seconds into the interview. You had to see it all to believe it, the charm, the eloquence, the savvy, the talent and beauty and glamourous flare that is Sheri.

Everyone who met Sheri loved her because she was just the most different chick you’d ever known. I’ll be posting more pics and some video and sound files. Because I want people to know what kind of a person she was and what a unique character she was and what this world and her family and friends and especially me are losing.

This is a hard thing for me to post this here. I appreciate anyone who took the time to read it.

She’s 53, but she never looked a day over 37. She has a boyfriend in his 20s. And he is devastated. This picture was taken three years ago.