The Belkinators

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I'm tired. And I just drank a 24 ounce Rockstar energy drink (aka poison).

Why subject myself to such a chemical invasion, you may ask (spell check wanted to change that to saki, hmmmm)? Well it has been brought to my attention that my last few posts have been, well, a bit morose. A bit sad. Even boring. I don't like boring. Boring is boring.

My favorite post (from a writing perspective) was typed on an iPad (annoying would be an understatement), while being in stage 5 exhaustion (on a made up scale without defined parameters), and under the neuron firing, stomach churning, nerve shaking effects of some sort of coffee/Rockstar combo.

I don't want to die. Dying sucks. In the past 30 years and 4 months I've existed as a body/soul combo outside of my momma's belly, there were three times I could have died (obviously not including every second of every day that an alien could have zapped me, or a really large elephant could have fallen on me from a passing airplane). First time I was 2 and some crazy dude kidnapped me and tried to take me to the desert. He took a wrong turn, found his way to Mexico, ran a red light, was chased by some poli?ia, had his tires shot out, and ended up in some Mexican jail.

The third time was when I was swiped by a truck on the 110 and spun across three lanes hit the center divider and ended up safely on the left shoulder.

The second time (and this is the point. Yay!) was towards the end of August 2002. Back when my email address was (until it was hacked and shut down a few years later after logging in at some internet cafe (remember those?) whose homepage was, and my AIM handle was puffkdragon (I made both of those accounts that summer). We (the counselors) were up all night and day for the past week. The days were of course spent by use counseloring, the nights by us making these elaborate constructions depicting either how many days were left to this great camp (to paraphrase the annoying, yet remarkably addicting song we were belting out constantly), or some other clever contraption for the kids to remember. In retrospect we should have just slept, but we were young and probably drunk. Thursday was Knott's Berry Farm day. Which is basically a Six Flags for those too lazy or poor to drive out to an actual Six Flags. Being all sleep deprived and such, and still needing to stay up until 6 AM making some sort of rock sculpture (followed by an insane alcohol+exhaustion induced moon dance (I don't actually recall if we were clothed or not)) two quadruple espressos and 6 red bulls sounded like a wonderful idea. Coupled with the mandatory quota of Millers Genuine Draft (thank G-d my tastes have evolved since then), the next day had me flat out on the grass, contemplating calling 911 every couple of minutes. My heart was doing double speed, skipping beats, and doing all sorts of trickery. I didn't call 911, and thank G-d I didn't die. Notwithstanding my taurine induced grass kissing, that summer was the first time I met Estee, so overall it was quite a success. But I did stay away from energy drinks for a very long time, and still only use them when I absolutely have to (usually driving home from the cow farm at hours of the morning that really shouldn't exist).

Yet since I enjoy writing, and my most interesting writing seems to come about while being under some sort of mental irregularity, I'm trying to induce such states. Legally.

This monologue didn't end here. It ended up wandering into some oddly serious pastures, and that was against the rules, so I just chopped out the rest (it meandered into some incoherent mashup of capitalism, advertising, social media, moral, blah blah blah). I have muzzled my fingers against those tempting fields. This time. But in my delicate trappings down over-thinking lane, I did decide to head back to social media. I may do another post about why, for now suffice it to say that I miss my friends out in the cloud, and unless I am going to do some hardcore alternate marketing, ignoring all the potential clients eyes out there seems a bit naive.

Experiment failed. Exhaustion + energy drink has been ruled out as a harbinger of good writing. Maybe I'll have to apply to jury duty again. Or some other situation in which I have nothing else to do besides write.

My site is undergoing some overhauling, and I'm contemplating breaking up my blog into two; a more photo-centric one, and a journal (or whoever I end up calling it) as a home for my rambling mind. Theoretically I would either have to link this somehow to the photos below (which would be quite a stretch) or put in some sort of break symbol (maybe a /// or a *** ) and write a bit about the photos. But I'm going to do neither and just plaster the photos below. As such:

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Serendipitously, this was shot on their one year anniversary. Check out their wedding, and then check out Yossi's ridiculously awesome design skills.

Chana & Yehuda Get Hitched!

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So it is. It's been a few weeks since I've officially quit social media (I say officially because I do have an occasional relapse), maybe a month and a bit, I'm not sure, haven't been keeping track. I'd like to say my life is utterly different, but that would be a lie. It is however, getting better, and, honestly, is there anything more one could hope for? Happiness, saddnes, joy, boredom, it isn't a state one is in, but a direction one takes. Better though doesn't necessarily mean better from bad, thank G-d my life is good, but good can always be better.

For those not yet in the know, I've replaced my Facebook family photo postings (which I miss) with a tumblr blog. If for some odd reason, you miss seeing photos of my little ones, feel free (feel free? I'm not even sure what that is supposed to mean) to visit, follow it, bookmark it, type it in each morning, whatever.


A few months back I had the privilege of attending the wonderful wedding of Chana and Yuda in the capacity of a shoot-whatever/however-you-want photographer. I wasn't the main, and I wasn't even a second. It was wonderful. As professionals we must deliver a proven product, yet being in the visual arts field we also must constantly improve our vision, technique, process, etc. But experimenting on the client's dime is risky, and well, not very nice. Unless that's what they want. Which in this case they did. Yipee (spell check would rather two "p"s, which makes sense but looks weird)! I got to try out new lenses, new ways of exposing, developing, and shooting. Some worked better than others. All were fun. Always.

And here is the result. Enjoy!

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Chana is a talented photographer herself, check out her work here.

Two Thousand and 13. And my adieau to social media.


I wonder if there are those who play the keyboard (the computer kind) the way others play music. Their fingers typing, not just their thoughts, but their emotions. Writing with soul. No, not with soul, that seems as if one employs his soul as a tool. More like the soul itself is writing, the hands and fingers moving to an inner song.

I've been listening to "If It Be Your Will" by Leonard Cohen on repeat. It's the lone occupant of my iTunes library and is enjoying endless loopage.

This is doing three things to me. A. It makes me want to just type out the lyrics, as there is nothing I can write that comes close to the raw beauty of his words. B. It makes me want to play music with my fingers, type with rythm, and C. Puts me in a slightly morbid mood. Though I do find his music oddly uplifting.

I'm writing to say goodbye (well I'm actually writing because my posts need words). And Hello.

When embarking on my blogging voyage and subsequent entrance into social media I was greeted with:

Hello World!

Such are the words knighting those embarking on the holy mission of bloghood.

Hello World.

A new world, built on the rubble of the first, greets you joyfully.

"Hi!" with a showing of bright #fffff teeth, it joyfully proclaims.

Hello World.

Little did I know that this voyage would lead me to where I am now.

I feel as if I am that figure in "The Scream", my face being pulled by an invisible force. That force is social media. And it's eating my face off. Beard and all.

Social media has been slowly draining my life, this giant blue and white vacuum sucking my energy, slurping my time. It's time to say goodbye.

I refuse to play the game. I will not post meaningless questions to which I do not care the answer in order to get people commenting.

"Which photo do you like better?" As smug as it sounds I do not care which photo you like better. I put an enormous amount of thought into photography, and gosh-darn it I have an opinion. A strong one.

"If I get 100 likes I'll post more!!" No. No. I will not play the game.

Addicted to the high engendered by strangers' praise. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

The endless stream of time wasting links and videos. Look here! No, Look here! Wow! Dogcathorsebaby doing funnyweirdamazingthing.

And the more insidious sharing, commenting, and making friends all with an undercurrent of selfishness. It scares me.

Of course, social media isn't intrinsically evil. I'm just not at a place where it's good for me now (notwithstanding the many, many benefits it brings).

So I'm saying goodbye. Goodbye meaningless internet browsing. Goodbye mind-numbing visits to the computer. Goodbye to the 86% bad and the 14% good. Goodbye snarky commenting and late night chats. Goodbye noise.

Goodbye World. It's been real (#irony).

It's a bit scary. I have gotten wonderful feedback, a fan base, and clients through Facebook. Much of that will be gone, and I don't even know where to start looking for other ways to advertise. But I know this: Never again will I make decisions based solely on money. I believe in divine providence, in fate, karma, whatever you want to call it. If I do what is right for me and my family, then it will be good.

Hello World.

Hello wife. Hello Kids. Hello G-d. I'm back.

First we take Manhattan. Then we take berlin.


What does this all have to do with my 2013 in review? No seriously, I'm asking.

I could make up something but it would be just that.

It's just what's on my mind and while I was waiting to post this with my personal year in review, I still have something around 40 rolls to develop and scan and Facebook needs quitting before then.

For all those wonderful people I met on Facebook, please email, call, send roses (code for beer), or just come over for some pancakes. That's what we do in the real world (I think, it's been a while…).

The past year has been great to me. I 've had wonderful clients, and seem to be getting better at this while photography thing. Most importantly I've thought. About stuff. More than I think I've ever thunk before. And that's a very good thing.

So I raise my glass (Redtail Ale) and wish myself an amazing year in the real world.

Bring it on!!


Practical speak. I'll be keeping my Facebook account active and all messages will be forwarded to my email. All updates will be posted on my photography page (which will be run by my lovely wife). I don't want to cut out all the wonderful people and friends I met on Facebook so please, if you want to chat, have a question, comment etc. just shoot me an email.

Peace, love, and quinoa brownies.

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Organic, (relatively) Healthy Cookies

Quite often our neighbors can't come over to play because they are doing homework. And my daughter thinks that just isn't fair. "Why can't I have homework?" She asks. If something holds someone back from coming over to our estate, it must supersede it in the fun category. What is this magical thing called "homework" that rules others' lives, she wonders.

"I know math" declares my oldest. We were doing some "learnin", and every time I brought up a possible subject, he was suspicious. "Is that called learnin?" he asks.

Formal learning is not something we do too much with our kids. If they get interested in a subject we'll go to the library and get a few books about it, talk about it, maybe watch a youtube video or two about it. We learn by doing, by living. But sometimes they want to "do learnin". So we'll go over some writing, some math, some Jewish history or theology.

Over Chanukah, my kids got a good amount of Channukah gelt (which, contrary to popular opinion, is not a chocolate coin). Zusha, when getting his second dollar, looked it over, turned it around a couple time, "I, I, I, I, I, don't want any more monies" (this was during his stuttering phase). Mendel got a bit more and just gave them to me, didn't care too much. Chanaleh was a bit excited, counted her money, and promptly misplaced it (we found it later, after many tears). Zevi was over the top. He loved getting money, kept on comparing how much he got with how much the others ones did. Over the next couple of weeks we learned a lot about money. How change works, where money comes from (well, we tried talking about that, it's complicated), how to save, how to spend, what costs how, and how costs who, and most of all, how he could get more monies.

29 hours, 98,217 questions later, mostly asked during telephone conversations and late Friday afternoon, Estee and the two older kids decided to make an Orange Juice and Cookie stand. The kids made the OJ (fresh squeezed, it turns out there's a reason people sell lemonade, it's waaaaaay easier and cheaper), and made a large part of the cookies. We made some signs, put them up, set up our little stand, and waited.

We started late, on a chilly (for Southern California standards), afternoon. $.50 for a cookie, 5 for $2.00, $1.00 for a cup of orange juice. They learned how to make cookies, what goes into making money, how to talk maturely to adults, semi-complicated math ("How much could I get for $5.00", "If I want 6 cookies and 2 cups of orange juice, how much will that be", "$4.50? I have a $10, how much change do I get?"), tithing, and customer service.

During the hour and a half they were out there (we had to close shop when it got dark), they pulled in about $30 dollars (minus the 50 cents they gave to someone who needed some extra change for the bus). Which sounds pretty darn good for a chilly afternoon, though after coating the hour and a half of prep, 45 minutes of clean-up, and the cost of the ingredients, the hourly rate drops into the low twos. But I can see some serious income in the Summer…

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Rooftop Wedding on a Roof

I was introduced to Judith by my cousin from Montreal who was visiting from Atlanta. A little while later, Judith, who lives a few blocks away from me, met Yonatan, who was from Israel but lives in Los Angeles, in Atlanta, and decided to marry. A few weeks later they did. On a rooftop in downtown Los Angeles. This is their wedding. Beautiful, simple, happy Jewish folk. Like a steak and a beer. Or a veggie burger and kombucha for those thus inclined. Setting up the Chuppah Happy Bride and Friends Documentary Wedding Photography-5.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-6.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-7.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-8.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-9.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-3.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-14.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-15.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-13.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-12.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-19.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-18.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-21.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-10.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-11.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-20.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-16.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-22.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-23.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-24.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-25.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-26.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-27.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-28.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-29.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-30.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-31.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-32.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-34.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-35.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-36.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-37.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-41.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-40.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-42.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-49.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-46.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-48.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-52.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-55.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-44.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-45.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-62.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-53.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-56.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-58.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-57.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-60.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-47.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-63.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-64.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-65.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-66.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-67.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-68.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-79.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-80.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-81.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-82.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-71.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-77.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-69.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-70.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-72.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-74.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-88.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-89.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-83.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-87.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-84.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-85.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-1-6.jpg Documentary Wedding Photography-90.jpg872527sm.jpg 872529sm.jpg 872528sm.jpg

Open your heart, erase all doubt


(This is my third attempt at this post. I'm not sure why I'm over thinking this so much)

The big THREE ZERO. That's where I am. I'm a recent arrival. Got here last week. Stumbling, half awake, it hit me with all the fury of a very soft, and quite lame, thump.

At first I tried going through my twenties in chronological order. Starting in Jerusalem, going through South Africa, Safed, and then to Long Beach. But that got tedious.

Then I tried from another angle. I'm not even sure what it was. Obviously wasn't very interesting.

Here's the deal. Looking back, my life had been awesome, and it completely sucked.

I've been extraordinarily blessed. I had good schooling, did well in school. When I was 15 my parents let me loose in Israel for three years with a $100 a month allowance and small list of phone numbers I got from my cousins. I learned how to be alone (in a good way), how to ask for stuff from strangers. I learned to love traveling, love walking (I walked crazy amounts to get out of having to pay for a bus or cab, I walked clear across Jerusalem many a time, a good 10 miles), and love, almost painfully, the holy land. I learned how to make a bread sandwich (two pieces of bread surrounding a third), how to put chummus on everything, how to find the cheapest and best Shwarma. I slept on a rooftop in the old city for a week, on a towel in the golan, and on the same towel in Eilat. I learned how to bargain in the shuk, got a hookah down from 400 shekels to 30, even had him throw in a bunch of coal and tobacco and then walked away because I didn't really want it. The dude almost killed me. I called random strangers who gave me other numbers of other random strangers whose houses I then crashed for weekends. I learned what it's like to stay up for days on end, studying for a contest that I decided too late to join. I learned how to sleep. I convinced a few friends to go to Switzerland for a week. We stayed at another stranger's house in Zurich for Shabbos, found an apartment in Grindelwald, ate pasta; tuna; swiss cheese; and chocolate, and skied. Hard. All for around $400. We even lost one of the crew as he went to look for francs while the train took off. In the days before cellphones were ubiquitous. He had no clue where we were staying or how to get there. He somehow ended up in a neighboring village, hung out in a local bar (speaking yiddish to the locals) for a couple of hours, moseyed on to Grindelwald, asked a local taxi company if he drove any bearded yiddish-speaking folks anywhere, which they did. It's funny how the lost dude never worries. I mean he knows where he is. It's the found who worry.

Ha. I thought I wasn't getting to get all historical on you. Well between 19 and 30 a lot has happened. I'm sure it will come up some other time. Most importantly I married Estee and joined the exclusive five-before-thirty club (known to the cool kids as 5B430 Club).

That's all the awesome part.

The part that sucked was how easy it's all been. I never really worked hard at school. Things always seemed to fall into place when they needed to without crazy effort on my part. I spent hours a day reading fiction, and hours at night talking, hanging, maybe drinking a bit. I made money, lost money, and didn't really care. I dated the first girl I really liked, and married the first girl I dated. Which was the best thing I've ever done, but that's not the point. I fell into a job here in Long Beach, fell into another, wandered into graphic design, and stumbled into photography. Yeah, of course I put in the hours, and occasionally actually worked. But for the most part I waste time.

There are so many things I wanted to do. My Switzerland trip was an anomaly, a blip. There was this Summer program in New Zealand that I wanted to go on. For the first month you learn how to be a ski instructor, for the second you teach, and it pays for your travel and lodging. I wanted to rent Harleys with a few guys a drive across America. Of course I wanted to do the whole hitchhiking thing as well. I went backpacking for one week of my life. One. Stinking. Week. I never landed in some random city in Europe with just a backpack and a map, I could have. Many times. But I didn't. Rarely hiked. I could count on one hand the sunrises I spent in solitude in some beautiful place. Never surfed. I still can't play guitar or tap dance. Never really tried poetry. Don't know algebra or geometry and I still can't string together a proper paragraph. I was too busy doing nothing. Wasting time.

I learned for years in Yeshiva, and hardly know a thing. I started book after book, topic after topic. Never finishing. To think of it makes the heart grow heavy, and the eyes start to tear. I don't listen to my heart beat anymore. For when I shut everything off and tune everyone out, all I have is me and I don't like what I see. I've been alive for 30 years, and have what to show?

Yeah, I blame it on many things, on my inherent laziness, on being smart enough to get by, genetics, having an addictive personality, but I don't think that's it. Not all of it. I think I'm scared. I see that I get by, and even do some pretty cool things along the way without giving it too much. And deep down I wonder how much I could accomplish if I actually tried. If I woke up one morning and lived intentionally. If I let go of all my distractions and focused on following my dreams. I have no clue where it will all lead. Somewhere great. And great is terrifying. I know that if I allow what's deep down inside of me to come out it will change my life. And while I look back with disgust on the nothingness that is the past 30 years, it's my comfort zone. 80% of the Jews didn't leave Egypt. It sucked. Pretty badly, but becoming G-d's people? Going on some crazy mission to change the world? Doing something great? Do I stay here as a slave to my shortcomings, or do I break free, grab life by the horns. Can I walk into the unknown, take that step? Truth is anyone can take that first step, it's the next one, and the next. It's waking up every morning and knowing that today will be something special.

Sheesh, I wrote that all last week. For all I know that whole last part is bogus. All that trap about fear and the such. I may just be incorrigibly lazy.

The point is, I'm 30 and I don't start now, it just ain't gonna happen. I've narrowed it down to two resolutions.

Resolution numero uno (for my Spanish speaking readers, that means "number one"): Every time I look back on my day/week/month/year/decade/life/previous life/ with agonizing despair at my seemingly relentless and self destructive time wasting, I shall slap my mind with my other mind, and say: "Stop!! Yeah, you sucked. Big deal. Get over it. Every day is a war, and you win some battles, lose some battles, as long as you're still fighting you're good. Now get off your lazy posterior, and attack. Sneak around the enemy and shoot him in the back, stab him in the leg, pop him in the head (wow, that sounds harsh, I've been listening to my six year old too much)"

Resolution numero dos: That my next 10 years are waaaaaay more coherent than this post. Too often I get lost in the means and the ways instead of the destination. Just this morning I was doing my morning prayers on the banks of a lovely lake in lovely weather with lovely birds and ducks making all sorts of lovely sounds. And I found my mind drifting off to photography, to places, ideas, gear, thrift store hopes… I caught myself, and laughed at the absurdity (better than crying at the ridiculousness). All these ideas bouncing around in my head are mostly ways to further my business. You know, I'd love to provide for my family, not to have to worry about rent, or if we could afford cleaning help this month. I'd love to limit the amount of work so I could go somewhere beautiful, without a worry on my mind, meditate a bit, and do my morning prayer there. Yet here I am, doing the exact same thing right now, and instead of thinking about G-d and myself I think of ways to get more money so I could go somewhere beautiful… To live life coherently. To have the choices in my day to day life be in accordance with my goals.

My wife and I have some blog plans for the coming years. They are risky plans. Scary plans. But a life without courage is a life without integrity. And I'm even more scared of looking back at 40 and writing the exact same post. That is scary.

So this is the year I take the step. And the next. And the next. I'm not sure which surface I'll be landing on next, but I trust in G-d that if I do my part he'll do his.


There is no way I am reading over everything I wrote to see if it actually makes sense, so I apologize for pointless ramblings and unfinished thoughts.


The title is from the song Breathe Easy by my talented friend Levi Robin.