My Cancer Story Ch. 46 “My First Camera”

Chapter 46: “My First Camera”

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The summer had been a blast. Besides work, I’ve been living it up as much as humanly possible: hanging with my friends and preparing for my career path. I was actually looking forward to finally starting school.

We spent a night at Mitch’s family’s camp and plenty of days at his house playing Pool and shooting the shit.

And if that weren’t enough – believe it or not – things were good for my family too.

My Dad’s self-employed ventures were booming for he had been sniping a lot of his old diesel mechanic customers from his old job. Many people only wanted to work with him when he was at Frank Martin’s because he was proficient, efficient, and knowledgeable. I mean he had worked this job for over thirty-five years.

He was finally doing what he had wanted to do for so long– to be out on his own, making his own hours and spending more time at home. He made a conscious decision to only work locally, thereby keeping him off of the road.

At his old job, the majority of his days consisted of traveling to one location at a time (sometimes up to six hours one way), only to spend an hour fixing the machine, then driving all the way back.

Although, he did mention that this time to the site was crucial to the problem-solving. While driving, he would ruminate on the problem at hand and know exactly how to fix it when he got there. It was no wonder people preferred him. He’d get them up and running as soon as humanly possible. I suppose he was born to do this kind of work.

In my mind, my “born to” job was filmmaking, but that kind of work also required some equipment, namely, a camera of my own.

For someone who fancied the idea of making movies, I didn’t really have much experience behind the camera. There was one time when my Dad’s girlfriend let us use a VHS tape camcorder for a few months in the summer of 1996. We made the excuse that we had wanted our birthday parties captured on film, but really, I just wanted the access to such a marvelous device.

Even when I had no cinematic aspirations, I was drawn to video recording. So, for my Birthday, my Dad recorded the events, and it ended up being a moving piece about the factor of grime on the cement basement floor upon which we housed the festivities.

Seriously, fifty percent of the footage was my Dad holding the camera down, forgetting that he was recording the party. He would talk to us, and some of that was captured, but man, in between those fleeting moments, it was a dizzying spectacle of gray cement.

After witnessing his cameraman “prowess,” I decided to take over for Travis’ birthday in the coming weeks. In the meantime, my brother and I recorded wrestling moves and random things in the very same basement on weeknights. One night, we recreated our favorite “Background Guy” clips from In Living Color and head-bobbed and lip-synced to Haddaway’s “What is Love?” just like Steve and Doug Butabi did on Saturday Night Live.

Looking back on that video I was faced with two competing emotions: nostalgia and regret. I loved doing the videos, but I regretted how little we actually used the camera and how… I berated my brother up in some of the scenes and eventually hurt him with a wrestling move. I wasn’t nice.

I had hoped we could have made a movie or something back then. It would have been much nicer to watch compared to this disturbing mistreatment of my younger sibling. No wonder the fighting continued for so long.

But now, with some money left over from the collection jars (again, sorry family), I decided that I would buy a video camera. After completing another remission-affirming monthly check-up, I went to the Best Buy in Bangor and bought a Sony Handycam DCR-TRV460 20x Optical Zoom, 990x Digital Zoom Hi8/ Memory Stick Pro Camcorder with Still Image Capturing and Night Vision.

This camera was all that I had ever wanted. It could take still images and record video on either Digital8 tape system or on Sony’s proprietary Memory Stick Pro system.

The tape quality was immensely better, but the camera’s tape deck didn’t work that well. Instead, I went the Memory Stick Pro route. The image quality was absolutely atrocious. Nevertheless, I’d use it for photos more than video. This was not only my first camcorder but also my first still image camera that didn’t run out of a cardboard sleeve and with a thirty-image countdown.

I remember the day I bought the camera. Early on in my first morning with it, I awoke to a thunderous rainstorm. I had always loved rainstorms, so I planned on getting some good footage of rain splashing onto the tarred driveway.

The camera was fully charged and I took my umbrella out and began my documentation. The image was rather pixelated, but it worked for the most part. Back then, I hadn’t noticed as much as I would now.

Trust me, you’ll see in a bit how dreadful the videos appear.

The rainfall had grown to dangerous levels. In fact, the nearby stream had swelled to a wide berth. The water had surmounted the boundaries of the tar road near our house and crested the road creating a makeshift river.

The flooding grew to the point where vehicles had to creep over the flow to prevent sliding into the ditch on the side of the road.

Or in some cases PLOW through at high speeds:

The dirt on the side of the tar gave way and the reservoir pipe under the road rushed its way through the sides of the trench to boot. We didn’t know how long the tar would hold. The road began to buckle under the weight of the rushing river.

The cops eventually came by and closed the road until the flooding receded. Keep in mind that this road was the only way through that didn’t involve a sixty-mile detour.


It was great footage for my first day as a cameraman. I even went the extra mile and pretended to be a cameraman for a news station.

After a good amount of recording and goofing off, I finally took a shower.

Our only bathroom in the house didn’t have a lock, and so to prevent the other guys from fucking with you, you would have to pull out the drawers in front of the door.

The only problem was if the guys were persistent enough, they could use a butter knife to slowly slide the drawers back and easily enter.

…Which my friends decided to employ. And since we had a new “house camera,” they decided to record it for posterity’s sake.

It was going to be a fun-filled year of goofs and pranks and I was going to be there to record them all.

-Jamie (@GuyOnAWire)

This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.

The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writerI’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.

Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.

And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.

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